Rising in Celebration of the Passage of VAWA

Rising in Celebration of the Passage of VAWA

Today, the US House of Representatives passed the comprehensive Senate version of the Violence Against Women reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA) by a vote of 286-138. The Senate passed the same bill on February 12 by a bipartisan vote of 78-22.  President Obama will sign the bill into law in the next couple of days.

This was my way of celebrating! Yippee!

Update on the Status of VAWA in the US House of Representatives

This is an update from my friend Pat Reuss who wrote yesterday’s blog on the House version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA):

Dear Friends,

There has been an important and TIME SENSITIVE development with VAWA.

  • On WEDNESDAY, February 27th, the House will vote on a rule to proceed with consideration of VAWA.  We want them to vote YES on the Rule because that rule allows a vote on the Senate VAWA if the substitute is defeated.
  • On THURSDAY, February 28th, the vote on the actual bill will occur.  We want them to vote NO on the House substitute bill, which will come up first,  and YES on the ensuing Senate version of VAWA.

Your Congress Members are listening to you!  We only have a few hours to act so please call today and tomorrow morning. Members must hear loud and clear that they need to defeat the substitute and pass the bipartisan Senate version of VAWA!  Your work has gotten us this far – let’s get this done!

URGENT ACTION ITEM: 

To reach your Congress Member, call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 or look them up here http://www.house.gov/representatives/.   When you’re connected to their offices, ask to speak to the staff person who handles VAWA.

MESSAGE: 

I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _________.  I’m calling about the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).  I urge Congress Member ________ to vote NO on the House substitute bill and then vote YES on the bipartisan Senate version of S. 47.  VAWA can and must protect all victims.

Tweet to your Congress Member:

@[congress person’s handle]: On 2/28 vote NO on the House substitute bill and then vote YES on the bipartisan Senate version of S. 47. #VAWA

Institutional Corruption and the Influence of Money and Politics on People’s Lives

Fountain Pen and SignThis morning, I was scanning Tweets that came into my Twitter account. One of the Tweets said,

“Why the phrase ‘Supreme Court to hear campaign-finance case’ should scare you.”

It contained a link to an article in the Daily Beast. This article said that the US Supreme Court has decided to take another look at campaign financing in a case from the United States District Court in DC called McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. I read the article.

And yes this case scares me. McCutcheon argues that there should be no limits at all on campaign financing.  It scares me because I believe that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of McCutchen, there will be more influence and therefore more institutional corruption on our public policy.  This will then allow the creation of more holes in the safety net for people’s lives due to the corrupting influence of big money. For clarification, institutional corruption is defined as:

[T]he consequence of an influence within an economy of influence that illegitimately weakens the effectiveness of an institution especially by weakening the public trust of the institution.

Why? Because I do not trust the members of the current Supreme Court to openly and fairly take into account that elected officials need to answer to their constituents and not to the people and companies and lobbyists that influence them by throwing lots of money and offering consulting jobs to these elected officials (a form of “money”) once they leave office.

My mistrust results from their decision in the 2009 Citizens’ United case.  They held that the First Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent political campaign expenditures from corporations and unions.  The aftermath of this decision has been devastating. Immediately after this decision, the DC Circuit Court (which handles cases involving federal regulations) ruled that

“individuals could make unlimited contributions to so-called Super PACs, which supported individual candidates.”

And what did we see?  In the 2010 elections, Super PACs—mostly funded by the mega-rich—assisted conservative Tea Party candidates at all levels of government to win seats that they would not have otherwise been able to win.  This resulted in a lot of gerrymandering around the country for the incumbents’ self-interest.  And in 2012, $6.2 billion was spent on elections; over $10 million of these funds were given to a small number of Super Pacs by a very small number of mega-wealthy individuals—including the Koch brothers—to influence the outcome of the elections.

If this case overturns what few limits on campaign financing are left, the doors for institutional corruption will be thrown wide open.  Candidates will spend even more time chasing money, mostly soliciting funds from large, non-constituent individuals and corporations.  Most of these individuals are heads of corporations whose special interest is their bottom-line profits and not the interests of the “47%.”

