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Understanding the Violence Against Women Act

Monday, October 17, 2022   

1:30 PM

General Info

Things to Know About VAWA Protections

The Technical Stuff:

  • VAWA became law in 1994.  Congress reauthorized it in 2000, 2005, and 2013.  More specifically, in 2005, Congress enacted housing protections prohibiting discrimination against survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking.  Through the 2013 reauthorization, Congress expanded housing protections for survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking (KNOWN AS VAWA CRIMES).

Major Changes in 2013:

  • Expanded protections to more housing programs like CoC, ESG, HOPWA, and HOME.

  • Expanded “VAWA Crimes” to include sexual assault.  Also, important to note that the reauthorization broadened the definition of DV to no longer require abuse to be perpetrated by a spouse.

  • Established new definitions (e.g., affiliated individual and sexual assault, and others).
    • Expanded protections to individuals affiliated with victims like spouses, parents, siblings, children, and anyone residing in the household.

  • Revised previously defined terminology (e.g., bifurcate and stalking) 
    • Example: During bifurcation of lease – Requires reasonable time periods during which a tenant who is a victim may remain in the unit while establishing eligibility under the current housing program or another covered housing program, or seeking alternate housing.

  • Established new requirements for notification of occupancy rights under VAWA using the HUD form 5380 (Notice of Occupancy Rights Under the Violence Against Women Act)

Provides that applicants and tenants may not be denied assistance or have assistance terminated under a covered housing program on the basis of or as a direct result of the fact that the applicant or tenant is or has been a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. 

Note: Survivors may choose their preferred documentation in asserting their VAWA housing rights.

  • Established requirements for creating an emergency transfer plan and for related record keeping and reporting, and provides both a model “Emergency Transfer Plan for Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking”, using HUD form 5381, and an “Emergency Transfer Request for Certain Victims of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking using HUD form 5383.

  • Revised the requirements for documenting the occurrence of DV, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, and provided a new way of “certifying” using HUD form 5382.

Note: Housing programs/projects cannot make a survivor get a PPO.  A survivor may invoke their VAWA protections and choose which form of VAWA documentation they would like to use.  

  • Congress never added a sunset providing to the housing protections.

  • HUD’s final VAWA rule was issued on November 16, 2016 and implements the requirements of VAWA 2013.  

  • The office of Rural Development, which administers the Department of Agriculture’s affordable housing programs also adhere to VAWA.

HUD Housing Programs the Rule Applies to:

  • Public Housing
  • Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Project-based Section 8 Housing
  • Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities
  • Section 202 Housing for Elders
  • Section 236 Multifamily Rental Housing
  • Section 221 Below Market Interest Rate Housing
  • HOME Program
  • Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA)
  • Housing Trust Fund
  • McKinney-Vento Act Programs 
    • Continuum of Care (CoC) and Emergency Shelter Program (ESG)
    • Any Rapid Rehousing, Homeless Prevention rental assistance, Transitional Housing, or Permanent Supportive Housing project funded under a CoC NOFA.

For Emergency Shelters, Short-term Supported Housing, and Safe Haven Coverage are not 100% subject to all related requirements; however, ALL types are prohibited from denying admission to a housing program or terminating housing assistance based on an applicant being a victim/survivor of a VAWA defined crime.


  • VAWA protections may be most commonly associated with victims of domestic violence; however, it is important to note that the protections are also for victims of sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.  (It might be helpful to explain how VAWA Crimes are defined in federal legislation.)

  • A survivor’s decision to reconcile with their abuser is not relevant under VAWA.

  • Requirement = mandatory. What a provider is unfamiliar with or does not know does not serve as an acceptable excuse. 

  • VAWA protections are not limited to women.

  • VAWA protections are for all ages. Instances of VAWA Crimes may occur against youth (those under the age of 18 years old) living in an assisted household.  The family may need to exercise VAWA protections to protect the youth.

  • Applicants cannot be denied access to housing based on factors directly related to the victimization like job history, credit history, criminal record, etc.

  • Requires confidentiality of survivor’s information including their status as a survivor.  That means:
  • Cannot disclose information to any other entity unless they have informed, written, time-limited consent.
  • Information is required for use in eviction proceeding or hearing regarding termination of assistance,
  • Otherwise required by law.

  • Adverse factors may appear unrelated to DV, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking; however, the presence of an adverse factor may be a result of victimization.

  • The adverse factor may be present during an abusive relationship, or it may present itself when a victim is attempting to leave or “flee” or has left.

  • Consider Circumstances for:

  • Failure to Pay Rent:
    • Victim’s injury or temporary incapacitation;
    • The arrest of the only wage-earning member of the household;
    • Preventing the victim from obtaining and/or maintaining employment;
    • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing the victim at the workplace;
    • Causing the victim to lose their job by physically battering prior to important meetings or interviews;
    • Forcing the victim to work without pay in a family business

  • Poor credit history:
    • Forcing a victim to obtain credit, including credit cards for the perpetrator’s use;
    • Using a victims’ credit or debit card without permission, or forcing him or her to do so;
    • Selling a victim’s personally identifiable information to identity thieves;
    • Running up debt on joint accounts;
    • Obtaining loans/mortgagees in a victim’s name;
    • Preventing a victim from obtaining and/or maintaining employment;
    • Sabotaging work or employment opportunities by stalking or harassing a victim at the workplace, or causing a victim to lose his or her job by physically battering the victim prior to important meetings or interviews;
    • Putting utilities or other bills in a victim’s name and then refusing to pay;
    • Forcing a victim to work without pay in a family business, or forcing them to turn over their earnings to their abuser;
    • Job loss or employment discrimination due to status as a victim of DV, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking;
    • Job loss or lost wages due to missed work to attend court hearings, seek counseling or medical care, or deal with other consequences of the crime, and
    • Hospitalization and medical bills the victim cannot pay or cannot pay along with other bills.

  • Poor rental history:
    • Property damage;
    • Noise complaints;
    • Harassment;
    • Trespassing;
    • Threats;
    • Criminal activity (e.g., drug deals by their abuser)
    • Missed or late utility payment(s);
    • Missed or late rental payment(s);
    • Writing bad checks to the landlord, and
    • Early lease termination and/or short lease terms.

  • Criminal History
    • Forcing a victim to write bad checks, misuse credit, or file fraudulent tax returns;
    • Property damage;
    • Disorderly conduct;
    • Noise complaints;
    • 911 abuse;
    • Public drunkenness
    • Drug activity
    • Crimes related to sex work
    • Failure to protect a child from a batterer’s violence and/or abuse;
    • Human trafficking




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