Last week, the Barnes campaign ran a highly emotional ad alleging that then-state-senator Nathan Deal sponsored a bill in 1991 that would have severely diluted Georgia’s rape shield laws. Though the ad was, in my humble opinion, somewhat heavy handed, the point was well taken. As a woman, I have a slight problem with anyone wishing to defend rapists.
Then, when the Barnes campaign followed this ad up with a press release alleging that Nathan Deal also opposed a family violence bill while in the state senate, I became even more enraged.
Up until now, my primary concerns regarding Nathan Deal have dealt with his fiscal responsibility (or lack thereof) and his ethics (or lack thereof). But now, Mr. Deal, it’s personal.
I must first give a nod to the political savvy of the Barnes campaign. Nathan Deal has repeatedly accused Roy Barnes of running a negative campaign based on lies and misinformation. Barnes has repeatedly replied that he cannot help if his campaign is negative given that he is merely voicing the truth about Mr. Deal’s past. Barnes has gone a step further with both of these allegations by preemptively providing proof of his claims. I think this is a brilliant political maneuver designed to make it all the more difficult for Nathan Deal to mount a defense by claiming that he is being unfairly maligned with twisted lies. This also shows that Roy Barnes can respect the idea of transparency, not only regarding his personal finances and legal career, but also regarding the information that he bases his decisions on. Bravo, Roy.
Now, about these women’s issues.
First, the rape shield law. It is a fact – meaning that it cannot be disputed – that Nathan Deal sponsored a state bill to alter the rules regarding evidence in rape cases. It is also a fact that opponents to this bill – including attorneys, i.e. legal professionals – argued that the bill would severely dilute Georgia’s already weak rape shield law by allowing the defense to raise questions regarding the victim’s social and sexual past.
Based on these two facts, I have a bit of a problem. I believe that No means No. It doesn’t matter what a woman (or, to be fair, a man) is wearing, how much she’s had to drink, or how many men she has had consensual sex with in the past. No. Means. No. Any law which threatens this basic principle, any law which places a rape victim in the position of defending her own choices, is ludicrous. Are there women who falsely claim rape? Yes. But the fact remains that for every one woman who falsely claims rape, there are probably 10 rapes that go unreported because the victim is afraid to say anything. And why are victims afraid to speak out? Because they are afraid that men like Nathan Deal will attempt to place the blame at their feet. Because they are afraid that men like Nathan Deal will argue that they asked for it.
In 1991, there were 42 rapes per every 100,000 people in this state. According to many estimates, the vast majority of rapes go unreported. Statistically, only about 1 in 16 rapists will spend time in jail – despite rape shield laws, despite our best efforts, women are terrified to report sexual assault. And that’s when they are protected from unfair allegations.
I am lucky: I myself have never been in a position in which I would have to decide whether to report a rape. And yet I personally know at least 2 women who have been raped and did not report it to the police. The pain that they went through was something that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (well, given his stance on the issue, I might wish it on Nathan Deal just a tiny bit).
As if the dilution of the rape shield law wasn’t disgusting enough, Nathan Deal also fought tooth and nail against a family violence bill that would have offered greater protection to victims of domestic violence. Sadly, the law often errs on the side of caution in protecting the individual liberties of would-be abusers. The hurdles in place essentially create a situation in which someone has to be obviously injured before law enforcement can step in. The bill proposed by Roy Barnes while he was in the State Senate removed some of these hurdles by allowing the police to arrest an abuser without a warrant if they have probable cause that an act of domestic violence has occurred. Nathan Deal was one of only 7 senators to vote against the bill. His reasons:
- “I don’t think that Superior Court judges should become referees within the home.” Quote from the Daily Times (Gainesville), Feb. 12, 1981, “Sen. Deal speaks against violence bill”
- “The sanctity of the family must be protected.” Quote from the Daily Times (Gainesville), April 18, 1981, “Moral affairs anniversary”
So, Mr. Deal believes that judges have no place resolving domestic disputes – even when there is sufficient probable cause to believe that the dispute has turned violent. Moreover, he believes that judges should stay out of domestic disputes in order to protect the sanctity of the family – what happens at home stays at home.
It is this backwards, Neanderthal mentality that perpetuates domestic violence in this country. The idea that the family is sacred and that what goes on between family members ought to remain private is one of the reasons why scared wives and children hesitate to speak out.
I never noticed before now how much “Nathan Deal” sounds like “Neanderthal.”
No Deal, Georgia.