* Wednesday evening press release…
The following is a joint statement from the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation (CAASE), and The Network: Advocating Against Domestic Violence:
“We offer our congratulations to Speaker Welch on his election to become the next Speaker of the House. We celebrate that the new Speaker is a Black person and we are seeking to work with him and all of his colleagues to end gender-based violence. Earlier today, we invited Speaker Welch to meet with us to identify shared policy goals to decrease gender-based violence, which includes domestic violence, sexual harm, and human trafficking. We appreciate his previous legislative work to support survivors and marginalized people, including his support of the Ensuring Success in School Law, the Reproductive Health Act, bills to support restorative justice options, among others. We hope this work continues in his new role.
“Domestic violence and sexual harm are often done by people we care about and respect, and appropriate accountability does not require the vilification of anyone. We are particularly conscious that many survivors do not seek help for fear of derailing the life of a person who harmed them—which helps nobody. While our culture must do more to treat survivors with dignity and respect, dignity and respect are not finite resources. Accountability should be expected but should not require that a person who has erred be excluded from engaging as a successful member of the community, particularly if they can play an important role in helping decrease all forms of harm.
“We specifically believe that recent public reporting related to Speaker Welch creates an important opportunity to engage in critical dialogue and collaboration. As leaders in our community, we want to model a restorative process for survivors and service providers that results in a shared vision for ending gender-based violence in Illinois. The revelation of previous allegations against Speaker Welch provides us with the opportunity to demonstrate that supporting and believing survivors does not require demonizing people who have caused harm, or who have been accused of causing harm. While we do not work directly with the specific survivors in the identified cases, we believe them. We hold our belief in their veracity alongside our belief that Speaker Welch can restore trust and be an accountable and effective leader.
“As a final note, we want to acknowledge that the ways our society has long dealt with domestic violence and sexual harm are just as fraught as the ways in which it has dealt with race and race inequality. Black men tend to be vilified, while Black women are not believed. As a community, we firmly believe that criminal justice reform and improving our community responses to gender-based violence are mutually supportive, not conflicting, goals.
“Our sincere hope is that our community and Speaker Welch can meet to discuss shared priorities. This moment allows all of us, particularly our elected officials, to seek collaboration and understanding, and identify ways to stand with and support survivors. Our coalition has many ideas on how to do just that—in this legislative session and beyond.”