Victoria Nourse – Backlash Revisited: The Lost History of Legislation on Violence and Women

Victoria Nourse – Backlash Revisited: The Lost History of Legislation on Violence and Women


>>Susan: I’m Susan Brison, Chair of
the Philosophy Department and Director of the East Wheelock Program, and I’m
delighted to introduce today’s speaker, Professor Victoria Nourse, who will be
giving this years Roger S. Aaron lecture. The endowment supporting this
lecture was created in 1996 by the Dartmouth Lawyers Association, an
extraordinary group of alumni who went on to careers in the law, and it was created
in honor of Roger S. Aaron, Class of ’64. I’m sorry to be the bearer of the sad news
that Roger Aaron passed away earlier this year, and I just want to extend my deepest gratitude
to him and to the Dartmouth Lawyers Association for all that they do and continue to
do to support legal studies as part of the liberal arts curriculum at Dartmouth. I’d also like to thank Jennifer
Fluri, who is this year’s convener of the Legal Studies Faculty and the Nelson
A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences, especially Andrew
Samwick, Sodna [assumed spelling] Hall, and Joann Needham for all they’ve
done to make today’s lecture possible. Today’s Aaron Lecturer, Professor Victoria
Nourse, holds a B.A. from Stanford, a J.D. from the University of California
at Berkeley, and began her legal career in New York clerking for Judge Edward
Weinfeld and practicing at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison. She left private practice to serve as a junior
counsel to the Senate Iran Contra Committee, and from there she moved down Pennsylvania
Avenue to argue appeals for the Department of Justice in the Regan-Bush years. Professor Nourse concluded her career in
practice as Senior Advisor to Joe Biden who was then Chair of the Senate
Judiciary Committee working on a variety of legislative matters including
the Violence Against Women Act. Now that’s the very modest statement
that you see if you look up her bio on the Georgetown Law Center website, but, in
fact, she did more than anyone else to draft, really write, polish, and lobby for the Violence
Against Women Act, which was finally passed in 1994, and is currently up
for reauthorization by Congress, but this is an extraordinary
accomplishment in and of itself. She’s currently Professor of Law at
Georgetown University where she’s also Director of the Law School’s first
Center on Congressional Studies. She came to Georgetown after holding
endowed shares at University of Wisconsin and at Emory University, has been a
visiting professor at Yale, at NYU, and University of Maryland Law Schools. Her most recent book, “In Reckless Hands,” tells
the story of a 1942 Supreme Court case striking down state eugenics laws, a case that
announced a right to marry and to procreate. Professor Nourse has published
very widely in many… the most prestigious law reviews,
on Constitutional history, the separation of powers,
legislation and the criminal law. Her latest article on Congress, “A Decision
Theory of Statutory Interpretation,” appeared just this fall in the Yale Law Journal. She’s currently at work on a book entitled
“Notes from the Legislative Underground,” which addresses the emergence of women’s
issues in a Congress with few women, very few women at the time, explains why the
1994 Violence Against Women Act was so difficult to pass in spite of broad
bipartisan support and speculates about why women’s equality
issues have resurfaced today in the so called “War on Women.” Her talk today is drawn from this project, and it’s entitled “Backlash
Revisited-the Lost History of Legislation on Violence Against Women.” Please join me in welcoming
Professor Victoria Nourse. [Applause] [ Pause ]>>Victoria: [Applause] Thank you, Susan,
for that overgenerous introduction. I often describe my career by simply
saying that some people can’t keep a job. [Laughter] I need to take a moment to thank
the Aaron family for endowing this lecture and as well to thank the
Rockefeller Center, which has been… so many people have been wonderful hosts. I met this morning with the Director,
Andrew Samwick, and I learned very much about how government is taught
here, and I’m pleased to say that I’m happy to come back anytime. Thank you, too, to Deputy Director
Saud Mahal [assumed spelling], Joanne Needham who I needed
her and she was there. It has been a very, very busy couple of
days, but one that has been very productive. Now the lecture I’m about to
give I hope is informative. It may be a little bit shocking, but I hope
it’ll contribute to your understanding not only about the Violence Against Women Act and its
lost history but as well to an understanding of the Congress and how it has dealt
with these issues in the recent past. Now as a point of personal privilege,
which is what they say in the Senate, I would like to dedicate this talk to
a stranger whose sacrifice touched me. First Lieutenant Ashley Whitestrom
[assumed spelling] was 21 years old. She died in Afghanistan. She was part of Special Forces. She was part of Special Cultural Forces, and
she was charged with going places where no Seal or Marine could manage to infiltrate. She was charged with infiltrating essentially
in a society that, not with bricks but with fear and cloth and secrecy and sex segregation,
was harboring violent dangers to our forces and cloaking them in the guise of women.. These Cultural Forces were intended to protect
the forces outside where she was working, but unfortunately, she was killed as
she was trying to fight these barriers of violent reprisal against the people
who our forces were trying to aid. At the end of the lecture I’ll try to
explain why I have sought to invoke her name, but let’s begin at the beginning. It has been said by some,
including Susan Brison, that I wrote the Violence Against Women Act. Well, my most proud possession is a copy of
S11, the first version of the 1990 Violence Against Women Act, and on it I have goodbyes
from the members of the staff and Senators who I worked with as I was going off
to academia, and then Senator Biden, now Vice President Biden, wrote on there,
[inaudible] where it says, Senator Sarbanes, Senator Biden, etc., but that’s not true. I stood on the shoulders of many, and anyone
who knows anything about the Constitution knows that nobody elected me as a staffer, and
those who are elected who are charged to speak in favor of others, to represent,
to re-present the views of others. I was but the channel. Senator Biden made all the decisions,
and I will tell you that it was very… I knew at the beginning that as the
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, this was something powerful because this
was someone who could demand the respect of a number of members of the Senate. So, yes, the story of the Violence Against
Women Act is that I was in the room. I was the only woman in the room. This was the year when there were only two
women Senators, 1990, and Senator Biden said, “Vivica, Virginia, Victoria [laughter]… true story… Valerie, why don’t you try your hand
on something on women and violence?” We were part of the whole legislative staff. We were working on a number
of complicated issues. I was hired to deal with a complicated reform of
habeas corpus recommended by the Supreme Court, and when I asked him I said, “Well,
Senator, what exactly would you like to do?” He said, “Well Birch Bayh and I did
something reforming the federal break law. Go look at that,” and promptly went
off to the Foreign Relations Committee. So what was I supposed to do at that point? Well it wasn’t the first time that I
had been the only woman in the room. I had been brought to Washington by the
renown lawyer Arthur Liman who was known for his humanitarian impulses, his
extraordinary service to the legal community, breaking the strike at Attica, and for having
Carl Ichan sleep on his couch at [inaudible]. I was just out of a clerkship, and
on a Sunday morning he asked me to come to Washington, which I was… why I was there at all to
serve the now Vice President. He asked me to work on the
Iran Contra Investigation. Now some of his senior associates
were a little bit suspicious, and I remember one of them
coming in and saying… being very angry with me and saying, “You
don’t have any foreign policy experience. Where are you going?” And I knew in the back of my head why I was
going, but I said, “Well, Arthur had asked me and of course I couldn’t say no,” and I knew I’d
billed a gazillion hours like most associates, but I also knew that at the
appearance level, I looked the part. You see, Fawn Hall, who was Oliver North’s
secretary, had been alleged to cover up the Iran Contra Hearing
by taking some documents out of the old Executive Office building. And one Senator alleged… his name was Howell Heflin, a former judge,
distinguished judge, Democratic Senator from Alabama, alleged that she
had taken them out in her bra. Documents in a bra. [Laughter] Well, she contended
that they were in her boots. I’m not so sure that makes it any better, but in
it she claimed that Senator Heflin was a sexist and this was bandied about quite
a bit in the Washington papers. Yes, I had billed those hours, but I’d also had
the ability to take Fawn Hall to the bathroom, and seated right behind Liman, showed the
world that the committee was not sexist. So, yes, I had been the woman in the room, and
what I had learned from that, three years later, was that genius is 1% opportunity
and 99% hard work. So I knew I had an opportunity in my
