Legislative Action

Rooted in inequality, domestic violence is perpetuated by social norms and systems that generate oppression and normalize violence. We cannot arrest or litigate our way out of this problem. We must change the attitudes and behaviors that sustain it. Ending, preventing, and supporting survivors of violence requires that we invest in comprehensive services and prioritize policies that enhance economic security and advance equality.


2020 Legislative Agenda


Invest in Crime Victims - Ensure Access to Rights and Services.
State and federal funds support local agencies that create a path to a better future for crime victims. Federal funds enhance program capacity, but state funds support infrastructure that enables local agencies to provide comprehensive, lifesaving services. In addition to crisis response, providers help victims obtain housing, jobs, and access services supporting long-term stability.

  • Invest $6.7 million in state funds to address the significant unmet needs of crime victims.

  • Enact policies to discourage arresting victims and encourage victim-centered prosecution.

  • Ensure access to services for all crime victims: standardize U visa certification policies for immigrant survivors; oppose efforts to undermine Iowa civil rights law.

  • Improve victims’ rights: amend Iowa law to ensure legal rights are enforceable; establish a specialty within the ombudsman office to investigate complaints from crime victims about actions of criminal justice system professionals; expand protections against employer retaliation for requesting time off to attend court proceedings or appointments related to the victimization.


Enhance Economic Security & Safety.
Financial abuse is a tactic used by virtually all coercive partners and deeply diminishes a survivor’s ability to stay safe or maintain stable housing and employment. Additionally, easy access to guns dramatically increases the risk of lethality for victims & bystanders in homes experiencing domestic violence.

  • Promote housing policies ensuring victims are not penalized for actions of abusive partners, e.g., lease bi-furcation/early release; proactive enforcement of housing non-discrimination.

  • Support policies that bolster employment security & eliminate barriers to financial independence, e.g., time off for crime victims, paid sick leave, livable wages, earned income tax credits.

  • Advance employment non-discrimination policies, e.g., improve job opportunities for returning citizens (ban the box), enhance protections against workplace harassment and violence.

  • Promote access to health care and safety-net programs by ensuring policies do not increase barriers to accessing services, e.g., oppose Medicaid work requirements and barriers to health/repro health care.

  • Support policies protecting individuals from gun violence: red flag laws, background checks, etc.


Promote Equality and Social Justice.

Domestic violence is not a single-issue problem. Changing the behaviors and attitudes allowing it to thrive cannot occur by addressing only one form of inequality or relying exclusively on criminal legal interventions. Biases based on race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, criminal background, etc, impact how individuals experience violence and how systems and people meet survivor’s needs. Prioritizing the needs of those carrying the heaviest burden of disparity, means all survivors will be served.

  • Restore felon voting rights.

  • Support anti-racial/gender/immigrant profiling policies.

  • Uphold Iowa’s civil rights law and oppose policies seeking to undermine anti-discrimination protections, e.g. religious exemptions that discriminate against LGBTQ individuals.

National Legislature

We work with coalitions from all 50 states and the National Network to End Domestic Violence to support legislative change and federal funding for domestic violence services.


Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA)

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act is the single largest funding source for emergency services for domestic violence victims and their children. FVPSA is administered from within the Family and Youth Services Bureau of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and FVPSA funds life-saving emergency shelters, crisis lines, counseling, and victim assistance. For more information please visit:


The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Public Policy Office

The National Network to End Domestic Violence

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)

VAWA was first passed in 1994 and created the first U.S. Federal legislation acknowledging domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes. In 2006, VAWA of 2005 was signed into law by former U.S. President George W. Bush. VAWA reauthorizes existing programs to combat domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking, and creates new programs to meet the emerging needs of communities working to prevent violence.The Violence Against Women Act will be up for reauthorization in 2011. The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) is maintaining a VAWA Prevention Group ListServe that is focused on providing feedback to the VAWA 2011 Prevention Team. The Team is comprised of Kiersten Stewart, Family Violence Prevention Fund (kiersten@endabuse.org), Annette Clay, Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (aclay@taasa.org), and Terri Harper, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (tharper@ncadv.org). Other organizations leading efforts to reauthorize other prevention-related elements of VAWA include the NNEDV and Break the Cycle. Sally Schaeffer from Family Violence Prevention Fund may be contacted regarding VAWA Health and VAWA Children and Youth (sally@endabuse.org).


Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

Enacted by President Reagan in 1984, the Victims of Crime Act created the Crime Victims Fund as a non-taxpayer funding resource for services that help crime victims cope with the trauma and aftermath of the crime. VOCA funds consists of fines and penalties collected from federal offenders--not taxpayer dollars--which are distributed to states to support two types of programs: crime victim compensation programs and victim assistance programs. For more information on VOCA, please visit the following websites:

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