Reason #2 to vote: stark differences when it comes to gender violence

Last week I jumped into the election fray urging people to take 1 day out of their lives to vote for Obama/Biden to help ensure that McCain/Palin don’t get elected before moving on to all the work ya’ll might do towards social justice beyond electoral politics. Since I went that far, I’m going to continue posting reasons why I feel this way.

Reason #2 is that while Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the police chief (who was hired after Palin fired the previous chief) made it the policy of the police department to charge survivors of sexual assualt for their own rape kit (the examination and collection of evidence that is used if survivors want to pursue criminal charges after they’ve been asaulted). In most places, survivors are not charged for this.

In stark contrast, Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden was instrumental in drafting and passing the Violence Against Women Act which provides support to many national, state, and local programs that provide support for survivors of violence:

Senator Biden wrote the ground-breaking Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in the 1990s that set the national agenda on criminalizing violence against women and holding batterers truly accountable. It encouraged states to set up coordinated community responses to domestic violence and rape; was the catalyst for passage of hundreds of state laws prohibiting family violence; and provided resources to set up shelters so battered women abused by husbands and boyfriends had a place to go. The law also established the national hotline that over 1.5 million abused women have called for help.

I know that such legislation and the programs it supports does not go far enough to address the root causes of gender violence in our culture, but I strongly believe that there is a huge difference in the cultural and political context that is created by the different candidates. In the case of Biden, the state is urged to support survivors of violence and in the case of Palin, the state acts to victimize survivors and place a financial burden on people going through some really difficult experiences.

This is an example of how electoral politics effects people’s lives. Real talk – I’ve been fortunate enough to not have personally survived gender violence, but just like incarceration and many other cultural dynamics, gender violence not only affects the survivors of violence, but their families, friends, social networks, and entire communities. I can either look at this as an issue that doesn’t affect me or I can look at this as a place where I have a responsibility to my friends and other people in my community and where voting a certain way is part of that responsibility.


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