VAWA and the far-right GOP

I’m writing in Al Jazeera today about how the fight over the Violence Against Women Act exemplifies the increased extremism of the Republican party. A bit:

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), passed in the House on February 28, has gone to President Obama to be signed into law. It is an important bill that provides a slew of necessary protections for the 1.5 million women who are raped and/or physically assaulted by an intimate partner every year, and this time around expanded to include protections for particularly vulnerable communities, including LGBT women, Native women and immigrants.

For 20 years, VAWA received broad bipartisan support. This year, every Democrat in the House and Senate voted for the bill. But almost half of Republican senators and a majority of House Republicans voted against it.

GOP opposition to the entirely sensible and previously bipartisan VAWA is only the latest example of how far rightward the party has moved. Republicans of all stripes should be concerned – this is why they’re losing elections, after all – and so should Americans generally. A far-right GOP may not get a lot done, but it does change the general political discourse, moving the centrist position to a more conservative one and doing very real harm to women and disempowered groups of Americans.

Intimate violence

It is worth highlighting the groups that so many Republicans didn’t want VAWA to protect. Domestic violence occurs in same-sex relationships at roughly the same rates as it occurs in opposite-sex ones. Since so many same-sex couples lack legal recognition, there are far fewer resources for lesbian and gay victims of intimate violence, and law enforcement officers are less adept at identifying and dealing with violence in same-sex relationships.

Transgender women who experience violence often find themselves dealing with insensitive or even abusive law enforcement, having to live through the extra trauma of being misgendered or mocked by the authorities who are supposed to help them, and even barred from taking refuge in women-only domestic violence shelters.

Undocumented immigrants logically fear interfacing with police officers, and often avoid reporting violence or seeking help for fear of deportation. Native women suffer violence at a rate 3 1/2 times the national average, with almost 40 percent experiencing intimate partner violence at least once and 1 in 3 Native women raped in her lifetime. If the perpetrator of the crime is non-Native, tribal authorities have limited power.

VAWA closes some of these gaps, most notably with law enforcement on Native lands. But what’s going on with a Republican party that essentially says, “Ok, we’ll protect some women, but not the gay, transgender, immigrant or Native ones”?

The whole thing, which also gets into the pro-life movement, is here.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Crime, Domestic Violence, GLBTQ, Immigration, Law, Politics, Race & Ethnicity, Rape Culture, Reproductive Rights, Sex, Trans and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to VAWA and the far-right GOP

  1. I will definitely read the whole article when I have some time, but from what I can make out you make some interesting points. When will the Republican Party show the support that this cause deserves? Why have they not introduced a line-whip? Women are always blamed for rape, pregnancy and violence done against them by men. I think that is is also important to bring into the debate a non-westernised viewpoint, feminism has had many measures of success in our countries but in the global south the feminist movement is really just beginning.
    The VAWA may have gone through but what about spending cuts? How many women are going to be negatively affected because of it?

  2. nentuaby says:

    Why have they not introduced a line-whip?

    Aheh… The US system is pretty un-amenable to any sort of effective whip. The parties don’t have any hard power over their members, only persuasion. It’s not like a parliamentary system where they can actually “fire” a disobediant party member; the best they can do is use big-name endorsements/committee appointments/campaign funds as carrots, and the threat of a primary challenger in the next election as the stick.

    Right now the Republican party’s soft power is failing them with a lot of their members, because their districts’ extremists will elect them regardless of the national party’s support or lack thereof.

    • James Stanhope says:

      … their districts’ extremists will elect them regardless of the national party’s support or lack thereof.

      Exactly. The GOP establishment is effectively held hostage by Tea Party-dominated primaries and caucuses.

      • TomSims says:

        Mission Statement
        Propelled by millions of Tea Party supporters across the country, Tea Party Express has become the most aggressive and influential national Tea Party group in the political arena. We are committed to identifying and supporting conservative candidates and causes that will champion tea party values and return our country to the Constitutional principles that have made America the “shining city on a hill.”

        Tea Party Express is proud to stand for six simple principles:

        No more bailouts
        Reduce the size and intrusiveness of government
        Stop raising our taxes
        Repeal Obamacare
        Cease out-of-control spending
        Bring back American prosperity

  3. TomSims says:

    “Republicans of all stripes should be concerned – this is why they’re losing elections, after all – and so should Americans generally.”

    The GOP did loose the presidential election, but they still control 30 state houses and the House of Representatives. And why would all Americans be concerned about how many elections the GOP is winning or losing?

    By the way I support VAWA and am a registered Independent.

