Why We Must Protect Immigrant Survivors of Domestic Violence

By Sameera Hafiz
We Belong Together

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Over the years this month has provided us all the opportunity to reflect and refocus on the experiences of survivors of domestic violence and untangle the issue from the tired public debate: the NFL responses, the Chris Browns, and the persistent question, “why does she stay?”

Earlier this spring, I witnessed Adriana Cazorla, a YWCA member and survivor of domestic abuse, as she bravely shared her story publicly before members of Congress. She detailed how her husband, under duress, forced her to migrate to the U.S. For 12 years he physically and psychologically abused her, and threatened to take their kids and have her deported if she dared to leave him. Eventually, he reported her to immigration and she was detained. She spent four terrifying months locked up in detention, wondering if her children were safe and uncertain about whether she would ever be reunited with them.  Through her persistent strength and bravery, however, Adriana was able to get custody of her children, gain independence, and benefit from legal protections for immigrant survivors of violence.

Now Adriana inspires others as a YWCA volunteer by sharing her story and talking to women living with family violence about their options. I wish Adriana was with me last month when I met with survivors at an immigration detention center in Karnes, Texas.  The facility houses over 500 women and children – many who have fled domestic violence, sexual abuse, forced gang recruitment and other forms of violence. The women and children locked up in the Karnes facility face uncertainty about their future. Will they be allowed to stay in the U.S. or forced to return to the dangers and trauma they fled? Many of the women expressed fear. Will their children be taken from them, will they be put in jail for years?

Since I visited Karnes in September, allegations of sexual abuse by facility staff have emerged – stories of guards seeking sexual favors in the middle of the night and groping women in front of their children. I wish Adriana could have talked to some of these women – as an example of someone who survived family violence and the re-traumatizing effects of detention – and redefined her family as one that is strong and free of violence.

As We Belong Together, the YWCA and other allies mark Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we continue to amplify the voices, stories and experiences of immigrant women.  We urge President Obama to immediately adopt recommendations for executive action that honors the experiences of, and strengthens protections for, immigrant survivors of violence. The President should: 1) immediately end the practice of family detention and ensure that no survivors of domestic violence or other forms of violence against women are placed in immigration custody; 2) end partnerships between immigration and local police, like the Secure Communities program, which prevent survivors from calling the police and seeking help and safety; and 3) ensure that survivors can meaningfully access protections already in the law which would allow them to seek independence and live free from fear.

This month, I will continue to reflect and refocus on Adriana’s story and the stories of the hundreds of survivors locked up today as a result of these inhumane policies. And I hope you will join with the We Belong Together campaign as we continue to pressure President Obama to take executive action on immigration that protects survivors and honors the needs of women and children.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Children's Health and Safety, Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Immigration, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Violence Against Women: A New Case For the Equal Rights Amendment

By Desiree Hoffman
Director of Policy and Advocacy, YWCA USA 

When the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decides cases, they set precedents in interpreting the Constitution and federal laws, precedents that all other courts, both state and federal, must follow. In the realm of legal equality, there are several legal provisions that feminist lawyer, Catherine MacKinnon argues, currently guarantee against discrimination including the 14th amendment and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which she contends  they have “gone as far as they will or can to produce equality of sexes in life.”

While these laws are still critical in advancing the legal rights and equality of women, we need a new and different instrument to ensure that women receive fair, just, swift treatment under the law. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a constitutional amendment, would lay a sturdy framework to guarantee women’s equality. In particular, the ERA would go a long way in ensuring that survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and rape are adequately protected under the law.

Violence against women was not a focal point in the prior ERA discussion. With recent events swirling in the media on violence against women and statistics illuminating that on average, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence, and 1 in 5 experience sexual assault, there is a new direction shaping the ERA discussion.

One historic case that denied legal recourse for domestic violence was Castle Rock v. Gonzales, 545 U.S. 748 (2005), heard before the Supreme Court, which ruled that a town and its police department could not be sued under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for failing to enforce a restraining order, which had led to the murder of a woman’s three children by her estranged husband.

