One of the most eye-opening resuls from last month’s VPR Poll concerned substance abuse. When respondents were asked to name “the most important problem facing Vermont,” 17 percent named “drugs.” The only other issue scoring higher than six percent was “economy/jobs/cost of living” at 28 percent. And when asked specifically if opiate addiction is a major problem, a massive 89 percent agreed.
Even more striking were the figures for personal connections to opioid abuse. 53 percent have been affected by opiate addiction or know someone who has. And 94 percent “personally know” someone who has struggled with addiction.
Practically the entire state.
If we needed convincing that opiate addiction is a serious problem, we shouldn’t anymore.
But let’s take another pervasive issue of a similar scope. An issue that’s usually lost in the white noise, that’s never been the subject of a State of the State address.
I bet if you polled Vermonters on sexual assault, you’d get the same kind of numbers. Especially among women. (The vast majority of men know someone who’s been the target of sexual assault, but most have never been told about it.)
Governor Shumlin gets full credit for putting opioid addiction in the spotlight. When will rape, attempted rape, harassment, and domestic violence get the same attention?
And why hasn’t it? Because it’s a man’s world and it’s predominantly women who are the targets? Because it’s always been this way?
Because law enforcement still doesn’t make it a priority?
Because far too few women are involved in making law and crafting policy?
We’ve seen the scandals over unprocessed rape kits in jurisdictions around the country. One of the horrific aspects of the Justice Department’s report on the Baltimore Police Department was the cavalier attitude taken toward reports of sexual assault. We’ve seen, in the Norm McAllister case, how difficult it is for women to come forward and have their voices heard.
(Or, for those who see Canada as relatively untouched by our social ills, try Googling “Robert Pickton.” Just don’t do it over lunch.)
Sue Minter has taken a bold step in this direction, highlighting the connection between our high rates of domestic violence and our permissive gun laws.
But really, we could use a full-tilt, all-out confrontation of a systemic problem that severely impacts more than half of our population. How much more could women achieve, if they weren’t weighed down by traumatic memories and/or the constant awareness of a danger that may strike at any time — indeed, most likely in a place where they ought to feel safe? At home, among family, with friends?
Hey, maybe the next time VPR commissions a poll, they’ll even think to ask the question. As if it’s an issue just as worthy of our time and effort as opioid addiction.
I’ll just leave this here.
Right on. And I strongly suspect that many of the gun crowd, bristling at the dreaded ‘background checks’, are doing so because they couldn’t pass one themselves. Little “domestic” in their background, shall we say. When I hear low rates of VT gun violence being used as an excuse to do nothing to beef-up laws around purchase and ownership, I flash on how many times – around the state – a gun-owning and angry man (or woman) is either picking the gun up during a domestic argument, or threatening to ‘get the gun’…either to shoot their partner or to shoot themselves. You know. To make a ‘point’. Doubt those figures are being tabulated. Sadly, family violence is as common as dirt in the green mountain state.
And when we wonder about whether “law enforcement” are (not) making sexual assault a priority, there’s an egregious example in Franklin County: how the assistant State’s Attorney, a woman, bungled the first trial of ex- state senator Norm McAllister badly enough to result in a peremptory dismissal of the charges. The prosecutor did not bother to lay any groundwork on the effects of trauma (sexual or otherwise) on victims’ memory, and perhaps had no knowledge herself of such effects, despite her office being right next door to NUSI (Northwest Unit for Special Investigations), tasked with investigating criminal sexual activities. So, when the testifying victim contradicted earlier testimony regarding an event not included in the charges, the prosecutor bailed, leaving the victim (that is, the “intern”) discredited, alone, and without recourse.
Way to go ASA Diane Wheeler — and by extension, SA Jim Hughes!