Sunday, October 16, 2011

We Just Lost Ground

I am outraged that Kansas would repeal laws to protect women from aggravated assault at the hands of husbands and boyfriends. Women have fought so long and hard to make what progress we have only to hear that now we are not worth the money it takes to protects us from violence?

In case any of you have not heard, the Shawnee County District Attorney decided last month that he would no longer prosecute domestic violence cases in the city of Topeka. Outraged at the power play by the D.A.—not the threat to the safety of women—the Topeka City Council voted to reduce felony domestic violence cases to “misdemeanor domestic abuse.” They promptly released eighteen offenders without pressing any charges.

This was an issue of power and money between the Topeka City Council and the Shawnee County District Attorney. Women there are considered nothing more than pawns to be sacrificed on the altars of power and money.

We need three things. First we need an Equal Rights Amendment. What happened in Topeka can happen again and again in one city after another until women are reduced to the shape we were in 50 years ago. Don’t say it can’t happen. It just happened in Kansas! An Equal Rights Amendment is the only thing that cannot be changed by a City Council or a simple congressional vote.

Second, Women need to be declared victims of hate crimes. Hate Crime is a legal category used to describe bias motivated violence. Violence against women, especially when perpetrated by a spouse or boyfriend, should be categorized as a hate crime. In most domestic violence cases, women are assaulted because they are women. That makes domestic violence a hate crime.

Hate crime laws enhance penalties associated with conduct that is already criminal under other laws. Conversely, domestic violence laws, by virtue of the language itself, often have the effect of minimizing the severity of criminal conduct in the minds of the prosecutors—as the Shawnee D.A. just demonstrated!

But whether or not the crime was committed because of a generalized sense of male privilege or entitlement or because of a religiously motivated hatred of women due to deeply held complementarian beliefs, what happened in Topeka underscores the need for women to be declared victims of hate crimes as well as the need for an Equal Rights Amendment which would do far more to protect women than local laws which, as demonstrated in Topeka, are easily repealed.

Third, the term “domestic violence” needs to be purged from our legal vocabularies. There is nothing domestic about violence, and such language used to describe violence against women minimizes the severity of the violence in the minds of those who hear such watered down verbiage. A crowbar does less damage when it’s wielded by a husband or boyfriend and smashes into the face of a woman? Aggravated assault is aggravated assault!

Over the past several decades, there has been an appalling apathy concerning getting the Equal Rights Amendment ratified. I hope what happened in Topeka will serve as a wake-up call to us all.

I hope you will all subscribe to this newsletter and forward it to others (sign-up form the will have a permanent place in the side-bar of this blog). We really need to get together on this to stop this backward slide and get things moving forward again!

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