Why You Should Vote No Against the Victims' Rights Amendment

The Victims' Rights Amendment Doesn't Address The Real Needs Of Survivors Or Perpetrators

"Increasing victims' rights?" Yeah, not quite.


Early voting is in session. I've been on social media a lot, per usual, and I saw people whom I trust and work with in my advocacy organizations saying they're voting against Marsy's Law, more widely known as the Victims' Rights Amendment.

Wait, what? How could rights for victims be wrong? Well, they can, when implemented ambiguously and ignorantly.

"Marsy's Law prioritizes needs that don't actually exist," says Margaret Hassel, an intern at the Compass Center who supports survivors in court and helps them navigate legal processes around domestic violence. She believes if the General Assembly really wants to support survivors, they can use their money to "support survivors in finding emergency, transitional, and long term housing, mental and physical healthcare, childcare, and other essential needs that often hold people back from leaving abusive situations."

Many survivors don't feel safe and supported by the justice system anyways, and no wonder why. Survivors have reported their assaults and been arrested themselves, as only one example of the problem, for "reasons" such as defending themselves or being immigrants. To make matters worse, prison is not a safe place for women; they can be harassed, assaulted and left untreated for the violence they've experienced.

Hassel, along with many others, also doesn't believe the incarceration of more people is helpful. We took a class together called Leadership in Violence Prevention, where I wrote a paper about types of treatment that are most helpful for perpetrators of sexual violence, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and a medicine named Lupron that can decrease sex drive and pedophilac behavior. In addition, when discussing survivors and allies of survivors, Hassel says that "most people who support survivors also avidly support due process and intensely oppose laws that contribute to mass incarceration," despite what people on the other side seem to think.

Further, the Victims' Rights Amendment is simply not what it's presented as or would be assumed to be. For example, people who fall into the category of "victim" here are all survivors under a wide umbrella of crimes, not just survivors of gender-based violence.

In addition, the way this amendment is advertised includes dog whistles, which insinuates violence is perpetrated primarily against white women and by strangers in the dark, which simply isn't true. 90 percent of survivors know their perpetrator. "White women are among the least likely to experience violent crime," Hassel says, "and campaigns that imply otherwise are typically those that aim to further the mass incarceration of people of color."

Unfortunately, problematic aspects of this amendment don't end there, however. Many of the supposed added rights for survivors already exist or could add time to investigations that are unnecessary. "I have never heard a survivor of DV [Domestic Violence] say they wish the criminal court process had dragged out for longer," Hassel says. These processes can take years.

Maya Weinstein, a law school student with a plethora of sexual violence advocacy involvement and who has worked with both the accuser and accused, has similar things to say.

"In North Carolina, the constitution already enumerates and protects victims' rights," she says. In addition, she worries about the financial impact, as around $11 to $30 million is estimated for state costs, and the source for this funding hasn't been discussed.

Weinstein says this isn't the only problem. "There are also due process concerns," she says. Since survivors of more than gender-based violence may fall under the category of "victims" under this law, more cases could clog up the courthouse and could cause the cases to take longer. The elongation of these cases is "actually hurting crime victims and compromising perpetrator due process rights," Weinstein says. Overall, she believes this amendment leaves too much uncertainty, and knows that many groups are opposing this amendment.

I trust and agree with both Hassel and Weinstein. The "Victims' Rights" Amendment is ambiguous and comes across as very ignorant of the real issue and where support is truly needed.

I'm an advocate for survivors of any kind of violence and their rights, and I'm voting against the Victims' Rights Amendment.

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This Is How Your Same-Sex Marriage Affects Me As A Catholic Woman

I hear you over there, Bible Bob.

It won't.

Wait, what?

I promise you did read that right. Not what you were expecting me to say, right? Who another person decides to marry will never in any way affect my own marriage whatsoever. Unless they try to marry the person that I want to, then we might have a few problems.

As a kid, I was raised, baptized, and confirmed into an old school Irish Catholic church in the middle of a small, midwestern town.

Not exactly a place that most people would consider to be very liberal or open-minded. Despite this I was taught to love and accept others as a child, to not cast judgment because the only person fit to judge was God. I learned this from my Grandpa, a man whose love of others was only rivaled by his love of sweets and spoiling his grandkids.

While I learned this at an early age, not everyone else in my hometown — or even within my own church — seemed to get the memo. When same-sex marriage was finally legalized country-wide, I cried tears of joy for some of my closest friends who happen to be members of the LGBTQ community.

I was happy while others I knew were disgusted and even enraged.

"That's not what it says in the bible! Marriage is between a man and a woman!"

"God made Adam and Eve for a reason! Man shall not lie with another man as he would a woman!"

"Homosexuality is a sin! It's bad enough that they're all going to hell, now we're letting them marry?"

