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July 8, 2008
Contact: Elizabeth Crawford, <>

Women Call for Reform of 'Dysfunctional and Abusive' Domestic Violence Laws

WASHINGTON, July 8, 2008 – Women are urging federal lawmakers to reform the federal Violence Against Women Act, saying the law silences the voices of abused women, harms their families, and places them at greater risk of violence.

Sarah McPherson of northern California was a victim of domestic violence. But when she tried to get help, she found herself caught up in a system that presumed to know best. "I thought the system was there to help me," McPherson recounts, "But instead it ended up becoming my greatest enemy."

The Violence Against Women Act ignores the needs of female abusers, as well. Researcher Susan Steinmetz notes that violence-prone women are often "turned away or offered no help when they called a crisis line or shelter."

African-American women say VAWA-funded programs are not culturally sensitive. Critics charge the system has become so filled with false and minor accusations of abuse that real victims of violence find it hard to get the help they need.

A recent exposť by the True Equality Network, "Congressional Guidelines for Abusing Women," reveals that some abuse shelters operate call-girl services, condone lesbian sexual harassment, and evict women who attempt to contact their husbands or boyfriends. The paper concludes the current system is "dysfunctional, abusive, and corrupt."

Even industry insiders acknowledge the law is not working. Angela Moore Parmley, PhD, an official at the U.S. Department of Justice, has noted, "We have no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women."

A 2007 Harvard University study found that VAWA-funded mandatory-arrest laws increase partner homicides by 54%.

A report by RADAR – Respecting Accuracy in Domestic Abuse Reporting – identifies 10 areas in which the law has failed to deliver on its promises to women: http://www.mediaradar.org/docs/RADARreport-VAWA-Has-It-Delivered-on-Its-Promises-to-Women.pdf. The analysis concludes, "Our nation's domestic violence system, once conceived with high hopes and the best of intentions, is now in need of an overhaul."

On July 4, RADAR launched a campaign to educate the public about the need to reform domestic violence laws. Information on the Fix VAWA Now! campaign can be found at http://mediaradar.org.

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.

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