Fact sheet: Paid sick days

By Sara Yufa, JWI

Unpaid sick leave forces millions of Americans to sacrifice pay and risk losing their jobs when they, or a family member, become ill.  Yet in the United States there is no federal standard for paid sick days. nonsense     Women suffer disproportionately from this injustice since this happens:tumblr_mnvi5zzwi11rarypbo1_500   More often than this:  tumblr_n878wnJrdO1tg7u77o1_500Women are usually the party responsible for caring for their sick children.UStuw0TPaid sick leave is good for stronger businesses and the economy at large! Proven by successful national models, paid sick days foster financial security and healthy and productive work environments. a-b-yay   The Facts:

  • More than 40 million American workers cannot earn a single paid sick day to use when they get common illnesses.

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  • Millions more cannot earn time to care for a sick child or family member.

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  • Overwhelmingly, mothers have primary responsibility for selecting their children’s doctors and accompanying them to appointments.

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  • Nearly half of mothers report that they must miss work when a child is sick – and half of those mothers do not get paid when they do so.

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  • Just 3.5 unpaid days off costs a family without access to paid sick days, on average, its entire monthly grocery budget.

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  • One-fifth of women workers report that they have lost a job or were told they would lose a job for taking time off due to personal or family illness.

yj2Success at Home: The District of Columbia’s Accrued Sick and Safe Leave Act of 2008 offers paid sick days to an additional 307,000 private sector workers in D.C. In assessing the impact of this law 5 years later, there was no evidence that businesses were ambivalent about staying in the city or that employers were discouraged from starting new businesses. In 2013, the D.C. City Council passed the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Amendment Act, expanding the original law to cover an additional 20,000 tipped restaurant and bar workers.  

The Healthy Families Act (S. 631/H.R. 1286) would provide workers with paid sick days to use to recover from illness, access preventive care or care for a sick family member.

Women, their families and our nation urgently need this vital political reform. Jewish Women International strongly supports public policies that strengthen economic security for women, especially those that combat unpaid sick days!  

This fact sheet was created with information provided by the National Partnership for Women and Families.    

We have to shift our understanding of the ‘sexual’ in sexual assault

Sara Yufa headshotBy Sara Yufa, JWI

In the last five years, 60% of rapes were not reported to police. Factoring in these unreported assaults, only 8% of rapes were actually prosecuted and only 3% of rapists will spend even a single day in prison.

Many sexual assaults go unreported because the victim fears she will be victimized again by peers and insensitive officials. This threat of public humiliation is due to a misconception of the cause of sexual assault, and a fear of slut shaming or being blamed for contributing to her attacker’s sexual desires.

The sexualization of sexual assault perpetuated the false popular myth that sexual assault is driven by sexual desire when in fact, sexual assault is an act of violence, power and control. Making the conversation about sexual desire diminishes the severity of the violence and minimizes the crime to uncontrollable human nature.

However, just as sexual conquests are misogynistically worn as badges of honor, so too have sexual assault cases surfaced via social media as a flex of power and sexual shaming of the victims. For example, the March 2013 case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which the victims’ pictures were posted online, and the similar, more recent July 2014 case in Houston, Texas. In Houston, the photograph was appropriated into a meme of the pose of the victim, and posts of people mocking the girl went viral on Twitter. Until the hashtag was flipped around to show support for the victim, it was used to mock the girl for being caught with her underwear down. No one publicly questioned how she arrived at the situation or why it was documented and made public.

When posts like this appear online, it increases the power aspect of the crime, marking sexual assault as something to be proud of and displayed for public viewing. Not only did the perpetrator rob the victim of her privacy when he assaulted her, he did it again by publishing the crime and forcing the private matter to be public.

And victims of sexual assault are discouraged from reporting the crime in other ways – such as lack of proof, fear of retaliation by the perpetrator, fear that authorities will treat them with hostility or not take the incident seriously, not knowing how to report the crime and a desire to hide the assault from family and others.

