WASHINGTON – Scientists and victim-advocate groups are calling for immediate congressional reform of the Violence Against Women Act, which is currently up for reauthorization, because of the violence the law itself does.

Its provisions allow “arrest without probable cause” as well as “special protection based on gender sexual orientation, or other group status,” according to a set of “Reform Principles” released this morning by a coalition.

SAVE, Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, along with 15 other advocacy organizations, have come out in support of updating the nearly 20-year-old federal law. The other groups include the Independent Women’s Forum, National Coalition for Men, Washington Civil Rights Council and Able Americans.

Representatives of various organizations, scientists, lawyers and academics signed on to a list of Reform Principles that address a range of documented deficiencies.  Proposed reforms include putting greater emphasis on programs to address substance abuse, marital stability and emotional disorders.

The Reform Principles highlight how VAWA has placed too much attention on criminal justice measures such as restraining orders that lack proof of effectiveness.

The reforms also advocate eliminating policies that mandate arrest in the absence of probable cause – a policy that has been found to increase partner homicides by 60 percent, according to a Harvard University study.

The document addresses other shortcomings with current domestic violence programs, including the need for programs to afford priority to victims of physical abuse as well as disseminating accurate abuse-reduction information to the public.

“For far too long, domestic violence programs have been based on gender ideology, resulting in programs that have been ineffective, unresponsive and even dangerous to victims,” explained SAVE spokesperson Sheryle Hutter. “We urge lawmakers to include these reforms in the Violence Against Women Act bills currently being considered in Congress.”

Signatories include Dr. Arnold Robbins, clinical professor of psychiatry at Boston University; Tom Golden, LCSW and author of The Way Men Heal; Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D. and professor at Patrick Henry College; Bill Ronan, author and licensed independent clinical social worker; Phyllis Schlafly, president of Eagle Forum; and Sandy Rios of Family Pac Federal.

The plan addresses the handling of treatment programs, reconciliation, abuse shelters, and non-discrimination.

“VAWA should be refocused to include all victims of domestic violence, rather than singling victims out for special protection based on gender, sexual orientation, or other group status,” it says.

Also, it asserts VAWA should not award grants to jurisdictions with policies that promote arrest without probable cause.

“False allegations can cause lifelong harm to the wrongfully accused, and rob victims of services, protections, and credibility. Perjurers need to be held accountable,” the document says.

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