March 4 2013
by Alicia Powe
A comprehensive policy report published by the Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) details problems with the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed on Thursday.
House Republicans offered a substitute amendment in an attempt to overcome legitimate flaws with VAWA before voting on the bill. It was defeated by a coalition of Democrats and 60 Republicans. The Senate version of the legislation passed on a vote of 286 to 138, with 199 Democrats joining 87 Republicans to push the reauthorization.
“The latest version of VAWA, passed by the House and Senate, perpetuates a one-sided view of violence, fails to address wasteful and fraudulent spending, and continues programs based on ideology rather than evidence of effectiveness,” Christina Villegas, a fellow IWF and author of the IWF policy report, told Townhall.
“The reauthorization process provided a great opportunity to implement necessary reform,” she said. “Unfortunately, proponents used demagoguery to stifle open and honest debate, and the bill passed by Congress will not effectively or efficiently protect victims of domestic and sexual abuse.”
The report first points out that “VAWA programs lack evidence of effectiveness.” Proponents of VAWA attribute the now-expired 2011 law with sharply reducing the number of lives lost to domestic violence since it was first passed in 1994. Yet VAWA programs, which will receive $650 million annually, have never undergone evaluation to ensure they are achieving their intended results.
The IWF report addresses how VAWA programs and grants have been a source of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer resources. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicates that a significant amount of funds allocated by the VAWA programs has not being spent on servicing victims. Nearly all of the grants audited by the Inspector General between 1998 and 2010 had violated grant requirements. Some grantees were found to have questionable expenditures for a large majority of the funding they received. The Department of Justice also uncovered several cases of outright fraud and embezzlement in 2012.
In addition to funding ambiguities, IWF claims that VAWA is a thinly veiled means of promoting feminist ideology. Although men are victims of domestic violence, the law provides virtually no services for male victims. VAWA’s local service providers are primarily feminist ideologues who require grant recipients to embrace the feminist understanding that violence is caused by men’s desire for power and control.
The reauthorized law surrenders the rights of non–Indians, accused of assault and domestic violence on Indian lands, to racially exclusive tribal courts. This violates the Constitution, as noted by the Heritage Foundation, and is problematic, according to IWF, because tribal governments have a history of disregarding constitutional rights of the accused.
All attempts to assess VAWA’s effectiveness have been problematic because Democrats demonizethose who question their approach and claim those who seek to reform the law are indifferent to women’s suffering. Democrats hammered Republicans for months over the bill and the GOP proposal to reform VAWA allowed the Left an opportunity to substantiate their claim the GOP is waging a ‘war on women' by not reauthorizing the act.
The Republicans who voted against this flawed bill did so not because they “hate” women, but because they are concerned about the costs of the bill, which will add several billion dollars to the deficit. It will increase costs by duplicating grant programs that are already in the original Violence Against Women Act.
The measure now goes to President Barack Obama, who said in a statement that it was “an important step towards making sure no one in America is forced to live in fear.”
“I look forward to signing it into law as soon as it hits my desk,” Obama said.
Using federal agencies and grant programs to fund the routine activities of state and local government programs continues the federal government’s march toward fiscal insolvency.