First they came for the women who use contraception, and sought to deny them insurance coverage.
Then they came for the women seeking abortions, and sought to force them to have ultrasounds.
Now, they coming for the domestic violence survivors, and threatening to terminate the Violence Against Women Act.
Since its inception in 1994, the Violence Against Women Act transformed public perception of domestic violence, treating it as a crime and not a private family matter, improving police responses and prosecution, easing the reporting of crimes, funding shelters and prevention programs.
And it has worked. Domestic violence has plummeted 60% since the law has been in place.
The law must be reauthorized or else it expires. The proposed bill seeks to build on what is working, so it can help more people. The New York Times summarized:
The legislation would continue existing grant programs to local law enforcement and battered women shelters, but would expand efforts to reach Indian tribes and rural areas. It would increase the availability of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence, extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking, and provide training for civil and criminal court personnel to deal with families with a history of violence. It would also allow more battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas, and would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence.
All this helping of people is too much for Republicans to bear:
Republicans say the measure, under the cloak of battered women, unnecessarily expands immigration avenues by creating new definitions for immigrant victims to claim battery. More important, they say, it fails to put in safeguards to ensure that domestic violence grants are being well spent. It also dilutes the focus on domestic violence by expanding protections to new groups, like same-sex couples, they say.
This is ridiculous from top to bottom. Domestic abusers are criminals, even when their victims are immigrants and gays.
An undocumented immigrant shouldn't get deported for reporting a crime. A gay person shouldn't get beaten up even if he or she lives in a state that doesn't have equal marriage rights. Discriminating against them means letting criminals go free.
And whining about "safeguards" on grant money is laughable. This program is working. It saved $12.6 billion in its first six years from reduced criminal justice and health care costs. It is not a slush fund that needs to be reined in.
Why would Republicans start throwing at roadblocks at a demonstrably successful program?
Because the Tea Party-style conservatism that is ascendent in the Republican Party has always loathed the Violence Against Women Act from the very beginning.
And why is that? Because the Violence Against Women Act doesn't counsel marriage as the solution.
Concerned Women For America once cited a Heritage Foundation report to argue "marriage offers the best protection against violence toward women and children," while it deemed the Violence Against Women Act, "a huge funneling scheme to radical feminist activists who use the funding to basically set up anti-men programs."
The group Women Against VAWA Excess complains in its anti-VAWA flyer that restraining orders are "state-imposed de facto divorce."
And veteran anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly wrote just last month that: "VAWA is totally grounded in feminist-created gender stereotypes ... Instead of promoting divorce, breakup of marriage, and hatred of men, VAWA should be revised to encourage counseling when appropriate and voluntary."
Yes, let's have "state-imposed" promotion of couples counseling after a spouse or partner has been repeatedly beaten.
This is pure nutballery.
But this is the thinking the underlies the phony complaints about funding safeguards and minor tweaks to long-standing immigrant protections, mere excuses to justify the termination of what had been a bipartisan effort to combat domestic violence.