Bigger Questions About Rape in Alaska

Have I mentioned that I love Amie Newman? If you’re not reading her stuff on RHRealityCheck, you should definitely get on board. She has the best explanation I’ve read for why the Sarah Palin Rape Kit controversy matters to all women, and how the supposedly “pro-family” Republican party in fact fosters a culture of violence against women. Charging survivors for their rape kits is only the tip of the iceberg — and Amie is right when she says, “To discuss the rape kit story without addressing what kinds of policies, as a nation, we must put forward in order to address violence against women – the causes of violence, the symptoms and how it can be curbed – does nothing to further the dialogue, find solutions and heal some of our most gaping wounds.”

And those wounds do run deep:

According to Amnesty International, one out of every three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. In the United States, a woman is raped every 6 minutes. In global conflicts and wars, rape is widespread – a tool of war.

Instead of hashing and re-hashing a budget line under Sarah Palin’s mayoralty, we need to put forward questions to be asked about and of the candidates that will allow us to understand what they have done or will do, concretely, to reduce violence against women, at home and abroad.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Alaska’s rape rate is 2.5 times the national average. Alaska also has the highest rate per capita of men murdering women. Ninety percent of Alaskans would vote to increase funding for victim service programs because, according to the coalition, “programs are in dire need of more funding in order to serve the sheer volume of victims.” Seventy-five percent of Alaskans have been or know someone who has been the victim of sexual assault or domestic violence. Alaska’s domestic violence shelters, sexual assault services and programs for survivors have seen a relatively small increase in funding. In 2008, the state budget included an additional $300,000 in funding for victims services programs. In 2009, according to Alaska’s Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Governor Palin’s budget includes an increase in funds to help shelters offset the higher costs of fuel, utilities and insurance.

But the extraordinary levels of violence against women in the state of Alaska and the underlying causes still require a much greater level of state-level funding and oversight. According to the Alliance for Reproductive Justice, who lobbied to address Alaska’s rates of domestic violence and sexual assault, when explicitly asked to address these issues in 2007, the Governor did not respond.

We need to be asking what each of the candidates are doing for women. John McCain voted against the Violence Against Women Act, a crucial piece of civil rights legislation, twice. Obama’s running mate Joe Biden was one of VAWA’s biggest proponents. Sarah Palin has said that she thinks women should be legally forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will — even when those pregnancies threaten their health or resulted from rape. McCain is also anti-choice. Both Obama and Biden are strongly pro-choice.

None of that is to say that Obama and Biden are perfectly feminist candidates — there’s a lot more they could be doing, and I hope that they’re pushed to address the tough questions that Amie poses. But both men have spearheaded crucial legislation for women’s rights; McCain and Palin have sought to undermine those rights. Amie asks,

Which set of candidates understands best how to remedy the culture of violence perpetuated against women in this nation and globally? Which set of candidates pro-actively creates policies that address the root causes of rape and sexual assault? Which set of candidates do we trust to raise the status of women in this country and work internationally to do the same? Which set of candidates’ legislative and leadership records reveal genuine attempts at fixing the problems their various constituents face when it comes to rape, sexual assault and other forms of violence against women?

I think the answer is clear enough.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
This entry was posted in Elections, Politics, Sexual Assault and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Bigger Questions About Rape in Alaska

  1. feministajane says:

    rape kits include emergency contraception. palin is against contraception and abortions for rape victims. she applied her religious beliefs to her policy and budget making. of course there was $200-$400 million for a bridge to nowhere but no money for rape victims.

  2. homunq says:

    There is another scandal besides the rape-kit one. (Actually, in all fairness, there is no evidence that anyone was actually charged for their own rape kit, just that the police policy didn’t rule that out).

    The story has to do with Troopergate. You know, the scandal where Palin fired a guy who says it was not firing her ex-brother in law, her excuse keeps changing, then her people (hubby included) ignored the subpoenas to testify about it. The Anchorage Daily News reports that the fundies were getting restless around that time – not enough red meat from her as governor – so she decided to appoint one of them to replace the fired police chief. Problem was, she had to ignore his history of sexual harassment – of which she knew – in order to do so. Two weeks later, the history comes out, and he resigns; unlike the guy she fired, he gets $10,000 severance.

    So: she is willing to hire Chuck “where’s my hug” Kopp to assuage her fundie base. It’s all in Wikipedia – look up “troopergate” and follow the link to the Palin one.

  3. William says:

    Homunq: The more I think about it the more I think we should collectively lay off Palin. She’s bad new, she has a terrible record, but she’s also the bottom of the ticket. As much meat as there might be in her past, the general public can still distance it from their vote because shes running for VP and its been 30 years since the veep really mattered (aside from Cheney, but again, I’m not sure your average voter is aware of his dealings).

    The bottom line is that McCain is running for president and McCain has a terrible record on just about everything. McCain is the person who needs to be beaten in November. Focusing on Palin just plays into the McCain camp’s hands by taking a little bit of heat off the old monster.

