Contact: Teri Stoddard
Senator Drops Controversial VAWA Campus Sex Provision, But Civil Rights Violations Remain
Washington, DC/November 14, 2011 — As a result of criticism from Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE) and other groups, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has dropped the controversial “preponderance of evidence” standard from his proposed Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization bill. “Because of the feedback he has received concerning this proposal, he does not plan to include it in the bill he later will introduce,” according to Erica Chabot, spokeswoman for the Senate Judiciary Committee (1).
Language in the draft bill would have required federally funded universities to apply a lower standard of proof — a 51% “preponderance” of evidence rather than the usual “clear and convincing” evidence — in cases of alleged sexual assault or domestic violence.
SAVE is thankful that the Senator decided to drop this section from his proposed bill, but other parts of the measure still contain troubling civil rights concerns:
Due Process Violations:
- Allows for the continued funding of mandatory arrest policies, which a Harvard study found to increases in partner homicides of 60 percent.
- One false allegation can be used to tear apart a family: VAWA is an engine for the growth of single-parent households and the demand for welfare services.
Equal Protection Violations:
- Provides legal assistance to accusers, and at the same time, denies it for the accused.
- Perpetuates sex-based discrimination through biased predominant aggressor policies and continues due process violations.
- Does not distinguish between those simply making allegations and those with probable-cause evidence of violence or abuse.
These civil rights problems are explained in SAVE’s Special Report, Are Domestic Violence Policies Respecting our Fundamental Freedoms? (2).
Violations of citizens’ civil rights cannot be justified by resulting reductions in partner abuse. The Department of Justice has acknowledged, “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women.”
SAVE spokesman Philip W. Cook says, “We congratulate Senator Leahy for removing the unacceptable ‘preponderance of evidence’ language from his bill. It shows that he is responsive to well-documented civil rights concerns. We hope that he and other Senators will now take the necessary steps to ensure that the many other problems with the proposed legislation are also addressed.”
Stop Abusive and Violent Environments is a victim-advocacy organization working for evidence-based solutions to partner violence: www.saveservices.org.