Every two minutes, a person in the United States is sexually assaulted. Almost half of rape victims are under 18 years old. And about two-thirds of sexual assaults are committed by someone known to the victim.
You would think in 2014 that you wouldn’t have to say this, but apparently I do: Rape is a serious issue. It affects men and women. It isn’t something to joke about, and it certainly isn’t something to play politics with.
That’s why I was appalled when I recently saw an absurdly disingenuous political advertisement from the Vote No On 2 campaign insinuating that medical marijuana will lead to date rape. There are many important steps that men and women can take to reduce their risk of becoming a victim of sexual assault. As even opponents of medical marijuana must know, voting against Amendment 2 is not one of them.
Nevertheless, the Vote No On 2 campaign has blatantly decided to use scare tactics and play politics with an issue that is too serious to muddle and distort. The Vote No On 2 campaign must only care about winning — and this advertisement gives Floridians a great reason to root for them to lose.
Though I haven’t previously made a public declaration about my stance on Amendment 2, it’s time to stand up for what is right and speak out against what is wrong. I refuse to support a campaign that engages in fear mongering and uses rape as a political tool. To make matters worse, their end goal is to prevent patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and epilepsy from being able to access the treatment that they need.
As an activist on women’s issues, I know that we have a lot of work to do to reduce the number of cases of rape in this country. Part of that effort must include better education about the facts surrounding sexual assault. When any group spreads misrepresentations and distortions about rape without considering the consequences, they are performing a grave disservice to the public. They are attempting to manipulate our daughters and our sons.
That’s why I’m calling on the political operatives of the Vote No On 2 campaign to immediately apologize and remove their shockingly offensive political advertisement. If they truly care about the community, this will not be a difficult decision.
As citizens, we deserve a thorough and candid conversation about sexual assault. Amendment 2 simply has no place in that discussion. It’s a shame that the Vote No On 2 leaders think they can win a few extra votes by linking the two together. Let’s show them that they are wrong.
Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, represents District 62 in the Florida House.