A sweeping response to the perception of increased violence against women in America, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 was a broad-based law that created everything from funding of domestic-violence programs to new Civil Rights remedies for women who were victims of gender-based attacks. The scope of the law made it somewhat controversial, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that at least one provision of the act was unconstitutional. But VAWA still managed to have a far-reaching effect on gender-based crime, and the reauthorization of the act in 2000 means that it will continue to have influence into the twenty-first century.
VAWA was first proposed in 1990, and support was subsequently strengthened by testimony before Congress of high numbers of crimes perpetrated against women every year, often by family members or boyfriends. The Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill confirmation battle (see Sexual Harassment Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill Hearings ) and subsequent election of unprecedented numbers of women to the U.S. Congress in 1992 also helped to spur the act's passage. When the VAWA was voted on as part of an Omnibus Crime bill in 1994, the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of it in both houses.