I was never one to really pay attention to politics or policies that were being put into place, I just kind of accepted them as reality and figured that there were people far more educated and knowing than me putting them in place so I shouldn’t question it. However, that changed around my sophomore/junior year in college. This is when I really got heavily involved in violence prevention and research, taking courses such as a seminar in Dating and Sexual Violence, research in Family Violence, a CAPSTONE project (i.e. I did data analysis looking at rape myth acceptance and knowledge of the issues on my campus) etc. These courses really brought my attention to the significant gap between research/the anti-violence movement and policy. Now, I am fully aware that enacting new policies takes a lot of time and effort and things cannot change as quickly as we might like. But the fact that up until 1981 (If my information is correct from http://www.nhcadsv.org) legally one could not sexually assault one’s partner (in my home state) just screams to me a lack of acknowledgement of these issues and illustrates the fact that policymakers are not giving as much consideration as we would like to laws/policies pertaining to domestic and sexual violence. Also, the majority of services to survivors of these types of violence is funded through the Violence Against Women Act, most recently updated in 1994, which is currently under fire on the state level. It is frustrating for someone like me who a) has participated and read substantial amounts of research on these subjects and can attest to the wide body of research showing the benefits of these services and b) works at a crisis center serving survivors of sexual assault and relationship violence and sees on a daily basis the impact these services have, to feel like all of this work and research is being done basically for nothing if it does not make an impact on the policies.
With the upcoming presidential election, I have been following it much closer than I have in the past. Because I have become so involved in this movement myself more aware of politics, not just surrounding violence, but also human rights policies in general. For me, it is important what a candidate thinks on issues such as abortion and equal pay for women. While I think these issues are important in and of themselves, they also shine light on the way a candidate sees women, which can and will impact their position on funding policies such as the Violence Against Women Act. If a candidate feels that a woman should not have the right to choose what to do with her body (i.e. pro-life) and/or feels that men’s work is more valuable than women’s, that is problematic to me because it suggests that that candidate sees women as inferior and perpetuates the systemic view that males are more important and women are lesser people. It is this view of women and their role that perpetuates rape culture and plays a part in allowing sexual assaults to continue at the rate they are. Now, I am not in any way saying that male power is the only reason sexual assaults happen, or domestic violence happens, but I believe it plays a part. Going off a stereotype here: if a husband sees his wife as less important than himself, he may (I am not saying that he will) be more inclined to abuse his wife verbally/emotionally/physically etc.
In case you haven’t picked up on it already, I am an avid supporter of violence prevention and education. I think that this is especially important in the world of politics because it can have such a wide and lasting impact. If we (those involved in this movement) were to educate policymakers on the research that exists as well as evidence from our own experiences, I think we could make an impact and perhaps help change policies such as mandatory arrest policies that can often cause problems for victims of violence.
So please, in these upcoming elections give some consideration to these issues and think about what impact the candidate would have on the lives of everyone: men, women, survivors or domestic violence, or victims of sexual assault.