"I Hope You are Offended"
This past fall the Family Place, a Dallas-based abuse shelter, placed bus advertisements that generated intense controversy. One ad depicted a smiling boy who calmly predicts, "When I grow up, I will beat my wife." Trying to defend the spiteful ads, the Family Place director acidly told the Fox News reporter, "I hope you are offended."
A few weeks later Vickie Smith, director of the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, testified before the Illinois Family Law Study Committee that restraining orders should be issued without any requirement for evidence. "Kick the man out on a woman's word and a moment's notice" seemed to be the message.
These two incidents reveal how far the Violence Against Women Act has departed from its original laudable purpose -- to curb domestic violence. Now, VAWA funds are being used to promote harmful gender stereotypes and do away with even the pretense of due process.
Domestic violence is of course a problem, and we should do whatever we can to stop it. But our current approach has been a failure. As Angela Moore Parmley, PhD, of the Department of Justice put it, "We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women."
Erin Pizzey, founder of the first abuse shelter in the world, once described her peaceful vision of helping men, women, and children who have been victims of abuse. But according to Pizzey, "that vision was hijacked by vengeful women who have ghettoized the refuge movement and used it to persecute men."
But unless we understand how the domestic violence movement has gone wrong, we cannot reform VAWA. That's the focus of RADAR's current campaign, "Violence Against Women Act: Out of Control."