Home-Stretch Election Rallies

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It’s the home stretch. Candidates and volunteers are working overtime to get people out to vote on Tuesday, November 4. As part of that effort, prominent politicians are canvassing the country to assist candidates running for the US Senate, the US House of Representatives, and state Governorships.

Pennsylvania

In my home state of Pennsylvania, President Barack Obama came to Philadelphia to stump for Tom Wolf (D) on Sunday November 2. He is running for Pennsylvania Governor to replace the current Tea Party Governor Tom Corbett (R). I’m so looking forward to a victory tomorrow for Tom Wolf (see some of the reasons why here). It will be a win for the environment, for women, LGBTQIA people, low-income individuals who can’t access healthcare, and for better jobs and wages for everyone in the state.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire the fight is not to replace a right-wing slate of elected officials, but to retain and reelect the four progressive women leading that state – Governor Maggie Hassan, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Representative Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2), and Representative Carol Shea-Porter (NH-1). New Hampshire is the only state in the nation to have women in 100% of the top leadership positions in the state. And prominent female politicians have come to the state to stump for them. On October 25, it was Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) stumping for her colleague Senator Jeanne Shaheen. And on Sunday, November 2, while President Obama was stumping for Tom Wolf, Former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Nashua, NH to support these four women’s reelection efforts.

I was there at both events. I blogged about the Warren event last week. Today, here’s the Clinton event.

picture of NH Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen with Hillary Rodham Clinton standing on stage at a GOTV rally in Nashua, NH on Nov. 2, 2014

NH Gov. Maggie Hassan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen with Hillary Rodham Clinton

About 1000 people gathered at Nashua Community College in Nashua, NH. The lineup of speakers was quite interesting. Except for State Democratic Chair Ray Buckley, every speaker was a woman – something I’ve never seen in a political event or rally before. Here are the speakers in order of their appearance:

Senator Jeanne Shaheen’s granddaughters singing the Star Spangled Banner

Picture of Caraline and Elle Shaheen singing The Star Spangled Banner

Caraline and Elle Shaheen singing The Star Spangled Banner

Chair Ray Buckley calling on the NH electorate to not only vote for the Democrats at the top of the ticket, but to also vote for the Democrats all the way down the ballot.

picture of NH Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley

NH Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley

He gave a rousing speech on the problems that NH had when Republican Bill O’Brian was leading the General Assembly and how the mostly female Democratic leadership turned the state around through bipartisan cooperation once the Republican party became the minority party two years ago. Here’s that speech:

 

Then the line-up of female political leaders began. Each talked about why NH is doing better now, how their bipartisan efforts have improved the economy of New Hampshire, and what has been protected in the state for women’s reproductive justice and pay equity, children’s and adults’ public and college education, marriage equality, access to health care for all and job restoration. Here are those speakers:

House Speaker Terri Norelli

NH House Speaker Terri Norelli

NH House Speaker Terri Norelli

State Senator Peggy Gilmour

Picture of  State Sen Peggy Gilmour

NH State Sen Peggy Gilmour

State Senator Peggy Laskey

Picture of NH State Senator Bette Laskey

NH State Senator Bette Laskey

Executive Council Member Debora Pignatelli

Picture of NH Executive Council Member Debora Pignatelli

NH Executive Council Member Debora Pignatelli

And then the headliners:

US Representative Ann McLane Kuster

Picture of US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2)

US Rep. Ann McLane Kuster (NH-2)

Governor Maggie Hassan

Picture of NH Governor Maggie Hassan

NH Governor Maggie Hassan

Senator Jeanne Shaheen

Picture of US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

US Senator Jeanne Shaheen (NH)

And finally, Hillary Rodham Clinton!

Picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton

Hillary Rodham Clinton

In introducing Hillary, Senator Shaheen put forth this zinger that brought a roar from the crowd:

“She traveled 956,000 miles as Secretary of State – that’s nearly as many miles as Scott Brown traveled looking for a Senate seat to buy.”