hands, and I also knew that everybody in that room could’ve done it just as
well as I could, perhaps even better. I was there with Ron Klain. He would later be depicted by Kevin Spacey in
the movie “Recount,” Chief Counsel to Al Gore and Joe Biden their Chief of Staff as Vice
President and far more politically savvy than me and a great supporter of Violence Against
Women Act, indeed one of its original experts, but who was actually to go do the work? Well, I was the low man… low woman… on the totem pole. So I needed to do as much as I could do to
make this the best product for my client. Senator Biden was my client, but I did what no
self respecting Senate staffer usually does. What I did was what a future academic would do. I went to the library. [Laughter] Usually you’d call other
staff and ask them what they had done because there’s a theory of precedence that actually operates not
only in courts but in Congress. If you’ve already done it, you’ve had the vote. So you want to repeat it. Well I kind of assumed other than
this Birch Bayh bill that I had heard about that there wasn’t much done, and, in fact,
that’s true, and I’ll go on to explain why. So I went to the library,
and I had to find some women. Since there weren’t any women in the
Senate, right, I had to find some women. So I found them on the shelves. These are women who had been writing
about women’s issues for years and on whose shoulders I would stand
in the days that would come forward, and so I educated myself over a period of… I know this sounds really short, but
it’s an eon in Senate life-about 10 days. I once read that Senators have 7
and a half minutes a day to read. I’ve never found anything to support actually
that, but someday I’ll find a citation for it. I do know that time is a
precious, precious commodity, and so I skipped out of the office during a
recess when everyone was home campaigning, went to the library, and worked on a proposal. It was in the March of 1990 during that
recess that I found these women on the shelves who would tell me what I needed to know. Unfortunately they were often very,
very sad stories-very, very sad. These were cases of women who
had largely been abandoned. It was depressing work-women who had been
beaten, women who had been sexually abused, sometimes done supposedly under the
name of love, and I had to translate that to someone I barely knew, a boss I
barely knew, a group of men I barely knew, and a Senate that only had 2
women Senators, but you know, I have to say that despite the difficulty
of the topic, I knew at the time that I had been given something precious because
I had been given an opportunity that I knew that even my sister who’s
about 7 years older than I am, she would have never even
thought to go to law school. She never would have been standing in that
position in 1990, and I felt, I think, much like Felix Frankfurter
is said to have thought. He was, of course, an emigre. He was a first generation American, and
he used to run up the steps apparently of the Supreme Court and whistle
the “Star Spangled Banner.” And I, too, even though it was very depressing
and call it sappy, I felt the keen awareness of a privilege, a privilege vital to its holder
precisely because it was fragile and new, a privilege that was the accident of time, of
my generational position and my birth order. I was born at a moment where I was the naive, but an officiary of what I considered a precious
commodity, the opportunity to serve my country. I was part of a shattering
generation, a woman old enough to remember the woman’s only entrance,
yes, at my father’s Boston club, who when she asked her father what she
could be, he could only say a secretary but who thought it was pretty tough and
cool and smart to pay for her own law school when he wouldn’t, who secretly smiled
every time she walked into the courtroom and the guard tried to usher her into the
visitor’s bench and she flashed her DOJ badge and who thought it definitely cool that the
FBI let her shoot an AK47 in a silk suit so she could know what sort of
weapons George Bush 41 wanted to ban. Yes there were scary, truly scary things
about this time, no more scary than the day in which Arthur Liman was threatened
with death, and they swept the room. No one in the room knew this. This was long before we had all of the
protections in the Senate that we do now, but you see, terrorism began long before. In 1987 they went by the name of Abu
Nidal, and he took us into the other room, and he asked all of the staff whether they
wanted to leave, and they could, of course. He gave us all permission to leave,
and no one said they would go. [Laughter] You just couldn’t. Instead sitting right behind him, I just
doffed quicker to get those documents when he would interrogate Colonel North, and
I learned a lot about lawyers and politics from that episode, and I thought I knew enough
at least to get me started on this project, which was such an amazing opportunity. So I toddled off to the library to find out
how much I could get to know in a short period of time knowing that I stood on the
shoulders of many in a shattering generation, and that to much who has been given… to those who have been given much,
even accidentally, much is required. Now the Violence Against Women Act
has been criticized for many things. If one opened the National Review or the New
Republic in the mid 1990’s when it was passed, one will learn that the bill was drafted
by radical feminists, promoted victimology, and was inspired by activists who just hate men. In 2005, Phyllis Schlafly
called it the “Hate Men Bill.” It’s gender neutral, trust me. Now since Senator Biden and Hatch
authored the bill and they are men, one might wonder whether this hate
men rhetoric was a bit overheated. Despite the name of the bill, it was gender
neutral, and as we have recently seen in the Penn State scandal, rape is not a
crime that only women suffer even if we live in a society in which they’re likely to be the
predominant sufferers, but it’s a vicious attack on personality, but it does
not know one physical type. Elsewhere I’ve described the Senate of the
1990’s in not terribly flattering terms. It was a place where there were very few women. It was plagued by sex scandals,
the Packwood Scandal. Senators involving with their own staff were
repeatedly sexually harassing their staffs. It was a place where I would write my speeches. I would occasionally have 15 minutes to write
a speech on something like habeas corpus, and I would run down two floors
because there is no ladies’ room on the floor where the Senate meets. You run down two floors, and there’s a lovely
lounge for ladies that’s quite capacious in case you’d faint from all that activity, I
guess, and I would write my speeches in there because there were no ladies essentially. Now… So it really wasn’t a place
of radical feminists as was claimed by the National Review and the New Republic. I think that that really undermines the role
that was played by many people including people like Susan Brison in making the bill a reality,
but my favorite critic, just to add a little bit of levity, wrote that the acronym VAWA, and
this is a feminist, the acronym VAWA sounded like the name of an avenging female demigod. [Laughter] Joe Biden? Avenging female demigod? No. No. In fact there’s a much
more plausible dismissal of the act that it should’ve been easy to pass. After all, who is for violence? The ACLU came into the Chief Counsel’s
office about a year after it was introduced, and they since changed their position, but at
the time they believed that the bill was faddish and violated the First Amendment. So why was it that might have been hard to pass? Well, I didn’t know this at the time,
when I said I was naive, I really was. When I went to the library, I wrote a
law, and I wrote a set of proposals, some of which became law, some of which were
thrown in the trash because they were bad ideas, but we’ve had this problem for a long time. So we have to ask why was there no
federal legislation before this time? It’s not as if this kind of violence hadn’t
been recognized for a very long time. You could pick up the New York Times
in antebellum New York in 1856 and read of editorials on wife beating in which the crime
is reviled as a “most brutal treatment of women by their husbands, in some case so vile as
to be ‘unthinkable’ in the Christian world.” Now unthinkable is, of course,
the operative term here. For indeed this has traditionally been one of the great stumbling blocks
in addressing this violence. Any civilized person would think it unthinkable, and so it is untha [assumed
spelling], unnoticed, denied. So if it’s hard to imagine anyone praising
this violence, we still have the question about why it is that it might
have been difficult to pass? Now anyone who knows the
history of women in America knows that there’s a very long history
of second-class citizenship. At the founding, women were not
even allowed to speak in public. For almost 100 years, there
weren’t able to own their property. They weren’t able to vote until the
Nineteenth Amendment, unable to sit on juries, unable to practice law, unable to serve
their country in the military, and, in fact, merged by law into something called marital
unity-merged by law into the personality, legal personality of their husband or father. It’s important to remember that history, but I
have to tell you that the history about violence against women is much more modern. In fact, we don’t have to go back to 1856, etc.
