October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is also the 20th anniversary of the passage of the Violence Against Women Act, a historic law that transformed the way people and the courts think about and handle domestic abuse. As we see from the news, violence against women, in the home and on college campuses, and human trafficking are issues that still demand our attention today.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
• One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
• An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
• 85 percent of domestic violence victims are women.
• Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence.
• Statistics show that one out of every 10 teenagers is physically hurt by someone they are dating.
• One in five girls is sexually assaulted in college.
• Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
When women and children are deprived of a loving home, legal protections, or financial independence because they fear for their safety, our nation is denied its full potential.
This issue of violence against women became visible nationally through the Ray Rice situation, and New Jersey is responding. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has introduced the Securing Assistance for Victim Empowerment (SAVE) Act, new legislation that would change the tax status of major sports organizations such as the National Football League to ensure that more revenues raised by this large corporation go toward education and assistance to abuse victims. On Sept. 30, a bipartisan group of 14 women legislators stood in front of the Meadowlands to speak out against violence against women.
For two years, the CRC of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, in coalition with 100 organizations, worked to deter human trafficking associated with the Super Bowl. During that time we sought support from the NFL and athletic community but were unsuccessful. In order to end violence against women, men must be part of the solution. Society must not ignore violence and must have a zero-tolerance policy.
To that end, the Obama administration has made combatting violence a top priority and has launched a number of important initiatives within the past year:
• The “1 is 2 Many” initiative engages educators, parents, and students while raising awareness about dating violence.
• White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault
• “It’s On Us” campaign will address the intersection of sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses.
This month the Jewish community in Greater MetroWest will also feature programs to help raise awareness about violence against women. Federation’s Women’s Philanthropy’s showcase event, CHOICES, is featuring Linor Abargil, a former Miss Israel who was crowned Miss World in 1998. During her pageantry experience she was brutally raped. She now speaks around the world against rape and sexual assault (jfedgmw.org/choices). The New Jersey Jewish Film Festival is showing her movie Brave Miss World (njjff.org/extra). At these events, you will learn more about what you can do in New Jersey.
In Greater MetroWest, we are fortunate to have organizations such as the Rachel Coalition and Jewish Family Services of MetroWest and Central NJ, which work on this issue on a regular basis.
Take advantage of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the programming in our community to speak out against violence, to support efforts to stop it, and to create a society based on the safety and dignity of all people.
If you have a loved one who is a victim of violence against women or you are seeking assistance, reach out by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE or visiting TheHotline.org. For more information on the Rachel Coalition, visit rachelcoalition.org or call 973-740-1233.