Due to the low battery on my video camera, I was not able to record the speeches of the keynote speakers. After the video camera died, Hillary focused on women’s and family issues. Since I could no longer videotape the event, I took a few notes. Here’s some of Ms. Clinton’s additional remarks:

“Women are not just half the population.”

“Women’s rights are on the front line of rights around the world.”

“Equal pay is not just a women’s issue. It is a family issue.”

“Fear is the last resort of those who have run out of hope.”

“If you vote, you can elect these women who will lead New Hampshire and the rest of the country [for the better good of all].”

In addition, the Manchester Ink Link compiled several quotes from Hassan, Shaheen, and Clinton. You can see them here.

You Gotta Vote!

So no matter where you are – in Pennsylvania, in New Hampshire, or anywhere else in the country – consider the impact of who your next Governor or US Senator or US Congressperson may be. Do not vote based on fear. Vote for the candidates who will protect middle-class income, education for all, access to healthcare, marriage equality, the environment, and reproductive justice.

GET OUT AND VOTE on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. You can find out where and how to vote in your state here (courtesy of the League of Women Voters). Thanks.

 

Collage of pictures taken during the Hassan/Shaheen/Clinton rally in Nashua, NH on Nov. 2, 2014

Collage of pictures taken during the Hassan/Shaheen/Clinton rally in Nashua, NH on Nov. 2, 2014

 

Corbett’s at It Again

This time, Corbett is attacking LGBT couples

“Just Close Your Eyes”

Last year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly was considering passage of a transvaginal ultrasound bill to force women to have an unnecessary ultrasound in advance of going to an abortion clinic if they want to terminate their pregnancy. This bill would have required pregnant women to have the intrusive vaginal ultrasound with a video screen pointed at then and then would have required them to carry that report to the clinic the next day along with a signed form indicating that they had the procedure done.  This report would also have to be placed in their medical record despite the fact that this procedure was not medically necessary.

When Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was asked if this was a bill that burdened women, he said that the women who didn’t want the procedure could “Just close their eyes.”

Here’s a clip of that comment (the commentary and the comment start at 02:39 minutes into this video):

This time he says, “I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister…”

Now this week, he’s attacking loving gay couples who want to marry just like their heterosexual friends do.  On Friday he responded to another reporter’s question.  He appeared on a Harrisburg TV station program called “Ask the Governor.”  The reporter asked him to comment on the legal argument that his lawyers are proceeding with in a case to stop Montgomery County’s Register of Wills from issuing marriage licenses to gays and lesbians who want to get married in Pennsylvania.

The legal brief compares same-sex marriage to allowing 12-year old children to get married.  His response, just a bit longer than the “Just close your eyes” comment from last year, is just as offensive.  The reporter said to him, “comparing gay marriage to the union of 12-year olds … you called inappropriate.” Corbett responded:

“It was an inappropriate analogy. I think a much better analogy would have been  brother and sister, don’t you? ”

Here’s a clip of this comment:

He later, as with last year’s comment, apologized, saying this time that it’s just a “legal” argument since marrying a 12-year old or having an incestuous marriage, or marrying a person of the same-sex are all illegal.

This is the guy who thinks he represents the Commonwealth?!!?  Women as well as men? I don’t think so! All gays and lesbian couples as well as any heterosexual couple that wants to get married?!!? I don’t think so!

Inappropriate, Offensive, Insensitive, and Hateful

Both of these statements are offensive, insensitive, and hateful.  And, yes just as Corbett later stated they are both inappropriate.  Yet he continues to attack – women, gays, immigrants, etc.  For a sampling of these attacks by Governor Corbett (as well by the Pennsylvania legislature), check out my blog posting earlier this entitled “War on Women in PA: At Least a 20-Year Happening.”

The apologies are not enough.  Corbett has to go.  He needs to be a 1-term Governor in Pennsylvania – something that hasn’t happened since the PA Constitution was amended in 1968 to allow a Governor to succeed himself (or herself, which might change if we ever elect a female governor) with a second term.