In 1999, three little girls, aged 10, 8, and 7, were shot to death by their father who had kidnapped the girls from their mother, Jessica Gonzalez. Jessica called the Castle Rock Police station informing law enforcement that her daughters were missing, she suspected her ex-husband took them, and that the restraining order had been violated. She said that the order of protection stipulated that their father could only see his daughters on alternate weekends and it instructed police to use every reasonable effort to protect the children to prevent violence. After numerous calls later from Jessica Gonzalez searching for her girls, the ex-husband showed up at the police station and opened fire. After he was killed by return fire, the police found the bodies of the girls in the trunk of his car.

The case reached the Supreme Court in which they ruled 7-2 that it did not present a cause of action of the 14th amendment, indicating that the Constitution is not available to compel law enforcement to protect women against domestic violence. The court held that Jessica Gonzalez had no actionable right to the enforcement of the restraining order and therefore no remedy under federal law. In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that due process principles under the 14th amendment did not create a constitutional right to police protection, despite the existence of a court-issued restraining order. Writing for the majority, Justice Scalia concluded that even if underlying state law created an individually enforceable right to police assistance in the enforcement of the restraining order (and it did not, according to the Court majority), a restraining order is not the type of “property” interest that triggers due process protections under the federal Constitution.

When women’s cases are heard by the highest court in the land they often fail because the 14th amendment, Title VII or other laws such as the Violence Against Women Act do not go far enough in protecting and upholding women’s equality. An ERA could require that states meet Constitutional gender equality standards in the enforcement of their laws against gender-based violence and expand the federal power to legislate against these crimes.

Unfortunately, we don’t have an ERA. We came close, but we still don’t have it. In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment passed both chambers in Congress and went to the state legislatures for ratification. Constitutional amendments require ratification from three-fourths — or 38 — of the states. The amendment set a ratification deadline of March 22, 1979. Through 1977, the amendment received 35 of the necessary 38 state ratifications.

There are currently several bills pending in Congress that would make the ERA a reality.  Senator Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Maloney (D-NY) (HJ Res 56/SJ Res 10) have introduced legislation that would propose an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing equal rights for women. HJ Res 56 has bi-partisan support.

Another ERA bill takes a “three-state” approach, sponsored by Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rep. Jackie Speier, (D-CA) and would repeal the ratification deadline and make the ERA part of the Constitution when three more states ratify it.

It is critical that we urge Congress to pass the ERA. We also need to take immediate steps to enforce existing laws to ensure that guns are removed and seized from domestic abusers once a protection order is issued. Current federal law prohibits individuals who have been convicted of domestic abuse or are under a permanent restraining order from possessing a firearm. But in the case of Jessica Gonzalez this did not happen. There were a series of overlapping and terrifying events that could have prevented the untimely and tragic deaths of her children. A stronger legal framework in which women are protected, especially in domestic violence cases, is needed.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Children's Health and Safety, Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#WorkAgainstViolence: Immigration-Related Violence

By Tralonne Shorter
Senior Advocacy & Policy Associate for Racial Justice and Civil Rights

Without question, immigration reform is one of the most pivotal civil rights issues of our day. Women are increasingly becoming the face of the immigrant population in the United States. They now make up 51% of the immigrant population; 100 immigrant women arrive in the United States for every 96 men. Unaccompanied child migrants fleeing violence in Central America are expected to reach 96,000 by the end of the year.

The partisanship among Washington lawmakers has not only stopped action on comprehensive immigration reform for this year but also has taken a devastating toll on countless immigrant families, especially women. Immigrant women face increased barriers to safety net services. While one in four women are victims of domestic violence, a national cap of 10,000 U-Visas limit the number of immigrant victims of domestic violence and human trafficking from fleeing abuse.