    • SamBarge says:

      If you read the next sentence in the paragraph, Tom, the point becomes evident:

      A far-right GOP may not get a lot done, but it does change the general political discourse, moving the centrist position to a more conservative one and doing very real harm to women and disempowered groups of Americans.

      A radical right GOP drives the centre further to the right. As a Canadian, I’m concerned too because the US political discourse affects our discourse as well. We may think most of it is crazy but it has a way of shifting the dialogue further right here.

      Anyway, if you read all the sentences Jill wrote, her position becomes very clear and your question would be answered.

      • TomSims says:

        I don’t disagree Sam, but another way of looking at is if you did away with the right wing completely, all you would have is the left wing. IMO as an Independent, all Republicans are right wing and all Democrats left wing. Only Independents are in the center.

      • GallingGalla says:

        Only Independents are in the center

        Really, Tom? Every one of us? I’m independent, and I’m on the left. Left of most Democrats, in fact.

      • TomSims says:

        @GallingGalla

        “Really, Tom? Every one of us? I’m independent, and I’m on the left. Left of most Democrats, in fact.”

        You can be registered anyway you choose. But IMO to be truly independent one can not be either a right wing or left wing extremist as you describe yourself.

      • EG says:

        …because people with strong political views are controlled by a hivemind?

      • SamBarge says:

        It’s been my experience that Independents are to varied in their political and socioeconomic policies to be defined as “left” or “right”.

        Also, the Democratic Party is not left. If you are somewhere between the Republican and Democratic parties, then you are on the right of the political spectrum.

        It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess. From your right-wing position the Democratic Party might seem left-wing but in no balanced political universe would the Democratic Party be considered left-wing. For crying out loud, they didn’t even support publicly-funded healthcare for all. The Canadian Conservative Party is, by and large, more left-wing than your “left-wing” party.

      • TomSims says:

        “It’s in the eye of the beholder, I guess. From your right-wing position the Democratic Party might seem left-wing but in no balanced political universe would the Democratic Party be considered left-wing. For crying out loud, they didn’t even support publicly-funded healthcare for all. The Canadian Conservative Party is, by and large, more left-wing than your “left-wing” party.”

        I’m not at all familiar with politics in Canada. And I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans over the years. I vote for the candidate not the party. Putting wings aside, if the US spending is not brought under control, we will go bankrupt. I have little formal education, but I did learn basic arithmatic in primary school and know you can’t spend more than you take in year after year.

      • SamBarge says:

        Argh! Too varied.

        That’ll teach me to preview before I submit.

      • Dawnofthenerds says:

        And as a proud NDP voter here in Canuckistan, the Republicans and Democrats both look pretty right wing to me. Democrats are hardly very left wing compared to the rest of the world.

      • TomSims says:

        @Dawnofthenerds

        With all due respect, I disagree completely with your assessment of the Democrats. They have demonstrated with their voting records and legislation they are Socialists. But I do agree with you about the GOP.

      • EG says:

        They have demonstrated with their voting records and legislation they are Socialists.

        Do you know any actual socialists? Or have any knowledge of actual socialist political parties? Or actual socialist revolutionaries?

  4. Pingback: Emma’s Exhausted From All This Rolling Over In Her Grave: Why Universities Need to Break the Silence About Sexual Assault | new hystericisms

  5. justiceday says:

    As a woman I do not believe or support this bill. Reason being, it’s in name only, no one has enforced it in the almost two decades it has been around. Rapes in the military are epic and domestic violence has become so big it has it’s own month.

    It scares me that people are more excited about it and are doing more to go after people who didn’t vote for it than they are to make sure it is enforced. Why aren’t you going after the military for raping women?

    theusmarinesrapecom

  6. Wendy Lyon says:

    Let’s not forget the objections to VAWA by the right-wing “anti-trafficking movement”, who think it’s just awful that under-18s will no longer be prosecuted for selling sex.

  7. thefish says:

    Transgender women who experience violence often find themselves … d even barred from taking refuge in women-only domestic violence shelters.

    The text has this little gem:

    EXCEPTION.—If sex segregation or sex-specific
    programming is necessary to the essential operation of
    a program, nothing in this paragraph shall prevent any
    such program or activity from consideration of an individual’s
    sex. In such circumstances, grantees may meet the
    requirements of this paragraph by providing comparable
    services to individuals who cannot be provided with the
    sex-segregated or sex-specific programming.

    The same transphobes that barred them before will still use this to bar them now. Yes, the republicans are worse, but don’t imply that the democrat version is actually good in this regard.

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