HERvotes Blog Carnival: Reauthorize the Real VAWA – Reject “VAWA Lite”

By Kim Gandy, VP and General Counsel, Feminist Majority Foundation

HERvotes is joining our voices together in a blog carnival urging passage of the “real” Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization — the bi-partisan bill that has already passed the Senate.

The House has passed a version of VAWA reauthorization that some have called “VAWA Lite” or “fake VAWA” – because it removes the Senate bill’s provisions addressing safety on campuses and protections for LGBT, immigrant and Native American survivors of violence.

Every two minutes someone in the United States is sexually assaulted. Domestic violence results in over two million injuries every year. Three women die every day in the United States as the result of domestic violence.

Since the passage of VAWA in 1994, the rate of intimate partner violence has declined by 67%. VAWA provides services to victims of violence and has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women.  But the last reauthorization of VAWA expired December 31, 2011.

Eliminating violence against women is not… must not… be a partisan issue.

HERvotes urges the House to pass the bi-partisan Senate VAWA and extend VAWA’s lifesaving programs and services for another five years.

Join us by sharing the posts below on Facebook, Twitter (using the hashtag #HERvotes), and other social media.  And be sure to follow @HERvotes on Twitter!

#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.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Read More:

3 Reasons It’s Critical to Reauthorize VAWA Now -  Cristina Finch, Amnesty International

 Ending Violence Against All Women-Christine Miranda, NOW

Turning “Ifs” into “Whens”: College Students Like Me Need Reauthorization of a Full VAWA – Dana Bolger, NWLC

Violence Exists. Women Exist. The Violence Against Women Act Should Too – Tessa Ross, Women’s Campaign Fund

AAUW Rallies for Inclusive VAWA – Laura Dietrich, AAUW

Violence Against Women at College? Something to Worry About – Allyson Bach, NWPC

Inadequate Legislation Empowers Abusers – Anny Bolganio, Coalition of Labor Union Women

Violence is Violence, No Matter What Gender – Samantha Aster, NWPC

Class Matters: Why VAWA Needs to Be Reauthorized - Danielle Marryshow, NWPC

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

Saving VAWA

By Rev. Dr. E. Faye Williams, Chair of the National Congress of Black Women

If you have ever been beaten, kicked, punched, slapped by a partner who claims to love you, it is not difficult for you to understand why it’s mandatory to have the Violence Against Women Act.  If you’ve ever had a daughter, a sister, a cousin who experienced the terrifying thought of being abused for no reason, then you understand why VAWA is necessary.

More women than you can imagine live in real fear of repeated attacks just because their partners feel nothing will be done if they abuse a woman.  Some still live under that old assumption that a man is king of his household and the women therein are his property and that the law is on his side no matter what he does.  We cannot allow that belief to prevail.

Like so many women, I have bruises that will never go away—some physical, some mental.  For years after getting a divorce and getting away from my abuser, I looked over my shoulder believing my former spouse meant what he said when he said he would find me and he would kill me.  Until the day he died, I had recurring thoughts of what he promised, and to this day, I cannot sleep without locking the door to my bedroom.

I don’t want other women to go through what I did when calling a policeman only meant you’d have him tell you, “He’ll have to practically kill you before we can do anything to him”.  That’s the way it was before VAWA and generations of women were told the same or similar things.  Many women did die praying for help that never came or came too late.  Let’s make every effort to save VAWA and save lives.  VAWA must be reauthorized.  We must do all we can to make it happen.



Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Violence is a Cycle: We Must Reauthorize VAWA!

By John Roach, Break the Cycle and student at Georgetown University

Since VAWA was first passed in 1994, there have been great strides towards stopping violence in the US.  States have passed more than 600 laws to combat the violence, the rate of non-fatal intimate violence against women has decreased drastically, and more victims report abuse to the police – in fact, there has been up to a 51% increase in reporting by women.  Clearly, VAWA has done wonders for women everywhere.

However, eighteen years later, domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence, and stalking continue to run rampant among youth in the United States.  One needs only to look at the statistics to see the problem:  One quarter of High School girls have been the victims of physical or sexual abuse or date rape.  80% of female victims of sexual assault experience their first rape before age twenty five; 42% before age eighteen.  What resources are available for these youth?  Well, despite 43% of victims reporting that abuse happened on school grounds, educators and administrative staff are often untrained at recognition and intervention – possibly lending to the fact that 2/3 of young victims never even report being abused.

