The widely praised Violence Against Women Act faces a tough reauthorization battle. Though introduced in a bipartisan way, it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote with all the Democrats voting to move it to the full Senate and all the Republicans voting against. Diane will speak to the chair of the committee and cosponsor of the bill, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Diane and a panel of experts will examine VAWA and why some object to provisions of the act which include gay, transgendered and undocumented immigrants.


  • Patrick Leahy Democratic Senator from Vermont
  • Janice Shaw Crouse Senior Fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, the think tank for Concerned Women for America.
  • Terry O'Neill President of the National Organization for Women
  • Amy Myers Professor and director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Washington College of Law at American University.


  • 10:06:56

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The Violence Against Women Act faces a tough reauthorization battle. Though it was voted out at the Judiciary Committee on a straight party line vote, its passage in the full Senate is less certain. Later in the program, we hear from one of the co-sponsors of the reauthorization of the act, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy. First, joining us in the studio to look at its prospects: Janice Shaw Crouse of Concerned Women for America, Terry O'Neill of the National Organization for Women and Amy Meyers of the Washington College of Law at American University.

  • 10:07:46

    MS. DIANE REHMI hope you'll join us, 800-433-8850. Send your email to Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And good morning to all of you.

  • 10:08:04

    PROF. AMY MYERSGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:08:04

    MS. JANICE SHAW CROUSEGood morning, Diane.

  • 10:08:05

    REHMNice to see you all. Terry O'Neill, give us a little background of this Violence Against Women Act. It first passed, I know, in 1994. What does it do?

  • 10:08:21

    MS. TERRY O'NEILLSo the act primarily creates grants and programs both for training prosecutors and judges and police in the nature of family violence and violence against women, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, dating violence. There are also services grants, grants that are provided through the office on Violence Against Women to service providers. So -- when a woman is assaulted in her own home and she needs to escape violence, she needs a whole wraparound set of services.

  • 10:09:01

    MS. TERRY O'NEILLAnd the Violence Against Women Act seeks to begin providing those services. Now, the original act that passed also had a provision allowing a woman to sue, to collect civil damages against her batterer. That provision was struck down by the Supreme Court, saying that it should not be a federal law, that that should be a state-by-state matter, which was a shame because, in fact, the international community seeking to end violence against women has moved forward with encouraging states and nations to provide for reparations for victims of violence.

  • 10:09:41

    REHMAnd the act was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.

  • 10:09:47

    O'NEILLYes. The act, by its own terms, is required to be reauthorized about every five years. So here we are in 2012, probably should have been reauthorized last year, 2011, but we are, right now, at reauthorization here.

  • 10:10:03

    REHMTerry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women. Turning to you, Janice Crouse, talk about the objections to the Violence Against Women Act.

  • 10:10:19

    CROUSELet me say right off, Diane, that I am very opposed to domestic violence. I have experienced it with a sister whose husband was violent, and restraining orders didn't help or anything else. So I want to make sure that when you're talking about a nice-sounding bill like this that I want to be solidly on the side of those who want to end domestic violence. But this plan has really morphed into a rigid and inhumane and ineffective matter of law enforcement.

  • 10:10:49

    CROUSEI think it has overly broad definitions, and it creates single-mom families and welfare-dependent families. That has been an unfortunate side effect. Any major bill like this, you have to look at the fine print. And I think that's one of the problems that we have. We have unexpected consequences.

  • 10:11:07

    REHMSuch as?

  • 10:11:08

    CROUSESuch as the overly broad definitions that allow people who have been insulted, people who have not really experienced violence as we tend to think of violence -- causing harm, physical harm -- so that even saying, you're not doing what I want you to do or you're not looking like I want you to look, those kind of verbal comments could be considered violence. The main thing, though, that I object to, Diane, is the changes in our culture where men are seen as suspect and where women's word is taken without any responsibility for backing it up with specific instances.

  • 10:11:53

    CROUSEAnd a general view in society that a woman is -- she can say anything and a man has to bear the consequences of her accusations. She is allowed to have free law enforcement -- she is allowed to have consultation with lawyers, and the person who is accused is not. So those kinds of inequities, I think, are inherent in this bill.

  • 10:12:21

    REHMLet me understand clearly. Does this bill not cover men as well as women? Is that correct, Terry?

