by Emily Alfano, senior manager of government relations
Nearly two years ago, the National Council of Jewish Women launched Higher Ground, a campaign to end domestic violence by promoting women’s economic security. Higher Ground is an expression of NCJW’s unshakable commitment to ensuring that no woman ever has to choose between personal safety and financial stability. Now it’s time for Congress to again demonstrate its commitment to the victims and survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking by passing the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization Act (S 1925).
When we launched the Higher Ground campaign we heard from an NCJW leader who shared her experiences with domestic violence while she was volunteering at an abortion clinic: “One of the questions I had to ask when meeting with incoming patients was, ‘Are you in an abusive relationship?’ I was shocked that so many women answered yes, and outraged that in my more than 22 years of talking with women about unintended pregnancies, the prevalence of violence only seemed to increase. One woman, I remember, told me of how her boyfriend had been verbally abusive before she got pregnant. Now that she was pregnant, he now had become physically abusive. Her name was Michelle. She told me of how her boyfriend now punched her in the stomach repeatedly, and told her that she wasn’t worthy of being a mother, and that he would leave her if she didn’t get an abortion. When I asked why she stayed with a man who beat her, Michelle stated matter-of-factly that he paid the rent and that she would be out on the street if she left him.”
Stories like Michelle’s are still far too common.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey found alarming rates of sexual violence, stalking, and domestic violence. One in four US women has been the victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner, and nearly one in five has been raped in her lifetime. That’s why communities all over the US and the US territories continue to rely on the support offered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), the largest policy effort aimed at responding to and preventing these crimes.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider legislation that would reauthorize VAWA. First passed in 1994, VAWA supports comprehensive, cost-saving responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Since its passage in 1994, more victims report domestic violence to the police and the rate of non-fatal intimate partner violence against women has decreased by 53 percent.
Today, to help build momentum for VAWA’s reauthorization, women’s groups like NCJW are speaking out to advance the incredible reforms included in S 1925, including: improving the response to violence against underserved communities, strengthening housing protections for victims, and increasing access to prevention programs for young people. Today, the HERvotes initiative is focusing on domestic and sexual violence because, leading up to the November 2012 elections, we know how important it is to educate and mobilize voters who care about domestic violence and other issues that affect women.
This post is part of the #HERVotes blog carnival. Read more from our partner organizations:
Immigration, intimate partner violence, and the Violence Against Women Act — Anjela Jenkins, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Teen Dating Violence — Christine Bork, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago
Combating Domestic Violence: A Call to Reauthorize VAWA — Mallen Urso, National Women’s Political Caucus
“It’s a Good Time To Be a Black Woman? Well, Not So Good When It Comes To Violence” — Black Women’s Health Imperative
Tell Your Senator to Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act Now — Elizabeth Owens, AAUW
Why VAWA is a Queer Issue — Terra Slavin, L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center and Sharon Stapel, New York City Anti-Violence Project
Universities Should Support VAWA — Melissa Siegel, loveisrespect.org National Youth Advisory Board
Students Against Dating/Domestic Abuse — Sara Skavroneck, loveisrespect.org National Youth Advisory Board
Loveisrespect.org — National Youth Advisory Board Against Dating Violence — Kevin Mauro, loveisrespect.org National Youth Advisory Board
Teenage Dating Violence and VAWA — Nikki Desario, loveisrespect.org National Youth Advisory Board
Joining Forces — Women Veterans Speak Out: The Trenches, Remembered — Joan Grey, Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
Violence Against Women Act up for Reauthorization — National Association of Social Workers
Wake up, People! Domestic Violence is an Epidemic! — Donna Pantry, Elf Lady’s Chronicles
Recession and Women: How Economic Insecurity Enables Abuse — Donna Addkison’s, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW)
More Bipartisan Support Needed for Violence Against Women Act — Terry O’Neill, Say It Sister- NOW’s Blog for Equality