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Empirical Evidence Concerning the Effectiveness of the Violence Against
Women Act (VAWA)
By Richard L. Davis
Men's News Daily
16 September 2005
If you get all the facts, your judgment can be right; if you don't get all the facts, it can't be right. - Bernard M. Baruch

The first federal appropriations for VAWA I (1995-2000) was $1.8 billion. At the end of VAWA I Senator Joseph Biden claimed that, "…we have successfully begun to change attitudes, perceptions, and behavior related to violence against women." The Biden report also claimed that, "Five years after the Violence Against Women Act become law, it is demonstrably true that the state of affairs that existed before its enactment has changed for the better."

Of course the fine print reveals that even the proponents of VAWA I admit that "…there is little to no empirical evidence measuring the effectiveness of VAWA I is available…" Would the lack of any clearly definable progress
be of concern the Congress concerning VAWA II?

Hardly! When VAWA II (2000 – 2005) was introduced to Congress it received tremendous support. Apparently being able to actually prove that a program is effective or not, matter not to most of the members of Congress. VAWA II was authorized $3.3 billion for fiscal years 2000 – 2005).

Perhaps after being unable to document that the $1.8 billion was effective, most concerned Americas would hope that after $3.3 billion was spend someone, somewhere, might be able to document that, after a total of 5.1 billion, VAWA is effective. However, after ten years the overall effectiveness of the VAWA remains difficult if not impossible to measure. There were two studies that at least attempted to measure the effectiveness of VAWA, however, neither provided any documentation regarding the overall effectiveness of VAWA.

Advise Ignored

Congress mandated, as a part of VAWA, that the National Academy of Sciences through its National Research Council (NRC) develop a research agenda to increase the understanding and control of violence against women. In 2004, the NRC report, Advancing the Federal Research Agenda on Violence Against Women, advises Congress that:

At this point we have no evidence that a separate theory is needed to explain violence by intimates and no reason to expect that the closeness (or distance) of the relationship between victims and offender sets the conditions for theoretical predictions of violent offending (<http://books.nap.edu/catalog/10849.html> p. 14)

And on page 100 in the concluding paragraph NRC advises Congress that:

Finally, there is emerging and credible evidence that the general origins and behavioral patterns of various forms of violence, such as male violence against women and men and females violence against men and women, may be similar.

This appears to be just the kind of advice that Congress did not want to hear. There plan appears to be to continue spending billions on VAWA III regardless of know which policies work and which ones do not.

The Senators did not have anyone from the NRC appear before them at the VAWA hearings. Perhaps because the Senators were not interested in plausible theories and scientific evidence concerning cause and consequences and lack of effectiveness with the policies and programs the previous two VAWA authorizations funded.

The Senators ignored listening to any of the NRC steering committee for the workshop on issues in research on violence against women members. In fact the Senators did not listen anyone on the 2002-2003 NRC Committee on Law and Justice.

It appears that at the Senate hearing for VAWA III the Senators simply satisfied themselves with listening only to people who are driven by ideology and who have stakeholder fiduciary interest in having VAWA reauthorized.

The majority of the Senators did not ask the NRC for its advice, data and statistics because they knew they would get answers they did not want to hear. Rather they wanted to listen only to advice, data and statistics they would provide them with results that fortified their preconceived answers for their failed old solutions.

While the numbers of almost all types of homicide victims – family, acquaintance and stranger, have dropped dramatically since 1976, the number of white women who are killed by their intimate partners has not changed <http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/ipv.htm>. Not being able to change that number of homicides does not demonstrate much of a return on the billions spent to date on the Violence Against Women Act. Is there not one member of the media nationwide that is willing to ask why the Senators why they ignored the NRC and allowed the stakeholder ideology to trump plausible scientific experts when lives are at stake?


Richard L. Davis is the author of Domestic Violence: Facts and Fallacies
and the VP of <http://www.familynonviolence.org/>


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