As graduation steadily draws nearer, I have reflected on my time in Texas. Not surprisingly, as a student of public policy, this reflection includes the political shenanigans I have been witness to in the last two years. One episode that many seem to have been forgotten is Governor Greg Abbott’s promise to “eliminate rape.” To be exact, Governor Abbot said, “Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas by aggressively going out and arresting them and prosecuting them.” I have been unable to find any mention of it in the five months since he made the commitment, whether on the governor’s website or in the press. Why has everyone seemingly forgotten such a major promise by such a powerful man?
The only exception to this was a letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News two weeks ago by one Joel Hale who called on the media to report on rape numbers to hold the governor accountable for his promise. I must say, “here, here!” to Joel’s call for accountability. Perhaps the silence of the press may be due to the lack of legitimacy Governor Abbott has with women’s issues, but the idea that journalists will not use this opportunity to put political pressure on a major governmental leader to use the significant resources of one of the most powerful states in the Union toward lowering the rate of sexual assault is beyond my comprehention. The press needs to turn up the heat—don’t let Greg Abbott off easy on this issue.
After a disappointing, five months after Governor Abbott promised to “eliminate rape,” there’s no indication on the governor’s legislative initiative website that eliminating rape is even on his radar, let alone a priority.
There are two major issues with Governor Abbott’s statement. First, by making such a brazen commitment which he seems to have no intention of even trying to keep, or even attempt to seem like he’s following through, it indicates loud and clear that, to Governor Abbott, rape is not a serious problem, and the sexual assault of his citizens (which increased from 2018 to 2019 and is one of the most notoriously underreported crimes) is a viable political pawn he can use to release the pressure from the public due to the controversial abortion ban. Second, and probably most obvious to everyone reading this blog post, is the uninformed and othering language he used by saying he would “go out” and arrest “aggressively” the rapists “from the streets.” The majority of sexual assaults are committed by current or former intimate partners, or relatives of the victims–the greatest danger of rape is not in the streets, but in the home. Some research says about 80-85% of rapists are known to the victim.
Considering the stubborn inaction of the Texas government on this public promise, there is so much wrong with this promise (at what point am I allowed to call something a lie? Is 5 months of complete inaction too soon?) to Texas citizens. For now, let’s hold off on the government surveillance of Texas streets for rapists and hold Governor Abbot accountable for the aggressive arrest and prosecution of the rapists that are reported, as only about 2% of rapists are actually convicted and imprisoned.