15 March 2012

More Attempts At Legislative Violence Against Women

I'm normally not much of a fan of increased government regulation.  However, I am disgusted by  the latest efforts to weaken legislation designed to help women.  What's even worse is that such efforts are being made in tandem with attempts to violate our right to the sanctity of our own bodies.

In a previous post, I discussed the drive in several states--most notably Texas--to require a woman who seeks an abortion to be probed, in her vagina, with an ultrasound stick.  Now many of the same lawmakers who support such legislation are behind efforts to prevent the renewal of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

Those who want to renew the Act also want to broaden its powers to include, among other women, those who live in rural areas and Native American communities, and those who experience violence in same-sex relationships.  They also want to include stalking in the definition of domestic violence.

I can tell you firsthand that being stalked, even electronically, by an ex can have as much an effect as physical battering on your physical health and emotional well-being.  It's a kind of terrorism, when you think about it, because it keeps the stalked person on edge in much the same way that the threat of bombings keeps a society on edge.  The difference is that law enforcement officers and agencies don't take stalking seriously.  (Yes, I know that firsthand, too.) Then again, most of them don't take other kinds of violence against women seriously, either.

As for women in rural areas and Native American communities, they have less access than most other women to the services available to victims of violence, as well as the services to prevent some of them from becoming victims. Such a lack of access has to do with their isolation:  In addition to being far from the centers that offer services, women in those areas also share the isolation women in abusive relationships experience.  One all-too-common side effect of that isolation, which further exacerbates the problems those women face, is poverty.  A woman in such a relationship is likely not to have money or other resources of her own that would allow her to escape such a situation and start life anew someplace else.  Also, if such women have children, they want to take those children with them. That, of course, requires even more money and other resources, including a safe place to which they can go.

Now you might ask, "Why should there be programs for same-sex couples?"  You might not believe this, but even the so-called "helping professions" have their share of deliberately and, more often, unconsciously homophobic practitioners.  There are many other practitioners who simply don't have training for, or experience with, helping LGBT people and don't understand the particular risks-- most of which stem from the stress of living with discrimination in employment, housing and other areas--for domestic violence (and related issues like substance abuse) in the community.  Those problems are further exacerbated by the fact that because same-sex marriage still isn't legal in most states, abused partners often don't have the same venues of recourse and redress that people battered in heterosexual relationships can use.

What really rankles me is that some of the politicians who want to get rid of the Violence Against Women Act, and require doctors to probe the vaginas of women who've been raped and girls who've been incested, frame it as a diversion of money away from "more important" things in the worst economic times since the Great Depression.  If 51 percent of the population can't be as secure within our persons as the other 49 percent, what hope is there of a "recovery" or "improvement" in any other area?