In April 2019, the US Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women made significant alterations to the definitions of domestic abuse, straying from the capacious definitions established under Obama.
The previous definitions incorporated various components of the complexities of domestic abuse, including verbal abuse, sexual violence and psychological abuse, such as manipulation. In contrast, the new definitions have limited domestic abuse to harms that constitute a felony or misdemeanour. Thus, many victims of abuse will be neglected; including those who are isolated from their family and friends by their partner, driven to mental illness or perhaps denied access to money that is essential to their upkeep. Extortionate examples of abusive conduct that renders the victim traumatised will be disregarded as a result of this development. Considering the purpose of this office is to implement measures to prevent the occurrence of domestic violence as a whole rather than solely addressing individual cases, this seems to be a counter-productive move.
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of American women have been subjected to what is described as ‘psychological aggression’ within an intimate relationship. Statistics like this serve as a reminder that the restoration of the old definitions is crucially important, especially when you consider that this does not include unreported cases or abuse against men.
The fact that this occurred beneath the public radar is frankly frightening, as so many people will be affected by these changes and they are related to such a sensitive topic that should be at the forefront of public recognition. This deserves uproar. We must speak out against Trump’s actions for the sake of all the victims rendered voiceless and continue to campaign for measures that stem domestic abuse rather than excuse it.
Tump has frequently faced accusations of sexism due to his own alleged comments, thus sparking fear among the feminist community when he was elected President of the United States. However, although unacceptable comments are one thing, actual amendments within the Department of Justice’s Office adds new dimensions to these concerns, and it seems barbaric that this has received less media attention when it serves as a much more plausible threat to the welfare of American women. Abusive behaviour deserves backlash, yet it is shocking that this development has occurred virtually unnoticed.
By making such amendments, Trump is perpetuating the notion that abuse must be seen to be believed and this is extremely detrimental to both the feminist movement and the fight against domestic abuse. Rather than dismantling previous strides toward equality, Trump should invest in contributing to such a movement, as this truly will help ‘make America great again’.