Me too...combating sexual violence in Texas

October 18, 2017

 

 
Dear Friends,

Last week I spoke at the "Girls Just Want to Have Funds" event for Hays County Women's Political Caucus, and I spoke about an issue that's been on my mind: sexual misconduct, particularly toward women. Last week was the one year anniversary of the release of the "Trump tapes", audio of our now President bragging about assaulting women. And the nation was abuzz with news of the repeated sexual misconduct of Harvey Weinstein, a well-known film producer and Democratic Party donor. I am so tired of navigating a world where so many powerful men behave as though they're entitled to women's bodies, but I am so grateful to the work of groups like the Hays County Women's Political Caucus who are helping raise women to positions of power.

After I spoke, a social media trend emerged. People, mostly women, who had experienced sexual assault and sexual harassment began to post "Me Too" in an effort to show just how widespread of a problem it is. Some folks told their stories, and some just posted those two little words in a show of solidarity. It was powerful to see my Facebook news feed slowly overtaken by #MeToo.

But I also remember #NotOkay. And #YesAllWomen. And #SurvivorPrivilege. And #WhenWomenRefuse. And #WhyIStayed. And #EverydaySexism. The conversations these started about sexual violence, domestic abuse, and gender discrimination are important, but they're not enough. I don't want another hashtag. I want real policy change.

Texas is letting down survivors of sexual and gendered violence over and over again. Our laws are inconsistently enforced and need updating. One of my friends was raped here in Texas, and she worked with law enforcement to build a strong case against her attacker. But the district attorney back-burnered her case, and over a year later her attacker was arrested again for assaulting another woman in a different part of the state. She has finally received some semblance of justice, but sideways, through this other case, a case that never would have happened if the district attorney had moved forward on my friend's case. We must enforce our existing sexual assault laws with the same vigor that we do other violent crimes.

This summer I testified to the Texas House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence in favor of a bill that would update the state's definition of consent to "Yes means yes," instead of "No means no." The committee also heard testimony on bills to mandate a 30 day timeline for testing rape kits, to make forced groping an arrestable offense, and to allow victims of domestic violence who've requested restraining orders to electronically monitor their attackers. These were all wonderful pieces of legislation that went nowhere, because women's safety is not a priority to most of our elected officials. Last spring, Senator Judith Zaffirini introduced a bill to update the Texas Labor Code. Right now employers with under 15 employees can't be sued for sexual harassment in Texas, and contractors have no recourse at all. That bill also went nowhere. It's time to elect legislators who will fight against the epidemic of sexual and gendered violence instead of sweeping it under the rug.

In the past few days, I have learned so many of your stories. To those of you who have shared your experiences, thank you. Me too. But now I'm ready for #NoMore.

Let's put the all back in y'all!

Erin

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