VAWA2: Gender Apartheid

One of the most blatant tax grabs in recent history is up for renewal in Congress – H.R. 1248, which would re-authorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) at close to a 200 percent increase in funding. PC feminist sites on the Internet are currently abuzz with petitions aimed at preserving their "right" to belly-up and drink deeply at the public trough. The 1994 VAWA authorized a tax transfer of $1.6 billion over a six-year period to programs that "fought" violence against women. As often as not, these tax-supported programs were nothing more than subsidies to political campaigns such as the drive to eliminate alleged sexual harassment on American campuses. This drive alone – which has become a gender witch-hunt – has almost killed free speech and academic liberty in America. Of course, the public face presented by the VAWA speaks of funding to battered women's shelters and rape crisis centers. What person of good faith could argue with such humanitarian goals?

Me for one, and not primarily because of the tax angle. (After all, everything is tax-funded these days.) The VAWA is a brazenly ideological step toward cementing the gender apartheid that presently divides American society. Consider one aspect of the 1994 Act – the aspect that was struck down by the Supreme Court last spring. Namely, the section that allowed a victim of rape or other violence "motivated by gender" to sue the perpetrator for civil damages in federal court for violating her civil rights.

In 1995, Christy Brzonkala became the first person to sue under the Act over a rape that allegedly occurred in her dormitory room while she was a student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The accused men had been cleared by both a university judicial committee and a criminal grand jury. Although the evidence could not sustain a criminal charge, Brzonkala used the VAWA to bring a civil case against them in federal court. The advantages to feminists of using a civil court to punish an alleged criminal wrong were clear: civil courts require only a preponderance of the evidence (51%) rather than "beyond a reasonable doubt" (99%) to "convict." Moreover, the standards and procedures are far looser in a civil proceeding. In short, the evidence required to ruin a man's life was watered down to meet feminist requirements.

Definition ia not a strong point in the VAWA – in u201894 or now. The Act is vague as to what constitutes "gender-motivated violence." Its vagueness has served the cause of PC feminism. They routinely consider words and images to be acts of gender violence, and definitions that legally expand and contract to accommodate circumstance suit them well. Fortunately, by a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court found that a federal civil remedy for alleged rape was unconstitutional. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor stated, "Your approach [PC feminism's]…would justify a federal remedy for alimony or child support." That is how pernicious the righteously titled Violence Against Women Act might have been.

The fact that this provision was embedded in the u201894 VAWA should raise questions about whether the Act is intended to protect women against real violence, or is merely a cynical step in a political agenda. Real violence against women – murder, battery, rape – has been steadily and steeply declining since 1990. Yet the renewed VAWA calls for a three-fold increase in funding against gender violence.

What else does it call for? As with the u201894 Act, the new measure is filled with hidden political "gotchas." For example, consider Title IV, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PREVENTION Subtitle C – Victims of Abuse Insurance Protection SEC. 423. DISCRIMINATORY ACTS PROHIBITED. By this clause, insurance agencies cannot refuse to accept or maintain a battered woman as a client even though she remains in the situation of her own free will. Indisputably, such a client has an increased likelihood of requiring medical care and hospital stays that result from her own choices. Yet private insurance companies would be required to underwrite the cost of this choice. Moreover, "No insurer or health carrier may terminate health coverage for a subject of abuse because coverage was originally issued in the name of the abuser and the abuser has divorced…" By virtue of being abused, a woman must be carried by insurance companies who issued a policy to her on the strength of her husband's profile. Insurance companies will finance the feminist agenda on domestic violence.

The $3.8 billion reauthorization of the VAWA is nothing more or less than an attempt to federalize and embed a specific definition of domestic violence and gender crime into American society. One feminist site proclaims, "In the past six years, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has provided grants which" enable "states to train…law enforcement officials on proper techniques to use when they are confronted by situations involving domestic violence." At the e-headquarters of the National Organization for Women (NOW), President Patricia Ireland declared of the VAWA's critics, "Some conservative members of Congress…apparently do not consider stopping violence against women a national priority. But tens of thousands of women and men will prove them wrong at the World March of Women 2000 on October 15."

To judge by its online petition, the worldwide series of coordinated women's rights demonstrations collectively known as the World March of Women has three objectives: 1) to "eliminate poverty and ensure a fair distribution of the planet's wealth between rich and poor, and between women and men"; 2) to "eliminate violence against women"; and, 3) to "ensure equality between men and women." Who can believe that this petition is not the expression of an ideological agenda – one that will be reflected in programs such as the training of police required by the VAWA2.

Consider the "value-free" analysis offered by Violence Against Women Act NEWS (Sept. u201896), "In 1994, there were 88,500 incidents of domestic violence where a firearm was present. Moreover, responding to these calls has been deadly business for law enforcement. From 1985 to 1994, there were 65 law enforcement officers killed when they responded to family quarrels, and 9 out of 10 of those deaths resulted from firearms. The connection between guns and domestic violence can have dangerous, even deadly consequences." PC feminists are in the forefront of calling for a ban on gun ownership for men accused of domestic violence offenses – even misdemeanors. It is criminally naive to believe that billions of dollars placed into their bank accounts will not be used to limit the constitutional rights of gun owners. But this is only one political implication of the VAWA.

With such underlying ideological tensions, it is no wonder that the VAWA has encountered raw cynicism from its critics. For example, an attempt is underway to co-join the VAWA with a less popular bankruptcy bill that feminists have actively opposed. The American Bankruptcy Institute – "the premier site for bankruptcy information on the web" – states (as of October 3rd), "It appeared late last week that Senate leaders may seek to attach the bankruptcy measure to a freestanding bill, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), rather than an appropriations bill. However, sources remained skeptical that the plan would be successful due to Senate Democratic and White House opposition to the latest version of the legislation." Feminist opposition will remain strong as well since the new bankruptcy bill would divert the funds of husbands and ex-spouses from women's pockets to creditors in the private sector. Or, as one feminist sarcastically stated, "to share the ex-husband's income with MasterCard and Visa."

There is nothing noble or righteous about the VAWA. The Act is a money grab to back an agenda. In the wake of its political turbulence, it is women who will be battered (as well as men) by having to live with the burden of gender apartheid.

October 9, 2000

Wendy McElroy is author of The Reasonable Woman. See more of her work at and at her personal website.

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