Immigration reform is the pathway to liberating domestic violence victims by increasing access to U-Visas and allowing victims to petition directly for legal status without relying on an abusive spouse. Without an increase in U-Visas, domestic violence and trafficked victims are subject to remain in progressively violent situations that may lead to death.  Additionally, immigration reform offers refuge to thousands of families fleeing countries ravaged by violence.

It is unacceptable for common-sense immigration reform policy to have languished in Congress for more than one year while immigrant women and children victimized by violence are held hostage to partisanship. Every day we wait for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, an estimated 1,100 aspiring Americans are deported.  Sadly, current deportation totals have reached an all-time high of two million under any president’s tenure. Our country’s growing immigration crisis has become a moral crisis of leadership and character.

We look forward to working with President Obama and Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform legislation that grants citizenship to the 11 million aspiring Americans, ensures due process, the humane detainment, and safe reunification of our immigrant brothers and sisters who are simply seeking compassion beyond refuge.

As one of the oldest women’s rights organizations and the largest provider of domestic violence shelters in the United States, with over 1,300 locations across the country, the YWCA USA is deeply invested in ensuring that comprehensive immigration reform factors in the unique needs of women. Please join us and take action to get comprehensive immigration reform passed in Congress.  

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Tralonne Shorter is the Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate for Racial Justice and Civil Rights at the YWCA USA. She is a social justice advocate with a distinguished 17-year career having worked as a non-profit government relations consultant, lobbyist, and senior adviser to various elected officials. Throughout her career, she has worked extensively on major social justice issues addressing domestic violence, immigration reform, racial profiling, workforce development, and civic engagement.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Children's Health and Safety, Domestic Violence, Immigration, Racial Justice, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Domestic Violence and the Need for Paid “Safe” Days

By Vicki Shabo
Vice President, National Partnership for Women & Families

Vicki Shabo

Vicki Shabo

Recent headlines have served as a painful reminder that domestic violence remains a serious issue in this country. The coverage of a few high-profile cases has sparked a much-needed national conversation, and attention to the problem and the types of supports survivors need must continue. This month is an especially appropriate time to do so.

That’s because October is both Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Work and Family Month. The need for workplace policies, such as paid sick and “safe” days” sits at the intersection of these two critical awareness months. Paid sick and “safe” days enable survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking to get the services and assistance they need without sacrificing their jobs or their ability to afford basic expenses like food and rent.

Protecting survivors’ economic security while they seek help is critical, especially for low-wage workers. More than 12 million U.S. women and men experience domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking by intimate partners every year. And each year, survivors are forced to miss nearly eight million days of paid work. Between 25 and 50 percent of domestic violence survivors report losing a job due at least in part to the domestic violence.

Threats of job loss or financial insecurity can have dangerous consequences for domestic violence survivors, who are at increased risk of harm when they separate from their abusers, and who often stay with their abusers because they are financially dependent on them. Paid safe days help give survivors the economic stability they need to find housing, file restraining orders, attend court, receive counseling or seek other assistance.

Several states, cities and counties have passed laws that provide survivors with paid or unpaid leave to address various issues resulting from abuse, but the majority of workers nationwide still do not have these essential protections. Access should not depend on geography, and financial support is critical. That’s why it is past time for lawmakers to prioritize a federal paid sick and safe days proposal like the Healthy Families Act.

So, this month and in the months to come, let’s remind lawmakers that it’s not enough to condemn domestic violence when it makes headlines – especially when there are policy proposals that would help give survivors the financial stability they need to seek the support they need. Action is what domestic violence survivors need and deserve.

If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).