The Alternatives (So Far)

We know that Tom Corbett will be the Republican candidate for PA Governor in 2014.  We don’t know who the Democratic (or any other party) candidate will be on the November ballot.  Right now there are at least eight Democrats running: John Hanger, Jo Ellen Litz, Rob McCord, Katy McGinty, Max Myers, Ed Pawlowski, Allyson Schwartz, and Tom Wolf have officially announced and Rep. H. Scott Conklin, Senator Mike Stack, and former Auditor General Jack Wagner are considering a run. We need information on these alternatives.

So I started looking for blogs or commentary on alternatives to Tom Corbett.  So far, there is only one that is not party-based that I could find.  It is written by Cindy Purvis, Treasurer of Healthcare for All PA.  Her blog is titled “Race for PA Governor” and focuses on single-payer healthcare reform.  So check out her blog.

After the fall elections, there should be more websites up that can provide more complete information on the stances of candidates across a wide spectrum of issues, including women’s rights, reproductive justice, marriage equality, and other LGBTQ issues.  One of the best, in my opinion is Project Vote Smart.  Right now there is nothing on any race being held in 2014, but check back later.

Meanwhile, you can let your outrage be known. Contact Tom Corbett by email or phone at 717-787-2500.  Tell him that his wars on women and the LGBT community must stop.  Let him hear your outrage.  Maybe he might reconsider some of his views and actions towards the citizens of Pennsylvania.  I doubt it, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

War on Women in Pennsylvania: At Least a 20-Year Happening

Last week, Governor Tom “Just Close Your Eyes” Corbett signed into law Act 13 of 2013, also known as HB 818.  This newest attack in the War on Women denies women the ability to use THEIR OWN FUNDS to purchase coverage for an abortion within the new healthcare exchange that Corbett decided to fob off onto the federal government.  Although the state couldn’t be “bothered” with running this exchange, they have no problem in denying women the ability to purchase coverage for an abortion even in cases in which her life is endangered.

At the time of final passage of the bill I sent out an email to several friends listservs. Here are some of the comments I received back:

What is going on in PA?  It’s beginning to sound more & more like a North Dakota or a Kansas [or a Mississippi or an Arizona or a Wisconsin or a Texas or any other state that’s been taken over by misogynists and racists].  Terrible!!

If women aren’t allowed to spend money on their healthcare the way they deem medically necessary, then it’s time to face the fact that we’re not even citizens in our own states.

I agree with all of these sentiments.  Yet, these types of legislative actions have been going on in Pennsylvania for a long time, despite Pennsylvania having an ERA in our state Constitution and having already ratified the national ERA.

Bit of history of the War on Women in Pennsylvania.  We’ve been battling this War for over two decades in our legislature.  The battles started with attacks on reproductive justice and have now spread to other areas of women’s lives.

Reproductive Justice Battles

The Pennsylvania General Assembly has basically been co-opted by the radical right-wing on both sides of the aisle.  The Democrats do have more pro-choice people than the Republicans.  The Senate is a bit better than the House of Representatives.  And this has basically been true since the late 1980’s.

  1. Which is why Governor Bob Casey, Sr. (D) pushed through Pennsylvania’s Abortion Control Act that initially mandated parental consent, spousal consent, a 24-hour waiting period, and a state-mandated script about the “detriments” to health in abortion procedures.  Planned Parenthood contested the law that went all the way to the US Supreme Court in a case called Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey. Decided on June 29, 1992, the Court threw out spousal consent as an “undue burden,” but upheld the rest of the law. This was one of the first battles partially won by the emerging War on women.  That was 21 years ago this week.
  2. Which is why Title X and state Family Planning monies are split 50/50 each year in the state budget between crisis pregnancy centers and legitimate family planning clinics.  And this has been happening for over a decade now. And in 2012, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R) proposed eliminating ALL funding for family planning for Planned Parenthood or any other clinic that provides abortion services.
  3. Which is why we are losing stand-alone abortion providers due to the TRAP (Targeted Regulations on Abortion Providers) law passed in December 2011 following “Dr.” Gosnell’s arrest and guilty verdict for murdering 9 live-born infants and one woman in a filthy, rat-infested facility that the state had not inspected despite complaints from legitimate providers for about 10 years.
  4. Which is why we almost had a transvaginal ultrasound law last year.  And for Governor Corbett’s “Just close your eyes” statement (Corbett’s comments on the ultrasound bill start at 14:28).  The main reasons I think it ultimately died in committee is thanks to the activists in VA who created the uproar there and because so many people, including doctors were outraged by the invasiveness of this bill and for Corbett’s insensitive statement (of which he is becoming more or more well-known for – he’s his own worst enemy).

