October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Pass it on.
By Susan Jersion, Director of Marketing and Communications
This morning the Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition, convened by JWI, invited members of Congress and their staffs to a briefing on faith communities and the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). This signature, critical piece of legislation provides much of the federal funding for domestic violence prevention and education. VAWA is up for reauthorization this year and despite the many gains made since the law first passed in 1981, supporters are concerned that critical services could be cut or lose federal funding all together.
The moderator of the event, Rev. Dr. Anne Marie Hunter, spoke about what she called a “pre-VAWA world,” a world in which there were few shelters, limited services for victims, and no court advocates to help. She said that there wasn’t even a language to describe this violence – people didn’t talk about domestic abuse, battered women, or “power and control”. As a survivor of domestic violence herself, she felt completely alone when coming out of an abusive relationship in the late 1970s. The world was silent; the systems didn’t exist to help her.
After this moving introduction by Rev. Hunter, speakers on the panel talked about the “post-VAWA world”. They highlighted the work of their faith-based organizations to bring services to victims, to educate their communities and to develop partnerships with social service agencies, police and the court system. The speakers —Christian, Ba’hai, Muslim, Jewish —said that there is much more work to be done, but that VAWA funding and the resulting community partnerships have helped them create a different paradigm. They highlighted the critical role that religious communities play in providing support, education, and training.
JWI’s executive director, Lori Weinstein, pointed out the challenges ahead in the VAWA reauthorization process and said that it is critically important, especially in this economic climate, for Members from both sides of the aisle to support full funding for the bill. JWI will continue to work for the passage of this legislation and provide action alerts and updates so that we all can continue to be in touch with our members of Congress to advocate for support.