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Archive for the ‘Sexual Harassment’ Category

Women were the key to President Obama’s re-election. Now it’s time for women voters to hold the president accountable. AAUW has created a short to-do list to help the administration kick off its second term. Help us spread the word — and celebrate Inauguration Day — by sharing this blog! And don’t forget: AAUW has tips for how to make the most of Inauguration Day in person in Washington, D.C., or from the comfort of your own home.

Women were the key to the Obama administration’s re-election. As such, AAUW has created a short to-do list to help the administration kick off its second term.

Women were the key to the Obama administration’s re-election. As such, AAUW has created a short to-do list to help the administration kick off its second term.

 

This post was written by AAUW Political Media Coordinator Elizabeth Owens.

 

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This past summer, I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Bangalore, India, through the Vira I. Heinz Program. While I was enamored by the colorful architecture, food, and clothing there, I was exposed to some of the less colorful aspects of India in my sociology course. The large scale and impact that human trafficking has on India was difficult to comprehend and, frankly, disheartening. Traffickers target children begging for money on the streets, women in brothels, and poor manual laborers. When thinking of human trafficking, most people imagine red-light districts in other parts of the world, but human trafficking is closer to home than most may realize.

Photo taken in India by Huong Nguyen

A modern-day form of slavery, human trafficking occurs not only abroad but within the U.S. border — manipulating and exploiting people for profit. U.S. federal law defines victims of human trafficking as “children involved in the sex trade, adults age 18 or over who are coerced or deceived into commercial sex acts, and anyone forced into different forms of ‘labor or services,’ such as domestic workers held in a home or farm workers forced to labor against their will.” Sadly, human trafficking occurs in all 50 states; however, the exact number of victims is largely unknown or inaccurate due to various factors, including underreporting.

Victims of human trafficking can be children, adults, men, women, U.S. citizens, and foreign nationals. There is not a consistent profile for victims, nor is there a single profile for the  traffickers, who can range from family members to brothel owners to employers of domestic servants.

There are an estimated 27 million people in modern-day slavery across the world. The Polaris Project provides red flags, as well as a hotline for confidential help and information. Regardless of your background or how wealthy your country is, human trafficking occurs everywhere. Human trafficking preys on peoples’ vulnerabilities for profit. Let’s recognize the signs and speak out about this crime against humanity.

Friday, January 11, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, a day dedicated to shedding light on human trafficking and empowering individuals to fight against this crime. Join me tomorrow and every day after to say no to human trafficking.

Here are a few ways you can raise awareness:

This post was written by National Student Advisory Council member Huong Nguyen.

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370px-White_ribbon.svgWorking with Congress on a regular basis can be exhilarating and infuriating. The past few months have been both when it comes to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a policy priority for AAUW. Our members across the country have been speaking out about the need to reauthorize VAWA and ensure it protects all victims. In the last month, there was hope that a compromise might be reached and that the House and Senate would send a bill to the president’s desk. But that did not happen before the 112th Congress adjourned. You’ll remember that the Senate passed a bipartisan bill in April that would improve VAWA programs and ensure all victims get the services they need. The House, on the other hand, passed a bill a month later that would hurt some victims and fail to make the strides that we need. On January 3, the clock ran out on finding a middle ground.

VAWA — meaning the current protection and prevention programs and victim assistance that are in place — is not dead, though. In fact, as with many of our laws, VAWA will continue in its current form even if Congress doesn’t act on a reauthorization. That’s good news for the 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men who will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes. It’s bad news, though, for victims who are overlooked under current law. It’s also bad news that Congress failed to listen when advocates and service providers spoke out about the need to update the law. Isn’t that what we elected our members of Congress to do? When first responders, local law enforcement, the criminal justice system, and victims’ service providers agree that a policy needs updates, it seems logical that policy makers would respond.

I can’t help but wonder how to re-energize after the long haul of the last year. How could Congress not notice the highprofile instances of rape on college campuses and do something about it? The Senate-passed VAWA reauthorization would have put in place more reporting, widespread prevention programming, and stronger policies on college campuses (policies taken from an AAUW-supported bill, the Campus SaVE Act). We need that protection before another school year starts.

