Rep. Poe Looks to Have VAWA Rewritten as Gender Neutral
July 21, 2011
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for reauthorization this year and Congressman Ted Poe, Texas Republican and long time I-VAWA supporter, says he would now support re-writing the legislation as gender neutral.
Passed in 1994, VAWA has a name that gives the impression the intention of the law is to protect women from abusive men and punish men who batter women. President of Eagle Forum Phyllis Schlafly wrote a Townhall piece last week describing the weaknesses of VAWA, and she starts with the name itself:
For 30 years, the feminists have been pretending that their goal is to abolish all sex discrimination, eliminating all gender differences no matter how reasonable. When it comes to domestic violence, however, feminist dogma preaches that there is an innate gender difference: Men are naturally batterers, and women are naturally victims (i.e., gender profiling).
Starting with its title, VAWA is just about as sex discriminatory as legislation can get. It is written and implemented to oppose the abuse of women and to punish men.
Ignoring the mountain of evidence that women initiate physical violence nearly as often as men, VAWA has more than 60 passages in its lengthy text that exclude men from its benefits. For starters, the law’s title should be changed to Partner Violence Reduction Act, and the words “and men” should be added to those 60 sections.
Congressman Poe, a member of the House Judiciary committee, argues that men can still apply for the same services women apply for under the current law, but said: “I certainly agree with equal protection under the law. And maybe a name change is in order.”
He added, “Certainly, I think that’s something that we could consider, because the law applies equally between men and women under the act already even though the name says only women. So I’m open to changing the name. Domestic Violence Act. I like that phrase.”
Mr. Poe also supports replacing the word “woman” in the legislation to a non-gender specific term like “person” or “men and women” or “men or women.”
“The Constitution uses ‘person.’ They thought of it long before we did, so person is an appropriate term,” he noted.
A number men’s and father advocacy groups often cite statistics and studies from the Department of Justice to the Centers for Disease Control to State Universities, that show women are the perpetrators of violence against men as often as men are the perpetrators of violence against women.
Mr. Poe, a former Texas judge and prosecutor who is the chairman of the House victims caucus, does not believe those numbers saying, “I disagree with these groups that say that it’s equal. That’s not what I have seen over the years.”
Ms. Schlafly also points out in her article that the the term “domestic violence” could mean any number of circumstances under the law these days:
Currently used definitions of domestic violence that are unacceptably trivial include calling your partner a naughty word, raising your voice, causing “annoyance” or “emotional distress,” or just not doing what your partner wants. The law’s revision should use an accurate definition of domestic violence that includes violence, such as: “any act or threatened act of violence, including any forceful detention of an individual, which results or threatens to result in physical injury.”
Women who make domestic violence accusations are not required to produce evidence and are never prosecuted for perjury if they lie. Accused men are not accorded fundamental protections of due process, not considered innocent until proven guilty, and in many cases, are not afforded the right to confront their accusers.
Congressman Poe agrees with Ms. Schlafly, and he wants to see more clarification in the law as to what exactly domestic violence is defined as.
“We’re talking about people getting hurt. We’re talking about people having to flee in the middle of the night for their safety and that this bill is addressing violence not name calling—not suggestive behavior–But…the word violence,” he said.
“When we get to re-drafting the bill, it must be clear enough that we are talking about somebody getting hurt. Physical harm and serious bodily injury is a good definition of domestic violence. But I agree. I think that needs to be very clearly defined and not some abstract feeling or [someone] getting their feelings hurt.”