  • 10:12:33

    O'NEILLAbsolutely, it does. But the reports from the government are that approximately one in five women will be assaulted by an intimate partner, and one in 71 men. So, clearly, the victims are predominantly women.

  • 10:12:50

    REHMAll right. And predominantly women, but it does cover men as well, correct, Janice?

  • 10:12:58

    CROUSEWell, actually, there are 250 studies that show that there's about equal violence from women as from men, so it's an equal opportunity crime if you want to look at it that way. So I think when you have a bill that focuses exclusively on women, that in itself, I think, violates all feminist principles of equality.

  • 10:13:23

    REHMJanice Crouse, she is senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute, and that is the think-tank for Concerned Women for America. And turning to you, Amy Myers, what kinds of services does the Violence Against Women Act actually cover?

  • 10:13:47

    MYERSWell, it covered me when I was working at a legal services organization. I represented Survivors of Domestic Violence, both men and women, in protection order cases. So they wanted protection from the court, stay-away orders, no-contact orders, things like that. It covered me when I was representing survivors in custody cases and divorces. We also had funding at that organization to provide counseling for survivors. We also did a lot of prevention work.

  • 10:14:15

    MYERSWe went into middle schools and high schools to educate teens about healthy relationships and domestic violence. I also see it now providing services to law enforcement officers, court personnel and judges, other people with whom my client, Survivors of Domestic Violence, are interacting. So it's giving them training so that they know how to respond to a 911 call, for example. So it provides a really broad range of services to survivors of domestic violence.

  • 10:14:44

    REHMAmy Myers is professor in Domestic -- director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Washington College of Law at American University. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Terry O'Neill, what has been changed in the reauthorization act of violence against women?

  • 10:15:15

    O'NEILLSo, I guess, I would say that there's one good change, which is that -- or two good changes. The bill, as passed out of the Senate committee, recognizes the LGBT community -- that's the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community -- as an underserved population. It also recognizes the needs of immigrant women who are particularly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse in this country.

  • 10:15:44

    O'NEILLIt also recognizes the needs for services for Native American women. So there's a recognition in the bill that these underserved populations need to have more services. The bad thing, from my point of view, is that, actually, the funding levels of the bill had been pushed back 12 years, so the funding levels, as reported out of the committee, go back to the year 2000. The Violence Against Women Act has never been fully funded, has never been funded to meet the need.

  • 10:16:15

    O'NEILLIn fact, on a -- the National Network to End Domestic Violence reports a daily -- they take a daily snapshot of an annual basis, one day. And the last snapshot that I saw, which was, I think, last year, over 9,000 requests for help went unanswered in that one day.

  • 10:16:34

    REHMAmy Myers, how is your clinic funded?

  • 10:16:39

    MYERSWe are funded through the school, so we don't receive funding through VAWA. We work, though, with domestic violence survivors who are working with police officers, counselors, all sorts of other services that are being funded by VAWA.

  • 10:16:53

    REHMAnd to you, Janice Crouse, has there been objection to including the lesbian, gay and transgendered community as well as undocumented immigrants?

  • 10:17:10

    CROUSENo, not as such. I think any time there's violence, we need to cover that. The main objection we have is that it targets specifically women. And I think that's overly precise. It's overly slanted in a feminist way. One thing that I think our audience really needs to know is that we spend, from the federal government, close to a billion dollars a year. The estimates range from $500 million to a billion a year.

  • 10:17:40

    CROUSEAnd yet we have an authority in the Department of Justice who says that there's absolutely no evidence to date that VAWA has led to a decrease in the overall levels of violence against women, so...

  • 10:17:51

    REHMIs that true, Terry O'Neill?

  • 10:17:53

    O'NEILLI've seen dueling statistics on that. The -- one of the issues is whether the Violence Against Women Act, over the past 16 years, has encouraged women to come forward and seek services. When I was attacked by my husband when I was 22 years old in 1975, I -- it didn't occur to me to seek services. And, in fact, there were no services. I was protected and cared for by my parents.

  • 10:18:19

    O'NEILLI think, over the past 16 years of VAWA's existence, more women have come forward to seek services and seek assistance, and that's all to the good. But let me just reiterate, the incidence of the Violence Against Women Act, because it's not fully funded, needs to -- you need to beef up the funding in order to stop the violence.

