House GOP Lets Violence Against Women Act Die

Despite last minute efforts by Vice President Joe Biden, the Violence Against Women Act — a piece of legislation that ensures that victims of domestic violence receive the help and protection they need — has expired for the first time since 1994.

Why did conservatives — who are already on pretty shaky grounds when it comes to women’s rights — block this legislation? Here’s one theory:

Rep. Eric Cantor and his ilk are literally blocking the re-authorization because the updated bill expands access to help to certain types of people Republicans don’t want to help. Ya know, just like Jesus.

In fact, it would have given domestic violence protection to 30,000,000 more people than before, including “LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women.”

So let’s recap the House Republican leaders mind-set here: domestic violence protections for straight (and hopefully white) women? Totally okay. Domestic violence protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, illegal, or indigenous women? Totally not cool and worth taking away any protection whatsoever just so it doesn’t happen.

I would go on to say how shocked and outraged I am that this has happened, but honestly I think we’ve all learned not to expect too much from the GOP other than a lot of white noise, some bad haircuts, and the occasional sex scandal.

The good news is that this bill will be back on the floor sometime this year, but who knows what will happen for women who should find themselves needing protection from such unfortunate situations until this bill can be reinstated.

About Lauren Lane

Lauren Lane is the co-founder of Skepticon, the Midwest's largest skeptic student-run conference and remains a lead organizer today. She has not one, but TWO fancy art degrees and is not afraid to use them.

  • Tim

    I think alot of the unease that the religious right have over government programmes like this is becuase they don’t like the idea of society taking a principled moral stand on something without making it into a religious issue. It is a demarcation problem for them. Helping the poor, the abused etc is supposed to be the job of Christians and the idea that these folks can be helped outside of a religious context is troubling to them and ambarassing because they are supposed to have a monopoly on morality

  • Riccardo Battilani

    We should be outraged even if the bill is proposed again and approved next month. This is the kind of bill that should not be allowed to expire even for half a week.

  • Ryan Jean

    Interesting point.

    Of course, that puts them even more on the defensive because they rely entirely on a fundamentally-flawed argument from authority to demonstrateclaim they have any level of morality above normal for, say, humans in general, let alone a monopoly on the trait…

  • not-a-yank

    The GOP was put on this earth (by god, of course) to lower taxes (for the rich) and increase defence spending… That is all…

    Why (in heavens name) should their lack of support for anything else come as a surprise?

  • Steve

    Way to be fair there. The biggest problem with why the bill to renew VAWA failed was its infringement on States Rights. Knowing that would require reading the bill but for most of the media it’s easier just to say that the Republicans don’t care about women, illegal aliens, and Indians.

  • The Gentleman Devil

    Thank you so much for sweeping in with your obviously superior intellect and understanding. You have saved us from our ignorance! How dare we point out the fact that the GOP, with its long history of abuse, discrimination, and religious indoctrination, has now taken a firm stand against protecting women? Shame on us for being bothered by this.

    Rejoice, for Steve hath surely justified the death of this bill (and probably of more women) and hath successfully reprimanded people for denouncing its (and their) death.

  • dfg53

    Yes, but what about Notre Dame’s loss to Alabama last night? Hemant could use a sports correspondent.

  • J-Rex

    Well of course if you ask them, they’re not going to agree that it’s because they don’t care about women and people who are different than them. I understand that there could be other issues with the bill and that voting against a bill doesn’t mean that that person is against whatever the title implies the bill is about.

    However, it is doubtful that a bill will have everything both parties want in it. Sometimes it might be more important to pass something for the safety of others than to block it because you slightly disagree with this one point here. Republicans are constantly voting against these things and the reason always ends up being some small little issue that is probably much less important than how many people this bill could help. It’s the U.N. disability treaty all over again. This could help people all across the world, but they’d rather show their dislike for the U.N. than help people. So yes, there are other reasons they vote no on these things, but they are often petty reasons, putting their agenda ahead of the rights of lesser people.

  • Ibis3

    Non-American here. Why would such a bill (law?) even have an expiry date?

