Today, March 8th is International Women’s Day. One block on the calendar out of 365 that was created to bring awareness to the acheivements of women as well as the perils that befall girls and women worldwide. The holiday came to be in the 1900’s with the advent of the sufragette movement which granted the right for women to vote. Hard to imagine that there was a time when that was even a discussion when there are a growing number of female leaders whose voices are raised in support of the rights of both women and men.
According to the U.N. :
- Up to 50% of sexual assaults are committed against girls under the age of 16.
- Globally, 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime.
- Up to 70% of women in the world report having experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in their lifetime.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, married before the age of 18.
Further, they state: This year’s theme for International Women’s Day, “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women”
Perfectly timed was the signing into law, by President Obama, the expanded Violence Against Women Act that was originally penned by Vice President Biden. It provides for additional protections and legal action in the cases of domestic violence.
Some of the provisions include:
* holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
*mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
* keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
*increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
* ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
*providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.
ensured that victims and their families have access to the services they need to achieve safety and rebuild their lives by:
• responding to urgent calls for help by establishing the National Domestic Violence Hotline, which has answered over 3 million calls and receives over 22,000 calls every month; 92% of callers report that it’s their first call for help;
• improving safety and reducing recidivism by developing coordinated community responses that bring together diverse stakeholders to work together to prevent and respond to violence against women,
• focusing attention on the needs of underserved communities, including creating legal relief for battered immigrants so that abusers cannot use the victim’s immigration status to prevent victims from calling the police or seeking safety, and supporting tribal governments in building their capacity to protect American Indian and Alaska Native women.
VAWA has created positive change. Since VAWA was passed:
Fewer people are experiencing domestic violence.
Between 1993 to 2010, the rate of intimate partner violence declined 67%;
Between 1993 to 2007, the rate of intimate partner homicides of females decreased 35% and the rate of intimate partner homicides of males decreased 46%.
•More victims are reporting domestic and sexual violence to police, and reports to police are resulting in more arrests.
•States have reformed their laws to take violence against women more seriously:
All states have reformed laws that previously treated date or spousal rape as a lesser crime than stranger rape.
All states have passed laws making stalking a crime.
Reasons to celebrate and simultaneously shudder to consider that everyday countless are held hostage by anger, aggression and fear. I know many who are survivors of violence at the hands of strangers, as well as those who they expected would love and protect them, or at least not hurt them. I have stood witness (as a therapist) with clients whose mental and physical health have been challenged mightily by such incidents and have seen some triumph and others crumble under the weight of it all.
I honor the women in my life who have been role models of strength and resilience, whose go get ‘em attitude inspire(d) me to do the same. My mother, grandmothers, aunts, mentors and friends have been part of the circle of women who so light up my life.
http://youtu.be/h4tNFPXjNB0 Women Honoring Song by Deva Troy