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By Attorney Robert Franklin
September 6, 2012

The Violence Against Women Act can charitably be called a mess. Its shortcomings are so numerous and basic, they can’t begin to be fully described here, but suffice it to say that the law probably contributes as much to the continued perpetration of domestic violence as it does to stopping it. The act almost completely ignores male victims of DV despite the fact that they make up half of the total. It’s based in political ideology, so it comes as no surprise that its attempts to correct the behavior of perpetrators have little effect if any. The law’s encouragement of mandatory arrest has been demonstrated to make life for women more dangerous, not less. Its disdain for fundamental due process rights has destroyed many a family and left many a child fatherless. Its dramatic and wholly unwarranted expansion of what domestic violence consists of has opened the door to state intervention in family life that would have been unimaginable 40 years ago.

VAWA is clearly a product, not of empirical science, but of political ideology. Empirical science tells us that half of DV victims are men, but less than 2% of VAWA funding goes to help men. Empirical science tells us that half of perpetrators are women, but VAWA offers those women no assistance in altering their destructive behavior. Empirical science tells us that psycho-therapeutic intervention can help put a stop to abusive behavior, but recipients of VAWA funding prefer a model that owes much to the movement’s political ideology, but has utterly failed to reduce domestic violence in the United States.

All of that and more require radical changes in the way we deal with DV. But the people who brought us the sexist and ineffective VAWA have a broader agenda that strikes at the heart of our very democracy. Beyond the law itself, they seek to convince lawmakers and other officials that mere allegations of domestic abuse should disqualify a person from seeking or holding elected office. Let a female intimate of an elected official claim abuse and the cry immediately goes up for the official to resign his post. According to DV extremists, a mere allegation is enough to oust a person from office, but they don’t want the voters of the office-holder’s district to do the job. No, that must be done outside the polls. We the People are not to be trusted to decide whether the man’s transgressions, whether real or imagined, should disqualify him from office.

So, in the case of Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi of San Francisco, no sooner had a neighbor claimed that he had grabbed his wife’s arm in a domestic dispute, than domestic violence advocates called for him to be removed from the office to which the people of the county had elected him. By all accounts, the ploy worked. Mirkarimi pleaded no contest to a single misdemeanor, but has been suspended from serving the people who elected him.

Now, most people would agree that there are some offenses that would necessitate a person’s summary removal from office. Murder, crimes of moral turpitude and the like clearly qualify, but even in those cases, some quantum of evidence of guilt must be produced before censure. Bald allegations cannot and do not suffice.

But lesser offenses scarcely compel short-circuiting the democratic process. Any office-holder, suspected or even convicted of a misdemeanor should have the right to have his public fate decided by the voters. And the voters should have the right to so decide.

But according to domestic violence radicals, those most basic of democratic rights must be swept aside when abuse, no matter how minor, is alleged.

More recently, Arizona State Representative Daniel Patterson had charges of domestic violence dismissed by a Tucson judge. Patterson had always maintained his innocence and Judge Wendy Million agreed. But his exoneration occurred too late for him to hold on to his elected office.

House Democrats filed an ethics complaint against Patterson a matter of days after his girlfriend lodged DV charges against him. Although there was essentially no evidence of guilt, and far too little to sustain a verdict of guilty, the ethics complaint required no such strict evidentiary findings, so, rather than face the wrath of DV activists and the elected officials who answer to them, Patterson resigned.

A similar fate befell Arizona State Senator Scott Bundgaard who was attacked by his intoxicated girlfriend while driving his automobile. Bundgaard had the split and swollen lip to prove her attack, but his efforts to fend it off got him bounced from the state Senate, courtesy of the same mindset that ran Mirkarimi and Patterson from office.

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The list goes on and on, and raises the question why elected officials who are accused of domestic abuse are foreclosed from asking the voters of their districts to return them to office. There’s no law that conditions running for office on never having been accused of committing domestic abuse, but that’s what happens all too often. I would argue that, for the type of minor offenses Mirkarimi and Bundgaard committed, there should be no impediment to them continuing to hold office and run for re-election if they want to. Obviously, the same holds true for Patterson, who committed no offense.

Let the people decide whether the offense, or any other shortcoming the candidate may have, is sufficient for removal from office. It’s a lot better system than placing the decision in the hands of a tiny number of zealots who believe that minor offenses or even naked allegations should remove power from the people.

� 2012 - Robert Franklin - All Rights Reserved

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Robert Franklin has been a licensed attorney in Texas since 1980. He’s on the Board of Fathers and Families, the largest and most effective organization in the country fighting for family court reform. He writes and edits the Fathers and Families blog. He’s published journalism, essays and op-eds in a wide variety of online and print media including the Toledo Blade, Houston Chronicle, Seattle Times and World Net Daily. His legal writing has appeared in the Houston Law Review and he’s published poetry in several journals including the Concho River Review and an anthology of Texas poets.

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VAWA is clearly a product, not of empirical science, but of political ideology. Empirical science tells us that half of DV victims are men, but less than 2% of VAWA funding goes to help men.