Federal Laws

There are three key pieces of national legislation that affect victims and survivors of domestic violence. Together, these federal acts provide funding and support for local and federal programs and determine how domestic violence is prosecuted.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act was first passed in 1994, then reauthorized in 2000, 2005, 2013 and 2018. VAWA is the first federal legislation to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes and the first law of its kind to provide federal resources aimed at encouraging a coordinated community response to combat violence.

VAWA includes dozens of grant programs that fund thousands of programs.

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The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

The 1984 Victims of Crime Act established the Crime Victims Fund, which is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not tax dollars. For the first 15 years of the Fund’s existence the total deposits for each fiscal year were distributed the following year to support services for victims of crime.

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The Family Violence Prevention & Services Act (FVPSA)

FVPSA, first enacted in 1984, provides funding for core domestic violence services such as shelter and counseling. It is the only federal funding source dedicated solely to domestic violence services and programs.

FVPSA was up for reauthorization in 2018 and has not yet been reauthorized.

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In Pennsylvania, domestic violence is not considered a separate charge from a crime like assault, aggravated assault, or battery.

View Pennsylvania's Laws