Dear 113th Congress,
I’d like to share a story with you.
When I was about 6 years old, I remember being yanked from my bed in the middle of the night and carried out of the house past big men in black and blue uniforms with shiny gold badges. There were shards of glass on the floor. The table was broken and things were strewn across the floor. I caught a glimpse of my mother and her boyfriend at the time…bloody, upset and in heated conversation with those uniformed men. I was put in my father’s Bronco truck and he drove me away from my home. The only home I knew. I stayed with him for a while, but I missed my mom terribly. And then, I was able to go home again. To my father’s dismay.
That wasn’t the first time it happened. There was another time. The time he punched her in her face. Or the time he yanked her arm in front of us. And there were other times too, times I can’t remember because I was too young. Times she would tell me about as an adult. But during those years, it never occurred to me that something could be done about what was going on. I didn’t know it had a name…and that it wasn’t normal.
I’m a witness. And thankfully, I learned from my mother’s mistakes and the mistakes of those women around me and in the media who have been abused or a victim of violence. There are many women just like me. A product of their environment…who don’t mirror the actions of those before them. And so we dreamed of another life, we created institutions for victims of violence, we gave it a name and touted it, sans idolatry, so that those women, just like my mother, wouldn’t be alone.
And most importantly, we don’t tolerate it.
So why did Congress?
In the last months of 2012 (try seconds!), the 112th Congress grossly ignored the issues that were most important to the people that they are serving. Living up to their name as the “Do-Nothing-Congress,” they failed to vote on the $60.4 billion Hurricane Sandy relief bill. They created a fiscal cliff, and then led us, like sheep, right over the top. They voted 33 times against Obamacare and spent over $1.5 million defending the Defense of Marriage Act that deems same-sex marriages unconstitutional. They ignored gun control, even after eight mass shootings this year, the most recent that rocked the nation. And they simply just haven’t passed any laws.
But the one that is really takes my breath away is the expiration of the Violence Against Women Act. Like a sharp jab to my gut. How ironic.
In the last moments of 2012, Congress was so consumed with their own political vendettas that they forgot to discuss legislation that would protect our citizens.
Or did they?
The law was never controversial in nature. Drafted in 1994 by Senator Joe Biden, it was passed into law in with full bipartisan support. It passed reauthorization in 2000 and in 2006.
But the inaction of the “tea-party” Congress…as it has also been called, means the law does not exist. It’s not even real anymore. And that wasn’t an accident.
We could say the 112th Congress was preoccupied with the hole they created (then deemed a fiscal cliff) and how to get us off the ledge in the very last seconds. Of course, that’s why they forgot Sandy victims and debt ceilings and women and minorities.
Truth is, they just didn’t give a fuck.
House Republicans reportedly insisted that the bill was too friendly to immigrants and the LGBT community…and even Native Americans.
Not to mention, the law protected women against rape.
Rape. Which should be unanimously intolerable in any instance, no matter the fashion it was done. But House Republicans from 112th tried to change that definition.
How the fuck do you do that? And why? So that victims won’t get the protection they need if the rape isn’t legitimate? So that the expansion of programs meant to protect women like my mother many years ago from domestic violence and sexual assault ceases? So women would have to have babies by men who abused them?
They couldn’t legitimize rape, so they did the next best thing and let the law drop.
Didn’t we put these people here to protect us?
I’m here to tell the 113th Congress that they have got to do better than the 112th. This is a new year. With new hope. And you’re here, eyes wide with promise and ambition. Problem solvers, they’ve already called you. You’ve already broken barriers! You’re the most diverse Congress in history. And that has to count for something.
We still have Boehner, this much is true. But I’m writing to you today to ask you to put your right hand up, as you did earlier today, and swear this to me and the American people.
It’s your job to speak up for us. Protect us the best way you know how. By doing your job.
After all, there are millions of 6-year-old me’s in the world, looking for a way out of an abusive situation. Sweep out the archaic views of the last Congress and give that girl a chance.
Hell, give us all a chance. This time around.
Christina Coleman is the News and Politics Editor at GlobalGrind. Prior to this she was a science writer. That explains her NASA obsession. She crushes on Anthony Bourdain. Nothing explains that.
Follow her on Twitter @ChrissyCole