Issues For Debate In Family Violence: Selections From CQ Researcher


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    Women's Rights: Are Violence and Discrimination Against Women Declining?

    Women around the world have made significant gains in the past decade, but tens of millions still face significant and often appalling hardship. Most governments now have gender-equality commissions, electoral gender quotas and laws to protect women against violence. But progress has been mixed. A record number of women now serve in parliaments, but only 14 of the world's 193 countries currently have elected female leaders. Globalization has produced more jobs for women, but they still constitute 70 percent of the world's poorest inhabitants and 64 percent of the illiterate. Spousal abuse, female infanticide, genital mutilation, forced abortions, bride-burnings, acid attacks and sexual slavery remain pervasive in some countries, and rape and sexual mutilation have reached epic proportions in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo. Experts say without greater economic, political and educational equality, the plight of women will not improve, and society will continue suffering the consequences.

    Domestic Violence: Do Teenagers Need More Protection?

    On a typical day in the United States, three women are murdered by their spouses or partners, and thousands more are injured. While men are also victims of domestic violence, women are at least five times more likely to suffer at the hands of a loved one. Young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are most at risk. The victims include teens who are abused by their parents as well as young parents who assault each other or their children. Moreover, teen-dating violence touches more than 30 percent of young men and women. The good news is that domestic violence against women has dropped dramatically in recent years. Now Congress has just approved a measure that advocates say will provide much-needed funding to try to stop domestic violence before it starts. Meanwhile, some fathers'-rights and conservative groups say too many domestic-violence programs demonize men, promote a feminist agenda and do not try hard enough to keep families together.

    Sex Offenders: Will Tough, New Laws Do More Harm Than Good?

    In response to horrific sex crimes against children, Congress and the states have passed hundreds of new laws in recent years to crack down on offenders. In addition to much longer sentences and more rigorous tracking of sex criminals upon release, some of the new laws place limits on where offenders can live, banning them from neighborhoods surrounding schools, parks and playgrounds. But critics warn the laws may prove counterproductive, driving sex offenders further underground. They also point out that most perpetrators are family members or other acquaintances of victims, so the new laws may shift resources away from treatment programs that could help more. Moreover, experts note sex offenders' low recidivism rates and a dramatic drop in child sexual-abuse cases. But with the media giving heavy coverage to the worst cases of abduction and abuse, it's no wonder that lawmakers are willing to approve any punishment or tracking technique that promises to prevent crimes against children.

    Hate Groups: Is Extremism on the Rise in the United States?

    National crises create opportunities for extremists. Today the global economic crisis now wreaking havoc on millions of American households is hitting while the first black president is in the White House and the national debate over illegal immigration remains unresolved. Already, some far-right extremists are proclaiming that their moment is arriving. Indeed, an annual tally by the Southern Poverty Law Center shows 926 hate groups operating in 2008, a 50 percent increase over the number in 2000. And the Department of Homeland Security concludes that conditions may favor far-right recruitment. But a mix of conservatives and liberal free-speech activists warn that despite concerns about extremism, the administration of Barack Obama should not be intruding on constitutionally protected political debate. Some extremism-monitoring groups say Obama's election showed far-right power is waning, not strengthening. But that equation may change if the economic crisis deepens, the experts caution.

    Cyberbullying: Are New Laws Needed to Curb Online Aggression?

    Child advocates say a growing epidemic of “cyberbullying”—the use of computers, cell phones, social-networking sites and other technology to threaten or humiliate others—is putting young people at risk, sometimes with deadly consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has labeled “electronic aggression” an “emerging public-health problem.” Court precedents on school discipline and students' First Amendment rights provide limited guidance to educators grappling with the emerging world of cyber communication, especially transmissions originating off school grounds. Nonetheless, many states and school districts are taking strong steps aimed at curbing cyber abuse. In Congress, bills to provide new funding for online-safety programs have been introduced, but conflicts have arisen over how federal money for such efforts should be spent.

    Prostitution Debate: Should the United States Legalize Sex Work?

