VAWA Amendments

While the FCLU agrees the expansion of the law to protect LGBT victims and various ethnic groups not covered under the original law is helpful, we take exception to the fact that VAWA still does not recognize the significant number of men who are victims of domestic violence.  This fact was overlooked when VAWA was first proposed and passed in the 1990’s: it was estimated by government statistics that there were 1.2 million women who were victims of domestic violence each year, but the supporters of VAWA never considered the data showing that there were 800,000 male victims as well.  This data is supported by a study conducted every six months by Martin S. Fiebert, Department of Psychology, California State University, Long Beach 

Times may have changed, but the facts do not.  VAWA is a gender-biased law that violates the very principles of assumption of innocence that our judicial system is supposedly based upon.  It has also become a weapon that women and their attorneys use to gain an advantage in family court, with estimates of false accusations running from a low of 10% up to 50% or more cases of domestic violence.  You can allege fear of abuse, an argument, a financial disagreement, any pretense to run to family court and get an order of protection.  You are then guaranteed sole occupancy of the marital home, award of child custody and the financial perks that result.  There is virtually no defense for an accusation of domestic violence, no matter how flimsy the grounds, and there are no provisions to protect the rights of the accused, even if falsely accused.  The damage to children and the isolated parent is unacceptable. 

VAWA either needs to be changed to make it fair and equitable, or it should be shelved as being a law whose provisions fly in the face of the Constitutional rights that we are supposed to cherish in this country.  The FCLU would support a reauthorization of VAWA if the following is adopted:

1) The Act is gender neutral and becomes a Violence Against Partners Act, protecting all victims of domestic violence, female or male, LGBT victims, Native Americans etc.  This also means that services for DV victims should be available to all.  It is a shame that in comparison to the hundreds of shelters for women and their children, there is only one shelter in this country for male victims of domestic violence (in San Diego).  The FCLU is actively working to establish a male shelter on the East Coast.

2) There must be reasonable grounds for determining if someone is a victim of domestic violence.  Physical evidence of injury or other proof should be needed.  Hearsay, arguments, etc. alone are insufficient for awarding orders of protection in the absence of a prior history of abusive behavior.

 3) There must be provisions for prosecuting individuals who file false charges of domestic violence, and their legal counsel as well.  This should significantly reduce the number of instances where a spouse or partner will try to use VAWA to their advantage in court and not because of a real risk of being a victim of DV.  The courts and support systems could then better direct their attention to the real victims of DV.

4) Funds awarded to various organizations providing services of DV victims under the provisions of VAWA must be monitored to be certain that they are used appropriately, and not channeled to individuals for unrelated purposes.