The lack of help for these young victims takes a legitimate toll. Victims of dating violence or sexual coercion are 3 times more likely to score mostly D’s and F’s in school than A’s. And there’s more. Young victims of intimate partner violence are three times more likely to suffer from depression, three times more likely to display disordered eating behaviors, four times more likely to contemplate suicide, thirteen times more likely to abuse alcohol, and 26 times more likely to abuse illegal and prescription drugs.

These problems are real, and yet the resources available to these young people are few and far between.  Victim service providers who primarily serve adults lack resources to deal with the specific needs of younger victims, leading to fewer youth seeking help. It is clear that we must find more effective ways to address teen and young adult domestic violence, sexual violence, dating violence and stalking.  It is time to hear these stories and help these youth.

If authorized, the new VAWA (S. 1925) will help to accomplish this.  It would consolidate two programs already in place – Services to Advocate for and Respond to Youth (STARY) and Supporting Teens through Education and Protection (STEP) – to create an all-encompassing approach to violence prevention, making schools safer and relevant services available.  STARY grants allow for organizations to establish youth-focused services for sexual and dating violence, while the STEP program will help schools work collaboratively with victim service providers and pertinent organizations to ensure that all young people have access to the resources they need.  Furthermore, the new VAWA also provides services for those who are put at risk by exposure to violence at a young age. Approximately 15.5 million children are exposed to domestic violence each year.  Physical abuse during childhood increases both the risk of future victimization and perpetuation of abuse – it must be addressed directly, but most children today do not have access to these services. If reauthorized, VAWA will help establish mental health services for these children, who have typically been able to overcome their trauma when placed under such programs.  By putting necessary focus on violence among youth, VAWA can help America’s suffering young victims and prevent future suffering.

There is no denying that this is a dire issue that faces America’s youth.  But there is also no denying that something can, and should, be done about it.  What can you do?  Join the effort to prevent violence in youth culture.  Spread the word: share your story on Facebook and like this page for pertinent information and events, trend on Twitter (using the hashtag #ReauthorizeVAWA), or pursue other social media efforts.  Email Congress and tell them how much VAWA means to you.  Write to Senators who are not yet Co-Sponsors of S.1925 and ask for their support. We must be sure that Congress hears our voices.  Violence is a cycle – 35% of women who are raped as minors will be raped again as adults.  We must prevent violence before it starts.  We must reauthorize VAWA!

February is National Teen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Want to Stop Sexual Harassment at Work? First, Stop it at School

By Holly Kearl, AAUW

Sexual harassment allegations by four women against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain have made the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace headline news. What many people may not realize is that such harassment is a widespread problem in middle and high schools, too.

During the 2010-11 school year, nearly 48 percent of students in grades 7 through 12 in the United States said they experienced sexual harassment, according to a new nationally representative study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) which I co-authored. Additionally, nearly one in three students (28 percent) said they had witnessed harassment that school year.

The forms of sexual harassment most often cited by students included someone making unwelcome sexual comments, jokes or gestures; being called gay or lesbian in a negative way; and being shown or sent sexual pictures that the viewer didn’t want to see. About 30 percent of students said the harassment happened through text messages, emails and social media.

Even more alarming, 13 percent of girls and 3 percent of boys said they had been touched in an unwanted sexual way, and 4 percent of girls (plus 0.2 percent of boys) had been forced to do something sexual.

Since the report’s release, a few people have emailed us at AAUW wondering why this matters, while others have observed that the harassment is just “kids being kids” and that it is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. Some readers here may have similar thoughts.

We disagree. This issue does matter and it should not have to be a rite of passage. Our students, our children deserve better.

Most students (87 percent) who had been harassed said it negatively impacted their life. Common reactions to sexual harassment included feeling sick to their stomach, having trouble sleeping and having a hard time studying. 12 percent of students said they had missed days at school because of sexual harassment and four percent said they had changed schools. Students should feel safe at school, and the learning environment should not include worries about sexual harassment.