  • 10:18:40

    REHMTerry O'Neill, she is president of the National Organization for Women. We'll take just a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk further and take your calls.

  • 10:20:04

    REHMAnd we have three people here in the studio as we talk about the controversy over reauthorizing the Violence Against Woman Act, which was originally passed in 1994. The language back then was drafted by then-Sen. Joseph Biden's office, with support from advocacy organizations. It was then described as the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women. In nearly two decades, it was reauthorized in 2000 and 2005.

  • 10:20:51

    REHMBut now, despite bipartisan support to reauthorize it, that bipartisanship has dropped away. You have Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who had stepped forward with a Republican to voice his support for reauthorization. But now that Republican support has been withdrawn. Here in the studio, Amy Myers of the American University. She's director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Washington College of Law.

  • 10:21:39

    REHMTerry O'Neill is president of the National Organization for Women. Janice Shaw Crouse is senior fellow at the Beverly LaHaye Institute. That's the think-tank for Concerned Women for America. Here's an email from Jim in McLean, Va., who says, "Aren't the states able and willing to handle domestic violence without federal involvement or funding?" What do you think of that, Amy Myers?

  • 10:22:17

    MYERSWell, we've seen a grassroots movement over the beginning, perhaps in the '70s and certainly in the '80s and '90s, to recognize this as a national problem and to recognize the underfunding of services at the state level. So VAWA, really, was created because we saw that the states weren't capable, didn't have the funding or resources, or, maybe in some cases, the commitment to serve survivors of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault.

  • 10:22:45

    REHMAnd, of course, we are in a place now of tightening budgets. What about that, Terry O'Neill?

  • 10:22:54

    O'NEILLIt's a real problem. There was in Kansas, I believe it was, fairly recently, where a county office's budget, the county states attorney's budget was being cut. And they announced that they were no longer going to pursue domestic violence cases. They were going to expect the city attorney's office to do it. The problem was that the city attorney's budget was also being cut, and it would've cost the city attorney's office some $1 million just to gin up the capacity to be able to respond to domestic violence.

  • 10:23:25

    O'NEILLNow, there was an outcry, and the outcry actually was national, not just in Kansas. And they backed off of that plan. But you can see that, at the state and local level, there is a real failure of political will to address this problem, which is why we needed a national Violence Against Women Act in the first place.

  • 10:23:45

    REHMAnd here is a tweet from Jen, "Is there a war on women in the U.S.? Judging by Republican opposition to the Violence Against Women Act renewal, it would seem there is." Janice Crouse.

  • 10:24:05

    CROUSEI would say that that is not the case at all because, when you look at the CDC's list of risk factors for violence in the home, intimate partners, regardless of whether they're married or not, that long list of things, like low self-esteem, alcohol and drug and use and so forth, all of those problems, we agree, is they are solved best by human relations, counseling, psychological, social counseling, anger management, substance abuse treatment and so forth, whereas VAWA focuses on restraining orders, arrest, prosecution and legal kinds of solutions.

  • 10:24:46

    CROUSESo they start at the wrong at the place and have essentially -- VAWA has not lived up to it's promises.

  • 10:24:54

    REHMAll right. Let's open the phones here and hear from as many listeners as we can, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Louisville, Ky. Good morning, Heidi. You're on the air.

  • 10:25:14

    HEIDIGood morning. I just wanted to say that we're talking about abuse, which is actually inequity, so it's not really appropriate to talk about consequences of abuse being inequitable. It's inappropriate. Whenever there's inequity of power or abuse is claimed, we must always err on the side of safety and protecting the alleged victim, who hopefully will live to be a survivor, as Amy did. And if someone's life is being threatened, then a restraining order is absolutely appropriate, and...

  • 10:25:48

    REHMOh, dear. You know, we have been having trouble with our phones. I'm sorry, Heidi, to have lost your call. Do you want to comment on her words, Terry?

  • 10:26:04

    O'NEILLYeah, absolutely. We do need to have both accountability measures, and that does mean involving the justice system. In fact, in Montgomery County, Md., where I live, a few years ago, we created the Family Justice Center, which is intended to be a one-stop shop for all the needs of a person escaping family violence. And that one-stop shop concept has gone a long way throughout the country. It was actually originated in San Diego. It has gone a long way toward keeping women survivors, not just victims.

