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The three subjects never to bring up in polite dinner conversation are politics, religion and salary. Some of us are so steadfast about this rule, that we never discuss these subjects, even to our own detriment. We can choose to participate in the political process or sit on the sidelines and pray (or meditate if prayer isn’t for you) for no cuts in funding and more supportive laws for survivors. And since 501(c)(3) organizations cannot endorse a candidate, each of us individually must do more. The purpose of this blog is not to focus on an agency’s role in public policy. IRS rules dictate how organizations (including 501(c)(3) non-profits) can interact with candidates, campaigns and elected officials. A guidebook created by the Alliance for Justice is available to give non-profits a better understanding of the laws that govern their participation in the policy process. Instead, the purpose of this blog is to encourage advocates as independent, civic minded citizens to consider the plight of survivors when contemplating candidates for local, state and national office.
It is essential that we completely analyze and critique each candidate as they vie for our vote during the next political season. This is even more critical as the landmark decision on January 21, 2011 by the United States Supreme Court (citizens united v federal election commission) now allows for individuals and corporations to anonymously contribute unlimited amounts of financial support in favor or against particular candidates. As an advocate, I argue it’s our obligation to vet the candidate’s position on sexual assault issues i.e. discern lip service from action.
Here are a few items to consider:
Does the candidate acknowledge the prevalence of sexual assault in our communities?
Around the clock media coverage on the campaign trail will eventually catch an “unfortunate” comment. Forgive but don’t forget. Pay special attention to the candidate’s speeches, words and platform. You may discover an innocent ignorance or a total disregard for the reality of sexual violence in our communities and/or our work with survivors.
Today’s political climate is focused on the nation’s debt. How does this focus affect our work? Our funding?
Does the candidate consider sexual assault services a valuable resource to the community? Or as a negotiating tool in regards to debt reduction? Does the candidate consider the current funding stream to sexual assault programs off limits? Or an unnecessary extension of government?
For survivors of sexual assault – medical attention is required and access to health care is a necessity. We must distinguish the candidates stance on the issue of access to quality healthcare in regards to the plight of the survivors we serve.
Case in point – The Health Insurance Reform Act a.k.a. Obamacare has drawn strong reactions from both sides of the aisle. The intention here is not to convince you one way or the other in regards to the new law but instead to encourage you to critique the candidate’s stance on access to healthcare.
There are many issues to consider, the above list covers a few. What other issues should we consider? What criteria do you have for candidates as a voting member of society?
Finally, when the election is over and done, TAASA will continue its policy work at the state and national level to press for continued funding for rape crisis centers and vital services to sexual assault survivors. Torie Camp,TAASA’s Deputy Director coordinates TAASA’s public policy efforts. Torie manages TAASA’s policy listserve which informs and prompts advocates to reach out to their representatives regarding legislation impacting sexual assault survivors. TAASA’s guide on the sexual assault related laws passed in Texas this year will be available soon.
Looking forward to your responses!