Sexual Assault Awareness Month

Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM)

The Global Women’s Caucus Violence Against Women Action Team hopes you will join us in observing Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The impact of sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence is felt universally throughout the world. No segment of society is unaffected, although some disproportionately suffer more directly than others. There is no country free of this raging epidemic, and the United States is certainly not a leading light in the prevention or prosecution of sexual crimes. 

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RED ACTION

Reauthorization Of The Violence Against Women Act  

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) is a U.S. federal law, signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13, 1994.  It was authored by then-Senator Joe Biden (DE), and co-authored by Representative Louise Slaughter (NY). It was passed in Congress (234/195 House, 61/38 Senate).

The law established a budget (initially $1.6 billion) to: 

  • Investigate violence against women crimes 
  • Prosecute perpetrators of such crimes
  • Impose requirements for restitution to victims by perpetrators
  • Provide reparations, if prosecutors opt not to prosecute a crime

Extensions of the Law were passed in 2000, 2005 and 2013. In each case, there were changes which met with varying degrees of opposition, generally from Republicans and organizations such as the NRA and other conservative groups.  In 2019 reauthorization was defeated in the Republican Senate.

Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act is on President Biden’s 100-day agenda, and set to be taken up by the House the week of March 18th.

CURRENT SITUATION

  • The House will take up and vote the week of March 18. Passage is expected but not guaranteed, therefore contacting Representatives is urgent.
  • We’ll be watching the Biden Budget to demonstrate his priority on this legislation
  • Senate battle will be difficult with opposition based on 1) the “boyfriend loophole”  2) indigenous people and immigrant components and 3) partisanship
  • The challenge is to demonstrate a strong commitment to this legislation, and make sure to only support legislators who recognize its importance, including all of the “controversial” elements.

CALL to ACTION

Contact your representatives in Congress to urge their support for reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Here are sample messages, however, we encourage you to add any message about your personal connection to this issue with which you feel comfortable.  This will increase the impact of your message.

Short version (appropriate for quick messages or for supportive legislators): 

“Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, and a deterrent to an equitable and peaceful world. It is devastating and its impact is enormous and widespread. I support the Violence Against Women Act and call on you to support it as well.”

Extended version:

“The crisis of gender-based violence continues to grow, far outpacing available resources (many of which have been disappearing for lack of funds). The need for funds to prevent, prosecute and provide resources to victims is overwhelming and Congress has not done enough to provide these resources to all Americans.  This unending culture of violence has serious impacts on the majority of the population, either directly or indirectly, and inaction is not acceptable.  I support the Violence Against Women Act and will demonstrate that support with my vote. I call on you to support it too.”

Ways to contact representatives:

  • Email
  • Phone call
  • Postcard

Find your Representative here and your Senators here

Encourage your family and friends, both in the US and abroad, to do the same.  Also, encourage anyone who can possibly visit the local or DC office of their legislator to do so in a more dramatic show of support and importance.


End Culture of Rape, Silence

GWC Supports Effort to End Culture of Rape, Silence in U.S. Military
By: Denise Roig

The numbers are staggering: 20,500 U.S. service members sexually assaulted or raped in 2018, a 40% increase from just two years earlier. Of those reported, barely 100 offenders were convicted. Of those women reporting a “penetrative sexual assault,” 59% involved someone of a higher rank, while 24% were abused by someone in their chain of command. Of those women who filed sexual assault complaints, 66% also reported retaliation as a result. No wonder over 76% of victims did not report these crimes in 2018, according to Protect Our Defenders, a group dedicated to ending a culture of assault and silence in the military.

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State of the VAWA

By Kathryn Tullos

Congress probably will consider reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) during the current session. Authored by then-Senator Joe Biden, the bill originally passed in 1994. VAWA must be reauthorized every five years, and Congress approved that reauthorization several times during both Democratic and Republican administrations. However, in 2019, legislation to reauthorize the law died in the Senate. Opposition to the 2019 measure came from critics of measures expanding opportunities for immigrant victims of domestic violence to remain in the United States legally and protections for persons in same-sex relationships, as well as opponents of provisions limiting gun ownership by perpetrators of domestic violence or sexual assault. 

VAWA is important because it changed the legal landscape in domestic violence and sexual assault cases. The original Act contained a number of measures that helped close loopholes in domestic violence cases. For example, the Act required each state to recognize protective orders issued in any other state and provided incentives for states to enact laws mandating that police make arrests when they respond to domestic violence incidents. VAWA also created an Office on Violence Against Women in the Department of Justice and enabled federal prosecutors to act in cases of domestic violence and sexual assault crimes that had crossed state lines. The Act also has provided approximately $8 billion in grants for education and crisis assistance related to domestic violence and sexual assault. More recent iterations of VAWA have focused on outreach to marginalized persons, such as immigrants, Native Americans, and people of color and have prohibited measures that discouraged reporting of violence and assault, such as requiring rape victims to pay for their testing in hospitals and clinics. 

