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Wednesday's VAWA Senate Hearing - Say No To a Dog-and-Pony Show

The Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 with the laudable intention of solving the problem of domestic violence. Unfortunately the law has numerous flaws, including1

  1. VAWA programs have been ineffective in reducing partner abuse, and in some ways have placed victims at greater risk of violence.
  2. VAWA undermines basic notions of civil liberties and the presumption of innocence.
  3. VAWA programs have had a disproportionate negative effect on minority and low-income populations.
  4. VAWA undermines the family, escalates partner conflict, and discourages reconciliation.
  5. VAWA fosters sex-based discrimination.
  6. VAWA promotes half-truths, myths, and falsehoods about domestic violence.
  7. VAWA encourages immigration fraud.
  8. VAWA programs lack accountability and allow wasteful use of taxpayer dollars.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on reauthorizing VAWA in 2005, RADAR conducted a campaign to request that the Committee invite some of the most knowledgeable science-based domestic violence researchers in the world to testify at the hearings. 2,3,4 Word came back to us through unofficial channels that no matter how world-reknowned a proposed researcher may be in the study of domestic violence, the Senators running the Committee were determined to prevent anyone who would criticize VAWA in any way from testifying at the hearings. Instead, the Committee invited testimony from Hollywood actresses and stakeholders with a financial interest in hiding VAWA's flaws. Rather than holding a hearing, the Senate Judiciary Committee ended up holding a dog-and-pony show.

VAWA will be up for reauthorization next year, and this Wednesday, June 10th, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first of a series of "hearings." The list of witnesses they've invited to the June 10th hearing, which they've titled "The Continued Importance of the Violence Against Women Act", can be seen at: http://judiciary.senate.gov/hearings/hearing.cfm?id=3898. As in the past, they've invited a Hollywood actress and people whose livelihoods would be jeopardized if VAWA's failings were revealed. Since the Senators have shown a determination to ignore objective science-based researchers who might detract from the planned lovefest, these "hearings" will not be an honest investigation into what is and what isn't working in VAWA, but will instead be nothing more than sham cheerleading sessions.

Many of these Senators objected vociferously as they accused the Bush administration of hiding information to get the policy they wanted – the invasion of Iraq. These same Senators now need to hear from the public that it is equally unacceptable for them to hide important information by manipulating the VAWA reauthorization hearings.

Below is a list of the Senators on the Judiciary Committee.

Please call:

Senator Patrick Leahy (Committee Chair)


Senator Jeff Sessions (Ranking Member)

Also if a senator from your home state is on the committee, contact that senator as well.

Tell them that unless they investigate both the accomplishments and failings of our nation's domestic violence policy by inviting testimony from science-based researchers in the study of domestic violence including Murray Straus and Donald Dutton, they'll be guilty of the very same behavior they accused the Bush administration of using to justify invading Iraq. As always, express your opinions firmly but politely.

Senate Judiciary Committee Contact Information
Senator Voice phone Fax State Party
Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman 202/224-4242 202/224-3479 Vermont D
Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member 202/224-4124 202/224-3149 Alabama R
Senate Judiciary Committee Majority Office 202/224-7703 202/224-9516   D
Senate Judiciary Committee Minority Office 202/224-5225 202/224-9102   R
Jon Kyl 202/224-4521 202/224-2207 Arizona R
Dianne Feinstein 202/224-3841 202/224-3954 California D
Edward E. Kaufman 202/224-5042 202/228-3075 Delaware D
Richard J. Durbin 202/224-2152 202/228-0400 Illinois D
Charles E. Grassley 202/224-3744 202/224-6020 Iowa R
Benjamin L. Cardin 202/224-4524 202/224-1651 Maryland D
Amy Klobuchar 202/224-3244 202/228-2186 Minnesota D
Charles E. Schumer 202/224-6542 202/228-3027 New York D
Tom Coburn 202/224-5754 202/224-6008 Oklahoma R
Ron Wyden 202/224-5244 202/228-2717 Oregon D
Arlen Specter 202/224-4254 202/228-1229 Pennsylvania D
Sheldon Whitehouse 202/224-2921 202/228-6362 Rhode Island D
Lindsey Graham 202/224-5972   South Carolina R
John Cornyn 202/224-2934 202/228-2856 Texas R
Orrin G. Hatch 202/224-5251 202/224-6331 Utah R
Herb Kohl 202/224-5653 202/224-9787 Wisconsin D
Russell D. Feingold 202/224-5323 202/224-2725 Wisconsin D



Date of RADAR Release: June 8, 2009

R.A.D.A.R. – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – is a non-profit, non-partisan organization of men and women working to improve the effectiveness of our nation's approach to solving domestic violence. http://mediaradar.org