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.