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Violence Against Women/Domestic Violence

Last week, Congress moved closer to passing legislation preventing domestic abusers and stalkers from purchasing or possessing guns, as Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI-12) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL-10) introduced the Zero Tolerance for Domestic Abusers Act (H.R. 3130). The bipartisan bill would close a loophole in federal law that allows some perpetrators of domestic violence to access firearms. Crucially, it would expand the definition of “intimate partners” to the definition used in the 2012 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: someone who has been in a romantic or intimate relationship with the abuser. The bill also adds convicted stalkers to the list of those prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns.

Yesterday, we celebrated the 43rd anniversary of Title IX, a section of the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities that receive federal funding. Widely known as the statute that governs varsity athletics, Title IX has helped advance women’s rights in collegiate sports, yes—but it has also laid the foundation to protect broader women’s rights to educational equality. The statue provides legal protections for student survivors of rape and sexual assault, a critical step in ensuring a safe and productive educational environment where students can learn and thrive.

It’s impossible to ignore the potential of risk of joining the Armed Forces: risk of serious physical, emotional or mental harm, and of the ultimate sacrifice. But rape and sexual violence, especially within the ranks, should never be a threat for Americans in uniform.

Yesterday, the Senate voted not to advance critical legislation to reform the military sexual assault adjudication system—a moral failure to address the alarmingly high rate of assault against service members, by service members. The legislation, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Amendment 1578 to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), would remove the decision whether to prosecute sexual assault cases from the military chain of command. When 75 percent of service members who have been sexually assaulted lack the confidence in the military justice system to report the crimes committed against them, we know change is long overdue.

This week, Congress will consider amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual bill that sets policy for the Defense Department by authorizing programs and suggesting funding levels. The different military-related items included in the bill provide for the safety and security of the nation and the soldiers who defend it, making it a “must-pass” bill that will garner attention and spark conversation this week. Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Shaheen (D-NH) have both offered amendments to this year’s NDAA to improve justice for service members, and in particular servicewomen, with two important reforms: improvements to the military sexual assault adjudication process and increased access to abortion at military treatment facilities.

In late April, Nigerian armed forces rescued 93 women and 200 girls who had been held by the terrorist group Boko Haram. When news broke of the rescue, there was early hope that these girls were the schoolgirls abducted from a Chibok school in April of last year—the subjects of the global campaign to “Bring Back Our Girls.” It turns out this was a different group of girls and women altogether, 300 of nearly 2,000 kidnapped by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2015. It is not clear how long these women were held, but we do know from their testimony that Boko Haram subjected them to extreme violence, including rape, forced marriage and sexual slavery. We sigh with relief that these women are no longer captive, while we offer prayers for those still in captivity, and for mental, physical and emotional healing for those who have been freed as they begin to rebuild their lives.

This post originally appeared as a WRJ Weekly Digest.

This year, 45,000 women and children will spend Mother’s Day in shelters for survivors of domestic abuse. WRJ is proud to partner for the second year with Jewish Women International (JWI) to send bouquets of flowers and baskets of beauty products to 200 shelters across the U.S., offering hope and encouragement to moms and their children. For every $25 contribution you make, JWI will send a Mother’s Day card to any woman you choose, letting her know that she’s inspired a gift that’s helping women in need.

By Becky Wasserman

Passover is a time to remember the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt. It’s a time to remember slavery and celebrate liberation. It’s a time to reflect on the modern sources of oppression we still face today. As Jews, Americans, and as citizens of the world, that is our responsibility. I challenge everyone this Passover to discuss violence against women around your seder table. It’s a modern affliction that deserves attention from all of us.

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, let’s take stock of the progress—and the setbacks—we saw for women’s rights policy this month:

In honor of International Women’s Day on March 8, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9) reintroduced the International Violence Against Women Act, or I-VAWA (H.R. 1340), a bill to provide concrete tools to change the circumstances that lead to gender-based violence across the globe, including support for equal economic opportunity, access to education, legal accountability and public health services for survivors of violence. Urge your Members of Congress to support I-VAWA and to join the fight to end violence against women and girls across the globe.

As a kid, “Dayenu” was perhaps my favorite Jewish holiday song. It’s catchy, it’s upbeat, and, if you sing the full 15 verses, it goes on forever. With “Dayenu,” we express our thanks for the myriad miracles that took place at the time of the Exodus. We sing that each was so powerful that one alone would have been enough.

Over the course of six L’Taken seminars this winter, I had the opportunity to work with inspiring groups of teen advocates dedicated to ending violence against