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Judicial Watch • Domestic Violence Law Renewal Full of Leftist Statutory Devices, Restricts Gun Rights

Domestic Violence Law Renewal Full of Leftist Statutory Devices, Restricts Gun Rights

Domestic Violence Law Renewal Full of Leftist Statutory Devices, Restricts Gun Rights

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The renewal of a law enacted decades ago to protect women against domestic violence crimes is loaded with leftist statutory devices, restricts gun rights and dramatically expands the definition of domestic violence to include verbal, emotional, technological, and economic abuse. Judicial Watch dissected the proposed bill, Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2018 (VAWA), which was introduced in the House over the summer by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, and found a multitude of alarming changes that should not be approved if the law is reauthorized.

Originally passed in 1994, VAWA has been renewed and broadened over the years to fund agencies that offer victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse social services. The measure was set to expire on September 30 but received an extension through December 7 until Congress can get its act together. The 2018 bill floating around in the House appears to be the largest expansion of the original law and it will cost American taxpayers an extra $253 million, nearly 50% more than the current VAWA budget, to enforce and fund all the new provisions. The exorbitant cost isn’t the only thing that should concern taxpaying Americans. The proposed measure is downright alarming.

Among the most significant changes are numerous provisions related to prohibitions on gun ownership, including expanding the ban to those accused of nonviolent behavior such as misdemeanor stalking, the appointment of special assistant U.S. Attorney, and the authorization of grant funding for programs facilitating firearms removal. If Congress approves Jackson’s 2018 renewal, law enforcement will have more breadth to strip guns from those accused of domestic abuse since the law drastically expands the definition. The recently extended version of VAWA says “The term ‘domestic violence’ includes felony or misdemeanor crimes of violence…” The new version states: “The term ‘domestic violence’ means a pattern of behavior involving the use or attempted use of physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, economic, or technological abuse or any other coercive behavior committed, enabled, or solicited to gain or maintain power and control over a victim.”

A number of provisions seriously widen the purpose of anti-domestic violence grants to include harassment and, in one case, bullying. Unemployment benefits will be provided to employees separated due to harassment, domestic violence, and stalking with no meaningful requirement that the allegations be proven. In essence, this would mean that any individual who departs a job may automatically qualify for unemployment benefits simply by providing a sworn statement asserting that the separation was due to some kind of harassment. The proposed bill will also require that transgender prisoners be allowed to determine cell assignments according to their gender preference and boost housing assistance for domestic violence victims.

The new technological abuse category in the 2018 version is very troubling because it includes a series of behaviors that, while inappropriate, neither constitute nor threaten actual violence. The bill defines the offense as “behavior intended to harm, threaten, intimidate, control, stalk, harass, impersonate, or monitor another person, except as otherwise permitted by law, that occurs via the Internet, social networking sites, computers, mobile devices, cellular telephones, apps, location tracking devices, instant messages, text messages, or other forms of technology.” Technological abuse may include unwanted, repeated telephone calls, text messages, instant messages, or social media posts as well as non-consensual access of email accounts, texts or instant messaging accounts, social network accounts, or cellular phone logs. It also identifies technological abuse as attempting to control or restrict a person’s ability to access technology with the intent to isolate them from support and social connection and using tracking devices or location tracking software for the purpose of monitoring or stalking another person’s location. “Pressuring for or sharing of another person’s private information, photographs, or videos without their consent,” also qualifies as domestic violence in the new bill.

Economic abuse is defined as “behavior that is coercive, deceptive, or unreasonably controls or restrains a person’s ability to acquire, use, or maintain economic resources to which they are entitled.” This includes restricting access to a person’s money, assets, credit, or financial information; unfairly using a person’s economic resources, including money, assets, and credit, for one’s own advantage; or exerting undue influence over a person’s financial and economic behavior or decisions, including forcing default on joint or other financial obligations, exploiting powers of attorney, guardianship, or conservatorship, or failing or neglecting to act in the best interests of a person to whom one has a fiduciary duty.


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