The Capitol Hill paper Roll Call
is reporting on the need to reform VAWA. Read the article here
That's important. For almost 50 years, Roll Call
has been the source for news about what's doing in the U.S. House and Senate. It's read by essentially everyone on the Hill including elected officials and their staff.
So the article, by Natasha Spivack, who's Secretary of Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) is a unique opportunity to acquaint everyone on Capitol Hill with the need to reform VAWA.
And the need is great. Indeed, it's far greater than anyone in the Senate Judiciary Committee that recently held hearings on VAWA reauthorization realizes. For starters, the law should be made gender-neutral. You'd think that would have happened a long time ago, but it hasn't yet. Male victims continue to be ignored en masse
Earlier this month, Catherine Becker, 48, allegedly drugged her estranged husband and tied him to a bed. As he awoke, police said, she took a 10-inch knife to his penis, severed the appendage and tossed it into a garbage disposal.
Bail has been set at $1 million as Becker awaits arraignment on multiple felony charges.
Given the timing and the particularly gruesome nature of the attack, one would have expected that a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the Violence Against Women Act would have featured heart-rending discussions about how similar incidents of gender-motivated violence could be avoided in the future.
But the Becker case was not deemed worthy of mention...
Many studies suggest female-on-male violence has become equal to, or even more prevalent than, the male-initiated variety. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 10 percent of high school girls had hit, slapped or physically hurt their boyfriends in the previous year. In comparison, only 9 percent of boys had been physically aggressive to their female partners.
The name should be changed, but far more importantly, VAWA funding must be changed to reflect gender-neutral policies.
As things stand now, essentially all VAWA resources are directed at female victims and male perpetrators. As everyone who follows the politics around domestic violence knows, there are some 1,500 shelters for women and not one for men in the entire country.
Hewing closely to the narrative of the DV establishment for which there are no male victims and no female perpetrators, VAWA does essentially nothing for either. Given that reauthorization is likely to carry a price tag of about $550 million, you'd think that there would be funding for treatment for women who can't control their anger and lash out at husbands, boyfriends and children. But there won't be.
And speaking of money, there's little information about how VAWA funds are spent and if programs are effective at combatting domestic violence.
Citing a probe by the Department of Justice inspector general that unearthed shoddy accounting practices at 21 of 22 VAWA grantees, Grassley commented tartly: "Simply put, in today"s economic environment, we cannot tolerate this level of malfeasance in federal grant programs.'
In addition, according to the Office of Management and Budget, VAWA grantees have never promulgated any criteria by which they can be judged. Stated another way, we don't know much about what they're doing or whether it works. And we don't know how they're spending our money.
Given that lack of government oversight of VAWA funds, if the system isn't rife with incompetence and corruption, it's the first in history. Standards, regular reporting and oversight are necessary when the government funds anything, but so far the DV establishment has gotten a pass on all that.
Still on the subject of money, if we defined "domestic violence" in a sensible way, we'd be able to do a lot more with what we spend. The simple fact is that much of what we call domestic violence is completely non-injurious. One government study found that 61% of women and 75% of men said they'd received no injury in the incident inquired about. Other data show that, even when there's an injury, it's usually a minor one, like a small cut or bruise.
That's the type of domestic violence that the vast majority of couples sort out on their own, as they should. We don't need to spend taxpayer money on incidents of that sort. What we should spend money on is addressing what's come to be called "intimate terrorism," in which serious injury is done for the purpose of controlling the behavior of the other person.
So VAWA as well as state laws, and the practices of police and prosecutors should be tailored to stop intimate terrorism via treatment and jail time where warranted. That'll mean narrowing the definition of domestic violence in VAWA in order to deal with truly dangerous situations and not with those that aren't.
Coincidentally, narrowing the definition of DV in VAWA is just what Texas Congressman Ted Poe endorsed shortly after the Judiciary Committee hearings.
Then there's the problem of false accusations of DV by aliens applying for residency. That program is riddled with corruption as the Roll Call
Much of the problem arises because the Citizenship and Immigration Services deems a person accused of domestic violence to be a "prohibited source.' So the CIS, in Kafka-esque manner, refuses to accept any documentation that might reveal the immigrant to be a criminal, welfare cheat or perjurer.
It's that old "guilty until proven innocent" problem again. If your wife tells the CIS you're an abuser, you can't produce evidence to the contrary because any information coming from you is "prohibited." It's an open invitation to fraud.
Those are scarcely the only problems with VAWA or our approach to domestic violence generally. We started by conceiving of the problem in ideological terms. That political ideology ignored the science on DV and predictably got it wrong on what DV is, who does it, why, and how to fix it. We've been marching in lockstep ever since toward a future that contains much more funding, but little improvement in our DV statistics.
With any luck, the worm is starting to turn. We may be reaching a tipping point at which tight budgets, the science on DV and popular discontent with our current approach combine to move us toward dealing effectively and fairly with a problem with which we've so far done neither.