by Lindsey Hubbart
As a society, we have a responsibility to protect all people against violence of any form. To combat the problem of violence towards women, U.S. Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, and reauthorized it in 2000 and 2005. Congress is currently debating another reauthorization. Of course, no one actually supports violence against women. The problem therein stems from the effectiveness of the bill. I believe that we can do much more as a society to protect women than what is included in this act.
According to the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF), the creators of the bill believed that “federal intervention would be neces
sary to change attitudes and approaches towards violence and to redistribute legal and financial resources to female victims.” The act was designed based on the idea that sexism is the root cause of all violence. Sexism may be the cause of some violent acts. However, according to the IWF, there are many other causes including “substance abuse, psychological disorders, and marital instability.” For this bill to more effectively stop violence, I believe we must allocate funds and resources to address these growing problems as well.
Another problem with the bill is that it calls for mandatory arrest when someone reports an act of domestic violence. While this provision may seem effective on the surface, a study by Radha Iyengar of the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the mandatory arrest actually harms the victims. In fact, he shows that homicides have actually increased since this provision was created. Iyengar hypothesizes that this increase resulted from women being afraid of the repercussions of reporting the violence. If a woman wants to press charges against an abuser we should support and encourage her to do so. However, I believe that she should to have the right to choose whether or not to.
In the debates for this authorization, some politicians have proposed to expand the resources available for victims. However, that is not enough to make this bill more effective. According to David B. Muhlhausen of the Heritage Foundation and Christina Villegas of IWF, “simply expanding this framework with extensive new provisions and programs that have been inadequately assessed is likely to facilitate waste, fraud, and abuse and will not better protect women or victims of violence generally.” The best way to improve this law is not to just throw more funding at it; we must address the root cause of the violence.
There is no doubt that this law was created with good intentions, but good intentions are not enough to solve a problem. Just because the name of the law makes it sound appealing does not make it a successful public policy. We need to create a practical and powerful law that will actually do its job in preventing any form of violence against women.
Contact Lindsey Hubbart at firstname.lastname@example.org