Sexual assault in the U.S. is especially prominent on college campuses: one in five women is a target of attempted or completed sexual assault while she’s a college student and college-aged women are four times more likely than any other age group to face sexual assault. Despite these facts, so many sexual assaults on college campuses go unreported. Date and acquaintance rapes are less likely to be reported than stranger rapes – so considering the nature of college social interaction, the likelihood of reporting sexual assault is lower on college campuses. When assaults are reported, universities often handle the case in a way that conceals the assailant, especially if they have a lot of influence at the university, such as athletes or officials.

On Thursday, July 17, JWI held a roundtable on sexual assault as part of its Summer Series for Interns and Young Professionals in the D.C. area. As a female college student, I feel it is important to have a thorough understanding of what sexual assault means and to know my rights and to understand that every sexual encounter should have clear established consent and that consent can come in the form of verbal or non-verbal indicators. It is also important to be an active bystander and step in if you see someone who is not in the position to show consent.

Specific to college campuses, under Title IX and the Clery Act schools are legally obligated to provide protection for students against discrimination based on sex, and provide transparency of crime on and around campus. Each school must have a sex discrimination policy and a Title IX coordinator easily available to students.

This information is vital for both women and men, girls and boys, as sexual assault can happen to anyone. To decrease the number of sexual assaults that happen every year, we have to shift our cultural understanding of sexuality and gender roles away from the traditional patriarchal system to one of equal, safe, loving relationships.

“It’s called prevention”: Changing the sexual assault on campus conversation

Ari Eisen headshotBy Ari Eisen, JWI

My freshman year in college there was a serial rapist on campus who committed six assaults, including two rapes. He was never caught. So I learned early on never to walk alone at night.

My sophomore year I experienced firsthand people drugging my friends at parties in order to take advantage of them. So I learned never to drink anything that was not mine – even if a friend poured it.

My junior year I studied abroad, and there were six incidents of sexual assault on campus by the same perpetrator who was, again, never caught. So I learned that this problem not only crosses state lines, but international borders.

I will be a senior this year. And I have never been more afraid to be a woman on a college campus.

I expected drinking and drugs. I expected pressure to look sexy and have sex. But I never expected the extent to which this massive cultural crisis would be relevant to my life. Indeed, the root of this problem is, undoubtedly, cultural. In preparation for college, girls are taught don’t walk alone at night, do not drink anything you did not see poured, do not dress promiscuously… The list goes on and on.

But these victim-focused statements are completely misguided. Sure, they aim to address the problem, but how about targeting the perpetrator? It’s called prevention. We should be teaching: drugging someone against their will is always wrong, attacking women when they are alone and vulnerable is a crime punishable by prison, the way a woman dresses is not any indication of her sexual availability. And while you may think these statements are obvious — to your friends, your kids, your classmates — from my experience on two college campuses, they most certainly are not.

This widespread societal problem is perpetuated by the media and popular culture. Celebrities, the music industry, athletes and commercial advertisements are messaging male entitlement and the objectification of women. They are tacitly condoning and even promoting behaviors that are certainly classified as gender-based violence and sexual assault.

Gender-based violence, specifically sexual assault on college campuses, is an epidemic – and yet it is the most underreported crime nationwide. JWI’s advocacy team and I participated in a series of three roundtable discussions aimed at addressing sexual assault on America’s college campuses. These sessions, facilitated by Senator Claire McCaskill and attended by Senators Tammy Baldwin and Richard Blumenthal, focused on the challenges surrounding the implementation of the Clery Act and the Campus SaVE Act. These acts require the annual collection and dissemination of statistics regarding crime (sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking) on campuses across the country. The roundtables also included an extensive discussion on victims’ rights under Title IX and how the criminal justice system can more effectively help victims and strengthen enforcement.

In coordination with the White House Not Alone campaign, these roundtables—and the movement’s mass of advocates and supporters—are finally bringing crimes of sexual assault on college campuses to the forefront of the conversation, and instilling in this country a sense of urgency that cannot be underplayed. The violence must end now.
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One of the ways in which JWI works to address sexual assault on college campuses is through our Safe Smart Dating program. Safe Smart Dating is an innovative workshop that helps college students define, identify, and prevent dating abuse and sexual violence on campus.

I am proud to be part of an organization that is actively pursuing justice to repair this broken system, and am hopeful that the women just beginning their journeys through college will be able to feel safe, secure and confident in pursuing their academic and professional goals.