  • bill

    You wrote: “Why did conservatives — who are already on pretty shaky grounds when it comes to women’s rights — block this legislation?”
    Because people should be able to get special government money handouts just because they have vaginas?

  • Morva Ádám

    Why doesn’t anybody point out that VAWA doesn’t protect the male victims of violence?

    More than a THIRD of the people injured in domestic violence are male.
    Females are more likely to initate domestic violence and most of the time the violence is mutual.

    So why the fuck aren’t we talking about men?

  • Ryan Jean

    It’s a common feature of the divisive nature of politics here. The sunset provisions, as they are often called, allow bills that one party finds distasteful (but not entirely offensive) to still become law by kicking the issue down the road and allowing a different congress to be stuck with the challenges of re-authorization. It has both positive and negative features, but the unifying principle is to appear bipartisan by delaying the fight.

  • ragarth

    Well, we have two competing theories here: (A) The GOP blocked be bill because they hate gays. (B) They blocked the bill because of states rights. These two proposals are not mutually exclusive, however, evidence has been given for A, not for B, therefore there is reason to believe A but not B. If you want to prove that the GOP is using battered women as pawns in some principled stance, then by all means provide us with evidence instead of making bald assertions.

  • Vanadise

    “LGBT individuals, undocumented immigrants, and Native American women.”

    To be fair, the bill actually wouldn’t protect any G individuals nor a fair number of the B or T ones.

    I kind of have mixed feelings about this, really. I like legislation that protects victims of abuse, but I don’t like that it excludes men and punishes people who have been accused but not convicted.

  • Octoberfurst

    Of course it could also be because the GOP has more than its share of homophobes and bigots in its ranks. Just sayin’.

  • not-a-yank

    Because we talk about men all day every day and, you know what, introduce a bill about men if you want one so badly… If kids failed to be protected because of an expired bill then you wouldn’t exactly go around saying that cows are not protected from ritual slaughter (halal/kosher) so let the kids rot.

    Also, you’re an idiot.

  • Eli

    It’s not really “special treatment” if you’re not getting treating equally to begin with.

  • Morva Ádám

    What kind of pathetic answer is that?

    Are you saying that men are inferior to women the way cows are inferior to men?

    I’m an idiot? That’s an argument? I’m sorry, but you are not worth my time.
    My question still stands.

  • CelticWhisper

    Likewise, especially with regard to punishing the accused before conviction in a court of law. It’s the same shit the media companies are pulling with “six-strikes,” disrespecting the right to due process. It’s the same as many people’s objections to Gitmo or NDAA, people being held (punished) without their day in court. It’s a very “post-nine-eleven America” kind of practice (I know, VAWA started before the United States of Homeland was born) and should not be lauded. VAWA has an admirable goal but the pre-trial aspects are problematic.

    I also agree that it should not exclude men. (To anyone about to sarcastically use the phrase “omg what about teh menz,” take a goddamn remedial English class and learn to spell, you fucking inbred retard. Also, hit yourself repeatedly until you black out. Equal is equal and you are sexist.) Statistics show that women are more commonly victims of domestic violence. The discussion on Sam Harris’ response to gun-control criticism included a comment about how more than 5x as many female people died as a result of gun violence as did male people. That said, that doesn’t invalidate the suffering of male vicims. If provisions were written into VAWA to ensure gender-blindness and equal legal redress (rename it something like Domestic Abuse Prevention Act to reflect the changes), the worst that could happen is a few hours of Congress’ time would be wasted on provisions that might not ever get used. Given all the time Congress wastes as it is, a few hours for a gender-egalitarian good cause isn’t something I’d quickly begrudge them. The best that could happen, though, is that an abused man somewhere might get due attention from the justice system that he’d otherwise be denied.

    Really, it’s the gesture that’s important. The flames of the “gender war” need to be doused, not fanned. By making an effort toward conspicuous egalitarian attitudes, we can better achieve progress toward constructive goals (stopping violence against people, period, though from a statistical perspective the beneficiaries will be predominantly female) without inviting animosity from so-called MRA types (“Why do we only care about women?” We don’t ONLY care about women, but rewording the law takes the wind out of that argument’s sails as well as offering up some practical benefits.)

