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The Problem With The VAWA

A woman lies battered and bleeding and bruised,
As so often, reports CNN
And as always, a clamor—a group much abused—
Won’t somebody think of the men?

In a CNN opinion piece, Senator Patty Murray writes of yet another example of the failure of the Republican leadership to do the right thing:

This week, just over 250 days since the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan and inclusive bill to extend the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives allowed the clock to run out on protections that bill would have provided to millions of women across our country.

The act had been renewed many times since it was first introduced in 1994; there were a few changes this time:

Specifically, the bill included increased protections for women on college campuses across the nation following the brutal 2010 murder of Yeardley Love at the University of Virginia. It included new law enforcement measures to safeguard women on tribal reservations, one in three of whom will be raped in their lifetimes. It included nondiscrimination language for those in the LGBT community who had been unfairly left out of previous bills. And it provided protections to immigrant women, regardless of their status, who are often scared into silence at the hands of their abusers.

Yeah… no. That’s unacceptable to the right wing of the Republican party, and those extremists are in control.

But that’s not what my verse is about. No, as usual, I took an ill-advised peek into the comments at the article, and found… exactly what I expected to find. The real victims in all this?

Men.

Any sort of legislation aimed at protecting women from rape is clearly anti-equality and anti-american. Any concern over some victims of sexual assault (read: women) ignores the bigger picture, that equal treatment under the law means that privileged groups might have to settle for being treated equally, and that’s just not fair.

Never mind that the Violence Against Women Act’s nonexclusivity clause directly states that protections apply to male victims as well. Never mind that “what about the men?” does not apply to this story at all. The Republican extremists apparently don’t like LGBT, native Americans, or women in college–that is the hold-up. But CNN commenters aren’t always that nuanced.

One comment even suggested that the act is completely unnecessary, that other laws already cover everything that is needed to combat sexual assault. This commenter, of course, was referring to concealed carry laws. The solution to every problem.

Here’s hoping the new House of Representatives does a better job.

Comments

  1. says

    This commenter, of course, was referring to concealed carry laws.

    I cannot. I just cannot.

    I cannot believe that they did not pass VAWA. Well, I can believe it, but I still find it shocking and horrible. I have a few online friends who, after they were raped, went to clinics primarily funded by VAWA. It makes me physically ill to think that my government is doing something that it knows will harm people like my friends. I am a college student, so I find it very upsetting that they don’t feel like protecting me. And it is downright despicable of them to decide that LGBT, native American, and immigrant rape victims just aren’t worth helping. Is there any clearer sign of prejudice than thinking that certain groups of people just don’t deserve care after a violent crime? For all that they say they “care about women” or whatever, it’s very obvious that, to them, a great majority of us are disposable.

  2. Becca Stareyes says

    Yes, because knowing their abusers may have a gun is helpful, even if the victim is also packing heat*. That will surely not end in either the abused party getting killed or the abused party facing a murder charge for defending herself.

    * Let’s ignore that abusers often restrict their victim’s time and money, so how will she get a gun and permit?

  3. Cuttlefish says

    I knew a woman who, as I understand it (some trivial details changed to protect identities) was a favorite of gun rights advocates. She was saved from assault, saved by a drunk with a gun, and was used as an anecdote to show that you shouldn’t make handgun possession contingent on sobriety. Yeah, if you think handguns and booze are a bad combination, this woman might be dead.

    From her personal perspective, they are right, and all the statistics in the world would not be enough to change her mind. But must we legislate based on carefully chosen anecdotes, and ignore the aggregate data?

    Damn.

  4. steve84 says

    It’s beyond idiotic that such a law runs out at all. If they want changes they can change a law, but it shouldn’t have a sunset clause

  5. says

    If we renamed it the “Domestic Violence Prevention Act” and removed all gender-specific language, would these “men are the real victims” wankers drop their objections?

    Somehow, I doubt it.

    And why do I have a sneaking suspicion that even if a woman took their advice and shot her abuser, they wouldn’t buy battered spouse syndrome as a defense?

  6. Bob says

    D.c. wilson,

    Good suggestion – that would be a great start – to make the law gender neutral which of course it should have been all along. Of course, then you’d have to undo all the brainwashing courses given to judges and change the whole culture surrounding the law because it IS the feminists version of the Jim Crow laws – special groups (whites/women) require special protections against another group (people of color/men).

