House VAWA Bill Picks Up Unhelpful Ally: National Coalition For Men (UPDATE)

WASHINGTON -- The House Republican version of the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, which has been decried by women's rights groups as a dramatic rollback of protections for domestic violence victims, has picked up the backing of a group that may prove to be an unhelpful ally: the National Coalition For Men.

The coalition argues, in a Tuesday letter to members of Congress that was forwarded to HuffPost, that the Republican bill protects both men and women, while the original VAWA aimed to protect only women.

"Those opposing H.R. 4970 loudly assert that VAWA serves all people, which is absurd on its face given the name of the Act. Opposing versions, by omission and lack of specificity, generally exclude men, particularly heterosexual men, regardless of specious arguments to the contrary," states the letter from coalition President Harry Crouch.

Crouch told HuffPost that he just wants heterosexual men to be included under the act's protections and dismissed any criticism of the House bill.

"It's almost like people want to say we want to go out and abuse women. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. It's total idiocy to see an intelligent person elected to Congress stand up and look across the aisle and accuse someone of being in favor of opening the doors to abuse for more people," he said.

As for the value of his group's support, Crouch said, "As far as I know, we're the only gender-inclusive organization of our type on the planet, so I would hope that our organization would be helpful. And I think we have been, since for the last two years we've been participating in outreach and education efforts to bring to light some of the issues with respect to the current VAWA."

On its website, the National Coalition For Men says that it "raises awareness about the ways sex discrimination affects men and boys."

The Democratic-backed version of the VAWA bill, which has strong, bipartisan support in the Senate, is inadequate because it is "empowering false accusers at the expense of true victims," says the coalition's letter. Crouch told HuffPost, "What it does, if you take the time to read it, is make it easier for people to make false accusations."

Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee have argued that current VAWA confidentiality protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence need to be eliminated because some immigrant women fraudulently claim abuse to obtain citizenship -- an assertion not backed up by evidence or common sense.

Also on Tuesday, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America joined a growing list of civil rights organizations, women's rights groups, domestic violence workers and faith-based organizations in strong opposition to the House GOP's version of VAWA.

"There are few pieces of legislation that have delivered as greatly on their promise as the Violence Against Women Act," said Cecile Richards, president of the health services provider. "However, instead of seeking to expand protections, this new House bill puts victims of domestic violence in greater danger and excludes vulnerable populations from critical protections."

After the Senate passed a bipartisan bill that included protections for unauthorized immigrant, Native American and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender victims of domestic violence, House Republicans wrote a bill that strips out those provisions and rolls back existing the confidentiality protections for immigrant women who have been abused. The House version of the bill passed out of the Judiciary Committee on party lines last week and is scheduled for a full House vote on Wednesday.

The story has been updated to include comments from Harry Crouch, president of the National Coalition For Men.

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