    While I’m thinking about it, the term “MRA” also really bothers me in how it’s been co-opted by misogynists. Is there a term (a gender-neutral term, I refuse to use “feminist” or “masculist” for obvious linguistic reasons) for someone who wants to defend male people’s rights WITHOUT simultaneously trashing the other 50% of the population? Indeed, someone who would happily stick up for female people’s right to birth control, freedom from invasive ultrasounds and other such crap as prerequisites to abortion, and economic equality in between pursuing causes like those deemed legitimate on the RationalWiki MRA page (not that RW is my end-all-be-all determinant of how I view the world, but this comment is getting long)? I’ve looked at Good Men Project and they seem to have the right idea but I haven’t noticed them use a suitable replacement for the now-poisoned “MRA.” “Men’s Rights Advocate” sounded like a semi-reasonable, descriptive term until it got stolen by a bunch of sexist assbags.

  • CelticWhisper

    It’s not about handouts, it’s about protecting people from being victims of violent crime. I do believe the bill should explicitly state its protections are applicable to both genders (again, the worst thing that could happen is that you offer protection to male people and wind up not having to actually invoke that part of the law, but it’s better to have and not need than need and not have), but of all the things to harp on about “handouts,” this is about the last one I’d call reasonable.

  • Ryan Jean

    I’m left wondering what the heck is going through your head…

    Do you even realize that, by your own assertion and number (“More than a THIRD…”), it means that the ratio of domestic violence would still be nearly 2:1 against women? That’s what happens when the relationships in question are

    Numerous studies have shown that while you are generally correct that the initiation of violence is predominantly mutual, single-member initiation of violence was more often from men. Add to that the fact that women are more likely to suffer significant injuries from DV, far more likely to be killed by DV, and that men were more likely to engage in long-term violence as well as use it as a means of control.

    There is not a symmetry here. Domestic violence affects women more than men, and denying that doesn’t help. I strongly agree with another commenter here that we should put the spotlight on reducing domestic violence across the board and treating the issue as one of equality and respond accordingly to any domestic violence, but to whine an complain about men getting treated unfairly for no reason other than that the women who suffer a disproportionate amount of the harm are also receiving a majority of the coverage is just asinine.

  • WildRumpus67

    I see what you did there. I agree.

  • Vanadise

    He’s not complaining about women receiving the majority of coverage, he’s complaining about women receiving the ONLY coverage. This bill completely excludes male victims of abuse. How is that fair?

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    Sexual egalitarian.

    Anyway, you summed up both reasonable objections to the VAWA, only one of which should be reason not to extend it.

  • Guest

    One problem with your reasoning, Se

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    One problem with your reasoning, Steve, five minutes on Wikipedia will tell you that the GOP sponsored revision removed protection from illegal immigrants, yet didn’t address any states rights issues and the act only protects women.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    No, because they’re the victims of domestic abuse and have vaginas. Ok, the latter shouldn’t be a requirement, buy the former isn’t bad.

  • Theseus

    You had me on some stuff but lost me on others.

    Maybe it was the way he phrased it that it sounded like “whining”.
    However, if you agree that “we should put the spotlight on reducing domestic violence across the board and treating the issue as one of equality and respond accordingly to any domestic violence” then you are actually making the case that the VAWA should be MORE inclusive and not the other way around. I agree with having a bill, but it should cover everyone. I am sure that you would also agree that DV is complex and deals with many sociological, cultural, and psychological issues often time fueled by alcohol and drugs . I am also sure that you would agree that over simplification doesn’t help, and dealing with the reality according to each case is closer to helping reach a solution.

    I applaud the fact that you are aware that intimate partner violence is usually initiated by both genders. Literally hundreds of peer reviewed case studies confirm this. Then you said it’s not symmetrical? That is symmetry.