Womanhood, Judaism, and Unifying Grief: A Call to Action

Amanda Schwartz headshotBy Amanda Schwartz, JWI

Note to readers of this blog: An important part of analyzing literature is establishing the ethos of the author. So, before you read I would like to start with some background about myself.

My name is Amanda Schwartz and I’m one of JWI’s summer interns. I’m studying English Literature and Women’s Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. With a passion for women’s and girl’s empowerment, I try to engage with the issues both locally and globally. I am a lead facilitator with a UMD initiative for girls’ empowerment in local elementary schools. Working with Power Up girls club I learn about obstacles to universal equality and equity in classes, and I have the privilege of mentoring young girls on a weekly basis. I will be a Tzedek Fellow in the fall semester with Hillel where I will have the opportunity to learn more about social justice and its intersection with Judaism.

On a more global scale, I have worked on campus advocacy for American Jewish World Service’s “We Believe” campaign to raise awareness about the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA) and have brought together students at UMD to learn about the Jewish obligation to Tikkun Olam (Repair the World) at the Global Women’s Justice Shabbat Dinner. I am learning more about the work that JWI does in its varied capacities—both locally and globally—to prevent and end domestic violence, support victims of abuse and support related legislation and political actions on nearby Capitol Hill. Working at JWI is a wonderful way to blend my mixed interests and learn about more tactics to combat issues facing women around the world.


Womanhood, Judaism, and Unifying Grief: A Call to Action

As a Jew, I am hit hard by the news that the bodies of the three kidnapped Israeli teens—Eyal, Naftali, and Gilad—have been found. The details of these tragic murders hurt my heart and I ache for the families of these innocent victims. I identify with the families who are mourning as if they are my own family; the pain of a single Jewish community crosses international borders and the sympathies from others hearing the news is in fact genuine and deep. I hope that the sadness Jews around the world are feeling is not for naught; if these boys’ perpetrators are not brought to justice it is an incomprehensible tragedy and shame, but if we stand by and allow violent crimes to continue in quantity and escalation because we do not take enough preventative action, shame on us, too.

The murders of these boys should act as a catalyst for more Jews to get involved in service—to try to cancel out the evil in the world with acts of kindness. In the coming days of aveilut (the traditional seven days of mourning), our nation should come together to mourn our losses, gird our strength and renew our commitment to pursuing righteousness. Our unequivocal duty as Jews to Tikkun Olam is vital to our unity as a nation and an important mechanism to channel our grief into something positive. Oftentimes the act of giving of ourselves is the most rewarding medicine.

On Tuesday morning, June 24, I was one of the many visitors to the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, lined up in a long queue to try to gain access to the main room of the Combating Violence and Discrimination Against Women: A Global Call to Action hearing led by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy, and Global Women’s Issues. I snagged a seat in the overflow room and listened to more than 10 influential (and might I say, badass) women and men testify about their inspiring work relating to global gender based violence.

As I listened and watched these distinguished speakers make impactful comments I felt a sense of community with the other D.C. interns, professionals and committed activists watching and listening beside me. The chilling statistics were difficult to comprehend and somewhat depressing in light of the harsh realities of stagnant politics; the seemingly endless list of futile attempts at bipartisan support efforts on all our minds. Yet, the dedication and passion that the speakers have for combatting violence and international horrors is uplifting and inspiring.

Sometimes it is easy to forget the impact that a single idea can have; but walking out from the fabulous panel including women from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Women Waging Peace and Senator Boxer was a moment I will never forget. I was simply struck by the commitment to action that was taking place toward social justice and I realized I want to be engaged in these issues and have an impact on policy and social change.

As a Jew, I feel an overwhelming sense of grief and obligation—to continue working for strides in social justice. As a woman, I have a passion to fight for those whose voices are being silenced around the globe.

I urge all Jews to recommit to fighting for social change, human rights, and peace.

Shavuot: A time to celebrate close female friendships

By Jordana GilmanJordana Gilman Portrait

This year we will once again read the Book of Ruth during our Shavuot festivities, during the all-night study session or on Shavuot day. Many have weighed in on the story of Ruth the Moabite woman and her mother-in-law, with wildly varied interpretations about its merits and faults as a text in support of women. While writing this, however, I am feeling especially optimistic.

