Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.” Scott Conklin and his constituents didn’t consider the full weight and impact of this resolution before presenting House Bill 2596. Their proposal, while seemingly trying to help victims, focuses on less than 1%, not even making a dent in the fight against Domestic Violence (DV).
Over 37% of PA Women and 30% of PA Men experience physical/ sexual violence, or stalking in their lifetimes. Of that 34%, over half is unreported- leaving roughly 11%. Of those, 60% will be dismissed, leaving barely 6.5%. How many will actually want to run for public office? That is the percentage the Conklin bill is fighting for whilst, completely ignoring the other 33%. Simultaneously, it disproportionately affects poor and disenfranchised communities.
For this bill to be somewhat successful, the victims must disclose their abuse, go through a trial process and the abuser must be sentenced. If their abuser wishes to run for office or become a cop, can they obtain another level of “justice”. A family household member is a spouse, child, parent, and sibling. If 2 sisters get into a fist- fight, should neither be eligible for public office in the future? The mother going through postpartum depression while raising a child alone? The soldier who’s come back after the war with PTSD, who didn’t know he couldn’t be approached from behind? All of these are examples of one-time DV acts, and deserve the appropriate punishment- but do they warrant a lifetime barring from public office?
HB 2596 mentions pardons and expunges, while ignoring that a person who has paid their debt to society shouldn’t need a pardon. Studies show the Black and Hispanic communities are primarily affected by DV. The fact is, the office is aiming to punish a targeted, elite group, and in doing so, will inevitably affect a large percentage of the Black and Brown population who aren’t as well- off as the men in power they are currently after, and the least likely to be pardoned.
The ignored truth- there is no fail-safe, in this bill or otherwise, for those falsely accused of Domestic Violence or Sexual Assault. How many Black men have had careers ruined, only for claims to be proven not true? Emmett Till’s tragic story is a prime example of why this bill is so problematic. In this scenario, Emmett wouldn’t be eligible even if he had served time for a crime that never happened. Sadly, it’s not just the Black community- we watched as Amber Heard was proven to have falsified abuse claims on Johnny Depp. Fortunately, he had the financial stability and resources to have an entire legal team, a privilege most Black people are not afforded.
Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors voted the bill down 5-0. Scott’s office was quoted saying- “it would pass because we were all women''- sexist and misogynistic to say the least. Afterwards, he went to Twitter, referencing those against HB 2596 have no ‘moral compass’ and don’t ‘stand with survivors’. I confronted his office about the framing and I was met with agitation and impatience. I was told, “This is not a Domestic Violence bill.” I replied, “Then you can’t say I’m against the victims of Domestic Violence.”
His opening language- “embezzlers, etc.”, makes it apparent that to him, individuals shall be judged on their worst moment indefinitely,- “Once a thief, always a thief”. I believe in restorative justice, redemption, and second chances. If after serving time in prison, an individual chooses to give back to their community by running for office, we should not add an additional barrier, or take the decision out of the hands of the voters. Perhaps if Scott had Black people or people of color on his team, he may have had different perspectives.
Bryan Stevenson says, “We have a choice. We can embrace our humanness, which means embracing our broken natures and the compassion that remains our best hope for healing. Or we can deny our brokenness, forswear compassion, and, as a result, deny our own humanity.” Stand with ALL victims of Domestic Violence by not supporting short-cut politics. Vote NO to HB 2596.
Tierra D. Williams
Ferguson Township Supervisor
The Centre Region COG is governed by the General Forum, which is comprised of 32 elected officials from the six municipalities. In addition, there is a non-voting representative from Penn State University and a liaison from the local school district. Surprisingly, despite its large size, most General Forum votes are unanimous. In large measure, this consensus flows from the COG’s Committee system, which is designed to prepare recommendations to be developed on regional policy issues. Each municipality appoints one elected official to each of the COG Committees – Executive, Finance, Human Resources, Parks Capital, Public Safety, Public Services & Environmental, and Transportation & Land Use