In case you missed this, (because we did), it’s important to note that the Trump Administration changed the definitions of domestic violence and sexual assault when no one was watching, in April or 2018. Although the Office of Violence Against Women is claiming the new definitions won’t affect what interventions they fund, the move is worrisome and a big step backwards.
While the Obama Administration’s definition of domestic violence included the dynamics of power and control, emotional, economic and psychological abuse, the new Justice Department definition includes only harms that constitute a misdemeanor or felony crime, as proscribed by federal, state or tribal law.
Likewise, the definition of sexual assault has been shrunk to only those acts that constitute misdemeanor or felony crimes. The changes in definition are particularly concerning because it is the Office on Violence Against Women’s job to “provide federal leadership in developing the national capacity to reduce violence against women and administer justice for and strengthen services to victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.”
“I was massively surprised and really shocked,”said Holly Taylor-Dunn, a senior lecturer at the University of Worcester. “It is quite scary how quietly it has happened. It is a massive step backwards. We have literally gone back to the 70s. We have worked so hard since the 60s and 70s to get domestic abuse and sexual violence understood as being about more than physical violence. Changing the definition to take it back to being about physical harm completely undermines what domestic abuse is about.”