    True, between the two, the woman is more likely to be killed when things turn deadly, but this is a small minority of cases and not the day to day reality of the vast majority of people involved with DV. Your main argument seems to be that women often times end up on the worst end of the stick in a physical confrontation. As men, statistically speaking, have more upper body strength this is not surprising. However numerous peer reviewed studies confirm that women are also more likely to initiate the violence as well ( I can provide the links if you wish ). Also there are a significant number of men that still end up getting their asses kicked. Not all guys are physically more powerful than a woman; many are very small and thin. My wife for example is very strong ( she was a gymnast) and she knows how to throw a punch and a kick that will do significant damage.

    So with all that being said, and taking everything as a whole, I don’t think the bill should be one gender directional because some women statistically end up with greater physical injuries instead of concentrating on the problem as you say “reducing domestic violence across the board and treating the issue as one of equality”.

  • Theseus

    Mmmm, true the “all women are bitches and ho’s” have jumped in to the MRM with zeal and they scream the loudest. However most of the guys I know are strictly about consistency and equality. They will be the first to tell you that bashing women and stereotyping them is something that they will not involve themselves with. Plus, I know some very intelligent and strong female MRA’S as well.

    Plus, keep in mind that many reasonable people (not just MRA’S) can point out the same exactly the same problems with some feminists (i.e. demonizing and stereotyping all men)

    It’s worth noting that the MRM is an umbrella term and it also consists of father’s rights advocates, boys and young men’s advocates that want to keep them form dropping out of school, homeless men advocates, and suicide prevention advocates. There are many more, but all of these are very serious problems that disproportionately affect men and boys.

    However, that aside, I agreed with the overall sentiment and tone of your post.

  • CelticWhisper

    All? Fie, my good skeptic, that’s not all! You left out their most time-honoured tradition: to shill for Lordy McJesusGod!

    The shilling! My (lack of a) GOD, how could you forget the shilling?

  • Mike

    What does the federal government have to do with domestic violence? Crimes like domestic violence are normally taken care of at the State level.

  • Theseus

    No actually we don’t talk about men “every day” at least in regards to their very serious problems. You have demonstrated that like most of us in society, you are guilty of complacency with the status of men in said society. You are desensitized and have selective tunnel vision because: A) It’s been this way for so long that you are ignorant and numb to it (What issue? There’s an issue?), B) Men are supposed to “man up” and except the situation in society.

    I am very aware of the problem of bringing up a very serious issue and then have a bunch of people say “yeah what about us”? I notice this happens a lot with people that talk about their ethnic groups past oppression; someone always has to chime in and talk about their own groups oppression. However that is not what I am doing here. This in no way invalidates any of women’s issues.

    No, you not-a-yank, opened up the issue when you acted like men and boys issues are are non-existent and then trivialized them (for all the reasons I gave in my first paragraph)

    Here is a small sampling for you to consider:

    The suicide rate for men is far higher than for women

    Far more men are homeless than women,

    The vast majority of high risk public and private jobs are made up of men.

    As a result of the last point, on the job deaths are far greater for men.

    Men’s well being and lives are of far less value in society ( in spite of male privilege claims) than a woman’s: ” Women and children first”, “Among the dead are women and children”

    There are many more, but maybe this will get you to stop and think before you engage in personal attcks and trivialization.

  • David Starner

    Reading the bill can’t tell you why it failed or why people objected to it. If you make such a conclusion based just on reading the bill, you’re jumping to conclusions.

    I’d be more impressed by such a conclusion if the Republicans cared about States’ Rights. DOMA is a huge example of Congress overstepping its bounds; defining marriage has always been a state thing. States’ Rights is such a vague principle; I suspect few have ever truly held it, except as a pretense to more concrete goals.

  • cathouseumbrella

    Honestly, I’m glad to hear this a outdated bill is going away. Time for a new one that protects all victims of abuse, regardless of gender.

  • Steve

    Allow me to rephrase that somewhat. One of the biggest arguments to why the bill failed was its infringements on States Rights. The argument is similar to what it was for the Federal 55 MPH speed limit. States don’t have to follow the rules but if they don’t they don’t get any money. In the current climate of the country this had a major impact on the bill not passing the house.

