Crime Bill and Women

AMID the wrangling in Congress over supposed ``pork'' in the crime bill, which finally passed in the Senate last week, one component of the measure quietly escaped controversy and budget cuts: the Violence Against Women Act.

First introduced six years ago, the act earmarks $1.6 billion for efforts to protect women and children. It will provide money for a national hot line for victims of domestic violence. It will fund efforts to educate police, judges, and prosecutors about sex-based crimes. It will also encourage states to mandate the arrest of abusive husbands and boyfriends.

Another provision requires violent sex offenders to register with state law-enforcement agencies after they are released from prison.

The act is a heartening measure of changing attitudes toward women. Domestic violence, once widely regarded by police officers and judges as largely a private family matter, now commands far more serious attention.

Statistics on domestic abuse range from a Justice Department estimate of less than half a million cases to as many as 6 million incidents a year - a number some critics claim is wildly inflated. Whatever the actual figures, the need for attention and systematic action remains clear.

Even $1.6 billion, as welcome as it is, does not begin to fund the programs and salaries needed to effect dramatic change.

And money never represents the ultimate solution. The larger, long-term challenge will be to keep changing public attitudes so that domestic abuse and other violent crimes against women are widely viewed as unacceptable.

Already, according to a study released this month by Murray Straus, a University of New Hampshire specialist in domestic violence, only 1 American in 10 believes it is all right for a husband to slap a wife. That represents a significant decline in the past quarter century. Even so, 1 in 10 is one too many on a matter that tests not only the compassion but the morality of Americans.

Still, in a bill where everything seemed up for question and no consensus existed, it is heartening to have this one clear-cut issue also seem clear to everybody in Congress.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Crime Bill and Women
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today