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Why We Really Really Need to Pass the Violence Against Women Act

Why We Really Really Need to Pass the Violence Against Women Act

This is a guest post from Desiree Hoffman, Director of Advocacy at YWCA USA.

Image courtesy of YWCA

This holiday season, Iím wishing for Congress to pass a bi-partisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Iíll admit, itís a big wish: there is only a very short window of time ó†about 15 working calendar days ó†for Congress to accomplish these two things. But itís not impossible; in fact, itís absolutely critical that this wish comes true.

Throughout 2012, we have heard story after story about the importance of VAWA for women and families, yet this Act has been lingering with little progress for months. The House (H.R. 4970) and Senate (S.1925) have passed their respective bills, and the 2012 elections are behind us. Now, VAWA gathers dust, waiting for Congress to take it off the shelf and move forward. Meanwhile, our YWCAs across the country, who serve over half a million clients each year through anti-violence programs, know that VAWA is of vital importance to millions of women and girls. Our YWCAs want a bi-partisan VAWA bill that is similar to S. 1925 (one that includes protections for LGBTQ, Native Americans, and illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence) to pass before the end of the year. Read the letters that 82 YWCA associations sent to the House and Senate this week.

Recently, there has been a renewed effort in Congress for a final push on VAWA. A bi-partisan Dear Colleague letter is circulating in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mike Quigley (D-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), and Ted Poe (R-TX). These Representatives are urging House Leadership to move quickly to renew VAWA by bringing a bill that includes similar provisions as S. 1925 to the House floor for a vote. (You can reach out to these Representatives to show your support Ė find their contact information here.)

The other critical issue this month is the federal budget and our tax policy, or the ďfiscal cliff,Ē which has received intense media coverage. Much like VAWA, the fiscal cliff impacts all of us at the YWCA, as we are social service providers, advocates and working women who count on government funding for our programs. The fiscal cliff also impacts our clients, who are low-income women, women of color, young women, older women, military women veterans, and stay-at-home mothers who rely on our programs. Together, this is quite a large group! If Congress does not act to extend tax cuts for those making under $200,000 a year, and for families making under $250,000, the consequences will be widespread.

Hereís what it might mean for the average American woman: if Congress doesnít act and extend tax cuts for a woman making less than $200,000 a year, then her taxes will go up by $2,200 next year according to a new report, Middle Class Tax Cuts Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers. Personally, as a new mom to an 11-month-old son, $2,200 helps me pay rent in an expensive city, obtain childcare so that I can work, and afford groceries so that I can feed my family. In fact, $2,200 equates to almost two months of childcare costs alone!

It is painful to see our nationís leaders considering cutting spending that helps fund vital programs run by service providers like the YWCA in order to address the nationís budget problems. Congress has already made cuts to these programs as a result of the Budget Control Act. In reality, the need for services that our local associations provide, like career development, child care, and shelter for domestic violence victims, has not diminished in recent times – it has ballooned. A more fair and balanced approach to addressing our nationís budgetary problems would be to protect programs like these, as well as to raise revenue by asking individuals making over $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000 a year to pay a little more in taxes. Doing this would not only benefit my budget as a mother and keep me safe as a woman; it would mean that my young son would grow up in a society that is committed to ensuring†safety and justice for women and families.


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2:49PM PST on Jan 2, 2013


As I said, humankind tends to oppress those who are weaker. It is known fact that patriarchy has an age-old problem with oppressing women. If "matriarchy" were the norm, I am sure there would be oppression of men, as those in power almost always oppress others. If that were the case, I have no problem with programs promoting healthy femininity.
As things are right now, patriarchy and all associated problems still go on, so healthy masculinity education is still necessary.

An ideal society is one without gender segregation or oppression. Until such time comes, education programs to promote "healthy whatever" will be necessary.

Also I'm not sure about your statement that women perpetrators receive lighter sentences. As someone said here before, a man got 20 years for cutting of a child's penis, while a woman got 90 years for gluing a child's hands to a wall. Both are terrible crimes, while the former is worse. However the male perpetrator got less time. I don't know if this is the norm. My point is bias towards any side is wrong.

2:42PM PST on Jan 2, 2013

34) Summarised in Mendel, The Male Survivor, p.62. See fn.27

2:41PM PST on Jan 2, 2013

FemaleMolesters VAWA ignores:
The harm female perpetrators can inflict has been found in at least three pieces of research undertaken with male rapists identifying that a significant number record being sexually abused by older women when they were children. For example, Groth’s (31) study suggested that 66% of his sample had been victimized by a female perpetrator. Petrovich and Templar’s study (32) on male rapists showed that over 50% of their respondents disclosed sexual abuse by an older female. Briere & Smiljanich’s self-report study (33) found that: 
 … among the sexually abused men who reported sexual aggression against women, 80% had been sexually abused during childhood by a female perpetrator. In other words, sexual activity during childhood with an older female strongly predicted later sexual aggression against adult women and childhood sexual victimization by females is a particular risk factor for later assault directed at adult female victims. (34) 
31) N. Groth, Men Who Rape (New York: Plenum, 1978). 
32) M. Petrovich and D. Templar, ‘Heterosexual Molestation of Children Who Later Become Rapists’, (1984) Psychological Reports 54, p.810. 
33) J. Briere and K. Smilijanich, ‘Childhood Sexual Abuse and Subsequent Sexual Aggression against Adult Women’ [Paper presented at the 101st Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Toronto, Canada, August, 1993.] 
34) S

1:50PM PST on Jan 2, 2013

@ Suba: "The "harm" as such, is caused by inadequate enforcement rather than any exclusions in the law."

