By Janice Shaw Crouse
Vice President Joe Biden says that out of all the legislation that he was associated with while serving in Congress, he is most proud of his role in getting the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) passed in 1994. Now, 17 years later, even the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), admits that the bill is too broad to be effective. An expert in family violence, Dr. Angela Moore Parmley, concurs, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.” To the contrary, some studies indicate an increase in violence against women since VAWA was enacted, including in one study a 60 percent increase in intimate partner homicides.
While perhaps failing in its stated mission, VAWA has nevertheless succeeded in creating a vast bureaucracy with an annual price tag of $457,000. Instead of addressing the root problems of violence and ending battering, the broad definitions of violence in VAWA mean that husbands are thrown in jail based on flimsy allegations of causing “emotional distress” or “unpleasant speech.” Meanwhile, drug-addicted boyfriends and alcoholic cohabiters continue to batter, and all men are assumed to be capable of violence.
The end result is that a bill that supposedly addresses domestic violence is, instead, a thinly veiled means of promoting feminist ideology, and anyone who dares to raise questions is accused of waging a “war against women.” In such a climate, rational disagreement is virtually impossible. After all, VAWA, like many leftist, progressive initiatives, sounds positive. Who, besides jihadists, favors abuse of women?
A major, underlying problem with VAWA is that the bill lacks appropriate focus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified approximately 30 causes of domestic violence. From this, we know the factors that lead to violence in the home. Those factors are a complete mismatch with the provisions of VAWA. Domestic violence is a problem that stems from problems in relationships, psychological or social maladjustment, anger, alcoholism, and substance abuse. VAWA is all about restraining orders, arrests, prosecution, batterer intervention programs, fostering false allegations, re-educating judges in feminist ideology and biases, and law enforcement training that have been shown to increase, rather than decrease violence. The vast VAWA bureaucracy is a full-employment entity for feminist lawyers and social workers and a boondoggle for feminist organizations which see violence not as the result of maladjustment or the factors cited above but as rooted in the patriarchy.
An unintended (or perhaps not) consequence of VAWA is that the legislation created a climate of suspicion of men. The bill is more about pushing a gender ideology than about stopping partner violence. The result has undermined males in general and husband/fathers in particular. Marriages that might otherwise have been saved are destroyed because of VAWA’s must-arrest mandate when police arrive at the scene.
A favorite (unsubstantiated) argument frequently used by feminists is that “controlling communities” foster violence against women; those “controlling communities” are military and religious families. Not only are these families NOT on the CDC’s long list of risk factors for domestic violence, the social science data are clear: families that go to church are happier and healthier on every measure of women’s well-being. A married father-mother home is the safest and most nurturing place for the nation’s women and children. Military personnel, too, are not potential abusers of women because of their profession; they are, by-and-large, honorable men who are in the military to protect their families and nation.
By now, everyone should know that the majority of “domestic violence” incidences are committed by boyfriends, not husbands. Probably because of that fact, statistics are now kept on “intimate partner” violence, and we refer to “domestic violence” rather than breaking down violence into types of intimate partners or domestic household arrangements. We also know that out-of-control anger, alcoholism, and drug addiction are among the top risk factors; VAWA focuses instead on “re-educating” judges and law enforcement on the feminists’ version of “women’s rights.”
In short, VAWA offers women both a “tactical advantage” and a “powerful weapon” when they want to “get back” at a man, have regrets the next morning, or want out of a marriage for any reason at all. Allegations of abuse can cause men to lose their homes, jobs, children, and standing in the community. Once they’ve been thrown in jail because of mandatory arrests and have been assumed guilty, where do they go to get their reputations and their jobs back when the accusations are proven false?
Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D., serves on an international task force to end abuse of women. She is Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute.