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April 19 2012

So Much For A Serious Discussion Of The Violence Against Women Act...

Charlotte Hays

One of our hopes was that there would be a serious, bipartisan discussion of the pros and cons of reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which is currently up for renewal.

First introduced in 1994 by then-Senator Joe Biden, the bill is “fundamentally flawed,” according to a study by IWF Visiting Fellow Christina Villegas and David Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation.

When it was passed, VAWA was a federal incursion into an arena that had formerly been handled by states. Villegas and Muhlhausen argue that dealing with domestic violence is more appropriately handled below the federal level. While noting that no large-scale study of the effectiveness of VAWA grants has ever been done, the authors point out that the new version of VAWA makes available even more money, often in ways that duplicate existing services.  

Rather than simply being a way to help female victims of abuse, the study notes, VAWA promotes the idea that sexual violence is a “social control” issue and seeks to redistribute resources towards women:

 This philosophy of group victimhood undermines equal protection and the rule of law and has been detrimental to the protection of victims generally.

These are serious issues that deserve to be debated before this bill or another version of it is approved. So how is Vice President Joe Biden handling the debate?

The Daily Caller reports:

Vice President Joe Biden suggested on Wednesday that the GOP’s opposition to the Democratic version of a domestic violence bill will give the green light to male violence against women.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was passed in 1994 and was reauthorized in 2005. Approval of an updated law is stalled because Republican and Democratic senators disagree over what provisions should be added to the law.

“Just ask yourself, what message does it send to our daughters, to every women imprisoned in their own homes … if the law is not reauthorized,” Biden declared today at a White House meeting of feminists and groups that are funded by the law.

Yep, if you’re funded by VAWA, you may very well like to vilify those who call for a serious discussion of the bill. So Biden’s remarks were no doubt a hit yesterday at the White House. But if you’re a taxpayer, you might want to look at how VAWA money is being spent. I talked about one way the money is used here.

GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Kay Bailey Hutchison have worked to produce an alternative version of the bill. And how do Democrats like it?

Democratic senators have also announced their opposition to the GOP reform bill that would tighten oversight of grants to community groups and would establish the first set of basic legal rights for people accused of domestic violence.

Under current law, people — who are mostly men — who are accused of domestic violence have few legal safeguards or rights, even when they face imprisonment, fines, loss of property and loss of access to their children.

For example, accusers can get federally-funded lawyers, but defendants don’t get federal aid.

Defendants also lack many standard legal rights available to criminals and defendants in civil suits. For example, immigrants spouses who accuse their spouses of domestic violence can get permanent visas, while their spouses can’t confront them in court.

“There’s no equal protection,” said Teri Stoddard, program director at Stop Abusive and Violent Environments. “I know many, many people who have been falsely accused — both men and women — [and] because they don’t have that equal protection, lose everything — their home, car, job and mental health,” she said.

I urge you to read the Villegas/Muhlhausen study in its entirety—it is quite an eye-opener. It would be beneficial of the issues they raise could be discussed on Capitol Hill.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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