Wednesday, April 18, 2012

VAWA: You're Doing It Wrong

VAWA is up for reauthorization in Congress and so now is the time to talk about the problems with this law, from misandry and misogyny to civil rights violations and ineffective policies. Let's start with:

"Angela Moore Parmley, PhD, of the Department of Justice put it, 'We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.'" (See here.)

Oh, but wait, there's more!

The VAWA is misandric by framing issues like domestic violence or rape, and resources like shelters or counseling as only being about female victims and male perpetrators. The CWA (Concerned Women for America), despite their somewhat reactionary politics has a great article about the many problems with VAWA, including:
An unintended (or perhaps not) consequence of VAWA is that the legislation created a climate of suspicion of men and an abusive system that contributed to the breakdown of families. 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. As lawyer Phyllis Schlafly, pointed out, "Any man accused of domestic violence effectively loses a long list of Constitutional rights accorded to ordinary criminals. These include due process, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, equal treatment under the law, right to a fair trial, right to confront his accusers, freedom of speech, right to privacy in family matters, custody or visitation rights with his own children and even the right to bear arms. On the other hand, the woman receives free legal representation even if she has presented no evidence of injury or harm." 
Seriously, under the VAWA, states are pressued to enact Primary Aggressor laws whereby the "stronger" partner "most likely to cause or inflict harm" is labeled the abuser and arrested, no matter the evidence. In scenarios like this men's lives can be destroyed just for raising their voice, or for defending themselves from their significant others. Many are even no longer allowed to see their children.

The best critical look at the VAWA I've seen is at The Moderate Voice. The author, Dean Esmay puts it like this:
Researchers, advocates, and groups have been increasingly vocal about the problem with our entire mindset when it comes to the issue of domestic abuse, but right now Congress appears stuck in the 1970s. The act should almost certainly be renamed; its current title is utterly sexist and demeaning. Domestic violence is an equal-opportunity offender, and is not a simple tale of brutal men versus victim women and children. Addressing it requires sober, serious reflection and looking at how best to address it. This may be hard to achieve in times of high political polarization, but the question becomes: if not now, when? If not us, who?
 Talk to your representatives and tell them we need a better solution than partisan politics and gender stereotypes!


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