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No, Domestic Violence is Not a “Private Matter” or “Political Issue”

Remember when domestic and sexual violence was not just viewed as “political scandals”, but also as serious crimes? Yep, me neither. But really, it’s disturbing how our increasingly polarized political sphere has led to heated debates over domestic violence when the severity of this societal scourge should never be “up for debate”.

WARNING: We’re talking about some very sensitive topics today, including domestic violence and sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.
So this is who they nominated?

Back in June, I wrote, “While the possible initial overreaction[s to select stories] make it easier for us to rest assured that ‘#MeToo is overblown and past its prime’, it’s most undoubtedly not. So long as abuse and injustice persist, we must continue to demand better.”

So here we are in August, a major party’s congressional nominee faces a record that includes 911 calls alleging domestic violence, and the response from the major party thus far has been to double, triple, and even quadruple down for him. In case you still don’t know who we’re talking about, I’m referring to NV-03 candidate Dan Rodimer (R) and the national Republican Party, including President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign and the NRCC (or Congressional Republicans’ campaign organization).

We already knew about other items in Dan Rodimer’s increasingly sordid rap sheet, including three documented allegations of assault in Florida, multiple sketchy lawsuits he filed, and blowing well past the last federal financial disclosure deadline. But now that domestic violence is also in the mix, this only worsens the picture for someone who already gave the stench of a “problematic candidate”.

This should not be “partisan”.

Before anyone accuses me of being “partisan” here, check our archives: I’ve called out former Rep. Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) and former U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), as well as the disproportionately rough treatment of former Assembly Member Lucy Flores (D), former U.S. Rep. Katie Hill (D-California), and the Democratic women who’ve run for president this cycle. And that’s not even a full list of stories where we’ve called out bad actors in the Democratic Party.

For all the Republicans’ rush to condemn Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Las Vegas) over his extramarital relationship with Gabriela Linder, and for Republicans’ rush to try to convict former Vice President Joe Biden in the court of public opinion over a sexual assault allegation that quickly fell apart when reporters investigated this allegation, they continue to hold their own politicians, such as Donald Trump and Dan Rodimer, to a very different standard.

Of course, some Democratic operatives like to use a version of this argument to dismiss any and all criticism of their politicians whenever they’re caught abusing their power. But instead of lowering our standards to accommodate anyone who participated in Jeffrey Epstein’s and Ghislaine Maxwell’s extensive list of crimes, why shouldn’t we demand better from all politicians who ask for our votes?

These are not “private moments”. This is abuse.

So far in defending Dan Rodimer, NRCC officials have dismissed the 911 calls as “private moments between Dan and his wife”. While we don’t know or shouldn’t guess as to why Rodimer’s spouse has stayed with him, we can and should remember that for many victims of domestic and sexual violence, it’s not always as simple as “just leaving”.

Abusers often use the offer or promise of financial security to compel victims to stay, but it doesn’t always end there. Abusers also rely on outside social perception and pressure, and they tend to alternate between “carrots” and “sticks” to convince their victims to doubt their own reality and believe their respective abusers’ claims that “this is what love is”. Think of John Meehan before he became Dirty John: Most people didn’t know of his crimes until his final crime led to the ultimate downfall. 

We’re also seeing this in regards to Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and the celebrities who’ve since been connected to Epstein’s and Maxwell’s crimes. Even now, Trump not only continues to deny the documented evidence of his own relationship with Epstein, and not only is he perpetuating the “Epstein Didn’t Kill Himself” conspiracy theories that Epstein’s defenders have been using to deflect from Epstein’s criminal record, but he also continues to give Maxwell “well wishes” that help her maintain the “glamorous socialite” facade she used to hide the hideous abuse she and Epstein subjected their victims to.

Domestic violence is not a “private moment”. It’s another of our public health crises.

We can’t address matters of domestic violence without pointing out one of the Trump-era federal government’s greatest failures. In 1994 the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) became the first federal law to acknowledge domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes, and VAWA established the first federal program to fund community resources to aid victims and survivors. Until very recently VAWA reauthorizations regularly passed Congress with broad bipartisan support, even after far-right groups temporarily succeeded in letting it expire in 2011 over protections for LGBTQ+, Native American, and immigrant victims and survivors.

The Violence Against Women Act expired again in December 2018 amidst the most recent federal government shutdown. And even though the Democratic-majority U.S. House voted to reauthorize VAWA in April 2019 (with Reps. Dina Titus [D-Las Vegas], Susie Lee [D-Las Vegas], and Steven Horsford [D-North Las Vegas] voting for VAWA, while Rep. Mark Amodei [R-Carson City] voted against), it’s been stalled in the Republican-run Senate ever since. Once again, Republican leaders are objecting to protections for LGBTQ+, Native American, and immigrant victims and survivors. In addition, Republicans are fighting against Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-Minnesota) provision to close the “boyfriend loophole” that allows convicted domestic violence offenders who were not married to their victims to continue obtaining and possessing guns despite VAWA’s general restrictions on domestic violence offenders’ access to guns.

Photo by Andrew Davey

It’s easy for pundits and fellow politicians to look at the Dan Rodimer story here in Nevada and view it as just a “campaign scuffle”, a “political scandal”, or even the “politicization of ‘private moments’”. It’s much harder to look at the larger problem of domestic and sexual violence, and to realize that we’re still not doing enough to help victims and survivors. Regardless of how one views the respective ideologies, platforms, and campaign structures of Susie Lee and Dan Rodimer, it shouldn’t be “controversial” to point out that domestic violence is wrong.

If you or someone you know is facing a major life crisis and struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always there at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). So is the Crisis Text Line, where you can start a conversation with a volunteer counselor by texting “START” to 741741. And for LGBTQ+ youth in need of immediate help, the Trevor Project has a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-488-7386, and a text option (text “START” to 678678) available. And if you know anyone who’s currently experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence, the Nevada Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence has a list of resources available across the state. And if you want to do more to help, check out the Nevada Coalition’s action page for ideas on getting more involved.

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