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Betrayal of Women - VAWA 2005
June 15, 2005
by Trudy W. Schuett

In Congress today, legislators of both parties from many states are congratulating themselves and each other, feeling good about themselves and their concern for battered women.

They are wrong. They are badly misinformed and misguided.

VAWA 2005 cannot help women much, if at all. Worse, it belittles their anguish, ignores their needs and insults their intelligence. In many cases, it makes a bad situation so much worse, it's a wonder this kind of approach has lasted a full decade, since originally being signed into law in 1994. At the heart of VAWA is the mistaken presumption that by removing women from their homes, jailing their husbands and indoctrinating their children, this will have a positive impact on intimate partner abuse.

Ten years out, there is no evidence that VAWA and its myriad programs has been of benefit to anyone beyond those municipalities, organizations and individuals who are recipients of VAWA funding, or employed by VAWA-funded agencies. Claimed decreases in domestic violence may well represent only a growing number of women unwilling to turn to these programs for help.

The newest incarnation represents expansion of the scope and penetration of the Federal government into state, local, tribal, and family affairs. It also introduces federally-approved bias against ethnic groups and Native Americans.

One Solution to a Complicated Human Problem?

While proponents of VAWA would like to believe that what they call "gender violence" is aptly solved by female victims separating from their male abusers, the actual problem is far more intricate. There may be a case of mutual abuse, or an addiction to violence, or a dogged belief that the abuser will magically change someday. Not all cases of intimate partner abuse escalate to murder, or even serious physical harm.

It's much easier for anyone to embrace a proffered solution to a human problem when a clear and apparently obvious solution is provided. It all seems very simple: men = abusers; women = victims. It has nothing to do with the rest of the world. The rest of the world is made up of men and women who want to live together and raise children, because that's the way our society works.

However, if a woman who loves her husband is not offered any choice but to leave him, and regard him as a criminal, and her boys if she has them are targeted as suspects in future crimes, that is an insult beyond measure. She does not come out ahead.

Public Knowledge

Fueled by disinformation and misunderstanding of statistical data, the mainstream media has done its part to pander to the agenda of bureaucrats and feminist ideologues. During the past year, I've seen hundreds of newspaper, TV, and radio reports from all over the world.

They are nearly all identical, except for local details. It is like everyone from Maine to Malaysia uses the same press release, but claims it as their own local work. Only in a handful of cases has any reporter from any news outlet challenged the word of their local shelter advocates.

What isn't reported much is the number of shelter programs in the US where somebody is facing litigation or criminal charges, the number of shelters losing funding due to the fact they are ineffectual or badly managed, or the shelters expanding for women only without question, despite the need otherwise.

The Sacred Cow

It's true that the social institution of the Domestic Violence shelter has become a sacred cow, never to be challenged or disputed. How is it acceptable to give some women and girls priority over all men and boys, when there is a need for help across the board?

Yet we do it anyway. This sacred cow needs to be slain, and autopsied. There are far too many women and families running afoul of the shelter culture, and being destroyed as a result. The feminist ideal on which VAWA rests has long ago moved into the area of the dusty, best-forgotten archives. Why can there not be any realistic approach, that takes into account the intents and desires of today's women?

The answer to that question is easy - so many programs (and the people who run them) are simply dependent on VAWA and the self-perpetuating illogic entailed in the law. Only the most desperate or manipulative women will enter a residential program and stay within the untenable options presented. So the women they see are in dire straits, or practiced con artists, and it's easy for program managers to presume all women are in need of this kind of program.

There is nothing in VAWA or shelter bylaws or rules that require any program to keep track of their successes or impact on the community. They don't know if they actually help any women maintain lives free of violence, and they don't seem to actually care if they do. What appears to be important to shelter advocates is the number of women who divorce or leave their communities. Some agencies actually count these women as "successes."

Anyone concerned about the fate of women in abusive relationships will be best served by contacting their legislator and asking them to vote against VAWA 2005. Only then will the issue be approached in a practical manner that does not destroy women or their families.

Trudy W. Schuett is the publisher of the DesertLight Journal, a blog focused on domestic violence issues, and an advocate for unserved victims since 1999.

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