Is There No Common Ground About Violence Against Women?

“Its billion-dollar-a-year price tag spent by the radical feminists to pursue their ideology and goals (known as feminist pork) make it an embarrassment to members of Congress who voted for it.” –Phyllis Schlafly.

A “boondoggle … (it) creates an ideology that all men are guilty and all women are victims.” –Janice Crouse, Concerned Women for America.

So spoke two leading conservative women on the current attempts in the Senate to renew the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). And yet another front in this long season of the War on Women has been launched. But the reconsideration of this policy issue, first brought to the fore by feminists in the 1970s, is particularly jarring to me. It has made it depressingly clear that seemingly all policy items brought forward by the women’s movement are being reevaluated and refought, even those considered less contentious and long settled.

Abortion, of course, was always fated to be the outlier in terms of public consensus, though the attacks of this past year are unprecedented. But contraception for a time did serve as common ground between supporters and opponents of abortion. Recall that George H.W. Bush, as a congressman, introduced the legislation for Title X, the first federal program that provided family planning services, and President Richard Nixon signed it. Today, of course, many Republicans are on record as wanting to abolish Title X, let alone take away other reproductive rights and health-care benefits.

OK, let’s acknowledge that any policy issues that directly deal with sexuality are doomed to be divisive in sexually immature America. How about breast cancer, a disease that strikes women across the political spectrum? In that realm, too, there was once widespread consensus that this was an issue around which women, and the men who cared about them, could unite. Indeed, once Republican women started being elected to Congress, the Congressional Women’s Caucus found abortion too toxic to address, but breast cancer legislation became the glue that held the caucus together. The recent disastrous attempt by the Susan G. Komen Fund, the nation’s largest breast cancer organization, to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood because of pressure from anti-abortion groups has not only wounded the Fund; that episode was a reminder that breast cancer had long been entwined with anti-choice politics, given the repeated attempts to argue that abortion patients were more likely to get this disease. (Scientists have decisively repudiated this link.)

But back to domestic violence. When the issue was first brought to the fore by feminists in the 1970s, social conservatives (including Schlafly) denounced the issue in much the same terms as they are using today. But for a while, domestic violence did become arguably the most successful of the policy items brought forward by feminists. Federal, state and local entities, not to mention private funders, supported shelters and educational programs, and while many of these shelters predictably struggle for funding, the issue of domestic violence probably comes closest (along with equal pay) to being something that most people–Schlafly and her followers aside—agree is a legitimate issue of public concern. Indeed, in the thank-god-for-small-favors department, it is gratifying to see at least some Senators squirm as they decide if and how to vote against this legislation. As Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri (author of the infamous amendment which would drastically limit contraceptive coverage) said of VAWA, “If Republicans can’t be for it, we need to have a very convincing alternative.”

It is striking to contemplate that in our current political culture there is seemingly no item of gender equality that transcends polarization.

A longer version of this piece originally appeared in RHRealityCheck.

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Photo from Flickr user Leposava under Creative Commons 3.0.

Comments

  1. Eric Smith says:

    I strongly agree that a lot of women are being mis-treated by their husbands and dealing with them as if are animals and as creatures with soul. The problem lies behind many things – among possible reasons – is that marriage from the beginning might be based on physical love (appearance), lack of respect, brain immaturity, being away from religion (since having both partners be religious – chances to fall in mistakes are less).

  2. vawactivist says:

    Please Ms.–enough with the unnecessary graphic images. I understand that they are eye-catching and show (part of) the reality of dv. But they also reinforce the myth that abuse is always physical and leaves bruises and the images can also be triggering.

  3. Thank you for publishing this article and including images. Vawactivist please be reminded the images selected were less graphic than majority of physical injury inflicted by brutal men. I can’t help but regress and wonder why the laws have not changed enough to be an effective deterrent. Clues to the answer might be found by looking into the lives of many male police officers who beat their own wives…or by looking into lives of a few judges who circumvent honorable efforts by good police officers.

    In 1980, wife beating truly was not considered against the law. It was not considered assault and battery when a husband beat his wife even when it resulted in obvious physical injury, and there was no definition of rape in a marriage, irregardless of non-consent. Laws changed only after of the publicized OJ Simpson estranged wife murder trial in 1995. But back in 1981, with no serious legal intervention, the same abuser escalated to threatening his wife with a loaded hunting firearm that he held against her eighteen year old head as she curled around their screaming infant, shaking uncontrollably as he toyed with his shooting order and kicked her with his steal toed boots for whimpering and pleading. He decided it would be the baby first in front of her and then her and then himself. Had he not ripped the phone out of the wall that rang during his sentencing, the police would never have been called. But, when the police arrived what he was doing was not considered attempted homicide, because he was the victims husband. The only thing the police did then was to allow the women the right to leave the home, luckily with their child. There were no anti_stalking laws and for over a decade this woman lived in fear not only for her own life but their son’s, her parents and her siblings that he vowed to kill during their divorce proceeding. After about five years regular overt stalking ended, and until very recently unsolvable- according to police, irregular vandalism occurred to her and her family’s property and vehicles. She thought he must have died but instead learned he finally remarried. Prayer to this poor woman as she has already learned his true nature- but nothing was done. His brother is police officer as was his grandfather and uncle…hometown heros in fact.

    The domestic violence laws at present are only a slight improvement. But the laws still do not work well enough to deter or prevent these crimes because the sentencing is still far, far too lienient. Think about the life I got to live after the fact with ptsd. Think of the lasting damage to my son whose preschool years were intertwined with episodes of perilizing terror each time his father drank and then decided to stalk and threaten us. Have you ever sat up all night in fear of your life? I often remind myself that had I been a man as well as stranger instead of someone he had professed to love, he would likely have been imprisoned and would still be in prison. But unfortunately i was not the right sex to be provided justice or protection under the laws of our country.

    Supporting changes to the methods of “controlling” domestic violence need to change more, starting with applying the same sentencing as would be given if a man had been assaulted. Further, the “wave the white flag come kill me now” protection orders are about the sickest joke inflicted on women. When a person has threatened criminal assault or previously assaulted a person, they shouldn’t be served a protection order. One call to the police to report his coming anywhere near the victim should be enough to warrant arrest without a court order. The sentence for this should be terrorizing.

    I have to believe that it because domestic violence victims are mostly women that men have bent their own laws to avoid protection of our rights to equal liberty and justice. I cannot find any other valid reason. If there ever is common ground regarding violence against women it will only be found when women are protected from violence by law the same way men are.

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