An open letter from guest blogger Molly McWilliams Wilkins
Dear Sen. Renee Unterman,
I read an old article about you recently.
The Gwinnett Daily Post wrote about you in January 2012. They mentioned your divorce, losing custody of your daughter and the death of your son. The headline of the article was “Unterman’s heartache gives rise to compassion in role as senator.” You seem like in 2012 the kind of woman that I would be proud to vote for, if I lived in your area — the kind of woman who would stand up for other women — the kind of woman who would understand why compassion is needed in politics.
In that same Gwinnett Daily Post article you were quoted as saying “when you suffer, you realize what it’s like to suffer.” They also said you were a former nurse.
As a former nurse, you had to have seen the daily struggles of your patients — people in physical pain just trying to get through it.
As a former nurse, you had to have seen rape victims come in to have a rape kit done in the hopes of catching the person who did this to them — as perhaps to prevent it from happening to someone else.
So this is why I am so confused about your politics today. In fact, I’m not just confused but I am disappointed.
You are choosing to block two bills that are important to many Georgians. One is House Bill 722, called the medical marijuana bill. You said that your committee did not have time to research this bill, but I fail to understand the logic behind this argument. It’s a bill that has overwhelming bipartisan support. It’s a bill that you had to have known was coming. We’ve already seen the faces of those who were helped by HB 1, signed by Gov. Deal in December. But now we have the chance to help so many more. As someone who has said herself, and in print, “when you suffer, you realize what it’s like to suffer,” I cannot understand how you could continue to let Georgians suffer.
Allen Peake, who I am blessed to call a friend, said he is “incredibly disappointed that we would again put politics ahead of helping hurting Georgians. This is why people hate politicians.” And he’s right. He’s so right. This isn’t just about politics, it’s about simply helping people.
The other bill you are blocking is the Pursuing Justice for Rape Victims Act, which would require law enforcement to find and count rape kits that have been ignored for years in some cases. This one hits home for me. As a woman who has been sexually assaulted, it is incredibly difficult to come forward and point out your accuser. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to go to the hospital and have a rape kit performed. And the further outrage a victim must feel when justice cannot move forward because the rape kit has not even been tested.
Something else I find baffling here is that according to that same 2012 Gwinnett Post article, one of your “ proudest accomplishment in the last 12 months has been the passage of legislation combating the sexual exploitation of children.” Something to be applauded for sure, but how can you see yourself as the banner man for this particular cause and not be in favor of legislation to require the testing of rape kits?
David Cooke, the District Attorney for Macon-Bibb County, said of this, “it’s hard to understand why Senator Unterman is holding up important legislation that could benefit thousands of Georgians. Why wouldn’t anyone want to do everything they can to help victims of sexual assault?”
The very simple matter is, you yourself said you know what it’s like to suffer. And I do not question the suffering you went through. I cannot imagine what it must feel like to lose a child. I also cannot imagine what it must feel like to have a child who could live a normal life with medical marijuana, but one person is stopping it.
I cannot imagine how it must feel to have been raped and to have the courage to have the rape kit done, but it cannot or won’t be processed. Because someone who we have trusted to be our sentinel does not believe it is worth being funded. And I have to wonder out loud, “how many people who have been thus assaulted might not come forward if they feel it will be to no avail?”
I would urge you to please open your heart and know that even one person is worth helping. Because they are simply that, a person, and no price can be put on them.
–Molly McWilliams Wilkins
Read more of Molly’s work at makeitworkmolly.com.