Month: February 2018

International Women’s Day

 

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is a celebration of the progress that women have made against gender-based discrimination and violence. Beginning with the suffragette movement at the beginning of the 20th century, International Women’s Day eventually came to include issues that affect women around the world, at every socioeconomic status and with every background, particularly when it was adopted by the United Nations in 1975 (“About International Women’s Day”).

 

This year, International Women’s Day will have a special focus on rural and urban activists. While these groups are different in many ways, they are both important for political mobilization for women’s empowerment. Rural women are particularly marginalized; where the global pay gap is 23%, rural women make up to 40% less than rural men (“Announcer: International Women’s Day 2018”). Another example of how rural women can be marginalized is in the case of immigrant farmworkers. One study of 150 Mexican women working in California revealed that 80% had experienced some kind of sexual harassment, which will be another important focal point for this year’s International Women’s Day (Ramchandani).

 

The rise of #MeToo and similar movements around the world have put sexual harassment and violence at the forefront of social discourse. Celebrities wore black to the Golden Globes in order to raise awareness of sexual harassment and to stand in solidarity with survivors. One could even argue that the momentum from #MeToo that ended with the fall of people like Harvey Weinstein also swept through the White House, as two of the President’s aides resigned over domestic violence accusations. According to a survey from Stop Street Harassment this year, 81% of women reported having “experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault in their lives,” making #MeToo and the conversation about sexual violence an absolute priority for women (North).  

 

It is especially important today that we work vigorously to expand and strengthen the movement toward gender equality in general. The Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality, or gender parity, based on 4 themes: “Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment,” (“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality”). According to the most recent data, it will take 217 years to close the gender gap in the four categories, as opposed to the last estimate of 170 years (“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report measures gender equality”). As a society, we should reflect on the changes that have occurred to widen the gap and take determined steps, represented by the goals of International Women’s Day, to reverse the trend.

 

If you want to get involved with International Women’s Day’s efforts to promote gender equality, check out the official website to search for events in your area. If you live in the DMV area, FINCA Impact Finance will be holding a panel and networking event for professional women. Poppir will also be hosting a Women in the Arts pop-up gallery and happy hour at L2 Lounge in Georgetown.

 

Works Cited

“About International Women’s Day.” International Women’s Day, International Women’s Day, www.internationalwomensday.com/About.

“Announcer: International Women’s Day 2018.” UN Women, United Nations, 26 Jan. 2018, www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2018/1/announcer-iwd-2018-theme.

North, Anna. “Measuring #MeToo: More than 80 Percent of Women Have Been Sexually Harassed or Assaulted.” Vox, Vox Media, 21 Feb. 2018, www.vox.com/identities/2018/2/21/17036438/sexual-harassment-me-too-assault-hollywood.

Ramchandani, Ariel. “There’s a Sexual-Harassment Epidemic on America’s Farms.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 29 Jan. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/01/agriculture-sexual-harassment/550109/.

“World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report Measures Gender Equality.” Where Women Work, Where Women Work, www.wherewomenwork.com/Career/640/Global-Gender-Gap-WorldEconomicForum.

New Survivor Support

 

Rape Survivor Family Protection Act:

On February 13th 2018, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland signed into law the Rape Survivor Family Protection Act. Originally introduced by Delegate Kathleen Dumais in 2007, this act allows women who become pregnant as the result of rape to request the termination of her rapist’s parental rights over the child. These laws are essential for the safety of a rape survivor and help ensure that she will not have to interact with her attacker. According to the National Conference of State Legislature, between 17,000 and 32,000 sexual assault resultant pregnancies occur each year, making the necessity for these laws overwhelmingly and unsettlingly clear.

As of last year (2017), 30 states and the District of Columbia had laws that allowed for the limitation of parental rights of rapists, and about 20 allow for the complete termination of rights. There is some state by state variance in the level of evidence required to do so; for instance, the new Maryland law requires a survivor to appear before a judge and provide  “clear and convincing” evidence that sexual assault occurred. While this bill and others like it may be imperfect, their increase over the last two years shows a shift on the state level to push through protections for survivors of sexual assault.

Delegate Dumais has stated that she believes part of the difficulty in getting this bill through has been the lack of female lawmakers. She publicly stated, “There were certainly times, particularly in my first few years, that it always seemed like it was the men versus the women on some of these issues, but as I’ve been on this committee and become more involved in the issues, really what my committee battles with all the time is a balance between victims’ rights and due process.”  Supporters of this bill have cited increasing female empowerment as a factor in this year’s success. Although Dumais believes the bill was set to pass this year she agrees saying, “I think the #MeToo movement certainly helped.”

