Examining the Impacts of the Violence Against Women Act

Bernard Auchter, National Institute of Justice
Catherine Pierce, Department of Justice
Kathleen J. Ferraro, Arizona State University
Richard J. Gelles, University of Pennsylvania
Edward W. Gondolf, Mid - Atlantic Addiction Training Inst.
Claire Renzetti, St. Joseph's University
Alissa Pollitz Worden, University at Albany

This purpose of this panel is to discuss the state of knowledge from research attributable to the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). It focuses on the impacts of the justice components of VAWA to describe how the Act has helped to advance knowledge on effective controls. VAWA was enacted as a federal response to violent crimes against women, a response that lent national political and moral authority against gendered violence. The Act passed with confidence that there exist legal remedies to the problem of violence against women. In particular, by criminalizing certain actions, by calling for punishments and treatments, and by allowing funds for implementing local "promising practices", policy makers assume that answers already exist for controlling violence against women. We assess criteria for and claims of impacts as researchers who share the popular and political desire to find policies that work to control violence against women. At the same time, we assume a skeptical attitude toward unwarranted claims of what works. We review the state of knowledge on VAWA impacts today and render an opinion informed by current knowledge and data on what we already know and what we can expect to learn from rigorous research. We address the following questions, in particular: How has VAWA helped to advance our knowledge on violence against women? What do we know with confidence today about the impacts of VAWA in preventing violence against women and what gaps in understanding persist? Given barely five years of activity under VAWA, what promise does VAWA research hold for further advances in knowledge on effective controls? What guidance can VAWA research to date give policy makers and practitioners for dedicating future resources to prevent violence against women? After the panelists comment on these questions, the session will be opened up for a "town-hall meeting" type discussion.

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Updated 05/20/2006