by Michelle Freeman, Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist
On Monday, President Obama signed into law the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVSPA). After months of being overshadowed by bigger ticket legislation and an erratic shuffling through Congress, FVPSA was one of few pieces of legislation to win passage during the lame duck session. FVPSA is the only dedicated federal program supporting shelters, crisis lines counseling, and other victim assistance programs in local communities across the country. For 25 years, FVPSA, which expired in 2008, has provided emergency life saving services for victims of domestic violence and their children at their most critical moments- when they are fleeing an abusive environment.
This was truly a hard won grassroots victory. Congratulations! We can now take a breath and celebrate. The willingness of advocates both national and local and engaged constituents, particularly survivors to keep calling and sending letters fueled public attention for a bill that had stalled in committee.
I have hope, despite declarations that the 112th session of Congress will be more divisive than the 111th session, that a bi-partisan strategy, which ultimately led to the passage of FVPSA, will be employed next year when the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) seeks reauthorization. For the victim service providers and survivors at the front lines, politics should not and cannot impede good policy.
Be sure to view the White House blog on the FVPSA signing.
by Jonathan Strausberg, Senior Development Manager
A bookshelf at the library at the Center for Women and Children in Louisville, Kentucky
Earlier this week I had the good fortune to make my first official trip for JWI. Going down to Louisville, Kentucky, I was blessed to take part of the dedication of a new children’s library at the Center for Women and Families. There is nothing like walking into a domestic violence shelter, a place of such profound sadness, to be a part of what is truly a happy occassion and participate in bringing joy to families who have gone through so much trauma. Am I really so lucky in my job that I can be a part of bringing such happiness? Yes, I am.
The library was bright and colorful. Everyone at the shelter kept telling me, “The children keep asking when they can come in, they are so excited.” The smile on their faces as they told me couldn’t match the smile on mine when I heard that, and I’ll guess that the kids will have even bigger smiles. Just before the dedication, a mother and her toddler were in the library. He was walking around, touching every book and not wanting to go. When his mom picked him to go out he started crying, he just wanted to be in the library. When we gave him a board book, his face lit up and he clutched it with the tightest grip imaginable. He didn’t have a home, but he had a book in his hand. He got to be a normal kid. What a sight! What a feeling!
Why do I love libraries and the National Library Initiative? I love books (and it doesn’t hurt that my wife is a librarian). Books aren’t just education, they are transformative. When you read a book, your mind can take you anywhere. There’s no limit as to where you can go or what you can do. Books inspire, they excite, they make us laugh and sometimes cry, they take us on adventures that can span the globe and the universe, and all without leaving a comfortable chair. For the children who live in domestic violence shelters, they need this relief and inspiration more than anyone else. They’ve been traumatized during the most formative time in their life. They need to feel normal, they deserve it. And I got to be a part of it thanks to JWI.
One hundred libraries, that’s the goal for the National Library Initative. I’ve now seen the impact that one library can have on a shelter and its children. Now I start to think about it multiplied by 100. Join me in making this vision real. We can do it, but only if we do it together!