Alright, Bible Bob, we get it, you don't agree with same-sex relationships. Honestly, that's not the issue. One of our civil liberties as United States citizens is the freedom of religion. If you believe your religion doesn't support homosexuality that's OK.

What isn't OK is thinking that your religious beliefs should dictate others lives.

What isn't OK is using your religion or your beliefs to take away rights from those who chose to live their life differently than you.

Some members of my church are still convinced that their marriage now means less because people are free to marry whoever they want to. Honestly, I wish I was kidding. Tell me again, Brenda how exactly do Steve and Jason's marriage affect yours and Tom's?

It doesn't. Really, it doesn't affect you at all.

Unless Tom suddenly starts having an affair with Steve their marriage has zero effect on you. You never know Brenda, you and Jason might become best friends by the end of the divorce. (And in that case, Brenda and Tom both need to go to church considering the bible also teaches against adultery and divorce.)

I'll say it one more time for the people in the back: same-sex marriage does not affect you even if you or your religion does not support it. If you don't agree with same-sex marriage then do not marry someone of the same sex. Really, it's a simple concept.

It amazes me that I still actually have to discuss this with some people in 2017. And it amazes me that people use God as a reason to hinder the lives of others.

As a proud young Catholic woman, I wholeheartedly support the LGBTQ community with my entire being.

My God taught me to not hold hate so close to my heart. He told me not to judge and to accept others with open arms. My God taught me to love and I hope yours teaches you the same.

Disclaimer - This article in no way is meant to be an insult to the Bible or religion or the LGBTQ community.

Cover Image Credit: Sushiesque / Flickr

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Dear Nancy Pelosi, 16-Year-Olds Should Not Be Able To Vote

Because I'm sure every sixteen year old wants to be rushing to the voting booth on their birthday instead of the BMV, anyways.


Recent politicians such as Nancy Pelosi have put the voting age on the political agenda in the past few weeks. In doing so, some are advocating for the voting age in the United States to be lowered from eighteen to sixteen- Here's why it is ludicrous.

According to a study done by "Circle" regarding voter turnout in the 2018 midterms, 31% of eligible people between the ages of 18 and 29 voted. Thus, nowhere near half of the eligible voters between 18 and 29 actually voted. To anyone who thinks the voting age should be lowered to sixteen, in relevance to the data, it is pointless. If the combination of people who can vote from the legal voting age of eighteen to eleven years later is solely 31%, it is doubtful that many sixteen-year-olds would exercise their right to vote. To go through such a tedious process of amending the Constitution to change the voting age by two years when the evidence doesn't support that many sixteen-year-olds would make use of the new change (assuming it would pass) to vote is idiotic.

The argument can be made that if someone can operate heavy machinery (I.e. drive a car) at sixteen, they should be able to vote. Just because a sixteen-year-old can (in most places) now drive a car and work at a job, does not mean that they should be able to vote. At the age of sixteen, many students have not had fundamental classes such as government or economics to fully understand the political world. Sadly, going into these classes there are students that had mere knowledge of simple political knowledge such as the number of branches of government. Well, there are people above the age of eighteen who are uneducated but they can still vote, so what does it matter if sixteen-year-olds don't know everything about politics and still vote? At least they're voting. Although this is true, it's highly doubtful that someone who is past the age of eighteen, is uninformed about politics, and has to work on election day will care that much to make it to the booths. In contrast, sixteen-year-olds may be excited since it's the first time they can vote, and likely don't have too much of a tight schedule on election day, so they still may vote. The United States does not need people to vote if their votes are going to be uneducated.

But there are some sixteen-year-olds who are educated on issues and want to vote, so that's unfair to them. Well, there are other ways to participate in government besides voting. If a sixteen-year-old feels passionate about something on the political agenda but can't vote, there are other ways of getting involved. They can canvas for politicians whom they agree with, or become active in the notorious "Get Out The Vote" campaign to increase registered voter participation or help register those who already aren't. Best yet, they can politically socialize their peers with political information so that when the time comes for all of them to be eighteen and vote, more eighteen-year-olds will be educated and likely to vote.

If you're a sixteen-year-old and feel hopeless, you're not. As the 2016 election cycle approached, I was seventeen and felt useless because I had no vote. Although voting is arguably one of the easiest ways to participate in politics, it's not the only one. Since the majority of the current young adult population don't exercise their right to vote, helping inform them of how to stay informed and why voting is important, in my eyes is as essential as voting.

Sorry, Speaker Pelosi and all the others who think the voting age should be lowered. I'd rather not have to pay a plethora of taxes in my later years because in 2020 sixteen-year-olds act like sheep and blindly vote for people like Bernie Sanders who support the free college.

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