Casey Harden, Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Membership for YWCA USA
By Casey Harden
Lady Gaga’s performance at the Oscars elevated the experiences of victims of sexual assault and moved millions to tears — including me. I immediately posted a link to the performance on Facebook, with the caption “Sexual abuse and violence is an epidemic — mostly silent and always sinister.”
But as I wrote those words, I became aware that sexual abuse only seems “silent” to me because I have spent the majority of my life in the United States — in other parts of the world the sexual victimization of women and girls is spoken of as easily as the weather, and often taken no more seriously.
YWCA helps over 500,000 survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault every year.
In February of 2002, I had left my abusive partner and was living on my own with my two teenage daughters in a motel. I was working overnights for the Department of Transportation and struggling to do it all on my own. It was hard, it was isolating, and it was a scary time. My ex-partner was stalking me, and I had to lock my daughters in the hotel room at night, instructing them to call 911 if he ever came there.
Growing up, I remember playing the association game with my friends — the premise is exactly what it sounds like: name the first thing that comes to mind when you hear a particular word. Banana. Pajamas. Clouds. Care Bears. They all may seem like random, disconnected words at first glance, but dig a bit deeper into my 8-year-old brain and the connection will probably become more apparent.
For three seasons, Danny Castellano was the body-rolling, crush-worthy grouch of our dreams. Sure, Danny and Mindy didn’t always see eye-to-eye and Danny didn’t always seem to appreciate what he had, but we were rooting for them (almost) every step of the way.
Executive Director, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
Recently, I attended a domestic violence Summit to launch the Women’s Coalition for Common Sense with Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. I was honored to join leaders from across the nation to address the intersection of guns and domestic violence. I was asked to share my personal story as a survivor of domestic and gun violence. Though I have told my story many times, this time felt different. To be on the same stage with other survivors was more than moving, it was empowering. I know that what happened to me helps me to empathize with other survivors and emboldens me to advocate to end the dangerous mix of domestic violence and guns.
Advocacy and Policy Manager for Health and Safety, YWCA USA
Last year, during Week Without Violence I wrote a blog that touched on the issue of guns and domestic violence. In the blog, I wrote:
“While domestic violence discriminates against no one, the lethality risk skyrockets when firearms are present. Perpetrators with access to firearms are five to eight times more likely to kill their partners than those without firearms. And the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide for women by five times. Intimate partner homicides account for nearly half of all women killed each year in the U.S., with three women murdered each day. Of these homicides, more than half are attributed to firearm use. In fact, if you’re a woman in the U.S., you’re more likely to die from a gun than in any other developed nation in the world.”
Manager of Advocacy Initatives, Jewish Women International
Imagine, for a moment, that you have to flee your home. Imagine that you have to rebuild your life from scratch – find a home, a job, care for your children. Now imagine that you have to do this without cash in your pocket, or without a paycheck, or a credit card, or a bank account. It sounds impossible. Yet this is what victims of financial abuse are facing when they leave their abusers. It is vital that we recognize the deep connections between economic security and freedom from domestic violence, and that our public policies support every victim in escaping a violent relationship, rebuilding her life, and establishing a safe and healthy future for herself and her children.
Outreach Program Manager, Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project
Every now and then, we are asked whether domestic violence can be stopped. Yes. It can and will be stopped. If we didn’t believe in ending domestic violence, we would have removed it from our mission a long time ago. We envision a world without domestic violence. We believe in every person’s right to feel safe in relationships. We believe world peace starts at home.