The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization again this year. This newest version of VAWA -- loaded up with even more leftist provisions -- has hit a snag. First signed into law in 1994 with bipartisan support and reauthorized in 2000 and 2006, the legislation has become both a failure and a boondoggle, lining the pockets of feminist groups, vastly expanding federal, state and local bureaucracies, and becoming riddled with fraud.
This year there are competing bills in the House (H.R. 4970) and Senate (S. 1925). In a climate of debt, deficit and government waste, the legitimate bone of contention is how best to reform the law, which has spawned dozens of failed programs. VAWA created a bureaucratic nightmare that targets the wrong women, those claiming nebulous "psychological harm," instead of actually helping battered women. In addition to not helping the women it is supposed to serve, VAWA has morphed into a rigid, inhumane law enforcement tool that hurts and denigrates men.
A national survey of registered voters introduced on July 17 by SAVE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments), a nonprofit victim-advocacy organization, shows that the majority of people surveyed agree it is time to reform VAWA. According to the results, domestic violence victims, younger people, Republicans and women are most likely to support VAWA reform. It found that 69.5 percent of those surveyed support reform to end waste and fraud, 65.9 percent support reform to stop discrimination, and 63.5 percent support reform to stop false allegations.
Victims of domestic violence or those who know a victim support reform even more, with 73 percent supporting reform to end waste and fraud and more than 68 percent supporting reform to stop discrimination and halt false allegations.
The left has made much of the "war on women" Republicans supposedly are waging, in part by introducing and passing a VAWA bill in the GOP-dominated House instead of accepting the Senate version. However, more women surveyed seem to realize VAWA needs reform than men surveyed. More than 73 percent of women support reform to end waste and fraud compared to 70.6 percent of men; 71 percent of women support reform to stop discrimination compared to 66.6 percent of men; and 68.3 percent of women support reform to stop false allegations compared to 67.8 percent of men.
One of the key differences between the House and Senate bills is that the House bill is gender-neutral, protecting all Americans from domestic violence, while the Senate bill contains language that aims to protect specific groups, including homosexual and transgender Americans. The House language takes an important step toward reforming a law that has created a climate of suspicion against men and a situation in which men are arrested on flimsy excuses, while women have their legal fees paid, enabling them to get a divorce and keep a man out of his house and away from his children. An accused man is often fired from his job, alienated from his friends and community, and assumed guilty until somehow he is able to prove he is innocent.
Statistics show there is not much difference between the rates of violence for men against women (6.4 percent ) and women against men (6.3 percent). Robert Franklin, a Texas lawyer who is on the board of Fathers and Families, listed some enlightening statistics in a recent article that point to the need for the law to cover all victims of domestic violence because men are victims, too:
35 percent of victims of severe domestic violence are men but only 1 percent of federal funds goes to assist them.
A study of students at two universities showed that 29 percent of women and 22 percent of men admitted to physically assaulting a date.
A University of New Hampshire study on dating violence in 32 countries showed women were the aggressors more often than men.
The Liz Claiborne Institute found in its Teen Relationship Abuse Survey that 17 percent of boys and 13 percent of girls had been hit, slapped or pushed by a dating partner.
A 2009 Centers for Disease Control study showed that when there was reciprocal violence in a domestic relationship, it was women who hit first 70 percent of the time and then men responded with violence.
The original VAWA was based on good intentions, but as with most things that originate in Washington, the result over the years has been to create an enormous bureaucracy that runs amok with fraud, lacks appropriate oversight, contains no means of accountability and consists of many duplicate programs providing the same assistance to the same groups of people. President Obama has said he would veto H.R. 4970 but supports S. 1925. Unless this law is reformed (and H.R. 4970 takes steps to do so) it will continue to discriminate against men, underserve actual victims of violence and provide millions of taxpayer dollars to build radical feminist power structures instead of ending intimate partner violence.
Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow at Concerned Women for America's Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of "Marriage Matters" (Transaction Publishers, 2012).