VAWA is training the "inadequate" law enforcement.

@ Suba: "Considering that many who raped/abused boys have been tried and convicted, there does not seem to gender based discrimination of victims as long as crimes are reported."

Unless the perpetrators are women who routinely recieve light sentences.

@ Suba: "If reporting is a problem, obviously there should be more education programs."

VAWA's education programs don't include boys other than as perpetrators. They hire the likes of Jackson Katz to badger them about, you guessed it, patriarchy and blah,blah, blah...

@ Suba: "I don't see anything objectionable in the paragraph "Promoting Healthy Masculinity".

Would you have a problem with a group of men (Republican men even) taking government money to establish programs for "Promoting Healthy Femininity" to YOUR girls? You know, to teach them child murder is inherent to the Matriarchy.

@ Suba: "My repeated point is, you shouldn't stop helping one group of victims in order to help another."

My repeated response has been that's exactly what PCAR, VAWA and N.O.W. have been doing for decades. Not only did they not help boys and men, they blamed them.

9:13PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

The "harm" as such, is caused by inadequate enforcement rather than any exclusions in the law. Considering that many who raped/abused boys have been tried and convicted, there does not seem to gender based discrimination of victims as long as crimes are reported. If reporting is a problem, obviously there should be more education programs.

I don't see anything objectionable in the paragraph "Promoting Healthy Masculinity". It is a fact that women have been oppressed since time began and still are, and this situation needs to be changed.

That does not negate the fact that boys are victims of violence too, and there should be more programs to help them.

My repeated point is, you shouldn't stop helping one group of victims in order to help another. It is counter-productive. (Also this looks like a huge gender battle, when all I care about is helping any and all victims.)

8:42PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

Suba: This is from the PCAR webpage

"Promoting Healthy Masculinity
Prevention, at its core, is about changing social norms and beliefs that make violence acceptable in society. Sexual violence is connected to all forms of oppression, but sexism (or the belief that women and girls are less valuable than men and boys), is one of the strongest forces. Although the anti-sexual violence and feminist movements have done tremendous work and education around sexism and how harmful it is to women and girls, men and boys have not historically been part of this conversation."

Not only did they leave them out of the conversation, they said boys deserved to be raped. And now they want MORE money to hire the likes of Jackson Katz to travel the country and badger frat boys about, you guessed it, the evils of the patriarchy etc. which does nothing to prevent rape.

6:54PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

@ Suba: "There are unscrupulous individuals in every field, like those who told you boys deserve to be raped. Again that is no reason to be against a whole group of people, or to believe that the goals/principles of a particular organization are flawed."

Your right. And when David Duke became the new face of the KKK they stopped being racist.

6:49PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

No, it IS harmful. Look at the 3% of boys are molested statistic touted by PCAR and provided by a VAWA study, the same people that brought you the Super Bowl and March of Dimes lies about domestic violence. Professionals knew the rate was closer to 20-25% of boys decades ago. PCAR and N.O.W. chose to deny it. Even Oprah did a show for men who were sexually abused as boys 25 years ago. And then never mentioned it again until her last season. She's as guilty as Paterno as far as I'm concerned.

My point is PCAR, like all feminist organizations, let boys get raped for thirty years. Those boys at Penn State came forward despite the bigoted silence of PCAR. PCAR then capitalized on the Sandusky debacle the week after the Paterno riots, raking in buckets of cash at the next home game. They also recieved 1.7 million from the NCAA sanctions. And thanks to the fraudulent VAWA study, expect 1 to 3% of that money to go to proactive social programs for abused boys.

And I doubt even that. They spend a ton of money on feminist propaganda that tows the party line with sound bites about patriarchy, male privilege and rape culture. Even though they know damn well rape is caused by child abuse, they still choose to do nothing.

5:58PM PST on Jan 1, 2013

The point in all the evidence you provided is that the existing legislation is INADEQUATE, not that it is harmful.

Again I know nothing about PCAR except what you said here. However the mere fact that Sandusky WAS tried and convicted shows that male victims were not excluded. The delay in bringing charges is an enforcement problem (as exists with many other laws too), and the fact that apparently nobody listened to the first boy who spoke out.

I agree that many victims get left behind in the tedious process of enacting and enforcing laws. For example the Animal Welfare act is woefully deficient, and specifically EXCLUDES many groups of animals. While that's painful to me, I would never want to repeal it, as that would mean losing protection for all the other animals that it does cover.

There are unscrupulous individuals in every field, like those who told you boys deserve to be raped. Again that is no reason to be against a whole group of people, or to believe that the goals/principles of a particular organization are flawed.

4:48PM PST on Dec 31, 2012

VAWA Reform Coalition - RADAR: Home Page

Note the operative word reform. Not repeal.

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