    Prostitution made the front pages recently when Democratic New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned after he was outed as a client of a high-priced escort service. The fall of Spitzer, a fierce foe of prostitution in his previous post as state attorney general, highlighted American ambivalence about the sex industry, which receives little public debate and seems to surface in the media only when high-profile customers are named as clients. Behind the scenes, however, fierce debate rages about the best plan for limiting the harms of prostitution, which include drug addiction and minors being forced into sex work. Anti-prostitution feminists argue that the United States should follow Sweden's example by arresting and jailing johns instead of prostitutes while providing social services to help women leave the sex industry. But other activists argue that only complete decriminalization and recognition of sex work as a form of labor can end the social stigma that leaves prostitutes unprotected from disease and violence.

    Child Welfare Reform: Will Recent Changes Make At-Risk Children Safer?

    The U.S. child welfare system is designed to protect the nation's children, but in recent years it has been rocked by horror stories of children who were physically and sexually abused and even murdered. More than 900,000 children were maltreated in 2003—and some 1,300 died. But a nationwide reform movement offers hope for the future. Welfare agencies across the country are focusing more on keeping families together and quickly moving the nation's 500,000 foster children into permanent homes. Although the foster care rolls are dropping, unadopted foster teens still must struggle with a lonely transition to adulthood after leaving the system. No state program has passed a federal review, but states are hitting improvement targets in follow-up checks. Meanwhile, social workers continue to complain that they are underpaid and overworked. And Congress is divided over a Bush administration plan that would give states more flexibility in using federal funds but end the guarantee of federal support for every foster child.


    Keeping students up-to-date on timely issues in family and interpersonal violence can be challenging given the range of issues, new research and changing policies regarding children and families. Furthermore, finding readings that are student friendly, accessible and current can be an even greater challenge. Now CQ Researcher, CQ Press and SAGE have teamed up to provide a unique selection of articles focused on issues in family and domestic violence, specifically for courses in family violence and working with children and families. This collection aims to promote in-depth discussion, facilitate further research and help students formulate their own positions on crucial issues.

    This first edition includes seven up-to-date reports by CQ Researcher, an award-winning weekly policy brief that brings complicated issues down to earth. Each report chronicles and analyzes executive, legislative and judicial activities at all levels of government. This collection was carefully crafted to cover a range of issues from domestic violence, sex offenders, hate groups, women's rights, cyberbullying and child welfare reform. All in all, this reader will help your students become better versed on current policy issues and gain a deeper, more critical perspective of timely and important issues.

    CQ Researcher

    CQ Researcher was founded in 1923 as Editorial Research Reports and was sold primarily to newspapers as a research tool. The magazine was renamed and redesigned in 1991 as CQ Researcher. Today, students are its primary audience. While still used by hundreds of journalists and newspapers, many of which reprint portions of the reports, the Researcher's main subscribers are now high school, college and public libraries. In 2002, Researcher won the American Bar Association's coveted Silver Gavel award for magazine excellence for a series of nine reports on civil liberties and other legal issues.

    Researcher staff writers—all highly experienced journalists—sometimes compare the experience of writing a Researcher report to drafting a college term paper. Indeed, there are many similarities. Each report is as long as many term papers—about 11,000 words—and is written by one person without any significant outside help. One of the key differences is that writers interview leading experts, scholars and government officials for each issue.

    Like students, staff writers begin the creative process by choosing a topic. Working with the Researcher's editors, the writer identifies a controversial subject that has important public policy implications. After a topic is selected, the writer embarks on one to two weeks of intense research. Newspaper and magazine articles are clipped or downloaded, books are ordered and information is gathered from a wide variety of sources, including interest groups, universities and the government. Once the writers are well informed, they develop a detailed outline, and begin the interview process. Each report requires a minimum of ten to fifteen interviews with academics, officials, lobbyists and people working in the field. Only after all interviews are completed does the writing begin.

    Chapter Format

    Each issue of CQ Researcher, and therefore each selection in this book, is structured in the same way. Each begins with an overview, which briefly summarizes the areas that will be explored in greater detail in the rest of the chapter. The next section chronicles important and current debates on the topic under discussion and is structured around a number of key questions, such as “Should the federal government do more to combat domestic violence?” “Should sex offenders be allowed to live near children?” “Do state and local governments do enough to keep families together?” These questions are usually the subject of much debate among practitioners and scholars in the field. Hence, the answers presented are never conclusive but detail the range of opinion on the topic.

