Why Congress Must Reject VAWA
July 7, 2005
by David R. Usher
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for re-authorization. VAWA is a radical feminist program, always pushed by Democrats. In the past, Republicans quietly went along with it for lack of focus on good social policy. The purpose of this article is to provide Republicans with solid social policy that everyone of sound mind will agree on.
Republicans think that letting the National Organization for Women have its way would help them get re-elected. This didn’t work for Senator John Ashcroft, who lost his race in 2000 to a dead man, despite letting VAWA II out of his committee just in time for the elections.
Republicans will pass VAWA anyway --- because they haven’t taken the time to develop solid pro-marriage social policy. In the short run, we must expect Republicans to require Senator Joe Biden to effect modifications making VAWA gender neutral. Republicans can vote for VAWA and the stand up for the 14th Amendment by insisting that the VAWA be made gender neutral. At minimum, funding must be provided to help men and children living in marriages where the wife is dangerous or abusive, as called for by the Safe Homes For Families and Children Coalition
In the long run, Republicans must stop funding radical feminist social policy in areas including abortion, domestic violence, and divorce. This is because feminist approaches are crafted to have one common effect: destroying heterosexual marriage, usually for no real reason whatsoever.
Lets see how this relates to the Violence Against Women Act.
The Constitutional Issue
VAWA is unconstitutional on its face --- just as unconstitutional as a “Violence Against Whites Act” would be. No court in America would permit the existence of a multi-billion-dollar federal program pretending that violence is solely a black-on-white issue and makes sure it always looks that way regardless of case facts. It is a long held tenet that law enforcement must be blind to race and sex – except of course unless it has the letters “VAWA” in front of it.
Here is the great myth propounded by radical VAWA advocates: Domestic violence is always a male-on-female proposition. Even if it isn’t, Victorian chivalry dictates that women should have something that men cannot have: equal protection under the law.
Women’s abuse centers and advocacy groups traditionally plaster the media with lopsided factoids about domestic violence, misusing federal funds to get more federal funds to serve a variety of radical anti-family purposes. The fundamentals prove them wrong:
According to the NIJ/CDC National Violence Against Women survey, 10.8% of the women but only 4.1% of the men used a knife on the victim. 21.6% of the male victims were threatened with a knife, while only 12.7% of the women were so threatened. 43.2% of the male victims were hit with a hard object capable of causing serious injury, while this was true of only 22.6% of the female victims. When all serious forms of domestic assault were added together, as many assaulted men as women were seriously assaulted.
The National Institute of Justice and the Center for Disease Control estimates that 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are the victims of domestic violence each year. According to this NIJ/CDC survey, 37% of the domestic violence is against men. 100% of the federal domestic violence funding under the Violence Against Women Act is to be used for domestic violence against women. 100% of the federal domestic violence research funds disbursed to several federal agencies is devoted to domestic.
The Real Problem: Divorce and Substance Abuse drive domestic violence and child abuse.
In addition to being wrong on their facts, women’s centers do not tell you what drives family violence. There are two actual primary drivers of family violence:
Drinking, Drugging, and Family: 75% of serious spousal violence involves an offender who has been drinking. Another 11% involves an offender who has been using drugs. In total, 86% of serious domestic violence involves a person abusing mood-altering drugs (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1998).
Divorce: Only 4% of serious spousal violence occurs in the intact family. 96% occurs in the non-intact family (Chadwick and Heaton, Statistical Handbook on the American Family, 1992). While chemical abuse is a major factor, it does not kick in until the family is separated.
The scope of the problem: Only 4.1% of all violent crimes involve a spouse or ex-spouse (Ibid., Chadwick and Heaton).
What does this mean from a public policy perspective? It means that divorce (and the problems that go with it) is the primary driver of domestic violence, and that mood altering chemicals play a significant role after separation of the family.
Here is how this plays out in public policy and law:
Somebody in the family has a drinking or drugging problem. The other spouse only has two choices: live with it or get a divorce. Public policy provides no positive options.
If the husband is abusing chemicals, the wife files for divorce and automatically wins, because dad is a drunk. VAWA makes sure of this.
If the wife has a substance abuse problem, family courts rarely care. VAWA makes sure that the woman’s drinking problem is ignored. Friction in the family drives the wife to file for divorce to get away from the husband. She knows she has at least a 75% chance of taking over the family and being able to continue her life style. Family courts usually don’t care if mom had a drinking or drugging problem. They just grant the divorce. This is why over 2/3 of fatal child abuse is caused by single mothers, and the natural father is actually in the lowest risk group for fatal child abuse.
Children of single parents were at higher risk of physical abuse and of all types of neglect and were overrepresented among seriously injured, moderately injured, and endangered children. Of children who were maltreated by their birth parents, the majority (75%) were maltreated by their mothers and a sizable minority (46%). Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3), 1993.
We realize two crucial concepts from the above:
Divorce, combined with substance abuse, drives serious domestic conflict and child abuse.
Funding VAWA will only create more divorce, more domestic conflict, and more child abuse.
Proactive Family Violence Prevention and Mitigation
Republicans have an historic opportunity to make the lives of all Americans better.
The first step is to not give billions of dollars to the National Organization for Women (which also misuses the funding to promote the anathemas of same-sex marriage, abortion, and divorce).
The second step will be to create a proactive “Family Violence Prevention and Mitigation Act”. This concept expects marital responsibility of all spouses, will help them work through the common problems of marriage, assist the responsible spouse to get the other spouse into treatment, and save government and the taxpayers from trillions of dollars in social expenses which presently revolve around the triangle of divorce, chemical abuse, and violence.
Here are the basic elements of the Act. I have discussed this at length with lawmakers in Missouri, and the feeling is that this is an excellent program:
A new type of temporary restraining order, called an IO (Interventive Order) is created. A responsible spouse can request a family intervention via the family court, requiring the other spouse or child to undertake a prevention/intervention (P/I) at a chemical dependency treatment center.
If the treatment center finds that a spouse or child has a problem with chemical abuse, the spouse is then ordered to undergo treatment and remain clean and dry. The case is tracked on the court record. To handle cases where a chemically-dependent spouse reports the clean spouse to avoid the issue, or cases of co-substance-abuse, the treatment center may also require a P/I on the reporting spouse.
If a spouse fails in treatment, the court record will ensure that the children will not go to the custody of the chemical abusing parent.
Federal funding should provide loans to pay for treatment, and may optionally pro-rate repayment based on ability to pay. In no instance will treatment be free, because this is an element of personal responsibility.
This plan provides substantial benefits to all Americans:
Spouses living with a chemically-abusing spouse will finally have a good choice, and a good chance of salvaging their marriages. I have interviewed hundred of divorced spouses who were unable to get their spouse into treatment by themselves. They were stuck with a divorce as the only solution.
A substantial number of expensive social problems revolving around the divorce will abate. Reductions in spending for child abuse treatment, foster care, illegitimacy, crime, violence, child support enforcement, suicide prevention, and many others should more than offset the federal cost of carrying chemical-dependency treatment loans.
We can substantially reduce highway traffic fatalities. Drinking and family goes on for some time before drinking and driving results in a traffic fatality. We can not only save marriages – we can save lives and reduce insurance liabilities too.
I urge everyone to take this concept to their U.S. Senator and Congressman. The Republican party now has a very solid social policy it can pass with confidence, with the support of the substantial majority of Americans who would like to see government enact helpful, pro-marriage policies.
David R. Usher
David R. Usher is a Legislative Analyst for the American Coalition for Fathers and Children, Missouri Coalition.
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