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The abuser lobby goes mainstream

By Amanda Marcotte
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 21:59 EDT
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The abuser lobby, which ridiculously calls itself the “men’s rights movement”, was handed a massive victory today by the Republican-controlled House, who passed a watered down version of the Violence Against Women Act. Prior to this year, even Republicans by and large felt that tacitly endorsing moderate levels of wife-beating was a bridge too far, but since their new motto is, “Bitches: Fuck ‘Em”, I suppose this sort of thing was inevitable. Right Wing Watch has a piece up about the lobbyists who influenced this vote. These lobbyists, led by the anti-victim group Concerned Women for America, is a real cadre of hateful people. The coalition released a letter supporting the watered-down bill, and it was signed by a rather notorious wife-beater who ran for office by claiming his ex-wife endorsed him, which she did not. There’s also a group that represents men who purchase mail order brides. They’re concerned that the bill would allow women who have been secured through their services to divorce husbands who beat them without being deported. (A favorite tactic of abusers is to marry immigrants, often secured through these services, and then terrorize them with the threat of deportation if they don’t take their beatings like good girls.) These are the people that the Republicans are listening to.

The letter itself is some odious shit, the typical vile conservative beliefs tidied up in euphemistic language:

There is no denying the very real problem of violence against women and children. However, the programs promoted in VAWA are harmful for families. VAWA often encourages the demise of the family as a means to eliminate violence.

Emphasis mine. That sentence is a polite expression of the belief that’s widespread in MRA circles and the Christian right that domestic violence is primarily the victim’s fault, usually for being insufficiently subservient to her husband or partner. The theory is that the solution for domestic violence is to encourage victims to stay with their abusers and just work harder on the marriage, usually by trying to be even more placating. I mean, this sentence is offensive on its face—they take it as a given that there’s something wrong with helping women get out of abusive relationships—but if you understand the ideology behind it, it gets uglier. It’s reflective, in fact, of what the wife-beater/Republican politician Timothy Johnson told the police when he was arrested for beating his wife in 1996.

Timothy Johnson told the officers, according to their report, “I admit it. I hit her, that’s the only way I can get her attention.”

There’s a tendency, I think, to believe that the only people who buy the excuses of abusers are the abusers themselves, and some times the victims. In reality, there’s a well-organized ideology in play here, as well, and it’s promoted by conservative groups and churches across the country. 

Then there’s this: 

Further, this legislation continues to use overly broad definitions of domestic violence. These broad definitions actually squander the resources for victims of actual violence by failing to properly prioritize and assess victims. Victims who can show physical evidence of abuse should be our primary focus.

Which is a euphemistic endorsement of the belief that moderate smacking of a woman around is okay, as long as you don’t leave visible marks. This isn’t just about law enforcement, where there’s a reason to believe that yes, there has to be sufficient evidence to convict someone. This is also about victim resources; they want to cut women off from getting social services to leave abusive husbands unless they’re getting abused “enough”. Of course, part of the problem here that most abusers escalate over time, and the guy who is “merely” slapping you and pushing you and holding you down today is the one breaking your nose or worse murdering you tomorrow, if you don’t get out. 

Note: The vote was mostly partisan, but 23 Republicans couldn’t bring themselves to be this horrible, and for some crazy reason, 6 Democrats supported it. There have been efforts from some female Republicans in both the House and Senate to bring an end to the madness.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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