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Posts Tagged ‘VAWA’

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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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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capitol dome

The 112th Congress officially adjourned Wednesday, ending what’s been described as the least productive Congress ever. For some context, just 219 bills passed by the 112th Congress have been signed into law. The Congress before that passed 383 bills, and the one before that saw 460 bills signed into law. Clearly, a lot of important work was left unfinished and will have to be taken up by the 113th.

For one thing, the 112th didn’t pass the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), a much-needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963. AAUW is a strong supporter of this legislation and led efforts to bring it before both chambers for a vote. Unfortunately, the PFA didn’t get the required procedural votes, so it will have to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress.

Another item still on Congress’ to-do list is the passage of an inclusive Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization. The Senate passed an AAUW-supported, bipartisan, comprehensive VAWA in April 2012, while the House of Representatives passed a different, damaging bill the following month. Due to resistance in the House, the two bills were not reconciled, and the reauthorization was not passed.

In addition to PFA and VAWA, the 113th Congress will face many other items on its agenda:

  • The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sets parameters for K–12 education and funding, is due for reauthorization. AAUW will be paying attention to many issues during this process, including
    • upholding Title IX protections,
    • opposing private school vouchers,
    • ensuring that charter schools are held to the same standards as other schools,
    • requiring that schools be held accountable for demonstrating that they are meeting educational goals for all students,
    • opposing single-sex education programs that don’t pay proper attention to civil rights protections, and
    • supporting requirements that schools collect comprehensive data on student achievement and graduation.
  • The Higher Education Act, which is the most significant federal law for American colleges and universities, is up for reauthorization. AAUW supports increasing access to higher education for traditional and nontraditional students.

We’re also keeping pressure on the Obama administration. AAUW believes President Obama should pay attention to women’s priorities, especially since women’s votes decided the 2012 election. See AAUW’s list of what Obama should do on day one of his new term.

These are some of our top priorities for the 113th Congress. What are yours?

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’Tis the season of snow, champagne, and New Year’s resolutions! AAUW will formally submit a list of 2013 policy recommendations to Congress and the president, but we wanted to give our members and supporters a more informal look at some of our goals for this year — our advocacy resolutions, if you will.

Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to recognize 2013 as the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act and call attention all year long for the need to update this important piece of legislation. The Equal Pay Act, originally signed into law on June 10, 1963, prohibits wage discrimination on the basis of sex. Although enforcement of the Equal Pay Act as well as other civil rights laws such as Title VII has helped to narrow the wage gap, significant disparities remain that need to be addressed. The Equal Pay Act is too limited in scope, and it has several loopholes that prevent us from further closing the wage gap. We’ve come a long way in the last 50 years, but we’ve got a ways to go — and I resolve to make sure everyone knows what we need to do to get there.

Erin Prangley, associate director of public policy and government relations: I resolve to make sure AAUW priority legislation — such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, Safe Schools Improvement Act, Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, High School Athletics Accountability Act, and Violence Against Women Act — is reintroduced in the 113th Congress. All bills that did not pass in the 112th Congress must be reintroduced to move forward, and I resolve that AAUW will continue to lead efforts to gain co-sponsors for our priority legislation.

Anne Hedgepeth, government relations manager: I resolve to meet with the new members of the 113th Congress to introduce them to AAUW and our priority issues. We can be a great asset as they develop policy and figure out what to support over the coming two years. Plus, many of them already know about us thanks to the amazing work our branch and state organizations do locally. You can help by scheduling in-district meetings with your representatives and senators as well. E-mail us at advocacy@aauw.org if you need help scheduling or preparing for a meeting!

Beth Scott, regulatory affairs manager: I resolve to hold the Obama administration accountable to women and families by monitoring new federal regulations and making sure they reflect AAUW’s public policy positions. For example, in 2013 there should be new rules to make sure women and girls are treated fairly by insurance companies and have access to the medical care they need and deserve, such as contraception. I’ll make sure AAUW reviews those rules and works with the federal agencies to draft the most inclusive and strongest possible laws to protect our rights.

Liz Owens, political media coordinator: I resolve to make an AAUW priority issue “trend” (be one of the most popular topics) nationwide on Twitter this year and to help brand AAUW as a leading voice on our priority issues. That means engaging with top influencers, activists, journalists, and you to spread the word about our work. Get us started by following @AAUWPolicy on Twitter! And help brand topics such as #fairpay, #highered, #STEM, #TitleIX, #VAWA, #pellgrants, and #reprorights as our priority issues by adding @AAUW to your tweets.

