The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

VAWA advice for members of Congress

Photo of Charlotte Hays
Charlotte Hays
Director of Cultural Programs, Independent Women's Forum

The Senate’s overwhelming vote of 78 to 22 to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act last Tuesday shows the power of picking a good — if propagandistic — name.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) has a built-in advantage: You don’t believe in hitting women, do you, Senator?

Nobody sane — including the 22 brave senators who voted against reauthorizing the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives — believes that violence against women is ever justified. But you’d never know it from the tenor of the debate.

For example, when the House adjourned at the end of the 112th Congress without scheduling a vote on VAWA, Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, charged that Rep. Eric Cantor believes “it’s okay for some women to get beaten and raped.” Nice, huh?

UltraViolet, a women’s group, accused Speaker of the House John Boehner and his caucus of wanting “to take away protections women have had for years.”

Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, had said he was willing to vote for a version of VAWA with certain amendments, but he voted against the bill as presented last week, only hours before he gave the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address. UltraViolet’s Nita Chaudhary issued a nasty statement about the “so-called savior of the Republican Party” and claimed that he had “put millions of women at risk.”

Such rhetoric makes it nearly impossible to have an honest discussion about VAWA.

There are very serious reasons to, at the very least, ask that changes be made before the act, originally passed in 1994, is renewed. Let’s hope House members aren’t as feminist-pecked as the Senate appears to have been.

Domestic violence is a real and serious problem in the United States, but VAWA is not the best way to address it. To the extent that VAWA has made the public more aware of domestic violence, it is not a total loss. But it is a horribly flawed piece of legislation.

VAWA federalizes a crime that is better dealt with on a local level and relies heavily on restraining orders, which all too often prove useless in the face of a determined aggressor.

Moreover, gender ideology pits men and women against each other and puts the guy at a disadvantage in proving innocence. VAWA has enormously reduced due process protections for accused men. Lawyer and civil libertarian Wendy Kaminer — hardly a wild-eyed right-winger — has taken note of this. Kaminer acknowledged in an article in The Atlantic that a law “designed to rectify gender discrimination tips the balance too far, putting accused men at an unfair disadvantage.”

VAWA can be a powerful weapon in the hands of an angry woman who knows that the system is now stacked against guys. Conversely, VAWA’s “must-arrest” rule prevents other women from calling the authorities when they really should.

As beneficial as the “must-arrest” policy sounds, it can be complicated for women in real-life situations who know that a call made for protection can trigger an irrevocable process in which they have no input. Kaminer wrote about the “unabashed contempt for the rights of the accused.” Unfortunately, the knowledge that harsh policies reduce any chance of reconciliation deters many would-be accusers from calling the police.

And then there is money. VAWA may not be the best way to protect women, but it sure as heck helps bureaucrats and feminists. I like to call VAWA the Feminist Full Employment Act. Grants to organizations throughout the nation are made through the Office on Violence Against Women, whose budget request last year was $454,898,000.

There is almost no oversight of these funds or monitoring of these grants, and no study has been done to assess the overall effectiveness of VAWA. Let me tell you one way your taxpayer dollars are being spent by the Office on Violence Against Women: to support womenless “beauty pageants.” No, really.

VAWA gives grants to campus offices that promote an event during which male students walk around in high heels with their nails painted red. The idea is that by turning a campus into a replica of Bourbon Street on a bad night, men will be less likely to abuse women. Go figure.

As we gird for the next round of VAWA vitriol and votes, I have some advice for members of the House of Representatives: Stand up for women, but stand up to money-grubbing feminist ideologues.

Charlotte Hays is the director of cultural programs at the Independent Women’s Forum.