    Next, the “Background” section provides a history of the issue being examined. This retrospective covers important legislative measures, executive actions and court decisions that illustrate how current policy has evolved. Then the “Current Situation” section examines contemporary policy issues, legislation under consideration and legal action being taken. Each selection concludes with an “Outlook” section, which addresses possible regulation, court rulings and initiatives from Capitol Hill and the White House over the next five to ten years.

    Each report contains features that augment the main text: two to three sidebars that examine issues related to the topic at hand, a pro versus con debate between two experts, a chronology of key dates and events and an annotated bibliography detailing major sources used by the writer.


    We wish to thank many people for helping to make this collection a reality. Tom Colin, managing editor of CQ Researcher, gave us his enthusiastic support and cooperation as we developed this edition. He and his talented staff of editors and writers have amassed a first-class library of Researcher reports, and we are fortunate to have access to that rich cache. We also wish to thank our colleagues at CQ Press, a division of SAGE and a leading publisher of books, directories, research publications, and Web products on U.S. government, world affairs and communications. They have forged the way in making these readers a useful resource for instruction across a range of undergraduate and graduate courses.

    Some readers may be learning about CQ Researcher for the first time. We expect that many readers will want regular access to this excellent weekly research tool. For subscription information or a no-obligation free trial of CQ Researcher, please contact CQ Press at or toll-free at 1-866-4CQ-PRESS (1-866-427-7737).

    We hope that you will be pleased by this edition of Issues for Debate in Family Violence. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future editions. Please direct comments to Kassie Graves, Acquisitions Editor, SAGE Publications, 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91320, or

    —The Editors of SAGE


    Thomas J. Billitteri is a CQ Researcher staff writer based in Fairfield, Pennsylvania, who has more than 30 years' experience covering business, nonprofit institutions and public policy for newspapers and other publications. He has written previously for CQ Researcher on “Domestic Poverty,” “Curbing CEO Pay” and “Mass Transit.” He holds a BA in English and an MA in journalism from Indiana University.

    Marcia Clemmitt is a veteran social-policy reporter who previously served as editor in chief of Medicine & Health and staff writer for The Scientist. She has also been a high-school math and physics teacher. She holds a liberal arts and sciences degree from St. John's College, Annapolis, and a master's degree in English from Georgetown University. Her recent reports include “Climate Change,” “Health Care Costs,” “Cyber Socializing” and “Student Aid.”

    Karen Foerstel is a freelance writer who has worked for the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report and Daily Monitor, The New York Post and Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper. She has published two books on women in Congress, Climbing the Hill: Gender Conflict in Congress and The Biographical Dictionary of Women in Congress. She currently lives and works in London. She has worked in Africa with ChildsLife International, a nonprofit that helps needy children around the world, and with Blue Ventures, a marine conservation organization that protects coral reefs in Madagascar.

    Alan Greenblatt is a staff writer at Governing magazine. He previously covered elections, agriculture and military spending for CQ Weekly, where he won the National Press Club's Sandy Hume Award for political journalism. He graduated from San Francisco State University in 1986 and received a master's degree in English literature from the University of Virginia in 1988. His recent CQ Researcher reports include “The Partisan Divide” and “Media Bias.”

    Peter Katel is a CQ Researcher staff writer who previously reported on Haiti and Latin America for Time and Newsweek and covered the Southwest for newspapers in New Mexico. He has received several journalism awards, including the Bartolomé Mitre Award for coverage of drug trafficking from the Inter-American Press Association. He holds an AB in university studies from the University of New Mexico. His recent reports include “Mexico's Drug War,” “Homeland Security” and “Future of the Military.”

    Pamela M. Prah is a CQ Researcher staff writer with several years previous experience at, Kiplinger's Washington Letter and the Bureau of National Affairs. She holds a master's degree in government from Johns Hopkins University and a journalism degree from Ohio University. Her recent reports include “War in Iraq,” “Methamphetamines” and “Disaster Preparedness.”

    Tom Price is a Washington-based freelance journalist who writes regularly for CQ Researcher. Previously he was a correspondent in the Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau and chief politics writer for the Dayton Daily News and The Journal Herald. He is the author of two Washington guidebooks, Washington, D.C., for Dummies, and the Irreverent Guide to Washington, D.C. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Rolling Stone and other periodicals. He earned a bachelor of science in journalism at Ohio University.

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