Fred Wertheimer is President of Democracy 21. It is a non-partisan group that works to eliminate the undue influence of big money in the public arena.  He agrees with me that big money corrupts our public institutions. In a press statement on February 19, he said that the

“[A]ggregate limit on contributions by individuals is necessary to prevent circumvention of the limits on contributions to candidates and political parties and the prohibition on federal officeholders soliciting huge corrupting contributions.”

And further, if the Supreme Court either completely guts or weakens campaign financing, this decision

“…would open the door to $1 million and $2 million dollar contributions from an individual buying corrupting influence with a powerful officeholder soliciting these contributions, and with the political party and federal candidates benefiting from these seven figure contributions.”

I believe that it is the local constituent who should be influencing their representatives.  Not corporations. Not big money. And not the 1% at the top of the income ladder who do not live or experience the lives of the people who live in each of our communities.

I am one of the 85% of Americans who view Congress unfavorably because of what they have NOT been doing for people’s lives. Like allowing funds for critical domestic programs to be cut due to the budgetary stalling and delays of the Fiscal Cliff and Hurricane Sandy debates and resulting Sequestration that now looks like it will become reality this coming Friday. Like delaying passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) from being reauthorized for over two years (which, may change tomorrow when and if the House FINALLY votes on the Senate-passed VAWA Act of 2013).  Like talking about but not taking any comprehensive action, so far, to deal with violence and gun safety (for more information on this gun safety issue, read my blogs here and here).

No, I don’t trust the US Supreme Court.  And no, I do not trust Congress. All because of the influence of money on the decisions the do and do not make.

Institutional Corruption is a problem.  We need to reduce that corruption.  We need to empower the small donors.  New York City, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco have done this.  And in a plan put together by Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and Democracy 21, we could do the same thing as well across the country. Look at the plan and then lobby your legislator, even if you don’t trust him or her. Vote for candidates in the future who pledge to listen to their constituents and not to big money.

This will take a long time.  But it is necessary. Then and only then do I believe that we can and will be able to trust our elected officials to truly represent us and our concerns.

For More Information on Institutional Corruption

For more information, watch the video below. In this 2009 presentation, Lawrence Lessig defines institutional corruption.  He then discusses the probable effects of this undue influence of money (broadly defined) not only on elected officials but its effect on other institutions, such as the EPA and medical research.

House Republicans Introduce Partisan VAWA that Fails to Protect ALL Victims

NOW Board Supporting VAWA 2-24-13 editedToday, I am presenting a guest blog by my dear friend and colleague Pat Reuss. Pat describes herself as “a longtime women’s rights activist pretending to be retired and currently serving as a policy adviser to NOW [National Organization for Women] and the National Task Force [to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women].”

Pat has a history several decades-long advocating for a comprehensive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). She first started working on this issue in the early 1990’s.  At that time, she worked as the policy director for what was then called the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund (now known as Legal Momentum).  In that capacity, she worked very closely with then Senator, now Vice-President Joe Biden to write the first VAWA passed by Congress and signed into law in 1994.

This is Pat’s statement calling on anti-violence advocates to contact their representative in the US House of Representatives to vote for the comprehensive Senate-passed version to reauthorize VAWA:

The Republican’s version of VAWA, which substitutes the Senate’s inclusive, comprehensive version of S.47 for a bill that excludes effective protections for LGBT, immigrant, tribal and campus victims, will likely be on the House floor this Thursday.  The National Task Force [to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women] (NTF) and NOW oppose this [House substitute] bill.  We need to call our Representatives and firmly ask them to vote against the House Republican Leader’s substitute VAWA and ask them to vote for the field-approved VAWA passed in the Senate.

Tomorrow [February 27], Representatives Issa (R-CA) and Cole (R-OK) will ask the Rules committee to allow them to offer an amendment to replace the House’s flawed tribal provisions with improved language that will provide effective, constitutionally sound protections for Native victims of domestic violence. Call your Representatives and ask them to tell House leadership to accept these amendments.

