Survivor Writes Representative About Violence Against Women Act

Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyoming)

Dear Cynthia Lummis,

I am a domestic violence survivor. I am a Wyoming citizen. I am a wife, a mother, a sister, and a daughter.

I am concerned with your choice in the vote for the House Violence Against Women Act. The House’s version of this bill is watered down from the Senate’s. The House version does not protect many women in Wyoming that are just as worthy of safety as I am, as a straight, white, citizen. It does not protect lesbians, it does not protect Native American women, nor does it protect illegal immigrants. The Senate version protects everyone and I cannot fathom why you would not vote for it.

I think of a dear friend, Jackie. She is also a mother, daughter, sister, mother and grandmother who lives here in your state and deserves the same protections from the law that I get. Should it matter that she is a lesbian? I don’t understand. Why do you vote for laws that imply that it is acceptable to rape or beat her?

I live in Laramie. Every week, I pass the site of Matthew Shepard’s death. I think about him and others like him and I tell myself that Laramie and Wyoming both learned a lesson from his loss that we promised to never forget.

Then, you make a vote like this, and I wonder if you have forgotten.

Let me remind you: we are done with hate here. We no longer choose to participate in the most vile aspect of hatred — the tolerance of injustice. You may not be aware of it, having spent so much time in Washington, D.C., but we do not tolerate violence against anyone in Wyoming. Not even against people who love others of the same gender. Not even illegal immigrants. Not even Native Americans.

As a former victim of domestic violence, rape, sexual harassment and abuse, I can tell you that the common thread in these crimes is power. When a woman believes that no one can or will help her, she is trapped not only by her abuser but also the society that implicitly condones his behavior.

The reason that I must stand up and speak out against your vote here is simple: choosing a law that gives power to abusers over their victims is always wrong, no matter what. To separate any group, for any reason, as unworthy of the protection of the law is offensive to a nation that knows that all of us are created equal. It is beneath the creed of our Equality State. It is a betrayal of women. It is an assault on justice.

Miss Lummis, I understand that, as a Republican, your political party pressures you to make absurd votes like this. I understand that our system doesn’t always make it easy to do the right thing. The fact is that you have to stop and ask yourself what motivation you have to vote against the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act. Are you afraid of stepping away from the party line?

You, and all your peers who voted as you did, should be afraid of the rapist who finds that he can rape as often as he wants as long as he picks victims not protected by law. You should be afraid of the husband who beats his wife and tells her she has to take it because no one will protect her. You should be afraid of seeing my name beside yours on the next ballot. You should be afraid of Saint Peter and that moment, as you stare longingly at pearly white gates, when he asks you to explain why you didn’t protect the women you were responsible for.

The validity of a woman’s rape, or broken nose, or terrifying abuse has nothing to do with what gender she loves, what country she was born in, or what color her skin is. Next time you get a chance to vote on an issue that protects women, please make sure that you choose to protect all of us.


Sarah Zacharias

Wyoming State Director