Thank you, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women

imagesWhile the Connecticut legislators hurl their way toward Wednesday, the end of this legislative session, can we take a quick moment to thank the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, a 43-year old powerhouse of an organization that works tirelessly for the women of Connecticut. By Connecticut General Assembly mandate, the commission

monitors, critiques and recommends changes to legislation to inform public policy, and assesses programs and practices in State agencies for their effect on the state’s women. The PCSW serves as a liaison between government and its diverse constituents, and convenes stakeholders, including the business, non-profit and educational communities, local governments, and the media, in order to promote awareness of women’s issues.

The work of the commission this legislative session leaves Connecticut women a little safer, and a lot more hopeful. Just last week, four significant bills — legislation that would not have existed without the commission — passed the state House of Representatives. Let’s hope the bills reach the governor’s desk, and he signs them.

Yet the Democratic majority (you read that right) has called for consolidation with other commissions that do similarly important, but very different, work.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve written about the threatened demise or consolidation of PCSW, I’d be a rich woman. So here we go again:

Are you happy that women on college campuses are safer because of the Affirmative Consent bill that was overwhelmingly passed by the House last week? Relieved that people who abuse other people can no longer keep guns in the house when there is a temporary restraining order during the most critical and vulnerable time for a family? Stunned that until last Wednesday night, rapists had parental rights over a child born of rape? Do you believe  human trafficking of children and women is a terrible crime?

If your answer is yes to any of these, say a big thank-you to PCSW.

Each of those bills was built on years of PCSW’s research, advocacy and collaboration with lawmakers.

If PCSW’s work is diluted and their autonomy stripped, who is going to do this work?  If you are a women living in Connecticut, or a man who cares about women, let your legislator know: Hands off the PCSW.

UPDATE: The Connecticut Senate has approved the domestic violence bill. It now moves to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk. He is expected to sign it.

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13 responses to “Thank you, Permanent Commission on the Status of Women

  1. So…I’m curious…
    How do you terminate parental rights of rapists without a conviction of rape?

    • You don’t. You wait for a conviction and then you fill this loophole: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Loophole-allows-rapists-to-claim-parental-rights-6889029.php

      • According to the link you supplied in the post, HB-5605 “would no longer require a conviction of sexual assault before parental rights are terminated.”

        According to the CTPost article, “The proposed legislation would allow women impregnated by rape to terminate the parental right of their assailants using a ‘clear and convincing’ standard of evidence in probate court, rather than a criminal conviction.” (link added)

        So waiting for a criminal conviction would no longer be required.

        I can see some problems with this. For one thing, that burden of proof may actually make it harder for victims to prove, in civil court, that parental rights should be terminated. If a criminal court cannot obtain a conviction employing an equal or more rigorous burden of proof, how could a civil court adjudge otherwise?

        Another issue is whether a civil court…family or probate court…has jurisdiction and authority over an issue involving criminal behavior. Shouldn’t penalties for criminal behavior be determined in criminal court? Employing criminal code legislation?

        I’m all for rape victims being able to sever all ties with their assailants. I’m just not sure this is the way to do it.

        • Forgive my ignorance. I need to double-check. My understanding was that there needed to be a conviction but will follow up later today.

        • OK. From people who know: There needs to be a conviction for rape, but as this only happens in about 2% of cases, this law now gives judges the power to remove parental rights in the face of “clear and convincing evidence” a sexual assault took place (even if there is no ultimate conviction). One reason for this is that rapists often use their parental rights as a cudgel — “If you don’t press charges, I won’t demand visitation,” etc., and so the child becomes a bargaining chip. About 25,000 children are born of rapes in this country each year, though I don’t have Connecticut-specific figures.

          • If that evidential standard is less stringent than the burden of proof required in the perpetrator’s criminal proceeding, I can see how it might work.

            However, I still think an even less stringent standard…preponderance of the evidence…the standard used most often in civil proceedings….would provide greater utility to victims. Especially in cases where plea bargaining can mitigate, or even negate, perpetrator accountability for felonious crimes. The burden of providing clear and convincing evidence is not an easy standard to meet. Ask any prosecutor.

            And I still see a problem with jurisdiction and authority. But I understand why criminal prosecution for rape has such a low success rate and how civil action might provide some security to the victims.

            I just hope it’s not used by rapists to claim victimization by civil law. The right case…the right lawyer…the right jurisdiction….the right judge(s)…and the whole tactic might be thrown out. A necessary risk, I suppose.

            • Stephen Mendelsohn

              In Santosky v. Kramer, the Supreme Court required “clear and convincing evidence” to terminate parental rights, or for anything else entailing a significant deprivation of liberty or stigma. In my own testimony on HB 5605, I explain why this is the correct standard here, as opposed to “preponderance of the evidence” advocated in the previous comment, and also apply the same logic to the case of college students being accused of sexual assault before campus tribunals: https://www.cga.ct.gov/2016/JUDdata/Tmy/2016HB-05605-R000314-Mandelsohn,%20Stephen-TMY.PDF

              In regard to the importance of due process, I would cite these comments from feminist attorney Naomi Shatz regarding the injustice of campus tribunals: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/naomi-shatz/feminists-we-are-not-winn_b_6071500.html

              “We as feminists are failing if we make our victories dependent on eschewing the fundamental rights and principles our legal system was founded on — fairness, due process, a presumption of innocence — in order to obtain findings of guilt in sexual assault cases without regard to the facts of individual cases. A system that is as unfair to accused students as the one currently employed by U.S. colleges and universities lacks legitimacy, and the more people learn about the fundamental unfairness of these systems the more skeptical they will become of accounts of campus sexual assault and any resulting actions by the schools. While the federal government and universities’ new approach to sexual assault cases may feel like much-deserved justice for the years of turning a blind eye to sexual assaults of university students, celebrating this trend is shortsighted. If we hang winning or losing this battle on simply increasing the number of students expelled for sexual assault, then we’ve already lost.”

  2. The thing is, you wouldn’t get a dollar for every time you’ve written about this. You would only get 77 cents. Until you get a dollar, they need to keep their man hands off the PCSW!

    Is this from the House or Senate? My House legislator is Republication. Are they also supporting this, do you know?

    • You’re right. I’d get 77-81 cents, depending on where I live in CT. And I’m blanketing all of ’em.

  3. What is the Democratic Party majority’s rationalization for consolidation this time around? Other than budget concerns. (That issue alone could do it, I’m just curious.)

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