  7. Cuttlefish says

    The law *is* gender neutral; only the title isn’t. The title reflects the non-neutrality of the problem.

  8. DeepThought says

    Well, IS the language of VAWA gender-neutral? If so, then fine.

    However, if not, I absolutely deny that, if I should happen to become a victim of a crime, I, merely by virtue of being a member of a privileged group, should be denied government services provided to others. That would be a violation of equal protection.

  9. Rodney Nelson says

    Well, IS the language of VAWA gender-neutral? If so, then fine.

    Since it is gender neutral, your whine is unnecessary.

  10. says

    I think Bob inadvertantly proved my point: that even if the title was gender neutral, the MRA wankers would still find a reason to whine about it.

  11. says

    Bob: Go fuck yourself. No, really, go (as in somewhere else) fuck yourself (as in take your fucking bullshit elsewhere and think long and hard about the idiocy you just posted). To compare VAWA to Jim Crow is both purposefully insulting and completely incorrect. Domestic violence and rape effect people of color at a higher rate than white people, so statistically VAWA should help people of color more, especially with the added protections for Native Americans. There have been numerous groups that have shown that ending VAWA will primarily hurt women of color and the poor. In light of that evidence, claiming that VAWA is another version of Jim Crow is just stupid. (Now, there are structural inequalities that mean that people of color will get less help than white people, but that isn’t the bill itself, that’s our racist society. Bills like VAWA, with their added protection for vulnerable groups, actually help to mitigate that difference.)
    Moreover, the language of the bill is gender-neutral, so to say that it hurts men is entirely ridiculous. The name comes from the cases that sparked the legislation of the bill. (Think of all the bills that are named after people. You don’t think that those bills discriminate against everyone else, do you?) VAWA has been empirically shown to work, and as a supposed skeptic, you should probably care about empirical evidence. But I highly doubt that you actually care about any of that. You would let your obvious hatred of “feminists” take protection away from the people who need it most. You are projecting your hatred of feminists and your own butthurt feelings onto this bill, causing you to see only what you want to see. The lack of critical thinking or understanding of how society works shown by your post gives me little to not reason to take your opinion seriously in any way. This brings me back to my original point: Go fuck yourself.

    DeepThought: I love how you pretend to ask a question (which, btw, has been answered in previous comments and in the original post) and then, without waiting for an answer or attempting to look it up yourself, go straight into a little butthurt tirade about your hypothetical second-class status, which doesn’t actually exist. It’s almost like the question was just an excuse to complain. How about next time, before you get yourself all worked up, you try doing a little reading.

    Bob and DeepThought: I love how you both distinctly ignored Cuttlefish’s post. Here’s what he said:

    Never mind that the Violence Against Women Act’s nonexclusivity clause directly states that protections apply to male victims as well. Never mind that “what about the men?” does not apply to this story at all. The Republican extremists apparently don’t like LGBT, native Americans, or women in college–that is the hold-up.

    And then you two come and post what are, essentially, “what about the men” comments. It’s almost like reading comprehension isn’t your strong point. In fact, it’s almost like you don’t actually care about the facts or the nuances of the situation, and only want a place to vent your frustration over the idea that not everything is about you.

    Cuttlefish: Usually I reserve this kind of language for PZ’s comment section, so if this isn’t the kind of thing you want on your blog, I apologize. Let me know and I’ll tone it down from now on.

  12. 742 says

    well duh, its pretty obvious that brown people the poor and immigrants(especially brown ones. wait, does double negative make positive or more negative here? fuck, im not sure if this is additive or multiplicative) arent people, and women are only people when theyre in the room. like the reverse of the angel statues from that one episode of doctor who(and there was only the one-just like star wars was only 3 parts).

  13. Robert Bauer says

    @ blogofmyself, writer of papers:

    Think of all the bills that are named after people. You don’t think that those bills discriminate against everyone else, do you?

