After 100 years, we are still marching

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I began my career as a neonatal intensive care nurse, seeing the impact public health policies had on vulnerable families. As a state legislator and practicing attorney, I’ve been dedicated to improving outcomes for Montana’s women and children. I led the charge to strengthen sex trafficking laws and protect survivors. I fought for lowering the cost of prescription medication and expanding access to vital health services, including women’s access to reproductive healthcare. I became a candidate for attorney general (the first woman to hold the position if elected) because there’s much left to do. In the spirit of commemorating the third anniversary of the Women’s March and the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I want to highlight actions I believe necessary to ensuring the health and safety of Montana’s women and families for generations to come.

Some women gained the right to vote 100 years ago, but the fight for equality is far from over. In Montana, violence against women has not been adequately addressed. We must push for policies to stop it. Nationally, one in four girls will be sexually assaulted before age 18; one in five women will be sexually assaulted or raped in their lifetime. A majority of the women in my life are sexual assault survivors who didn’t report the crimes perpetrated against them — this is more common than many believe. We need to do better to protect women and future generations of girls, my own daughters included, from harm. As Attorney General, I will make sure recent, positive legal changes I championed are enforced, such as clearer sexual consent laws so individuals affirmatively agree to sexual contact and improved consent laws making it clear a minor student cannot consent to sexual relations with an authority figure at school. In criminal cases, my policy work resulted in better protections, especially for children. “Grooming” behavior that occurs prior to sexual abuse is now illegal. I fought to eliminate the criminal statute of limitations for allowing prosecutions against those who sexually abuse children. We still have work to do — we must push for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women’s Act which is vital to combat violence against women.

Our national failure to protect Native American women requires particular attention. Wanting to seriously impact this problem, I was part of the 2019 Legislature that passed three bills to address the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. Hanna’s Act created a missing persons specialist within the state Department of Justice to improve searches for missing Montanans. In conjunction, Montana law enforcement must accept missing persons reports without delay and complete an accurate profile of cases unsolved after 30 days. Reports of those missing, younger than 21, must be entered into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database within two hours. As a committed supporter of these laws, I want to ensure the Attorney General’s office works with the recently created Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force to remove bureaucratic barriers and improve these critical investigations.

In the Women’s Marches, we march as a statement of our refusal to have women’s rights on the chopping block. We must support our Constitutional Right to Privacy and fight any attacks that seek to limit women’s access to reproductive healthcare. We must demand equality for everyone. It’s not just an issue for women and girls; it’s a human rights issue. All citizens have the right to be treated equally — regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual identity. We are still reminded of the gains of past activism and the work ahead to improve the future. We hold a responsibility for our own communities to demand better. Together we can make our future, and our children’s futures, brighter.

Rep. Kimberly Dudik, D-Missoula, is a candidate for Montana’s attorney general.

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