The Scholar: St. Mary's Law Review on Race and Social Justice


The threat of abuse affects women of all socioeconomic levels, educations, and zip codes. For centuries, women were second-class citizens in the eyes of society and the government. Women could not access resources to prevent violence and subsequently were denied essential victim services. The passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994 expressed the government’s commitment to ending domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and other gender-based violent crimes. Although VAWA exists, violence against women continues to be pervasive, devastating women’s lives daily. Victims of domestic violence face several issues. These include protecting children from abuse, finding and securing emergency shelter, informing family of the situation, and sorting through housing and financial options for the future. Improvements to VAWA could bring the United States significantly closer to being free of widespread gender-based crimes. The 2011 reauthorization of VAWA allocated more funding to prevention services; however, when given the choice between returning to their abuser for shelter or becoming homeless, most women choose to stay with their abuser. Housing for domestic violence victims includes emergency shelters and transitional housing, both of which are incredibly significant in assisting victims to escape the cycle of abuse. However, despite the importance of providing housing to victims, the 2005 VAWA reauthorization and the 2011 reauthorization bills cut housing services funding considerably. Shelters and transitional housing resources across the United States are unable to meet victims’ needs. A reduction in funding of those resources dramatically widens the existing gap in victims’ services. Domestic violence is one of the leading causes of homelessness in the United States, and, without emergency shelter and transitional housing options, the number of victims rendered homeless will continue to rise.

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St. Mary's University School of Law



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