The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), first passed in 1994, has been an invaluable tool in the struggle against gender-based violence. VAWA has helped strengthen victim services and provides funding for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. VAWA is up for reauthorization, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, and even Dr. Phil McGraw supporting the measure.
Who could oppose reauthorizing legislation that has helped countless domestic violence and sexual assault victims? Several voices from the far right, that's who.
VAWA's impending reauthorization has drawn fire from several Religious Right figures, including Phyllis Schlafly. Schlafly, an anti-feminist who gained national attention in the 1970s for her opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment, has stated that married women can't be raped by their husbands and was scheduled to speak at an anti-VAWA event in 2008, according to Right Wing Watch.
In a July 12th column at Town Hall entitled "Violence Against Women Act Must Be Rewritten," Schlafly claimed that VAWA is "feminist pork," spent by radical feminists in the pursuit of their agenda. Feminists, according to Schlafly's stereotype, believe that men are inately batterers, and women are innately victims. She provides no examples of feminists who have supposedly claimed this, nor does her stereotype account for the many male feminists working to end domestic abuse and sexual violence (i.e., Men Can Stop Rape, NOMAS, MASV).
Schalfly complained that VAWA focuses on female rather than male victims, ignoring the fact that the women are far more likely to be victims of domestic abuse or sexual violence (see here, here, here, and here) and might therefore require special attention. Furthermore, she insists that VAWA should be rewritten to account for the "tremendous" issue of false accusations, claims that women who report domestic violence are not required to produce evidence, and insists that accused men are not accorded due process, while providing no evidence to back up any of these claims. Prosecution and divorce should not be routine strategies for dealing with "only minor" abuse in relationships, she asserted.
Schlafly's hostility toward feminists and domestic violence accusers was startling, and I wondered why her anger was being directed at feminists and VAWA rather than abusers. This hostility, however, is nothing new, nor is this the first time Schlafly has lambasted VAWA. (To read Shlafly's Town Hall column, visit townhall[dot]com/columnists/phyllisschlafly/2011/07/12/violence_against_women_act_must_be_rewritten.)
However, Schlafly's essay is not the only recent attack on VAWA. In a July 12th essay at Renew America entitled "Violence Against Women Act: Do the Rights of Men Matter?", Carey Roberts claimed that while VAWA seemed like a good idea when first implemented, it has allegedly been "hijaked" by a "radical ideology" opposed to patriarchy. Roberts claimed that the struggle against domestic violence morphed into an ongoing attack against men, fueled by alleged propaganda that women are non-violent. The true goal, he wrote, was not to prevent domestic violence but to undermine the patriarchy. Like Schlafly, he insists that VAWA promotes unjust policies at the expense of the accused, allegedly eliminating the presumption of innocence and presuming accused men to be guilty.
Again, Robert's focus is not on the countless victims of domestic violence in our country, but on accused men and a stereotypical image of feminists. His column displays a hostile attitude toward feminism highly reminiscent of Schlafly's rhetoric. Both columns ignore what feminists actually believe, and what the anti-violence field actually looks like. (To read Robert's essay, visit www[dot]renewamerica[dot]com/columns/roberts/110712)
Finally, in a June 25th commentary at American Thinker entitled "Dominique Strauss-Kahn vs. the American Anti-Male Justice System", Theo Willem cited the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case and the Duke Lacrosse case as alleged examples of unfair treatment of accused men. Willem claimed that since the 1994 passage of VAWA, the presumption of innocence is not longer operative for accused men. (To read Willem's commentary, visit www[dot]americanthinker[dot]com/2011/06/dominique_strauss-kahn_vs_the_american_anti-male_justice_system.html)
These three commentaries left me shaking my head. Why do the authors emit such animosity toward legislation that has helped countless victims of violence? Why the stubborn insistence that presumption of innocence has somehow evaporated in this country? Why do the authors focus on men accused of violence, rather than a myriad of problems facing victims, such as barriers to victim services, misclassification of cases, or victim service centers closing due to lack of funds? Is their distaste for feminism so strong that even efforts to address violence against women must be met with contempt?
For additional commentary, visit the following links.
Right Wing Watch: Schlafly: Violence Against Women Act Protects Women Too Much
Casey Gwinn: Non-Violent Men Have Nothing to Fear