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US President Donald Trump (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Undermining protections

Trump administration discreetly rewrites DoJ’s definition of domestic violence

By WITW Staff on January 25, 2019

The Trump administration quietly changed their definition of domestic violence in April, restricting its meaning so that the Department of Justice could only use the term in regard to behavior that constitutes a felony or misdemeanor crime. The unexplained change, which was made without even an official announcement, means that the DoJ will not fund or implement programs that help those suffering from emotional, economic, or psychological abuse that hasn’t yet escalated to physical violence.

The decision to weaken the DoJ’s definition of domestic violence has been condemned by activists who say that emotional violence can be as life-altering if not more so than physical violence. The change also disproportionately impacts the poor and minorities who are statistically significantly less likely to report domestic violence to police. While it’s still too early to evaluate the full impact of the change, experts worry that it will also impact The Office on Violence Against Women’s (OVW) efforts to fund programs that combat domestic and sexual abuse. If grants are restricted according to the new definition, funding to programs combating domestic violence may find itself restricted solely to agencies that work with victims of crimes — leaving countless survivors without the resources needed to escape or improve their own dire situations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. women are believed to have experienced psychological abuse from an intimate partner.

In another similarly disturbing move, the OVW has also reportedly restricted its definition of sexual assault so that it refers solely to cases that violate proscribed law.

Read the full story at Slate.


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