At YWCA, we know that not all violence is acknowledged or responded to equally and that some victims go unrecognized altogether. That’s why for more than 20 years, we have set aside the third week in October as a Week Without Violence to raise awareness around ending violence against women and girls with the World YWCA.
At YWCAs across the country and around the world, we are focusing on ending gender-based violence, which recognizes a spectrum of violence that overwhelmingly impacts women, and includes intimate partner violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and harassment. Gender-based violence impacts the lives of countless women and their families and continues to be pervasive across the United States. The statistics are disturbing:
- 1 in 4 women experiences some form of violence in her lifetime.
- While domestic violence impacts both men and women, it is largely a gendered crime, with women making up 86% of victims.
- Of these women, 98% experience financial abuse, including, not having access to a job, being financially dependent on her abuser, having to give her perpetrator her paycheck, not having access to a bank, or not having access to resources that would help her become financially independent.
While domestic violence occurs across all races, ages, classes, and ethnic backgrounds, women of color and immigrant women experience disproportionately high rates of violence, and face greater challenges in leaving an abusive home.
- Immigrant women often come from countries where cultural norms are accepting of domestic violence, or they may not have access to legal and social services in the U.S. due to linguistic and cultural barriers.
- Native women face the highest rates of violence, more than double the rate of the general population, and over 70% of these crimes are committed by non-Indian perpetrators.
- For Black women, the likelihood of domestic violence is largely tied to economic factors, and occurs most amongst: married, low income couples, relationships in which the male partner is underemployed or unemployed, or relationships in which the couple lives in a poor neighborhood.
These statistics paint a stark picture for women and girls, particularly those in marginalized communities. Fortunately, there are tangible steps Congress can take to help change this story.
We call on Congress to work to end gender-based violence by supporting:
- Paid safe, sick, and family leave and flexible work schedules that enable survivors to seek the necessary medical attention and legal assistance they often require. Ensuring economic protections for survivors of domestic violence is key for them to obtain economic, professional, and physical independence.
- Enforcement of Title IX to prohibit sex discrimination, sexual harassment, and assault in schools and on campuses to ensure a safe educational environment and a level playing field for girls of color. This includes ensuring that the Department of Education protects Title IX guidance and prioritizes the needs of survivors of campus sexual assault.
- Healthcare protections, such as those currently in the Affordable Care Act, for survivors of domestic violence so that they have access to the care they need and are not penalized if their abusers block their access to health coverage. This includes essential health benefits, coverage for pre-existing conditions, access to reproductive health services, and a strong Medicaid program which are extremely beneficial to all women and girls.
- Culturally competent policies that provide immigrant survivors the ability to receive police protection, restraining orders, and other necessary survivor services. To that end, I implore you to oppose immigration policies and proposals that expose immigrant survivors to increased danger and harm.
These, and many other policies, are necessary to end gender-based violence in the United States. As Congress works to create legislation, we encourage them to always take into consideration how it may affect survivors and victims of domestic violence in your community and across the country. Only then can we begin to end the cycle of violence.
Join YWCA USA in Week Without Violence by urging Congress to take action today!