Abuse Industry Paves the Royal Road to the Welfare State

In a little-publicized move, outgoing California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently approved a bill that creates a new multi-million dollar entitlement. Signed into law during the waning months of his second term, Senate Bill 782 bans landlords from kicking out scofflaw tenants who are victims of domestic violence.

The law defines a domestic violence victim as any person who "has filed a report alleging that the protected tenant or the household member is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking." Note "alleging": no evidence or proof is necessary. If you declare yourself a victim, under the law you are.

So a single unproven accusation serves to keep a landlord high and dry -- at the expense of flummoxed homeowners across the state.

As the new California act reveals, our nation's domestic violence system has become a back-door entitlement program marked by loose definitions, weak eligibility criteria, and open-ended benefits.

Here's how the clunky system works. The abuse victim must procure a restraining order before services can be rendered. Such no-contact orders drive a nearly impenetrable wedge between the parties, creating what Harvard law professor Jeannie Suk calls a system of "government-imposed de facto divorce."

Social scientists note that family disintegration is primarily to blame for chronic inter-generational poverty. And as Table 35 of this Justice Department report reveals, crimes of family violence are seven times higher among divorced or separated couples than among those in intact married relationships.

By promoting family breakup, the self-serving domestic violence industry places victims at greater risk of violence -- guaranteeing a never-ending supply of grisly 11 o'clock news stories and heart-breaking statistics.

Sadly, it gets worse.

Many states have broadened their definition of child abuse to include instances when children merely witness physical aggression between parents. Mom slaps dad and junior catches a glimpse? Child abuse -- meaning Child and Protective Services (CPS) gets into the act. Junior is carted off to a foster home for a couple weeks, if not longer. The stories I've heard about children trapped in the CPS maze, removed from the parents they desperately love, sends my blood pressure skyward.

Then there are the inner workings of the 1996 welfare reform law. Tucked into the back of the law, which goes by the unpronounceable acronym PRWORA, a little-known loophole called the Family Violence Option holds that any domestic violence victim is excused from PRWORA’s two-year back-to-work requirement.

How does the act define domestic violence? According to PRWORA, "mental abuse" is tantamount to physical battery. And how does one go about proving he or she is a victim of mental abuse? Don’t be ridiculous. You say you’re a victim, you are one. No evidence or proof necessary.

And so each year, taxpayers cough up $63 million to coddle welfare queens claiming to be incapacitated by -- yes, you guessed it -- abusive head games.

Not that breaking up families is enough to satisfy the welfare state. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! So how, the abuse mavens ask, can we discourage people from tying the knot in the first place?

It’s simple. First, we launch public awareness campaigns designed to convince women that their beau is a latent axe-murderer. Watch Lifetime TV --  you'll probably see a clip about the "cycle of abuse." Pay a visit to the doctor's, and the nurse will ask if your boyfriend ever raises his voice. That's considered abuse these days. Go to the office bathroom, and you'll see a sticker advertising the local abuse hotline.

Next, we pass laws that selectively gut due process and the presumption of innocence. Soon word gets out -- get married and the state may plunder your assets, your home, and your children. Marriage, eligible bachelors decide, isn’t a smart lifestyle option.

Then, we slap a $25 abuse shelter fee on marriage licenses, sending the scary message that you, married person, may end up looking like the back end of a meat grinder. (No need to remind the newlyweds that abuse rates in the intact married family are close to zero.)

Finally, we never, ever admit that women can be abusive, too. Shhhhh! (The research shows women are just as likely as men to slap, hit, punch, and kick their mates. But we can’t let that out. Keep it under your hat!)

The Census Bureau recently reported that, for the first time, there are fewer people currently married than there are people who have never married in the prime wedding demographic of 25 to 34 year olds. The portion of adults who are married -- 52%, compared with 72% in 1960 -- is the lowest in history.

So there you have it. Fifteen years after passage of the federal Violence Against Women Act, domestic violence programs have become the hulking engine of marital breakdown, institutionalized welfare dependency, and a galloping entitlement mindset. So much for progress.