Definitions of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Remain the Same

 Unfortunately, the story going around is fake news, and it has created a lot of unnecessary panic. The definitions of sexual assault and domestic violence have NOT changed, and the current Presidential Administration would not have the authority to change them.
What has happened is that the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) changed the descriptions of domestic violence and sexual assault on their website in April 2018.  Prior to that, along with resources and hotline information, the website included some more detailed, advocacy-based descriptions of sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking for the general public. When OVW updated their website in April, those advocacy-based descriptions were removed and replaced with the current statutory definitions that are in the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  These definitions have existed since the original VAWA passed in 1994, and for as long as the DOJ has been making VAWA grants, they have been constrained by these legal definitions. The entire executive branch is also bound by the language of the statute (34 U.S.C. 12991) defining domestic violence and sexual assault, which can only be amended by Congress. Anything else that was on there was not actually legally binding.
These definitions have not changed – they are the statutory definitions that have been in place since 1994.
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John L. Finley

John L. Finley works under the direction of CALCASA’s Executive Director, and is responsible for development and implementation of CALCASA’s strategic advocacy and legislative priorities. He works closely with the entire management team to identify, monitor, and execute our legislative agenda on emerging issues related to sexual violence, and provides key legislative analysis on statewide and national public policy. Born and raised in America’s Finest City: San Diego, California, John graduated from Stanford University in 2016 with a B.A. in Political Science. He became involved in the movement to end sexual violence while serving as President of the Associated Students of Stanford University, and lent his voice to the national chorus calling for improved systems of education, prevention, and adjudication in the aftermath of People v. Brock Turner. John is a proud Eagle Scout, and is committed to lifelong advocacy on behalf of survivors of sexual violence and marginalized people everywhere.

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