  • 10:26:41

    REHMAll right. To Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning, Judy.

  • 10:26:46

    JUDYYes, good morning. I'm really glad you guys are addressing this topic. I am a feminist. I'm also -- I have a graduate degree in social work, and I do have experience in training in domestic violence and working with programs. However, I do have some very strong reservations in regards to men being overlooked as victims of domestic violence, and I think that we have these traditional views of what domestic violence looks like. And I think that we have been -- often times, are presented with outdated data. I agree.

  • 10:27:22

    JUDYI am familiar with the 250 studies that, I think, often get overlooked in addition to the recent data from the CDC. And I've personally seen friends of mine, who are males, being -- having their wives use charges of domestic violence against them in divorce proceedings as a way to get an upper hand with getting child custody. And I've had friends who were taken away from their kids for a month most of the time, not being able to see them because of false allegations.

  • 10:28:01

    JUDYAnd what's interesting is that immediate assumption that the men were guilty, and in all of these cases they weren't. But it was just this assumption that because the women claims it that it is, in fact, true. And I think that if -- I think there's this sense that if you do not totally agree with this bill that you are somehow for violence against women, and I just don't like the way that's set up. And I think that we need some major improvements.

  • 10:28:31

    REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Amy.

  • 10:28:34

    MYERSWell, since we've been studying the epidemic of violence in the home, most of the evidence shows that domestic violence is a problem that predominantly affects women and predominantly as men abusing women, although that's certainly not always the case. But we know that one in four women is a victim domestic violence, one in five women has been raped as opposed to, I think, one in 71 men. One in six women have been stalked as opposed to one in 19 men.

  • 10:29:00

    MYERSWe also know that domestic violence impacts women often differently than it impacts men. So 81 percent of women who are survivors of domestic violence report some significant injuries and long-term symptoms, whereas only 35 percent of male victims report those. So it's affecting men and women differently.

  • 10:29:18


  • 10:29:19

    CROUSEWell, it very definitely affects differently, and women often are recipients of more severe injuries from abuse. However, when you are dealing with these problems, it's a matter of local law enforcement, I believe, rather than a federal initiative like the VAWA. As I've mentioned before, we don't have evidence that VAWA has been successful, and we're spending close to $1 billion a year.

  • 10:29:48

    CROUSEThis, you know, has, I think, created, as one of our callers pointed out, an assumption of male guilt. And I'm thinking back to the Duke Lacrosse team who was assumed to have been guilty when they were accused. And this kind of thing happens over and over again. I think all of us are human. And women who are in situations that they won't get out of find a ready ally in VAWA to help them get out of a situation where there might not be abuse involved, but...

  • 10:30:18


  • 10:30:19

    CROUSE...some other reason for being uncomfortable in the situation.

  • 10:30:21

    REHMTerry, can we be sure that the studies are correct? I mean, Janice is saying that, you know, reasonably speaking, we cannot point to any good that this act has done. Can you point to good that it has done?

  • 10:30:50

    CROUSEMay I clarify, Diane? I don't mean to say that it's done no good, but it has not led to a decrease in the overall levels...

  • 10:30:57

    REHMOK. A fair point.

  • 10:30:58

    CROUSE...of abuse.

  • 10:30:59

    REHMI'm sorry. Go ahead.

  • 10:31:00

    O'NEILLWell, the overall levels of abuse have certainly gone up during the great recession. I believe Sen. Reid mentioned that back in 2009. There were studies that were beginning to show that because of the -- a tanking economy, family violence was really spiking up significantly. If we don't -- if we are not putting enough resources into the problem, we need to recognize that. And we're not at a billion. We need to be at a billion.

  • 10:31:25

    O'NEILLWe probably need to be at more, like, three or $4 billion, frankly, per year. So to say that we should stop the program because we have not fully funded it, I think, is a non sequitur. I think the most important thing you can say is to look around you. Look at the programs that do exist. Look at the family violence clinic at American University's Law School. Look at the family violence -- Family Justice Center in Montgomery County. These are places that are literally saving lives.