I assert that the Book of Ruth is a celebration of the bond that can form between two women and its power to transform lives. In the first chapter of Ruth’s story, we learn that she distances herself from her own Moabite culture by marrying Naomi’s son, an Israelite. When Ruth’s husband and brother-in-law die, Naomi is left widowed and childless. Ruth insists on staying on with Naomi and traveling with her to Bethlehem, declaring, “Wherever you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried.”

Ruth adjusts to her new life in Bethlehem securing food for her and her dear mother-in-law by gleaning in the fields of a man named Boaz, coincidentally a relative of Naomi’s. The plot progresses unsurprisingly: Naomi helps Ruth position herself as a candidate for marriage with Boaz. The plan is successful and Ruth has a son (Oved, King David’s grandfather!), the greatest gift a woman of the time could receive.

With Boaz, Ruth was able to continue the male lineage of Naomi’s kinsman, bringing acceptance and prosperity to Ruth and her mother-in-law. But beyond this significant societal accomplishment, Ruth and Naomi had something else that was very precious: each other. When the women of Bethlehem give Ruth’s son Oved over to Naomi for nursing, they introduce the baby as a symbol of Naomi’s blessings because he has been born of Naomi: “He shall be to you a restorer of your life, and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter in law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, she has born him.”

I recognize that this compliment is still framed by the patriarchal society in which they lived, but can we just appreciate this in historical context for a moment? Ruth is better to Naomi than seven sons, the most desirable permutation of children imaginable in that world, because Ruth loves Naomi and would do anything for her. The friendship bond between those two women held them together at a time when the rest of their family died or had abandoned them, and helped them to persevere and see better days.

The Book of Ruth may not read like a Gloria Steinem essay, but it represents the female experience with an element of tenderness and sensitivity. Both Naomi and Ruth experienced great loss and overcame it only with the love and support of each other. This Shavuot, let us celebrate the close female friendships in our lives and challenge ourselves to be more supportive, more giving, and more loving.

Jordana Gilman graduated Cornell University in January and will be attending SUNY Upstate Medical University in the fall.

The dangerous link between reproductive coercion and teen pregnancy

By Ari Eisen, JWIAri Eisen

Dating abuse and sexual assault can have many negative impacts on the victim, including unintended pregnancy. May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, providing an opportunity to reflect on a specific type of dating abuse known as reproductive coercion.

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists defines reproductive coercion as “behavior intended to maintain power and control in a relationship…that includes explicit attempts to impregnate a partner against her will, control outcomes of a pregnancy, coerce a partner to have unprotected sex, and interfere with contraceptive methods.” Pregnancy coercion and birth control sabotage are especially prevalent issues for teenagers, observed in couples of all socioeconomic situations and education levels. A survey of 10th and 11th graders revealed that over half of girls and 13.1% of boys had experienced sexual coercion.

Adolescents are at a stage in development where they struggle with abstract thinking and are still learning to be responsible, empathetic adults. Concepts like pregnancy and parenthood – and the very concrete challenges and sacrifices that these realities demand – may not be fully understood. Teen boys engage in reproductive coercion as a method of establishing power and control over their partners, increasing their senses of masculinity and overcoming the insecurities that accompany puberty. Teenage girls can fall victim to reproductive coercion as they too fail to think in the long-term, disregard abusive behavior because they feel pressured to date and misinterpret this behavior for love and affection.

Not surprisingly, reproductive coercion is directly associated with an increased risk of unintended pregnancy. The risk actually doubles among females who reported both reproductive coercion and intimate partner violence (IPV). Although reproductive coercion does not always indicate IPV, the two are often linked, and reproductive coercion among teens is predicted to be a pre-cursor to sexual or physical violence.

The good news is that teen pregnancy has declined by 42% since 1990, largely as a result of improved sexuality education. Comprehensive sex education should be combined with healthy relationship education, putting sexual decision making in the context of healthy relationships – particularly because most young people who engage in sexual behavior do so with an exclusive boyfriend or girlfriend. Much like teen pregnancy, reproductive coercion can be significantly decreased through education, helping young people understand what behaviors are healthy and unhealthy not just in relation to sexuality, but in the context of dating relationships.