Other Battles in the War on Women in Pennsylvania

And on other issues – similar actions have occurred.

Increasing Conservatism in the Legislature and Governorship

In 2010, the Tea Party and the radical right swept into office an even more anti-woman legislature and governor here in Pennsylvania.  The War on Women went into full swing.  Both houses of the General Assembly became even more heavily conservative, with the House switching from a Democratic- to a Republican-controlled majority and the state elected an anti-choice, anti-woman, and in my opinion, racist governor – Governor Tom Corbett (R).

To highlight how conservative the Pennsylvania General Assembly has become, just look at the 2012 ratings of legislators by the American Conservative Union.  They indicated that 51% of members in the combined Assembly are solid conservatives; 105 or 42% are given a score of 100 and an additional 22 or 9% are rated at 63 or higher.  The entire leadership of the majority party in both houses and thus those with the power to deny women, people of color, people with disabilities and people living in poverty their basic rights are listed in their report as so-called “Defenders of Liberty” or “Conservatives” because of their rating of, respectively, either 100 (13 of the 16 leaders) or 80 (the remaining 3 leaders).

Attack on Hate Crimes Protections

An updated hate crimes bill was initially passed in 2002 that added gender, gender identity, national origin, disability, and sexual orientation.  Because the radical right didn’t want to vote against adding sexual orientation coupled with disability and gender and thereby anger multiple constituencies within their district, a member of the House, proposed a late-night, end of session amendment in the 2001-2002 legislative session that substituted the hate crimes bill for an agricultural crimes bill.  The vote was overwhelmingly in favor, mostly because the legislators didn’t want to appear to be supporting hate crimes via a no vote (prior to this the then Republican majority had refused to bring up the bill for a committee vote). The radical right-wing appealed saying that this substitution violated the state’s constitutional mandate that any amendment has to be germane to the original intent of the bill.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreed in July 23, 2008 that this procedure (but not the underlying intent) was unconstitutional and threw out the law.  It has been reintroduced every session since then with no hearing or vote in any committee in either house.

Attacks on Marriage Equality

In addition to having a state-based mini-DOMA (a state-level Defense of Marriage Act) on the books, Pennsylvania has had several attempts at adding this form of discrimination to our state constitution introduced every session for the last decade.  The major reasons they have not passed is that the House is even more conservative than the Senate and the two houses can’t agree on how extreme to make it.  There is another one that has been introduced in the General Assembly this year, but due to increasing support by the public for civil unions and marriage equality (almost 2/3 support throughout the state), they haven’t yet held any hearings.

Budgetary Attacks

One of the spears attacking women, families, and people of color since the takeover of our legislative and executive branches of government here in the state is the budget.

We have had severe cutbacks in state funding for education, health care, and human services since 2011.  According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, spending on these three areas in the final budget for 2012-2013 that ends this week was either flat-lined (“welfare” programs) or reduced by 0.3% (for public school education), 15.9% (for higher education), and 37% to 45% (for Medical Assistance inpatient and outpatient care).

The proposed budget plan for 2013-2014 continues these cuts. Here are a couple of examples of this budgetary war:

Attacks to Eliminate Equality for All

In the very first budget introduced by Governor Corbett, every advocacy Commission in the Executive branch was eliminated in the 2011-2012 budget – this includes the Pennsylvania Commission for Women (which I served on until it was abolished), Latino Affairs, Asian-American Affairs, and African-American Affairs.  As you will see from the links to these commissions, there is no public information on who the commissioners are nor is the any information on the services any of these commissions provide.  Prior to the elimination of these commissions in 2011, the Commission for Women, for example, had an extensive web presence which included our mission (the only thing that now remains), hotline contact information, copies of reports written by the Commission, information on the advocacy being conducted by the Commission, and links to programs and services to broadly assist women.  Transparency has disappeared; this is another spear in the attacks with the War on Women here in Pennsylvania.

