Document 14A: Statement of Sally Goldfarb, Senior Staff Attorney, Legal Defense and Education Fund, National Organization for Women. Senate Hearing 103-51, 16 November 1993. Hearing before the Subcommittee on Civil and Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives. Serial No. 51.

Introduction

        Sally Goldfarb chaired a national task force of almost one thousand organizations and individuals concerned about the epidemic of violence against women. She argued that many of the victims who are currently denied access to justice under state criminal and civil laws would for the first time have the opportunity to seek legal redress under the VAWA. Her prepared statement (see Document 14B) included discussions on: "The Violence Against Women Act's Civil Rights Provision," "What Title III Will Accomplish," "State Criminal and Civil Laws Are Not Adequate to Protect Victims of Gender-Motivated Crime," "The Violence Against Women Act Builds on and Compliments Existing Federal Civil Rights Laws," "The Impact of Title III on the Courts," and "Congress Has Constitutional Authority to Enact this Legislation."

STATEMENT OF SALLY GOLDFARB, SENIOR STAFF ATTORNEY,
NOW LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND

        Ms. GOLDFARB. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I am Sally Goldfarb, senior staff attorney of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.

        On behalf of the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, I chair a national task force of hundreds of religious, labor, medical, mental health, aging, civil rights, women's, children's and victims' rights organizations, all of which are concerned about the impact of violence on the lives of women and girls. NOW LDEF strongly urges you to support the civil rights provision of the Violence Against Women Act, which we view as a major step forward for women's equality.

        Currently, there is an epidemic of violent crime against women, and women and girls are targets for many types of violence because of their sex. It is certainly true that many men are victims of crime, and this is a source of concern as well.

        However, women must fear not only the crimes that confront all members of society, but also those that are inflicted exclusively or predominantly on the female half of our population. When half of our society is at risk of terror, brutality, serious injury and even death just because they are female, that is a form of discrimination.

        In recent years, we have made dramatic progress toward legal equality for women. But existing laws are worth little if women just jeopardize their physical safety to seek out the opportunities that are open to them at home, work, school, and in the community.

        The Violence Against Women Act would declare that crimes of violence motivated by gender are discriminatory and violate the victim's civil rights under Federal law. It would provide a civil cause of action for the deprivation of this right.

        Both H.R. 1133 and S. 11, which are under consideration in the Senate, contain several important limitations that curtail the scope of this new Federal remedy. The bills do not confer jurisdiction on Federal courts to decide divorce of domestic relations cases. Cases filed in State court may not be removed to Federal court.

        The civil rights remedy will cover only those acts that rise to the level of felony under State or Federal law, and the burden rests on the plaintiff at all times to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the crime was motivated by gender. Thus, it's very clear that not every crime against women would qualify for relief under the bill.

        However, there are also differences between the House and Senate bills. In May of this year, S. 11 was narrowed in several significant ways in an effort to clarify the cause of action. As a result, title III in the Senate bill now provides that only crimes against a person and crimes against property that pose a risk of physical injury to a person are covered.

        The Senate bill has deleted the presumption that rape and sexual assault are motivated by gender, and the Senate bill has added a requirement that in order to meet the definition of crime of violence motivated by gender, the plaintiff must prove that the crime was due at least in part to an animus based on gender.

        All of these changes were adopted after extensive discussions with Federal judges, civil liberties groups, and others concerned about the scope of the proposed civil rights remedy.

        NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund strongly supports title III of H.R. 1133 in its present form. We feel that it is clear, workable, and sound public policy. However, we have also endorsed the Senate bill, S. 11. Therefore, if it is necessary to modify the House bill along the lines already adopted in the Senate, NOW LDEF will continue to support this legislation.

        Some have asked how the Violence Against Women Act's civil rights remedy will apply in practice. A very good analogy is provided by looking at how people prove that a crime is racially motivated under civil rights laws that exist today.

        The evidence typically presented in those cases includes racially derogatory remarks made by the assailant, membership of the victim in a different racial group than the assailant, a history of similar attacks by that assailant against other members of the victim's racial group, a pattern of attacks in a certain neighborhood or time period, lack of provocation, use of excessive force and so on. No one of these elements is indispensable, and each case is judged on the totality of its own facts.

        Nevertheless, it's clear that if you substitute the word gender in place of race in that list, many but not all crimes against women will qualify as crimes of violence motivated by gender.

        Enactment of the title III of the Violence Against Women Act would convey a very powerful message that violence motivated by gender is not just an individual crime or personal injury, but is a form of discrimination. It's an assault on our publicly shared idea of equality.

        But the impact of this legislation will not be purely symbolic. Many victims who are currently denied access to justice under State criminal and civil laws would for the first time have the opportunity to seek legal redress.

        The Congress has a historic opportunity to play a crucial role in the effort both to combat crime and to redress discrimination against women. We urge you to support the Violence Against Women Act. Thank you.

        I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

        Mr. EDWARDS. Thank you very much.

 

Previous
Document
Document
List
Next
Document

| Documents Projects and Archives | Teacher's Corner | Scholar's Edition | Full-Text Sources | About Us | Contact Us |