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Can I Help Save VAWA? Why, Yes! Yes, You Can!

See?  I said I’d do more than one blog post on the Violence Against Women Act!  So… here is Post #2!  It’s nice and short.You-Can-Help

The National Task Force to End Domestic and Sexual Violence Against Women is imploring the 113th Congress to restore VAWA immediately. The new Congress is a change of leadership, and so there is of necessity a brief pause in advocacy efforts.  But be ready to jump in and join the call to mobilize!  Check out the the VAWA Tool Kit.

In California, statewide coalitions such as the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault are also helping to mobilize concerned citizens and advocacy groups in the same effort.

For a first-person perspective on the sorts of services that will be put in jeopardy if VAWA is not revived, and the impact on survivors of violence, read this excellent article from Truth Out!

STAY TUNED FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT VAWA AND HOW YOU CAN HELP.

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What the Heck is a “VAWA” and Why Do We Care That it Was Allowed to Die?

While most of the United States was worried about the Fiscal Cliff and whether we were going off it or not, another piece of legislation went by the wayside and died before the 12th Congress adjourned for good. That piece of legislation is VAWA – The Violence Against Women Act.

I’ll be putting out more than one blog 735075_451227128272165_1180963144_npost about VAWA and why it’s being allowed to die is a Big Hairy Deal.  So, I figured the best way to approach this is to first put out a VAWA 101 post since you may not know what the heck it is or why it is important. So… strap in, here it comes!

WHAT IS THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT?

The Violence Against Women laws provide programs and services, including:

  • Establishing the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice;
  • Community violence prevention programs;
  • Protections for female victims who are evicted from their homes because of events related to domestic violence or stalking;
  • Funding for female victim assistance services, like rape crisis centers and hotlines;
  • Programs to meet the needs of immigrant women and women of different races or ethnicities;
  • Programs and services for female victims with disabilities;
  • Legal aid for female survivors of violence;
  • Funding toward investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women.

WHO SUPPORTED THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT? (At least until recently.)

Everybody!  Well, okay, not EVERYBODY.  However, it was drafted with support from a broad coalition of groups, including:

  • The battered women’s movement;
  • Sexual assault victim advocates;
  • The victim services field;
  • Law enforcement agencies;
  • Prosecutors’ offices;
  • The courts, and the private bar.

It passed through Congress with bipartisan support in 1994 and was reauthorized in similar manner in 2000 and 2005.

SO WHAT RESULT HAS VAWA HAD?  HAS IT DONE ANY GOOD? 

SINCE VAWA WAS ENACTED…

  • Reporting of domestic violence has increased as much as 51%.
  • All states have passed laws making stalking a crime and have strengthened rape laws.
  • The number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased by 34% for women and 57% for men.
  • After using VAWA funding to institute a Lethality Assessment Program, Maryland’s intimate partner homicides have been reduced by a remarkable 41% over four years (July 2007-July 2010).
  • A 2010 study demonstrated that an increase in the number of legal services available is associated with a decrease in intimate partner homicide.
  • A 2009 Department of Justice Study found Kentucky saved $85 million in one alone year through the issuance of protection orders and the reduction in violence

WOW!  SO THAT MEANS THAT SOCIETY NO LONGER HAS TO WORRY ABOUT RAPE AND DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, RIGHT?  VAWA’S WORK IS DONE?

Sadly, no!  We still need VAWA desperately!

  • Three women are still killed every day as a result of domestic violence;
  • Nearly 1 in 4 women are beaten or raped by a partner during adulthood and each year approximately 2.3 million people are raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former intimate partner;
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape;
  • Teens and young adults suffer the highest rates of dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking;
  • Domestic violence takes its toll on our economy. Even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than 8 billion dollars a year in lost productivity and health care costs alone.

SO WHAT HAPPENED TO VAWA IF IT WAS SO USEFUL?

The Act’s 2012 renewal was fiercely opposed by conservative Republicans, who objected to extending the Act’s protections to same-sex couples and to provisions allowing battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. In April 2012, the Senate voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, and the House subsequently passed its own measure (omitting provisions of the Senate bill that would protect gay men, lesbians, American Indians living in reservations, and illegal immigrants who were victims of domestic violence). Reconciliation of the two bills was stymied by procedural measures.

In the most recent news… on January 2, 2013, The Senate’s 2012 reauthorization of VAWA was NOT brought up for a vote in the House; effectively ending the Bill after 18 years in effect.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT THIS LAW HAS BEEN AROUND NEARLY 20 YEARS WITHOUT MUCH FUSS AND NOW IT’S JUST BEEN ALLOWED TO KEEL OVER?

Why yes, that is what I am saying.

In other words, THIS IS NOT GOOD for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking!  On a societal level, we are going from being active bystanders, to people who just walk on by and ignore the problem.

