Those who know me best know that I am a proud retired union machinist. I am a mother of three and a grandmother of three. I am a passionate activist for the things I care most about. But, what people may not know is that I am a survivor of domestic abuse at the hands of a boyfriend. Being a survivor gives me the strength to help others and advocate so that others do not have to go through what I went through.
The Violence Against Women Act was adopted 26 years ago on September 13th. This bi-partisan legislation was the first comprehensive federal legislation designed to end violence against women. The law had been reauthorized and updated until February 15, 2019, when the bill failed to pass out of the Republican controlled Senate.
Despite her claims the VAWA reauthorization was her number one priority in the Senate, Joni Ernst allowed VAWA reauthorization to lapse. Ernst claims that partisan politcs were to blame for her failure to produce a bill and bring forward legislation to vote to reathorize the Violence Against Women Act. She went so far as to accuse California’s Democratic senator Diane Feinstein of putting politics ahead of people.
Instead of producing a bi-partisan bill of her own, Ernst called the House-passed bill a non-starter, full of political talking points, and refused to close the boyfriend loophole. The House passed the VAWA reauthorization on a significantly bipartisan basis, with a vote of 263–158. Thirty-three Republicans voted in support of the reauthorization. But it was Ernst’s ties to the NRA that caused her to let VAWA lapse. Rather than close the boyfriend loophole and keep guns out of the hands of abusers, Ernst sided with the NRA.
I’m someone who has lived in the reality of an abusive relationship. So I get angry when I see Joni Ernst’s commercials claiming that she is an advocate for survivors. She should put people like us first, not her financial backers. When survivors like me needed her to act the most, she let us down.
Closing the boyfriend loophole is very personal to me. As a young mother, I was in an abusive relationship. My boyfriend at the time held my two year old daughter and me at gunpoint with a hunting rifle. And, another instance, he held a hair trigger handgun to my throat so hard that it left a bruise from the pressure. We survived, but my children and I feared for our safety. Closing the boyfriend loophole would prevent this from happening to others like me.
Joni Ernst is in a position to do something. She can use her voice and her vote in the Senate to be an advocate for abused women. She could push leadership to reauthorize VAWA and close the boyfriend loophole, and put politics aside. It’s frustrating to see someone with the ability to change laws sit by and do nothing. I’m not sure who Joni Ernst is trying to represent, but it isn’t survivors like me.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.