When it comes to talking about voting in November, I know these can be divisive conversations. Historically, it was considered “taboo” to talk about who you’re going to vote for and which policies/officials you do or do not support. Over the years though, politics and voting has become a much more mainstream conversation and I believe there’s good reason for that: the people we vote into office have a profound impact on all of the intersecting parts of our lives, including our survivorship and/or the survivorship of those we support.
NCCASA’s Executive Director, Monika Johnson Hostler (along with other inspirational change makers), recently spoke during the discussion “Multiple Truths: Survivorship in the 2020 Elections” hosted by Jane Doe Inc. While listening to the conversation I gained a deeper perspective on how all aspects of government impact survivors. As Monika and the other speakers pointed out during this conversation, there is no facet of government that is not connected in some way to the impacts of sexual violence. Our school boards, our Governor’s office, our judges, our housing officials, the Secretary of Education, the list goes on. The survivors that we work with as advocates are connected in some way to most, if not all of these institutions, and it is imperative that when we are voting for the officials that will hold these offices or appoint others to these positions, that we are thinking about the impact these officials may have on our ability to provide the kind of advocacy we know survivors need and deserve.
When you go to the polls or fill in your mail-in ballot, consider that you are not only voting for the President, Senators, and Governor, etc you’re voting for all the people that these candidates will appoint. You’re voting for the bills and legislation that may be more likely to pass in their administration. You’re voting for funding streams. You’re voting for committee members that have a say in economic and housing opportunities for survivors. You’re voting for local officials, like the school board, that affect healthy relationship education.
What can advocates do? Our advocacy doesn’t just include the direct support we offer the survivor sitting in front of us. It expands to the way we can effect change for survivors at the local, state, and national level. We have power in our communities and are often thought of as community leaders, let’s capitalize on that power by educating our community members that are invested in the work of our programs.
One way you can do this is by educating your community about how the various levels of government impact your program and survivors. For example, how funding for sexual violence can be determined at the legislative level as we’ve seen with the CARES Act Funding, so voting for legislators that support the survivor’s agenda will have a lasting impact on the services that you’re able to provide. For those who are interested in the judicial aspects of sexual violence, talk about the significance of voting for judges who represent survivor choice, autonomy, and helping survivors heal and determine their own meaning of justice. If you come across someone who is really torn about who to vote for at the executive level, have a discussion with them about what their priorities are when it comes to ending sexual and community violence. Create space for you and the potential voter to be vulnerable and open about the struggles you’re having. Remind this voter that it’s not all about who you vote into office, but the people they will appoint and the people they take advice from.
Finally, make registering to vote part of your community outreach. All of the things that were mentioned above are ways that you can connect voter registration to your survivor advocacy work. When the community asks questions, be ready with answers and information that is accurate about voter fraud, voter suppression, and how, where, and when to vote safely. This, and every election cycle, we have the opportunity to elect officials that will support our advocacy efforts and who will listen to us, and other survivors, when it comes to making decisions that affect our community. When you’re having a discussion with someone who says “why should I vote?” You can tell them this is why it matters.
For information on registering to vote in NC go to: https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/offices-services/online/Pages/voter-registration-application.aspx
For mail-in ballot information and to request your mail- in ballot go to: https://www.ncvoter.org/absentee-ballots/
Early Voting will take place in NC from October 15-31. For more information go to: https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-early-person
If you and your community members would like to watch the “Multiple Truths” discussion, you can view a recording here.