CHAPEL HILL -- Cost-benefit analyses of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 suggest the legislation, which provided $1.6 billion for various prevention programs over five years, saved $14.8 billion in net social costs that otherwise would have been incurred.
The analyses, done for the first time, concentrated on costs related to direct property losses, medical and mental health care, police responses, victim services, lost productivity, death and reduced quality of life. Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health conducted the study.
A report on the work appears in the April issue of the journal Violence Against Women. Authors are Kathryn Andersen Clark, who is completing a doctorate in public health; Dr. Andrea K. Biddle, associate professor of health policy and administration; and Dr. Sandra L. Martin, associate professor of maternal and child health.
The Violence Against Women Act was a bipartisan effort between the Clinton administration and Congress in 1994 aimed at protecting women because research increasingly showed that women were the victims of violent crimes, Clark said. The intent was to create a safer environment for women by providing money to increase penalties for abuse and improve resources for police, prosecutors, various service providers and others.
Clark decided to undertake the study when the act was coming up for renewal last year to determine whether the legislation had any measurable effect. Biddle and Martin were her advisers.
Using data available through the National Institute of Justice, they compared victimization rates for women from 1992 and 1993 before the act passed with rates from 1996, after its passage. Factored into the analysis was information from an earlier report by researchers Mark A. Cohen and Ted R. Miller estimating the costs of specific crimes such as fatal, non-fatal and sexual assaults.