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Laws on violence against women

Laws on violence against women

Any type of violence is illegal. Laws about violence against women give additional support to women and families affected by violence. The most significant laws related to violence against women are the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). Learn more about your protection under each of these laws.

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013

The main federal law against violence against women is the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (PDF, 410 KB). Domestic violence and abuse are already against the law. This law provides services and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The direct services provided for individual women by this law include:1

  • Free rape exams
  • No charge for prosecution or civil protection orders in domestic violence
  • Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races and ethnicities
  • Programs and services for women with disabilities
  • Legal aid for survivors of violence
  • Services for children and teens
  • Protections for victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) helps victims of domestic violence and their children by providing shelters and resources.

Under the FVPSA, the Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds national, state, and community programs, such as state domestic violence coalitions and the Domestic Violence Resource Network. The Domestic Violence Resource Network includes national resource centers on domestic violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233).

Local laws about violence against women

Each community has slightly different laws about violence. But no one ever has the right to hurt you physically. In all communities, you should call 911 if you are in immediate danger. Violence is a criminal act. You must contact the local police to report violence and be protected by the law.

Some communities have outdated or limited local laws about sexual assault. The legal definition of rape in your local community may be slightly different than what you expect. The U.S. Department of Justice (a federal agency) defines rape as “the penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”2 The federal government uses this legal definition to collect information about rape from local police.

Even though local laws can be slightly different from community to community, do not be afraid to report violence to the police. The police will file a report, which is the start of a legal process to get help and protection under the law.

Did we answer your question about laws against violence against women?

For more information about laws against violence against women, call the OWH Helpline at 1-800-994-9662 or check out the following resources from other organizations:


  1. National Network to End Domestic Violence. (2013). The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013
  2. U.S. Department of Justice. (2012). An Updated Definition of Rape.