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By Attorney Robert Franklin
July 6, 2012

With the Violence Against Women Act stuck in Congress likely until after the November elections, Democrats are seeking to capitalize on the impasse with the claim that Republicans are “playing politics” with women’s safety. Of course, it’s an election year and few words uttered by either side will be anything but political spin on whatever the subject. But Democrats’ claims of Republican posturing on VAWA take spin to a dizzying new level.

Democrats’ approach to the issue of domestic violence has always been far more about politics – in this case wooing women voters – than about ameliorating intimate partner violence. The latest Democratic foray into the field of DV came with Vice President Joe Biden’s public service announcement on the subject of dating violence, and serves as a case in point.

Biden has for years called VAWA his signature piece of legislation and its provisions, as well as his many public pronouncements on domestic violence, make it clear that, for Biden, women’s violence against men either doesn’t exist or is too unimportant to mention, much less legislate on. Neither of course is true, but the point of VAWA, like that of Biden’s PSA, is first and foremost to court female voters.

The science on domestic violence has been with us since the mid-1970s when the first major study was conducted for the National Institute of Mental Health. It showed that women and men were equally likely to physically attack an intimate partner. Currently the number of scholarly studies showing the same thing runs to over 280, with those on dating violence showing the same thing. But the funding for the Violence Against Women Act goes almost exclusively to protect women. The Washington-based anti-DV organization Stop Abusive and Violent Environments concludes that less than 1% of federal funding for DV prevention goes to assist male victims. That’s true despite the fact that about 35% of the victims of severe domestic violence are men.

The consequences of that failure to assist male victims became all too apparent recently when it was reported that a Seattle area woman, Maria Gonzales Esquivel had systematically beaten and terrorized a man and his six children over a period of 2 ½ years. She’s now behind bars facing multiple counts of battery and sexual abuse, but the question arises “why didn’t the man take his children and leave?” The answer is twofold. First, he was poor, out of work and forced to rely on Gonzales for a home for him and his children. Second, there was nowhere else he could go; there was no domestic violence shelter for men (there’s only one in the entire country), so they were forced to stay.

His kids suffered multiple fractures - one of a rib that punctured a lung - lacerations over every part of their bodies and, at least once, Gonzales poured alcohol on a little girl’s genitals and ordered her older brother to kick her in the groin.

It turns out playing politics with domestic violence has consequences.

Biden’s public service announcement on dating violence is more of the same. Not a word of it suggests that girls may assault boys in dating situations despite the fact that a wealth of data on the subject shows they do. So, in a 2005 survey of 2,500 students at the Universities of Florida and South Carolina, 29% of women and 22% of men said they’d physically assaulted a date. A University of New Hampshire study of dating violence in 32 countries revealed that the perpetrator was more often the woman than the man. And when the Liz Claiborne Institute conducted its Teen Relationship Abuse Survey, it found that 17% of boys and 13% of girls reported that a dating partner had hit, slapped or pushed them.

Despite the overwhelming weight of evidence, Democrats continue to pretend that only men hit an intimate partner and only women are hit. That means that funding sources like VAWA utterly fail to provide services for male victims or treatment for female perpetrators, and that too turns out to be a problem. That’s because, according to a 2009 study done for the Centers for Disease Control, when domestic violence is reciprocal, i.e. when both partners take part, women hit first about 70% of the time. When they do, men hit back and the women often are injured. So, even if you care only about female victims of DV, pretending women don’t initiate violence disserves your cause.

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Given that he’s the Vice President of the United States, one assumes Joe Biden has access to the facts about domestic violence between adult and teenage partners. Therefore his uniform refusal to acknowledge either female perpetrators or male victims must be considered intentional. There’s a good reason why; he’s attempting to appeal to women who make up the bulk of Democratic voters. After all, if a Democrat were to speak the truth about domestic violence, he/she would incur the wrath of every feminist organization in the country, jeopardizing women’s votes.

For Democrats, the only course open is to continue playing politics with domestic violence. True, doing so makes the actual risk of DV for women higher than it otherwise would be, but, irony of ironies, that’s the price women pay to elect Democrats to office.

The final irony comes from Biden’s PSA in which the VP himself intones “we all have to take responsibility.” Well, not all of us.

� 2012 - Robert Franklin - All Rights Reserved

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Robert Franklin has been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1980. He’s on the Board of Fathers and Families, the largest and most effective organization in the country fighting for family court reform. He writes and edits the Fathers and Families blog. He’s published journalism, essays and op-eds in a wide variety of online and print media including the Toledo Blade, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times and World Net Daily. His legal writing has appeared in the Houston Law Review and he’s published poetry in several journals including the Concho River Review and an anthology of Texas poets.

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With the Violence Against Women Act stuck in Congress likely until after the November elections, Democrats are seeking to capitalize on the impasse with the claim that Republicans are “playing politics” with women’s safety.