78 Senators from both parties and over 1,300 local, state and national professional and policy organizations support the Senate-passed bill as do law enforcement officials, health care professionals, community program and service providers, and the tens of millions of survivors and their families, friends and loved ones who rely on and have benefited from and used the services and resources provided by the 19-year-old law.

It must be noted that after months of tireless efforts by advocates working with the Republican leadership staff, there are some small but very important improvements in this substitute and the bill is not the punitive version of last year’s House bill. 

That said, the [House] Republican version of the bill  fails victims in a number of critical ways:

  • Fails to include the LGBT provisions from the Senate bill. 
  • Fails to include “stalking” among the list of crimes covered by the U visa (a critical law enforcement tool that encourages immigrant victims to assist with the investigation or prosecution of certain enumerated crimes); current law already includes domestic violence and sexual assault, among others, and the Senate bill’s inclusion of “stalking” recognizes the serious threat this crime poses to safety.
  • Provides non-tribal batterers with additional tools to manipulate the justice system, takes away existing protections for Native women by limiting existing tribal power to issue civil orders of protection against non-Native abusers, while weakening protections for Native women.
  • Contains harsh administrative penalties and hurdles for small struggling programs and an additional layer of bureaucracy through the office of the Attorney General.
  • Drops important provisions in the Senate bill that deal with improving campus safety and that work toward erasing the rape kit backlog.
  • Weakens protections for victims in public housing.

We must oppose this partisan substitute and pass the Senate version of VAWA.  201 Democrats are sponsors of H.R. 11, the House replica of the Senate bill as introduced. 19 Republican Representatives have asked the House Republican leaders to pass a bipartisan bill that “reaches all victims” and dozens more Republicans support some or all of the Senate provisions that are not included in the Republican VAWA imposter.

BIPARTISAN ACTION ITEM: Call your Democratic House members to ensure that they will oppose the Republican leadership’s substitute and support the “real” S. 47, the Senate passed bill.

Find out if your Republican Representative is one of the 19 who supports a bipartisan, inclusive VAWA and ask them step up and to oppose the Republican leader’s substitute and demand and support a vote on the Senate bill:

  1. Call or email the 19 (Poe R-TX and Ros-Lehtinen R-FL have added their names) who signed the letter to House leadership. See letter and signatories here. Names and contact information here.
  2. Call or email the 7 Members who voted against last years’ harmful, non-inclusive Republican VAWA.
  3. Call or write the 26 House members who have interest in one or some of the Senate’s inclusive provisions.

Update Wednesday evening February 26:

Thanks to your calls and emails and tweets (or however you interacted with your US Rep,), it looks like our push-back to stop the watered-down version of VAWA is starting to work.

A Politico.com report at 6:48 this evening (February 26) states that “House Republicans seem to be resigned that their version of the Violence Against Women Act is a loser with their own members and are likely to pass the Senate bill this week without changes.”

Let’s keep up the pressure. Call your Representative tomorrow and tell him/her to vote for the original Senate version of S.47.

This blog is a wonderful essay on abelism and how it affects one woman’s access to the the world and loving relationships. Like racism, sexism, and homophobia, this blog clearly speaks power to the truth on the intersection of all forms of discrimination and how it can personally affect someone. In this case, a queer, adopted, woman of color who has a physical disability. Through the lens of living in an ableist world, she describes how she has survived and thrived despite all of the isms she has experienced.
Thank you for your posting. I hear you and hope others do as well.

Leaving Evidence

This essay was originally published in Issue Ten of Makeshift Magazine.

forsythia

This is a beginning; a dive into waters that I swim every day, but have been taught not to speak about.  I struggle with how to talk about love out loud in a way that holds access and doesn’t diminish love in all its glory, but instead illuminates how ableism twists and threatens love and relationships. Needing to constantly negotiate access for my physical disability within all my relationships in an ableist world has shaped the kind of connection and love I am able to have.  I have been scared to open up the Pandora’s box that holds the intimacies of ableism.  Scared to talk about some of the deepest parts of what disability has meant in my life.

