Violence Against Women Act Meets Reality

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Speaking of political correctness, Section 304, the “Campus SaVE Act,” requires each college, as a grant requirement, to collect, maintain and publish crime data that include “actual or perceived race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, or disability of the victim that are reported to campus security authorities or local police agencies, which data shall be collected and reported according to category of prejudice.”

Why? To establish “hate crime” statistics. Again, hate crimes are often in the “eye of the beholder” and political correctness is often a mitigating factor. Perhaps nothing reflected the potential for abuse better than the case where University of Pennsylvania student Eden Jacobowitz was charged with a hate speech violation for calling five black sorority women “water buffaloes” when  they interrupted his studying with a loud conversation. Penn eventually dropped its hate-speech code after being subjected to national ridicule. Yet as this grants reveals, the beat goes on for government bean-counters regardless.

One of the most contentious parts of the VAWA concerns disciplinary procedures in campus hearings for sexual assault. The DOJ required colleges to “apply the standard of proof recommended by the most recent Guidance issued by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.” The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) contended those guidelines  required college students accused of sexual assault to be tried under the weak “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof. That standard requires nothing more than a 51% “preponderance” of evidence instead of “clear and convincing” proof. Thankfully, it was dropped from the bill as a result of FIRE’s efforts.

Title VIII, “Protection of Battered Immigrants” contains another cause for concern. Section 804, “U-Visas,” allows for a visa to be granted to illegal alien crime victims who can prove they cooperated with authorities. The current draft of the bill doubles the number of U-Visas from 10,000 to 20,000 for a given fiscal year. This is based on the same rationale behind “sanctuary city” policies. Those are cities where police are forbidden to inquire about an individual’s immigration status even if that individual has committed a crime. Despite the fact that sanctuary cities violate federal immigration law, they get away with it by claiming that cooperation by illegals absent fear of deportation is the most effective way to combat crime. U-Visas apparently codify that contradiction and provide a further incentive in the system for abuse.

In addition to these dubious specifics, the overall efficacy of VAWA with respect to achieving the kind of justice its adherents envision remains questionable. A report, “Why Have Domestic Violence Programs Failed to Stop Partner Abuse?” produced by Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting (RADAR), evaluates the effectiveness of the four major strategies promoted by VAWA: treatment services, restraining orders, mandatory arrests and no drop prosecution. It reveals some sobering realities that challenge the effectiveness of VAWA.

Treatment programs are often unavailable or ineffective for certain abusers because they are based on ideologically driven assumptions, inconsistent with good psychological practice. Restraining orders, in which half of those issued do not even allege physical violence, have been revealed to be generally ineffective as well, and may actually increase violence among unmarried partners. Why? The Independent Women’s Forum contends they may “lull women into a false sense of security.”

With respect to mandatory arrests, a Harvard study concluded that such programs increased subsequent partner homicides by 60 percent, likely due to the fact that they discourage reporting by victims who want police to stabilize a situation, without arresting their partner. No-drop prosecution, which does not allow a victim the option of dropping charges, may also exacerbate a potentially defuse-able incident for the same reason.

Yet VAWA is almost certain to be renewed. And like so many other government programs, the fact that it is a triumph of lowered standards, political correctness and good intentions–as opposed to genuinely equal protection under the law–will remain largely irrelevant.

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