The Violence Against Women Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation addressing domestic and sexual violence, was first enacted in 1994 and then reauthorized in 2000 and 2005. Among the measures the act has taken to protect victims and prevent abuse, the law strengthened the legal action taken against perpetrators of domestic violence and provided services, including rape crisis centers, hotlines, and community support programs, for its victims.
Congress is now debating its reauthorization, as the law expired in September, and while it has received broad bipartisan support in the past it has recently come under political fire from some Republican lawmakers who object to provisions which Democrats have added to this year's reauthorization. Critics specifically object to provisions which would expand the law's coverage to illegal immigrants, homosexuals, and American Indians, who would have greater authority to persecute non-Indians who commit crimes against American Indian women. Republicans argue that these were purely political additions designed to induce GOP lawmakers to oppose an otherwise popular bill, giving Democrats more ammunition in their campaign argument that Republicans are "anti woman." Furthermore, some conservative activists object to the law entirely, arguing that it does not cut down on-and might even increase-instances of domestic abuse while overextending the federal government's jurisdiction.
Should the Violence Against Women Act be reauthorized? Here is the U.S. News Debate Club's take:
YES, writes Joseph "Beau" Biden, III attorney general of Delaware, Congress must keep a bright light shining for the millions of women and families still in the darkness.
"The passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 transformed the national response to domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking..." Read more.
NO, writes Laura Wood, writer at TheThinkingHousewife.com, the Violence Against Women Act is a totalitarian violation of democracy.
"Rename it the Violence Against Democracy Act or the Violence Against America Act, but let's end the charade that the act serves the cause of justice or reduces domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act violates the spirit of American democracy. Indeed, it is totalitarian in nature, an accusation fully justified by its frequent denial of basic civil liberties to those accused of domestic violence. Relentless feminist propaganda and the ordinary person's lack of firsthand contact with the battered women industry serve to keep the myths surrounding this bill alive..." Read more.
YES, writes Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, it's Congress's duty to support the Violence Against Women Act.
"The Violence Against Women Act should be reauthorized as soon as possible. The issues that the act confronts, including domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking, are serious problems that benefit from this legislative effort to lessen their occurrence and help wome n to feel safer..." Read more.
NO, writes Janice Shaw Crouse, author of Children at Risk and Marriage Matters, the Violence Against Women Act should outrage decent people.
"At the outset it is important to say, emphatically, that no decent person would stand by while a more powerful, stronger or bigger person physically abuses or batters someone more vulnerable. Everyone should want to end violence against women, but the Violence Against Women Act misses the mark. It ends up creating a climate of suspicion where all men are feared or viewed as violent and abusive and all women are viewed as victims. Decent people should be outraged at the climate of false accusations, rush to judgment and hidden agendas that characterize the situation that has developed during the 18 years of this law..." Read more.
YES, writes Max Baucus, U.S. senator from Montana, there is more work to be done to combat domestic violence.
"Eighteen years ago, Congress took an important step to addressing the rise in domestic violence and sexual assault in this country. I was proud to help lead the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, and I am proud to add my name to the bipartisan bill to continue the program this year. The law is the backbone to provide highly-effective programs that have helped us gain ground in putting an end to domestic and sexual violence. This year's reauthorization legislation will continue to move us forward by strengthening the ability of states, law enforcement, and service providers to combat domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking..." Read more.
YES, writes John Cornyn, U.S. senator from Texas, the Violence Against Women Act is too important for divisive tactics.
"The Violence Against Women Act has been a true bipartisan success story since it was first enacted in 1994. In my home state of Texas alone, its programs have helped hundreds of thousands of victims to break free from the terrible cycle of domestic violence. During my time as Texas attorney general, I was proud to work closely with victims-rights groups across the state while spearheading a successful effort to greatly expand the resources available to crime victims. The results have been real, and the process has represented the very best in American government..." Read more.
YES, writes Deborah D. Tucker, executive director of the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Violence Against Women Act is working.
"The Violence Against Women Act must be reauthorized first and foremost because it is working. Violence in domestic and dating relationships is declining, and we are also actively seeking to prevent sexual violence and stalking..." Read more.