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Support needed to prevent violence against women

One in three women in the United States has been physically assaulted, raped and/or stalked by a husband or boyfriend, meaning more than 475,000 women in San Diego have experienced intimate partner violence. This number expands to more than 40 percent when we include victims of other forms of violence against women, such as psychological partner abuse, nonpartner sexual violence, or sexual exploitation and trafficking. This means you know at least one woman who has experienced abuse. She may be your mother, your friend, your daughter, or she may be you.

Violence against women is a serious public health problem and violation of human rights. It can negatively impact a woman’s physical, mental, sexual and reproductive well-being. Abused women are twice as likely to be depressed and/or have alcohol disorders. Close to 40 percent of all women murdered globally are killed by a male intimate partner. Children, too, are deeply impacted by witnessing their mother be abused. They have increased health risks and are more likely to engage in criminal activity and/or experience violence in their own relationships.

The impact violence has on individuals extends to larger negative consequences throughout society. Intimate partner violence alone costs the U.S. $5.8 billion per year. Being abused by a partner compromises a woman’s ability to meaningfully participate in her own life, let alone the lives of others, and results in lost employment and productivity, as well as capacity to be a fully present parent, caretaker, friend and employee. Violence also depletes resources from social services, the justice system, health care agencies and employers.

To reduce the burdens of partner violence, stalking, sexual assault and other forms of abuse, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994. In 1995, the Department of Justice established the Office of Violence Against Women (OVW) to provide technical assistance and administer grants to communities developing programs, policies, and practices aimed at ending all forms of violence against women. OVW’s work over the past two decades has led to significant achievements, including national expansion of violence prevention programs and establishment of rape crisis centers; improved services for abuse survivors; partnerships between law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges; transitional housing for violence victims and legislation to hold perpetrators accountable.

Unfortunately, OVW and the grants it administers are at grave risk for being eliminated because of shortsighted plans to reduce federal spending. Many politicians argue against OVW’s continued support due to misguided beliefs that family or relationship violence is a personal matter. It has been further suggested that legislation protecting women from abuse provides loopholes whereby immigrants can fraudulently claim violence victimization and be given easy access to the U.S. The science and evidence do not support these claims. To the contrary, research confirms that these protections contribute to healthy families and safer communities. Nonetheless, empirical findings are often discounted or challenged by decision makers, including our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who heads the Department of Justice. He was one of the senators who voted against reauthorization of VAWA in 2013 and has publicly opposed support for gender-based violence programs.

We have been working in the field of intimate partner violence prevention for more than 20 years and are deeply concerned about the potential direction our country is heading. Eliminating federal programs to prevent violence against women will take San Diego and the entire nation many steps back. However, it is not too late to do something to prevent this from happening. Your voice and opinion matter and we suggest you do the following to support those impacted by violence against women:

Call your representatives in Congress and ask them to maintain OVW funding to ensure San Diego and the U.S. continue to prioritize the importance of preventing violence against women and providing services to those victimized.

Support your local rape crisis centers and domestic violence service organizations, such as the Center for Community Solutions, through donations of money or volunteer time or by getting involved with the organization.

If you, your mother, friend, co-worker or child were experiencing violence, wouldn’t you want to know that needed, quality services were available? You can make a difference to ensure they are maintained.

Wagman is assistant professor of medicine and global public health, associate director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health, UC San Diego; deputy director of the UC Global Health Institute’s Center of Expertise on Women’s Health, Gender and Empowerment. Griffin-Tabor is CEO of Center for Community Solutions, San Diego’s largest agency serving victims of partner violence and sexual assault. Raj is professor of medicine and global public health, director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health, UC San Diego; board member of the Center for Community Solutions.

© 2017 Center For Community Solutions

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