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NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

March 28, 2018 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization

Domestic violence is an issue that’s important to anyone attempting to reform family courts and family laws. For four decades now, allegations of domestic violence have been used by parents to gain an advantage in child custody disputes. The absence of much in the way of due process of law on behalf of the accused means that he can be removed, sometimes for months at a time, from his child’s life, thereby establishing a fait accompli of maternal custody when the final hearing rolls around. Family lawyers have been acknowledging those facts for many years now.

That means that domestic violence law and policy play a large part in the nationwide effort to ensure that children maintain meaningful relationships with both parents post-divorce.

The Violence Against Women Act, while providing necessary services for women who are the victims of domestic violence, has long been criticized for its failure to address or serve either male victims or female perpetrators. The current count of DV shelters stands at roughly 1,500 for women to 3 for men. Likewise, the embrace of the discredited Duluth Model of power and control by domestic violence organizations funded through VAWA ensures that those organizations charged with ameliorating the problem of DV aren’t doing the job.

It’s with that background that Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) brings to the public’s attention facts about our domestic violence policy that the words “shocking” and “outrageous” don’t begin to do justice.

It seems that recently, Senators Charles Grassley and Diane Feinstein held a celebration of the 24th anniversary of VAWA. That’s the sort of things office-holders often do when they want to draw attention to past achievements. They remind the public. So it was unusual to say the least that Grassley and Feinstein invited no member of the public and no member of the press to their “celebration.” That “down in the trenches” nature of the event turns out to be all of a piece with the organization that’s behind VAWA and has been for years.

I refer of course to the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, or NTF. What is the NTF? SAVE’s announcement contains this:

In the words of one knowledgeable Senate staffer, the NTF is the “main coalition involved with the VAWA reauthorization.” Groups that have requested to have a “seat at the table” of the VAWA reauthorization process have been informed that their request first must be approved by the NTF.

In other words, NTF is the one and only gatekeeper for everything related to United States policy on domestic violence. It’s the proverbial 500-pound gorilla in that room.

But again, what is the NTF? Apparently, no one knows. Not only that, but there seems to be no way to find out. We live in an age in which such secrecy is generally considered all but impossible. After all, can’t we simply go to the organization’s website and find out much of what we need to know? Not in the case of the NTF. Its website consists of a plethora of intentionally vague assertions of fact. For example, it informs us that the NTF includes “civil rights organizations.” Oh, which ones? It doesn’t say. “Labor unions.” No word on which ones. “Advocates for children and youth.” None are named. “Anti-poverty groups.” Nothing on those either. The list of supposedly affiliated organizations goes on without a single actual organization being named.

So what is the NTF? The organization’s own website, under the menu item “Who We Are” gives no information.

But surely a visitor to the site can simply locate the “contact us” button, click on it and find an email address or telephone number, right? Wrong, there is no such button. The site offers no way in which an interested party can ask a question or make a comment.

OK, but here’s one way we can be sure of contacting the NTF. Every organization needs money, so we can simply find out how to make a donation, right? Wrong again. The NTF’s website makes no pitch for funds.

At this point, a casual visitor to the NTF’s website might well conclude that the organization isn’t an organization at all, but simply a website. Indeed, its information is so sparse and so entirely unverifiable, such a visitor could imagine that the whole thing was put together by a bored 12-year-old. The fact is that anyone can make the type of statements the NTF’s website makes and, because of the entire absence of specifics, no one can figure out whether they’re true or false. If say, the site specified such-and-such a local labor union as being part of the task force, we could call that local and ask some questions, answers to which would lead us to other sources of information. But we can’t, because there are no specifics.

What is the legal status of the NTF? Is it a 501(c)3 organization? A (c)4? A section 527 organization? A PAC? A for-profit corporation? Some other legal entity? Who knows?

Where does its funding come from? Who knows? It’s obviously an important question because most organizations receiving money through VAWA are prohibited by law from lobbying state or federal legislatures. The NTF certainly does lobbying work, so is it in compliance with federal law? Who knows?

If it receives public money, what does it receive it for? That is, in seeking grants or loans, it will have been required to say what the money was to be used for, so what representations did the NTF make? Again, who knows? And again, that’s important.

It’s important because the NTF’s “Action Alerts” have, over the past 18 months addressed a wide range of issues that seem to have nothing to do with domestic violence. Those include federal tax policy, the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Attorney General, healthcare reform and the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August.

Is NTF misusing public money? Who knows?

In short, U.S. public policy on domestic violence is being controlled by an organization that is utterly secret. We neither know nor apparently can know what the NTF is, what it does, who funds it, who is affiliated with it or whether it violates federal law.

As I said, this is shocking and outrageous. Nothing in the law, morals or sound public policy allows such power to an organization that operates entirely in secret. Grassley and Feinstein must make the facts clear and well-known. They must do so before VAWA comes up for re-authorization later this year.

 

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National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization

National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved?  Here’s how:

Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.

#Domesticviolence, #CharlesGrassley, #DianeFeinstein, #SAVE

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