The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) has received a number of inquiries about an April 2018 change to the Office on Violence Against Women’s (OVW) website highlighted in a Slate opinion piece. Before the change, the website described domestic violence as an advocate would, which includes verbal abuse, economic abuse, and other forms of abuse that are common but may not be illegal. The website now references the statutory definition of domestic violence for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs, which has remained essentially the same since VAWA was first passed in 1994.
While we would encourage OVW to revert to the advocate’s description of domestic violence for their website, operationally, the definition used in the grant-making process has not changed. In the last Congress, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 included a provision to update the definition of domestic violence for the purpose of VAWA grants (it would not change the criminal definition) to include a wider array of abusive behavior. We expect to see this provision in future VAWA reauthorization bills, as well.