by Texas State Senator Jane Nelson
It is inspiring to see so many women across the country – and, in fact, the globe – sharing their personal stories as part of the “#MeToo” movement to demonstrate the reach of sexual harassment and assault. How far we’ve come … and how far we have yet to go.
When I first joined the Senate 20 years ago, these were topics women didn’t feel comfortable discussing – so much so that it was very difficult to find witnesses to testify on legislation to protect women from domestic violence and sexual assault. Instead, advocates would provide “silent witness” cards or share second-hand the stories they had heard from victims.
Over the years, brave women started to come forward to share their personal experiences – and the results were powerful. Legislators were moved by their testimony. We finally started passing legislation. Budget writers were convinced to provide funding for shelters and victims’ services.
Two decades ago, the state budget provided less than $40 million relating to domestic violence and sexual assault. The budget we passed last session includes more than $150 million. And I’m proud to have passed 27 bills over my career to better serve victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse, including legislation last session to prevent women from being forced to co-parent with their rapist.
The response to the #MeToo movement has demonstrated that these issues are more widespread than most Americans realize – but also that we have made great progress in our willingness to share difficult experiences publically to help build traction for much needed change. While no person should ever have to endure sexual harassment or assault, from the bottom of my heart I want to commend the brave women who are sharing their stories on social media. They are not just bringing these issues out of the shadows – they are shining a bright light that I hope will not be extinguished until we have rid our society of sexual assault once and for all. Clearly, we have much more work to do.
SENATOR JANE NELSON represents District 12, including portions of Tarrant and Denton Counties. She is Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and the highest-ranking Republican in the Texas Senate.