 

Laura and Reid’s Law:

This month Laura and Reid’s Law was introduced to Maryland’s state legislature. The law was named for a Maryland teacher, Laura Wallen, and the child she hoped to deliver before she was allegedly shot in the back of the head by her on-again, off-again boyfriend. The effort has been spearheaded by Wallen’s parents, Mike and Gwen, who hope to preserve the legacy of their daughter and protect other women who may be in increased danger during pregnancy. Her mother, Gwen Wallen, as quoted in The Baltimore Sun, says, “There’s so much we can’t control and can’t do. This feels like we’re doing good.”

Pregnancy is one of the most dangerous times for women who experience intimate partner violence, and those who support the bill hope that it will serve as an additional deterrent and protection for women already at risk. According to the CDC, homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women under the age of 44 and half of those deaths occured at the hands of an intimate partner. The CDC numbers also show that 15% of women who are murdered by intimate partners were pregnant or had recently given birth; half of that percentage are slain within the first trimester. Subsequently, Laura and Reid’s Law would seek to replace the current wording of “a viable fetus” with “unborn child,” and the bill will expand the definition of fetal homicide in the state of Maryland to fetuses before traditional viability (22-24 weeks).

While some sponsors are concerned that this rephrasing will become caught up in the current debate over abortion, the bill as drafted specifically exempts pregnancies terminated through abortion, a caveat that Gwen Wallen made sure to include to increase the bill’s chances of passing and to try to separate the protection of at-risk women from the abortion discussion. You can read the full draft of the law as it was introduced here: http://bit.ly/2GfIkKt.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Devani

Hi! My name is Devani and I am currently working on my Master’s degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at George Washington University. I am originally from Colorado, where I received my undergraduate degree in English with a minor in Political Science. On a slightly less academic note, I am also a certified yoga instructor. I am very excited for the opportunity to work with Becky’s Fund as I pursue my degree.

My research interests have generally focused on women’s equality and how that relates to both reproductive justice and the cultural rhetoric that is used to define women’s status in our society. I believe each of these dialogues have had a part in how the rhetoric surrounding domestic violence has evolved in our society, or how it hasn’t. In working with Becky’s Fund I hope to be able to be a part of a solution and address these issues in a hands on manner.

Starting with Becky’s Fund this Spring I am looking forward to being a part of prevention-based programs that work directly with young men and women to break down the cycle of domestic violence through education.

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Lauren

Hello! My name is Lauren Testa, and I’m a senior at American University in Washington, D.C. I’m currently pursuing a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies with Communications, Law, Economics, and Government with a minor in History. I am originally from southern New Jersey right outside of Philadelphia. I’m thrilled to be working with Becky’s Fund for my final semester of college!

I began my studies with a general interest in politics and social justice, and I have always been passionate about women’s rights in particular. As a member of AU Students Against Sexual Violence, I learned more about domestic violence and it ignited my passion for the issue. As I continued to study issues related to domestic violence and other issues such as LGBTQ rights, I realized how important it is to have dedicated individuals working to solve the issue of domestic violence, especially for the sake of marginalized communities. I wanted to work with Becky’s Fund because of the organization’s commitment to prevention and education; two things that I believe are essential to the discussion surrounding domestic violence and gender inequality. I am especially excited to be able to work with youths through Becky’s Fund’s targeted programs because they are the future of ending domestic violence. It is a great privilege to be able to work with people who are also passionate about this issue.

I’m excited to not only be able to contribute more to the movement to end domestic violence, but also to gain meaningful experience working in the non-profit sector, where I want to spend my career. In the future, I want to continue working towards the goals of prevention and education, and my position with Becky’s Fund will give me my first taste of working with my passion on a professional level. I am thrilled to be given this amazing opportunity!

Becky’s Fund Welcomes Margaret

Hello! My name is Margaret Dorokhina and I am a sophomore at American University. I am majoring in Public Health and minoring in Women, Gender Sexuality Studies. I was born in Canada, but have lived in various cities on the East Coast for most of my life. I also speak Russian fluently, and it was actually my first language!