Like every other state, Pennsylvania has a commission that monitors, reviews and adjudicates alleged acts of discrimination; here in Pennsylvania that is the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Severe budgetary cut-backs have occurred in the funding for the PHRC in every budgetary cycle since 2011.  An individual who works within the PHRC told me last month that as a result of these cuts, they are down 50% in staffing and that long-time civil rights advocates in the agency have either retired (some early) or left for other work.  And it’s not getting any better. The PHRC is flat-lined in this year’s budget.  We don’t yet know if this will still be true once the budget is passed, which theoretically must be done this week since our state constitution requires passage by June 30 of each year.

Gerrymandering

Gerrymandering is part of the War on Women due to its impact on legislation directly affecting women’s lives. Gerrymandering here in Pennsylvania, aka the “Gerrymander of the Decade,” has entrenched the right-wing Republicans in both the General Assembly and the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation.  This, despite the fact that there are many more registered Democrats than Republicans in the state.

Being a Democratic legislator, as we all know doesn’t guarantee concern for women’s rights (think Senator Bob Casey, Jr. and his father, former Governor Bob Casey, Sr.). But in these days and times, it’s less likely to cause a problem for us than do the Tea-Party dominated Republicans.

The most recent vote in the General Assembly is a clear example of what gerrymandering has done to the legislature.

Gerrymandering, combined with the elections resulted in the passage of HB 818/Act 13 this month. Tea Party Republican conservatives won many of their races in 2010 and 2012, taking control and leadership of both houses in 2011.  In the House there are 111 Republicans and 92 Democrats.  On April 24, 2013, all but 2 Republicans (98%) voted against and all but 32 Democrats (65%) voted for women’s reproductive justice. In the Senate there are 28 Republicans and 22 Democrats. On June 5, 2013, all but 2 Republicans (93%) voted against and all but 5 Democrats (77%) voted for women’s reproductive justice.

State and Federal ERA

Another comment that was made when I sent out my email was about passing the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The person said,

This is the reason we need to be included in the Constitution of the United States!  One of main ways to stop bills like this is to pass the ERA and thus be admitted as full-fledged citizens of the US.

Before the War on Women started, Pennsylvania passed a state-based ERA that was voted on by the electorate and placed into Section I of the Pennsylvania Constitution in 1971.

Yet even with this state-based ERA, the War on Women is being raged here in Pennsylvania.  Sometimes the state ERA works and sometimes it doesn’t.  It worked back in the 1980’s when Pat and Twiss Butler worked with Pennsylvania NOW to get gender-based auto insurance rates eliminated.  But it didn’t work in 2008 when a woman sued her employer using the state ERA based on sexually offensive comments made by her supervisor but not stopped by the company.

Many people, in frustration have made statements or created nicknames to replace the official monikers of “City or State of Brotherly Love” and the “Cradle of Independence.”  A couple of the pejoratives include “Pennsyltuky” and “Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in the middle” (this latter one is attributed to James Carville)  The progressive parts of the state (for the citizenry, but not necessarily the full legislature) are currently Philadelphia and SE PA, the capital Harrisburg (to some minor extent) and Centre County where I live.  Pittsburgh is still itself progressive, but Allegheny County (where Pittsburgh is located) has become very, very conservative and thus more like the “T” (the term used to describe the rural part of the state outside of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia regions).

Yes, it is frustrating.  But as a “cock-eyed optimist” (something I’ve often been called), I continue to push back and sometimes we get things that are a bit better than they would have been otherwise.  Much of our work is being done in coalition these days.  I won’t stop my push-back against this War on Women.  I will continue my multi-decade work and will continue to shout from the mountain top whenever and wherever needed.  As will others (see for example, an article in Politico about the War on Women battle for the Pennsylvania governorship gearing up here in Pennsylvania).

