The Future Young Women and Girls Deserve and Demand

By Danielle Marse-Kapr

YWCA USA Communications Manager

Earlier this month, I was lucky to represent YWCA USA at a historic event, the first ever Young Women and Girls Forum during the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). Hosted by World YWCA and sponsored by UN Women, the daylong event was planned and executed by young YWCA women. The day was full of brilliant speakers from all over the world touching on many of the most pressing issues for women in the United States and abroad: violence against women, access to healthcare, poverty, and education. Between panels, attendees broke into small groups to discuss the Beijing Platforms for Action and make recommendations for the post 2015 development goals. While we worked, artists rendered our ideas and concerns. Poetry group, I Sell the Shadow, facilitated discussions and created a beautiful poem based on our work. You can watch their recitation here!

Young women’s voices were prominent throughout the two week UN CSW. They shared their stories, led NGO side events on a variety of critical topics, and they supported each other as they advocated for the issues impacting their lives and their communities. During the YWCA USA and World Service Council reception, two incredible young women gave remarks about the work their YWCAs were doing. Following the reception, I interviewed both women. Isabella Diaz of YWCA Honduras spoke about how critical higher education was for girls in her community and how her YWCA was empowering women and girls:

Mary Fatiya of YWCA South Sudan also pressed the importance of education but brought a different angle: that education must be affordable and accessible. Young women and girls in South Sudan are often pushed into early marriage as an avenue to accessing education. Mary highlighted the importance of women supporting one another and the impact her YWCA has had:

Spending this time with other young women’s rights advocates was heartening and inspiring, but it also serves as a reminder of all that still must be accomplished here and abroad.

Posted in Empowering Women, UN CSW | Leave a comment

Stand Against Racism

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By Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D.

CEO, YWCA USA

Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Yvette Smith in Bastrop, Texas, Aiyana Stanley-Jones in Detroit, Kathryn Johnson in Atlanta, the shooting of three young Muslims in North Carolina. The next few months will determine whether this heart-breaking litany of deaths becomes the catalyst for positive change in our society, or just another chance that passed us by.

Many marched in St. Louis, New York, Washington, DC, and other cities. Many carried signs that said “Black Lives Matter” and “Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere.” We all felt the powerful energy of a renewed common desire for racial and social justice.

Now, what is to become of that outrage and that desire to live in a world that fosters peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all?

We at YWCA intend to take a stand to achieve these goals. I invite you to join the YWCA when we Stand Against Racism in Washington DC and around the country April 23-26.

Stand Against Racism grew from the inspired local actions of the YWCAs of Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey in 2007. It quickly spread across the country with over 300,000 participants taking a Stand each year on the last Friday in April. Each year, Stand Against Racism grows in its size and influence. This year, this vitally important initiative became a signature campaign of YWCA USA.

Stand Against Racism

I am delighted to announce that this year we will kick off the campaign with a National Day of Action on Thursday, April 23; Stand Against Racism activities will continue in Washington and around the country through Sunday, April 26.

On April 23, I will lead representatives of local associations to Capitol Hill to press for passage of the End Racial Profiling Act, one of the YWCA USA’s key legislative priorities for the 114th Congress. This legislation would ban racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels.

Systemic racism is at the core of racial profiling which is why it is a key legislative priority of the YWCA. Our 150 year commitment to racial and social justice and improving the lives of girls and women has led us to this important work. We feel strongly that all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or gender should be ensured justice and protected equally under the law.

Our National Day of Action will include issue briefings for lawmakers and their staff where we will highlight the harm racial profiling does to women of color. And, we will share information about how our local associations are working to eliminate all forms of racism, including racial profiling.

In the event that you are not able to come to Washington, D.C. to participate in our events, don’t worry because there are plenty of activities you can engage in right in your own community on the National Day of Action. Issue briefings with local government officials, e-mails to Congress in support of the End Racial Profiling Act, advocacy work in each state’s legislature, and community education are just some of the ideas.

Friday, April 24 through Sunday, April 26 local associations will hold a variety of events to raise awareness and build community around their ongoing work to achieve racial and social justice. There will be opportunities to participate in trainings and dialogues sponsored by the YWCA’s Stand Against Racism, and to seek ways to broaden collaboration with other private and public organizations.

The YWCA has a compelling story to tell about its commitment to social justice. Stand Against Racism is where we will share this story to our wider communities.

Make your commitment to end racism. Join me and YWCA participants across the United States from April 23 to April 26 as we collectively Stand Against Racism. Sign up to take a Stand TODAY.

Editor’s Note: Visit our Stand Against Racism website to find out more about the campaign, and to Take the National Pledge Against Racism.

Posted in Empowering Women, Racial Justice, Stand Against Racism | Leave a comment

Hey Girl, I’m Saved By The bell Hooks: A Two-Way Interview Summary

By Liz Laribee
Director, The MakeSpace 

I stumbled onto the concept of intersectionality later than I’d like to admit. I had already earned a degree, I had already learned how to do my own taxes, I had already learned that it’s totally within your right to turn down brunch invitations when you have no reason beyond not wanting to go. But there is always more to know, and one of the most meaningful sources of knowledge in my recent years has been an expert on emancipatory politics: bell hooks. hooks has published over thirty books on how different societal factors “intersect” to create systems of oppression within American culture focusing largely on race, gender, capitalism and class domination.