  4. Pingback: Palin Forces Women to Pay for Own Rape-Kits « Thoughts from a Rabbi

  5. ol cranky says:

    Well, the McShame campaign has come out and said (I sh*t you not) that domestic violence & sexual assault are Sarah Palin’s priorities. CNN has actually brought the rape kit issue up again and the Palinistas are saying she had no idea Wasila was charging for rape kits or that the state forced her into a situation in which they passed costs on to the city.

  6. Amie Newman says:

    Jill, thanks for blogging about this! It’s absurd the ways in which we’ve placed such a limited lens around this and other stories. The McCain/Palin campaign may say that they are against domestic violence and sexual assault but their policies do not in any way reflect that. It’s up to us to keep pushing this broader lens – keep the focus on what they’ve actually done to cultivate a culture of respect and equity for all – absolutely nothing. I LOVE your writing as well, by the way, so I take your kind words as a tremendous compliment. Thank you!

  7. BadKitty says:

    I just want to clear up a misconception that I’m seeing a lot. I’m a sexual assault advocate and have been through numerous sexual assault exams with victims. Rape kits collect evidence. Period. They do not contain emergency contraception. Many hospitals offer EC as a part of their protocol in caring for sexual assault victims but EC is not a part of a rape kit.

    Done now. Thanks.

  8. EvilSlutopia says:

    Just to be clear – Joe Biden wasn’t just a strong supporter of VAWA. He’s the one who wrote the legislation (with help from groups like Legal Momentum).

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  10. Erica says:

    My husband IM’d me this morning to say “Holy shit! have you seen this!” and included a link to a CNN article about the Wasilla rape kits fiasco. “ah, that’s old news,” sez I — because I read feminist blogs and he doesn’t.

    Charging victims of crime is shocking to anybody, feminist or not, so spread the word as far as possible. It’s appalling, indecent, cruel, and callous.

  11. homunq says:

    Oh, another anti-feminist troopergate connection: one of Palin’s rotating excuses for firing Monegan was that he was going behind her back to lobby Washington. What was he lobbying them for? VAWA funds to fight sexual predators. Apparently, being anti-sexual-violence is enough to get you fired in a Palin administration. (And, BTW, it turns out that he actually had permission to go to DC, anyway, so this is a lie.)

  12. It’s amazing that these Christian fundamentalists talk like feminists when the subject is Islamic fundamentalists, when, deep down, they think the same way, including blaming the victims of rape.

  13. ol cranky says:

    And, BTW, it turns out that he actually had permission to go to DC, anyway, so this is a lie.

    According to Palin’s staff, he had permission to go but not permission to “talk about whatever he wanted to talk about” No joke, they really said that. The trip was approved without anyone asking him why he was going and, somehow, he was the insubordinate one.

  14. Lisa says:

    William: If you take a look at the polls, you can see that Palin’s favorability rating has plummeted in the last couple of weeks, to the point that the number of people who disapprove of her is larger than the number who approve, and more people say she makes them less likely to vote McCain than say she makes them more likely. This is directly related to the fact that more and more unsavory information keeps coming out about her.

    Also, not only is exposing Palin’s faults good strategy, but she’s got a real shot at being a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and I think the public deserves to know everything it can about what it’s getting if they vote for her.

  15. exholt says:

    Also, not only is exposing Palin’s faults good strategy, but she’s got a real shot at being a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and I think the public deserves to know everything it can about what it’s getting if they vote for her.

    Ditto.

    Considering her record as mayor and governor is eerily reminiscent of 19th century patronage politics in the US where politicians hired and fired everyone from the lowest-level professional/clerk on up solely on the basis of whether he liked you…actual qualifications and skills be damned……she’s the last person I’d want a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

    There was a reason why the US adopted civil service reforms in the 1880s…including the institution of civil service exams so hiring/firing for civil service positions was determined by actual qualifications and skills…..not by how much the local mayor, governor, or president liked/disliked you….

  16. William says:

    William: If you take a look at the polls, you can see that Palin’s favorability rating has plummeted in the last couple of weeks, to the point that the number of people who disapprove of her is larger than the number who approve, and more people say she makes them less likely to vote McCain than say she makes them more likely. This is directly related to the fact that more and more unsavory information keeps coming out about her.

    Also, not only is exposing Palin’s faults good strategy, but she’s got a real shot at being a heartbeat away from the Presidency, and I think the public deserves to know everything it can about what it’s getting if they vote for her.

    I’m sympathetic to the argument that attacking Palin hurts McCain, I just think it doesn’t hurt him nearly as much as attacking him directly would. Her negative ratings are good, but not as good as McCain’s. The problem (to my mind) right now is that we’re running in two directions, splitting our resources, and forgetting who is on the top of the ticket. I know she has a good shot of becoming president if McCain wins, but that seems to be missing the point that she only has that shot if McCain wins. Maybe I’m just cynical, but I have trouble believing that the average low-information-voter is so sophisticated in their decision making strategy that they’ll be thinking about the second half of a McCain/Palin ticket. These are the people who have the same level of political sophistication as Palin, after all.

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