I hope you’ll help me convince Congress yet again that we need to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. I’m stopping by congressional offices and writing e-mails; will you, too? You can

  • Use AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist tool to look up your members of Congress and call them about VAWA. Enter your zip code in the box on the right side of the page, and it will take you to the biographies and contact information for your members of Congress. Give their offices a call to tell them we need to pass a VAWA reauthorization that helps all victims ASAP!
  • Consider writing a letter to the editor in your local newspaper calling on Congress to prioritize VAWA reauthorization. Writing a letter to the editor is easier than you may think, and we can help with talking points and sample letters! E-mail advocacy@aauw.org with any questions.
  • You don’t have to be in Washington, D.C., to meet with your elected officials face to face: Schedule an in-district meeting with your members of Congress and their staffs to discuss VAWA! Start building relationships with your members of Congress early so we can make progress on VAWA and other important issues. Your members of Congress are there to work with and listen to you! E-mail advocacy@aauw.org or call us at 202.785.7793 for help with scheduling and preparing for a meeting.

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Warning: The content of this post might trigger unpleasant memories for anyone who has experienced sexual assault.

Last summer in Steubenville, Ohio, two 16-year-old high school football players allegedly raped a teenage girl at a party. The two young men have been charged, and the case made national headlines after the New York Times published a detailed article in December about what happened and after the activist hacker group Anonymous posted a video of teenagers making jokes about the alleged rape.

There have been many passionate, important articles and opinion pieces written in response to this horrific incident. Over the weekend, more than 800 people held a peaceful protest calling for justice for the survivor.

What I want to add — since the alleged assailants, the bystanders, the survivor, and the young men cracking jokes about rape were all high school students — is that this should be a wake-up call to school officials and communities to address sexual harassment and sexual assault in their schools!

Crossing the Line coverIn 2011, I co-authored Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, AAUW’s national study of students in grades 7–12 that showed that sexual harassment is still a widespread problem. Nearly 60 percent of girls and 40 percent of boys said they had experienced sexual harassment during the previous year. One-third of girls and one-fourth of boys said they had witnessed sexual harassment.

Physical harassment was not uncommon either. During the school year studied, 4 percent of girls and 0.2 percent of boys reported having been forced to do something sexual, and 13 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys had been touched in an unwelcome sexual way.

Many students saw these experiences as “no big deal,” and sexual harassment was understood as “part of school life.” Only 9 percent of the harassed students felt comfortable reporting their experiences to anyone at school.

It’s not a stretch to imagine that many of the students who harass and assault at school also do so outside of school, including at parties like the one the alleged Steubenville rapists attended, because sexual abuse is normalized in our society and perpetrators rarely see anyone punished for their actions.

It’s also not a stretch to say that schools should do more to address sexual harassment.

Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, schools must inform students that sex discrimination — including sexual harassment — is prohibited, publicize a grievance policy, and have a trained Title IX coordinator available so students can easily report incidents.

After AAUW’s 2011 report was released, I gave numerous talks across the country. Many AAUW branches that invited me to speak tried to set up meetings with Title IX coordinators. But in location after location, they could not find a single Title IX coordinator, even in large cities with many school districts. In speaking with people who regularly work on Title IX issues, I learned that this scarcity is pretty common.

I spoke at several bullying conferences and events. I received mostly blank stares when I asked people — including teachers and school administrators — if they knew what Title IX was or if they knew the names of their Title IX coordinators. At each of these conferences, I was the only person who talked about sexual harassment.

It was worse when I worked with AAUW’s Campus Action Project (CAP) teams. Each year, AAUW grants up to $5,000 to fund grassroots projects that use the recommendations from AAUW’s latest research report. In 2011–12, seven CAP teams focused on the Crossing the Line recommendations. I was appalled when most of the teams faced roadblocks as they tried to carry out their very noncontroversial projects. The following is just one example.

When one team asked to have access to a few high school students to conduct a focus group and then work with them to create an informational poster campaign, the school at first agreed. Then, when it came time to set up the focus groups, the school cancelled, saying in an e-mail that the focus group was too “controversial in nature” and that the discussion of the students’ experiences might obligate the school to report or investigate the incident “as required by law.”

