Friday February 22, 2013

On Feb. 14, 2013, countries, towns and villages around the world united in One Billion Rising, an event focusing on the injustices suffered by women and girls. Bennington rose too, at the Four Corners, to join the global movement to demand change and end violence against women and girls, just because they are female. We had approximately 65 people standing on Main Street, holding signs, raising our arms in solidarity, reading two very poignant poems written by Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day and author of the "Vagina Monologues." The protest signs only begin to tell the story of how gender violence effects women and girls, how "rape is not a joke" and there are consequences for it, and how some of us were victims and are now "free." The demonstrators’ positive energy and messages were echoed by constant affirmations of honking horns and waving.

I scanned the Bennington Banner the next day to see if we had received any publicity; instead I found articles on the following: Olympian runner "allegedly" murders girlfriend, school teacher violates relief from abuse order, leader of sex/drug ring assaults woman for talking to police. I thought the Banner missed a great opportunity to relate our protest with the chilling news of the day. This is precisely why we do AWARENESS events, precisely what we were and still are protesting.

When are we going to realize that the occurrences of violence are not isolated incidents perpetrated by a sole gunman or boyfriend? These are male behaviors against women. When will the media start identifying the violence in terms of gender, and begin to address the beliefs (held by some men) about masculinity and patriarchy in our society? When will our civil and human rights become self-evident? What some are calling a "stunning development" in the "alleged" murder by Olympian Pistorius of Reeva Steenkamp, or a "tragedy" in the murder by Jovan Belcher of Kasandra Perkins, the mother of their child, others who take seriously histories of "allegations of a domestic nature" might have seen it coming. If the public hears only muffled responses to this overarching problem, people will continue to die.

NANCY FEINBERG

PAVE Volunteer Coordinator

Bennington

Reach for some facts on the Reach UP Cap

Governor Shumlin explains his desire to place a cap on the duration of benefits under the Reach Up program by saying that our current system does nothing to encourage people to get a job. He also claims that the cap is, somehow, part of a plan to fix the benefits cliff, stabilize our welfare-to-work program, and promote opportunity for welfare recipients.

Well, on what facts are these claims based? If there is one program about which we should know just about everything, it is the Reach Up program. The state’s records should include the names of everyone on Reach Up; how long they’ve been on it; the age and health of the recipients; the extent and success of their efforts to find work; and the main barriers they face in finding work.

Given the state’s extensive knowledge of Reach Up participants, isn’t it odd that the governor justifies his plan in generalities? I hope that our legislators take the time and effort to gather the necessary information before deciding if this eligibility cap is justified or even wise. How many recipients will be thrown off the program under the governor’s plan? How many children? The state’s most recent Reach Up report indicates that, on average, two thirds of recipients are children, and a full 49 percent of all recipients are 10 years old or younger.

The impetus for capping Reach Up appears to be a fear or belief that many recipients are simply not trying to get off the program, preferring for some reason to remain on welfare. Resorting to this stereotype of the lazy welfare queen without citation of any facts to back it up is beneath the dignity of a progressive governor and a progressive state.

In closing, I recommend that the governor, and anyone else who thinks that Reach Up recipients are getting away with something, try the simple experiment of living for some minimal period -- say six months -- on the resources that program provides. Let’s then see how many people think this program is a disincentive to work.

LEE RUSS

Bennington