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Violence Against Women Hurts Us All

by Jennifer Marsden, MD
Alabama Political Reporter

One of the reasons I am running for office was seeing one of our state legislators, a woman like myself, on the State House floor stating that she did not know about the Violence Against Women Act, nor the Lily Ledbetter Act. After she was told that the Lily Ledbetter act is to get women equal pay, the woman added that she is AGAINST it, and then when challenged tittered “I was only joking.” I was ashamed of her ignorance and her flippant response. Alabama should be ashamed that both of our U.S. Senators and most of our U.S. Representatives voted against the Violence Against Women Act.

Domestic Violence costs the US over $6 billion a year and affects 1 in 4 women during their lives. We have made such great strides in medical care that now, unfortunately, murder by your domestic partner is one of the biggest causes of death for pregnant women in America. These intimate attacks, to be harmed by those we trust, add extra baggage to these injuries. Of course we want to address all injuries and deaths, including from crime or accidents. But domestic violence and sexual assault and rape will be addressed by changing human behavior, and it sure seems like it’s got to be easier to stop raping or battering than, say, for everyone to start exercising an hour every day or even to wear their seatbelt every time. It’s also much more important as a point of justice and honor, and for our children to move forward without the haunting specter of domestic abuse poisoning the next generation of families.

While campaigning in the Wiregrass, I met an abused woman whose case went before Judge Fuller several years ago. The Judge only gave her batterer a $100 fine. How can we trust that this Judge, perhaps abusing his own wife even at the time he ruled in this case, is fairly punishing abusers and protecting citizens from crime as is his duty? I am told we cannot go back and revisit cases where this Judge’s unknown bias may have caused justice to be perverted, or more women and families to be harmed. Let us then protect Alabama’s citizens from this day onward.

In the doctor’s office survivors of domestic violence, or of sexual assault, or of childhood sexual abuse are a special kind of patients. This is from my experience and supported by hundreds of my colleagues informally and by research. We find that survivors do not usually disclose their history, they are more likely to suffer sexual dysfunction and problems during pregnancy and childbirth, more likely to suffer depression and other mental health issues, they are more likely to have substance abuse or addiction, and they are more likely to experience chronic pain not responsive to treatment. In fact the most common response colleagues give when a doctor asks for help with a confusing patient is that the patient might have a history of abuse not yet known to the doctor. The costs of all the forms of violence against women are immeasurable and the benefits of ending it, like in the credit card commercial, are PRICELESS.

The Zonta International Club of Dothan will have our annual ZONTA SAYS NO! event to end violence against women and girls on November 25th again this year. Please join Zonta in our efforts.

I hope my daughters will someday live in a society where this is not an issue. Judge Fuller’s impeachment will be a step in the right direction. Support for the Violence Against Women Act by ALL of our Senators and Representatives, especially those now calling for Fuller’s removal from the bench, would be another.

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