Be a “cock-eyed” optimist.  Get the ERA passed and stop this state and national War on Women. As Margaret Mead said,

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Women’s Health and Roe at 40

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision declaring that women have a constitutional right to privacy and reproductive justice, including access to abortions. In recognition of this milestone, I participated in a local NOW chapter round-table reproductive justice discussion on the impact of Roe over the last 40 years at a local café and bookstore. We had a great discussion on the history of Roe, reproductive justice through the lens of class and race, and expected Pennsylvania-based legislation on reproductive health during the 2013-2014 legislative session.

In addition I wrote an op-ed piece for the Centre Daily Times Opinion page. It was printed in this morning’s paper. You can see the original piece by clicking here. I am also embedding it in this blog since my local paper archives articles starting about a week after they have first been published. Just click on the link below to see and read a pdf version of this op-ed.

CDT Joanne Tosti-Vasey _ Women’s health a voter issue _ Opinion _ 1-22-2013

Violence against Women and Children: A Worldwide, National, and Local Epidemic

Violence against women and children is a worldwide, national, and local epidemic.

Yesterday, a 23-year-old medical student died in a Singapore hospital of injuries she sustained December 16, 2012 in a gang rape and severe beating on a bus in New Delhi, India. She was attacked by six men who took turns raping her and beating both her and her male friend, stripping both of them, and then throwing them off the bus.  This is just one of many forms of femicide that have occurred in India, which include rape, sexual assault, honor killings, killing of girls 5 years and younger by starvation and violence, and dowry-related murders, among others.

This is just part of the world-wide epidemic of violence against women.  According to One Billion Rising, one in three women will be beaten or raped during her lifetime.  According to the United Nations,

Violence against women takes a dismaying variety of forms, from domestic abuse and rape to child marriages and female circumcision. All are violations of the most fundamental human rights.

Forms of violence vary by country, from sex-selection abortions in countries that value men over women, to female genital mutilation that leaves women maimed and traumatized, to forced marriages, to sexual harassment and intimidation at work, to trafficking and prostitution, to rape, incest, domestic violence, murder, and rape as a weapon of war. Some of this violence occurs within the family home.  Some of this violence occurs within the community.  And some of this violence is perpetrated by the state.  It can be physical, sexual, and/or psychological.  All forms are traumatic and in some instances, deadly.

UniFem’s data on violence against women is even starker than that presented by One Billion Rising.  They report that up to 70 percent of women and girls experience sexual or physical violence during their lifetime. Among women ages 15-44, the incidence of this form of violence – mostly perpetrated by husbands, intimate partners, or people the women know – accounts for more disability and deaths than occur from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control reports a pervasive problem of “intimate partner violence (IPV).”  This is defined as rape, physical violence, and stalking by a current or former intimate partner, either gay or straight of either sex or gender identity.  On average, 24 people experience some form of IPV every minute in the US.  This is over 12 million women (mostly) and some men each year, including 1 million women who are raped each year.

This violence occurs against both children and adults.  The majority of victims are women and girls, but they also include some men and young boys, such as the young boys here in Centre County, PA who were victimized by former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky.  As a women’s rights activist, I have been speaking out against all forms of violence against women and children since at least 1994.  You can see a history of the local issues on the National NOW website here, and here as well as in The Nation.

There is a question that this info raises in my mind. What is the status of protections to reduce violence against women locally, in the US, and around the world? The picture/answer to this question is not great.

Locally, two cases of violence have made national news.  The most well-known case is that of former PSU football coach Jerry Sandusky; he was found guilty on 45 of 48 charges related to child sexual assault and is now essentially serving a life sentence in the state penitentiary.  Penn State University received a 60 million dollar sanction from the NCAA for failure to properly handle intimate partner violence, particularly child sexual abuse  within the Athletic department, and Judge Louis Freeh issued a scathing indictment against PSU’s upper administration, the Athletics’ department, and the Board of Trustees for covering up, failing to protect potential and actual victims of sexual violence, and failing to provide appropriate board oversight. And the University could face severe fines for failure to report IPV incidences to the US Department of Education under the Clery Act.  Despite these sanctions, violence on campus still continues.  The other case is the murder here in Centre County of PSU alumna Amy Homan McGee in 2001 by her husband, Vincent.  What happened in this domestic violence case was made into a 2010 PBS documentary titled “Telling Amy’s Story.”

