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May 7, 2013 at 6:05 AM
Domestic violence against women and children persists. We all need to do a better job of recognizing signs of abuse and intervening when necessary.
I’m saying this because I felt a roller coaster of emotions Monday as several major stories broke nationwide.
The airman in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was arrested late Sunday for allegedly groping a woman in a parking lot in Arlington, VA. Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, is reportedly on leave as he faces a sexual battery charge. This guy was appointed to his position two months ago. The police report describes disgusting behavior. Doesn’t matter that alcohol was involved. How the heck did he get the job in the first place?
We should brace ourselves for more disturbing developments. NBC News reports, “On Tuesday, the Pentagon will release its annual report on sexual assaults in the military, which shows an increase in reported assaults in fiscal year 2012 — up from 3,192 a year before. Furthermore, the number of people who made an anonymous claim that they were sexually assaulted but never reported the attack skyrocketed from 19,000 in FY11 to 26,000 in FY12.”
Washington is home to two Air Force bases. I’m going to check in with local officials to see if they’ve reported sexual abuse within their ranks. I encourage everyone to watch the Oscar-nominated documentary, “The Invisible War.” This powerful film outlines an epidemic of sexual abuse that extends to every branch of the military. Awareness is key, but we have to demand more accountability from leaders, and that includes conducting fair and timely investigations.
In Ohio, authorities rescued three women who’d been missing for years. Arrests have been made, but this story highlights the need for neighbors to watch out for each other. A man named Charles Ramsey is being called a hero for responding to one of the victims’ screams. He’d long suspected suspicious behavior in the house where the women were found. On Monday, he finally took action.
These two awful stories aside, I saw a couple other hopeful signs in Monday’s news headlines.
A video explaining the groundbreaking ad campaign below went viral on social media. Depending on the height of the viewer, the sign offers two different messages. Taller adults merely see a photo of a child with a warning against abuse, while shorter kids see clear signs of abuse and information on how to seek help. I wonder how effective this message will be, but the innovation certainly deserves praise. Imagine how this kind of engagement could be utilized for other public health campaigns.
Washington state is a hotbed for human trafficking related to labor and the sex trade. We could draw a lesson or two from former kidnapping victim Elizabeth Smart, who spoke last weekend on a panel at Johns Hopkins University. Smart revealed why she didn’t escape her captors during her nine-month ordeal.
Here’s an excerpt from The Christian Science Monitor’s report:
Smart said she “felt so dirty and so filthy” after she was raped by her captor, and she understands why someone wouldn’t run “because of that alone.”
Smart spoke at a Johns Hopkins human trafficking forum, saying she was raised in a religious household and recalled a school teacher who spoke once about abstinence and compared sex to chewing gum.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, I’m that chewed up piece of gum, nobody re-chews a piece of gum, you throw it away.’ And that’s how easy it is to feel like you know longer have worth, you know longer have value,” Smart said.
After working in Texas, a state that teaches abstinence, I was relieved to find out Washington’s Healthy Youth Act requires sex education to be “comprehensive,” meaning students are also taught about contraceptives and disease prevention.
March 8, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I love it when stories come full circle.
President Barack Obama signed a bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Thursday following a year-long political battle in Congress. In a series of editorials since December, The Seattle Times editorial board also urged Congress to take bipartisan action on an issue that affects tens of thousands of victims.
“All women deserve the right to live free from fear. That’s what today is about.” —President Obama on the Violence Against Women Act #VAWA
— The White House (@whitehouse) March 7, 2013
Here’s a link to C-SPAN’s live coverage of the bill signing.
Several women from Washington attended the ceremony in Washington, D.C. Below is a photo of U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and Theresa M. Pouley, chief judge of the Tulalip Tribal Court, and Deborah Parker, vice chairwoman of the Tulalip Tribes.
Here’s Cantwell’s statement:
“This day was a long time coming, but it will mean a major step forward to better protect all victims of domestic violence. Perpetrators of domestic violence on Tribal reservations can no longer hide behind legal gaps and loopholes to escape justice. I appreciate the bipartisan leadership on this bill and know millions of women across America will now get the enhanced protection they deserve.”
Parker stood on stage beside the president as he signed S. 47 into law. Her harrowing story of child abuse on the reservation prompted U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to take on the cause of preserving VAWA and expanding it to include extra protections for Native women, who are more likely than other groups to be abused and raped. (more…)
February 5, 2013 at 6:00 AM
The U.S. Senate took an important step Monday toward reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The chamber voted by a wide margin, 85-8, to move the bill forward. A final vote is expected later this week.
For a sober look at the domestic violence crisis, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., tweeted this infographic from the National Task Force to End Domestic Violence:
Here’s our newspaper’s editorial supporting immediate passage of this bill, which provides assistance to victims and prosecutes their abusers. The bipartisan measure sailed through the Senate last spring before it skidded to a halt in the House during a contentious election season.GOP leaders didn’t allow a vote on the upper chamber’s version of the bill.
Those same leaders are still in power. If they want to stay relevant, they should work with the Senate and pass something.
As we noted in our editorial, they must not squander a second chance to save lives.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is reportedly taking the lead on VAWA for Republicans. She must respond to the needs of her own constituents here in Washington.
The state receives $9.3 million annually in VAWA funding. The money is used to help victims through 20 different organizations associated with tribes, YWCA chapters and government-assistance programs.
Grants run through September 2013, but advocates need to be able to plan for the long term.
Here’s a suggestion for Congress: It’s still early. Greenlight this latest bill before lawmakers become consumed by fierce debates over budget cuts, debt ceiling limits and immigration.
In his opening statement as co-sponsor of the bill, U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, pointed out a sobering statistic: since Jan. 1, four individuals in his home state have died from domestic abuse.
Overall, VAWA pays for a plethora of services to help the abused escape from violence and prosecute their perpetrators. This year’s expanded bill reflects the reality of today’s population. Funds would increase the government’s capacity to perform DNA testing on rape kits, identify and treat high-risk cases, push colleges to protect students, expand protection for gay and lesbian victims, and respond to an epidemic of abuse in tribal communities.
Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell both support VAWA. Murray released the following statement after Monday’s vote:
“Today’s vote brings us one step closer to finally renewing our national commitment to ending domestic violence. And while I’m encouraged by the renewed sense of bipartisanship on this issue in the Senate, and look forward to its passage in the near future, the ultimate fate of VAWA still lays squarely on the shoulders of Eric Cantor and John Boehner. They can either give in to the extreme voices of their caucus or they can stand with Democrats, moderate Republicans, and the many millions of Americans who believe there is no reason this critical bill should be put on the back burner or delayed any further. Too many women have been left vulnerable while House Republican leaders have played politics and I encourage the moderate Republican voices in the House to call on their leadership to pass the bipartisan Senate bill as soon as they are able.”
The Act technically expired in September 2011, but lawmakers have allowed funding through September 2013. The latest bill reauthorizes VAWA for five years. Read a news account of the bill’s recent troubles here.
Bottom line: Congress should pass VAWA now.