Vicki Shabo is vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families. Shabo leads the organization’s work on paid sick days, paid family and medical leave, expansion and enforcement of the Family and Medical Leave (FMLA), workplace flexibility, fair pay and pregnancy discrimination.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women | Leave a comment

The Intersection of Poverty and Domestic Violence

By Lecia Imbery
Senior Policy Writer, Coalition on Human Needs

Lecia Imbery

Lecia Imbery

We know that poverty disproportionately affects women and single moms. In 2013, nearly 16 percent of women and nearly 40 percent of families with children headed by a woman lived in poverty, higher than their male counterparts. We know that women who are poor are more likely to suffer from health problems and are more likely to be survivors of domestic violence. We also know that children who grow up poor are more likely to suffer from health issues, developmental delays, behavioral problems, lower academic achievement, and unemployment in adulthood. If we fail to address poverty, particularly amongst women and children, we only perpetuate the cycle of poverty, inequality, and domestic violence.

But there are actions we can take as a nation to protect the well-being of women and children and end the cycle. Low-income women are often trapped in abusive situations by a lack of financial resources; raising the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage would benefit millions of low-wage workers, the majority of whom are women. Some paid sick days initiatives would give survivors of violence the critical time off they need to seek medical care after an assault, find new shelter, or obtain legal protections without the fear of losing their jobs. However, many states have banned cities and municipalities from passing paid leave laws. We must fight these bans and expand paid leave options for survivors. Unemployment insurance can also be a resource to help survivors who had to quit their jobs because of domestic violence. As of 2012, 32 states had such provisions. This protection needs to be expanded to all states.

The Affordable Care Act means that women who had stayed with an abusive husband in part because of health insurance she had through his employer will now have options to obtain insurance on their own. Extending funding for Children’s Health Insurance Program will ensure the millions of children and pregnant women will continue to have coverage that would be otherwise unaffordable.

Domestic violence is a main cause of homelessness for women and families, either when women are forced to flee a relationship or when they are evicted from their homes because of the abuse perpetrated against them. This is even truer for poor women due to a lack of safe and affordable housing options and housing assistance, as well as discrimination against survivors. The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA) expanded important housing protections for survivors of domestic violence. However, municipalities across the country still have “nuisance” laws on the books that punish survivors for calling the police by threatening them with eviction. These laws must be stopped, and we must continue to fight for funding for low-income housing assistance, which has been cut dramatically over the years.

Only when we put policies into place that address the issues at the intersection of poverty and domestic violence will we begin to truly break the cruel cycle too many women face.

Lecia Imbery is the Senior Policy Writer for the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN). She contributes regularly to CHN’s blog, Voices for Human Needs, and the Human Needs Report, CHN’s newsletter on national policy issues affecting low-income and vulnerable populations.  

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Children's Health and Safety, Domestic Violence, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power of the Purse: Why Ending Economic Abuse is Vital to Eliminating Domestic Violence

By Jelena Kolic
Staff Attorney, Legal Momentum

As of late, Kerry Washington and her purple purse are inseparable. Those who think that she is favoring the purse because it goes well with her outfits should think again: far from making a fashion statement, Ms. Washington has been using it to foster public awareness of the fact that domestic violence comes in many forms and that economic abuse tends to be particularly prevalent. Having advocated for victims’ employment and housing rights for many years now, we couldn’t agree more with the message.

Although it’s not discussed nearly as frequently as physical abuse, the concept of economic abuse likely strikes a chord with all who have experienced, or know people who have experienced, domestic violence. In fact, researchers have long recognized economic abuse as one of the key features of abusive relationships. At its heart, economic abuse is about ensuring that the victim is too financially dependent to end the relationship through tactics that can run the gamut from physical to psychological abuse.

Some abusers may prevent victims from becoming or remaining employed by inflicting visible injuries that shame the victim out of going to work or a job fair; stealing car keys; making sure the victim doesn’t get the rest she needs the night before an interview; hiding victim’s work clothes; or, harassing the victim with incessant phone calls during office hours. Even when victims do manage to remain employed, they often have little access to their own incomes: abusers may demand that victims turn over their paychecks and credit cards or register their homes and cars in the abusers’, rather than their own, names.

The consequences of economic abuse can run the gamut as well. Many victims may lose their jobs or face evictions due to missed payments they couldn’t make because their abusers drained their bank accounts. Others may fail to qualify for public housing despite living in poverty because their credit scores are too low due to the debts their abusers caused them to generate. The final result is the same in every case: victims don’t end relationships because their financial dependence is too great to allow them to walk away.

