VAWA Dies in the House of Representatives

While everyone was so focused on the fiscal cliff, the Violence Against Women Act was allowed to die silently alone in a corner.

Thanks to House Republican leaders’ failure to push through the Senate’s reauthorization, the Violence Against Women Act, which was originally passed in 1994, no longer exists. The Huffington Post reports:

In April, the Senate with bipartisan support passed a version of VAWA that extended protections to three groups of domestic violence victims who had not been covered by the original law, but House Republicans refused to support the legislation with those provisions, saying the measures were politically driven. Instead, they passed their own VAWA bill without the additional protections.

The three groups in question are Native Americans, immigrants, and the LGBT community. The new bill would have extended the same protections already afforded to the majority of women by the original legislation to over 30 million more people in these groups, but the GOP would rather the VAWA expire completely than allow the broader protections be signed into law. The talks apparently broke down over House Republicans’ refusal to accept a key protection for Native American women that was included—and approved with 68 votes—in the Senate bill.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington), a key backer of the Senate version of VAWA said:

I think they are still so kowtowing to the extreme on the right that they’re not even listening to the moderates, and particularly the women, in their caucus who are saying they support this.

All of this comes despite indications that several Republican members of the House were open to the newer Senate provisions. Still, House leadership chose not to  raise the question of a vote. This decision speaks volumes to where the leadership in the GOP stand on women’s rights. They claim that the new provisions were “politically motivated,” but their refusal to even address the VAWA Tuesday night seems to be motivated by nothing other than the twisted politics we have come to expect from the fanatical conservatives that have taken over the Republican Party.

How can you pass a law to protect people, in this case women, and then justify excluding a significant portion of that group?

How can the U.S. speak out against crimes against women in other countries, such as gang rape and domestic abuse in India, while sitting back and allowing the US Congress to ignore the expiration of our own Violence Against Women Act?

Read more:

Rape Discussions Deepen as Indian Rape Victim Dies

Photo: lindsey gee/Flickr
About Kathryn DeHoyos

Kathryn DeHoyos currently resides on the outskirts of Austin, TX. She has 2 beautiful children, and is very happily un-married to her life partner DJ.


  1. I say it’s about time.

    Mainly because we need a law that addresses violence against both women and men, sexual and physical. For too long, VAWA erected a Berlin-esque Wall that kept male victims and survivors out while couching female victims and survivors. Not to mention adding to the trope that violence only happens to women and not men.

    Look I abhor violence against women but I also abhor violence against men. Can’t ignore one and ignite the other.

  2. John Anderson says:

    If VAWA was as gender neutral as its supporters claim and was intended that way, then why doesn’t it already cover LGBT people?

  3. Excerpt:

    “This decision speaks volumes to where the leadership in the GOP stand on women’s rights.”

    This presupposes VAWA was a good law. For women I suppose it was. For men–not so much.

    VAWA offered through it’s grants money to prosecutors to prosecute slapping/shouting/shoving altercations which they hadn’t in the past–but only for male perps. While slapping/shouting/shoving are all rude behaviors and cause for concern, many times even well-adjusted people can be pushed to do one or all of these 3 things (death in the family, layoffs, catalysts like booze or drugs being involved). Many well-adjusted people will do this several times in their lifetime.

    What this does is criminalize well-adjusted men who have no history of violence who clearly had a “one-off” incident under trying times. And only men.

    On fathers and families they posted the story of a guy who was thrown into jail for 90 days for…..throwing a bag of cheetos in his fiancees face.

    He was arrested OVER HER OBJECTION despite never having a history of violence.

    I agree with everybody above. This should clear the way for a better more egalitarian law–one in which radical feminists don’t have much input into hopefully.

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      The VAWA also helped fund shelters, support domestic abuse hotlines, advocacy groups, counseling etc. I agree that it needs to be more gender neutral, and I’m sure there are some cases where it was taken to an extreme but 1) no matter what the situation putting your hands on another person is NEVER OK! If a person is truly “well adjusted” then NO they will NOT do “this” EVER!! 2) the fact of the matter is there are significantly more women who are assaulted and abused by men than the reverse! I’m sorry that there are people out there who abuse this law but allowing it to expire doesn’t help anyone, men or women!

