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Panel: Women Can Enhance Safety by Voting

Originally published in:
The New Mexican

By Doug Mattson

Patsy Trujillo Knauer,Rebecca Vigil-Giron, Eve Ensler, Lilia Olivas Whitener and Judge Frances Gallegos held a panel on women's voting rights at Tipton Hall at The College of Santa Fe.

Abused women and women of lower socioeconomic class are less likely to vote. But if they did vote, panelists said Sunday, addressing violence against women would take greater priority.

And a greater female voting presence could even spur a White House Cabinet position dedicated to the issue, moderator Eve Ensler said. Ensler, playwright of the internationally famous The Vagina Monologues, pointed to United Nations research that showed one in three women have been battered or raped worldwide.

"That is an epidemic," Ensler told an audience of about 30 people Sunday in Tipton Hall at the College of Santa Fe. "That is homeland security. Why don't we have homeland security?"

Such questions led to a discussion on how to mobilize women voters. There are more women than men registered to vote in New Mexico, but they wind up voting less often, New Mexico Secretary of State Rebecca Vigil-Giron said. Women can easily register at stores while shopping, she said, but breaking free to vote is often hard because of family obligations -- or because they are victims of abuse.

Vigil-Giron was on the panel with Patsy Trujillo-Knauer, deputy secretary of aging and long-term services and a former legislator; Frances Gallegos, Santa Fe Municipal Court judge; and Lilia Olivas Whitener, an activist on Hispanic family issues. They shared their experiences growing up in a male-dominated society and discussed the obstacles that women might have in voting.

The event was part of V-Day, which was inspired by Ensler's play and began as a project to end worldwide violence against women and girls. As election politics heat up, the "V" has come to stand for "vote."

"If women are protected and feel secure, then they can take part in their community," said Cecile Lipworth, V-Day worldwide campaign managing director.

Barbara Goldman, Santa Fe Rape Crisis Center executive director, said there's a connection between violence against women and their lack of presence at the polls.

"All kinds of violence take a toll on people's psyche and souls and you become less of a person than what you could have been," Goldman said.

"You feel powerless, and you feel nothing about you counts, and that includes the world politic," she said.

Most in attendance Sunday were women, and most were registered to vote. But Ensler said her goal was to mobilize the group into a collection of "V Posses" to help other women vote. Ideas on ways to do that included renting shuttle buses and visiting businesses such women might frequent.

Actress Jane Fonda was scheduled to be on the panel but was in Los Angles for Sunday's Golden Globe Awards, where her son, actor Troy Garity, was a nominee.

Fonda might be on hand when V-Day events resume tonight with the showing of the documentary Until the Violence Stops at 7:30 p.m. at The Lensic Theater.

The film follows the impact of V-Day around the world; it recently was shown at the Sundance Film Festival.