A federal law that went into effect in 1994, and was reauthorized and amended in 2013, provides legal protections to individuals who are victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. The name of the law is the Violence Against Women Act, or "VAWA."
VAWA Notice and Forms
Protections for Victims
If you are eligible for a Housing Choice Voucher, DCA cannot deny you rental assistance solely because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, you cannot be terminated from the Housing Choice Voucher program or evicted based on acts or threats of violence committed against you. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking that are caused by a member of your household or a guest can’t be the reason for evicting you or terminating your rental assistance if you were the victim of the abuse.
Reasons you can be Evicted
You can be evicted and your rental assistance can be terminated if DCA or your landlord can show there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or employees at the property if you remain in your housing. Also, you can be evicted and your rental assistance can be terminated for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking committed against you. DCA and your landlord cannot hold you to a more demanding set of rules than it applies to tenants who are not victims.
Removing the Abuser from the Household
Your landlord may split the lease to evict a tenant who has committed criminal acts of violence against family members or others, while allowing the victim and other household members to stay in the assisted unit. Also, DCA can terminate the abuser’s Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance while allowing you to continue to receive assistance. If the landlord or DCA chooses to remove the abuser, it may not take away the remaining tenants’ rights to the unit or otherwise punish the remaining tenants. In removing the abuser from the household, your landlord must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Moving to Protect Your Safety
DCA will permit a VAWA participant to move upon a verbal or written request from the head of household that the move is required in order for them to protect themselves, or their family, from a potentially dangerous domestic violence or sexual assault environment. Upon notice, DCA will work with the existing landlord to terminate the existing lease, based on the terms of the lease (in accordance to 24 CFR 5.2005 (a)(2) and DCA Policy) and may work to possibly relocate the family to a unit in that landlord’s portfolio. For families who wish to move outside of DCA’s jurisdiction, the portability regulations will apply.
For PBV participants, DCA will issue a voucher to families who have been in the unit for one year or more. For PBV families who have been in the unit less than one year, DCA will review, on a case by case basis, each request and also seek the recommendation of the supportive service staff of the PBV site. The final decision for voucher issuance for families who have been in a PBV unit for less than one year will be made by the division director. DCA may request that the family provide the request to move either verbally or in writing and it could be delivered via email, fax, hand delivery, or USPS.
Proving you are a Victim of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking
DCA and your landlord can ask you to prove or “certify” that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The housing authority or your landlord must give you at least 14 business days (i.e., Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays do not count) to provide this proof. The housing authority and your landlord are free to extend the deadline. There are three ways you can prove that you are a victim:
- Complete the certification form given to you by the DCA or your landlord (form HUD-5382). The form will ask for your name, the name of your abuser, the abuser's relationship to you, the date, time, and location of the incident of violence, and a description of the violence. You are only required to provide the name of the abuser if it is safe to provide and you know their name.
- Provide a statement from a victim service provider, attorney, mental health professional, or medical professional who has helped you address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. The professional must state that he/she believes that the incidents of abuse are real. Both you and the professional must sign the statement, and both of you must state that you are signing "under penalty of perjury."
- Provide a police or court record, such as a protective order, or an administrative record.
If you fail to provide one of these documents within the required time, the landlord may evict you, and DCA may terminate your housing assistance.
DCA and your landlord must keep confidential any information you provide about the violence against you, unless:
- You given written permission to DCA or your landlord to release the information.
- Your landlord needs to use the information in an eviction proceeding, such as to evict your abuser.
- A law requires DCA or landlord to release the information.
If release of the information would put your safety at risk, you should inform DCA and your landlord.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit DCA's or your landlord's duty to honor court orders about access to or control of the property. This includes orders issued to protect a victim and orders dividing property among household members in cases where a family breaks up.
VAWA does not replace any federal, state, or local law that provides greater protection for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
If you have any questions regarding VAWA, please contact the regional officer manager at:
Northern Region: (888) 621-9885
Southern Region: (888) 879-2549
For help and advice on escaping an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
For purposes of determining whether a CDA program participant may be covered by VAWA, the following list of definitions applies:
VAWA defines domestic violence to include felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence committed by a current or former spouse or intimate partner of the victim, by a person with whom the victim shares a child in common, by a person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse or intimate partner, by a person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies, or by any other person against an adult or youth victim who is protected from that person's acts under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction.
VAWA defines dating violence as violence committed by a person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim; and where the existence of such a relationship shall be determined based on a consideration of the following factors:
- The length of the relationship
- The type of relationship
- The frequency of interaction between the persons involved in the relationship
VAWA defines sexual assault as any nonconsensual sexual act proscribed by federal, tribal, or state law, including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent.
VAWA defines stalking as to follow, pursue, or repeatedly commit acts with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person or to place under surveillance with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person and in the course of, or as a result of, such following, pursuit, surveillance, or repeatedly committed acts, to place a person in reasonable fear of the death of, or serious bodily injury to, or to cause substantial emotional harm to that person, a member of the immediate family of that person, or the spouse or intimate partner of that person..