No Time for Politics When Women are Battered

It might seem incredible that women are being battered by the men they love – or used to love – in a country like America in an age like this. But it happens every day, or every night, all over the country. And combating this horror can be a tricky business. Expensive, too.

As a reporter, I used to hear law enforcement officers complain of the hazards – and often the futility – of responding to a domestic violence report. They said that sometimes the battered wives would turn on them when they intervened, and that many of the wives who didn’t actually attack them couldn’t be counted on to press charges after the dispute cooled down.

It s one of those situations where an ounce of prevention is obviously worth a pound of cure, and back in 1994 U.S. politicians recognized this fact. Congress agreed to fund a department dedicated not only to investigation of violent crimes against women and prosecution of their attackers but also to the development of policies designed to deter such brutality.

The Violence Against Women Act was adopted with bipartisan support. It provided $1.6 billion for investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, and mandated automatic restitution for victims. It also included civil redress in cases where prosecutors failed to bring criminal charges.

The law has brought demonstrable results. With grants from the Office of Violence Against Women, programs were initiated across America that have effectively reduced the number of complaints about domestic and dating assault, stalking and various other attacks on women.

The program’s success has earned automatic renewal of the act in Congress after Congress.

But not this time.

In this political climate, nothing can be taken for granted.

According to Noreen Malone, writing in the New York Times:

 The act is up for renewal and, as the Times reports, it’s facing “fierce opposition from conservatives” in the Senate. The new version of the law contains expansions that violate certain principles that congressional Republicans feel they just can’t sacrifice:

“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.”

So the effective party line, then, becomes that they support no violence against women, but (against) immigrants and gay people? Eh, not their problem! Still, in a moment where women (and not just Democratic women) feel like the GOP has been attacking certain core rights of theirs, the subtle nuances of fiscal policy that Republicans are citing in their opposition aren’t going to do much to convince women that the party just doesn’t really care about them any more. Plus, there are plenty of conservatives who want to make opposing the act about women’s issues specifically. Phyllis Schlafly, for instance, referred to the act as a “slush fund for feminism”  and said that it promotes divorce.

Look, I know this is a crazy Congress. I realize the Tea Party members are suicide bombers. I realize the Republican Party has lost its moral compass. But come on!

Do they think they can get away with politicizing the protection of America’s women -even if some happen to be immigrants?

I don’t think so.

The women are on the march. And the crazies in Congress are just adding fuel to the fire.