With sexual harassment dominating the news, it is a perfect time to start a dialogue with youth about the issue. Age-appropriate discussions about consent, respect, personal boundaries and bodily rights are crucial, and can begin even before middle school. These are especially important conversations to have with boys, since the majority of students in AAUW’s survey identified a boy or group of boys as their harasser/s.

Speaking with students about sexual harassment and what to do about it can make young people better equipped to deal with it throughout their lives, and hopefully it can prevent would-be harassers from harassing in school and, later, in the workplace. Discussion of sexual harassment is exactly what many students said they wanted to see happen at their schools: 31 percent of students surveyed said they wanted to have in-class discussions on the topic, 24 percent wanted schools to hold workshops and 22 percent wanted to be able to access online information.

It’s important for educators and parents to know that a similar percentage of boys and girls in seventh grade (48 percent) said they had experienced sexual harassment. Much of this harassment was sexuality-based, where students said they had been called “gay” or “lesbian” in a negative way. It’s thus clear that in middle school particularly, efforts must include dealing with the harassment that boys face, too. This need was brought home by the other big headline of last week on the related issue of child sexual abuse involving young boys.

By high school, far more girls face sexual harassment than boys. In AAUW’s study, nearly two-thirds of twelfth grade girls (62 percent) had faced sexual harassment the previous year.

And that’s not all.

A look at the broader picture shows that high-school age girls face harassment in many places, not just on their campuses. My research on street harassment showed that, by age 19, nearly 90 percent of women had faced sexual harassment from strangers in public places. Even more alarming, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network reports that girls ages 16 through 19 are four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape or sexual assault. It’s crucial, then, for adults to talk to girls about not only what they may face at school but also on the streets and on dates.

If sexual harassment is addressed when students are in school, there is hope that the current generation of students will then face less sexual harassment in the workplace.

This blog is part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Sorry, Rachel, There is Still Sexual Harassment

By  Joan Grey
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
Veteran Public Relations Associate

At less than a year old, you are a bit young to hear this message. The immediate learning challenges ahead of you include walking and talking.  But this is one of those topics that there is never really a good time to discuss. While I hope you never experience this, forewarned is forearmed and knowledge is power.  The topic is harassment and violence, particularly against females.

Harassment starts young. We usually call it bullying, when referring to school children.  Is bullying the root of harassment among adults?

A recently released survey from the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, concludes that sexual harassment is commonplace in middle and high schools. Nearly half the students experienced some form of sexual harassment during the recent school year, with girls more likely than boys to be sexually harassed.  Technology has extended the reach with texting, e-mail, and Facebook as relatively new ways to contact and attack others.

More than half of students have viewed sexual harassment of others. Seeing is not as bad as being the target, but it makes school feel less safe. Witnessing sexual harassment in school may also make it seem like normal behavior.

So, what is harassment? It can be a case of “I’ll know it when I experience it,” and may run the gamut from teasing to physical contact. But what the instigator calls teasing, can feel like an attack to the person on the receiving end. Harassment is a form of hostility—sometimes subtle and other times blatant.

Verbal, visual or physical conduct of a sexual nature may be sexual harassment, if the behavior is unwelcome. Unwelcome is the critical word. Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, often includes offensive remarks about a person’s gender.

It seems like no one is exempt from being harassed and anyone is potentially the harasser. You only need to pay attention to news reports to sense that there is a problem. And these are just the reported cases…  It’s almost impossible to be oblivious to the sexual misdeeds by clergy, politicians, coaches, and heads of international agencies reported in the news.

My friend, Sylvia, spent a career in the military. She mentioned instances as a senior officer, working for bosses who seemed to view women as second rate.  Even when she worked as hard or harder and knew as much or more than her male colleagues, there were times that she didn’t feel respected.

There are laws that a supposed to protect against workplace sexual harassment from a boss, co-workers, or customers. But even after all of these years with high profile discussions and education programs, sexual harassment, which can affect either men or women still, is sadly alive and well today.  I can only hope that tomorrow will be different.

The Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation report, From Gen Y Women to Employers: What They Want in the Workplace and Why it Matters for Business, lists the most prevalent forms of gender discrimination seen by young working women: Stereotyping (63%), Unequal compensation (60%), Not being treated as an equal (58%), Inequality of opportunities (52%), Being held to a different standard (51%), and Sexist jokes and derogatory statements about women (38%). Gender and age may have a compounding effect, where someone who is older is more apt to experience discrimination.

