Domestic Violence Law Fuels Big Government
by Wendy McElroy
Violence Against Women Act, a hand-me-down from the Clinton administration
based on gender myths, anti-male bias and an infatuation with Big
Government, expires this year.
appropriation request for over $360
million will soon hit Congress, but a chance for gender sanity
is coming. The answer to renewing VAWA should be a thundering "NO!"
is the Violence Against Women Act? In 1994, Congress passed the
act as part of an Omnibus Crime Bill. VAWA
pitted the sexes against each other by focusing on "crimes of violence
motivated by gender"; victims were defined as female and only women
were offered the massive tax-funded benefits.
institutionalized the political belief that women, as a class, must
receive special protection from men and privileges from government.
violence was a specific focus. When male victims protested their
exclusion, VAWA advocates dismissed them as statistically insignificant.
Today, an impressive
body of research shows that men constitute anywhere from 36
to 50 percent of domestic violence victims. (The situation is similar
with rape. Women are the victims only if you exclude prisons where
male rape is prevalent.)
VAWA is more than an attempt to establish women as a protected class
at the expense of men. If this were its only flaw, then including
men under its umbrella would have solved the Act's unfairness.
Act seeks to create new gender attitudes through the social engineering
of society. The most aggressive example was also VAWA's biggest
failure to date: namely, its attempt to revise the judiciary system
in order to benefit women.
key section of VAWA '94 allowed a "rape" victim to sue her alleged
attacker for compensatory and punitive damages in federal civil
court on the grounds of having violated her civil rights. The federal
claim did not replace criminal punishment on the state level; it
was a supplement.
1995, Christy Brzonkala brought a federal lawsuit over an alleged
rape at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The two accused men had
been cleared by both a university judicial committee and a criminal
grand jury. Under VAWA, however, Brzonkala could pursue a case that
was not admitted into criminal
U.S. Supreme Court found VAWA's civil rights remedies and access
to federal courts to be unconstitutional.
2000 was rewritten to exclude the unconstitutional bits and to broaden
the Act's mandate to areas such as "Strengthening Education and
Training to Combat Violence Against Women."
short, to change society's attitudes on gender through education,
research and training programs. The underlying ideological bias
is illustrated by the fact that, after spending millions of dollars
on domestic violence research, VAWA advocates couldn't seem to find
male victims. Or, if they did, the data did not induce them to rename
the Violence Against Women Act.
attempt to educate society into adopting new attitudes on gender
contributed to what some call "the domestic
Massachusetts News offers a glimpse into the programs in its state.
"Every month, it [the woman's safety movement]...spawns new sub-programs,
clinics, shelters, research institutes, counseling centers, visitation
centers, poster campaigns. The state disbursed about $24 million
for domestic violence services last year, but that certainly is
not all the money spent... "
"safety" has become a tax-funded growth industry for lawyers, consultants,
researchers, counselors, professors and other "experts" who always
seem to conclude that more funding is needed.
advocates trumpet the Act's funding of domestic violence shelters,
and it is difficult to argue against helping a battered woman. It
is not clear, however, that the bureaucratic and "industrialized"
approach to domestic violence is an effective form of help. Every
dollar spent on ideological programs is a dollar snatched from a
victim. Moreover, the ideology blinds VAWA advocates to many real
Massachusetts News also reports that the state has 37 tax-funded
women's shelters, but no "shelters or services for men," except
lines on VAWA 2005 have been drawn. A prominent men's
rights site claims, "According to inside sources, the Washington
Post is about to launch its publicity campaign to renew the Violence
Against Women Act (VAWA)."
referenced campaign was evident in the Post's recent and heavily
criticized front-page series on the murder
of expectant mothers by intimates. The Post, a supporter of
past VAWAs, is accused of trying to create fear in women and sustain
the image of a domestic violence victim as being female.
accusation is lent credibility by the National
Organization for Women, which favorably reviewed the Post series,
stating that the series, "In compelling detail exposes the extent
of murder and violence directed at pregnant women and new mothers
in the U.S. NOW and our allies will be paying special attention
to these needs as the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization."
many VAWA opponents are focusing on the
inclusion of men within the Act rather than on its defeat. At
the Men's Rights Congress 2004, speaker Dave Burroughs recommended,
"The re-authorization...should be re-titled to the Intimate Partners
Violence Act" and funding should "encompass sheltering and services
for all victims of domestic violence regardless of their gender..."
is a fundamentally flawed piece of social engineering. The proper
response is not "Me Too!" It is a flat "no," followed by an insistence
on rethinking our entire approach to issues like domestic violence.
McElroy [send her mail]
is the editor of ifeminists.com
and a research fellow for The
Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. She is the author and
editor of many books and articles, including the new book, Liberty
for Women: Freedom and Feminism in the 21st Century
(Ivan R. Dee/Independent Institute, 2002).
© 2005 Wendy McElroy