I am writing this open letter to you because of the respect that I have for your work to help end domestic violence. I appreciate your taking the time to lend your voice, without compensation, at charity events to efforts to raise awareness of the prevalence of intimate partner violence that affects the lives of too many women across the U.S. and within the state of Arkansas. I am deeply grateful to you for using your celebrity status to shine a light on a problem that too often lives in the shadows.
It is precisely because of our respect for your anti-violence charity work that I am surprised and concerned that you plan to appear at a fundraiser and concert with Congressman Tom Cotton tomorrow in El Dorado, Arkansas. I urge you to reconsider. Congressman Cotton's record of opposition to the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act represents an appalling disregard for the safety and wellbeing of women. His election to the United States Senate would be detrimental to women in Arkansas and indeed the entire country.
Congressman Cotton was one of only a few members of Congress to vote against every version of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In Arkansas, Mr. Cotton was the only member of the state’s congressional delegation to oppose not only the inclusive, bipartisan version of VAWA that passed into law, but even the much weaker substitute Republican proposal. His irresponsible votes against any form of VAWA sets him apart from the vast majority of Arkansans, and places him well outside the mainstream in the Republican Party when it comes to protecting women from domestic violence.
Congressman Cotton has argued that the Violence Against Women Act spends too much money to protect women from violence and that the law is ineffective — claims for which he offers no documentation and which are directly contrary to the facts. In reality, studies show that VAWA has done much to reduce the incidence, and especially the lethality, of domestic violence since it was first passed in the 1990s. VAWA provides important resources for law enforcement to recognize and help prevent domestic violence and for women who are recovering from abuse. Congressman Cotton’s unsubstantiated suggestion that the Violence Against Women Act is ineffective and wasteful is offensive, especially when protecting women from domestic violence should be a priority for lawmakers.
I believe that you understand and recognize the importance of laws like the Violence Against Women Act and applaud your past activism. You have participated in charity concerts for the Center for Child & Family services in Hampton, Virginia and as a part of Mary Kay’s domestic violence prevention campaign “A Kiss for Country.” You have also stepped up in other ways, including auctioning off an autographed photo to help stop domestic violence.
The women of Arkansas deserve a Senator who will work to protect and strengthen the Violence Against Women Act. I thank you for your past work to help prevent domestic violence and ensure women have the resources they need to recover from instances of abuse. In light of your past work and the uniquely reckless votes Congressman Cotton has cast against the Violence Against Women Act, I am asking you to cancel your fundraiser and concert in support of his senate campaign.