Every act, bill, or legislation usually starts with a good purpose. Often, the bill is designed to correct a social ill or to improve a previous law. Problems arise when the legislative action fails to address the real problem or correct the situation it was created to fix. Too often, legislation ends up merely being a figurative bandage on an actual wound.
Meet the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), an oft-misused bandage that is abused and misused and fails to solve the problem that it was created to address: reducing domestic violence, a worthy goal.
Administered by its own Office on Violence against Women, at the Department of Justice, VAWA funds programs that should be able to help reduce violence against women. Currently, it is responsible for grants to 21 programs, including a “Campus Grant Program,” “Children and Youth Exposed to Violence Grant Program,” and “Court Training and Improvements Program.” HHS grants five programs, including “Coordinated Community Responses,” “The National Domestic Violence Hotline,” and a few initiatives generically labeled “research initiatives” and “mental health, substance abuse and violence.”
While huge amounts of federal funding have been spent (last year’s OVW budget was $455 million), the sad truth is that VAWA doesn’t seem to have made enough difference to justify what it is costing us. “We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women,” Dr. Angela Moore Parmley, who has written in the field of intimate partner violence, has been quoted as saying.
It is difficult to look at figures for domestic violence and make the case that they would be higher or lower if VAWA had not been passed. But we do know that domestic violence is a terrible problem. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.3 Fewer than 20 percent of battered women sought medical treatment following an injury.4 The Justice Department estimates that one-in-five women will experience rape or attempted rape during their college years and that less than five percent of these rapes will be reported.5
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow of Concerned Women for America’s Beverly LaHaye Institute, said, “There is no evidence that the millions we have spent on VAWA has helped curb, much less end, abuse of women; the problem remains and none of the money or the vast bureaucracy created by VAWA has helped.”
It is as if parents (taxpayers) are buying exorbitantly priced bandages for doctors (agencies and organizations) who know neither where nor how to effectively bandage the patients’ wounds. Let’s get rid of VAWA and start doing something important: addressing the issue of domestic violence.
Wendy Chen is an intern at Concerned Women for America.