The terrible reality of economic abuse makes clear that domestic violence can only be eliminated through comprehensive solutions that secure not just physical safety, but also the economic stability of the victim. Legal Momentum has long advocated for that stability through materials that educate victims about their employment rights, briefs that explain the importance of victims’ housing rights, and fact  sheets that encourage employers to implement workplace policies responsive to the needs of their victimized employees. The very tangible economic costs of domestic violence are often hidden, and it is crucial that we recognize them if we hope to eliminate the violence from victims’ lives.

The power of the purse is indeed vital. Let’s all work to make sure it’s placed in the right hands.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Economic Justice Can Help Undo Economic Violence

By Shelley Halstead, J.D.
Reproductive Justice Fellow, National Center for Lesbian Rights

We often hear the figure that women still earn 78 cents to a man’s dollar. However, what that figure fails to capture is how many other factors contribute to an even more significant disparity for some women. Woman of color face even more pay inequity, with black women earning 64 cents to the dollar and Latina women earning 55 cents to the dollar of their white male counterparts. Other marginalized identities likewise impact the pay gap, such as identifying as immigrant women or women in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.

Particularly troublingly, this gap is also widened for women who are survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV).

Despite the common myth that IPV is an issue that only impacts people’s private and home lives, it actually has a devastating impact on the economic well-being of survivors. Studies have shown that between 35% and 56% of victims of intimate partner violence are harassed at work by their abusers. This abuse can take many forms. Abusers can interfere with the survivor’s ability to work through harassing activities, such as frequent phone calls, unannounced visits, or other threatening behaviors. Because of the harmful but persisting stigma that survivors still experience, the abusers behavior often impacts how the survivor is viewed professionally and can lead to disciplinary action at work and even job loss. This can be particularly damaging for LGBT people who sometimes face risk of having an abuser threaten to “out” them at work if their employer is unaware of their LGBT identity.  While LGBT individuals are gaining more acceptance, threatening to out an LGBT victim in their workplace can be detrimental and even unsafe.

All of these types of harassment can disenfranchise women from being able to obtain and keep meaningful work and a much-needed paycheck. All of these types of harassment threaten women’s autonomy to take care of ourselves and our families. In order to adequately address this issue, we need to understand domestic violence in all the ways it can impact a survivor’s life, and ensure that efforts to prevent this violence is conscious of these forms of abuse attack a person’s economic well-being.

The ability to make a living wage is a fundamental human right, essential not only to women’s equality but also to our dignity as human beings. It can mean the difference between having a voice in the world (and at home) and not being heard at all. Economic violence is such an insidious facet of economic injustice because it exploits the reluctance society has historically had with seeing issues of domestic violence and IPV as public problems that must be targeted and addressed as such. In order for women and their families to thrive we must continue to analyze the ways in which economic, racial, and structural constraints destabilize our power and call out injustice when we see it.

Shelley graduated from the University of Washington School of Law where she was a Gates Public Service Scholar. While in law school, Shelley participated in the Workers Rights’ Clinic, providing wage claim and wage lien assistance to low-wage workers who remain unpaid by their employers. She was also active in the Immigrant Families Advocacy Project, a program that obtains U-Visas for undocumented women survivors of domestic violence. Her internships in law school provided her the opportunity to work at Law Student for Reproductive Justice (Oakland) providing policy and advocacy assistance, Solid Ground (Seattle), where she advocated for public benefit recipients, and at Equal Rights Advocates (San Francisco). While at ERA, she helped advise callers involving issues of pregnancy discrimination, Title VII, and Title IX and worked on their marginalized women’s campaign. She also focused her research on access and advancement for women in the trades. In Seattle, Shelley served as a board member and hotline volunteer of the CAIR (Community Abortion and Information & Resource) Project, raising money and helping low-income women access abortion.

