Both sides do it.
This platitude is one of the most destructive myths in politics. But when it comes to the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which was drafted in 1994 by then-senator Joe Biden and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the “both sides do it” canard becomes especially disgusting — and not just because the House GOP alone is responsible for letting the law lapse for the first time in over a decade and a half.
Writing in Townhall, longtime anti-feminist activist Phyllis Schlafly says that VAWA is “as sex-discriminatory as legislation can get.” Why? Because it isn’t designed to protect men. Schlafly argues that domestic violence is a problem that affects men and women equally: “A Centers for Disease Control survey found that half of all partner violence was mutual, and 282 scholarly studies reported that women are as physically aggressive, or more aggressive, than men.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, women are more three times more likely to be killed, stalked or raped by an intimate partner than men. Arguing that women often start domestic violence doesn’t just ignore the obvious inherent physical difference between men and women, it echoes an excuse often used by abusers themselves.
Statistics vary. Some suggest women suffer 85 percent of all domestic abuse and no study has found that women do not suffer a disproportionate amount of domestic violence. About 1 in 4 women will be abused by a partner in her lifetime. But the situation is improving. Women are more confident about reporting domestic violence and law enforcement is much more receptive to calls for help, making everyone in a household safer.
This change is largely due to the extremely positive effects of VAWA, which is no longer the law of the land, thanks to the House GOP. Here are five things you need to know about the Violence Against Women Act.
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1. It Passed The Senate With a Bipartisan Vote
68 Senators voted to authorize the Violence Against Women Act, which was co-authored by Michael Crapo (R-ID).
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2. The House GOP Killed It
Republicans in the House opposed provisions to extend protections to Native American women and undocumented women, as well as lesbian, bisexual and transgender women. They removed those protections and passed their revised bill, though the president said he would veto it. When it became clear the stalled bill was not going to be law, despite both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate urging the House to pass the bipartisan bill, Vice President Biden tried to negotiate with House Minority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Cantor reportedly refused to budge on the tribal, LGBT and undocumented provisions, blaming the Senate for throwing up “roadblock after roadblock.”
Photo credit: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
3. The Act Has Been A Dramatic Success
Between 1993 and 2010, domestic violence dropped by 67 percent. Promoting the reporting of domestic violence has made women and men safer. “Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35 percent and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46 percent,” according to the White House. In addition, the National Domestic Violence Hotline has answered over 3,000,000 calls with 9 out of 10 callers reporting their call as the first one they’ve made asking for help.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
4. States Take Their Cues From VAWA
The original VAWA didn’t just transform the federal government’s approach to violence against women. States, following the direction of the law, reformed laws that gave lesser punishment for partner rape than for stranger rape. All 50 states now have laws against stalking and all states now allow warrantless arrests in domestic abuse cases when probable cause exists. This ability to intervene has transformed law enforcement’s authority to stop potential violence.
5. Republicans Seem To Be Writing Off Women
After a year in which Republicans regularly made comments minimizing rape, trivializing birth control coverage as something only “sluts” need, and ignoring questions about equal pay, the willingness to let the Violence Against Women Act lapse is just another sign that the party doesn’t consider women, especially single women, a part of their constituency—2012 saw the largest gender gap in recorded history. And that was before the law expired.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh