Lisa R. Hasday


When the issue of violence against women emerged as an issue in the early 1970s, feminists on both sides of the Atlantic responded by creating domestic violence shelters and rape crisis and counseling centers, in addition to agitating for legal reform. These strategies remain dominant in contemporary feminist thinking on how to combat violence against women. The funding provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) constitute, for instance, a notable, modem arena in which such an emphasis appears. Enacted in 1994 as part of President Clinton's crime bill, VAWA authorized the tripling of then-existing levels of funding for battered women's shelters and currently allocates $80 million per year for rape prevention and education programs. As of the fiscal year 2001, more than $30 million in federal money under VAWA has been directed to institutions of higher education. Additional funding has been allocated to states and Native American tribes, mainly for establishing shelters and crisis and counseling centers; prosecuting offenders; training police officers, prosecutors, and health and social service providers; and researching violence against women and educating the public about it. VAWA also created a national, toll-free telephone hotline to provide information and assistance to domestic violence victims. What is so striking about the statute and the manner in which it has been implemented, however, is what has been left out. The government's response to violence against women makes no direct mention of providing women with the means to help combat the problem themselves: through training in self-defense. Moreover, self-defense was not even a topic of discussion during the legislative drafting of VAWA, according to those involved.

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