Prior to entering law school, Shelley traveled and worked in various places around the globe, from India to Antarctica, before becoming a union carpenter. As a member of Local 131, she was a shop steward and helped domestic partners gain access to employee benefits. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Economic Empowerment, Empowering Women, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#WorkAgainstViolence: Economic Violence

By Danielle Marse-Kapr
Senior Advocacy and Policy Associate, Economic Empowerment, YWCA USA

Domestic violence and all violence against women is reliant on a system of inequality that devalues women while artificially elevating men. This imbalance is particularly stark when it comes to economic inequality between men and women. By now, we’ve all heard that women earn only a fraction of what men do and that this inequality is exacerbated by racial inequality – black, Hispanic, and Native American women are 3 times more likely to live in poverty than white men. For women experiencing domestic violence, the impact can be devastating.

Some have been quick to tell women that the best way to gain economic stability is to marry a man. While their solution to women’s poverty is as grim as it is incorrect, the truth is that single women are at a significant financial disadvantage. Nearly 40% of single-mother households are living in poverty and 60% of poor children live with single moms. Even for women without children, the poverty rate is substantial: 1 in 7 women live in poverty. These economic realities make it harder for a woman to leave an abuser.

For victims of domestic violence, achieving financial security is doubly challenging. First, they face the same structural disadvantages that all women endure as a result of a culture that doesn’t support working women, and is especially hostile to working mothers. Legislative and social change is necessary to level the playing field. Careers that employ mostly women workers are notoriously low paying, even though they are often some of the most valuable jobs in our society, such as childcare and healthcare workers. Even when women enter male-dominated jobs, they still make less than their male counterparts. Women make up 60% of the minimum wage workforce, which means that millions of adult women across the country are taking home meager paychecks ($15,080 annually) that cannot begin to cover their expenses. Furthermore, most of the jobs in these minimum wage and pink-collar fields do not offer important benefits, like paid sick days and maternity leave. In fact, for working mothers, the stakes are even higher. Pregnant workers still face discrimination on the job and can be pushed out of their jobs altogether. Women with kids earn less than both men and women without kids as well as fathers (who typically see a salary increase after having kids). In one study, mothers were offered $11,000 less than women without kids and $13,000 less than fathers.

Second, women facing domestic violence must contend not only with batterers’ manipulations of these injustices, but also with financial abuse. An abuser may sabotage a woman’s efforts at work in a variety of ways not limited to stalking and humiliating them on the job, tampering with transportation, clothing, or other workplace needs, and even physically battering prior to important work opportunities. Abusers may forbid their partner from working altogether or take and withhold wages. Abusive partners can spend excessively from joint accounts or run up debt in her name. Conversely, a batterer may stop working altogether and refuse to contribute to the household income, which forces the sole responsibility onto the victim.

When we fail to elevate women economically, we are putting additional tools if oppression into abusers’ hands. After all, batterers know that they have a system of male privilege on their side. Women should not have to worry that if they take steps to protect their physical and emotional well-being (and that of their children!) they will not have the means to do so. A strong social safety net, fair workplace legislation, and an educated culture of understanding can give women the vital support at a challenging time.

Take action with the YWCA has we focus on economic violence all day today:

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Domestic Violence, Empowering Women | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The Intersection of Guns and Domestic Violence

By Chelsea Parsons
Director, Crime and Firearms Policy, Center for American Progress

The issue of domestic violence has received a lot of attention in recent weeks, in large part due to the Ray Rice case. Millions of Americans saw the graphic video depicting the type of violence against an intimate partner that usually occurs only behind closed doors. That case has brought home to many across the country a fact that domestic violence prevention advocates confront every day: domestic violence remains prevalent in the United States. While violent crime in this country has steadily declined over the past two decades, a significant proportion of the violence that remains occurs in the context of domestic or intimate partner violence, a burden that overwhelmingly falls on women. Although women are murdered less frequently than men, they are much more likely to be killed by domestic or intimate partners than men are. From 2001 to 2012, 6,410 women were murdered in the U.S. by an intimate partner using a gun—more than the total number of U.S. troops killed in action during the entirety of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

When domestic violence turns fatal, it is often due to the presence of a gun. Guns are used in fatal intimate partner violence more than any other weapon. Of all the women killed by intimate partners from 2001 to 2012, 55 percent were killed with guns. Five women are murdered with a gun in the U.S. every day.

