Recently reauthorized in 2005, The Violence Against Women Act has seemingly helped survivors of violence and eliminated violence against women at its source. Or is it just a program that masks the problem only to repudiate our guilt? How could such atrocities possibly occur in a country with such lofty expectations and immaculate morals?
In a country where all citizens are promised equality and basic human rights, it seems paradoxical that women throughout the United States are threatened with violence to the point of being reduced to second-class citizenship. The act was initially written with the intent of acting as a protector of human rights under federal law. Because protecting women and providing justice for crimes against women was considered a matter of states’ rights, The Violence Against Women Act was deliberated for three years in Congress before its passing in 1994. Despite its recent reauthorization, the Act continues to be debated. The commercial clause of the Constitution allowed for its authorization, stating essentially that the “disabling physical and psychological effects of violence have kept women from participating as commercial actors, and their absence from the nation’s marketplace has had a substantial effect on interstate commerce.” Initially a debate concerning states’ rights vs. federal law, the debate now lies not with the legitimacy of the authorization of the Act, but rather with its effectiveness.
In 2005, Congress reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, giving $3.935 billion over five years, a considerable increase from the initial 1994 $1.6 billion allowance. Despite the increase in funding, some question whether this money is being directed to those who need it most and whether or not it is being put to ill use. It has been reported that 10 years after its initial authorization, “gaps in public policy, legislation and funding to address the needs of sexual violence victims remain.” This statement seems rather euphemistic given some of the rather shocking reportings of corrupt behavior by alleged protectors of women.
Abuse-shelter investigations have revealed some shelters participating in the operation of “prostitution services, drug dealing and sheriff deputies working as pimps.'” Given such allegations, it seems that the increase of funding for the Violence Against Women Act is not only counter-productive but is acting as a contributing force to the problem of violence against women. It’s clear that the influences and funding of the Violence Against Women are often being placed in the hands of those who are making ill use of power, but what of all the women that seem to benefit from the Violence Against Women Act?
An estimated 2.5 million American women are affected by gender-based violence each year. Admittedly, some women may receive justice and support under the Act. But when “the overall effectiveness of the Act remains difficult to measure,” one begins to wonder exactly how many women are being guaranteed their rights. The publicity and the idealization of the Act have led many to believe in its effectiveness, mistaking “ideological propaganda” for truth. Not only are those victims who seek help being betrayed by the system, but other women take advantage of the system unjustly. An interviewed 15,000 women filed for domestic violence claims to gain both control and money or enact revenge against their partners.
Given the evidence that prevention of violence against women under federal law is often ineffective, what measures do we now take? Perhaps a re-evaluation should be put into place, allowing for similar laws but sovereignty given to the states rather than the federal government. With so many resources needed to ensure justice against gender-based crimes, perhaps the government did bite off more than it could chew.
1) Terask, Terri Lynn. “Violence Against Women Act: Fast Food of Law.” News with Views. 15 Oct 2006 1-5. 16 Oct 2006. .
2) Engelbert, Phillis. American Civil Rights Almanac. Deschenes, Betz.
Volume 2, Detroit: Gale, 1999.
3) Roe, Kristen J. “The Violence Against Women Act and Its Impact on Sexual Violence Public Policy: Looking Back and Looking Forward.” Sept 2004 1-10. 16 Oct 2006.