A bill introduced in the Wisconsin State Legislature would create a task force to examine factors that contribute to violence against Black girls and women and submit a report with actions that can be taken to eliminate that violence.
“It’s so important to actually bring awareness to a cause that I feel that media has neglected on so many levels to actually do coverage for women of color that have been missing,” said State Representative Shelia Stubbs, one of the sponsors of the bill. “I’m supportive of the task force for the Native American women, and definitely support this task force. We need to direct and dedicate resources and efforts to directly combat gender violence in the African American community. I’m a Black woman, I have a little Black girl. We deserve to grow up in Wisconsin, in safe environments for us and our families. It’s equally important, given all the disparities against black families, and Wisconsin, being the worst state to raise a Black family, it’s so important to bring the awareness.”
Senate Bill 825, was introduced by Senators Johnson, Agard, Bewley, Roys, Larson and Carpenter, and cosponsored by Representatives Stubbs, Drake, Baldeh, Moore Omokunde, Emerson, Vining, Snodgrass, Hesselbein, Conley, Hebl, Shelton, Considine, Hong, Spreitzer, Subeck and Sinicki.
Stubbs said the COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in domestic violence in Black and brown communities in Wisconsin and across the country.
“We’re still in a pandemic (which) I remind people constantly exacerbated domestic violence and murder rates, naturally,” said Stubbs. “We have a responsibility to investigate this violence. Because of the pandemic, so much more has happened where people couldn’t come out of their homes and had to work from home. You’re not able to have those direct conversations to figure out what’s happening. Everything is from a distance.
“I think because of the pandemic, there’s things that we probably could be addressing, but now it’s even more underlying,” Stubbs continued. “I’m a chairwoman of the Wisconsin Legislative Black Caucus. I believe we need to just find solutions. We need to stop all this senseless violence towards Black women in our community, in our state, our county, and in our country. And we need to focus, we need to give that attention.”
Stubbs grew up in Beloit and recalled seeing images of missing children in grocery stores growing up.
“In 2020, the National Crime Information Center showed that 268,884 women and girls were reported missing,” Stubbs said. “Thirty-four percent of them were African American. In addition, non-Hispanic Black and American Indian women experienced the highest rate of homicide in our country. And why is that okay? Black women and black girls are not safe in our community. And it’s time for us to make that change. I believe now is the right time. If not now, then when? I have always been a person that dealt with equity. Equity is about protecting everyone who calls Wisconsin home. My family lives here, I have to deal with those disparities every day.”
The bill would require the task force to consist of at least 17 members who are knowledgeable in crime victims’ rights, including two members of the Senate, two members of the Assembly, law enforcement leaders, victims’ advocates and at least one Black woman who’s survived gender violence. This will provide the task force with the knowledge and resources to find solutions to the violence against Black women, which Stubbs believes will begin the necessary work to make Wisconsin a safe place for Black women and their families.
“It’s not just my problem as a Black woman,” said Stubbs. “It’s everyone’s problem in this state. It’s a state of Wisconsin issue. I truly believe that creating this task force is essential in confronting root causes of these terrible statistics. This task force will look at the underlying factors that I believe cause the violence and investigate real meaningful solutions. What are the solutions? Who has actually begun to address the solution? How do we reduce these numbers of homicides? Why are these young women and girls coming up missing? Where are they coming up missing? Where are the states? What is the media doing about this? More importantly, what about law enforcement? Who’s reporting? And human trafficking, who knows what’s really happening there?
“I just think it’s so many unknown factors that we need to look at. I truly believe that by dedicating resources to this cause, we will begin to make real progress in the state of Wisconsin,” Stubbs added. “And so those are some of the reasons why I wanted to look at that. But I think systemic issues require systemic solutions. We need all of our institutions on board with making Wisconsin a safe place for Black women and Black girls by bringing in experts. That’s why this task force is so important.”
For more information about Senate Bill 825, LRB 5455, click here.