VAWA Reauthorization Bill Worse Than Existing Law

Robert Franklin, Esq.
October 21st, 2011

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act has been drafted by Senator Pat Leahy’s, (D-Vt.) Senate Judiciary Committee. Stop Abusive and Violent Environment was kind enough to send me a copy and it looks much the same as what we’ve had since VAWA’s inception. What changes the bill does make are for the worse.

Now, as many readers are aware, that’s not because people haven’t tried to educate the senators on the committee about the many flaws in VAWA. Indeed, less than two months ago, the committee held hearings at which many people testified about things like the entire lack of accountability for funds, the fact that its mandatory arrest provisions likely make domestic violence more dangerous not less and the fact that restraining orders don’t protect people who are actually in danger but serve as a weapon in the hands of those who aren’t.

For that matter, S.A.V.E. has lobbied members of Congress about all those things. It’s also tried to get the language of VAWA to be made gender-neutral and to include sanctions for false allegations that clog up courts and DV shelters.

So what did Leahy come up with? A proposed bill that would retain all the bad policies of the existing bill and actually make them worse, that’s what. For example, right there on page 69 of the 125-page bill, is the requirement that colleges and universities adopt the standard of proof in sexual assault cases foisted on them by the Department of Education – preponderance of evidence, the lowest standard in American jurisprudence.

Up to now, that requirement has been nothing more than a rule put in place by a single attorney in the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. As such, it could be overturned by order of her immediate superior. Under Leahy’s bill, it would become the law of the land.

It’s not as if S.A.V.E. hasn’t gotten a lot of good feedback on its campaign to make federal law regarding domestic violence sane, effective and fair. Indeed, the congressional staff members they talk to welcome their input and honestly consider what they’re saying.

It’s also true that Republican members of the Judiciary Committee like Charles Grassley, (R- Ia.) are rightly concerned about spending half a billion dollars on a program for which there are no safeguards on how the money’s spent. Given that the most recent audit of 22 recipients of the federal largesse coming to them via VAWA found serious deficiencies in 21, Grassley’s got a point.

But it’s a point lost on Leahy who, in this era of never-before-seen federal deficits, can’t think of a reason to make recipients of VAWA money explain what they’re doing with the money and why. Amazing.

But for now, there’s a slight hitch in Leahy’s git-along. He clearly drafted the proposed reauthorization of VAWA without the assistance of common sense, the concept of fairness or much concern about the taxpayer’s money. That’s clear enough from the bill he’s proposing. But he also drafted the a bill without any input from his Republican colleagues on the Judiciary Committee.

And that is where S.A.V.E. wants to attack this wasteful, ineffective and misandric bill. So S.A.V.E. wants you to contact your senator and urge him/her to reject this bill in favor of a more sensible bill that corrects the current law’s many shortcomings. To do that, just dial 1-202-224-3121.

More importantly, contact the Senate Judiciary Committee members directly and demand that they stop this dreadful bill and replace it with one that will deal effectively with DV as it’s understood by the science on the problem.

Here’s the contact information for the Senate Judiciary Committee. From there you can easily contact individual members.

The game is afoot!