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Congressional Research Service Warns Against Turning VAWA into the ‘Anti-Nagging’ Law

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Congressional Research Service Warns Against Turning VAWA into the ‘Anti-Nagging’ Law

Coalition to End Domestic Violence

November 2, 2021

Nagging has long been recognized as an annoyance in intimate partner relationships. But nagging was never seen as a legal matter.

In recent years, domestic violence activists have replaced “nagging” with a new term: “coercive control.” The CDC reports that each year, men are more likely than women to be victims of coercive control by their partners:[1]

  • Males: 17.3 million victims
  • Females: 12.7 million victims

These numbers do not come as a surprise to most. The question is, Do we really want to turn nagging into a legal offense?

The recent House bill, H.R. 1620, dramatically expands the definition of domestic violence to include “verbal” and “psychological” abuse. But the bill never defines what these words mean.

Tellingly, VAWA activists emphasize examples of male abuse, but seldom if ever cite examples of female-perpetrated coercive control. Shouldn’t we be calling out the dishonesty and bias?

CRC Weighs In

In its most recent analysis of the Violence Against Women Act,[2] the Congressional Research Service commented on the controversy.

Noting that adding “coercive control” to the VAWA reauthorization would “expand the number of individuals who are eligible for support from VAWA grantees,” the CRC issued this stern warning:

“some argue that a violent physical act is qualitatively different from other forms of abuse such as economic abuse, and legal definitions should reflect that distinction. Further, defining domestic violence as a pattern of behavior seemingly excludes isolated domestic violence incidents that do not involve a pattern of behavior. The proposed definition could exclude isolated incidents of domestic violence that do not meet the pattern of behavior standard.”

The CRC report also cites the Supreme Court’s United States v. Castleman decision, which ruled that the crime of domestic violence must be defined as the “use or attempted use of physical force.” Justice Scalia further argued, “when everything is domestic violence, nothing is.”

Mockery and Betrayal

So we need to ask, Do we really want to turn VAWA into the federal “anti-nagging“ law? Do we want to divert limited VAWA funds away from the men and women who are victims of severe, physical abuse?

This would represent a mockery of the anti-violence effort and a historic betrayal of victims.


[1]  Tables 4.9 and 4.10.

[2] , pages 5-6.