Iowa, abuse in the house…and in the Senate

January 29th, 2021

Iowa Capitol Anti Mask Protest January 11, 2021

Updated January 31, 2021

As an anti violence activist statewide and nationally for 25 years, and a former social worker, I’ve become quite familiar with all forms of abusive behavior. And here in Iowa, abusive policies happen right in the heart of our state government.

What I’ve learned from our expert colleagues is that abuse is about power and control. And that need for power and control can and does terrorize and do harm to others. And, make no mistake, the “masks are encouraged, not required” policy currently in effect in the Iowa Capitol will do harm.

The policy can harm others mentally, psychologically, emotionally, and yes, physically.

The REACH team in Massachusetts, explains it well. “The commonly held definition of abuse, which we use in all of our trainings, is “a pattern of behavior used by one person to gain and maintain power and control over another.” One thing to note about that definition is that we are talking about a pattern of behavior, in other words, not just one incident. These behaviors can take on a number of different forms. Many people, when they hear the word “abuse,” think of physical violence. It’s important to note that physical force is one means of power and control and it is far from the only one”. 6 Different Types of Abuse – REACH (

Defying laws, CDC guidance, public health experts guidance, and essentially the laws of reason and human decency, the first day of the Iowa Legislative session saw hundreds of unmasked people close together in the Capitol Rotunda. They were protesting Governor Kim Reynold’s partial mask mandate that requires all people age 2 and over to wear masks in public indoor spaces if within 6 ft of others for 15 minutes. Republican state lawmakers had earlier refused to support Democrats’ proposals to require face masks in the Iowa State Capitol during this year’s legislative session.

Obviously, they were less than 6 ft apart for far longer than 15 minutes. And the Majority Republican leadership were not only just fine with that, but some legislators joined in and spoke to them.

I thought Sen. Joe Bolkcom’s comment on the third day of the session speaks to the abusive policy best and the psychological abuse that those in the Capitol will suffer. “Are you trying to kill us all?” Fourth COVID Case Reported at Iowa Capitol Where Masks Are Encouraged, Not Required (

This speaks to Psychological abuse, a form of abuse characterized by a person subjecting or exposing another person to behavior that may result in trauma.  Also known as emotional abuse, these actions can include threatening the physical health of the victim or the victim’s loved ones, purposely controlling the victim’s freedom, and/or acting to undermine or isolate the victim. What is Psychological Abuse? – Definition & Overview – Video & Lesson Transcript |

This policy, in my opinion, subjects anyone visiting the Capitol to fear, trauma, illness, and quite possibly, death. Governor Reynolds could fix this with the stroke of a pen, as her partial mandate gives individuals, buildings, and business owners a reason to not enforce.

House Speaker Pat Grassley has said that he can’t enforce a mask mandate and he is not willing to have lawmakers removed if they refuse to comply. Why not? There is a dress code. There are many rules enforced in our State House. But now, due to this non policy, workers have filed a complaint with OSHA, who began investigating the complaint. This speaks to the fear felt by these workers.

A snapshot from today’s date: The Iowa Department of Public Health has reported of 10 a.m. Sunday, 319,203 confirmed cases statewide since Iowa’s outbreak began, with an additional 757 cases confirmed in the past 24 hours. They also reported 250 additional COVID-19 death, raising the statewide death toll to 4,901.

This warning shot has been fired about the scarcity of vaccines. COVID-19 vaccine shots will be scarce for weeks to come, Iowa counties warn (

One week ago, Iowa had the 17th highest per capita death count in the nation and the second highest 7-day average positivity at 33% behind Idaho, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Iowa posts 62 virus deaths, total reaches nearly 4,400 (kttc.

To top this off, new variants from the UK are in multiple states and the second state just reported cases of the disturbing variant from South Africa. New Covid variants are going to ‘hit us pretty hard,’ says Dr. Peter Hotez (

Lacking enough vaccines, and with the United States now facing this news, masks and compliance are the only way out for most of us. It saddens me that “Iowa nice” isn’t “Iowa nice” at this point to these decision makers. If they insist on continuing this abusive policy, and I would guess they will, why should we trust legislative leaders or the Governor with the health and well being of Iowans that they should protect? In short we can’t.


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