The Violence of VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is up for renewal. While it is expected to be renewed it is having a hard time, and the last congress did not pass it in its current form. The debate mostly centers around the question of the effectiveness of the law. Other challenges are its unequal assumptions about the gender of violence, and the misallocation of funds.

I think a better question is if the proponents of the law actually care about any of these issues. It seems like for them it is only money, power, and social engineering . Effectiveness, fairness, and oversight are annoyances to be silenced, not issues to be resolved.

There is bigger problem with VAWA, which has not received much attention. The problem is that VAWA is violent, and leads to more violence. The primary function of VAWA is the strong and immediate response to domestic violence., but even where the violence actually occurred the response is generally disproportionate. Arrest and removal from the home are extremely aggressive responses, and hardly likely to break a cycle of violence.

The violence of a police response is generally ignored since it is “legitimate violence”. Without debating its legitimacy, we cannot ignore that it is violent. If the accused does have “anger management problems” and tendency to violence, a call to VAWA will only provoke him, and the violence will soon be repaid. VAWA becomes a source of violence against women, as its name ironically indicates.

Most men are not violent, as most women are not violent, but there is a distinct subset of both men and women who are prone to violence. There is however a significant difference between them. While men are directly violent, women will have someone else do the violence for them, giving them a veneer of innocence and plausible deniability. The pretense of fighting domestic violence is really allowing violence by proxy, and allows the women to violently overcome the man. This is oddly presented as an attempt to reduce violence, while obviously being a provocation for greater violence.

VAWA and similar approaches to fighting domestic violence are heavy-handed, forceful attempts at social engineering. They do little to deal with real problems, and nothing to encourage marital harmony. They are simply attempts to violently disrupt the balance of relationships, and mostly to give power to the external organizations which implement the laws. Violence begets violence, and trying to fight violence with more violence predictably does nothing to reduce domestic violence.

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2 comments on “The Violence of VAWA

  1. Pnina says:

    Indeed, violence begets violence. But…
    When someone is physically (or verbally and emotionally) abused, you cannot talk any more about ‘marital harmony’. Violence needs to be stopped – on that I hope we can agree, and because aggressive individuals are dangerous to their surroundings, the first thing that you want to do before you start to think what will be the next, is to remove the aggressive individual, or the victim. Separation. Because if you leave them together and try to solve the problem peacefully (and here it is important to differentiate between ‘violent’ and ‘not peaceful’), you might also come with solution late (the victim is either dead or in hospital, and these cases are known). The same problem as with the abused children. You have to act at both levels – theoretically (prevention), and in the terrain.
    ‘VAWA becomes a source of violence against women, as its name ironically indicates.’ Can you explain this? Does that mean that if a woman complains of being abused, she is actually to be blamed for being abused more and time again, because she had complained????!!!!!!!!!!
    So what is your solution? Prevent women from complaining? Prevent the organizations to act? Are you going to talk into the hearts to the aggressive individuals to explain to them, that beating is not allowed, and that their partner is not their possession to be used in any way they just want?
    It is important to criticize disproportionate reactions, but if you have no better plan how to stop domestic violence, and you just condemn those who are trying to stop it, you are actually standing on the side of the violence. Or, maybe (worse) you prefer more people suffering than more organizations acting (even if some of them have campaigns, that I would not sign…)

    • I don’t think that most violence is committed by “aggresive individuals”. Violence is usually mutual (this is well documented), and usually provoked. I agree that if someone is constantly violent then there needs to be recourse for the other side, but this is generally not the case. Si I do not agree with you that in all cases of violence we need to remove the violent individual. In cases of occasional minor and mutual violence, which seems to be most cases, I think the best thing is to not get involved, and let the couple work things out themselves.

      And yes, the victim is often to blame, and often responsible for what happens to them. Calling the police over minor violence can provoke severe violence, and I have little sympathy when that happens.

      “Does that mean that if a woman complains of being abused, she is actually to be blamed for being abused more and time again, because she had complained????!!!!!!!!!!”
      You make it sound like I am blaming her for complaining. I am pointing out that her violent response can lead to more violence. That is different.

      The people with the most blame here are those who promote VAWA and similar heavy-handed, one-sided approaches to domestic violence.

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