So, what can you do if you encounter a situation of sexual harassment? Say “no” clearly when you encounter a behavior that feels inappropriate. It may be something that you just sense is “not quite right”. Honor your intuition. Second, report the encounter to a trusted person like your parents or a teacher. This is not a secret to keep to yourself, even if it feels scary or embarrassing to talk about. Let others help you decide what to do. Being prepared will make you more confident.

Well, I’m sorry to say that for all the strides women have made, that there is still an issue with gender discrimination. At this time of your in life, when you don’t even know about the difference between boys and girls, our intention is to raise you to think girls can do anything they want, while still trying to make the world more equitable for all.



Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

HERVotes Blog Carnival: Fighting Sexual Harassment

By Eleanor Smeal, Feminist Majority Foundation President and Ms. Magazine Publisher

Welcome to the fifth #HERvotes blog carnival on the need to keep strong the laws and public policies to end sex discrimination and sexual harassment in schools and at the workplace.   The HERvotes, a multi-organizational campaign launched in August 2011, advocates women must use our voices and votes to stop the attacks on the Women’s movement’s major advances at risk in the next election.  We are very excited HERvotes is reaching a growing list of member groups and organizations and millions of people.

While HERvotes called attention in early November to the dangerous personhood state constitutional amendment on the Mississippi ballot, sexual harassment emerged as an issue in the presidential primaries and the horrific sexual assault of children at Penn State by a former football coach captured the nation’s headlines. (The Mississippi ballot measure was defeated 58-42%.).  Today a member organization of HERvotes, the American Association of University Women, is releasing an historic report on the high levels of sexual harassment in our nation’s schools.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people in the workplace from sex discrimination and Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972 protects students, teachers, professors and staff in all educational institutions receiving federal funding from sex discrimination.  Sexual harassment has been ruled decisively by courts as a form of sex discrimination.  Both federal laws, major advances of the Women’s movement, are under attack by members of Congress who seek to gut such protections or by Supreme Court decisions that have weakened them.  The Supreme Court has ruled, in various cases, to weaken or even gut the protections of both VII and/or Title IX.  Congress has had to restore the Acts once weakened or gutted.  Still several members of the Court have ruled to weaken the Acts.

Of course rape and sexual assault are criminal felonies. Too often workplace and educational cultures do not treat seriously sexual harassment and discrimination.  In so doing   hostile climates for women, children, and men are created signaling to predators that the institution is permissive. What starts as sexual harassment, in and of itself a violation of federal law, can and does escalate.

We must keep Title VII and Title IX strong.  We have a right to know where policymakers stand on these issues.

How to join the fight:

*You can share the posts below on Twitter –#HERvotes and Facebook. If we spread the word far enough we can make sure Title VII and Title IX are enforced.

* You can ask where candidates and/or policymakers stand on issues of Title IX, Tile VII, and sexual harassment in the workplace and in educational institutions.

The blog posts below share more reasons why we need to take action now.  Happy reading and thanks for joining the fight to end Sexual Harassment.

Part of the #HERvotes blog carnival.

Cain, Sexual Harassment and the Campaign Against Women in Public Life - Erin Matson, National Organization for Women, blogging on Huffington Post

Correct. Protect. Respect. Promoting Economic Security with Safe Workplaces - Donna Addkison, Wider Opportunities for Women

Welcome to the Jungle: Sexual Harassment in College - Bettina Hager, National Women’s Political Caucus

Unions and Sexual Harassment, Carol Rosenblatt, Coalition of Labor Union Women

Want to Stop Sexual Harassment at Work? First Stop it in School!  - Holly Kearl, Ms. Magazine Blog

Sexual Harassment, the Gender Power Tool, Roberta Guise, Guise Marketing & PR

Preparing America’s Future Workforce: Harassment and Bullying in Schools and How We Can Stop It  - Devi Rao, National Women’s Law Center

Sexual harassment a problem for Latinas, Rebecca Pleitez, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Sexual Harassment in the Technology Era: “Apps Against Abuse” -Soojin Ock, National Women’s Political Caucus

First Encounters With the Male Gaze, Tavi Gevinson, Rookie Mag

It’s more than pulled pigtails, Tracy Clark-Flory, Salon.com