Most days I feel like access and love are like oil and water.  I wonder how the two can…

View original post 833 more words

Why I Support Universal Health Care: A Right, Not a Privilege

Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) has reintroduced his National Health Care plan bill HR 676, “The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.” I strongly support a universal national health care program such as HR 676. I also support any effort by any state to implement a state-based single-payer health care plan. Why?  For many reasons.

My life was threatened by the multi-company, private health insurance system we currently have.

I received a bone marrow transplant in 1989 from my identical twin sister. Although I had no problem finding a match, I had to jump through many hoops and barriers put up by the two health insurance companies covering my sister and myself. In the case of my insurance provider, I was refused coverage of the donor portion of the transplant because my twin sister wasn’t on my health insurance plan. In the case of my twin sister’s insurance provider, they refused to cover her portion of the transplant because she “wasn’t sick.” Then the hospital administration said that they would not perform the transplant until this conflict between the two insurance agencies was resolved with a guarantee of payment by either or both companies. And my doctors said that if the resolution did not occur rapidly, I would be dead within the year due to the seriousness of the form of leukemia that I had.

According to Health Care for America, health insurance companies profit by denying–not by providing–healthcare. Health insurance CEOs of the top 10 health insurance companies today typically enjoy an average of $10,000,000 in annual compensation–salary, bonuses, stock options, etc.

Back to my story. I went into battle mode against the insurance companies when I was told that they would let me die because of their bottom line and attempts to deny coverage. Because of the support and advocacy I had through the organization where I self-purchased my health insurance (the National Organization for Women), we were finally able to get me the life-saving transplant that I needed. And I am here today.

This experience is why I became an advocate for a single-payer health care system rather than the current system that allows private companies the ability to deny critical health care to “save” their bottom line for profit only.

Other Reasons why I support a Universal Health Care Plan at Either the National or State Level.

It is the ethical and moral to treat all people, regardless of economics or status when they are sick.

A 2009 article in the Journal of Public Health reports that approximately 45,000 people on average die each year due to lack of health insurance. One of the goals of The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is to reduce the number of people without health insurance, so that premature deaths from lack of coverage would also be reduced.

People will continue to struggle to receive health care coverage and treatment with both passage of the ACA and the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the ACA as constitutional while allowing states to opt out of the expanded Medicaid program for low-income people.

The Centers for Disease Control acknowledges that access to coverage will improve under the ACA. But that acknowledgement holds a caveat; they state, “Even after ACA is implemented fully, some persons eligible for coverage might go uninsured.” The ACA will not fully resolve this ethical and moral threat to peoples’ lives. 

Some states are threatening people’s health care and lives based on decisions either by their legislature and/or their governors.

These states place people who could have been covered under the Expanded Medicaid program in continued jeopardy since they will neither be able to sign up for Medicaid nor be able to afford private health insurance through the ACA’s health care exchanges. The 13 states that have already threatened the healthcare of their citizens are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Five states – Iowa, Nebraska, New Jersey, Virginia, and Wyoming—are leaning towards opting out of coverage. Kentucky, New York and Oregon haven’t yet made their decision, but do appear to be leaning towards opting into full ACA with the expanded Medicaid coverage. All remaining 22 states plus the District of Columbia have opted into full ACA with the expanded Medicaid coverage.


Where the States Stand

Via: The Advisory Board Company

For the low-income people living in the 18 states that have either opted out of or are considering opting out of the expanded Medicaid coverage, nothing changes for them since most of these individuals will not be able to afford private health insurance in the new health care exchanges under the ACA.

A Single Payer, Universal Healthcare program would cover everyone.

According to predictions by the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Commission on Taxation, we will we still have 30 million uninsured in 2023 under Obamacare. At the same time, health care costs for our nation, states, and families will continue to increase. A single-payer, universal healthcare program could cover everyone at lower cost. Everyone in and no one out regardless of income or health status.