  • 10:31:56


  • 10:31:58

    MYERSWe've seen reporting of domestic violence go up during the time that VAWA has been in place, and I think that might not reflect an increase in domestic violence, but an increase in women and men survivors seeking services. We've seen lethality actually go down since VAWA has been in place, which I think is quite important.

  • 10:32:14

    MYERSWe've also seen that funding these prevention and intervention efforts saves us money that would otherwise be spent on responding to the effects of domestic violence: so health care, lost productivity for employers, police, et cetera. The CDC had a report that said that for the $1.6 billion that VAWA -- was allocated for VAWA in 1994, we saved $12.6 billion. So for about every dollar that VAWA spends, more than $7 is saved.

  • 10:32:44

    REHMAmy Myers. She's professor and director of the Domestic Violence Clinic at the Washington College of Law at American University. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's go back to the phones, to Oklahoma City. Good morning, Robert. You're on the air.

  • 10:33:12

    ROBERTGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.

  • 10:33:14


  • 10:33:15

    ROBERTOK. I've got a few things. Number one, isn't this a parenting issue? Isn't this something we need to teach the young men and the young women when they're in grade school and through junior high and adult -- and high school, is what abuse looks like, what it sounds like, what to do to avoid it, how not to be one, why you shouldn't do it, what it really means to be abusive and controlling and all that stuff? And maybe a lot of people will make the choice that they don't want to be that kind of person.

  • 10:33:41

    ROBERTNow, it seems to me like we're stuck on prosecution real bad here. I'm a criminal defense attorney. I defend a whole lot of domestic violence cases. And, frankly, just because, you know -- and -- how do I say this? A lot of times the government seems like they want to be involved real, real bad. And there's a profit in this. And the bottom line is we're using words like survivor, and it's inappropriate.

  • 10:34:07

    ROBERTLike, you know, when you want to talk about the extreme cases, sure, that's appropriate language to use. Sure, they're survivors. But that doesn't mean that everybody who gets hit -- men or women -- is a survivor. And the other thing I want to mention, too, is women on men violence. I have been a victim of intense emotional and psychological abuse by a woman. And I would tell you, I've read stories about people like me, and we all say we'd rather be hit. Just hit me. Don't talk to me mean. Just hit me. I'll get over it a lot better.

  • 10:34:39


  • 10:34:41

    O'NEILLThe question is whether there are services for people who are experiencing violence and abuse in their homes is, of course, a very vexing one. And there are no end of individual stories where services have not been adequately offered. Look at the case of Josh Powell just recently, who was scheduled for a supervised visitation with his two young sons. His wife had disappeared two or three years previously.

  • 10:35:12

    O'NEILLThe social worker brought the sons over for the supervised visitation. He apparently shut the door in her face and then blew up the home and killed his two sons as well as himself. That's another anecdotal story of a failure of services. So there are many, many such stories. The reason the Violence Against Women Act is so important and needs to be fully funded and needs to be re-authorized this year is specifically because it is a start.

  • 10:35:39

    O'NEILLNow, there are criticisms of the Violence Against Women Act not from the right wing or in addition to the right wing sort of criticisms. There are also criticisms from the left that it does not provide a mandate for holding batterers accountable, a nationwide mandate. It does not provide a reparations provision and that this would be important. So there are any number of ways where VAWA is being said to be not enough, but I think that is not a reason not to go forward with doing as much as we certainly can.

  • 10:36:12

    REHMJanice, I'm wondering, how would you feel if this bill were not gender-specific? How would you feel if it were simply a Violence Against Persons Act?

  • 10:36:28

    CROUSEI would like that very much, Diane, but I think there are other problems related to the bill as well because, I think, when you squander the resources in the way that VAWA does and spreads so thin, you miss out on the cases that Terry mentioned -- you know, the Josh Powell case, for instance -- so that the actual victims of violence don't get the priority that they need and you aren't able to assess the whole victim situation in the way that you should.

  • 10:36:56

    CROUSEAnd, interestingly, I'm joined in those opinions by Sen. Charles Grassley, who said that VAWA created so many new programs for underserved population that it risked losing its focus on helping victims. And Patrick Leahy, who's the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said we're trying to protect too many victims. And he thought that was a big weakness of VAWA. And I have to agree with that.

  • 10:37:20

    CROUSEYou know, when we spread ourselves so thin and this program goes in so many directions and lacks specificity in accountability, as well as definitions, I think that's a harmful thing.