These cases are just two examples among many that occur here at the local level. According to the State College, PA police department, there were 76 reported cases of domestic violence and 29 cases of sexual assault in the borough alone in 2011-2012.  Yet the incidence appears to be much higher.  According to the Centre County Women’s Resource Center, over 1,000 people in the county were known to be affected by domestic violence and another 200 reported being sexually assaulted throughout the entire county during the same time period.

To assist victims of stalking, domestic violence, and sexual assault, our local community created a county-wide task force of service providers and advocates to assist, education, and advocate for the reduction and elimination of all forms of IPV.  This task force has been in existence for 20+ years.  This task force is doing a decent job of working on IPV issues and providing services and education to the community, but is now facing ever increasing funding issues.

Funding for programs at the local level come largely from state and national governments.  Both levels of funding are in jeopardy.  Here in PA, for example, Governor Corbett eliminated General Assistance funding for everyone on August 1, 2012; a larger plurality of the recipients of this very limited funding were women fleeing domestic violence who used the minimal monies available to find housing for themselves and their children.

At the national level, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides funding to the Office of Violence against Women (OVW), to law enforcement, and to the judicial system to deal with all forms of IPV.  VAWA was originally created in 1995.  The bill must be reauthorized every 5 years. This means that the last reauthorization should have occurred in 2010!  The holdback?  Rather than improving the bill, many members of Congress, particularly Republicans in the US House of Representatives are calling for both cutbacks in funding and who will be covered.  We are now at a standstill since, appropriately, the US Senate is standing firm on ensuring that all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking – including college students, immigrants, Native Americans, and LGBTQ people – are covered.  The new session of Congress will convene in January 2013 and an entirely new bill will have to be crafted.  Meanwhile victims and survivors of IPV are surviving on a temporary funding basis through March 2013 to cover anti-violence programs to save and improve their lives.  Additionally, the looming “fiscal cliff,” sequestration will result in nearly 200,000 fewer victims receiving lifesaving and cost-effective services.

And returning to the international level, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) has a clear statement that all countries that have signed the treaty take “appropriate” steps to eliminate violence against women and girls.  The US signed the treaty in 1980 but never ratified it.  India ratified CEDAW in 1993, but as can be seen from recent events there, doesn’t enforce this obligation.

So where does this leave us?

Action is needed.  We need to get out on the streets and call for full funding of programs designed to reduce and eliminate violence.  Eve Ensler is organizing One Billion Rising on February 14, 2013.  Her call states,

We are calling on ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence.

It is a one-day strike and an “invitation to dance” that calls for the end of all forms of violence against women and children. If you are interested in joining women and those who love them from around the world, you can download the One Billion Rising toolkit to plan your event here.

You can also take action by telling leaders here in India as well as here in the US and in your state that enough is enough.

  1. Tell the Indian Prime Minister to meet the three demands of the women of India – 1) talk directly to the women of India about how you will deal with this violence, 2) begin expediting cases against Indian politicians who have records of alleged rape and other charges of violence against women, and 3) immediately reinstate Police Woman Damayanti Sen who was fired after she protected a gang-rape victim;
  2. Contact your US Representative and US Senators. Tell them to immediately introduce a new bill similar to the 2011-2012 Senate bill (S.1925) that covers ALL victims of violence.  This needs to be passed before March 2013 when the temporary funding extension that passed in November ends.  The new bill needs to be comprehensive and include all current victims of violence as well as battered immigrant women, Native American Women, LGBTQ persons, and violence survivors on college campuses.  You can find out more information about this issue on the National NOW website, including several links to action alerts on VAWA.  Also, tell your US Senators to finally vote for and ratify CEDAW without any reservations.
  3. Learn more about what your state’s laws and funding for programs on violence against women provide.  A good source of information for each state can be found on the OVW website; there is a page on that website that links you to resources in each state.  Once you get to your state’s links, you should be able to find action alerts and information to help improve funding and programs within your state.