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The Progressive

Republicans Take Abusers’ Side on VAWA

It’s amazing to me that some Republicans and rightwing groups are intent on holding up the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Doing so shows not only boorish insensitivity but also a startling tone-deafness, since Republicans turned women away in droves last November by their Neanderthal comments on rape.

But that’s not stopping groups like the Heritage Foundation and FreedomWorks from taking the side of abusive men right now.

As Talking Points Memo notes, the Heritage Foundation is bemoaning the fact that the reauthorization includes prosecution for “emotional distress,” and says that would lead to an increase in “fraud and false allegations.”

FreedomWorks also took the side of the stalker: “A man that raises his voice at his partner, calls her an offensive name, stalks her, causes her any emotional distress, or simply just annoys her can potentially be prosecuted under the VAWA. Calling your spouse a mean name is not advised or polite, but it isn’t the same thing as violence towards her.”


For some Republican legislators, the main sticking point, at the moment, seems to be about Native women, who have been victimized by a ridiculous loophole in our nation’s laws, a loophole that makes it almost impossible to prosecute a white man who rapes a Native woman on tribal land.

I first became aware of this issue when one of our writers for The Progressive, Mary Annette Pember, came to me with a story idea about this jurisdictional nightmare. Pember, who had been the head of the Native American Journalists Association, said Native women were being raped with impunity.

She told me that Native women are raped at a higher rate than any other demographic group, and they often have no legal recourse because of jurisdictional issue. I found that hard to believe, but it’s true.

In her astonishing article, “Silent No More,” Pember reported that “86 percent of rapes reported by Indian women involve a perpetrator outside of their race.” Very few of these rapes are ever prosecuted. She wrote: “For American Indian women, however, these facts are old news—really old news. It has been open season on American Indian women in this country for more than 200 years.”

The reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act would empower Native courts to prosecute non-Natives who commit crimes on Indian land.

Native women should no longer be stuck in “no woman’s land.”

That rightwingers are even fighting this is beyond reprehensible.

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Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild

Matthew Rothschild is senior editor of The Progressive magazine.

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