An Open Letter to Scott Lee Cohen

February 10, 2010

Dear Mr. Cohen,

Thank you for requesting a meeting with the Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women to discuss the future of your political career.  Chicago NOW has been a stalwart defender of the rights of women and girls since 1967.  We appreciate that you recognize that fact enough to reach out to us, however belatedly.  Your spokesman’s email said that the requested meeting is critical to further your “understanding of women’s issues.”  We know that the world of women’s issues can be vast and complex, but there are some basics that you will need to cover before moving forward.  First and foremost, violence is never the answer.

The facts on domestic violence are devastating.  In 2006 the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control published a fact sheet stating that “women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes” every year.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1,181 women were murdered by an intimate partner in 2005. That’s an average of three women every day. (Citations at NOW.org)

Mr. Cohen, we will consider meeting with you, but before any plans are made, we need you to make some changes to show the people of Illinois that you are really sincere.

  1. File the paperwork necessary to formally step down.
  2. Publicly acknowledge the allegations made against you by the women in your life.  If you have harmed these women, do not make excuses; simply state what you have done.
  3. Apologize
  4. Pay back any child support that is due.
  5. Commit to ending violence against women and girls in Illinois.

We hope you can understand why the allegations against you have caused such an upheaval.  We need leaders who can lead by example.  Perhaps we will meet face to face once this checklist is complete.  Until then, good luck with your endeavors.  We urge you to take this time to make yourself into a new person.

Best Regards,

Chicago Chapter of the National Organization for Women

Anti-Violence Groups Blast Cohen Candidacy

From Progress Illinois, Adam Doster,  Friday February 5th, 2010, 4:25pm

A broad coalition of anti-violence and women’s groups held a press conference in Chicago to discuss the recent revelations about the Democrat lieutenant gubernatorial nominee’s history of violence and harassment. Due to their nonprofit status, most of the representatives couldn’t publicly demand that Cohen withdraw from the ballot.  Nonetheless, they strongly repudiated his candidacy.

In Rasmussen’s pre-primary polling, Gov. Pat Quinn struggled among female voters against challenger Dan Hynes. But if Scott Lee Cohen remains on the ticket as his running mate in the fall, you can be sure those numbers will plummet.

Today, a broad coalition of anti-violence and women’s groups held a press conference in Chicago to discuss the recent revelations about the Democrat lieutenant gubernatorial nominee’s history of violence and harassment. Due to their nonprofit status, most of the representatives couldn’t publicly demand that Cohen withdraw from the ballot.  Nonetheless, they strongly repudiated his candidacy. “My immediate response,” said Kelly White of the Chicago Foundation for Women, “was completely and totally appalled.” Watch some clips from the event:

Cohen wasn’t the only topic of discussion. The groups also used the occasion to criticize the General Assembly for failing to provide enough resources to women suffering from domestic and sexual violence.  According to Sami Goswami, policy director for the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, the FY 2010 budget slashed funding for domestic violence programs by 9 percent and funding for sexual assault programs by 19 percent. “A state’s priorities are reflected in their budgets,” he said. “These are not the actions of a state that prioritizes addressing violence against women in any meaningful way.”

After the presentation, Chicago NOW’s Michelle Staeger said that her organization’s PAC would take immediate and direct action against Cohen by initiating a letter-writing campaign that demands he step aside. More drastic measures could be on the way. “Cohen needs to follow Gov. Quinn’s advice,” she said, “and do what’s best for Illinois.”

Scott Lee Cohen Steps Down

Scott Lee Cohen, the elected candidate for Lieutenant Governor, was arrested for assaulting his girlfriend in 2005.  His ex-wife also listed both physical and sexual abuse in her divorce papers.  Illinois needs leadership that is capable of making effective policy decisions to end violence against women and girls.  We applaud Scott Lee Cohen’s decision to step aside and allow another candidate to represent the Democratic Party in the Lieutenant Governor’s Race.

Violence against women and girls is never OK.  If you or someone you know is a victim of violence, please visit our resource locator page to get more information on counseling services.  If you would like to get involved with Chicago NOW’s  Stop Violence Against Women team, please visit our Issues page or contact us via email.

Click here to read a Progress Illinois article on the response to Scott Lee Cohen from the women’s community.