These numbers are unacceptable but they are not inevitable. There is much more that can be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous domestic abusers and prevent the deaths of thousands of women across the country every year. Lawmakers need to act to strengthen the laws in four ways to better protect victims of domestic violence from gun violence. First, they should bar all convicted abusers, stalkers, and those subject to restraining orders from possessing guns. They should also provide all records of prohibited abusers to the federal background check system. They should require a background check for all gun sales. And finally, they must ensure abusers surrender any firearms they own once they become barred from gun possession.

There has been a growing movement around the country to enact stronger laws to prevent domestic abusers and stalkers from having access to guns. Legislation to this effect passed in a number of states this year and bills have been introduced in both houses of Congress to strengthen the federal law. This week, the Center for American Progress and the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence released detailed information about the scope of fatal domestic violence in all 50 states and the large role access to guns plays in that violence. We should take advantage of the increased attention and growing momentum on this issue to continue to press our lawmakers to close gaps in the law and ensure dangerous domestic abusers cannot continue to threaten women with guns.

Chelsea Parsons is Director of Crime and Firearms Policy at American Progress. Her work focuses on advocating for progressive laws and policies relating to guns and the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local levels. Prior to joining American Progress, she was general counsel to the New York City criminal justice coordinator, a role in which she helped develop and implement criminal justice initiatives and legislation in areas including human trafficking, sexual assault and family violence, firearms, identity theft, indigent defense, and justice system improvements. She previously served as an assistant New York state attorney general and a staff attorney law clerk for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Brooklyn Law School.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

Posted in Advocacy and Policy, Domestic Violence, Empowering Women, Sexual Assault, Violence Against Women, Week Without Violence, Women's Health | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s On Us to Shift How We Talk About Sexual Assault

By Doug Bair
Managing Editor, Generation Progress

In an event at the White House last month, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden launched the It’s On Us campaign in partnership with Generation Progress.

In a culture where one in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted in college, it is more important than ever to engage in discussions that create a shift in the way we think about, talk about and act around sexual assault.

“To the survivors who are leading the fight against sexual assault on campuses, your efforts have helped to start a movement,” President Obama said. “But we’re here to say, today, it’s not on you. This is not your fight alone. This is on all of us, every one of us, to fight campus sexual assault.”

Obama also emphasized the need to reach out to men through this campaign.

“Most young men on college campuses are not perpetrators. But the rest of us can help stop those who think in these terms and shut stuff down,” Obama said. “It is your responsibility to tell your buddy when he’s messing up.”

Vice President Biden discussed how a change of conversation around the topic of sexual assault is needed.

“It is never the right question for a woman to ask, ‘What did I do?’ Never. Get this straight: never is it appropriate for a woman to ask, ‘What did I do?’ The question is, ‘Why was that done to me, and will someone do something about it?,” Biden said.

The It’s On Us campaign includes partnerships with student leaders from almost 200 colleges and universities throughout the country, collegiate sports organizations such as the NCAA, celebrities, sports stars, private companies, non-profits, and many more.

It’s on us to recognize that if someone does not or cannot consent to sex, it’s sexual assault. It’s on us to take responsibility for our actions and our inaction. It’s on us to realize we have a role to play in stopping sexual assault. It’s on us. All of us. Take the pledge at itsonus.org.

YWCA Week Without ViolenceThis post is part of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ 2014 Blog Carnival. We invite you to join the dialogue! Post your comment below, share your story and follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #workagainstviolence.

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