Many years ago, I attended an event honoring Senator Renee Unterman because of her work as a strong and consistent advocate on behalf of women and children. I also remember how Sen. Unterman was treated reprehensibly by members of her own party in 2010 when she supported SB 304, a bill that would have made it much easier to help victims of child sex trafficking.
Senator Unterman’s legacy of work on behalf of women and children in Georgia is probably why, when she worked to block the rape kit bill in the Senate last year, many in Georgia and nationally reacted so strongly.
Testing rape kits shouldn’t require a bill. It is something that should happen because it’s the right thing to do if we are a people who truly want to catch and prosecute rapists. But as it is also a thing was consistently not happening, that bill needed to pass.
How that bill came to pass in 2016 despite Sen. Unterman’s opposition was the subject of last night’s Full Frontal episode on TBS. As with last year’s coverage, the video (complete with animated interpretation of the action) quickly went viral.
Georgia’s 2016 rape kit bill – and Senator Unterman’s role in hindering the bill’s passage – was an issue that Full Frontal latched on to early on, when they were a fledgling political entertainment program trying to grow their audience, and their coverage of the issue gave them a swift, viral foothold nationally. So I’m glad they revisited the issue, even with some narrative omissions.
The timing of the update, though, is less than optimal. The piece ran on the eve of Sine Die, and this morning, the status of this year’s rape bill, SB 71, which undermines victims of sexual assault on college campuses, is tenuous. The latest version of this bill is now the same as an early version of the legislation and is especially bad to victims of sexual assault.
Full Frontal is a weekly show, and undoubtedly they wanted to maximize coverage by airing the piece before session adjourned. We can’t blame them for that, as the job of a TV show is to maximize ratings. The Legislature has an entirely different purpose, and maximizing a member’s exposure shouldn’t be a priority.
Last year, Representative Scott Holcomb, the protagonist in yesterday’s video, credited sexual assault survivors and advocates with the rape kit bill’s passage when he told the AJC, “I’m inspired by their strength, courage and resilience. You never quit, and this House hasn’t quit either.”
As the dust settles this morning from this latest viral video, it’s increasingly likely that the real losers here aren’t any lawmakers who look bad in a cartoon.