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Domestic Violence Violence Against Women Act

Ernst Editorial Ignores Most Important Fact in VAWA Debate

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4.2 million male victims, 3.5 million female victims:

Ernst Editorial Ignores Most Important Fact in VAWA Debate

Coalition to End Domestic Violence

April 20, 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year there are 4.2 million male victims of domestic violence, and 3.5 million female victims.[1]

This recent incident illustrates the problem:[2]

On April 3, Elizabeth Grace Johnson attacked her boyfriend, Draven Upchurch, in a dormitory room at Southeastern Louisiana University. The woman stabbed Upchurch eight times in the lungs, stomach, and colon. Johnson was arrested and charged with aggravated battery.

The 4.2 million and 3.5 million numbers should be at the forefront of discussions about the upcoming reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

For example, it’s time that we ask, Has the years-long debate been overly focused on female victims, to the detriment of female abusers? And what about male victims of abuse, are they any less deserving of help?

Over the years, senators have emphasized that VAWA services are intended to help both men and women:

  • Joe Biden: “Nothing in the act denies services, programs, funding or assistance to male victims of violence.”[3]
  • Orrin Hatch: “Men who have suffered these types of violent attacks are eligible under current law to apply for services and benefits that are funded under the original Act—and they will remain eligible under the Violence Against Women Act.”[4]

But Sen. Joni Ernst’s recent editorial in USA Today moves the debate in the opposite direction. Titled, “Democrats’ Violence Against Women Act Pressures Women to Negotiate with Abusers,”[5] the article is factually flawed, and is defiant and angry in tone.

Inexplicably, the article whitewashes the existence of male victims. Worse, the article stereotypes men as abusers through its misleading use of pronouns: “Under the Democrats’ bill, the victim would be responsible for publicly stating to her community whether her abuser should face consequences or not.” The article uses inflammatory language about a male “wife-beater,” ignoring the reality of female “husband-beaters.”

Such statements have real-world consequences. The most recent Biennial Report to Congress documents large gender disparities in the provision of victim services, with males representing only a tiny fraction of recipients of VAWA-funded services.[6]

As the VAWA bills come up for consideration, the Coalition to End Domestic Violence urges senators to avoid sexist stereotypes, and to engage in debate that is thoughtful, factual, and acknowledges the needs of men and women alike.

[1] , Tables 9 and 11.



[4] 146 Cong. Rec. S10,188, S10,193 (2000).