Last week, after a three-year hiatus due to Republicans’ love of gun violence, the Violence Against Women’s Act made it through Congress as part of the $1.5 trillion government spending package.
As Jennifer Bendery of Huffington Post noted at the time, “Once upon a time, this was legislation that passed unanimously in both chambers, and it was uncontroversial to support programs credited with stopping violence against women and saving people’s lives.” But, the Republican mission to create divisiveness at every turn changed that in 2019 when the VAWA renewal came up.
Back then, some GOPers objected to additional protection for Native American women, immigrant victims of domestic violence and the provision that “prohibited people who have been convicted of abusing their dating partners from owning firearms, closing the ‘boyfriend loophole.’”
The added protections for Native American women – 84% of whom “experience violence in their lives” – made it through this time. Bendery also reported that “the vast majority of Native victims of violence ― 96% of women and 89% of men ― report being victimized by a non-Native person.”
Funding for services for LGBTQ victims was also included. Not only does its position in the overall funding bill guarantee that President Joe Biden will sign it; he was the author of the first VAWA as a senator in 1994.
But, in order to get bi-partisan support and placate the Guns Over People party, violent ex-boyfriends, misogynistic spouses and others of their patriarchal ilk can still pack heat into domestic arguments. And even survivors of violence cannot expect justice.
• Courtesy of KMOX radio St. Louis: “A plea deal has been reached (Feb. 28) between prosecutors and a former Tennessee sheriff’s deputy accused of raping a 14-year-old girl multiple times. The deal will keep him out of prison and off the sex offender list, according to reports.”
• A month earlier The Fresno Bee reported: “No jail for ex Fresno County high school basketball coach convicted of sex crime.”
• Also in January, from Business Insider: “Judge tells ex-prison guard convicted of sexually assaulting a female inmate he can join the military or go to jail.”
• At about the same time, the Associated Press reported: “A judge in western Illinois who found an 18-year-old man guilty of sexual assaulting a 16-year-old girl has come under fire after he later threw out the conviction, saying the 148 days the man spent in jail was punishment enough.” (Remarkably, this judge later had his case load revised.)
• At the end of last year, Insider reported: “A federal lawsuit accuses Virginia police of covering up a sex-trafficking ring in exchange for sexual services from the victims.”
• Re-victimizing the victims? Well, in February, Huffington Post reported: “San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said…that his office has recently learned that the city’s police force has been using DNA taken from sexual assault victims to link them to crimes, potentially discouraging people who’ve been raped from coming forward.”
• That same news organization’s Lila Hassan detailed a report from Everytown for Gun Safety. The crux of the findings is that “misogyny is flourishing online and motivating gun violence.” She quotes Matthew Kriner, managing director of the Accelerationism Research Consortium, as concluding, “These anti-democratic spaces reject those premises of Western society that we’ve come to accept as baseline. Misogyny is emblematic of that anti-modernity notion.”
As if to verify that accusation, Daily Kos reported earlier this month on Robert Regan, who won a special election for a Michigan House seat. This 2020 election denier opined on a rightwing Facebook site: “Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, ‘if rape is inevitable, lay back and enjoy it.”
Republicans claim to be culture warriors. Well, they are – and many of the casualties they leave in their wake are women. Until the GOP recognizes the majority of our population as valuable human beings, VAWA provides only a band-aid to our compound- fractured society.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party. Longer versions of his columns can be found at scdpok.us or facebook.com/SCDPOK/.)