VAWA ‘Mafia’ Making False Claims About Act’s Effectiveness

By Attorney Robert Franklin
Dec. 28, 2012

The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization vote has been hanging fire in the Senate ever since the Spring when the House of Representatives sent its version of the bill there to be voted on. Senate Democrats have refused, demanding that the House pass the Senate version. As many have pointed out that would be an exercise in futility since the Constitution requires bills that raise revenue to originate in the House. The Senate bill raises new fees, so it cannot become law in its present form.

But the November elections generally went well for Democratic candidates and that has emboldened VAWA advocates to renew their push for passage of the law. And, as we’ve learned, when the domestic violence establishment speaks, truth takes a beating.

Unsurprisingly then, when the Bureau of Justice Statistics published this analysis of domestic violence trends from 1993 – 2010, what’s come to be known as the “VAWA Mafia” swung into action. They noticed that, during the years studied, the number of incidents of intimate partner violence per 100,000 people dropped sharply and decided, with no evidence to back them up, that the happy news must all be VAWA’s doing.

Thus, on December 4 former NOW president Kim Gandy made this claim in the pages of the Huffington Post: “A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) shows conclusively that the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is working to reduce intimate partner violence.” Wrong as she was, Gandy was scarcely the only one to make the claim. Women’s Enews, Ms. Magazine and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett all chimed in in perfect harmony.

“Shows conclusively…” Really?

Actually, the idea that the BJS report shows any such thing has about the same intellectual honesty as most domestic violence industry claims, which is to say “next to none.”

In the first place, the report is just an analysis of data on domestic violence from the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted by the BJS. The good news is that incidents of intimate partner violence are down a whopping 64% from 1993 – 2010. We should all applaud that, but unfortunately for Gandy, et al, it says nothing whatsoever about the Violence Against Women Act. And of course, as a scrupulous analysis, it makes no claims at all about what may or may not be responsible for the laudable drop in domestic violence. Claims of correlation with- or causation by- anything whatsoever appear nowhere in the report. Neither do the words “Violence Against Women Act.”

Second, what the report makes clear, but the DV establishment neglected to mention, is that the downward trend in domestic violence is just part of a larger, society-wide drop in all violent crime. Indeed, incidents of violent crime generally dropped from about 80 per 100,000 people in 1993 to about 21 in 2010. That’s a decrease of almost 74%. So if we were to infer causation (which we’re not), we’d tend to conclude that VAWA actually impedes progress on domestic violence. After all, if everyone has become safer, why have intimate partners become comparatively less so? According to Kim Gandy’s “logic,” it must be VAWA’s fault.

Third, Gandy and her amen chorus overlooked the fact that the decrease in domestic violence victimization is statistically identical for both male and female victims. That can’t be attributed to VAWA for the simple reason that the law does essentially nothing for male victims or to female perpetrators. Indeed, perhaps the best source for VAWA analysis, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, reports that barely over 1% of VAWA funding goes to male victims. So how can VAWA, that treats male and female victims so differently, cause the same decrease in victimization for both sexes? The plain answer is “it can’t.”

Since its inception in the early 70s, the domestic violence movement has been plagued by a tendency to make up “facts” about violence in the home. That’s because the movement has its roots in a political ideology that holds that only men commit domestic violence, and they do so to keep women subservient to them. Almost 40 years of rigorous study of the phenomenon lays waste to essentially every claim made by the DV establishment, but by now, domestic violence organizations receive some $2 billion a year from federal, state and private sources. For them to now admit that their claims have been false all along and their analysis flawed would obviously derail the gravy train.

So they’ve doubled down. Instead of admitting, as those knowledgeable about the issue have, that there is in fact no evidence that VAWA is effective at reducing domestic violence, Gandy makes her patently untrue assertion that the BJS report “shows conclusively” that there is.

The simple truth is that VAWA doesn’t work because it can’t work. It can’t work because it’s based on flawed assumptions – that only men are perpetrators, that they commit violence to control women and that the Duluth Model of re-education can be effective at changing that behavior. Forty years of social science unambiguously refutes each of those assertions, but the VAWA Mafia is too busy peddling its snake oil to pay attention.

Psychologists know how to deal with all but the most heinous of domestic violence situations. To be effective, we must, except in those situations, get the criminal justice system out of the business of trying to prevent intimate partner violence, and let mental health professionals have a chance. We need to start admitting what domestic violence is and what it’s not. That means we need to admit that only a tiny fraction of DV is the “battering” for the purpose of “spousal control” the DV industry would have us believe it is. Study after study shows that most DV results in either no injury at all or at most a “minor cut or bruise” in the words of one large study done by the government of Scotland.

Finally, we must admit that women attack their male partners as often as the reverse. That means women need those psychological services as much as men do.

But VAWA acknowledges none of that, preferring to hew to the radical feminist ideology that’s obstructed our efforts to reduce domestic violence since the early 70s. Sadly, Kim Gandy and her sisters in arms want more of the same. That’s bad for men, bad for women and bad for a society that, unlike the VAWA Mafia, sincerely seeks an effective response to domestic violence.