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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 
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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