Misogyny comes in all shapes and sizes and apparently this is going to be one of them.
The Trump administration has recently changed the legal definition of domestic violence –
Previously, the description of domestic violence at the Department of Justice (https://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence) included what we know to be abuse: not only physical but emotional and sexual abuse as well. Now, according to the updated DOJ definition, domestic violence only includes misdemeanours and felonies. While misdemeanours and felonies are undoubtedly a signal of domestic abuse, countless victims do not experience them – rather, they see the ‘subtle’ version of it. They see yelling and screaming, power play and economic restriction, isolation and harassment, stalking and threats. By the new definition of domestic violence, none of these signals are significant enough to warrant arrest based on domestic abuse. An overwhelming portion of victims would not be victims by the updated count.
While the administrative system is trusted to apprehend criminals and protect victims, it appears that they have grown tired of excusing criminals, and have now moved on to integrating crime into our lifestyles. What do you do when a crime is being committed against you but the government does not call it a crime, so they refuse to act? Who do you turn to?
Domestic abuse is already hard to grasp and harder to educate people on. Victims oftentimes cannot come forward because their abuse might grow worse if they are caught, or they would be left homeless and without income if their main source of income were arrested. Or, on the other hand: they don’t recognize their own predicament. It manifests as ‘tough love’ or ‘just stress’ until the victim is making excuses for their abuser. Simplifying the legal definition of domestic violence to misdemeanours and felonies only make this worse: victims have fewer resources to tap into to identify their situation, much less escape from it.
If it was possible for women’s rights to push forward and somehow be shoved backwards, this is its manifestation.
Take a guess as to in what way the statistics for domestic violence will change in the coming years if the definition remains this way. If you guessed that stats would drop, you’re absolutely right. And it’s not because violence is going to suddenly decrease, because abusers realize the wrongs in their ways and atone for their sins. It’s because the government is going to see all kinds of emotional abuse and sexual harassment happening in households and they’re going to turn a blind eye to it because it’s not considered abuse unless it’s a felony anymore. The Department of Justice is no longer serving justice to victims of domestic abuse. You only get justice if you fall into the Trump administration’s specific, corralled definition of a victim. If you don’t, you’re on your own.
IN ADDITION, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was first passed in 1994 and reauthorized in subsequent years to continue to provide funding and protection for women experiencing violence. VAWA expired during the government shutdown at the end of December 2018, sparking unsettled outrage as it would mean slashed funds for many programs that support victims of abuse. It has not yet been reauthorized; grant programs are still in use, and funds can still be drawn, but as those funds dwindle and VAWA remains expired, further action cannot be taken.
The Trump administration is slowly, but carefully, suppressing the support systems of women, abuse victims, and minorities across the country. The steps taken by the Obama administration seem are euphoric and golden compared to the way that the Trump administration is cutting it down and eking out all the progress that has been previously made.
This country put the Trump administration in charge, and it’s our job to get through it until we can put a different group of people in the White House, at the head of the government and at the foot of the bills that must be signed for our country to recover. The 2020 election couldn’t come any sooner.