America has never really been a friendly place to women and girls. The laws governing our bodies, our families, our choices, our daughters, our futures continue to erode our faith in and hope for this nation, taking our freedoms and permitting the government to make decisions for us that are, frankly, none of the government’s business. This isn’t just about pregnancy or birth control. It’s about a culture of objectifying women from a young age, permitted and even promoted under a quilt of uneven, unequal, and unjust laws across our nation. Consider child marriage, which is legal across most of the United States. The data show that 87% of child marriages occur between underage girls and adult men. Some girls have been married as young as 10. In most of those states, minors cannot legally divorce or even separate from their spouse once married. They’re trapped. In Alabama just a few years ago, a 14-year-old bride was forced to marry a 74-year-old man – a marriage approved by both parents and courts all too often. In Florida, there is no minimum age for child marriage, so long as either the parents and judges approve, and there are loopholes and legal exceptions made for pregnant girls. So, if an 80-year-old-man wants a child bride, he can escape charges related to his pedophilia if he simply gets a judge or the parents of young child to agree to a marriage. Our region of Florida sees some of the highest rates of human and sex trafficking in the nation. Perhaps the issue is so pervasive because we have an incumbent representative who was the only person in congress to vote against a bill to crack down on trafficking, who was been the target of a sex-trafficking investigation for more than two years, and whose new sister-in-law even came forward to protect her family, calling Matt Gaetz a “literal pedophile.” And without getting too far into the statistics on rape in America, we’re first in the developed world for rates of sexual harassment, assault, and battery. Nearly half of women in the United States reported experiencing some form of sexual violence in their lifetime. 1 in 5 women report being raped in their lifetime. Nearly half of those rapes occurred when the victims were minors. How have we gotten to this place, where girls’ lives matter so little and women are forced to carry such heavy burdens for a society that does not value them? Did you know that women hold only one-quarter of the seats in Congress? Even though women outnumber men in the general population, voter registration and voter turnout, we make up less than one-fourth of elected officials in nearly every level of office. Married women are less likely to vote than women who are divorced, widowed, separated or have never been married, though female turnout generally increases with both age and education level. We’re not electing women. In the shadow of Roe v Wade and protections we once had, the consequences of electing too few women to positions of power could not be clearer. If we don’t stand together and fight for our autonomy, our dignity, our independence, then our daughters may very well find themselves without any of it. Northwest Florida deserves a Congressional representative not saddled with legal perils, under investigation for sex trafficking teenage boys and girls, or allied with insurrectionists. It’s time for a woman to lead Northwest Florida. My name is Rebekah Jones and I’m the presumptive Democratic nominee for Florida’s First Congressional District, running to unseat GOP-incumbent Matt Gaetz in 2022. And right now – we’re winning. I am the daughter of teenage parents, and was a young mother myself. I worked hard to finish my degree after my unplanned pregnancy my junior year of college at Syracuse University, and went on to earn my Master’s of Science degree at Louisiana State University, and finished my doctoral coursework at Florida State University. I have been fighting for Floridians for years- first as a scientist with the state, and then as Florida's COVID-19 whistleblower. During the last two years, I’ve done a lot of press, won some unexpected and truly humbling awards, appeared in everything from TIME to Cosmopolitan Magazine, and made my name by being an honest and trusted resource for apolitical information in times of crisis. And we are certainly in a crisis right now. I am asking you to hire me for the job of Congressional Representative. We need to start electing people who work hard and know the stakes, who are mothers, leaders, and decent human beings; women who stand for more than just themselves, and would sacrifice their safety, freedom, and even their life if necessary. I’ve already proven that’s who I am and what I’m willing to do for a state and nation I still want to believe can be saved. This is your invitation to join our campaign if you have not already. Whether it’s sharing emails or social media, volunteering to make calls, texts or canvass, donating, or just showing up to vote on August 23 and November 8, we have the power to make America ours again. Because without women, the world would collapse. I will write legislation to end child marriage, crack down on trafficking, and see that sexual predators who target children are charged with hate crimes and never able to return to society. I will vote to codify rights that protect and respect our right to make decisions about our own bodies, ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, and finally make us equal in the eyes of our constitution. Our current representative not only doesn’t support those measures – he was the only person in Congress to vote against some of them. No matter your party, your religion, your marital status, your profession, join our sisterhood to protect our most basic and fundamental rights. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I want your voice to be heard. No matter how difficult it may seem, it’s time for us to step up and lead. In solidarity, Rebekah Jones Click here to sign up to receive emails and important campaign updates in the future. Click here to volunteer. Click here to check or update your voter registration information.
Data sources: Pew Research: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/01/15/a-record-number-of-women-are-serving-in-the-117th-congress/ Center for American Women and Politics: https://cawp.rutgers.edu/facts/levels-office/congress/women-us-congress-2022 Child Marriage: http://apps.frontline.org/child-marriage-by-the-numbers/