    I will say that the Act is in serious need of an overhaul if it is to be passed. While I DO NOT CONDONE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN or anyone (with the exception of self defense) I am not sad to see VAWA go. Many of the programs that receive funding through the act should still receive funding such as those that support victims however none should be exclusivity for women (males are more likely to be the victim of violence in the US). Many of the training programs should be eliminated. Domestic violence (what much of VAWA is aimed at) dropped significantly in the US in the first 4-5 years of VAWA and then leveled off at a point that is among the lowest in the world.

    Gentleman Devil, Your sarcasm is noted.

  • Patterrssonn

    It’s odd, if FA posts something about racism you don’t get the KKK whining about how bad white people have it too. But then with MRA’s around they don’t really have to.

  • Carmelita Spats

    No, people with vaginas don’t want “government handouts”…Quite the contrary, they want the government’s hands OUT of their vaginas when it comes to reproductive CHOICE…It’s the frothy TRUE believers in God’s Own Party who are hellbent on involving BIG government in women’s healthcare decisions because, you know, “abortion makes all vaginas explode, is bad for the skin and makes Baby Jesus cry.” Everyone knows that hysterical breeding using nothing but a hydraulic pump and a revolving door is the prerogative of the Christly female. Glory! See Also: Michelle Duggar and that creepy hubby of hers who sports a grotesque Mormon haircut and is hankerin’ to be a state senator. He goes by “Jim Bob”…Issues of domestic violence should be gender neutral, though. Abuse is abuse although Fundamngelical Christians believe in spanking adult women…It’s called, “Christian Domestic Discipline”…endorsed by Jim Bob Duggar…

  • wmdkitty

    none should be exclusivity for women (males are more likely to be the victim of violence in the US).

    Overall violence, sure, but when you look at DV and ONLY DV reports, the victims are overwhelmingly female.

  • Richard Smith

    They worship a rapist! Why would anyone expect a republican
    to value women?

  • Mark W.

    “Is there a term (a gender-neutral term, I refuse to use “feminist” or
    “masculist” for obvious linguistic reasons) for someone who wants to
    defend male people’s rights WITHOUT simultaneously trashing the other
    50% of the population?”

    I prefer Equalist. I personally think most ‘feminists’, ‘MRA advocates’, or ‘racial rights advocates’ would fall into the Equalist category, and it would separate them from the people in their group that really just want to get more rights for their group and don’t care about the rights of anyone else.

  • Jennifer

    What a bunch of rotten creeps. The people who elect them bear the responsibility for this type of garbage. Shame on every single one of them.

  • Jennifer

    That may be all well and good, but nothing is further from the truth when if comes to christians caring for the poor. A few sects put on a good show, but many are about enriching the pastor and his preferred PACs far more than assisting the poor.

  • Mark W.

    I think I have the exact opposite problem with this Act. Why weren’t more groups included under this originally? Why are we even enacting law’s for separate groups instead of uniting all people under the protection of the law?

  • Theseus

    I like it!

  • WoodyTanaka

    And just on schedule along comes bill to prove that there are people in this world who are flaming assholes. Go fuck yourself, bill. Go fuck yourself.

  • TychaBrahe

    The MRA has not been co-opted by misogynists. The MRA has *always* been about misogyny. Perhaps you’re thinking about the Men’s Liberation movement, which is about how patriarchy limits and restricts men.

  • TychaBrahe

    Because what happens to a woman when she’s raped, or assaulted by her partner, or is otherwise the victim of violence shouldn’t depend on what state she lives in.

  • TychaBrahe

    The problem with allocating money equally across the board is that women are three times as likely to be victims of domestic assault as men and seven times more likely to be the victims of rape.

  • cathouseumbrella

    Your comment strikes me as kind of a non-point. I’m not saying 50% of resources should go to men and 50% of resources should go to women, I’m saying that if someone needs help they should be able to get it, even if they aren’t female.