Magazine article The American Prospect

The Polanski Paradox

Magazine article The American Prospect

The Polanski Paradox

Article excerpt

His year, violence against women--an issue doggedly championed by feminists but rarely a front-page story--seemed to make headlines in every section of the newspaper. Sports: A hotel worker accused Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger of raping her. Entertainment: Singer Chris Brown was sentenced to probation for assaulting his girlfriend and fellow hip-hop star, Rihanna. International: After decades on the lam, Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Politics: Recently seated Sen. Al Franken introduced an amendment to withhold defense contracts from companies like KBR if they prevent their employees from speaking out about sexual assault. And the health-reform debate revealed that many insurance companies classify domestic violence as a "pre-existing condition," denying coverage to victims of abuse.

The Department of Justice also announced new data on violence against women. Between 1993 and 2008, overall rates of domestic violence and sexual assault dropped, but violence against women is still at epidemic levels. Of every 1,000 American women, 4.3 have experienced domestic abuse, and 89,000 women reported being raped last year. The statistics were released this fall, which also marked the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act. VAWA, the primary way the federal government addresses this issue, provides funding for domestic-violence shelters, law-enforcement training programs, and services for sexual assault survivors. While its goals seem hard to disagree with--protecting women and deterring assault and abuse--the law remains controversial among conservatives who argue it is sexist against men (even though VAWA provides funding for services for men, too, despite the fact that women are five times more likely than men to be victims of domestic violence).

VAWA is also controversial among some liberals but for a very different reason.

While overall the legislation has been incredibly successful at increasing privacy protections for survivors and funding the organizations that serve them, VAWA also injects our flawed criminal-justice system into personal relationships. In doing so, it poses a deep quandary for those of us who are critical of that system but believe strongly that rapists and domestic abusers should be accountable for their actions.

Originally, the legislation required states receiving VAWA funds to implement "mandatory arrest" policies if police were called to a home on reports of domestic violence. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.