By Rep. Darrio Melton
This weekend, policymakers in Washington celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, which made ending rape and domestic violence a national priority.
Yet this national milestone was overlooked as the news told stories of NFL running back Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator and US Federal Judge Mark Fuller taking a plea deal after being arrested for beating his wife in an Atlanta hotel.
While these two stories made national news, an estimated three women die each day as a result of domestic violence. An estimated one in five women are victims of rape in their lifetimes, many before the age of 25. On our college campuses, as many as one in four women are victims of sexual assault.
Let me make myself clear: rape is never okay and violence is never the answer. No means no. There are no excuses for this type of behavior.
But in the face of so much violence and disrespect towards women, I remember the wise words of Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
I’m disappointed to see that the leadership in Montgomery isn’t standing up against this type of violence, but I’m not surprised. Most of the Republican leadership in Washington voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act two years ago when it came up for a vote.
Thankfully, there are some in this state who are willing to make a stand and support legislation that takes these issues head on.
We’ve made productive steps by proposing legislation that revokes parental rights to first-degree rapists of any child resulting from rape, but there’s more that can be done. I hope my colleagues in the legislature will work to increase the penalty for possession of date-rape drugs on college campuses, zero-tolerance legislation for rape and domestic violence, and fully funding forensics, judicial programs and resource centers. And we must make sure these bills actually become law, not just die in committee.
There is so much we can do in Montgomery to end the violence and protect families from violence, but the solution starts at home. We must teach respect and healthy conflict resolution to young couples. We must teach our men what healthy sexual relationships look like. We must teach our women to recognize early warning signs and get help.
I’m tired of hearing stories like Ray Rice and Judge Fuller, but my heart aches even more for the thousands of women who are victims of violence and never make the news or get a helping hand.
I’m ready to stand beside women to end rape and domestic violence, from the kitchen table to the church pew to the ballot box. I hope you’ll do the same.
Representative Darrio Melton is a democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.