I planned to do a wrap-up of last week’s Illinois primary but we still don’t know who will represent the Republicans in the Governor’s race and we still don’t know who or how the Democrats will replace Scott Lee Cohen. Ah, Scott…You were a candidate for less than a week, but will live on for quite some time. While most of the media and pundits focused on Cohen’s position as a pawn broker, I chose to zero in on the fact that he has a violent history with the women in his life.
Despite the fact that Cohen stepped off the ticket, one fact remains: His admission to having a violent past did not become an issue with the media until after he won the nomination. Mark Brown of the Chicago Sun-Times said he warned us…back in March 2009. And that he tried to warn us by reminding us that Cohen was a pawn-broker just a week from the primary. Brown even throws in a reference to Blair Hull. Nice. Brown also reminds us that he was the only member of the media who cared enough about Cohen to write about him. OK, he gets a brownie point for that, but honestly Brown could have and should have rang the alarm about a man poised to win the Lieutenant Governor’s race despite having admitted to domestic violence. So I’m not letting him off the hook.
One line in Brown’s recent column gives a hint into how he and others in the media appeared to have seen the story, the real story…That Cohen is unfit to hold public office because he was involved with a prostitute: “Of course, my column didn’t mention she was a prostitute.” Domestic violence? But he’s a pawn broker! Oh, wait, he was living with a prostitute? Ditch ’em!
That is why I was glad to see the Chicago Foundation for Women and other women’s organizations hold a press conference last week about the issue of violence against women and included the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation. CAASE is an organization, founded by a friend of mine, who is working on the issue of prostitution, but by addressing the demand part of the equation – men.
There was a lot of talk about how Cohen’s ex-girlfriend was a prostitute and could still be one. How she was arrested during their relationship. It seemed that Cohen’s big mistake was being sullied by a prostitute. Not that he allegedly attacked her.
So what did we learn this week, kids? That the media and even Cohen’s opponents would throw the pawn broker label around as if we would be so aghast, that we would vote for someone else, but domestic violence? Zip. Silence. Shh…Was it because they didn’t care? I highly doubt it. Was it because they don’t think voters would care? Perhaps.
At the CFW press conference, Sami Goswami, policy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, pointed out that:
the FY 2010 budget slashed funding for domestic violence programs by 9 percent and funding for sexual assault programs by 19 percent. “A state’s priorities are reflected in their budgets,” he said. “These are not the actions of a state that prioritizes addressing violence against women in any meaningful way.”
We need to be thinking not about how just candidates stand on violence against women issues, but also what messages our elected officials send about how serious this issue is to the state of Illinois.