Violence Against Women Act Essay Research Paper

Violence Against Women Act Essay, Research Paper

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

common welfare.

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.



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