Kimberly Fountain, state grassroots advocacy manager: I resolve to show off the public policy accomplishments of AAUW state organizations and branches. As we saw in the It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign, our state organizations and branches are full of innovative ideas, from AAUW of Colorado creating temporary tattoos for millennials to the AAUW Omaha (NE) Branch registering voters at a Zumba class. I want to share these and more exciting accomplishments through social media, our website, e-mails to AAUW members and supporters, Outlook magazine, and other outlets. You can help us by sending media coverage, photos, and stories of your branch’s events to advocacy@aauw.org.

And finally, my resolution as grassroots advocacy coordinator is to grow the AAUW Action Network by 50 percent in 2013 so that we can make our voices in Washington, D.C., even louder. AAUW Action Network, the cornerstone of AAUW’s e-advocacy efforts, e-mails notices about the latest legislation and urges subscribers to contact their members of Congress. You can help me fulfill this resolution right now by subscribing to the AAUW Action Network! Already a subscriber? Share this image with three friends, and encourage them to join you!

What’s your advocacy resolution? How will you help fulfill AAUW’s mission of advancing equity for women and girls through advocacy? Please share in the comments!

Action Network New Years

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On January 7, the University of Notre Dame football team will compete to win a U.S. national title. And playing on the team, to the cheers of millions of people, will be two men who, in separate incidents, allegedly raped and sexually assaulted two college women.

Notre Dame vs Syracuse photo courtesy of ctaloi on Flickr Creative Commons

That makes me really mad.

I found out this week that one of the two women committed suicide 10 days after reporting the assault — and receiving a shocking lack of help from campus police and administrators. It wasn’t until the media drew attention to the assault that the campus finally held a disciplinary hearing for one of the accused players six months after the woman’s death. He was found “not responsible” and never sat out a single game. The second player was never charged because the woman he assaulted knew what had happened to the first woman and decided  not to report the crime.

Notre Dame is not the only campus with a sexual assault problem, but attacks don’t make national news every time they occur. Still, many campuses have made headlines for incidents of assault in the past few months, including Amherst College, the University of Montana, and Boston University.

These stories underscore alarming statistics; for instance, 19 percent of college women experience completed or attempted sexual assault or rape. Most perpetrators on campus get away with their crimes, in part because reporting is so low. So many of the few people who do speak out face a lack of response, victim-blaming, or retaliation.

Before they even reported the attacks by Notre Dame football players, the young women allegedly faced threats of retaliation from the friends and teammates of the two men.

As an advocate working to end campus sexual assault, I am disheartened to hear these stories, not only because I know that yet another person has been needlessly traumatized but also because cases like these show how the “right” answer — telling someone to report the crime — may not always be the safest option for the victim or the best way to ensure justice is served.

This is one reason why I feel so strongly about the passage of the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination (SaVE) Act.

The SaVE Act is a provision included in the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act,  which Congress has yet to reauthorize. The SaVE Act would require schools to do more about sexual violence, including creating plans to prevent this violence and educating victims about their rights and resources.

This act is essential since most campuses need to do much more to prevent sexual assault; they need to penalize perpetrators, and they need to do more to help survivors.

If you’re mad like I am, here are three ways to channel your anger:

  1. Urge your representatives to reauthorize VAWA including campus safety provisions from the Campus SaVE Act.
  2. If you know someone on a college or university campus or are on a campus yourself, download and share AAUW’s Campus Sexual Assault Program in a Box. It’s full of useful information about resources like prevention programs and awareness campaigns for campuses.
  3. Share and download a free iPhone and Android app called Circle of 6, which allows friends to help each other out of potentially unsafe situations before they escalate into violence.