    Oh, nice point. Because of certain things in my own history, I was less than thrilled with the name of the bill (though not its content, since the OP made it clear that actual law was gender-neutral and queer-friendly) but now I feel much better. I totally support naming a bill designed to fight sexual and domestic violence in honor of women. They’re not the only victims of such, but they’ve certainly had the hardest time with it on average. (Especially when you get into the intersectionality thing – women who are people of color or LGBT or both are at terrible risk for this kind of crime.)

  14. DeepThought says

    @12:

    I love how you pretend to ask a question (which, btw, has been answered in previous comments and in the original post).

    No the question of gender-neutral language was NOT answered either in previous comments or in the original post, except for a bare assertion in post #7.

    But anyway. I just spent some time reading the actual text.

    The language of VAWA is mostly, but not completely, gender-neutral, and there are sections which are certainly not gender-neutral. It would be a simple matter to rewrite the text without any reference to gender whatsoever. But as it stands, the claim of “gender-neutrality” can’t be maintained. I’ll just an excerpt a section here:

    (b) Purposes for which grants may be used. Grants under this subchapter shall provide personnel, training, technical assistance, data collection and other equipment for the more widespread apprehension, prosecution, and adjudication of persons committing violent crimes against women, and specifically, for the purposes of –
    (1) training law enforcement officers, judges, other court personnel, and prosecutors to more effectively identify and respond to violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence;
    (2) developing, training, or expanding units of law enforcement officers, judges, other court personnel, and prosecutors specifically targeting violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence;
    (3) developing and implementing more effective police, court, and prosecution policies, protocols, orders, and services specifically devoted to preventing, identifying, and responding to violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence;
    (4) developing, installing, or expanding data collection and communication systems, including computerized systems, linking police, prosecutors, and courts or for the purpose of identifying and tracking arrests, protection orders, violations of protection orders, prosecutions, and convictions for violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence;
    (5) developing, enlarging, or strengthening victim services programs, including sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence programs, developing or improving delivery of victim services to underserved populations, providing specialized domestic violence court advocates in courts where a significant number of protection orders are granted, and increasing reporting and reducing attrition rates for cases involving violent crimes against women, including crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence;
    (6) developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs addressing stalking;
    (7) developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs addressing the needs and circumstances of Indian tribes in dealing with violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence;
    (8) supporting formal and informal statewide, multidisciplinary efforts, to the extent not supported by State funds, to coordinate the response of State law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, courts, victim services agencies, and other State agencies and departments, to violent crimes against women, including the crimes of sexual assault, domestic violence, and dating violence;
    (9) training of sexual assault forensic medical personnel examiners in the collection and preservation of evidence, analysis, prevention, and providing expert testimony and treatment of trauma related to sexual assault;
    (10) developing, enlarging, or strengthening programs to assist law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, and others to address the needs and circumstances of older and disabled women who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault, including recognizing, investigating, and prosecuting instances of such violence or assault and targeting outreach and support, counseling, and other victim services to such older and disabled individuals;

    So why always “violent crimes against women” instead of just “violent crimes”?

    As to the nonexclusivity clause…

    Never mind that the Violence Against Women Act’s nonexclusivity clause directly states that protections apply to male victims as well. Never mind that “what about the men?” does not apply to this story at all.

    No it doesn’t say that. The actual text says this:

    “(8) NONEXCLUSIVITY.—Nothing in this title shall be construed to prohibit male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking from receiving benefits and services under this title.

    This does NOT say that protections WILL apply to male victims. All it says is that they MAY apply, and the title won’t prohibit them. IOW, the title ALLOWS, but does not MANDATE. It would be perfectly fine according to (8) if no benefits and services were provided to male victims.

    In fact, it’s almost like you don’t actually care about the facts or the nuances of the situation, and only want a place to vent your frustration over the idea that not everything is about you.

    Seriously? I repeat my statement: I absolutely deny that, if I should happen to become a victim of a crime, I, merely by virtue of being a member of a privileged group, should be denied government services provided to others. That would be a violation of equal protection. Note that I’m not arguing against those services being provided in the first place. They should be. What I am saying that they should be provided to ALL who need them.

    But if you don’t give a shit about equal protection or what services would be denied me (given to others) if I’m a crime victim, and say that this just me “whining” that “not everything is about me”, then fuck you.

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