By Harry Crouch
NOTE: Not surprisingly, The Washington Post did not respond to the following letter that I submitted the day after their editorial board issued a strong recommendation to support Senator Leahy’s VAWA re authorization bill. So, I’m sharing it with you anyway…
The Washington Post Editorial Board noted in Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, that since enacted in 1994, VAWA has twice been reauthorized by Congress with unanimous consent.
Aside from hot-button issues like “choice”, it’s politically correct to vote for women’s entitlements in heath, education, employment, welfare, child care/protection, and of course VAWA. It has been politically safe, there was no down side …until now…
The Washington Post rightly asserts, “No one — gay or straight, man or woman… should be denied protections against domestic abuse or sexual violence.” So, why is it called the Violence Against Women Act, which is blatantly discriminatory on its face? We don’t have a “Men’s Occupational Health and Safety Act” even though job deaths are almost exclusively men.
The editorial lauds provisions in the Reauthorization Bill to provide shelter services to women regardless of sexual identification; expand protections for American Indian Women assaulted by their spouses, and resurrect expired unused VISA’s so more alleged abused immigrant women can petition for legal status in the United States. But, why doesn’t the Washington Post specifically call for similar services for men? What’s wrong with including gender inclusive provisions in VAWA?
It is an egregious misrepresentation to assert or imply that VAWA provides meaningful protections, services, or programs for males, gay or heterosexual, as it does for women, regardless of sexual preference and ethnicity. To emphasize the point, within VAWA there is no mention of abused American Indian males; as if by omission they don’t exist.
VAWA is under scrutiny because virtually everyone in America has been adversely impacted by it either directly or indirectly. Consequently, legislators are feeling pressure as numerous individuals and organizations turn up the heat for reform, including influential women’s groups like the conservative Concerned Women of America to more main-stream Women Against VAWA Excess.
VAWA is arguably a horrible piece of legislation. The Washington Civil Rights Council termed VAWA the “Biggest civil rights roll-back since the Jim Crow era; even, the ACLU called VAWA “repugnant” to the Constitution. Key provisions of VAWA have been overturned by the Supreme Court in three separate cases.
Now, for the first time, Senators and Representatives are making a concerted effort to get it right. They are learning about VAWA in detail along with its intended and unintended consequences, some of which have horrendous impacts on all too many children, families, women, and especially heterosexual men.
Incredulously, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy’s original Reauthorization Bill fixes few of the long-standing problems while expanding questionably ineffective programs and creating new untested services with little or no oversight. By contrast, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley’s proposed reforms, among other things:
1. Ensure the use of truthful and science based information rather that supposition.
2. Ban all forms of discrimination and removes sex-discriminatory language.
3. Help protect real victims of physical battering while restricting ever expanding definitions of domestic violence that destroy lives for the smallest non injurious disagreements.
4. Enhance the accountability of both the DOJ Office of Violence Against Women and VAWA grantees to prevent malfeasance and maladministration.
5. Restrict the definition of sexual assault so couples who mutually consent to alcohol consumption and sex are not inadvertently classified as rapists and rape victims.
6. Assure both complainants and the accused are eligible for legal assistance, not just the alleged victim.
7. Provide provisions to protect due process on college campuses when accused of harassment or sexual assault.
8. Require alleged victims applying for Section XIII rent assistance to provide actual proof that they have been victimized getting special treatment.
9. Offers a number of changes to curb immigration fraud, (NOTE: Grassley’s reform provisions do not prevent immigration. And, it appears Senator Leahy’s premature request to process 34,000 unused VISA’s is already filling 150 additional jobs in the Vermont Immigration Service Center; which, interestingly, is the only Immigration Service Center authorized to process this type of VISA).
Intimate partner violence is not gender specific. Politics and ideology should not drive the debate. Legislation, program providers, law enforcement, and the judiciary must distinguish false accusers from real victims; and, hold people accountable for serious abusive behavior without criminalizing them for small infractions.
It is unconscionable that some believe VAWA so sacrosanct that it should pass Congress without careful scrutiny or debate. If there’s to be a VAWA let’s make it gender inclusive, administer it fairly, and call it something like the Partner Violence Reduction Act.
No one I know is opposed to protecting victims of domestic violence. However, discriminating against roughly half the population for no reason other than they are male, especially heterosexual males, is barbaric by any civilized measure.
President, National Coalition For Men