Candidates Must Speak About Domestic Violence

While the presidential candidates have been asked about their stance on many key issues, there are some major problems on which they have been notoriously silent to date. Here is one that I would love to see elevated as the campaigns move forward: no one is overtly discussing domestic violence, despite the fact that it is among the most prevalent forms of violence endured by women, children, and even men in the U.S and globally.

In a Huffington Post article almost a year ago, Alana Vagianos pointed out that, between 2001 and 2012, 11,766 women were murdered by current-or-ex male partners; nearly double the amount of casualties lost during the war in Afghanistan (6,488). Three women are murdered by current or former partners every day—the leading cause of homicide for women. Some one in four American women and one in seven men in the U.S. will endure serious violence by an intimate partner during their lives, while a ridiculous 70 percent of women globally will endure an abusive relationship. Between 40 and 45 percent of the women who are victimized will also be raped by their partners. Approximately 40 percent of gay men and 50 percent of lesbian women will domestic violence in their lifetime.

On the Democrat side, Hillary Clinton has long been an outspoken advocate for women’s rights, notably pronouncing that “women’s rights are human rights.”  The only attention she has made to domestic violence during this campaign, however, is to the issue of access to guns. While I wholeheartedly endorse her proposals to ensure that batterers do not have access to guns, it is not nearly enough.

What about the enforcement of restraining orders, which is so poor that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a scathing condemnation in August 2011 after reviewing the case of Jessica Gonzales (Lenahan, now)? Her former husband took their three daughters despite a restraining order and the requirement that all visitation be supervised. Jessica called the Castle Rock, Colorado police multiple times to report the violation and was put off each time. Ultimately, Simon Gonzales pulled his vehicle into the police station, opened fire on officers who returned it, and the three girls were found dead in the aftermath.

While a year ago Clinton made some statements pronouncing it “embarrassing” that the U.S. is the only democratic country not to have ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), it has not been a component of her campaign speeches or debates this fall. No one else is touching it either.

Her primary competitor, Bernie Sanders, is perceived by many as far more progressive but doesn’t seem to have really addressed domestic violence, other than agreeing with Clinton that batterers should not have guns.

The Republican contenders, who have again been accused of waging a war on women, are noticeably silent on domestic violence. Except Jeb Bush, although his rhetoric is clearly greater than his reality. Bush’s wife, Columba, is a founding Board member of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Jeb often points to his work as a governor to protect women. Yet, as Jessica Valenti pointed out, simply saying “domestic violence” frequently doesn’t actually mean your actions were enough or your position adequate.  Indeed, other positions he supports put domestic violence victims at greater risk, including limiting access to abortion (as studies are clear that carrying out an unintended pregnancy puts women at greater risk for continued violence) and, as his Democratic challengers understand, limiting access to guns reduces the risk that victims will be murdered by abusers at least eight-fold.

Donald Trump has been accused of not only sexual harassment but also rape. Hard to imagine he will be an advocate for domestic violence victims nor a catalyst for change. Similarly, Ben Carson has previously cast doubt on the extent of domestic violence in the U.S. and has equated women who have abortions to slave owners. Brilliant.  Not likely to do much on these issues, it seems.

Perhaps these candidates could spend a little less time sniping at one another and at the media and instead provide their plans for how the U.S. can become safer for women.  Not holding my breath, though.

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Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.

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