Advocates of VAWA point to significant progress in the area of domestic violence since it became law. Roughly half of the states enacted mandatory arrest laws during that period. Too, the United States has seen substantial declines in rates of violence against intimate partners since 1994. According to the Congressional Research Service, the incidence of serious intimate partner violence against women declined 70% between 1994 and 2018; the incidence against men declined 87% in the same period. Advocates note, however, that domestic violence and sexual assault remain significant problems. Experts estimate that as many as one in three American women will experience one or both of these during her lifetime.

Congress likely will consider reauthorization and expansion of VAWA in its current session. During his campaign, President Biden marked this as a top priority. He called in particular for expansion of access to services for victims of violence who live in rural areas and for more resources to house women fleeing abuse. In addition, a number of professional groups that deal with domestic violence and sexual assault have announced support for reauthorization. In the legal field, the American Bar Association has called for reauthorization. And in the medical field, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists supports VAWA and has urged Congress to appropriate emergency funds to expand services to domestic violence victims trapped with their abusers during the COVID pandemic.


Abortion Rights Update

Abortion Rights Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, but a little Good

by Kathryn Tullos

 

Laws regulating abortion have changed recently in several countries.

The Good

Argentina

As of 24 January 2021, abortion is now available on demand in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. This development marks a substantial departure from previous Argentinian law, which allowed terminations in only cases of rape and danger to the woman’s life. Under the new law, abortions performed after 14 weeks will be subject to the same restrictions that were previously in place throughout the entire pregnancy.

This legislative change resulted from a combined effort by Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, and sustained grass roots pressure from the group Ni Una Menos, or Not One [Woman] Less. Ni Una Menos formed in 2015 to protest widespread violence against women. The organization has also lobbied and protested in favor of gender parity issues, marriage equality, and the rights of transgender persons.

Research indicates that thousands of illegal abortions have occurred in Argentina each year. In 2016, the last year for which data was available, roughly 40,000 of these procedures led to health complications requiring hospitalization.

Thailand

On 25 January, the Thai Parliament passed legislation allowing abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. The legislation now proceeds to a review by Thailand’s Constitutional Court. If the Court rules that the legislation comports with the country’s constitution, the King will sign and publish the bill, which then becomes a law.

Previously, abortion had been available in Thailand only in cases of rape or danger to the health of the woman. Cases of illegal abortion could result in the imprisonment of both providers and patients. Under the new law, women who have abortions after the prescribed 12-week period are still subject to fines, imprisonment, or both, unless the procedure is deemed necessary under Thai medical guidelines.

The Bad

Poland

A near-total ban on abortions has taken effect as of 27 January in Poland. The country’s Constitutional Court ruled in October 2020 that abortion would no longer be allowed in cases of fetal abnormalities, even when those abnormalities were severe or fatal. Terminations because of fetal abnormalities make up 98% of the annual legal abortions in Poland. Facing the largest country’s largest protests since the fall of Communism, the socially-conservative government had delayed publishing the law, which puts the law into effect, until late in January.

Polish law still allows pregnancies to be terminated in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the woman’s life. However, such terminations are uncommon, and experts estimate that approximately 200,000 Polish women receive abortions illegally in country or abroad.

The Ugly and Some Good

United States of America

The United States has seen conflicting recent developments in the laws and judicial decisions governing abortion.

In a move restricting access to abortions, the Supreme Court ruled that a federal judge erred in overruling a Food and Drug Administration rule requiring women to pick up pills to end pregnancy in person. The lower court had ruled that, in light of the health risks and reduced access to hospitals and medical offices caused by the COVID pandemic, making a woman pick up pills in person placed an undue burden on her right to an abortion.

The 6-3 decision in Food and Drug Administration v. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, came down on 12 January 2021. Justices Sotomeyor and Kagan dissented, and Justice Breyer voted against the majority without stating his reasons for doing so.

In contrast, on 28 January, President Biden rescinded the Mexico City Policy, commonly known as the Global Gag Rule. This measure had barred US funding to international medical groups that used non-US money to fund providing abortion information or services. Biden’s decision frees up approximately $7.3 billion in funding for health groups around the world.

President Biden also announced that he would restore $69 million in funding for the United Nations Population Fund. The Fund’s Director, Dr. Natalia Kanem, estimated that the additional funding could prevent 1.4 million unintended pregnancies and 32,000 unsafe abortions. She also stated that the funds would be used to provide reproductive health services to 4.2 million people and counseling to over 75,000 victims of sexual violence.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Please help us fight for our reproductive freedom! All you need to do is join the Reproductive Justice Action Team. We had our first planning call on February 8, 2021 and will post the minutes. 

If you are interested in working with us, please contact Salli Anne Swartz [email protected]


Violence Against Women Action Team

In the United States of America

600 women are sexually assaulted each day.

Almost 4 women a day are killed and 20 per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner

1 in 5 women have experienced a rape or attempted rape - of these half were under 18 and 1 in 5 were under 12.

1 million women are stalked each year

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