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Violence Against Women Act Paves Way for LAWO Survivor Programs

Since its enactment in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has been a cornerstone in the fight against domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This landmark legislation has transformed the landscape of protections and resources available to survivors, ensuring that they are not alone in their journey toward justice and healing. The law has been reauthorized several times, each time introducing new provisions to strengthen protections for survivors and improve responses to the serious crimes they have experienced. The most recent reauthorization of VAWA was in February of 2013.

Before VAWA’s passage, survivors of domestic violence faced significant barriers in seeking help and justice. Many were trapped in abusive relationships, with limited legal recourse and support services available to them. VAWA shifted the landscape by recognizing the severity of these crimes and providing comprehensive federal resources for survivors. VAWA led to the creation of the federal Office of Violence Against Women which provides federal leadership to increase the national capacity to end domestic violence, stalking, and sexual violence.

While VAWA has improved conditions for survivors, LAWO recognizes the systemic barriers survivors continue to face in their efforts to achieve stability and independence from their abusers. Survivors often find themselves in life-threatening situations while continuously re-experiencing trauma as they strive to transition to safety. Over the past four years, our firm has taken note of increased lethality in abusive relationships as more and more clients disclose being strangled or threatened with a deadly weapon at the hands of their abusers. We respond to survivors by integrating trauma-informed, client-centered practices in our service delivery and staff training to both promote and improve access to justice for survivors. We also engage in partner education and coalition efforts to address the systemic barriers to safety and independence.

Currently, LAWO holds three grants administered by the Office of Violence Against Women. The first is the Justice for Families Project. Composed of a multidisciplinary team including LAWO, the Lucas County Juvenile Court, the Children’s Rights Collaborative, and Bethany House, this project seeks to reduce violent crime against women and enhance victim safety through advocacy and supportive services for families experiencing domestic violence in northwest Ohio. 

LAWO was awarded another grant to establish the Safety and Accessibility for Everyone (SAFE) Project which examines barriers faced by survivors of color with disabilities. SAFE exists to improve the response to survivors with disabilities by eliminating organizational service delivery barriers. Through this project, LAWO seeks to identify and address institutional and structural barriers to stability and independence for survivors.

LAWO was also recently awarded a Department of Justice Legal Assistance for Victims grant. This project focuses on the dangers posed by strangulation and implementation of Ohio’s Felony Strangulation law, which went into effect in April of 2023. Ohio was the last state in the country to enact a felony strangulation law which is a critical step in acknowledging the dangerousness and long-term impact of strangulation. This project seeks to educate survivors and the community on the dangers of strangulation and to serve survivors of intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual violence.

As we continue this important work, we are reminded of the path VAWA has set to support organizations like ours. To learn more about this law, visit

About the author

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc.

Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO) is a non-profit regional law firm that provide high quality legal assistance in civil matters to help eligible low-income individuals and groups in western Ohio achieve self reliance, and equal justice and economic opportunity.