More blog posts to come…

The Longest Night of the Year – National Homeless Persons Memorial Day

169_IreneHomelessIn the midst of gratitude and holiday spirit, we are reminded that there is still so much work left to do and so much change needed in the world.

Tomorrow is National Homeless Persons Memorial Day – a day to remember, honor and mourn our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, cousins and friends who died this year on the streets.  Homeless people die from illnesses that affect everyone, and are frequently without health care. Homeless people die from exposure, unprotected from the heat and cold. Homeless people die from violence, often in unprovoked hate crimes. Health care is a human right. Housing is a human right. Physical safety is a human right. Remember our neighbors and friends who have died without homes. Remember why they died.

December 21st is the first day of winter — the longest night of the year.  Who is outside and without shelter on this night?  The Tri-Valley Haven’s family homeless shelter and food pantry provide resources.

What can you do to help?

You also might ask — this is a blog about ending sexual assault — what do homelessness and National Homeless Persons Memorial Day have to do with sexual assault, or ending it… or this blog, for that matter?

Sadly, a lot.

Homelessness and sexual assault are closely tied to each other for women in particular.  Many scholarly studies have shown the extraordinarily high levels of abuse and victimization that homeless women endure before, during, and after episodes of homelessness.  Here are a few statistics to make you sit back and think – they certainly hit me hard!

  • 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lives, with 43% reporting sexual abuse in childhood and 63% reporting intimate partner violence in adulthood.
  • In another study, 13% of homeless women reported having been raped in the past 12 months and half of these were raped at least twice.
  • Compared to their low-income housed counterparts, the sexual assault experiences of homeless women are more likely to be violent, and to include multiple sexual acts.
  • One study of women seeking help from a rape/sexual assault crisis center found that childhood sexual abuse was reported by 43% of the homeless participants, compared to 24.6% of the housed participants.
  • It is estimated that half of all homeless women and children have become homeless while trying to escape abusive situations.

Oftentimes, we talk about various social problems as unrelated to each other.  We talk about homelessness as a problem.  We talk about sexual assault as a problem.  Or domestic violence.  Or substance abuse.  Or mental health issues.  In reality, these problems are often combined, feeding on each other and tearing at lives, families and hearts in conjunction.  When you see someone who is homeless, you might only be seeing the tip of an iceberg of challenges.

How can you be an involved bystander when it comes to National Homeless Persons Memorial Day? 

Inform yourself about resources in YOUR area.  Is there a shelter?  How about a food pantry?  Free or low-income counseling services?  What is in your community and who is helping?  If you see someone who is homeless and you want to help, what can you give besides spare change?  Maybe one thing you can give is information – directions to the shelter or the food pantry, for instance.  They may already know all about these resources, but maybe they don’t!

Do you hear someone talking about victims of homelessness in a way that is abusive or stereotypes homeless people?  Take the time to let them know the real facts about homelessness.  For a great resource and quick read on the topic, you can take a look at this handout.  It’s aimed at high school students but it’s great for youth, young adult and adults alike!

There are so many ways one can be an involved bystander, actively working to help.  Brainstorm ways you might be able to make a difference this holiday season, and all seasons.

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Stay In Touch!

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Just a quick little bloglet here about OTHER ways you can keep in touch with my “parent” organization, the Tri-Valley Haven.  We’re based in Livermore, California and we are a crisis line, domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center, family homeless shelter and food pantry.  Whew.  That’s a lot of services for one little group!  We offer all those things, plus group and one-on-one counseling, advocacy services for sexual assault survivors (this means we will accompany you to the hospital, the police station, court, etc. during the process of reporting a rape), a restraining order clinic, and more.

This blog is really only ONE aspect of what we do–the blog is concentrating on the concept of Bystander Intervention–what we can do as just day-to-day people, out there living our lives in the world.  How can we help if we see violence or abuse?  Can we step in safely?  How do we do that?  Can we do something indirect to help when or if direct is dangerous?  Can we get other people in our lives thinking and talking about these issues?  Can we help to build a web of concerned and caring people?

Hey, I think it’s a worthy goal… what about you?

But it’s just a part of all we do.  SO… if you want to stay in touch with other aspects of Tri-Valley Haven, I’m gonna toss a few links up here on this post.  🙂

For our main website, go to www.trivalleyhaven.org – This lists a lot more information about our services and who we are, as well as upcoming events.

For our Facebook Page, go to https://www.facebook.com/trivalleyhaven – This is more informal than our website and more active as well, listing thank-yous and news stories and all sorts of stuff to keep you connected.

We also have an e-newsletter.  Drop me a comment here if you want to be signed up and I’m happy to do so!

And, of course… there is this blog.

So without further ado… on with the blogging!

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