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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 156146 Find in a Library
Title: Making Safety a Civil Right
Journal: Ms.  Volume:5  Issue:2  Dated:(September/October 1994)  Pages:44-47
Author(s): L Hirshman
Date Published: 1994
Page Count: 4
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article profiles the Federal crime bill's Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and addresses opposition to it.
Abstract: VAWA counters the problem of violence against women in several ways: with money, with changes in criminal law, and with a civil rights remedy. It calls for giving substantial funds to States and localities for education, rape crisis hotlines, training of justice personnel, victim services, and special units of police and prosecutors to deal with crimes against women. As a condition of receiving certain funds, States with particularly egregious domestic violence laws would have to show a stronger commitment to arresting and prosecuting domestic violence offenders. The criminal portions make it a Federal offense to cross State lines with the intent of contacting a spouse when that contact leads to an act of violence. The act also makes orders of protection enforceable from one State to another. The VAWA's civil rights component would allow women to sue their attackers, seeking compensatory and punitive damages through Federal courts for a crime of violence, at least in part, by animus toward the victim's gender; men, too, could sue if they believed violence against them stemmed from gender bias. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) testified against the civil rights provisions of VAWA, stating that it "does not make clear the requisite intent or motive that the perpetrator must have had." The ACLU also reminded the legislators that the Federal courts were already crowded with other important matters. Opposition to laws that would protect women from violence proceeds from a general philosophy that less government is better than more. This preference for less government often works against women because it resists bringing the government into areas where it has not previously been involved. Domestic violence against women has been a private matter for so long, many are reluctant to give the government intervention powers to address it. They are hard pressed to explain why government should exist if it will not protect citizens from physical harm from others.
Main Term(s): Female victims
Index Term(s): Domestic assault; Federal government; Legislation
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