  • 10:37:32

    REHMJanice Crouse. She's with the Beverly LaHaye Institute and Concerned Women for America. Short break here. When we come back, more of your calls, comments, questions. Stay with us.

  • 10:40:04

    REHMAnd welcome back as we talk about the Domestic Abuse Against Women Act and the question as to whether it will be renewed. It has passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on a strict partisan line vote. Here's an email from Shawn in Grand Rapids, but first, I gather, we do have a call from Sen. Patrick Leahy. He's Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Good morning to you, sir.

  • 10:40:52

    SEN. PATRICK LEAHYGood morning, Diane. It's -- I'm glad you're bringing up this subject.

  • 10:40:56

    REHMThank you. I know you were just in an event having to do with the Violence Against Women Act. Is the fight, do you believe, about politics, ideology or the economy?

  • 10:41:12

    LEAHYWell, I would hope that it would not be on any of those. I'm at the Burlington Police Department. In fact, I was talking with them about some of the domestic violence cases that I solved when I was a prosecutor. In the past, we've had strong support from both Republicans and Democrats because it's hard to find anybody who want to say they don't want to do something about domestic violence in our state, which is a low-crime state in the past few years. Half the homicides have been results of domestic violence.

  • 10:41:50

    LEAHYNationwide, we see a lot of that. I would urge people -- I still get nightmares about some of the crime scenes that I went to as state's attorney middle of the night. Some of them had been beaten either half to death or, in some instances, to death. And you have all of these things where this could have been avoided if there had been programs in place where they could have sought help before. And that's what we're trying to stop, and that should not be a Republican or Democratic issue. That should be an American issue.

  • 10:42:24

    REHMYou know, your co-sponsor was Sen. Mike Crapo, Republican of Idaho. He was originally scheduled to join us this morning. Is he still in support of this?

  • 10:42:41

    LEAHYOh, yes. In fact, I talked with Mike the other day when -- on the Senate floor after we had passed the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he's strongly in support of it. In fact, one of the things we're trying to demonstrate -- Sen. Crapo is a very hardworking, knowledgeable senator. He's a conservative Republican. I consider myself hardworking and knowledgeable, and I'm a liberal Democrat. And we're saying, by the two of us being the main sponsors, look, it's not a Republican or a Democratic bill.

  • 10:43:14

    LEAHYIt's just a good, sensible bill to protect a lot of people who are being badly, badly hurt throughout our country, whether it's Vermont or Idaho or the other 48 states.

  • 10:43:29

    REHMYou've been quoted in some online stories as saying that the bill is trying to protect too many victims. Did you actually say that? And if so, what do you think should be done?

  • 10:43:49

    LEAHYI'm sorry. That broke up. Could you repeat it, please?

  • 10:43:53

    REHMYou are quoted as having said that the bill is trying to protect too many victims. Did you say that? And if so, what can be done about that?

  • 10:44:08

    LEAHYWell, it is trying to protect victims. I mean, when we have in many places, especially in a rural state or rural areas of any state, where there -- if somebody is being beaten, if somebody is being -- if somebody's a victim of domestic violence, they often have no place to go. There's no 800 number. There's nowhere they can go, and they're almost afraid to mention the fact they're being victimized. Under what we've done in states all over the country, we've set up places for them to go and to be helped.

  • 10:44:45

    LEAHYAnd that has saved lives. It's documented over and over again. The Violence Against Women Act has saved lives. It has saved lives of adults. It has saved lives of children.

  • 10:44:58

    REHMThere are an awful lot of people who are concerned about including the lesbian, gay, transgendered and undocumented persons in the bill. How do you feel about that?

  • 10:45:16

    LEAHYWhen I was a prosecutor and I saw somebody who is a victim, I didn't ask, are you a Democrat or a Republican, are you gay or are you straight? I saw a victim, and I saw a perpetrator. And I wanted to prosecute who did it. If we started saying in this country, OK, if you fit in this category, you can be beaten up, you can be killed, you can be stabbed, you can be murdered, and we won't do anything about it, that demeans us as Americans.

  • 10:45:47

    LEAHYAmerica stands for equal protections for everybody. And I want it to be for everybody. Let's not carve out exceptions and say, this is a class of people you can hurt, you can damage, and we won't do anything. You know, we've seen nations where that's happened. Those are pretty sorry nations.