I am so excited to intern at Becky’s Fund this spring. Despite having many interests within public health, I think domestic violence and sexual health are the topics I feel most passionate about. Educating and raising awareness around these topics is absolutely essential as we work towards reducing the frequency with which domestic violence occurs. Becky’s Fund does just that for the local community, making it a valuable asset to public health.

This spring, I am looking forward to learning more about the behind- the- scenes operations of a non- profit organization.  It will also be incredibly rewarding to have a direct impact on those who are struggling with unhealthy and abusive relationships. Especially with the focus on teenagers, programs like the ones led by Becky’s Fund will continue to improve students’ relationships for years to come.

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month is a national effort to raise awareness of dating violence, promote programs that support young people, and encourage young people to have open conversations about what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The term dating violence refers to the perpetration or threat of an act of violence by at least one member of an unmarried couple on the other member within the context of dating or courtship. It is also when one partner tries to maintain power and control over the other through abuse/violence.

 

Dating violence can take many forms, and does not just have to be physical. The CDC defines intimate partner violence as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner,” (“Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions”). 1 in 5 girls have been threatened with self-harm by their boyfriends if they attempted to end the relationship. 1 in 5 college women also report verbal abuse from their partners (“Get the Facts & Figures”).

 

Technology is also an important factor in the spectrum of dating violence among young people. 1 in 4 teens in abusive relationships experienced this abuse over texting platforms or through the Internet (“Get the Facts & Figures”). This is especially distressing because according to the Urban Institute, “victims of digital abuse and harassment are 2 times as likely to be physically abused, 2.5 times as likely to by psychologically abused, and 5 times as likely to be sexually coerced,” (Zweig and Dank). Young people are becoming increasingly involved with technology and the Internet, so it is important for everyone to understand that these things can be tools of abuse.

 

Addressing intimate partner violence early on is important for several reasons. 69% of female victims of intimate partner violence and 53% of male victims reported having experienced some type of IPV for the first time before 25 years of age, indicating that said age group is either more vulnerable to IPV, or that there is a correlation between IPV experienced early on and IPV in adulthood (“Get the Facts & Figures”). Girls who have experienced abuse are also more than twice as likely to test positive for a sexually-transmitted infection or disease (“The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence”). Mental health also severely deteriorates in situations of intimate partner violence; rates of attempted suicide increase to 50% among teens who have experienced IPV, compared with 12.5% of girls who were not abused and 5.4% of boys who were not abused (“Dating Abuse Statistics”).

 

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of how prevalent dating violence is among young people, or how to address it. 2 out of 3 teens who experience abuse will not tell anyone, including their parents and closest friends (“Teen Dating Violence”). Of 82% of parents who said they could confidently recognize signs of dating violence, only 58% actually could successfully recognize the signs (“Dating Abuse Statistics”). Additionally, 58% of college students admitted that they would not know how to help a friend who was experiencing abuse and 38% said that they would not know how to get help for themselves (“Get the Facts & Figures”). Before we can combat the issue of intimate partner violence among young people, we must first educate ourselves as a society about what it looks like and how we can prevent it from happening.

 

Check out local DVAM events this month, such as the Prince George’s County Family Justice Center’s workshop on healthy relationships. If you or someone you know is in need of help, contact the DC Victim Hotline at 1-844-4HELPDC (1-844-443-5732) or one of the following organizations: DC Safe (202-879-0720), My Sister’s Place (202-529-5261 or 202-529-5991), or NVRDC (202-742-1727).

 

“Dating Abuse Statistics.” Loveisrespect.org, Loveisrespect.org, www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/.

“The Facts on Teens and Dating Violence.” FuturesWithoutViolence.org, Futures Without Violence, 2009, www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/Teens/teens_facts.pdf.

“Get the Facts & Figures.” TheHotline.org, The National Domestic Abuse Hotline, www.thehotline.org/resources/statistics/.

“Intimate Partner Violence: Definitions.” CDC.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/definitions.html.

“Teen Dating Violence.” Just Say YES, Just Say YES, www.justsayyes.org/topics/dating-violence/.

“Understanding Teen Dating Violence.” CDC.gov, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016, www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/teen-dating-violence-factsheet-a.pdf.

Zweig, Janine, and Meredith Dank. “Teen Dating Abuse and Harassment in the Digital World.” Urban.org, The Urban Institute, Feb. 2013, www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/23326/412750-Teen-Dating-Abuse-and-Harassment-in-the-Digital-World.PDF.

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