to learn why there was a problem with trying to pass federal legislation
on these issues in 1990. Imagine the year 1979. The country’s in a recession, and
President Carter’s popularity is low. People are out of work, and articles
about crime bespeckle the papers. The President has promised much for many,
and the many by now are disappointed. They are eyeing gas prices
nervously, vowing to save money. Their anger becomes louder
as the economy grows worse. A new agenda emerges, oddly at first, out
of what seems entirely unrelated but focuses on the family, and that agenda
is fueled in part by women who just a few years earlier had made it their
mission to stop the Equal Rights Amendment. Women like Phyllis Schlafly of the
Eagle Forum, [inaudible] Marshner of the Free Congress Foundation would deploy
their considerable political talents in fighting for the family and against those who
they like to call women’s libbers. Schlafly was never shy. “Those libbers want to take jobs from our men
in this terrible economy,” she said in 1979. “After all, most women would
stay home if they could. If only inflation did not force
them into the labor market.” Yes, the year is 1979. The country’s politics once focused on the
Cold War and Communism was experiencing a new and powerful force, which went by the name of
the family, and the family turned out to be, as it always has been, I think, throughout
our history, a tremendous vessel in which to pour a great many political issues, indeed,
a vessel which by equating that which is distant to that which is near, country with
home, patriotism with love intensifies and amplifies political passions. By 1980, fear of the economy and of the government itself had been
transmogrified into fear for the family. The whole point of the pro-family
movement, warned Schlafly, was to “get the federal government
off our backs.” Now how exactly did that work? What did the family have to do with
getting the government off our backs? Well, here’s the logic. The federal government “interferes
by increasing inflation. That makes it necessary for women
to leave their homes to go to work and makes them abrogate the roles
they really want as wives and mothers. Then the government uses the fact that they
are in the workforce to create daycare. Daycare is powerful. It has over 8,000 hours to
teach beliefs and behavior. The family should be teaching values, not
the government nor anyone in daycare.” In 1979 the ERA, however,
met its legislative match. Those pro-family forces decided that they
would introduce their bill, not the ERA, but something called the Family Protection Act. Now although it has now long been
forgotten, it was never passed, it was introduced by Senator Paul Laxalt
before the Presidential election as a wish list for a new line of groups who
had fought against the ERA and were now pronouncing
themselves in favor of the family. It was later reintroduced by Senator Jefferson
of Iowa in 1981, and it covered a vast range of issues from union dues to
legal services to bussing. Family? Of course anyone who knows anything
about legislation like this knows that drafting such a bill with that many issues means it’s
going to die because it would be referred to so many [inaudible] in the House that they
will never be able to agree upon a final bill. So it was a wish list of a certain intense
group of people that didn’t necessarily appear on the face to have much to do with the family, but it did include some very
important provisions. I have told you that the law included
things on taxes and segregation and bussing, but there was an anti Equal
Rights Amendment core. First there was the provision on
textbooks, and I have to read these because you wouldn’t believe
it if I didn’t read it. You can find it. I brought the Bill with me in case you
doubt that this was actually introduced, states on pain of losing all
federal funding-all federal funding? … were to ensure that textbooks would
properly assign roles for women and men and exclude materials that would
“tend to denigrate, diminish, or deny the role of differences between the
sexes as it has been historically understood.” Sex stereotyping was not
only permissible but required in children’s textbooks less
a state lose federal funds. Second, there were provisions on playgrounds. No federal agency could deny a state funding because girls were barred
from playing Little League. Sex segregation on the playground was
appropriate, as the authors termed it, to prevent role confusion
and Title 9 extremists. Playgrounds. Third, there were provisions barring
federal intervention in state laws on family relationships and, of course,
various provisions that, as we will see, dealt with domestic violence,
but before we get there, I just want you to see how this is all
connected up in the rhetoric that was very much about a religiously inspired vision about
domestic roles, about husband and wife. As the New York Times explained,
the pro-family movement was a drive to reestablish the traditional domestic roles of
husband as breadwinner and wife as child rearer. Paul Weyrich, who was the Director of
the Free Congress Foundation put it, “Feminists were seeking dominance, and the
only way to get rid of this was to go back to the Biblically ordained nature of the
family, with the father as head of the household and the mother subject to
his ultimate authority.” As Connie Marshner put it, “Life is a lot more
sane and livable when you know where you stand.” Women need to know where they stand-below men. Somebody will have the authority
and make the decision. Women’s job is just to be happy with it. Now, for our purposes, the most important
thing about the Family Protection Act was that it included a title that provided
that the federal government could not, under any circumstances, aim to
prevent any manner, any state law, or pass its own federal law involving
what was termed family violence. Now ultimately, as I said, a bill was just
sort of an agenda setter is unlikely to pass, but on this one issue, they
won, and how did they win? Well, they won by defeating the other side. That particular provision never became law, but in 1979 the issue resurfaced
from the other side. California Senator Alan Cranston
introduced a minor provision that would provide-originally it was
authored by Barbara Mikulski when she was in the House-provide 15 million
dollars, 15 million… m… for the fiscal year 1981, 65 million
over three years to battered women’s shelters. By May of 1980 it was clear that the bill
had become a symbol for larger forces. Opposition Senators and activists wrote that
the law would become a “OSHA for the family.” Now they’re referring to the Occupational
Health and Safety Administration, a much-maligned bureaucracy that governs
workplace safety and is generally known as both hapless and overly regulatory. Howard Philips, then a conservative think
tank pundit warned that family violence had to be handled as it was in the old days by private organizations,
religious groups, families. Conservatist columnist James J. Kilpatrick
went even further expressing shock that the Senate would even consider
such an act to prevent domestic violence and declaring “I would like to commit some.” He added, “A man who would strike
a woman was beneath contempt, but the world is full of contemptible people.” The combatants quickly translated
their arguments into grander terms covering claims we see
today as obviously odd and grander terms about power and the role of government. Remember, I talked about the family
as a vessel for larger claims. So just as the anti-ERA forces had translated
their visions of roles, the sex roles, into a claim about government induced inflation. Remember that? Well now we have the debate about
domestic violence transformed into an argument about government. Here is Phillips again. “Whenever the federal government
sticks its moldy fingers in an area, it has a corrupting impact.” I wonder what he would say about things
like property rights and patent law? Kilpatrick went further blaming the entire
deficit-does this sound familiar?-the entire deficit on Senator Cranston’s
domestic violence bill. [Laughter] The 15 million will
simply have to be printed and added to the already mountainous deficit. Do you ever ask yourself how
bureaucracy swells and deficit grows? Consider this bill. But, of course, there was
no federal bureaucracy. These were existing shelters. Of course, none of this was said
about the Family Protection Act, which sought to restructure federal aid to
education to the tune of billions of dollars. If you didn’t have those textbooks, you
would lose all your federal funding, and required the states to include in their
textbooks historically correct sex roles. In 1991 [inaudible] testified before
Congress that sexual harassment amounted to a federal case about bosses
pinching secretaries and that feminists were the true
harassers fighting motherhood and the role of the dependent wife. Far right columnists of the day decreed
that civil libertarians were beginning to show interest in granting wives the
right to charge their husbands with rape. This is another surefire way to
destroy the fabric of the family in the name of personal privilege? Sexual Congress was once the
exclusive moral preserve of marriage. Now it appears the husband is
to have exactly the same rights with regard to his wife as any bystander. By the time the Senate debated
Cranston’s bill, opponents were ready. Shelters, they argued on the floor of the
Senate, would become havens for teenagers and others who resent family discipline. This is the floor of the Senate. The bill would ” dot the countryside
with federally authorized hostiles that double as indoctrination centers.” One Senator proffered in an amendment limiting
shelter funding to married couples to ensure that the bill was family oriented. Senator Cranston replied in exasperation,
“Should women fleeing in the middle of the night from their homes be required to show their
marriage license before being admitted?” With no hope of compromise,
the majority leader had to take the bill off the floor
moving onto other legislation. Now there were critics of this debate. The columnist Ellen Goodman explained that
the pro-family forces were blaming women for breaking up the family, not the husband who
beat her up, and if these Senators were right, she wrote, “shelters are dangerous precisely
because they suggest that a husband has no right to enforce his authority
with a left hook to the jaw.” And she also noted several prominent liberal
Senators absented themselves from this debate because they were up for reelection,
and this was considered a hard vote. When the bill resurfaced in September, 1980,
Senator Helms led the opposition urging that it would punish domestic
unhappiness and result in federal sanctions for spanking and nagging. Helms quoted derisively the opinion of the
1978 Civil Rights Commission recommending that there were “structural
causal factors contributing to family violence including the notion of the
husband as the ‘head of the family.'” Oddly, impressionately, Senator Helms would “from the
future Chief Justice of the United States,” Justice Rehnquist in a statement that would
ring forward, literally, through the decades and ultimately be repeated in his 1991
public statement opposing the Violence Against Women Act and again in his opinion
striking down part of that act in 2000. In Senator Helms’s statement in 1980
he paraphrased the future Chief. “Mr. Justice Rehnquist spoke to the increasing
intrusion into family matters by both government and the legal system,” and I’m quoting Helms
quoting Rehnquist, “under the pretext,” he says,” of the legal system
resolving ordinary family disputes.” He observed that the steady
imposition of adversarial laws and process upon the family has
contributed to its disintegration. He concluded that the integrity and autonomy of
the family are “best retained by a government which provides for no intervention
except in extreme cases.” This is Rehnquist being quoted by Helms in 1980. The statement was doubly prescient. Justice Rehnquist not only made a similar
statement about the Violence Against Women Act in 1991 in his role as head
of the Judicial Conference. He also made a similar statement in his
opinion in the Constitutional case which struck down the civil rights remedy, which
was the most controversial piece of the original Violence Against Women Act. In that case, United States
versus Morris in 2000, he would write that the “petitioners reasoning
will not limit Congress to regulating violence, but maybe applied equally as well
to family law and other areas of traditional state regulations, such
as marriage, divorce, and child rearing.” Rehnquist claimed that intervention should
only be in extreme cases, what Helms had quoted in 1980, was in fact the truth
at that time as we now know. As Congress fought and the antis proclaimed
that this was all about the scope of government, the world was awakening to
the horror of this violence. There was the story of Tracey Thurman who called
the Torrington, Connecticut police repeatedly until her husband stabbed her 13 times and
broke her neck as her 3-year-old son watched and a policeman stayed in his car
across the street, mid-1980’s. There was the gang rape of a mother of two
in a New Bedford bar urged on by a gang of men later becoming the
celebrated movie, “The Accused.” The television actress Farrah Fawcett shed
her image as “Charlie’s Angels” to star in the “Burning Bed,” the story of a women who
had suffered 13 years of domestic abuse and set fire to her bed killing her husband. A woman named Judy Norman whose case is taught
in every criminal law class in the country because she claimed self defense was revealed
to have been tortured by her husband, made to eat dog food, prostitute herself, sleep
on the floor, and when her husband met the EMT’s that were trying to save her when she tried to
commit suicide told her to let them let her die. They did nothing, sent her back into the house. She killed him the next day. In 1984 it was discovered that
one of the original proponents of the Family Protection Act, Iowa Senator
Jepsen had visited nude dancing establishments, which he said he thought was a health spa. The scandals were beginning to emerge
as well as the horror of the violence. By the end of 1984 as this kind of scandal
and some of these events would emerge, the Congress would finally pass the Family
Violence Protection Act as an amendment, however, to a child abuse law,
but the conversation didn’t die. In 1985 at an international women’s conference,
the President’s daughter, Maureen Regan, was forced to deny that shelters were
“R&R centers for bored housewives.” Twenty-four Congressmen describing themselves
as pro-family complained to the Attorney General about a grant given to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence calling the
group pro-lesbian and radically feminist. Maureen Regan broke ranks and criticized
Attorney General Meese’s position, but conservative opponents still insisted that
the group was full of radical pro-lesbians, therefore sexualizing the
issue, as if that were relevant. Ultimately a valiant victims’
advocate inside the Justice Department, a woman named Lois Harrington,
had to explain to the press that they claim shelters are
anti-family, but that is not so. Abuse is anti-family. To blame shelters for the failure of
marriages is like blaming firemen for arson. Now, had I known of this history I think
I would have been a little bit more afraid of what I proposed to Senator Biden. There are some virtues on occasion to naivety,
and in this case I was naive about this history. I knew nothing of it when I toddled off to
the library to write my various proposals. Of course if I had known that
I was destroying the family, I never would have told my
mother what I was doing. I certainly wouldn’t have told Senators Biden
and Hatcher because they would have been worried about their large and boisterous
clans, and I can now tell you that I would have never told my own children
[laughter] of what I was trying to do. Taken out of context, I think the Violence
Against Women Act [background noise] might seem, might’ve seemed, that it was easy to pass, but
the truth is that for a decade or more prior to its passage, there was a backlash. Part of that backlash included the resistance to acknowledging the existence
of domestic and sexual violence. Neither liberals nor conservatives
were successful in stepping up to this in any concerted manner until June of 1990 when Senator Biden introduced
the Violence Against Women Act. Since then I have wondered whether I call
them the antis because that was what those who opposed the Nineteenth Amendment, the
right to vote, were called, but that the antis who supported the Family Protection Act
knew much about the history of this country. Did they know that their words might have been
ripped out of a colonial statue governing slaves and women, a day in which a woman
who killed her husband was guilty of treason for killing her governor. Did Phyllis Schlafly, as she
attended law school, as she did. read the 1872 Bradwell case decrying
that “saying women can’t be lawyers.” The family institution is repugnant to
the idea of a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband. Did [inaudible] Marschner not know that those
who fought the right to vote argued that in part that it would, too, destroy the family. History tells us that ideas about family and
government have been linked over and over again since our very founding, and they
have been linked in symbolic war between two very different
visions, one of consent and equality and the other of authority and monarchy. John Locke is considered our
nation’s founding philosopher for he replaced what seemed divine right with a political order based
on the consent of the people. What many do not know is that he wrote that
book as an explicit answer to another book. The book he was answering was written by a
philosopher named Filmer, and it was an argument for monarchy based on the
family entitled “Patriarcha.” The father was monarch, head of household, the perfect model showing the natural
order of the divine right of kings. Filmer was, by the way, no
radical man hating feminists. He was simply a radical monarchist
and authoritarian, which brings me to the ultimate
question haunting the Violence Against Women Act from its earliest days. Why a federal law? Whether in its funding provisions,
its interstate remedies, or its most important what I call incentive
reconciliation programs-these were programs where police and advocates who had been
warring were brought together-the Violence Against Women Act was a declaration that family
relationships, motherhood and fatherhood, cannot define the essence of
citizenship for anyone, male or female. Only the nation as a whole, not marriage
or a child, can grant citizenship. One cannot simply be a citizen of
Illinois or Texas or New Hampshire. We fought a bloody Civil War for that. To the extent that the arguments against the
Violence Against Women Act had been based on the idea that it is anti-family, its opponents have invited the
very response that they decry. The more that it is said that the law
is only about divorce, the hate men law, and fathers who do not see children, the more
it becomes necessary for those on the other side to insist that the issue is not family. It is violence, and it is a
right to equal citizenship. For what is the first duty of government? Even the leanest night watchmen state
that the protection of all citizens. When in 1979 and 1980 the antis were
making their great claims for the family, we now know that America was living a lie. To be sure there were state laws on the books
about domestic violence and sexual assault in the 70’s, but they were often ignored. This was America’s dirty little secret
that the country had abandoned too many of these victims to a state of horrible nature. Law students now study these case in criminal
law, cases where women are prostituted, cases where police are called and
nothing is done, and hopefully, and I do believe this is true in many
communities, our first responders and advocates are now on the same
side when they weren’t before. This was one of the great aims of the
various provisions of the original Violence Against Women Act even though one of its
core provisions on equality was struck down by the Supreme Court, but the sad truth
is the antis have never really gone away. In researching this lecture, I
found a newsletter dated in 2005, which called VAWA the “Hate Men Law,” and
decried the domestic violence industry-I guess that must have been started by
James J. Kilpatrick who just wanted to commit some domestic violence. The antis talk less as they did in the
debate about ERA about unisex bathrooms. That was a big issue in 1970’s. Childcare, daycare, big issue in the 70’s. Today they still decry the radical feminist who
wrote the bill, and they still say that it’s about so be it style psychological
regulatory education of men and teenage boys. Now who’s looking for reeducation? Remember that Family Protection Act, the
one that required every state in the nation to rewrite its schoolbooks to provide for the
proper historical family role of men and women? And who is it that really cares about
state’s rights and forced education? Now I dedicated this lecture to
Lieutenant White for a reason. If we are to believe the antis, one must
fear that Ashley Whitestone died in vain, that her value lay in her body or
her family but not in her valor. One of the greatest claims of
those who opposed the ARA was that women should never serve in the military. I refuse to believe that
Ashley Whitestone died in vain. There is no higher claim to
citizenship than service to your country. Since 1990 other countries have looked
to America as a leader in the fight to liberate those who are
oppressed by sex, segregation, and slavery in tyranny this
country has never known. Administrations, Republican and Democrat, have since united to fight violence
against women around the world. So do not let the antis tell Ashley White’s
parents that she did not die for her nation in the fight of oppression
against women around the world, that even the military understands it’s
necessary to their own in our nation’s defense. There are no state laws that can
adequately honor that service, for she died for us all, for
the nation and the world. Thank you. [ Applause ] [ Inaudible ]>>Victoria: Please use the
microphone over here, I’ve been told. Or there’s one up there, too.>>I was just wondering what was the
argument that the ACLU you made to say that the bill violated the First Amendment?>>Victoria: They have since disavowed this
argument, but at the time the theory was that the civil rights remedy in the bill,
which allowed a federal cause of action for one who is a victim of gender based violence,
would entail the use of speech as evidence, would require something like,
“I hate you women.” There was a famous death in Montreal where
a guy went into some engineering classroom and killed all the women and not
the men and said, “I hate you. Blank you feminists.” So they took that case and said, “Well, that’s
the essence of what you’re going to have to prove to prove your civil rights remedy,
and therefore it will chill speech.” My response to that at the time is, “Well now you’ve pretty much
eradicated every federal criminal law. So I don’t think that one’s going to work.” How do you prove homicide, for example? Well, there’s… there may be a note or something like that. So I was never convinced by that, and they have
since retracted it, but [inaudible] did try to follow me around quite
a bit trying to convince me that it violated the First Amendment. So it’s similar to the hate speech. [ Background noise ]>>I may have missed something in your
presentation, but what is the current status of the Violence Against Women bill? Is it still up for a vote
at some point in the future?>>Victoria: Well, hopefully after the
election, this is a reauthorization of the bill. So the bill’s legal provisions remain in
effect, and they’ve been amended several times. As far as funding goes, that
will have to be reauthorized because otherwise law would become completely
ossified, and ultimately it will end up part of the budget reconciliation process,
which is why it’s been delayed. There are also some provisions
in it that may be controversial, but I don’t think it’s the first thing
that’s going to come up in Congress. The first thing is the tax code, but a
lot of legislation has been put on hold… a lot, awaiting for the outcome of
the election, but it will come up.>>My other question… I believe what happened with the ERA was that
it was passed by both houses of Congress, but then the states refused to ratify it?>>Victoria: That’s correct.>>If you could repeat the history of that, which maybe some people are
too young to remember. [Laughter]>>Victoria: Well, it was very close, and
I don’t remember the number of states. It may have even been the last state that
was needed to ratify, but the forces that… Basically Phyllis Schlafly got a
group of people and church buses to go around to state legislatures to stop the last
states that were needed to ratify the bill, and there’s something you need to know about
how difficult it is to amend our Constitution to understand why that it’s not
terribly surprising that even something that had huge support of the nation,
like I can’t quote the polls, but at the time had a vast amount of
support could nevertheless be stopped. When Franklin Roosevelt tried to pack
the court in 1937, he was asked, “Well, why don’t we just amend the Constitution?” And he said, “Well, if I had $10,000,
I could stop any amendment stone cold.” Well, how do you do that? You buy off a few state legislatures because
of the difficulty and the number of states that are required to amend our Constitution,
which shows why it’s not been amended very much. Now that doesn’t mean that what’s interesting
is this cause hasn’t, while we’ve been focused on other issues, we have not seen
a tremendous effort to revive that. So I think there’s a vast majority of people
in the country who would probably support it. [ Pause ]>>With the new reauthorization,
one of the more touchy topics is that giving tribal courts the right to… giving tribal courts like the ability
to prosecute non-Native Americans on the tribal court when they do commit
acts of violence against tribal women. What do you think about how that’s being
forestalled and basically being debated as like not letting tribes
have their own sovereignty?>>Victoria: Well, I’m going to have to
give you a noncommittal answer on that because I simply am not an expert on tribal law. One of my colleagues, Richard Monet,
who’s actually one of the leading experts, my former colleagues at the University of
Wisconsin, used to actually be a Senate staffer, and whenever the term tribe came up,
[laughter] we’d turn to him because my job was to understand the entire criminal code,
which it’s kind of big, you know, 18 USC. Then you add on the drug laws, and you know, you’re carrying around a few
hefty, you know, hundreds of laws. So I’m going to tell you I really
don’t have an answer for that. I do think that the tribal issues are very… can be contentious, but I don’t think that’s
probably what would be holding it up ultimately. These things are typically
worked out by experts, those who are on the Indian Affairs Committee
typically come to some resolution, but, you know, these days, I used to
say that about immigration, too, and that clearly is not true anymore. So I’ll have to give you a non-answer,
but if you want the answer, why don’t… use my name and email Richard Monet
at the University of Wisconsin, okay? [ Pause ]>>Can you talk about how Senator Biden went
from kind of, “You go off and research this,” to becoming the proponent of it, such
an advocate of it, and then, I mean, I don’t know if it’s a similar process
with other Senators who have embraced bills that really are difficult, and they take a lot
of heat for it being called a radical feminist and all that kind of same [inaudible]
because a lot of legislation like that. So what happened to make
him such a strong supporter?>>Victoria: Well, no one, you
know, when we introduced this, I remember I didn’t even know
what I was supposed to do. I remember him… he was mad at me because I wasn’t on the
floor at the right time or something, and I was trying to, you know,
sort of deny the product. I had already debated among the staff, etc.,
but it’s clear everyone was like how… is this going to fly? And particularly with the civil rights remedy
in it, and what happened was we held hearings. So we were all… I was like, “I’m about to
lose my job,” you know? I had managed to out debate my
fellow staffers but, you know, it isn’t exactly like a Supreme Court argument. So I was going to see, and we held the
hearings, and it was the voices of the women, which is why I said, and I really do… and it’s not false humility. It is… it was the voices of the women
and the men who work on these issues and particularly the women survivors that transformed the entire
Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator Thurmond was the
ranking member when this started, and Senator Thurmond was unfailingly
polite to all the witnesses. I could tell a story in which I had to
introduce Oprah to all of the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. She had a child abuse bill that she wanted
to further, and she had the governor of Illinois come and testify about it. This is somewhere in the middle of
that, and he was unfailingly kind, and she said to me, “Well,
what’s he going to do?” And I said, “He’s going to
say you look lovely today.” [Laughter] And he did because
that’s what he said to all women, but he realized he could not say that. I mean his staff said he
was really affected by this, and then Senator Biden’s seamless reaction… There was a big press reaction. There was a galvanizing moment, and then over the next 3 years what would happen
is Senator Biden would loan me to people, and they would hold hearings in their own… I was loaned to Senator Hatch to go out to Utah, and we had a hearing, and
Manus Cooney who’s now… who was his Chief Counsel, and I sat there,
and we listened to women of his church and his community, look him straight in
the eye and provide horrifying stories, and you know, at the end it was funny. He tried to give me a hug, and
he said, “Oh, [inaudible].” It was, “Oh, that’s improper. Oh no.” And but it was clear that
he was very affected by this, and this kind of thing then mushroomed to the
point where Elizabeth Dole got Senator Dole who was the Minority Leader at the time said,
“You have to do something about this now.” So it mushroomed, and it was a bottom up effort. People were hearing from their local
constituents, and, you know, this was not… When I asked battered women groups to
tell me what they needed, they said, “Our second source of funding is bake sales.” I said, “Okay, we can work on that.” But they were basically what
I called battered groups. They didn’t come in and storm and
say, “I want this legislation,” like the credit card companies
or somebody else would. They because of the prior story I told here, they thought that there was never
going to be any legislation. They had no idea, and who’s Joe Biden? They’re like, “I don’t know Joe. You know, what’s he doing on this?” So I spent a lot of time trying to
develop relationships with people who certainly knew more about the problem than
I did, but we’re thrilled to get any hearing about the problem, and, of course, there is
limited federal jurisdiction with respect to a lot of this, and so we had to
work up partnerships between states and federal governments that
would work, and I… and that’s out of this ground up talk
down mixture came a number of provisions that basically gave incentives to force people
who were, you know, seemingly on different sides of the issue to come together, so just
police and advocates to work together, and many people have told me
since that that has been one of the most effective things
that the bill ever did. To reconcile forces in the community that
should, in fact, have it in their interest to fight this violence because
you ask any police officer, he’ll tell you domestic violence
is the most difficult call to take. So there are many shared interests, and
having found those shared interests, we tried to work on federal state
partnerships to achieve that. Hope that answers the question. [ Pause ]>>Hi. My question is I think you said
that with the Violence Against Women Act, one of its core provisions was
cut down by the Supreme Court. Did I miss… I don’t know if I missed it.>>Victoria: That’s correct.>>But could you just say
a little bit about that?>>Victoria: In 2000 the Supreme Court
struck down the civil rights remedy, the major equality piece of the Violence Against
Women Act, which provided a federal remedy for individuals to go into court,
and it was modeled actually on a Reconstruction Era civil rights law. So I copied a law from like 1866, [laughter],
and, but nevertheless it was struck down, and I’ll have to give you a little bit
of a lecture to explain why on law. There were two bases for
this civil rights remedy. The Congress only has the power to do what
the Constitution says it has the power to do, and the Constitution says
you can regulate commerce. That came up in the healthcare bill, right? And it says under the Fourteenth Amendment that
no state may deprive you of equal protection of the laws, and so equal protection
and commerce were the two grounds in which the Violence Against
Women Act was based. The major cases, there was a hearing by
Constitutional experts from the University of Chicago and NYU and all of that,
and they said it is Constitutional. Why? Well, because the Supreme
Court had decided some cases in the 1960’s involving the
Civil Rights Act of ’64, and they had said that you can
regulate private accommodations. The government can desegregate hotels and
restaurants based on the commerce power. So many lawyers thought that the
commerce power was almost infinite. Now the year after the Violence Against
Women Act was passed and two years after I first saw this argument in a
memo who I still don’t know who wrote it but Senator Biden gave it to me, and I had
to answer it, but the argument was well, commerce should only apply to economic
activity, and the Supreme Court in a case called The United States versus Lopez, which involved the Gun Free Schools Act-you
can’t have a gun outside of school-struck that law down because it was not commerce. It’s crime. It’s not commerce. Once that Lopez came down I knew the Violence
Against Women Act would be struck down because in my opinion, I believed that… I believed that the Chief was sincere
and he believed that if the Violence Against Women Act were passed, the federal
courts would be swamped with cases, but as Professor Brison and I have
been discussing in the past two days, there’s a terrible irony about that. If you believe the problem is that bad, why would you say that you can’t
use the federal law to achieve it? After all, that’s what we did with the 1964
Civil Rights Act, and that’s what we tried to accomplish with the Reconstruction
Era laws, which were not enforced. Ditto. Some law professors such as
Reba Segal have identified Morrison as the new Reconstruction
Era of the Supreme Court. The Reconstruction Era was the era where they
took back all of the laws that were passed right after the Civil War where the
court viewed them so narrowly. So here’s the problem. Let’s say commerce doesn’t work because
rape isn’t commerce and you’re going to narrow your focus on the particular act. Equal protection also doesn’t work, which
seems odd, but it doesn’t work because it says, and in the Reconstruction Era they had
limited the equal protection clause to only actions by state. It says no state shall deprive
you of equal protection. Now the theory of the act that was that states
were depriving individuals of equal protection and that this had been documented in the
various hearings, but the Supreme Court chose to identify the core action here as the
individual act of violence and equated it with that act of violence, and then as I
told you, they have the same kind of move to suggest well, if we open the courthouse
doors to this kind of criminal activity, in the opinion Justice Rehnquist said, well
we’re going to open it up to things like divorce and child custody and things like that,
which would, in fact-he’s absolutely right-if that were true, it would swamp federal
courts because they’re a tiny part of our judiciary compared to the state courts. The problem is that the court sliced and diced
the arguments, in my view, and I’ve argued this in the law reviews before, which is when
commerce is attached to equal protection, there should be a stronger argument. When students like Christy Broncala, who
brought that case, had to drop out of school because she was raped because they did nothing. So they made no accommodation for her
in light of the aggression when she… She lost out an opportunity. She lost money. She may have lost various careers, and so
it seems to me wrong to think that, well, if you open it up to this case, then you’re
going to have to decide every criminal case. That’s not true. It would only be criminal cases
that involved equal protection, but the court never considered that argument. The intersection of equal protection
and commerce has always been-look at the ’64 Civil Rights Act-a core
place where you should intervene, where we should have equal protection because commerce is the great
engine of our economy, right? And if this violence is in some ways
diminishing when women’s opportunities to take particular jobs, which
was the argument, to take… to have education in certain places, then
it seems to me that Congress does, in fact, have the authority and then one does not have
to believe that Congress can pass any law about family, you know, custody
disputes or things like that, that the slippery slope he
identified is inaccurate. [ Pause ]>>Hi. Thank you so much for all of
your work and your passion on this. It’s quite inspiring. I work internationally in women’s rights,
and what we’re seeing is this same kind of backlash everywhere, and women began seeing
it around the UN conventions, around CEDAW and the kind of backlash that occurred
there, which essentially the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination
Against Women. And one of the conclusions that
some of the activists are making, and I wonder what you think about this, is
that all the energies of women’s movements around the world were directed toward that
visible power of getting that convention passed, or in the case of the Violence Against
Women Act, getting that act passed, but in doing that they gave short shrift to all
the organizing work that they had done before, the organizing work that would allow women’s
movements then to sustain the kind of work that had to be done over time just to
confront the inevitability of backlash because people would organize
but then they would forget… oop, we’re going to get backlash, and
so it’s like the penny dropped for a lot of these women saying, “We didn’t take this into
consideration,” and we have to going forward because this is going to be inevitable, and
the cycles are just going to be like this. So we always have to be prepared.>>Victoria: Well, there’s always the problem
of, you know, law is a very crude tool. I mean Brown versus Board of Education
certainly didn’t eradicate discrimination in the United States, but it can be an important
expressive tool, and it can work both ways. I mean, one of the good things that came
out of this was that there is an office, hopefully that will remain, within the
Justice Department, the Office of Violence Against Women, to try to institutionalize
the federal presence, so this was very… this was very… this was a very important piece that no one, you
know, really knew how important it was to keep up the maintenance of various
interest groups, okay? So to continue to support the service providers
in their fight over long periods of time because it’s an odd organization. I mean it doesn’t really fit with the
Department of Justice in some ways, but it was easier because that way the
Senate Judiciary Committee could have control over it as opposed to other committees. I do sense, however, that there is an odd
dynamic dance that happens from the late 40’s and 50’s on, where there’s two
steps forward, one step back and that there is a funny resonance
between some of the bizarre arguments, and I really think most people think
they’re bizarre about, you know, rape being biologically impossible in
certain cases, like Senator Akin, etc., which both parties is off the table, and
I do find that odd that this is coming at this moment, but if you look back
at the Carter era, you see well, yes, we were in an economic depression. We know domestic violence is going
to increase in these periods. We know that people are worried about
their families, and we know how easy it is to translate these issues into family issues. So I agree with you that you always
have to be prepared for the people who are not necessarily on the front line. So I think the service providers have
been given some institutional support, not perhaps enough, but you always have to… you can’t say, “We’ll get CEDAW
and things will be better.” Even if we had passed the civil rights remedy, in my opinion the problem would’ve been too
little help, not too much because the courts at the time, if they were hostile,
they were going to narrow that as well. So, you know, all the evidence we have is over
a hundred cases or something by the time… over 10 years or 6 years, I don’t know. There weren’t many cases. So I agree that the vast majority
of sort of the bystander population who assumes a certain equality constantly has
to be reminded that there have been movements of the recent past that truly call that equality
and believed that that equality was dangerous to the country, dangerous to the
family, and would fight for it.>>Can you say more about why there were
only about a hundred cases between 1994 and 2000 in the civil rights remedy?>>Victoria: You know, let me just say I
don’t know if there were even that many. So that’s because first of all it takes
a while for lawyers to be educated about the existence of a law or an argument. I have several equal protection arguments I
might make these days, but I might have them in the head, but how do lawyers who
actually get the cases have them? Right? They have to be disseminated somehow. Also courts did view it as very narrow. You had to have something that really kind of
had the aura of a hate crime rather than simply, as if it isn’t a hate crime,
but [laughter] there were rapes and then there was rape plus, right? And this also happened with the
early sex discrimination laws. Same thing happened before the courts and
the EEOC moved in with sexual harassment law. When they first got the law, they did something
like, you know, sort of sex plus, right? And the same thing was happening with the
early cases, and so they were fairly difficult to show this rape plus, and therefore… or domestic violence plus… and so lawyers were not taking them. It looked harder than to sue
under some perhaps tort suit. Now, of course, there was an
interesting reverberating effect, which is there were more tort suits than… which was a good thing. I mean the state laws were not being invoked because no one was thinking
of it in these terms. So there was probably some filtering effect
and some states had passed many VAWA’s, many civil rights remedies, and hate
crimes law that are used in some cases. What we were hoping for was something like the
development in sexual harassment law though. When sexual harassment law, when
Title 7 first got into the courts, it was viewed very narrowly, but over time with
the intervention of the EEOC and we were hoping with the intervention of the Office of Violence
Against Women that there would be a dialogue between those, the advocates, and the
courts in a way that would enrich the law of what it was to discriminate with… in the context of violence,
and it was shut down. So there were attempts to pass another
version, I think, at this point. It doesn’t seem like it’s on
anyone’s top piece of agenda. Basically the administration,
both the Bush 43 administration and the Obama administration have done
a pretty good job with going overseas. You know, when you can’t get Congress to
do anything, you go abroad and, you know, they have done some, you know,
very powerful things abroad. My only concern is that we
used to really be the leader. I mean, I was sent off to so many international
conferences when we had the civil rights remedy because people were beginning to
use the discourse of human rights, and that catalyzed an enormous set of groups
that had never been concerned with these issues and still does to this day for all the women
in the room who know about the Gonzalez case. That’s a perfect example of this. This is a case that went up to the
Supreme Court, a domestic violence case. Police did not respond. Supreme Court rejected her claim. She went to the inter-American court, and the inter-American court said the United
States was violating her human rights. So now we are… forget about being the leader. We’re a violator, and this is
a real problem it seems to me. So that while administrations of goodwill of
both parties have done many things abroad, we still have not kept our
own home front perhaps as safe as we would like it, to believe it is. And we certainly have lost the leadership
role, I think, within the country. [ Background noise ]>>Thank you. It seems to me, too, though that
the U.S., at least geopolitically… I’m not saying in action, but in
the geopolitical discursive sense, holds a higher standard for
these issues internationally when it behooves the U.S. geopolitically
where it does not want any reflection back on what’s happening with women within the U.S.,
and, I mean, I know that’s a big sort of… we could debate that, but that
seems to be what’s happening.>>Victoria: Yeah, I mean, I think there is
a lot of truth to the notion of convergence, which is the sense that when it’s in the United
States’ interest to do this, then it’s fine. When we can view it as some other people who are doing this dangerous thing,
then it’s fine, but it’s not us. Right. We are the good guys, and
you are the, you know, primitive, you know, sex segregators or whatever. You could see this in the sex slavery and the prostitution debates
during the Bush administration. For example, once it gets into whether
prostitution is actually a real problem in and of itself, then the administration
stops, right? So I think there is a good degree to that
because one would hope that the international, you know, that there would be
a reverberating effect back. [Background conversation] I don’t see that. In fact, what I see unfortunately I was
mentioning this, I think, to either you or Professor Brison, I see these reports
out of the Office of Violence Against Women, and they sound very much like the reports that I
would write in 1990 in terms of the stereotypes that you find in certain areas of certain cases. They tend to be more in rural areas. They tend to be more… perhaps the numbers are less, but the
stereotypes remain, and that is very disturbing to me, but it’s consistent
with the story I’ve told here, which is there are intense passionate feelings
of resistance to this because it appears to people-emphasis on appears-to invade
something very sacred called the family, and people don’t stop to think really
about what they’re talking about, and it’s a sort of fast reaction not a slow
critical thinking about what is really going on. So, yeah, it would’ve been helpful, and, I mean, I don’t see the United States
Supreme Court doing a darn thing about Jessica Gonzalez’s case, for example,
that her human rights were violated. She can’t enforce that. And I’m sure given their opinion on foreign law, they think that it’s not something
they should pay any attention to. [ Pause ]>>I just have a comment, and I thank
you with my heart and soul for your work. I am doing a lot of research
work myself on the subject, but I’m curious as to why the emphasis is
on, primarily on women, and I see young men, and I’m pleased by that, but it seems that
our culture is so patriarchal in mind, body, and spirit that changes are not going to happen
unless men like Joe Biden, Senator Hatch, you know, these individuals, unless they
are able to say we need to share this as in everything-power, decisions,
policy making. I don’t see any of this changing,
and I see the slip. I see us coming back to the
50’s, and I talk to young women, and I think we’re not even out of it. We’re not even out of it. We’re going so far back, and yet I
don’t think that people understand it. It’s that slippery slope
that you keep talking about. So I thank you, and I catch my breath, but I’d
like to see this as more of a holistic approach.>>Victoria: I agree with you. I mean it was radical in 1990 to
say this was a human rights issue, which I did say at several international
meetings, right, but it would’ve been radical to say it on the floor of the Senate. It seemed better… What? [Inaudible] [Laughter]
Yeah, it seemed better to… and I think this is a… there is a patriarchal part of this calling
it, you know, violence against women because, of course, as an appellate
lawyer, as a constituent, I knew that I had to make a gender… all the provisions were gender neutral. There were cases that were brought by men
under the civil rights remedy for example. It would’ve been unconstitutional. In fact all of the early sex discrimination
precedence, by the way, were all done by men. For example, the man who wanted to be the nurse? You know, all the early sex
discrimination cases decided by the Supreme Court were brought by men. So, you know, I have always believed
this, that this has to be shared, and one of the interesting
things and maybe hopeful things about the international movement is that
a human rights discourse allows you to get over that hurdle of using the word woman
and thinking there’s some, you know, repeating inadvertently the inferiority
or hierarchy, and I think though in 1990 given everything that had gone on
before, I can see why, although I didn’t think of it as the feminist cry of a demigod
or whatever Hanna Rosen called it. You know, I think it was
important in an empowering way. Dr. Biden, in fact, asked about this
when we were first working on the bill because she was very concerned that women might
feel patronized, and of course, she’s a very… this is the Vice President’s wife. And of course, this is something
we debated among the staff. I mean, this is the terrible coin. It’s whether something is empowering
or patronizing in these circumstances, and so it had to be done using the voices. Most of the speeches that I wrote, you know,
half of them, the Vice President would throw in the trash saying, “Oh, that’s too smart. No one would think I would say that.” [Laughter] True. But a lot of them would simply be quotes of
the survivors because he understood very well that as a man he had the power to
do this, but that he did not want to seem patronizing, and so it was… we talked about this at length,
about how difficult kind of a line we were treading at the time. This appeared over a while just
because we had the hearings, it appeared there was bipartisan support, and
then the Chief Justice came out of the woodwork, and then it was two titans of
Washington power going at each other. So it kind of… we got over our initial concern, but
it remains a deep problem, and why… It’s hard for me. I kind of choke a little bit when I look at
the name of the act today, and, you know, I’m hoping that, you know, one good… piece of good news here isn’t as if it was,
you know, we get the right to vote in 1920, and then we get on juries in 1960. Okay, that’s 40 years. I mean, between the 1979 and
the, you know, 19, you know, it was 1985 that we got the
first domestic violence. Then 1990. So it’s moving faster. Now the one fear I have is that some of
the recent remarks have truly been backlash of an order I truly don’t even
understand, I mean, not even in 1950’s. The bit about biologically incapable
of being raped is an argument that was used by nineteenth century courts. So there is something very disturbing about
that and the other comments that are being made, but there are always people who are willing
to say that these issues are radical, that they’ll destroy the family,
that they’re not human rights issues.>>We have time for one more
question in the back.>>Thank you so much for speaking. I don’t know which way I’m going to go
right now, but hopefully it’ll be short. I also had a reaction to that, not
right away, but over time after I… and it probably helped me become more radically
aware, but like the Violence Against… just the word… Violence Against Women, I began to see it as
another camouflaged term for male violence, just like women’s rights crisis, violent crime
crisis, sexual abuse crisis, terrorism crisis, what’s predominately male violence, you know, is just continually renamed-home
invasion, rape, you know, just endless… carjacking, cop killing, and I document the news and the media how it uses language,
and so I just started to… you can just pull, you know, frequently hundreds
of those phrases, terms out of our newspapers. You know, so there’s this language that is
flooding the media, and it’s just like… it’s almost like the whole language, like
domestic violence is just another word. You know what I mean? And if it’s predominantly male violence,
you know, to turn around and really say it because like right now, for instance,
do you know every Presidential thing, it always turns into an attack on women. That’s like… it’s chronic. It’s the tool whether it’s in this
country or whether it’s another country, and it’s like that really is
never really discussed, and… but I think there is an awareness always going
on, you know, just even when you were talking about foreign, you know, foreign policy and
other countries and stuff’s not national, like we’re hearing what’s going on right now. Everybody’s hearing it. Things are moving. It is… you know, but at the same time,
it’s scary to have so much of our media time and our people running for President of our
country and just whether they’re male or female, talking the way they’ve been talking
for the last few years, but anyway, I’d just like to thank you very much.>>Victoria: Well I do think that language
is important, and I think that we do need to pay attention to it, and I do think the human
rights frame is actually a very powerful one to switch to. Now, I will tell you that I think that the… I think you’re doing a great job trying to look
at the media framing because they tend to focus on certain things, and we
don’t pay any attention. In fact, [inaudible] runaway wives? That was a big term in this debate. Runaway wife? Where did that come from? Okay? I mean it does change over time,
but that came from runaway teenagers. The equation was, you know, in the 70’s
there were teenagers who were running away, I guess, and that was a big problem. So now battered women were runaway wives? You have to pay attention and call attention to
this kind of discourse because now in history, you know, with some hindsight, we
can all look and go, “What’s that?” You know, you can’t even remember it. The good news is that some of this
seems so outrageous of the recent time, and it had its own backlash let’s say, and
reminded us of the more subtle framings that you’re focusing on, and I
think you’re right to do that.>>Thank you very much.

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