Violence Against Women Act Reauthorized
March 25, 2013
After a long battle, the Violence Against Women Act of 2013 (VAWA) was signed into law on March 7. The reauthorization of the act includes several provisions that will affect colleges and universities and how violence is addressed on campuses.
VAWA incorporates provisions of an earlier bill, also known as the Campus SaVE Act, and codifies parts of an April 2011 Dear Colleague letter issued by the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education. The SaVE Act provisions, found in Section 305, amend the Clery Act regarding how institutions report campus crime. Some of the changes applicable to colleges and universities under the act include the following:
- Statistics on Hate Crimes
- Adds national origin and gender identity to the categories of prejudice covered
- Adds domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking incidents to the hate crimes that must be reported
- Annual Security Reports
- Must describe procedures that the institution will follow when "domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking" are reported
- Also adds the above incidents to the requirement to include a policy statement on education and awareness
- Require development and distribution of policies and procedures to prevent incidents of violence
The act requires campuses to develop and distribute a statement of policy regarding the education and prevention of campus sexual violence, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. As part of the policy, primary education programs should be used to raise awareness and prevention of these incidents. The programs should be administered to all incoming students and new employees and should include:
- A statement that the institution prohibits the offenses of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking
- A clear definition of what constitutes domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking in the applicable jurisdiction
- A definition of consent in regards to sexual activity, in the applicable jurisdiction
- Safe and positive options for bystander intervention in order to prevent or intervene when there is a risk of sexual violence or stalking against another individual
- Information on risk reduction to recognize warning signs of abusive behavior or how to avoid potential attacks
Each campus should also maintain ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns for students, faculty, and staff.
In addition, institutions must establish possible sanctions as well as protective measures that will be imposed following an incident of rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking. Schools must also provide written information to students and faculty regarding: procedures victims should follow if a violent crime occurs; rights of victims as well as institutional responsibility regarding orders of protection, no contact orders, and restraining orders; procedures for institutional disciplinary action; and how the university will protect confidentiality of victims.
The passage of VAWA comes at a time where sexual violence against women on campus has been on the national stage in recent months, and many campus policies are being questioned and scrutinized. The VAWA provisions relating to the annual security report, including the changes to the hate crime statistics, are scheduled to go into effect for the first report issued one year after enactment. That report, however, would cover crime statistics for calendar year 2013, which has already started. ED has not yet announced its plans for promulgating regulations to implement these statutory changes, which will likely take a year or more to finalize. Generally, institutions are held to a "good faith" effort to comply with new laws in the meantime.
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