The BETTER Alternatives: National and State-Based Single-Payer Plans

The plan introduced by Representative Conyers is basically an expansion of the efficient and cost-effective Medicare system currently used by the elderly and people with disabilities. Its overhead (all costs other than for healthcare) is much lower–and patient satisfaction is much higher–than under for-profit healthcare. And it would cover everyone regardless of their economic or health status without fear of an insurance company denying coverage to save their bottom line.

Similarly, legislation is being considered in about half of the states to create state-based single-payer healthcare programs. Some of these states’  legislatures have held hearings and/or had votes on universal healthcare. Vermont has already passed a law that sets in place the possibility of a single-payer healthcare program by 2017. 2017 is the year that the ACA—aka “Obamacare”—allows states to try other healthcare plans IF they cover at least the same number of people with at least the minimum coverage under the ACA.

Obamacare is now the law of the land. It is an improvement over what we had before 2009. It is also the basis from which we can work towards a comprehensive healthcare program. We could do it nationally, such as with HR 676. Or, like Canada, we can start at the state level.

So check out HR 676. See if your Representative is one of the 40 current co-sponsors. If not, meet with him/her, tell your personal story about why you support an expanded and improved Medicare for All, and ask them to co-sponsor the bill. If he/she is already a co-sponsor, ask your Representative to take the next step. They can hold a town-hall meeting on universal healthcare to hear from their constituents. They can also call on the chairs of the three committees reviewing HR 676 to hold Congressional hearings on HR 676. These three committees are the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the House Ways and Means Committee, and the House Natural Resources Committee.

Also get active with your state-based single-payer organization. These local and state-based single-payer health care groups will let you know how can help with your state-based legislation. Healthcare NOW has a full listing of state- and local-based organizations. If your state does not have a single-payer chapter yet, contact Healthcare NOW at their national office in Philadelphia, PA; they can help you to organize a plan for your state.

All other “advanced” nations have already adopted comprehensive healthcare systems. All deliver better health outcomes at a lower per capita cost than the USA. Let’s get cracking. Let’s do it here in the US of A as well.

A Further Comment on Violence Against Women and Children on V-Day

I received a comment on LinkedIn this morning in response to my posting titled VAWA Passes Senate: One Step Toward Ending the Climate of Indifference Towards Violence Against Women.  My status statement said, “Feb 14 is V-Day. Rise to end indifference towards violence against women.”  A man in one of the groups I am a member of responded with a question:

So, please explain how we are being “indifferent” towards violence against women. There are laws against violent attacks on any human being – women included. Are these laws being ignored in cases where a woman is the victim?

I think not.

What we see here is another group who wishes to reap the benefits of victim status whether the facts bear them out or not. Beware of those who believe that they deserve special treatment – especially when that special treatment comes at the expense of others.

His question deserves a response.  Which I gave him within LinkedIn.  Since there are many others how might have a similar question but aren’t on LinkedIn, I’m commenting here as well.

The Violence Against Women Re-Authorization Act (VAWA S.47) does not call for special treatment of anyone. VAWA is calling on fair treatment of ALL victims of violence.

A climate of indifference is a climate where attacks against others – sexual assault, acquaintance or domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking– are ignored, covered up, or made light of. And in some instances, the climate of indifference is perpetuated when the alleged perpetrator is treated more lightly than someone else who may have committed the assault simply because of his status or affiliation.

That’s what has partially been happening with the Athletics program at Penn State University since 1994 and which helped lead to the situation of the child sexual assaults done by Jerry Sandusky. That’s part of what is happening in Steubenville, OH in the rape case where perpetrators made a video of themselves and others carrying a teenage girl from one house to another and raping her. That’s what led to the DC police refusing to take a police report last week from a friend of mine after a man exposed himself to her and masturbated because she didn’t stay with the man until the police came!

In addition, VAWA’s re-authorization has been delayed for over two years because some legislators – mostly Republican, including the majority of the US House of Representatives – are indifferent to the violence perpetrated on Native Americans, immigrants, and gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgendered persons. This “indifference” towards violence against specific people is based solely on the victim’s status, is disparate treatment, and IMO is discriminatory.

