by Arezu Kaywanfar
During my internship with NCJW, a rally in support of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) stands out in my mind as an event that further ignited my passion for women’s empowerment.
NCJW has long supported VAWA and continues to work for passage of this bill that protects all victims of domestic and sexual assault. Though the House passed its version of VAWA in May, that bill contains dangerous provisions that would actually be harmful to women and their families. NCJW supports the Senate’s version of VAWA, which would streamline programs to increase effectiveness and provide critical improvements to respond to unmet needs within communities. The Senate version also strengthens protections for those experiencing violence at the hands of a same-sex partner, as well as for immigrants and Native American women. In short, it’s a much better bill!
So on a hot Washington morning, I joined hundreds of VAWA supporters outside the Capitol building. Shouts of “Real VAWA Now” and other chants supportive of the Senate bill echoed. Rally speakers included: singer Michael Bolton, Virginia Tech shooting survivor Colin Goddard, leaders of religious and women’s organizations, and National Congress of American Indians Secretary Juana Majel. I was struck by Majel’s beautiful speech as well as the many Native Americans from Alaska who stood behind her in support. The presence of people from across the country was a reminder that we should not settle for anything less than a bill that protects everyone.
Earlier in the week, I had the honor of meeting Vice President Joe Biden at an event in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, launching a new Public Service Announcement (PSA) for his “1 is 2 Many” initiative on dating violence. The PSA features President Obama as well as many renowned sports figures, such as soccer star David Beckham, who ask men to help end the violence. The PSA also counters the notion that violence against women occurs only in dark alleys by strangers; in reality, the Vice President noted, many women are assaulted by “someone they know and trust.” In addition, he commented that these educational efforts are important to help reduce the stigma attached to abuse and help connect women with support services, saying, “Women need to know if they come out of the shadows…there are people to pull them into the sunlight.” Vice President Biden, who as a senator was the original author of VAWA in 1994, proudly said that because of the law, domestic violence has dropped by 70 percent. However, he stated that, unfortunately, abuse rates have actually increased among women and girls aged 16 to 24: 1 in 9 teen girls are raped, 1 in 10 teens will be hurt on purpose by someone they are dating, and 1 in 5 young women are sexually assaulted in college.
Vice President Biden was charismatic and engaging as he infused his personal story into his remarks, explaining the journey to enact VAWA and the fight to educate fellow lawmakers about domestic violence. When he first raised the issue in the Senate, he was told it’s “a personal matter” that should not be mentioned in public. Luckily, then— Sen. Biden did not take no for an answer and helped put the issue of reducing violence against women out in the open as a critical part of our nation’s public discussion. It was an incredible experience to hear him speak in person. Posing for a photo and getting a warm hug was the icing on the cake for me and something I will always remember. Furthermore, I am determined to do my part to see the Senate VAWA bill enacted.
Please, take a moment to join me in supporting “the Real VAWA.” Call your senators to urge them to support all victims of violence by voting for S 1925. You can reach your senators by dialing the US Capitol Switchboard: (202) 224 3121.
This post is part of the #HERVotes blog carnival. #HERvotes, a multi-organization campaign launched in August 2011, advocates women using our voices and votes to stop the attacks on the women’s movement’s major advances, many of which are at risk in the next election. Read more from our partner organizations:
Tragedy in Springfield, Mass.: When VAWA and Local Domestic Violence Intersect – Mary Reardon Johnson, YWCA USA
Perpetrators Don’t Discriminate, So Why is Congress? – Maggie Fridinger, National Council of Women’s Organizations
Save Our Campuses: Pass VAWA – Dani Nispel, National Council of Women’s Organizations
Empower Women: Reauthorize VAWA Today! – Hailey Cayne, Coalition of Labor Union Women
Joining the Chorus for VAWA – Arezu Kaywanfar, National Council of Jewish Women
Pass a Final Violence Against Women Act that Includes Campus SaVe – Chelsea Feuchs, Jewish Women International
Saving VAWA – Rev. Dr. E. Faye Williams, National Congress of Black Women
NASW Still Supports Passage of Violence Against Women Act – National Association of Social Workers
Violent Against Women Act Helps Kids Too – Martha Burk