From left: YWCA Queens HSE Students Umme Sheuli, Moises Churio, Adrian Lezcano, Director of Center for Education & Career Services Stacy Mckelvey, Communications & Outreach Associate Jane Lee, and HSE Student Erick Menendez at the Apollo Theatre in New York
I am writing to you as a member of our community and as someone who has had the privilege of working with survivors of sexual assault for the past five years. In those five years, I have experienced heartbreak, unbelievable pain and trauma beyond words, but most importantly I have experienced an unwavering strength that tethers it all together.
By Tamika L. Gittens Contributing Blogger, YWCA NCA
Did you know that 85% of domestic violence victims are women? (Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003)
The YWCA National Capital Area recently participated with several other YWCA associations across the nation for Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill to talk about domestic violence, an issue plaguing local and national communities. In an effort to demonstrate the damaging and permanent effects that domestic violence has on women and children, we engaged Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) in discussions on gun violence and its impact on domestic violence. We shared statistics to help them reexamine current laws pertaining to ownership of firearms, and the need for more policies and programs to safeguard and support victims.
On any given day at one of the nearly 2,000 domestic violence shelters in the United States, upwards of 65,000 women and children are provided with critical direct services and emergency housing, and 20,821 hotline calls are answered to address the needs of victims of violence seeking safety. These shelters and facilities provide a much needed service to victims of domestic violence, including a bed to sleep in, counseling and therapy, and financial and legal assistance.
By Katie Stanton
Social Media & Online Engagement Manager, YWCA USA
Congress returned to work as of Monday of this week, and although they have a long to-do list, there are certain issues that we think it’s time to prioritize before additional sequester cuts kick in on October 1. From voting rights to immigration reform, this week’s Five on Friday covers the YWCA’s legislative concerns for our nation’s women and their families.
“Are you or your children in a life-threatening situation? Are you in immediate danger? Does your abuser have access to weapons or guns of any kind?” These are the very first questions to be asked when a victim of violence walks through the door of a YWCA. The safety of an abused woman is our absolute priority. As it must now be for Congress.
Domestic violence touches every one of us. It fills emergency rooms and morgues, keeps employees from work, terrorizes families and interferes with children’s ability to learn. It drives up health care costs, contributes to crime on our streets, and causes lasting harm to communities. Tragically, domestic violence incidents occur each and every day in the United States and abroad, in high-profile cases like the recent killing in South Africa of the girlfriend of Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius, and in the apartment or house next door to yours.
In just this past week, we have witnessed numerous domestic violence-related homicides across our nation. In Columbus, Ohio, a woman was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband, who then may have attempted to kill himself. In Florida, Utah and New York, investigations are underway to piece together domestic violence-related murder-suicide cases. And, in Pennsylvania, a man forced his way into the home of a victim, brutally stabbing her to death before fleeing the scene.The suspect had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault, simple assault and terroristic threats — a story that is not uncommon for many known abusers.
Last night, after I put my one-year-old son to sleep, I got ready to listen to the President’s State of the Union (SOTU) address. Many of us watch the SOTU to see how it may potentially impact our own lives, or the communities we serve. But there are millions of Americans out there who angrily change their TV channels to find something else to watch. They are sick of the partisanship, the laundry list of things that won’t get accomplished, and the broken promises.
As an experiment, I polled my friends and family members on Facebook to see if they planned on tuning in. Many were busy putting babies to sleep, like myself, but they planned on watching it online the next day or reading a transcript. My sister, a self-proclaimed “Stay-at-home CEO,” said she would tune in because her husband works for the Postal Service and his job is vulnerable to cuts; she also wanted to hear if Congress planned more funding for autism research. Margarita, a nurse from PA, said, “I want to see what is happening to health care,” and my friend Daniela, a lawyer from VA, said that she wanted to hear about the President’s plan for the next four years. A friend from high school said, “Totally not interested. Just gets me all irritated over stuff I can’t change. Honestly, didn’t even know it was on.”
There is a sense of hope, or even cautious optimism, in the air in Washington, D.C., thanks to strong movement on two important legislative priorities that greatly impact key YWCA constituencies and local associations: immigration reform and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
This week, a bi-partisan group of Senators, including Senators Schumer (D-NY), Durbin (D-IL), Menendez (D-NJ), McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC) and Rubio (R-FL), introduced a set of principles around immigration reform, setting the stage for legislative action.
On January 21, I will be joining many Americans to watch the second Inauguration of President Obama – the first African American president of the United States. This is particularly exciting for me after having had the honor to personally meet the President during my tenure as CEO of the YWCA, and to work with his staff on issues impacting women and girls across the country.
As I reflect on next week, I realize the confluence of events is very significant. January 21, 2013 represents more than just the Presidential swearing-in; it is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day where the lessons of racial justice – some painful and some triumphant – are crystal clear in the minds and memories of many. It is also a federal holiday in honor of one of our greatest civil rights leaders. With the legacy of Dr. King’s commitment to civic engagement, Americans now dedicate the holiday to volunteerism and service and use the time off from work as an opportunity to give back to the communities around us and to make the country a better place.
2013 is nearly here, so let’s take a step back and reflect on the accomplishments of the past year. For the YWCA, looking back helps us remember what we can achieve together, and to plan for how we will continue to empower women and eliminate racism in coming years.
YWCAs across the country have truly made an impressive difference in their communities. Our local associations worked hard to serve the two million women and families who participate in our programs every year. Here is just a sample of their many achievements:
The YWCA York, as part of a Human Trafficking Task Force, increased awareness about the widespread trafficking taking place in their community at their Cocktails for a Cause event. YWCA USA CEO Dara Richardson-Heron, M.D., discussed the YWCA USA’s commitment to empowering survivors of violence.