The U.S. Capitol building. (Nov. 19, 2011)

The U.S. Capitol building. (Nov. 19, 2011) Credit: AP

In regard to "Violence Against Women Act needs rethinking" [Opinion, March 2] by columnist Cathy Young, it saddens us to read such an appalling article. It is a disgrace that a law that has helped millions of people is being criticized by someone who is writing misleading statements.

The VAWA, or Violence Against Women Act, is landmark legislation that has saved countless lives. Unfortunately, it seems that not only does Young not understand VAWA, she also appears not to understand domestic violence.

It is a pattern of coercive behavior that leads to the perception that one individual has the power and control in a relationship. It happens both in heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and the victims can be male or female. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, 85 percent of the time, the victim is a woman.

VAWA has a positive effect on agencies such as the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence, where clinicians do informed work that takes into account the impact of mental illness, substance abuse and family history when relevant. As for Young advocating joint counseling, this is a bad idea in virtually all domestic violence situations, not because of a political agenda, but because it is highly likely to escalate the abuse and danger.

As for law enforcement's response, New York State has a policy that an officer must make an arrest if it is believed that a domestic violence offense has been committed. The arrest criterion is not gender, but identification of the primary physical aggressor.

While the "W" in VAWA does stand for women, the work in the field of intimate partner abuse at domestic violence agencies is being done with both male and female victims.

Sandy Oliva and Mindy Perlmutter, Bethpage

Editor's note: The writers are the executive director and director of education for the Nassau County Coalition Against Domestic Violence.