Many of our partners have expressed concern about changes to the definition of domestic violence reportedly made by the Trump administration, according to an article in Slate. We are grateful for the support and solidarity of our community in the face of a reported threat.
We want to clarify that, while the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women’s website was edited, the changes simply align the site’s language with the current statutory definition of domestic violence found within the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
“We certainly agree that recognizing domestic abuse and violence as more than criminal physical violence is crucial,” says MCEDV Educations & Communications Director Regina Rooney. “But the way to actually move that needle and institutionalize that message is through reauthorizing an improved version of the Violence Against Women Act as soon as possible. That is where we should focus our attention and energy.”
The National Network to End Domestic Violence has identified key improvements needed in the next iteration of VAWA; among them is expanding the definition of domestic violence to more accurately reflect the nonphysical coercive tactics that abusive people use to maintain control of their partners.
MCEDV recognizes the importance of the kind of public facing message found on an official website, and we hope this change is not the foreshadowing of harmful policy to come. However, at present the legal framework upon which existing programs and efforts in Maine and across the nation have been built has not changed. Additionally, many key protections on which survivors rely – such as Protection from Abuse and Protection from Harassment orders – are defined in state law, not federal. It is critical in this moment that people experiencing abuse and those who are abusing them understand that changing the words on a website does not change the law. The resources for seeking safety remain in place for survivors and the legal framework of accountability for offenders remains strong.
“The outpouring of concern from our community is heartening,” Rooney says. “We will continue to be vigilant, but we must not be distracted from our focus on the issues that matter so much, like supporting survivors’ access to physical safety, economic security, and basic needs like health care and housing, and to ensuring that the protections available through VAWA reflect the lived experiences of survivors and are available to all of the people that need them, including immigrants, tribal citizens and LGBTQ+ folks.”