  • 10:46:11

    REHMAnd is this going to pass in the full Senate?

  • 10:46:16

    LEAHYIt will pass. It will pass if we bring this up. My -- I was down on the floor and looked people in the eye and saying, are you going to vote to stop domestic violence, or are you going to vote to let it continue? It's as simple as that.

  • 10:46:32

    REHMSen. Patrick Leahy, Democrat and chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, thank you so much for joining us, sir.

  • 10:46:43

    LEAHYThank you, Diane.

  • 10:46:45

    REHMAnd turning to you, Janice, what's your reaction to the senator's comments?

  • 10:46:53

    CROUSEWell, with all due respects, we can't cover everything. You know, he says he wants everybody covered. This is a bill that is supposed to be targeted to people who are abused. And when you make vast generalizations like the respected senator just made, I think that's one of the major problems with the bill.

  • 10:47:15

    REHMYou mean...

  • 10:47:16

    CROUSEWe know very -- we have very solid social science research that says who is more likely to be abused in the kind of domestic violence situations the CDC has identified -- 28 different causes of domestic violence. We know there are three major groups: lower-income couples, couples who are not in intact, married-couple families and lesbian and gay partners. We have identified -- social science researches have identified those couples.

  • 10:47:45

    CROUSESo to say, we want to cover everybody, I think that's a foolish misuse of funds. It's a foolish lack of precision and focus. We really need to say we want to use social science research to target where our money goes. We are no longer in the position where we can just throw money at everything.

  • 10:47:59

    REHMTerry O'Neill.

  • 10:48:03

    O'NEILLIn fact, the Violence Against Women Act recipients of grants are required to keep records and are required to report back so that we can tell which populations are not receiving services and need services. So if you see a lot of populations -- in fact, the bill -- Sen. Leahy and Sen. Crapo's bill beefs up protections, first, against sexual assault precisely because of this reporting back. It is evidence based. And of course, we want to serve those populations.

  • 10:48:33

    O'NEILLBut Sen. Leahy is absolutely right simply because we have some social science indicators that, well, these kinds of communities -- and, by the way, I've seen social science studies that -- or have been told studies that say that in certain types of communities like command-and-control communities, so very fundamentalist, religious communities, police communities, military communities, you do see increases in the level of abuse.

  • 10:48:59

    O'NEILLThis is -- those are out there, too, but we would not want to limit the services under the Violence Against Women Act to those communities simply because there's a suggestion that there's a disproportionate impact there.

  • 10:49:13

    REHMWe've got an email asking, "What about focusing on prevention in schools?" Amy, how is your clinic able to reach out?

  • 10:49:27

    MYERSWell, my clinic and a lot of organizations in the city are reaching out especially to middle schoolers and high schoolers who are seeing models, perhaps in their homes, certainly in the media, of unhealthy, inequitable relationships. And so we are talking with them about healthy relationships and what to do with friends or in unhealthy relationships.

  • 10:49:46

    REHMAmy Myers of American University, Terry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, and Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We'll go back to the phones now, 800-433-8850. To Lansing, Mich. Good morning, Tanya. You're on the air.

  • 10:50:20

    TANYAWell, thank you for accepting my call. I just wanted to say that, regardless of what's in place now, I still don't think it's enough as far as the laws. I was a victim of domestic violence in 2004 in Georgia, and -- sorry, and it was an attempted murder. And when he was arrested and charged, he was able to get out on bond, which was only set at $25,000. Now, luckily, I was financially able to relocate immediately, so he couldn't find me. There's so many women -- are not able to do that. They're not financially able to get out. And I have written to many people to find out where can we change some of these laws.

  • 10:51:12

    TANYAI mean, if somebody is convicted of domestic violence to that extent, there should be no bond. Another thing that I felt was kind of injustice with me, and I had to fight to say, is that they wanted to take a plea deal with them. And I just kept standing and saying, no, I was a victim of his. I'm not going to be a victim of the state. So we finally went to jury trial, and he got 13 years for attempted murder with a deadly weapon.

  • 10:51:37

    REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. I'm so sorry you have experienced such a frightful situation. Janice.

