March 1, 2013
This week, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, known inside the Beltway as VAWA.
Nobody can deny that violence against women is unacceptable. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle can agree that domestic violence cannot be tolerated. But the bill passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday contains unnecessary and duplicative new provisions. And it reauthorizes a law of unproven effectiveness.
VAWA authorizes the government to award grant money to organizations with little track record of success, Heritage Foundation expert David Muhlhausen explains. For example, the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women is the primary recipient of VAWA funding. But their reporting about their success is flawed and misleading.
In fact, Muhlhausen adds, there is virtually no evidence that VAWA programs are effective:
Despite being created in 1994, grant programs under the VAWA have not undergone nationally representative, scientifically rigorous experimental evaluations of effectiveness.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that previous evaluations of the VAWA programs “demonstrated a variety of methodological limitations, raising concerns as to whether the evaluations will produce definitive results.” Further, the evaluations were not representative of the types of programs funded nationally by the VAWA.
And this new legislation adds to the trouble, Muhlhausen explains:
- The bill engages in mission creep by expanding VAWA to men and prisoners, despite the lack of scientifically rigorous evaluations to determine the effectiveness of existing VAWA programs;
- The bill expands upon the already duplicative grant programs authorized by VAWA; and
- Without precedent, the bill surrenders the rights of Americans who are not American Indians to racially exclusive tribal courts.
Women must be protected from violence. But this is a war that must be waged at the state and local level, not the federal level. Even when motives are good, lawmakers should think twice before reauthorizing laws fraught with unnecessary components and unproven results.
Do you think VAWA is the right approach to domestic violence?