By Jaimie Woo, a Summer 2012 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
Video by Maddie Peare, Summer 2012 Leadership Conference Education Fund Intern
“’When a maaaaaaaaaan loves a woman,’ he does the right thing!” sang Michael Bolton, multi-Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter, at the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) rally in front of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, June 26.
Hundreds of advocates joined Bolton in the rally organized by the National Task Force to End Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Against Women to demand that Congress pass the Senate version of VAWA, which expands protections and resources to LGBT, Native American, and undocumented immigrant communities. “We have to pass a bill to protect all victims. It’s about saving lives, not about partisan politics,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D. Vt., who kicked off the rally. He reminded everyone that victims are members of all ethnicities, political affiliations, socio-economic status, citizenship status, and sexual orientation. “A victim is a victim,” he said, as the crowd began to chant, “Real VAWA now!”
Juana Majel-Dixon, vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, and Sen. Daniel Akaka, D. Hawaii, delivered remarks on the House version’s affect on reservations. According to Akaka, one in three Native American women is likely to be raped, primarily by non-native offenders. Akaka recognized the audience for “raising their voices on the issue,” and called for an inclusive VAWA.
Karin Quimby, regional field director of the Human Rights Campaign, stressed the importance of protecting LGBT identified people, explaining that they are discriminated by service providers, laughed at by law enforcement, and often left with no option but to return to their abuser. “The law shouldn’t be picking and choosing who should deserve protection,” she said, as the crowd cheered in agreement.
There was not a dull moment during the rally. After much chanting and cheering, silence struck the crowd as Colin Goddard, a survivor of the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, spoke about his recovery from four gunshot wounds. “We need the best protections possible, and we need it now,” he said, calling for increased protection on college campuses. Goddard detailed some of the violent warning signs in the shooter’s behavior before the tragedy, and stressed the importance of reporting mechanisms for dating violence and sexual harassment or stalking on campus.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, one in four American women is a victim of domestic violence. Barbara Palmer of the YWCA spoke on the necessity of continued funding to support services such as 24-hour counseling, safe housing, an emergency hotline, legal counsel, and anger management training in order to address the issue.
“We will not accept the House version of VAWA. That bill is a piece of poison,” said Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women.