Domestic Violence Awareness Month
The 18 million cracks insociety's glass ceiling, first set in motion by Senator Clinton andthen Governor Palin, during this Presidential election, signal a newera on the national political stage for women and should thereforeelevate women's issues in the national political dialogue.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case. One issue which is toooften given short shrift is the issue of domestic violence. A silentepidemic that affects one in three women in the world today, domesticviolence will take the life of more than 1200 women in America thisyear alone (this equals three women every day). Children areparticularly vulnerable; each year, some 15 million children witnesssome form of domestic violence. Sadly, it is young women aged 16 to 24,who will experience the highest rate of victimization.
The passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994,co-sponsored by Senators Joe Biden and Arlen Specter was a significantfirst step to addressing this issue. Hailed as a huge victory, VAWAworked to make stricter laws preventing interstate stalking, created agreatly needed national domestic violence hotline number, and createdspecific standards for the use of evidence in cases involving domesticviolence. VAWA paid for outreach programs in non-English-speakingimmigrant communities, where many victims often have no knowledge whattheir rights are or the numerous resources available to them. Alongwith providing funds to open shelters and hire and train prosecutors,police officers, and counselors in dealing with domestic violence, VAWAalso created new prevention and treatment programs.
But this is merely a first step in a long journey toward overcomingthis social crisis. While VAWA has brought much relief to victims andtheir children, there is still much more to be done. Domestic violence,though it is so prevalent, is still not given the attention itdeserves. Too often, we treat domestic violence solely as a women'sissue, despite its impact on families, communities and societies as awhole. If we want to end domestic violence, we first need to change thebeliefs surrounding domestic violence through awareness and education.
We need a national commitment to address this issue along the linesof the national campaign to end smoking. We need to develop a thoroughprevention and early intervention agenda, with the help of communityresidents and community-based organizations that are not just women'sorganizations. This should include classes and training for the entirecommunity that illustrate the warning signs, resources and places to gofor help. Children in school need to hear that domestic violence is acrime and, if they see it happening, how and where to report it.
And violence against women isn't just a domestic issue - it's aninternational human rights issue as well. Women and girls sufferdisproportionately from violence, particularly in times of war andarmed conflicts like Darfur, when the rape and abuse of women becomes atool of terror.
We need to change our frame of reference and interventionstrategies to hold the batterers accountable instead of blaming thevictim. Why does the question always return to why the victim hasn'tleft, for example, when the real question should be: Why does thebatterer abuse? Laws governing domestic violence must be enforced toshow abusers that they will be held accountable with severeconsequences for their crime of abuse.
We must include boys and men in our education efforts not aspotential perpetrators but as collaborative allies in an effort to helpmake our communities safer for women and children.
As the candidates head into the final round of debates during themonth of October, which is recognized nationally as Domestic ViolenceAwareness Month, I hope that the issue of domestic violence will getthe attention it deserves. Only then will the one in three women whosuffer from this problem really bring down that glass ceiling once andfor all - Freedom from Domestic Violence. It's our right.®
©2008 Becky Lee Women's Support Fund