      • I’m sorry that there are people out there who abuse this law but allowing it to expire doesn’t help anyone, men or women!
        And that is probably the exact emotional heartstring pulling that people will use when trying to bring in the next version of VAWA. No matter how flawed it might be, no matter what groups of people may be left out, no matter how effective or ineffective it might be. It’s going to become a matter of, “If you don’t support this it means you support abuse!!!”

        Emotional heartstring pulling cannot be allowed to replace actual conversation and debate.

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      The Violence Against Women Act mostly provides support for organizations that serve domestic violence victims. Criminal prosecutions of abusers are generally the responsibility of local authorities, but the act stiffened sentences for stalking under federal law.

  4. wellokaythen says:

    On the up side, over the long term, the expiration may actually help clear the way for better legislation in the future. Now, opponents of such laws in the future don’t have the excuse “but we already have VAWA, so what more do you want?”

    • Kathryn DeHoyos says:

      I didn’t think about it that way! Thank you for pointing that out!

    • That’s what I was thinking. And honestly I think that’s what some supporters were worried about. Sure they were probably worried about the victims but also I think in the back of their minds they are now worried that they can’t pull VAWA as a trump card to silence those critical of protections for abuse victims.

      (And also, this is my cynic talking, I truly believe that at least a small portion of supporters of VAWA are worried that the next time a big piece of legislation like this comes up it won’t centered around women.)

      • wellokaythen says:

        I think there will be an element of that resistance. Not necessarily because of some vast misandrist feminist conspiracy, but because for much of the public it’s still easier to pull the heartstrings when the issue is women being abused than it is when the issue is put in gender-neutral terms or when talking about men being abused. If you can couch the issue as “protecting mothers against monsters” you’ll get a lot more play and a lot more political support today – hardly any different from WWI and WWII propaganda in that regard.

        And, unfortunately, too many people just can’t wrap their minds around the idea that laws against domestic violence could actually benefit both men and women. Or, they think that protecting men from abusive women will automatically reduce women’s protection from abusive men. Or, anything that helps men is going to hurt women.

        Frankly, I think “Violence Against Women Act” was a terribly name anyway. It makes it sound like law promoting violence against women.

    • True. The VAWA was badly flawed, from its very name all the way down.

      Now we can focus on a more comprehensive and gender-neutral Domestic Violence Act that doesn’t buy into tired old stereotypes like ignoring male victims.

  5. wellokaythen says:

    “the measures were politically driven.”

    What does that even mean? Our opponents are “political” but we’re not?

    Forget about whether you want VAWA or not, that’s the lamest, most illogical reasoning ever. I’m not sure how people who are POLITICIANS and who do POLITICS as THEIR JOB are not supposed to be politically driven. If the Congress is not engaged in politics, then what the hell are they getting paid to do? I didn’t vote for legislators so they could go to the halls of government and avoid politics for a few years.

    Besides, something can be “politically motivated” and still be a good law. We should support or not support a law based on the merits of the law, not just based on the motivations of those who are supporting it. And if you think the politicians who agree with you are never engaged in politics, then you’re delusional.

  6. VAWA = All are equal it’s just that some are more equal than others.

    VAWA is the most sexist law ever passed in the US bar none.

    • Maybe, maybe not. But look forward to something related to what wellokaythen says below.

      I’m thinking that with all the facts and numbers that we now have on partner violence (and violence in general) I don’t think there is any way that the next attempt at violence legislation (and you can believe that someone is already cooking up a new one) can be waged in such a one sided manner.

      Yes we are still living in times where evidence and stories of violence that is not male against female is still actively denied (I seem to recall at a past reauthorization hearing people who wanted to contribute information on violence against men were actually turned away, seems odd for a piece of legislation that’s supposed to help victims of all walks of life isn’t it?). But those times are dying.

Speak Your Mind