Violence Against Women Act
The Newton Housing Authority is committed to the prevention of domestic violence. This commitment was signed into law by President Bush in 2006 when he endorsed Public Law 109-162 in order to support or assist victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Sections 606 and Section 607 amend sections of the U.S. Housing Act that govern much of our work. These amendments not only protect certain victims of criminal domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking, but also protect members of the victims’ immediate families from losing their HUD-assisted housing as a consequence of the abuse of which they were the victim.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) prohibits the eviction of, and removal of assistance from, certain persons living in public housing if the asserted grounds for such action is an instance of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Protections for Victims
If you are eligible for public housing, the housing authority cannot refuse to admit you to the public housing program solely because you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.
If you are the victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking, the housing authority cannot evict you based on acts or threats of violence committed against you. Also, criminal acts directly related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking that are caused by a member of your household or a guest can’t be the reason for evicting you if you were the victim of the abuse.
Reasons You Can Be Evicted
The housing authority can still evict you if the housing authority can show there is an actual and imminent (immediate) threat to other tenants or housing authority staff if you are not evicted. Also, the housing authority can evict you for serious or repeated lease violations that are not related to the domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking against you. The housing authority 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
The housing authority 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 public housing unit. If the housing authority 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, the housing authority must follow federal, state, and local eviction procedures.
Proving that You Are a Victim of Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, or Stalking
The housing authority can ask you to prove or “certify” that you are a victim of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. In cases of termination or eviction, the housing authority must give you at least 14 business days (i.e. Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays do not count) to provide this proof. The housing authority is 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 housing authority. 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.
- Provide a statement from a victim service provider, attorney, or medical professional who has helped you address incidents of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking. The professional must state that he or 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.
If you fail to provide one of these documents within the required time, the housing authority may evict you.
The housing authority must keep confidential any information you provide about the violence against you, unless:
- You give written permission to the housing authority to release the information.
- The housing authority needs to use the information in an eviction proceeding, such as to evict your abuser.
- A law requires the housing authority to release the information.
If release of the information would put your safety at risk, you should inform the housing authority.
VAWA and Other Laws
VAWA does not limit the housing authority’s duty to honor court orders about access to or control of a public housing unit. 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, or stalking.
For purposes of determining whether a tenant 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 any of the following:
- A current or former spouse of the victim
- A person with whom the victim shares a child in common
- A person who is cohabitating with or has cohabitated with the victim as a spouse
- A person similarly situated to a spouse of the victim under the domestic or family violence laws of the jurisdiction receiving grant monies
- 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 (1) who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic or intimate nature with the victim AND (2) 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 stalking as (A)(i) to follow, pursue, or repeatedly commit acts with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person OR (ii) to place under surveillance with the intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate another person AND (B) 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 (i) that person, (ii) a member of the immediate family of that person, or (iii) the spouse or intimate partner of that person.
For Additional Information
If you have any questions regarding VAWA, please contact DASI, Domestic Abuse Services, Inc. at their 24 hour hotline at 973-875-1211. 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).