The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

Violence Against Women ActThe Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) imposes new obligations on colleges and universities under its Campus Sexual Violence Act (the Campus SaVE Act).

Under VAWA, all colleges and universities are required to:

  • Report domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, beyond crime categories the Clery Act already mandates;
  • Adopt certain student discipline procedures, such as for notifying purported victims of their rights; and
  • Adopt certain institutional policies to address and prevent campus sexual violence, such as to train pertinent institutional personnel.

I. New Reporting Requirements

VAWA’s SaVE Act provision imposes new reporting requirements:

A. The Clery Act requires annual reporting of statistics for various criminal offenses, including forcible and non-forcible sex offenses and aggravated assault. VAWA’s SaVE Act provision adds domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking to the categories that, if the incident was reported to a campus security authority or local police agency, must be reported under Clery. These offenses are defined:

  • “Domestic violence” includes asserted violent misdemeanor and felony offenses committed by the victim’s current or former spouse, current or former cohabitant, person similarly situated under domestic or family violence law, or anyone else protected under domestic or family violence law.
  • “Dating violence” means violence by a person who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the victim. Whether there was such relationship will be gauged by its length, type, and frequency of interaction.
  • “Stalking” means a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for her, his, or others’ safety, or to suffer substantial emotional distress.

B. The provision adds “national origin” and “gender identity” to the hate crime categories, involving intentional selection of a victim based on actual or perceived characteristics that must be reported under the Clery Act.

C. The provision requires, with respect to the “timely reports” the Clery Act mandates for crimes considered a threat to other students and employees, that victims’ names be withheld.

II. New Student Discipline Requirements

A. Current requirements in the Clery Act are that institutions inform students of procedures victims should follow, such as preservation of evidence and to whom offenses should be reported. VAWA adds that institutional policy must also include information on:

  • Victims’ option to, or not to, notify and seek assistance from law enforcement and campus authorities.
  • Victims’ rights and institutional responsibilities regarding judicial no-contact, restraining, and protective orders.

B. VAWA prescribes standards for investigation and conduct of student discipline proceedings in domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking cases.

  • Institutional policy must include a “statement of the standard of evidence” used. Unlike some earlier drafts of the legislation, VAWA does not prescribe the evidentiary standard.
  • Institutional officials who conduct the proceeding must be trained on how to investigate and conduct hearings in a manner that “protects the safety of victims” and “promotes accountability.”
  • Institutional policy must identify “sanctions or protective measures” the institution may impose following a final determination of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • The accuser and the accused are entitled to the same opportunities to have others present during an institutional disciplinary proceeding, including the opportunity to be accompanied to any related meeting or proceeding by an advisor of their choice.
  • Accuser and accused must be notified “simultaneously” and “in writing” of: the outcome of the proceeding; appeal procedures; any change to the result before it becomes final; and when the result becomes final.
  • Institutional policy must address how victims’ confidentiality will be protected, including record-keeping that excludes personally-identifiable information on victims.

III. New Requirements to Educate Students and Employees on Sexual Violence

Under VAWA, new students and new employees must be offered “primary prevention and awareness programs” that promote awareness of rape, acquaintance rape, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

The training programs must include:

  • A statement that the institution prohibits those offenses.
  • The definition of those offenses in the applicable jurisdiction.
  • The definition of consent, with reference to sexual offenses, in the applicable jurisdiction.
  • “Safe and positive” options for bystander intervention an individual may take to “prevent harm or intervene” in risky situations.
  • Recognition of signs of abusive behavior and how to avoid potential attacks.
  • Ongoing prevention and awareness campaigns for students and faculty on all of the above.

How the SafeColleges Online Training System Can Help

The SafeColleges Online Training System includes a variety of expert-authored courses for employees and students on important intimate partner violence topics:

For Employees

For Students

Use our courses or quickly build your own campus-specific courses and policies in our system and assign them to employees and students. Every completion is tracked automatically by the system (whether you assign our courses or your own), for compliance purposes. You can also host our SCORM-conformant courses in your existing LMS.

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