>I just finished two terms on the President’s National Advisory Committee on Violence Against Women (NACVAW)(we were against VAW). So, a friend asked me what I thought about Eagle Forum founder,Phyllis Schlafly’s, latest column on Townhall concerning the Violence Against Women Act.
(Not surprisingly)I had a few thoughts:
I know the law is focused more on women than on men – I wish it could be gender neutral. But I disagree that the law “criminalizes ordinary private behavior” or that the Act, rather than human failure in carrying out the law, infringes on civil rights. In fact, I was lucky enough to serve with two members of the NACVAW who helped with the successful legal challenge on the Constitutionality of the original law that allowed civil suits for rape even when a woman didn’t file criminal charges.
There’s still too much of a double standard in the real world and most (battered and assaulted) women and children (and men) still do need the extra protection. I agree that there should be enforcement of the penalties for lying. It’s just that the abuse – rape, coercion, beatings, and murder – is so much worse. Men are much more likely to kill or maim than women. Women are more likely to be coerced into silence due to threats to themselves or their children. It’s hard and (still) far more rare for a woman to sexually assault, much less rape a man.
The Act and funding do cover children, men (we’ve housed men and their families in our local shelter), American Indians on their reservations,the elderly, military personnel and families at risk, sexual assault, and human trafficking. One of the best measures was the changes in protections from (real) sexual assault on college campuses. The new Family Justice Centers (where law enforcement, health care, and legal and social services are all in one place) in San Antonio, San Diego and other big cities improves the process and probably cuts the abuse of the system and by the system.
It’s true that physical violence or sexual assault doesn’t always have to be proved. Stalking is one such crime covered by the Act. And part of the problem is that most abuse ends up to be “he said, she said.” The old way was similar to the “every dog gets one bite.”
And sometimes more than one bite.
As late as two years ago, I talked to a sheriff’s deputy who thought some women “deserved it” when they were beat up by their husbands.
I’ve taken care of several professional men’s wives who were abused by the local law enforcement system and by public opinion when they were obviously abused by their husbands. In one case, the police initially refused to arrest the husband because they couldn’t see the bruises under her clothes and she needed my exam notes to help her press charges. When I asked an older colleague for advice on what to do about the police, he told me, “If you only knew her the way people in this town do, you’d know that she drove him to it.” What I knew was that the bruises and wrist abrasions were real. I think people (like my friend, the older family physician) knew the husband was an alcoholic and abusive – and probably depressed – but ignored it because it was “private family business.”
On the other hand, we had a woman in our town who intentionally tried to kill her husband by blowing up their house while she and her husband were in it. She was convicted, despite unproved accusations of abuse.
There is a whole school of thought on domestic violence called “gender symmetry.” The claim is that women hit, too. Most people intuitively know that there’s a difference between the force of a woman’s fist and that of a man. In fact, at lower levels of aggression, women do abuse as often as men. But the force and damage, the difference in morbidity and mortality on the records are obvious. Men are more likely to cause permanent damage or kill. But, instead of calling for equal enforcement of the law, advocates of gender symmetry want to get rid of the Act.
Sexual assault crimes still carry the assumption or implication that the woman or girl wasn’t modest enough or whatever. I know one divorce that began because the husband was angry that his wife pressed charges against her rapist rather than let it go so no one else would know. And I’ve heard and read statements that imply that a rape victim who doesn’t want an abortion probably wasn’t raped.
We do need to change the name to the “Domestic Violence” Act, enforce perjury and false statement laws, and retrain or replace our judges who cannot or will not follow the law.
I do agree with her that it’s dumb for the Republicans to try to curry favor with the left with this law – they’re going to hate us anyway, so we might as well do it right.
NOW and other (left) feminists will never agree with the way that Republicans administer the Act. They’re appalled that some of the appointees are Republican! The left asks for huge increases in funding and then accuses the Administration of “cutting” funds because they only adjust a little for inflation. The abortionists demand that the morning after pill be mandated (forget “choice”) as a part of the response to sexual assault and are all up in arms that that decision is left as a local one, between the doctor and the woman.
Mrs. Schlafly and I agree about most things, but we disagree on whether she is a feminist or not. I”ve written her to explain that she and I are feminists. In fact, she’s one of the examples of what I believe a feminist should be. She’s been pretty much out there in the workplace for 40 years or so, doing the right things. A woman who can guide a Nation to the right, help elect a President and write some of the best selling books ever written all while raising a family and remaining married rather than killing off her own children is what feminism should be about: we are women who are wives, mothers, grandmothers and act and speak to make the world a better place for our families. I believe that we right-thinking women need to take back the meaning of the word so that it’s true advocacy of women as whole beings.
Violence and abuse in families, the work place and schools, sexual assault and rape, and infringement of liberty and “the pursuit of happiness” by stalking and trafficking are common ground for the left and right, the pro life and “pro-choice.” While we on the right have the White House, the Senate, and the House, we should mold the discussion and solutions our way with the tools we have at hand, including the VAW act.