#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.

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

#WorkAgainstViolence: Domestic Violence

By Qudsia Raja
Advocacy & Policy Manager of Health and Safety, YWCA USA

By now, you’ve likely seen the video of former NFL player Ray Rice brutally assaulting his then-fiancé Janay Rice and then dragging her unconscious out of an elevator. While everyone has been talking about this particular incident, domestic violence is a systemic problem.

This incident has inadvertently sparked much-needed conversation on the pervasive nature of violence against women. However, what many people don’t know is that if the news cycle were to accurately reflect the prevalence of domestic violence in the United States, you would hear about a new incident every 15 seconds. Ray Rice used his fist. But increasingly men are using guns. Every month, 46 women are victims of domestic violence related homicides in the U.S.

As one of the largest providers of domestic violence services in the U.S., with over 220 local YWCAs in 46 states and the District of Columbia, the YWCA is intimately aware of the grim and often lethal reality victims of domestic violence face every day. Domestic violence overwhelmingly impacts women across the board, irrespective of socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, religious affiliation and sex. One in four women will experience a form of domestic violence at some point in their lives. While this is often dismissed as a “private matter,” the repercussions of domestic violence are tantamount to a public health epidemic: 15.5 million children in the U.S. live in homes in which they have been exposed to or experienced violence, and studies indicate that women in abusive relationships have significantly higher rates of developing health issues, such as strokes and heart attacks.

We also know that, 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 at the hands of a gun than in any other developed nation in the world.

For decades, YWCA’s all across the country have provided services and advocated for protection from intimate partner violence. Last year, as the YWCA celebrated the successful reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), we committed to working to end violence against women by repairing the glaring loopholes in federal law that keep many women from being safe.

First, we must recognize that relationship demographics have changed, and that expanding our definition of “intimate partner” to include current and former dating partners is necessary to appropriately prosecute perpetrators. Nearly 50 percent of all intimate partner homicides were committed by a current or former dating partner. Between 1976 and 2005, dating partners were responsible for 35 percent of intimate partner homicides, and the share of intimate partner homicides committed annually by current dating partners has been on the rise. In the case of Ray Rice, he was not prosecuted nor was he convicted of domestic violence misdemeanor. Instead, he was admitted into a pre-trial intervention program, which allows offenders to avoid incarceration and keep their records clean if they meet agreed-upon requirements.

Second, existing federal laws need to recognize stalking as a form of domestic violence and, in turn, prohibit convicted stalkers from purchasing and/or possessing guns. Eighty-one percent of women stalked by a current or former partner have been physically assaulted by that partner, and 31 percent report being sexually assaulted. Currently, federal firearms prohibitions, triggered by domestic violence, that would prevent individuals from purchasing firearms do not apply to individuals convicted of stalking crimes.

Lastly, and most importantly, we must ensure that states are adopting and enforcing current federal domestic violence gun prohibitions, particularly focusing on allowing state law enforcement agencies to use their discretion and temporarily seize all firearms when responding to domestic violence calls.

The YWCA believes that closing these key loopholes in existing federal laws will effectively reduce domestic violence homicides and in turn save the lives of millions of women across the country.  Long after the 24-hour news cycle has ended, we need to continue to have important dialogue about domestic violence so we can once and for all eradicate violence against women in all forms.

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, Violence Against Women, Women's Health | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#WorkAgainstViolence: Racial Profiling and Hate Crimes

By Donte Hilliard
Director of Mission Impact, YWCA USA

What would it take for us to experience just ONE Week Without Violence? What practice and policy changes would need to be implemented to make one Week Without Violence possible?

We know that not all violence is physical or visible. The YWCA seeks to educate the public about the full spectrum of violence that impacts the lives of women, girls, people of color and their communities. By referring to the “spectrum of violence,” we acknowledge that there are many types of violence in the world, and not all of these types of violence are acknowledged or responded to equally—especially as these forms of violence impact the lives of women, girls and people of color.

Today’s focus is on racial profiling and hate crimes. Triggered by media attention to several high profile cases of lives lost—Renisha McBride, Jordan Davis, Michael Brown, John Crawford—people across the United States, from all walks of life, have been engaged in serious conversations about the violence of racial profiling and police brutality.

Racial profiling refers to the practice of a law enforcement agent relying, to any degree, on race, ethnicity, religion or national origin in selecting which individuals to subject to routine or investigatory activities, such as traffic stops, searches, and seizures. African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, and Asians have reported being unfairly targeted by police. In many border-states and communities with high immigrant populations, law enforcement has been documented to use racial profiling as a method of border security and enforcement, which can have a chilling effect on immigrants and communities of color.

In the aftermath of September 11, Arabs, Muslims, South Asians, and Sikhs, and those who are perceived to be one or the other, have become hyper-aware of the ways in which law enforcement agents and agencies are using racist, Islamophobic stereotypes and bias to unjustly police, survey, scrutinize and detain them (particularly in airports).

Racial profiling is a common practice carried out by law enforcement conducting traffic and pedestrian stops. A U.S. Department of Justice report on police contacts with the public found that African Americans were 20% more likely than whites to be stopped and 50% more likely to have experienced more than one stop. This report also revealed that, although African Americans and Hispanics were more likely to be stopped and searched, they were less likely to be in possession of contraband. On average, searches and seizures of African American drivers yielded evidence only 8% of the time, searches and seizures of Hispanic drivers yielded evidence only 10% of the time, and searches and seizures of white drivers yielded evidence 17% of the time.

Shortly after taking office, President George W. Bush stated that racial profiling “is wrong, and we will end it in America.” Per his directive, the Department of Justice issued the Guidance Regarding the Use of Race by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies (“Guidance”) in June 2003. While the Guidance sought to eliminate racial profiling, it fell short of ensuring equal treatment under the law for all individuals in the United States. Recent coverage in The New York Times has suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder plans to make improvements to the Guidance. Proposed below are vitally needed revisions to the Guidance that many of the leaders in the Racial Justice and Civil Rights Community are calling for:

  1. Prohibition of profiling based on national origin or religion;
  2. Elimination of loopholes allowing for profiling in the national security and border contexts;
  3. Expansion of the ban on profiling to include law enforcement surveillance; and,
  4. Application of the Guidance to state and local law enforcement agencies that work with federal agents and/or receive federal funding, including enforcement mechanisms.

The YWCA USA supports legislation that bans the practice of racial profiling at the federal, state, and local levels. The YWCA firmly believes that all individuals, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin or gender should be ensured justice and protected equally under the law. This includes policies that eradicate racial profiling, increase immigrant rights, retain and strengthen affirmative action, reduce hate crimes, and result in increased education on racism and its elimination.

Take Action: 

Tell Congress the time is now to end racial profiling—a problem that destroys American values of fairness and justice. Congress must take action and pass the End Racial Profiling Act this year. This bill requires that local law enforcement agencies receiving federal funds maintain adequate cultural competency policies and procedures for eliminating racial profiling.

Resources and Readings:

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, Empowering Women, Hate Crimes, Immigration, Racial Justice, Week Without Violence | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment