Nel's New Day

February 23, 2013

No Compromise for VAWA

For 18 years the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) was the law of the land, passing in the year that Newt Gingrich took over the House and renewed every six years even when the GOP had control of a Congressional chamber and the presidency. Then the Tea Party came to town, and everything changed.

VAWA provides vital protections against domestic violence and sexual assault, providing assistance to victims through funding clinics, shelters, hotlines, and services. Greatly improving the nation’s infrastructure of dealing with rape and abuse, VAWA has saved countless women’s lives and livelihoods. It established the National Domestic Violence Hotline; trained law enforcement officers, judges, and prosecutors to help victims; made stalking illegal; and updated laws throughout the United States to consider rape by a partner equal to rape by a stranger.

Since VAWA, partner violence and homicides fell: from 1993, the year before VAWA’s passage, until 2010, the overall rate of intimate partner violence in the United States declined by 64 percent. The number of women killed by partners dropped 43 percent.

vawa

Last April, the Senate passed another six–year extension to VAWA, but the House rejected it. This month the Senate passed VAWA, but the House opposes support for Native American, undocumented, and LGBT victims of DV and SA.

One sticking point with the GOP-controlled House, that has proposed a watered down version of VAWA, is the provision that would protect Native American women on tribal reservations. They ignore the statistics of sexual violence against Native American women. Three out of five are assaulted by their intimate partners, and 56 percent of these women have non-Indian husbands. Despite epidemic rates of domestic violence against Native women on reservations by non-Native men, local governments are not permitted to respond to crimes in their community if the perpetrator is not Native. Only federal prosecutors, often hundreds of miles away without local resources, are allowed to investigate and prosecute these crimes. On some Indian reservations, the homicide rate of Native women is ten times that of the national average.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is an example of the 22 senators–all men–who voted against VAWA, bigots who oppose protecting Indian women from non-Native men. He declared that VAWA was unconstitutional because white men would be deprived of their rights by facing a tribal court.  “On an Indian reservation, it’s going to be made up of Indians, right?” he said. “So the non-Indian doesn’t get a fair trial.”

“The jury is supposed to be a reflection of society,” Grassley wrongly claimed. According to the Sixth Amendment, juries are drawn from the “state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.” The U.S. Supreme Court decisions ruled that criminal defendants have a right to a jury “drawn from a fair cross section of the community” where the case is heard. Over 95 percent of Vermont is white, so the jury might be all white. On the other hand, the population of local communities on the Navajo Nation are largely Native American. Grassley’s statement indicates he thinks that Navajo jurors are less like to be impartial than whites.

Of these 22 senators, five senators are so anti-women that they voted against an amendment to ban human trafficking.  

Grassley has company in his anti-VAWA stance. Heritage Action, from the group headed by ultra-conservative Jim DeMint, and Freedomworks, one of the Tea Party groups,  are fighting VAWA’s reauthorization because it is “unprecedented, unnecessary and dangerous.” Claiming that VAWA is “bad for men,” the groups stated, “Under VAWA, men effectively lose their constitutional rights.” Because male victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking may also be covered, the only men who might suffer from VAWA are those who commit these violent crimes.

Sponsored by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), one of 17 GOP women who constitute 8.5 percent of Republicans in the House, the House bill removes rights from three specific groups of people:

Native American Victims: Tribal court sentencing on non-Native defendants would be limited to one year in addition to other options allowing defendants to evade justice in tribal courts. Non-Native American men who abuse Native American women on reservations could move their cases to a federal court if they feel their constitutional rights are not being upheld. The bill also eliminates the 2000 VAWA allowing tribes to issue and enforce civil protection orders against all persons, the only protection a tribal government can provide to victims of domestic violence from DV, stalking, and harassment.

LGBT Victims: The bill removes “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” from the list of underserved populations who face barriers to accessing victim services, thereby disqualifying LGBT victims from a related grant program; eliminates a requirement in the Senate bill that programs that receive funding under VAWA provide services regardless of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity; and excludes the LGBT community from the STOP program, the largest VAWA grant program, which gives funds to care providers who work with law enforcement officials to address domestic violence.

Undocumented Immigrants: Undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic violence can be eligible for legal status only if federal or local officials certify that it would help investigate or prosecute criminal activity.

Last year, Grassley vote against the rights of these groups, saying that it was just the Democrats’ “election year politics.” He indicated that these provisions were included to make Republicans look bad in an election year. Instead of accepting the motivation to make the United States a better place to live, he follows the paranoid complaint from the National Review :

Democrats have nearly perfected the following exercise in cynical electioneering: 1) introduce legislation; 2) title it something that appeals to the vast majority of Americans who have no interest in learning what is actually in the bill, e.g., the “Violence Against Women Act”; 3) make sure it is sufficiently noxious to the GOP that few Republicans will support it; 4) vote, and await headlines such as “[GOP Lawmaker] Votes No On Violence Against Women Act”; 5) clip and use headline in 30-second campaign ad; and 6) repeat.”

Amanda Marcotte laid out the issue much better:

“There’s a long and ongoing history of rape and domestic violence being minimized and ignored by law enforcement and society at large. Domestic violence is frequently minimized as mere couple-squabbling. Rape is often written off as the victim’s hysterical reaction to bad sex or just desserts for a woman who broke one of the many unwritten sexist ‘rules’ about going out at night, being alone with a date, dressing a certain way, or drinking alcohol.

“VAWA addresses these realities, by strengthening law enforcement response and providing victim services that avoid victim-blaming or minimization, and is not, contrary to conservative hopes and dreams, an attempt to make up for women’s supposed physical or emotional inferiority.”

If the House version even gets out of committee, GOP members will whine about Democrats not compromising with them. Trying to find common ground by refusing rights to specific groups of people is like the agreement of 1787 that gave each slave in the South only three-fifths’ status of a white man in determining Congressional representation. Emory University President James Wagner declared this a good compromise. Denying people rights is never a good compromise.          

3 Comments »

  1. IN RE: “Indian tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians.” The wrong VAWA question is being argued. The proper question is: “Where is the proclamation ratified by the voting citizenry of the United States that amends the U.S. Constitution to make the health, welfare and benefits of a U.S. citizen distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestery/race”? As of The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, there are no more “Indians” within the original meaning of the U.S. Constitution….only U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race.” Paul R. Jones

    Like

    Comment by Paul R. Jones — March 4, 2013 @ 1:58 PM | Reply

  2. Why am I not surprised to see that Freedomworks opposes this bill. These are the same people who made two of their female interns simulate a sex act involving “Hillary Clinton” for a video. They don’t have any respect for women.

    Like

    Comment by eurobrat — February 24, 2013 @ 10:07 AM | Reply

  3. Their constitutional rights to do what? Beat up their wives or girlfriends? Or maybe even their daughters if they break one of those unwritten rules. We can turn America into Afghanistan only instead of the Taliban we have the Tea Party and the religious extremists. After all, keeping women covered, restricted to home and having their bodies controlled by their partners. Just think of the paradise that would follow. No more rape. No more murdered women at the hands of their abusive husbands, since it can’t be abuse or murder if he has control over her. She’ll have a house full of delightful children to keep her silly little head occupied while her husband does important things, like make sure all those dirty Mexicans are sent packing, or gays are driven back into the closet, or into jail cells, or everyone has to say a prayer before they start work or school. And of course the prayers will be to one god — one Protest at god — and anyone one else isn’t allowed.

    Yes indeed. What a wonderful world that would be. I yearn for it already.

    Like

    Comment by Pat Brown — February 23, 2013 @ 11:09 PM | Reply


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