St. Mary's Law Journal


The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was enacted in 1994 to combat the growing and widespread epidemic of domestic violence. Congressional committees assigned to study this epidemic found that violent attacks by men topped the list of dangers to an American woman’s health. In an attempt to raise society’s awareness of the problem of violence against women and to ameliorate the victimization of women, Congress enacted VAWA. Specifically, Title III of VAWA establishes a federal civil right for victims of violent, gender-motivated crimes. These provide victims with either injunctive or monetary compensation. Consequently, there have been questions about the constitutionality of Title III. Notwithstanding the controversy surrounding Title III’s constitutionality, VAWA remains a useful tool in addressing domestic violence. For instance, Title II of VAWA provides federal grants to states willing to implement pro-arrest policies and training and education programs in domestic violence for judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers. Therefore, segments of VAWA remain viable methods for combating gender-motivated crimes. Supporters of the provision argue Title III is a necessity for women, particularly women who are battered by their intimate partners. Moreover, supporters contend Title III will find constitutional authority under both the Commerce Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment. Conversely, opponents of the provision argue Congress overstepped its constitutional boundaries by enacting Title III. However one views this act, the fact remains that domestic violence has reached epidemic proportions. Whether Title III is the appropriate way of preventing and remedying these atrocious crimes is debatable. Nonetheless, a carefully drafted amendment could save VAWA from being found unconstitutional.


St. Mary's University School of Law