Yes there are laws in place. Yet, until all victims are treated fairly and in a timely fashion, I will continue to call out people and communities for creating a climate of indifference that allows this to continue. All people need to live in safe communities and homes.

Ending this climate of indifference wherever it occurs is a start towards caring for our loved ones.  PASS VAWA NOW!

“Gabby Giffords Deserves a Vote:” So Says President Obama

I’m a graduate of Virginia Tech and know the buildings where the VT shootings occurred. In 1996, my husband unknowingly walked right by shooter Jillian Rogers on the HUB lawn at Penn State University; fortunately he wasn’t one of her victims. When I was a social worker, I was threatened by a man with a gun; again, fortunately the gun wasn’t loaded when he grabbed the gun and his father was able to wrestle the gun away from him. As a child, my father dismantled his pistol when my mother became depressed; he was sensible and did the right thing. Gun safety and responsible solutions are necessary. As Mr. Obama said, we need to support commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. I agree with Mark Kelly and Gabby Giffords.

Gabby Giffords deserves a vote.

President Obama calling for a vote on sensible solutions to gun violence.

“It was powerful to be in the chamber tonight as we stood in support of commonsense solutions to reduce gun violence. We were joined by victims from Aurora, Newtown, Tucson, Chicago, Wisconsin and other American communities. The President cut through the acrimony and partisanship and showed that measures to reduce gun violence like universal background checks aren’t Democratic or Republican – they’re important for and supported by almost all Americans.

Hard to say it better than the President did tonight during his State of the Union Address: “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress. If you want to vote no, that’s your choice. But these proposals deserve a vote.” We leave tonight, Gabby’s 6th State of the Union, more optimistic and determined than ever.

VAWA Passes Senate: One Step Toward Ending the Climate of Indifference Towards Violence Against Women

The climate of indifference that I talked about in my blog on February 10 is pervasive both here in the US and around the world.  Which is why Eve Ensler has called for a worldwide day of action to recognize and end violence against women around the world.  Thursday, February 14, 2014 is V-Day, aka One Billion Rising. V-Day calls for people around the world to Rise, Strike, and Dance to end violence against women.

Today, the US Senate by an overwhelming majority, passed the comprehensive version of the Violence Against Women ReAuthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA, S.47). We all can speak out. We all can rise and call for the end to this indifference by funding this law and allowing the Office on Violence Against Women to fully do their job in collaboration with advocates and service providers throughout the country.

If you haven’t done so already, do so on February 14. You can find your Representatives phone number here. Call him/her on V-Day.  Say that they need to have a heart, they need to have compassion, and they CAN help end this Climate of Indifference by passing and fully funding VAWA.

Thursday, February 14, 2014 is V-Day, aka One Billion Rising (http://onebillionrising.org). V-Day calls for people around the world to Rise, Strike, and Dance to end violence against women.
Today, the US Senate by an overwhelming majority, passed the comprehensive version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). We all can speak out. We all can rise and call for the end to this indifference. If you haven’t done so already, do so on February 14. You can find your Representatives phone number at http://www.house.gov/representatives/. Tell him/her to have a heart, have compassion, and help end the climate of indifference by passing and fully funding VAWA.

Nel's New Day

“If you think that rapes only happen at Notre Dame or in India or in Steubenville, you are wrong. A person is sexually assaulted in the United States every two minutes, and many of these are in small towns, including where you live. For every 100 rapes, only three lead to jail time for the rapist.”

I wrote this on January 23, 2013 in Nel’s New Day. Since then, the Portland (OR) chief of police, Mike Reece, has shown that his ignorance may promote the culture of rape in this Northwestern city. The media is forcing Reece to rethink his personnel decisions,  but without the prevalence of newspaper articles about his indifference to—or ignorance about—what constitutes sexual contact, a demoted police officer might have continued to direct detectives who investigate sexual assault and human trafficking in this city of over 2 million people.

Reece’s problem went public last summer after…

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