The Pilot Editorial

Monday, April 1, 2002

Ending violence against women

Iowa has taken some impressive steps forward this season to help women who are victims of domestic and sexual assault.

The issue has been a quiet one - battered women do not have the glamour and TV appeal of, say, an issue like legislators watching "ultimate fighting" in the bars.

It would be a great mistake to assume that silence means the problem doesn't exist to any great scale. According to Lt. Governor Sally Pederson, the 31 assault crisis centers - including the CADA House that serves this local area - are called on to provide support and advocacy for 3,500 survivors of sexual assault alone each year.

The legislature is opening its eyes to the situation. It has already passed a bill extending protections in domestic violence laws to women who are beaten or raped by their dates or boyfriends. Previous policy applied only to husbands and wives.

Another bill proposed would allow victims to read, or appoint a person to read, a victim impact statement at a sentencing hearing for a person who has beat or raped them. It seems only right that a violent perpetrator - and the court - should have to hear what the acts of violence have done to the victims. If "truth in sentencing" is to be our credo, there is truth.

Still another bill would allow victims of sexual assault to seek protective orders, a protection that Minnesota already offers and Illinois is considering. It is another tool to prevent abuse victims from additional suffering.

According to Lt. Governor Pederson, the state is also looking at mental health and substance abuse treatment parity issues as they apply to survivors. This too seems a common sense issue - timely treatment in a traumatic situation stands to save society money over the long haul.

Good care can help women continue parenting, holding jobs, going to school and otherwise contributing to society. Pederson points out that insurance currently may not allow survivors to access the mental health care they need. We would agree with her that this should be the year that Iowa changes that.

The Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault (ICASA), deserves much of the credit for Iowa's impressive level of awareness this legislative season.

In February, these advocates - the same ones who run the shelter houses like CADA - rallied at the capitol to help lawmakers become more aware on the problems of violence against Iowa women.

Anything the state and our communities can do to help these agencies to provide a safe bed for a woman in danger, initial counseling, support through the experiences of hospital exams and the court system, is in all of our best interests.

There are 3,500 good reasons not to wait another year to take action.