I said I would go and I went. I think I very well may have been the only survivor there. Not the only survivor, but the only survivor not turned advocate associated with a particular group. Everyone I met at the Stop Violence Against Women Day today worked for a coalition, a foundation, a commission, a shelter, or some other organized group. I was me, just me: a survivor, a writer, a voice, an individual.
Once I realized what I was in for, where I was, and who I was around, I answered the “what group are you with” question with “me. I’m a survivor. I write. I wanted to know what was going on in the advocacy world.” Really, I wanted to connect with other survivors, but I didn’t find any, or at least none said as much to me.
It wasn’t a waste of a morning. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was far from a waste of time. I learned some valuable things today, and I like learning. One thing I learned is there is a new bill in the senate. Yesterday Senator Jesse Stone, Senate District 23, and Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, introduced Senate Bill 86. Could I say senate one more time? Senate.
This bill, if enacted, would give law enforcement officers greater leeway to arrest violators of protection orders. I’m still putting it all together, but as it was explained today, currently officers must witness the violation before an arrest can be made; the bill would allow probable cause to be sufficient to make an arrest.
Put simply, as it currently stands, perpetrator gets within 500 feet and goes all abuser on the victim. Victim calls the police. Perpetrator goes 501 feet away and police show up. Victim relays the story and police officer makes a report. Perpetrator goes on with life, all smiles, and free to harass again. Since the abuser was away from the victim by the time the police showed up, the police didn’t witness the violation and can’t make an arrest. The bill would allow the victim’s report, along with the probability that the abuser will continue to violate the order, to be enough to make an arrest.
After listening to reports about funding, statistics, and the new bill, we walked two blocks to the Capital. The wind was wicked, but the sun was bright. The gold dome shone. I felt a little silly being a part of the group photo since I wasn’t a part of an official group, but I figured if I ever needed an alibi for this morning, I would have evidence. I stood in the line to enter the capital and started having second thoughts. Do I really want to go inside? What if they won’t let me because I have a Missouri ID? What if they’re too busy and I’m an interruption? I’ve never been inside a capitol building before. I’ve never addressed a lawmaker before.
I stayed in line and showed my ID to the State Trooper checking everyone. I stayed in line as people made their way through security. I went through security. I had to pee. I went in so I could use the bathroom. I intended to find the bathroom and turn around and leave. I walked in circles on the third floor looking for the bathroom. I found the Page Desk for the House of Representatives. I found the Page Desk for the Senate. I found the elevator. I found the stairs. I finally found the bathroom.
I decided to walk around some more. I was looking at the faces behind the ropes, reading their names, and watching the activity. I walked some more, and then I saw Senator Hunter Hill talking with a woman at the ropes. I schimmied up to the ropes and listened to their conversation. She talked, he asked questions, she answered. Their conversation ended and as she walked away he stuck out his hand and introduced himself to me. I met his hand with mine and introduced myself.
“What group are you with?” he asked. “I’m not,” I answered, “I’m a survivor.” He put his hand on my arm and said, “I’m sorry.” I thanked him and congratulated him on winning the election. We started talking.
I told him I believe that a female officer should respond with a male officer to all domestic violence calls. He raised his eyebrows, wrote it down and said, “That’s a good idea.” I told him the power abusers hold over their victims make speaking with a male police offer, a man in a position of power, very difficult for victims of domestic violence. I told him I felt Senate Bill 86 had some merit, and though I hadn’t had the time yet to read it in its entirety, from what I heard from Mr. Stone this morning it was a step in the right direction. He said the bill was in good hands with Jesse Stone. We finished our conversation, he asked me to email him, and he headed back to the Senate floor.
I email him this afternoon. I rehashed what we discussed at the ropes. I feel good about today. I feel good that I didn’t chicken out. I feel good.