Who would have thought that even in 2019 the majority of the MTGOP House caucus could not even bring themselves to condemn sexual assault and support survivors? And could you imagine that the representation from Miles City – the case that thrust this issue into the political spotlight this session – would all vote NO on the same Resolution? And, finally, could you imagine that the former 20-year principal of the Miles City school where this abuse took place couldn’t even bring himself to vote yes on this affirming house resolution?
It’s hard to imagine, but this is where we are. Welcome to Eastern Montana I guess?
Silver lining – it looks like the watered-down Civil Statute of Limitations (SoL) bill HB 640 will grace the Governor’s Desk. The slight civil SoL increase is a small win for survivors of sexual assault. Representative Shane Morigeau’s original bill increased said SoL in accordance with accepted research and the realities of sexual assault survivors and counselor/health care provider’s recommendations. But the MTGOP sold its soul to the insurance lobby, and those SoL increases were unacceptable to said lobby, so they flexed their advantage over the MTGOP. The Republican caucus chose to kill the original bill and sent Miles City’s Representative Frederick (Eric) Moore to inform the public at a videoed town hall in Miles City that “it’s just the way it is”. (I encourage everyone to read our former piece on this betrayal, found here. And to watch the associated town hall video.)
Now that everyone is caught up…
Representative Kimberly Dudik of Missoula introduced House Resolution 4: a resolution expressing the sentiment for sexual assault survivor’s day, establishing the first Thursday of every April as sexual assault survivor’s day and the Governor will issue an annual proclamation. Read the full resolution here – it’s worth your time. House Resolution 4 doesn’t have a fiscal note; no financial impact on the budget or tax payers. House Resolution 4 doesn’t change the law, nor does it impact law enforcement or the judicial system. The statistics cited in the resolution are just a small piece of the reality of the scourge of sexual assault in Montana:
WHEREAS, rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment harm our community and our state, and statistics show one in five women and one in 67 men will be raped at some point in their lives; and
WHEREAS, child sexual abuse prevention must be a priority to confront the reality that one in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before age 18; and
WHEREAS, on campus, one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during their time in college;
The Resolution passed: 60 to 40.
All 40 of those NAY votes were the Republican caucus (vote tally here). Those 40 adults couldn’t bring themselves to condemn sexual assault, to acknowledge survivors, to state as an elected body that their voices matter for young people and adults living with, or caring for others, who’ve experienced sexual assault. Each and every NAY vote should feel visceral shame for being unwilling to lend their voice in support of this important subject.
But the three most shocking NAY votes: Frederick (Eric) Moore of Miles City, Kenneth Holmlund of Miles City, and Fred Anderson of Great Falls.
Both Holmlund and Moore live in Miles City. And they have both been informed that some of the 30 survivors suing the school district still live in the town of Miles City. These survivors are their neighbors. They run into them in bars, restaurants, at the grocery store, the movies, community functions, the bank, maybe even next door or on their street. Was this Moore telling his neighbors and fellow Miles City residents once again that sexual assault is “just the way it is”?
Fred Anderson of Great Falls. Principal of the Miles City High School for 20 years and during that whole time the admitted sexual predator was a fixture in the athletic program. Anderson spoke to the press and said he was “sick to his stomach” over the situation. But not grossed out enough to actually DO ANYTHING. Not sick enough to his stomach to sign his name to a resolution that shows written support for survivors.
No. The community of Miles City’s own representatives can’t even bring themselves to condemn it in writing.
No. The former principal still won’t be a champion for survivors. Even after the admitted predator was brought into the light, it appears that Anderson cannot even bring himself to be there for his former students.
As of this posting, no one has heard from either of these three Representatives why they voted NO. If you have a few minutes today, send a message to these elected officials and inquire why they cannot condemn sexual assault or show a minimal amount of support for this crucial conversation.
Or you can use the Helena Legislature Message a Legislator system, or a phone call to 406-444-4800.
If you get a response back, please share it below in the comments. Montanans as a whole, as well as the survivors of the Miles City case, deserve to know why their representatives are voting NO on sexual assault awareness.
Why is acknowledging survivors and voicing support so critical? Why make a big deal out of this?
Because sexual assault, child molestation, rape – all happen under the cover of secrecy and shame. Predators use secrecy and threats to keep their victims from speaking about the abuse, from seeking help, from “telling on them”. Assault thrives in silence. So to combat a scourge that thrives in silence we must go vocal – we must show support in our writing and support in our actions. We show support in our law enforcement, schools, careers, in all facets of American life.
There are adults in your lives who have been assaulted. There are children in your lives who have been assaulted. They see you. Are you a safe person adults or children can speak to?
Are we crafting the type of laws and support structure that encourages survivors to seek justice and to seek help? Or do survivors see our weak efforts and sellout to insurance companies and know that seeking justice is too hard, so they remain silent? When survivors look to our Legislature, to their local representatives, to the former principal of the school – what do they see?
Kenneth Holmlund, Eric Moore, Fred Anderson, and the entire NAY-voting MTGOP house caucus: how are YOU being seen by your children, grandchildren? How do you think the survivors in your personal and private spheres feel about your actions, your words, your inability to sign and support?
Need to speak to someone safe and confidentially about sexual assault? Contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800.656.HOPE (4673).
There’s also a free, confidential online chat available. Click here.