Like caring parents teaching our young sons that it’s never right to hit a girl, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), currently up for reauthorization by the U.S. Senate, attempts to teach America the same lesson. Despite the fact that there are nice-sounding solutions in the bill’s language, though, VAWA is failing miserably.
There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience nearly 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. Please note that social scientists have changed the term from “spouse” to “intimate partner” due to the decline of marriage, which by the way correlates with an increase in domestic abuse of both women and children. Marriage is the safest place for women and children, yet VAWA does nothing to encourage the institution.
Young single women are at risk, too. The U.S. Justice Department estimates that 25 percent of women will experience rape or attempted rape by an acquaintance during their college years, and that less than 5 percent of these rapes will be reported. We must stop ignoring the dangers of college campuses, whose liberal policies often put women more at risk, instead of delivering the promise of liberation.
Yes, it is definitely a worthy goal for VAWA to seek to reduce domestic violence against women. However, since first enacted in 1994 under the Clinton administration, and reauthorized in 2000 and 2005, VAWA has morphed into a series of rigid and ineffective law enforcement programs that continue to spend approximately $400 million each year. The sad truth is that VAWA doesn’t seem to have made enough of a difference to justify the cost to taxpayers. Angela Moore Parmley, Ph.D., from the Department of Justice, wrote in “Violence Against Women,” Vol. 10, No. 12, 2004, p. 1424, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.” The bottom line remains clear: It’s not working.
A major problem with VAWA is that it lacks appropriate focus on the real issues at hand. Currently, VAWA has language seeking grant conditions for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (Section 3-39). Adding such controversial language to a bill that seeks to protect women diverts focus from victims of violence and bogs it down with partisan political messaging.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, senior fellow of Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) Beverly LaHaye Institute, puts it plainly: “Decent people are outraged at the abuse of women, but VAWA is more about building feminist power structures than about protecting vulnerable women or addressing the major problems of battered women who end up in hospital emergency rooms.”
Additionally, proponents of VAWA need to quit demonizing men as a whole. In fact, research shows that husbands — and marriage in general — offer the most protective safe haven for women and their children, compared to any other relationship. The Department of Justice estimates that “women are 62 times more likely to be assaulted by live-in boyfriends than they are by their husbands.” If liberal feminists behind VAWA really cared about the well-being of women, then they would be America’s biggest proponents of marriage between a man and woman.
There is a common consensus that VAWA isn’t effective. A recent national survey conducted by SAVE (Stop Abusive and Violent Environments), a non-profit victim-advocacy organization, shows 69.5 percent of respondents agree it’s time to reform VAWA in order to reduce waste and fraud within the system.
According to the Justice Department, VAWA currently administers 21 programs that, together, create a bureaucratic nightmare. The good news is there is one smart, effective initiative being proposed this year: the Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Reporting Act, called the SAFER Act, which creates a national registry of forensic evidence from sexual assault cases. It is a major step in the right direction to processing an estimated 400,000 rape kits currently collecting dust either at the crime labs or in local law enforcement agencies. It works to ensure that dangerous criminals are taken off the streets and crime victims are not denied justice because of bureaucratic backlogs.
The end result is that while VAWA supposedly addresses domestic violence, it merely promotes feminist and homosexual ideology while failing to directly help women. Instead of wasting America’s efforts and funds on VAWA, the Senate should address the SAFER Act as stand-alone legislation. Forget VAWA; pass the SAFER Act and block grant some portion of the funds to the states, which both constitutionally and logistically are in a better position to choose how to protect victims of violence. Women deserve better than a bill with a good name and empty promises.
Penny Young Nance is CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization with 500,000 members.