Reform Principles for the
Violence Against Women Act

The following 12 principles, developed by a group of researchers, legal scholars, victim advocates, and other experts are designed to serve as a basis for reforming the Violence Against Women Act so the law is based on sound science, respects civil rights, and supports families. The endorsing individuals and organizations are shown below. If your organization would like to endorse these principles, please contact .

A. Counseling and Treatment Services:

1. Treatment programs: Programs funded by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) ignore the most common causes of intimate partner violence: substance abuse, marital conflict, and psychological disorders. This makes it difficult for violence-prone persons to get help before the abuse escalates. Domestic violence programs should address the social and psychological causes of partner aggression.

2. Reconciliation: Many states prohibit couples counseling when abuse has been alleged. Partner reconciliation should be allowed when the counselor and victim believe counseling is desirable and safe.

3. Abuse shelters: Abuse shelters should give priority to victims of physical violence. Shelters should be staffed by personnel with appropriate training and expertise in crisis intervention, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.

4. Non-discrimination: VAWA should be refocused to include all victims of domestic violence, rather than singling victims out for special protection based on gender, sexual orientation, or other group status.

B. Criminal Justice Interventions:

5. Restraining orders: Restraining orders don’t deter determined abusers from harming their victims, and can lull victims into a false sense of security. Restraining orders should only be issued when there is objective and verifiable evidence of abuse.

6. Mandatory arrest: Mandatory arrest policies increase partner homicides by nearly 60%, according to a Harvard University study. VAWA should not award grants to jurisdictions with policies that promote arrest without probable cause.

7. Prosecution: Mandatory prosecution and prosecuting protection order violations may be linked to increases in partner homicides, research says. Prosecutors need to avoid ‘no-drop’ policies that ignore probable cause requirements.

8. Presumption of innocence: Criminal justice policies and procedures need to restore the presumption of innocence to the accused.

9. False allegations: False allegations can cause lifelong harm to the wrongfully accused, and rob victims of services, protections, and credibility. Perjurers need to be held accountable.

C. Other Issues:

10. Definitions: Because of expansive and vague definitions, minor incidents of partner conflict are being criminalized. In addition, victims of physical violence aren’t getting the priority they deserve. VAWA needs to restrict definitions of abuse.

11. Accountability: The Violence Against Women Act needs to institute strong transparency and accountability measures to stop waste and fraud.

12. Training and public awareness: Training and education programs should be based on sound science, not gender ideology.



Jon Aaronson, PhD, LPC, Madison, WI

Hans Bader, attorney, Washington, DC

Kim Bartholomew, PhD, professor, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC

Stephen Baskerville, PhD, professor, Patrick Henry College

Fred Buttell, PhD, professor, Tulane University School of Social Work

Ferrel Christensen, PhD, University of Alberta

Kenneth Corvo, PhD

Richard Davis, professor, Quincy College, Plymouth, Mass.

Kenneth Deemer, pastor, Marion, Indiana

Denise Hines, PhD, assistant professor, Clark University

Roy Den Hollander, attorney, New York

Donald Dutton, PhD, professor, University of British Columbia

Martin Fiebert, PhD, professor, California State University – Long Beach

Gordon E. Finley, PhD, professor emeritus, Florida International University

Tom Golden, LCSW, author, The Way Men Heal

Nicola Graham-Kevan, PhD, CPsychol, reader, University of Central Lancashire, UK

Bert Hoff, editor, MenWeb Online Journal

RL McNeely, PhD, JD, professor emeritus, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee

Annette Mayo Pagano, PhD, author

Daphne Patai, professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Erin Pizzey, founder, international abuse shelter movement

Arnold Robbins, MD, clinical professor (psychiatry) Boston University

Bill Ronan, author and licensed independent clinical social worker, Hopkins, Minnesota

Daniel J. Sonkin, PhD, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Sausalito, California

Peter Suedfeld, PhD, professor emeritus, University of British Columbia

Lionel Tiger, PhD, Darwin Professor of Anthropology Rutgers University, Emeritus

Christina Villegas, columnist



James Martin, president, 60 Plus Association

Melissa Ortiz, founder, Able Americans

Michael McCormick, president, American Coalition for Fathers and Children

Matt Smith, president, Catholic Advocate

Elaine Donnelly, president, Center for Military Readiness

Jan Brown, president, Domestic Abuse Hotline for Men and Women

Phyllis Schlafly, president, Eagle Forum

Sandy Rios, vice president, Family Pac Federal

Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director, Independent Women’s Forum

George Ross, CEO, International Support Network for Alienated Families

Cindy Chafian, president, The Mommy Lobby

Harry Crouch, president, National Coalition for Men

Rachel Bauer, president, Prevention as a Cure

E. Everett Bartlett, president, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments

C. Preston Noell, III, president, Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Kevin L. Kearns, president, US Business and Industry Council

Mark Mahnkey, director of public policy and media relations, Washington Civil Rights Council

February 4, 2013