Violence Against Women Act
The Violence Against Women Act creates a right to be "free
from crimes of violence" that are gender motivated. It also gives a
private civil right of action to the victims of these crimes. The
Senate report attached to the act states that "Gender based crimes and
fear of gender based crimes...reduces employment opportunities and
consumer spending affecting interstate commerce."
Sara Benenson has been abused by her husband, Andrew Benenson,
since 1978. Because of this abuse, she sued her husband under various
tort claims and violations under the Violence Against Women Act. Now
Mr. Benenson is protesting the constitutionality of this act claiming
that Congress has no right to pass a law that legislates for the
However, Congress has a clear Constitutional right to regulate
interstate commerce. This act is based solely on interstate commerce
and is thereforeConstitutional. Because of abuse, Sara Benenson was
afraid to get a job because it would anger her husband. She was afraid
to go back to school and she was afraid to go shopping or spend any
money on her own. All three of these things clearly interfere and
affect interstate commerce. Women like Mrs. Benenson are the reason
the act was passed.
There has been a long history of judgements in favor of
Congress's power to legislate using the commerce clause as a
justification. For the past fifty years, Congress's right to interpret
the commerce clause has been unchallenged by the Court with few
exceptions. There is no rational reason for this court to go against
the powerful precedents set by the Supreme court to allow Congress to
use the Commerce clause.
In the case of Katzenbach v. McClung, the Court upheld an act
of Congress which was based on the commerce clause, that prohibited
segregation. McClung, the owner of a barbeque that would not allow
blacks to eat inside the restaurant, claimed that his business was
completely intrastate. He stated that his business had little or no
out of state business and was therefore not subject to the act passed
by Congress because it could not legislate intrastate commerce. The
Court however, decided that because the restaurant received some of
it's food from out of state that it was involved in interstate
The same logic should be applied in this case. Even though
Sara Benenson's inability to work might not seem to affect interstate
commerce, it will in some way as with McClung, thus making the act
constitutional. The Supreme Court had decided that any connection with
interstate commerce,as long as it has a rational basis, makes it
possible for Congress to legislate it. In the United States v. Lopez
decision, The Supreme Court struck down the Gun Free School Zones Act.
It's reasoning was that Congress had overstepped it's power to
legislate interstate commerce. The Court decided that this act was
not sufficiently grounded in interstate commerce for Congress to be
allowed to pass it.
The circumstances in this case are entirely different than in
the case of Sara Benenson. For one thing, the Gun Free School Zones
Act was not nearly as well based in the commerce clause as is our
case. The Gun act said that violence in schools kept student from
learning and therefore limited their future earning power. It also
said that violence affected national insurance companies. These
connections are tenuous at best and generally too long term to be
considered. However, in the case of Mrs. Benenson, her inability to
work and spend directly and immediately affected interstate commerce.
Therefore, the Lopez decision should not have any part in the decision
of this case.
The Supreme Court, in McCulloch v. Maryland, gave Congress the
right to make laws that are out of their strict Constitutional powers
so as to be able to fulfill one of their Constitutional duties. In
this case, the Court allowed the federal government to create a bank.
There is no Constitutional right to do this and Maryland challenged
the creation of this bank. The high court ruled that in order for
Congress to be able to accomplish it's duties. The same logic should
be applied here. The Violence Against Women Act is an example of
Congress overstepping it's direct Constitutional rights so it can
better regulate and facilitate interstate commerce. In order for
Congress to legislate interstate commerce fairly, it must allow people
to be able to work and spend as they should be able to. If a woman is
afraid of being abused if she gets a job or spends money, it affects
interstate commerce. Thus The Violence Against Women Act is
Constitutionally based and necessary for interstate commerce.
Violence against women is a terrible crime. It destroys
women's self esteem, tears apart families, and destroys lives. Many
times, it will lead to murder or other terrible crimes. What the
Violence Against Women Act is trying to do is give women a weapon to
protect themselves from violent spouses. Without this act, many women
would be left incapable of getting any form of financial redress for
the years of suffering and abuse they went through. It is wrong to
deny women a tool to rebuild they're lives after an abusive
relationship. The years of abuse they went through makes it hard if
not impossible for them to get a job or work in an office. These women
are afraid for the rest of their lives that if they make a mistake or
displease the men around them, they will be beaten. This act allows
women to get some means of getting money to live on while they rebuild
their lives. It allows them to seek professional help if necessary.
Without this act, women would be forced on welfare or worse. When this
happens, it benefits no one. The Violence Against Women Act has a
strong Constitutional basis in the commerce clause, despite what
Andrew Benenson says.
The Supreme Court has allowed many acts such as this to stand
for the past fifty years. All the precedents of cases with similar
circumstances are to allow the act to stand. Also, we cannot forget
the human aspect of this case. This act is a tool for women to rebuild
their shattered lives after an abusive relationship. To declare his
act unconstitutional would be both legally and morally wrong.