  • 10:51:48

    CROUSETanya, you break our hearts, and you're not the only person who's experienced that kind of thing. That's why I think a bill like this strikes such a chord with most American people. We don't want that kind of behavior to continue. But I think it's counterproductive when you lump in so many extraneous issues here. For instance, Terry mentioned the problem with religious families. Come on, Terry, intact married couple families have less abuse that any other situation.

  • 10:52:17

    CROUSEIn fact, the majority of abuse occurs in non-marital situations. So to lump in things like that into this issue, I think, detracts from genuine abuse and the frightening and terrible experiences that people like Tanya go through.

  • 10:52:31


  • 10:52:32

    O'NEILLYeah. I think -- I just want to be very clear. I'm talking about not families but communities. It's the command and control nature of the community that seems to be correlated with higher levels of abuse.

  • 10:52:42

    REHMHow do you mean? Help me to understand.

  • 10:52:45

    O'NEILLSo inequality of authority, so in -- for example, in a community where -- I'll put it this way. There is a spectrum of behaviors of abusers. Some abusers simply use violence to get what they want when they want it. Some abusers use violence to control behavior because in their minds -- and sometimes this is bolstered by the community in which they live -- they're supposed to be in charge, and they present themselves to the community as either appropriately authoritative or not.

  • 10:53:20

    O'NEILLSo it's very important for the -- in that kind of community, and it's not -- how do I put this? I don't mean to be condemning people. What I'm saying is that there seems to be this correlation. If you're supposed to be the person in charge -- and people will judge you according to whether you're in control of your family -- some -- that what happens is you see -- you begin to see abusiveness, you begin to see over-control, you then begin to see violence. So that is an issue with the thing. This is why it's so important to teach children.

  • 10:53:51


  • 10:53:54

    CROUSEThe CDC has identified 28 different primary causes of domestic violence, and that's not even amongst them. It's things like drug abuse. It's things like lack of ability to handle your anger. It's things like relationships that are under too much pressure from upside kind of things.

  • 10:54:10

    REHMIs the economy part of that?

  • 10:54:13

    CROUSEThe economy is part of it, but the statistics that say that there's a major problem with the economy right now, no. People experience anger, and they experience stress from the financial situation. Yes, there's no question about that. But there are underlying problems that precipitate that. You know, all of us are experiencing cutbacks in income right now. All of us are experiencing it.

  • 10:54:41

    REHMBut shouldn't young people be taught from the earliest age that respect for another human being is absolutely part of who and what we are, and how do we do that? Amy, how do we...

  • 10:55:01

    CROUSERegardless of the economy, right?

  • 10:55:04

    REHMWell, regardless of...

  • 10:55:05

    CROUSEIn any external situation.

  • 10:55:06

    REHM...everything, how do we get into schools and make that clear?

  • 10:55:12

    MYERSWell, VAWA does some of that. I mean, part of VAWA's programs are to get into schools. There's a specific program to engage men as role models for young boys, and so that kind of effort with -- from VAWA is making some headway. Obviously, we need more. And I think the focus on prevention is wise, as opposed to the focus on intervention after violence has happened.

  • 10:55:37

    REHMI have an email here from Robert in Boston, Mass., who says, "How many battered men shelters are there? Or how many PSAs outreach to men as victims?" Terry.

  • 10:55:56

    O'NEILLNot enough. I have seen many complaints that there aren't enough. Let's be very clear, though. There are, in some communities, six-month to nine-month waiting times for women to get into a battered women shelter. Many shelters don't accept children or they don't accept children over a certain age. And this leaves women extremely vulnerable. So it's not just men who are not receiving services.

  • 10:56:19

    REHMWhat is your prediction about reauthorization of this bill, Terry?

  • 10:56:24

    O'NEILLYou know, we're working very hard to sign up more Republicans on the bill, and we think they were going to succeed. I think that Sen. Leahy is right. It needs to be bipartisan bill, and it will pass.

  • 10:56:33

    REHMTerry O'Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America, Amy Myers of the American University, thank you all so much.

  • 10:56:49

    MYERSThank you, Diane, my pleasure.

  • 10:56:50

    O'NEILLThank you, Diane.

  • 10:56:50

    REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

  • 10:56:55

    ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn, and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. A.C. Valdez answers the phones. Visit for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is, and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.

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