In March, President Biden signed into law the Violence against Women Act Reauthorization Act of 2022 (VAWA), which Congress passed as part of the FY22 Omnibus appropriations bill. First passed in 1994 and reauthorized in 2000, 2005, 2013, and now 2022, VAWA is aimed at addressing sexual assault and other forms of gender-based violence by expanding access to safety and support for survivors and increasing community-wide prevention efforts. This latest reauthorization of VAWA contains several new measures and revised or new definitions that schools and colleges should be aware of and, if needed, be prepared to implement into their policies and procedures. In this post, we will provide an in-depth overview of VAWA updates that may be relevant to your institution.
Broadly, the 2022 VAWA reauthorizes all current VAWA grant programs until 2027; expands services and support for survivors of gender-based violence from underserved and marginalized communities, including LGBTQ+ survivors and those in rural communities; expands the criminal jurisdiction of tribal courts over non-Native perpetrators; establishes a federal civil cause of action for victims of cybercrimes; and—crucially for educational institutions—expands prevention education programs and grants for students in K-12 and higher ed. All provisions in the reauthorized VAWA are effective October 1, 2022, unless otherwise provided.
The 2022 VAWA contains several revised and new definitions for key terms—including domestic violence, economic abuse, technological abuse, and restorative practice—that may be included in your institution’s policies and procedures. The definition of domestic violence, for instance, is revised as follows (with additions in bold italics):
Domestic violence includes felony or misdemeanor crimes
of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim under the family or domestic violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant funding and, in the case of victim services, includes the use or attempted use of physical abuse or sexual abuse, or a pattern of any other coercive behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim, including verbal, psychological, economic, or technological abuse that may or may not constitute criminal behavior, by a person who is a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, or person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim; with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, shares a child in common with the victim; by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person or commits acts against a youth or adult against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person’s those acts under the domestic or family family or domestic violence laws of the jurisdiction.
Your institution may thus likely need to update your Title IX, Clery, and any other policy or procedure that implements VAWA definitions to reflect these revised or new definitions, which go into effect October 1.
In addition to definitions, schools and colleges should also take care to note the following provisions in the 2022 VAWA.
Online survey tool for campus safety
Higher education institutions that receive federal assistance must administer a campus climate survey developed by the Department of Education, starting no later than 1 year after the date the Secretary of Education makes the survey available and then every 2 years afterward. The Secretary of Education will develop a standardized online survey tool and make it available to higher education institutions through an online portal. The survey will cover postsecondary student experiences with domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, and stalking. A higher education institution may request to add, at no cost, additional questions that would increase the understanding of climate factors unique to the institution’s campuses. The Secretary of Education will then submit a biennial report on the results of the survey to Congress, including campus-level data for each institution. Each institution of higher education must also publish campus-level results of the survey in a biennial report and on its website.
VAWA also charges the Secretary of Education with submitting a report to Congress no later than October 1, 2023 that includes an evaluation and assessment of best practices of programs, events, and educational materials related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, which will be made available to higher education institutions as an online resource.
Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education
VAWA establishes a Task Force on Sexual Violence in Education to carry out the following tasks:
- To provide pertinent information regarding campus sexual violence prevention, investigations, and responses, including the creation of complaint processes for violations of Title IX and the Clery Act;
- To provide recommendations to educational institutions for establishing sexual assault prevention and response teams;
- To develop recommendations for educational institutions on providing survivor resources;
- To develop recommendations with student groups for best practices for responses to and prevention of sexual violence and dating violence;
- To develop recommendations for educational institutions on appropriate sex education, training for school staff, and equitable discipline models;
- To develop recommendations on culturally responsive and inclusive approaches to supporting survivors that includes consideration of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, immigrant status, LGBTQ+ status, ability, disability, socioeconomic status, exposure to trauma, and other factors;
- To solicit periodic input from survivors, trauma specialists, advocates, institutions of higher education, and other public stakeholders; and
- To provide an annual report to Congress that includes information about institutional complaints, investigations, and resolutions.
Notably, the Task Force will also be charged with assessing the Department of Education’s ability to levy intermediate fines for noncompliance with Title IX and the advisability of additional remedies for noncompliance. Currently, there are no fines levied against educational institutions for Title IX noncompliance, unlike institutional violations under the Clery Act. We will keep a close eye on the Task Force’s assessment of this issue and provide updates when available.
Special grants for prevention programs
VAWA also makes available numerous grants for prevention education and other programs to support youth and college students, including:
- Grants for prevention programs aimed towards children, such as those that provide services for children exposed to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, as well as training and coordination for educational, after-school, and childcare programs on how to identify and refer impacted children and families to appropriate services and programs.
- Grants for teen dating violence awareness and prevention programs that provide age- and developmentally appropriate education for teens on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, sexual coercion, and healthy relationships in schools and other settings; community-based training for “individuals with influence on youth,” such as parents, teachers, coachers, older teens, and mentors; and education, outreach, and policy development aimed at prevention, including school-based policies and procedures.
- Grants for college campuses in order to develop, strengthen, and implement campus policies, protocols, and services that more effectively identify and respond to sex-based crimes; develop and implement restorative practices; and train campus health centers and appropriate campus personnel—including academic advisors and professionals who deal with students on a daily basis—on how to recognize and respond to gender-based violence and how to use a victim-centered, trauma-informed interview technique with reported victims. Grantees must establish a mandatory prevention and education program on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking for all students (not just incoming students, as VAWA previously required) and train all participants in the resolution process—including the campus disciplinary board, Title IX, and student conduct—to respond effectively to situations involving domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Grantees may also provide prevention and education programming on domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking, including technological abuse and reproductive and sexual coercion, that is accessible, age-appropriate and culturally relevant, delivered in multiple venues on campus, promotes respectful nonviolent behavior as a social norm, and engages men and boys.
- Pilot grants to develop and implement a restorative practices program or to assess best practices. Such programs and practices should encompass restorative practices that prevent or address domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; training by eligible entities, or for eligible entities, courts, or prosecutors, on restorative practices and program implementation; and evaluations of restorative practice. Priority would be given to proposals—including from higher education institutions—that meaningfully address the needs of culturally specific or underserved populations.
These are some of the key provisions of the 2022 VAWA that may impact schools and colleges. Remember that VAWA is distinct from Title IX—each has its own separate, albeit overlapping, requirements for educational institutions. In addition, note that the 2022 VAWA leaves intact existing provisions of the Clery Act, including a higher education institution’s reporting and prevention requirements under Clery. Please feel free to contact any member of our Title IX team if you have any questions about the reauthorized VAWA and how its provisions may apply to your school or higher education institution.
*Also authored by Jenny Lee, a third-year law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, currently a law clerk at Franczek P.C.