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Senate Passes Violence Against Women Act

Senators took up a few amendments to the bill. They voted 93 to 5 to include a provision targeting human trafficking, and 100 to 0 on a provision to ensure child victims of sex trafficking are eligible for grant assistance. They rejected amendments by Coburn to consolidate certain Department of Justice programs and to allow grants for sexually transmitted disease tests on sexual assault perpetrators.

Overall, I think it’s good that the bill is now headed to the House. But for the sake of balance, I also think it’s worth considering some reasons Senators may have opposed the bill. A few of them are stupid, like not wanting to extend protection to LGBT people or worrying about fringe cases like a non-citizen falsely accusing his spouse of abuse to gain residency upon their divorce. But some concerns are legitimate, even though I don’t think they’re dealbreakers. For example:

The act’s grants have encouraged states to implement “mandatory-arrest” policies, under which police responding to domestic-violence calls are required to make an arrest. These policies were intended to combat the too-common situation in which a victim is intimidated into recanting an abuse accusation, or officers defer to the “man of the house” and fail to take an abuse claim seriously. But… critics say mandatory-arrest laws can backfire. A 2007 study found that states with such laws saw increases in intimate-partner homicides—perhaps because they made victims, who may have wanted the police to intervene without making an arrest, less likely to report abuse before it could escalate out of control.