Tyrants and totalitarians never lack excuses for new forms of tyranny, and they are usually good ones: "necessity," "public safety," "the poor" – these have been standard throughout history. With the rise of feminism, the rationale has become, "It’s for the children" – or sometimes, "women and children."
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), currently up for renewal, is possibly the most totalitarian measure ever passed by the Congress. Every jurisdiction has criminal statutes punishing violent assault. So why do we need a law punishing assaults specifically "against women"? Why must it be a federal law, for which no constitutional authority exists? And why is $4 billion in taxpayers’ money required to outlaw something that is already against the law? The answer, as usual, is power – power for those who promise to protect us against yet another new danger. It is politically hazardous for politicians to question any measure marketed for women and children. But no evidence indicates any problem of violence specifically against women. A virtually unanimous body of research has demonstrated that domestic violence is perpetrated by both sexes in roughly equal measures.
So what is the real agenda behind this bill?
First, it politicizes criminal justice and redefines crime according to feminist ideology. Similar to "hate crimes" laws, criminals are designated not by their deeds but by their gender. As the act’s title makes clear, only women qualify as victims. Violence against men is permissible. Both genders are equal, but one is more equal than the other. Supporters like Senator Joseph Biden hem and haw that, despite the name, VAWA applies to both sexes. Yet they adamantly oppose explicitly gender-inclusive language. This is self-refuting, like the joke about the bad restaurant where the food is inedible and the portions are too small. The "crimes" too are defined not by their statutory illegality but by ideology. VAWA allows men to be arrested and prosecuted for "violence" that is not violent: "name-calling and constant criticizing, insulting, and belittling the victim," "blaming the victim for everything," "ignoring, dismissing, or ridiculing the victim’s needs." VAWA also funds political advocacy. It creates programs to "educate" (the old Maoist euphemism for indoctrinate) police, prosecutors, judges, and other officials in feminist ideology, so they will administer not equal justice but feminist justice. VAWA circumvents the Bill of Rights.
Criminal assault charges require due process of law, but labeling something "domestic violence" allows officials to ignore constitutional protections: the presumption of innocence is cast aside; hearsay evidence is admissible; no jury trial is required; the accused cannot face their accusers; even forced confessions are permissible. These are the methods being used in the burgeoning system of feminist "domestic violence courts" that are created for no reason other than to bypass civil liberties protections and railroad men into jail. Further, VAWA mandates "restraining orders" that do not punish criminals for illegal acts but prohibit law-abiding citizens from otherwise legal ones. Judges can simply legislate new crimes on the spot. But they are only crimes for some people, who can then be arrested for doing what no law prohibits and what others may do.
Finally, VAWA destroys families and leaves children fatherless by providing weapons for divorce and custody battles. It is common knowledge among legal practitioners that trumped-up accusations are rampant and even encouraged in divorce courts. "The number of women attending seminars [on divorce by bar associations] who smugly – indeed boastfully – announced that they had already sworn out false or grossly exaggerated domestic violence complaints against their hapless husbands, and that the device worked!" astonished author Thomas Kiernan, writing in the New Jersey Law Journal. "To add amazement to my astonishment, the lawyer-lecturers invariably congratulated the self-confessed miscreants." The feminists’ own literature reveals the true agenda. A special issue of Mother Jones magazine ostensibly on domestic violence is devoted, from the first paragraph, largely to securing child custody.
A chorus of opposition to VAWA has arisen. Heads of major pro-family organizations have written Congress warning of the dangers and urging changes. Yet the juggernaut rolls on, promoted from the inside by judges and civil servants who are supposed to be apolitical but whose lobbying is financed by VAWA itself. VAWA represents the dangerous acceptance of extremist ideology by the mainstream. As recently as 1999, Mother Jones published a reasonably balanced report on the gender breakdown of domestic violence. By contrast, the recent issue is a screed, a vicious hate campaign by an extremist sect that abandons all pretence of objectivity and accuracy – and which, astoundingly, is being implemented by the US Congress.
Stephen Baskerville holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and teaches political science at Howard University in Washington, DC. In January 2004 he became President of the American Coalition for Fathers and Children. He has appeared on national radio and television programs, including The O’Reilly Factor, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Court TV with Fred Graham and Katherine Crier, Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg, Endangered Liberties with Paul Weyrich, Legal Notebook with Tom Jipping, the Armstrong Williams Show, Take Action America, and others. He is a regular radio commentator for the Free Congress Foundation.