Comprehensive sex education should include medically accurate information regarding human anatomy and STD/STIs and promote delaying sexual intercourse, increasing condom and contraceptive use, reducing the number of partners and decreasing the number of times students have unprotected sex. It should also include discussions about dating abuse, intimate partner violence and reproductive coercion. For teens, rules that forbid behavior (i.e., “do nots”, “should nots” and “cannots”) are just invitations for rebellion; messaging should be positive, engaging and empower young people to control their sexual futures. Positive messages inspire action. Teens should know their rights, the full picture regarding sex and that they have the power to build healthy relationships.

Education is the key to prevention of reproductive coercion, intimate partner violence and unintended pregnancy among teens. We have proof. Please promote positive comprehensive sex education. Advocate for its increased implementation. Support – not shame – our youth. Change is happening, and you can help.

Getting young women started in homebuying

Valerie Mickiewicz

By Valerie Mickiewicz, JWI

JWI’s Young Women’s Leadership Network hosted an event on Wednesday, May 14 for potential homebuyers to learn about the ins and outs of the (often confusing) process. Our YWLN frequently offers skill-building workshops, just like this one, to develop personal and professional skills; this one was the first in a series of financial literacy workshops for Jewish women in their 20s and 30s. Although homebuying seemed like an abstract goal for my future self, the presentation taught me that it can take more than just a few months of planning and it’s never too early to start saving. Who wants to throw money away on rent, anyway?

If your first thought is, “Where do I even begin?” – you’re in luck! Here are some of the most helpful tips we found to get you started:

1. Know what you can afford! Carefully assess your finances and reexamine your budget before beginning your search – it’s critical to have all your ducks in a row before diving in. Make a budget and calculate your monthly income and expenses to determine the monthly payments you are comfortable with. If you have difficulty allocating your money, just follow the 50/20/30 rule. 50% of your budget should go to necessities, but not just housing. That also includes utilities, groceries, transportation, etc. Our experts recommended that no more than 26% of monthly after-tax income should be used to pay all housing costs (mortgage, taxes, insurance). Don’t forget to take other expenses into consideration beyond the monthly mortgage payment, such as closing and moving costs, utilities and maintenance. Next, figure out how much you can afford for your down payment, which should be about 20% of the total cost of the home. Find out your credit score, and if it’s low, make a plan to improve it. Your credit score is a crucial factor that determines the interest rate on your mortgage.

2. Get pre-approved. Even before you start looking, you must be pre-approved for a mortgage loan. This will tell you how much the bank is willing to loan you. Stick with the number you originally budget for, even if the number you are pre-approved for is larger. Only you know how much house you can afford. Pre-approval is transferrable between Maryland, D.C., and Virginia and is totally free. You can fill out an online form or visit a bank, credit union, or a mortgage lender.

3. Choose your lender & realtor carefully. You will need to find a quality, hardworking, and above all reputable agent to help you find a home. Get referrals from friends and family and interview more than one person. Buying a home is one of the largest financial decisions you’ll make; you need to be able to trust the people you are working with.

4. A few other takeaways:

  • Spring is peak purchase season, so try to shop during mid-summer or late fall.
  • Make a list of priorities your new home needs to have such as Metro access, parking, outdoor space, etc.
  • Renovations on a “fixer-upper” are often more expensive than you anticipate. If you’re a first time home-buyer, consider buying a home that is move-in ready.

Buying a home isn’t a decision to make lightly, but with diligence and proper planning, it’s within reach. By making use of these tips, you’ll at least start off on the right foot. All in all, do your research and don’t be afraid to ask questions. It will be much easier to have conversations with realtors and lenders when you understand the basics.

Planning for the future felt overwhelming, but this workshop made me realize that I am not alone, and there are other women out there who share the same concerns and dream of one day owning a home. Stay tuned for upcoming events in the financial empowerment workshop series hosted by the Young Women’s Leadership Network, where we will explore investing and saving.