When school administrators have this kind of attitude and it is combined with a culture that trivializes sexual harassment and assault, is it any wonder that sexual harassment and assault are rampant in most schools? Is it any surprise that perpetrators at school may very well become perpetrators outside of school?

It is time for school administrators, teachers, parents, and community members to finally acknowledge that sexual harassment and sexual assault happen in our schools. It’s time to talk to students about it, follow Title IX guidance, and make preventing harassment and assault a priority!

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Protestors of the New Delhi gang rape gather on December 30 in Bangalore, India.

Less than a week after the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence Campaign — which included hundreds of events demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world — ended, an all too frequent event happened in India — a rape. I’ve blogged about rape before, but this attack captured the attention and outrage of the world.

For more than two weeks, thousands of citizens in India and around the world have protested the brutal gang rape and torture of a 23-year-old Indian woman (called “braveheart” in many news stories) while she and her male companion were riding a bus in New Delhi after leaving a movie theater. She ultimately died from injuries suffered during the brutal assault.

We’ve all heard the tragic story but are unable to comprehend the horrific details. And we can’t avoid the ugly truth — violence against women is a horrendous, appalling, and pervasive reality that has placed an indelible stain on the world. The crime sparked national and international outrage, vigils, and demands to end the culture of rape. It empowered people to stand up and demand action and change from the Indian government and police.

And now, weeks after the horrific event, the men accused of the gang rape have been formally charged with rape, murder, and kidnapping.

Unfortunately, rape is a systemic problem throughout India. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a woman is raped every 20 minutes, and in 2010, more than 24,000 rapes were reported. And there are undoubtedly many rapes that go unreported — mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, or friends who become the targets of violence that can end in murder or suicide.

Who can grasp the inexplicable violence directed at women and girls worldwide and the state- and government-sanctioned evasion of protection, responsibility, and justice? India, like many nations, has vowed to take action to make women safer and provide better protection against violence — a daunting challenge in a culture and world that do not value women.

In the United States, nearly 1 in 5 women surveyed said they had been raped or had experienced an attempted rape at some point. And survivors of violence need support. This year, one of AAUW’s Community Action Grantees is Safe Connections, which provides counseling and support services to women and teens in the St. Louis metropolitan area who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or childhood sexual abuse. Another grantee, the African Services Committee’s Project Aimée, serves low-income African immigrant survivors of domestic and gender-based violence in New York City with a combination of legal services, education, and advocacy.

The need for these kinds of programs has grown as violence against women becomes more visible throughout the world. But the shocking tragedy in India could be a turning point. In order to stop this ever-increasing trend of violence, women need action, not empty promises.

We all need to keep the pressure on governments to put into action promises made to eliminate violence against women. Do it for yourself. Do it for a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, or friend. You can make your voice heard on Capitol Hill by urging your legislators to support the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. It’s long overdue. But laws can’t change hearts or minds. That must come from within. What can you do in your community to stop violence against women?

Going to a movie and riding a bus should not cost a woman her life — a woman known as “braveheart.” May her death not be in vain.

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As 2012 draws to a close, we’d like to take a moment to thank our AAUW members and supporters for your extraordinary efforts to advance our shared mission. Your advocacy and donations have helped AAUW influence public policy and implement successful and exciting programming throughout 2012. As educated women and men, you are advocates and catalysts for sustainable social change, and your ongoing support will supercharge our efforts to continue to empower women in the new year.

Thanks to your work and generosity, we can be proud of some impressive achievements. Below are just a select few (read the full list). This year, AAUW

