violence, civil rights, domestic violence, VAWA, violence against women


The enactment of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994 was viewed as "a potential vehicle of empowerment" for women, and was a long-awaited morve toward gender equality in the United States. By enacting the VAWA, Congress emphatically expressed a strong commitment to curb and attack the pervasiveness of sex-based violence. In practice, however, the civil rights remdy has fallen short. In the few VAWA cases brought under the civil rights remedy, the "crime of violence" requirement has been interpreted in such a narrow way that it strips the remedy of any effect. While there is confusion as to how a "crime of violence" should be interpreted, courts should adopt a uniform standard and "favor the interpretation that give the greatest effect to a broad, remedial statue such as the VAWA." Courts should do this by utilizing a definition fo violence that does not ignore women's experiences. Moreover, utilizing a two-step approach and applying precedent determining cases under section 16(b) would broaden the scope of violent acts that would pass muster under the statute. By broadening the types of acts that would constitute crimes of violence in these ways, courts would finally breathe some life into the VAWA's civil right remedy and give it the definitional teeth it requires.

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