For over a year now I have been researching the US federal government’s programs under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). I have made a number of significant findings, which I introduce below, but the first thing I discovered going in was the sense of taboo and political terror guarding these programs from any critical examination.
Anyone following the “debate” in the US Congress last winter will remember the steady din of “War on Women!” that arose, overwhelming any vocal critic and castigating any serious questioner of the performance, legality and effect of the actual programs.
One might point out that this lack of reasoned dialogue, and a resorting to taunts and threats in its place, can be found surrounding any feminist initiative, such as calls for “gender quotas” in various (non-lethal) professions, or a traditional female monopoly on reproductive freedoms irrespective of everyday realities for both sexes. And, I would agree. In the case of VAWA and its passage through the 113th US Congress in 2013, to point out (just as one example) that the Act poses certain jurisdictional issues under the 10th Amendment, would be shouted down as no more than “mansplaining,” as if the concerns of a select group of people and their political objectives based on pandering to feminist dogma, somehow simply overrides the rule of law or the unforgiving logic of calm reasoning.
Seeing, on first glance, this degree of prejudice and the fear of backlash it produces, my immediate decision in doing research on VAWA was to have a hard look not at the law itself or its history as a federal statute so much as at the programs authorized by the Act, with a view toward their (once again) performance, legality and effect.
On the actual day-to-day performance of grantee functions, little evidence is available that might corroborate any claim that VAWA programs are smoothly functioning, professionally managed, financially accountable, fair-minded, law-abiding operations that properly serve the entirely supportable cause of protecting women and preventing violence against them.
What hard facts can be found tend to suggest the opposite: that VAWA grantees, even when found in violation of financial rules and other operating guidelines, are met only with “recommendations” from the federal government, that these issues are hardly (if at all) covered in the media, and that grantees are generally given carte blanche to run their everyday operations, budgets, allocations, purchases, contract procedures, etc as they see fit, and with an assurance of impunity.
As for the basis of the Act in any foundation of legality, I have argued throughout this effort (and continue to find more evidence in support of an argument) that VAWA is and has been a Constitutional outrage: that from VAWA’s early implementation, the law of the land has essentially been set aside to allow the programs to continue functioning at all. And these functions can be shown to include enough instances of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation and more, to an extent at least warranting further analysis.
VAWA grantees’ out-of-court influence on both civil and criminal cases poses hazards to multiple civil liberties as codified in the Bill of Rights (to name a few): due process, right to be confronted by an accuser, presumption of innocence, admissibility of evidence, not even to mention that the very title of the law as in favor of “women” flagrantly discriminates against men and boys in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, and the large body of discrimination statutes supported by the Equal Protection doctrine. (The insertion of language on “inclusiveness” has been intended to relieve this, though no evidence seems to exist that any man has actually been “included” for services designed for and run by the women’s programs and organizations that make up the bulk of the over 5000 grantees nationwide.)
Several things are obvious at the outset, in terms of effect, but an alarming lack of substantive argument defending VAWA effectiveness continues to suggest that no one really knows whether the dozens of grants programs, or their thousands of grantees under VAWA do any good or not.
During the 113th Congress we saw claims and counterclaims: some saying that VAWA needed to be re-enacted because domestic violence and sexual assaults on women were worse than ever, raising the “1 in 3” banner that few can substantiate in hardcore research, and repeating the ongoing (and demonstrably false) myth that “the vast majority of victims are women”; while others would point to various isolated statistics mostly dealing with conditions years before the initial launch of VAWA, and claim that indeed the programs are effective, that women are safer now than in 1994 when the Act was passed.
Great leaps of logic, and astonishing feats of intellectual sleight-of-hand, somehow combined these contradictory arguments into a “femsplanation”: that anyone opposing VAWA as a poor performer of services, or examining its legitimacy on legality grounds, or seeking to explore its effectiveness in empirical terms of known results, was obviously and dismissibly part of this alleged “War on Women.” (One may readily consult the volumes of research on the power of this and other false accusations).
No one essay such as this, or a more-annotated research brief than this claims to be, or even a lengthy scholarly analysis which this piece comes nowhere close to being, can explain everything there is to know about VAWA, or about the doctrinal influence it has had over other laws and programs coming into existence around the world. But in presenting this commentary I am making this argument:
We, as guardians of the male future, must look further and deeper, and see what VAWA as a law, as a vast complex of programs, and as a political philosophy, really is and really does.
There is no shortage of scholarly critique, largely authored by female academics (a sad reflection of the political terror on men for speaking up at all to oppose or criticize VAWA) saying again and again, and going back twenty years, that at best VAWA is well-intentioned but not particularly effective, and at worst, that it amounts to an insertion of political feminism into the legal and criminal justice systems.
My own view is that VAWA programs represent a kind of power plant for political feminism:
As long as the threat exists over men, of our livelihoods, families and achievements being dismantled by the legal system on the strength of uncorroborated accusations against us, no opposition to any other encroachments by feminist dogma on our lives as men will be effective.
To continue chipping away at “cultural misandry” without taking the hard, necessary look at just how this form of INSTITUTIONAL MISANDRY does its work every day (and has been for twenty years), is to hope that somehow political feminism will collapse under this current onslaught of improvised and poorly-coordinated argumentation, and it also is to choose against finding and presenting the hard evidence showing that:
In any decent, civil society, the politics of radicalizing one sex against the other has no right to stand at all.
Further reading and resource material on Antimisandry forums:
The VAWA Reading Room (ongoing)
The global reason to oppose VAWA
The VAWA10Q Inquiries: a national campaign
USA: Where does VAWA grant money GO?
The case against VAWA: a project of activism
VAWA research: the basics
USA: WOMEN opposing VAWA (LONG list)
VAWA and PAS: making the connections
US v Ciavarella: MAJOR ruling on judicial immunity
Editor’s note: like the linked and referenced items, this article in its original form first appeared on Anti-Misandry. –DE