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Thursday, May 24, 2018

What if Donald Trump really cared about women's safety?

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The White House ousted a top aide, Rob Porter, after it was reported that he had physically and verbally abused two ex-wives. President Trump was "very saddened" by the reports, a spokesman, Raj Shah, said at Thursday's news briefing. Mr. Shah added that the White House does "take violence against women and these types of allegations very seriously."

Those are the sorts of sentiments you'd want to hear from the president and his staff after such revelations. Of course, it'd be easier to take them at face value if his chief of staff, John Kelly, hadn't reportedly known about the allegations against Mr. Porter since the fall, and if Mr. Trump's first wife hadn't accused him of rape and if more than a dozen women hadn't said he sexually molested, assaulted and harassed them. That's not to mention his own taped admission of grabbing women by the genitals.

It would be even easier to take seriously the official White House line about Mr. Porter if officials there had shown any appetite to fight violence against women. If they become interested in doing more than talk, here are some ideas:

Name a White House adviser on violence against women, a position created during the Obama administration that has gone unfilled for the past year. Likewise, the Trump administration has not appointed anyone to head the Department of Justice's Office of Violence against Women, nor to be the State Department's ambassador at large for global women's issues.

Advocate full funding of the Violence against Women Act, which is the principal tool for focusing federal attention on domestic abuse. The law, passed in 1994, has directed billions of dollars toward policing and prosecuting offenders as well as providing legal and other services to victims.

Cases of domestic violence in the United States have dropped precipitously as a result. And yet, since Mr. Trump was elected, its proponents have lived in constant fear of funding cuts. Beyond declaring it a funding priority, the Justice Department should be directed to make enforcing the law a priority, too.

Push for more federal research dollars toward preventing domestic violence. Family abuse is a massive public health problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in nine men are the victims of intimate partner violence in their lifetime. Yet significantly more research is needed on what drives batterers to abuse their partners and how best to prevent this particular form of domestic terror.

Urge Congress to close loopholes in gun prohibitions for domestic abusers. Nearly half of women and girls killed in the United States are the victims of a current or former romantic partner, and in most cases, the weapon is a gun. Congress, in 1996, passed legislation to keep guns out of the hands of people who commit domestic violence, but over time, clear loopholes have emerged. Addressing those gaps could save thousands of lives every year.

For example, a 20-year-old law prohibits those convicted in the assault of a spouse or a child from owning or buying guns. But it doesn't apply to boyfriends, girlfriends, other family members or stalkers. That must change.

But first and foremost, the White House needs to find out, and tell the public, which administration officials knew about the allegations against Mr. Porter and when they learned that information. A president who really wants to signal that he is serious about respecting women would fire every official who protected or defended Mr. Porter after they learned of the abuse allegations.

-By Editorial Board of
New York Times

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