  • Launched the nationwide voter education and turnout campaign It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard through the AAUW Action Fund. This campaign, targeted at millennial women, engaged members and branches in nearly every state and registered tens of thousands of voters.
  • Released Graduating to a Pay Gap, which uses the latest nationally representative data to explore the salary difference between women and men college graduates working full time one year after graduation and examines the effect of the pay gap on the burden of student loan debt
  • Awarded $4.3 million in fellowships and grants for the 2012–13 program year, the largest amount in four years, to support 278 women at various stages in their professional and academic careers, research projects, and programs promoting education and equity for women and girls
  • Awarded more than $100,000 in case support through the Legal Advocacy Fund to help women like Betty Dukes and Kori Cioca improve working conditions for all women employees at Wal-Mart and women in the military
  • Continued to rapidly expand our use of social and new media tools, experiencing 50 percent growth across many of AAUW’s social media channels
  • Reached more than 600 women and girls in India, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and China through in-country projects implemented by AAUW fellowships and grants alumnae
  • Played a large role in drafting and introducing legislation sponsored by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) that would undo much of the harm caused by last year’s Wal-Mart v. Dukes Supreme Court ruling
  • Started a member leadership programs department to facilitate a more focused approach to programs for our AAUW member leaders
  • Continued to expand our global commitment to women and girls through participating in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women and the U.S. National Committee for U.N. Women, sending an international delegation to China, and hosting women visitors from abroad
  • Awarded 15 Legal Advocacy Fund Campus Outreach Grants to AAUW branches across the country, which held programs on local campuses focused on issues such as pay equity, dating violence, Title IX and athletics, and gender discrimination in the workplace
  • Saw the dedicated members of the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps make more than 1,200 congressional office visits on protecting college access and affordability, reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, protecting women’s access to contraceptives, preventing bullying and harassment, passing the Paycheck Fairness Act, and eliminating workplace gender discrimination
  • Reached 30 campuses and more than 600 participants with Elect Her–Campus Women Win, the only program in the country that trains college women to run for student government
  • Helped guarantee that insurance companies cover women’s preventive care services, including contraception, pap smears, and mammograms, without co-pay or cost sharing
  • Confirmed fair pay advocate Lilly Ledbetter, leadership strategist Cynthia D’Amour, and former AAUW fellow and MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry as 2013 AAUW convention speakers, with more to come
  • Helped prevent student loan interest rates from doubling this summer so that those with student loans can meet their commitment despite the tough economy
  • Took the lead in efforts to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to a vote. Although the bill failed to overcome procedural hurdles in both the House and Senate, AAUW was recognized by the White House, House of Representatives, Senate, and the press as the leading authority on the bill.
  • Earned a perfect score on our audit thanks to the hard work of the AAUW Finance Committee and staff. See the annual report for specific numbers and a wonderful programmatic overview.
  • Sent a letter to 10 of the largest public school districts urging them to review and correct their reporting to the U.S. Department of Education of an unlikely zero incidents of sex-based bullying and sexual harassment. Several districts responded.
  • Addressed the issue of sexual harassment in grades 7–12 through seven AAUW Campus Action Project grants
  • Ensured that the AAUW-backed Campus SaVE Act was included in the Senate-passed reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act

In the past year, AAUW and our advocates have had an undeniable impact in our nation’s capital, on college campuses, in our branches and communities, and around the world. Please make a contribution now so that AAUW can intensify our crucial work to break through barriers for women and girls in the coming year.

From everyone at AAUW, best wishes for a wonderful start to 2013!

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Research is in the DNA of AAUW. It’s a big piece of what we’ve based our reputation on, and it influences our programming agenda and public policy issues. Research provides a basis for the organization and a passion that unites our members across the country.

With every new report, we make a big splash. There’s usually a blitz of media coverage at first, and then it naturally trails off. But every once in a while, a year or more after publication, interest in the report is renewed. This happened recently for our 2011 report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School.

AAUW’s Director of Research Catherine Hill was featured on Teen Kids News in October 2012. This show is a half hour weekly news program reported by kids for kids. The episode with Catherine’s interview aired on at least 73 stations across the country. In addition, according to their website, “Teen Kids News is shown every week during the school year in over 12,000 middle and high schools across the country reaching over 6 million students. This is nearly 25 percent of America’s teens — and hundreds of thousands of educators.”


To help make research matter in your local area, AAUW encourages members to contact their local schools and see if this episode about sexual harassment has been shown to students. If not, the video you saw above can be accessed online and shared with schools. Other resources that can be helpful when discussing Crossing the Line include the full report, executive summary, and PowerPoint presentations for various audiences.

If you’re planning on using Crossing the Line or other research to reach out to your local schools, please let us know in the comments! We always like to hear about the amazing work our members and branches do with AAUW research.

AAUW Research Assistant Katie Benson also contributed to this post.

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