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In the spirit of Thanksgiving, AAUW would like to pause to give thanks for the many opportunities and advancements for women and girls in 2012. The full list is available on AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist, but here’s a sampling of what we are thankful for this year:

  • We are thankful for the AAUW states, branches, and coalition partners that made voter education and mobilization a priority as part of the AAUW Action Fund It’s My Vote: I Will Be Heard campaign. With your work and commitment, we challenged millennial women to make their voices heard — and they were.
  • We are thankful for the first responders who placed themselves in harm’s way to help during superstorm Sandy. Our hearts continue to go out to those affected by the storm, especially those still suffering weeks later and the communities looking at years of rebuilding and recovery.
  • We are thankful for the record number of women who will serve in the 113th Congress: 20 in the Senate and 78 representatives and three delegates in the House. We are particularly grateful for the states that elected their first female senators — Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin — and the other “firsts”  in the 2012 elections, which broke representation barriers for religion, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation.
  • (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joseph Moon/Released)We are thankful for the implementation of the requirement that all new health insurance plans must cover — without copays — eight additional women’s preventive care services, including contraception, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and breastfeeding support.
  • We are thankful that the U.S. Olympic Team had more female athletes than male athletes for the first time in history, and we are thankful that women won 29 of the U.S. teams’ 46 gold medals. We are also thankful that 16-year-old Gabby Douglas became the first black woman to win a gold medal in the individual all-around gymnastics competition.
  • We are thankful for AAUW’s new research report, Graduating to a Pay Gap, which uses the latest nationally representative data to explore the earnings difference between women and men college graduates who are working full time one year after graduation. It also examines one immediate effect that the pay gap has on many women: the heavy burden of student loan debt. The report has been featured by Reuters, U.S. News and World Report, and the Washington Post.
  • We are thankful for the Senate-passed, bipartisan Violence Against Women Act reauthorization, which builds on the success of previous reauthorizations, addresses the needs of all victims nationwide, and includes important campus safety provisions. AAUW will continue to pressure the House to agree to this vital reauthorization.
  • We are thankful for the 40th anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the landmark legislation that ensures equal opportunity in education for all students. We are also thankful for the release of a report, published by a coalition that AAUW chaired, recognizing this milestone.
  • We are thankful for our stalwart allies on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who introduced legislation to fix the Supreme Court’s problematic decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes.
  • We are thankful that Congress prevented student loan interest rates from doubling over the summer.
  • We are thankful that Connecticut’s paid sick days law went into effect on January 1 and that a similar Seattle law went into effect on September 1.
  • We are thankful for AAUW members and supporters who generously give of their time, talents, and treasures to empower all women and girls to advance their education, increase their economic security, and develop their leadership skills.

Please visit AAUW’s Two-Minute Activist to read the full list of what we are thankful for this year and to sign up for the AAUW Action Network so you can help us advocate for AAUW priority issues and add to this list of advancements next year.

From all of us at AAUW to our more than 150,000 members, donors, and supporters nationwide: Best wishes for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving and a safe and joyful start to your holiday season!

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via Andreas PraefckeThe Obama administration invited leaders of national women’s groups to the White House Tuesday for a conversation on the budget and other issues facing the country. Just a week after the election, AAUW Executive Director Linda Hallman was at the table with President Obama; senior adviser Valerie Jarrett; Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council; and Gene Sperling, director of the National Economic Council, to discuss AAUW priorities.

The president’s decision to meet with women’s group leaders — and the tone at the meeting itself — reinforced the significance of the role women played in helping to re-elect the president. For AAUW, this high-level, small-group conversation represented an important post-election step in keeping a policy focus on issues critical to women and families.

“AAUW’s advocacy efforts throughout the presidential campaign sought not only to encourage women to vote but also to make clear that their work did not end with the election,” Hallman said. “With their votes, women positioned themselves to be an important and influential voice in the conversations ahead. We hope Tuesday’s meeting at the White House proves to be just the beginning of opportunities for women to be at the table and to be heard.”

AAUW set out immediately following the election to remind the White House and Congress of women’s key role in holding politicians accountable. We will send the Obama administration a list of AAUW priorities for the new term. These include issuing an executive order outlawing federal contractors from retaliating against employees who ask about compensation, requiring federal agencies to conduct Title IX compliance reviews at all institutions receiving federal funds, and working with Congress to pass an inclusive Violence Against Women Act. We outlined many of these priorities in our September 2012 report on the Obama administration.

AAUW also hosted a Twitter campaign to compile recommendations for the president and the new Congress to address on their first days of the upcoming term, and we have educated our members and blog readers to be prepared for sequestration talks in the next month.

“The president sent a message to women Tuesday that he wants to work with us on the issues we care about,” Hallman said. “Now women have to send a message back to the president and Congress that makes our priorities known and says we are ready to work together to improve the lives of women and families. We’re here to make progress — our vote was just the beginning.”

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

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