This focus became the impetus for a strange comedy project I undertook last month: Saved By The bell hooks. It’s a website that applies the writing of bell hooks to stills from the wildly popular 90s sitcom Saved By The Bell. The idea was to let the incredibly far-reaching critical theory of hooks’ words interact with a very familiar and nostalgic staple of my own childhood. When the site reached 20,000 followers in a matter of days, I began to understand that I had accidentally struck a chord.

SBTB1

On a similar note, Danielle Henderson is the creator of Feminist Ryan Gosling, a website that “pairs dense academic theory with pop cultural references” and which had gained much traction as a comedy piece with critical social implications. In fact, a study at the University of Saskatchewan is currently investigating her work to determine what the specific conduit of Ryan Gosling means to the subject matter of feminist theory. Says Henderson of her accidental fame, “There were a few points where I realized this project had shifted into something else entirely. It was featured on Jezebel the day after I made it, which brought a huge audience to the site and made me realize that I wasn’t just talking to the 5 people in my cohort anymore.”

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Henderson now writes for several publications on pop culture through the lens of race, gender and class and identifies her practice of daily advocacy as “connecting people to the kind of work they want to do. Women, anyone who identifies as trans*, and communities of color often have a hard time making money from their creative efforts. Their work is appropriated before they ever see a dime, or they feel like they’re creating in a void because they don’t have a visible platform”

The hope is, of course, that leveraging humor against the cult of mass media consumption can identify new platforms for under-told stories. To bring the conversation into different spheres. To dissolve the idea that what we see every day can be separate from what people write in textbooks. And that we can all keep learning.

Read the full interview here.

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Liz Laribee is a writer, artist, and community entrepreneur. In addition to helping establish numerous projects centered on arts advocacy, she has exhibited work in a range of regional galleries as well as in national and international print media. She recently launched Saved By The bell hooks, a website that applies the critical theory of bell hooks to images from the hit 90s sitcom Saved By the Bell. She lives in Harrisburg, happily, where she was honored by YWCA Greater Harrisburg as an Emerging Leader at their 2014 Tribute Women of Excellence event.

Danielle Henderson writes about film, television, and pop culture through the lens of race, gender, and class. She is a former editor and current staff writer for Rookie, and a book based on her popular website, Feminist Ryan Gosling, was released by Running Press in August 2012.

Posted in Empowering Women | Leave a comment

Obama State of the Union Speech Puts YWCA Legislative Agenda in Sharp Focus

By Desiree Hoffman
Director of Policy and Advocacy, YWCA USA

At this moment, as you read these words, many working mothers across the United States are anguishing over a choice they should not be forced to make in this country today: Whether she can afford to stay home to care for a sick child.

This is a non-choice – a backward, archaic reality that President Barack Obama, in his 2015 State of the Union address, recognized must be eliminated by guaranteeing every working American seven days of paid sick leave annually, one of several vital policy initiatives that the YWCA firmly supports. At the same time, there were a few other topics we wish he had touched on but we recognize that any broad policy address by the top public servant in a country as large and diverse as the United States will necessarily be a mixed bag.

In thematic focus on “middle-class economics” and a number of specific initiatives, the YWCA heard several ideas we welcome and support fully. These include:

  • The need for guaranteed paid sick days and family leave
  • The need for a higher national minimum wage
  • The need for women and men to be paid equal wages for equal work
  • The need to protect the assurance of affordable healthcare
  • The need for race equity and reform of the criminal justice system
  • The need for access by all working parents to affordable, quality childcare

In the more than 150 years since the YWCA was established, we have consistently advocated for legislation that promotes women’s empowerment and racial justice. The above legislative priorities outlined by President Obama align with YWCA policy positions and with our historic vocation and we will work with members of Congress from any party who are prepared to support them.

On the other hand, we had hoped that President Obama would more clearly address the continuing scourge of racism in America, especially as it is manifests in racial profiling by law enforcement. His reference to the unrest in Ferguson last year and to the parent who worries his child can’t walk home without being harassed – implicitly youth of color being treated unfairly by law enforcement officers – was encouraging but left us wanting more. We must pass the End Racial Profiling Act this year to begin correcting this injustice.

We were also disappointed that President Obama did not mention the dire need to close legal loopholes that allow batterers to have access to firearms. In a country where an average of 46 women are shot to death every month by their intimate partner, domestic violence-related gun homicide is a critical matter that must be addressed immediately through legislation.

The YWCA is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. We look forward to working with Democrats, Republicans and Independents in the new Congress to support legislation that aligns with our mission. In that light, President Obama’s State of the Union address this year offered some useful direction that we encourage everyone to consider as we move forward.

Posted in Empowering Women | Leave a comment

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.  

YWCA Fact Sheets

Resources

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