L'Taken Student Lobbies to End to Violence Against Women

March 10, 2015
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 women. At the final seminar of this season, Sasha Halpern, from Temple Brith Achim in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, connected Jewish values to a powerful personal story to implore her Senators and Representatives to support the International Violence Against Women Act:
From Sarah’s hospitality to Miriam’s leadership to Deborah’s intelligence and more, women in the Tanach have always exemplified strength. They are not doormats to be trampled upon and neither are today’s women, but this fact doesn’t stop many violent individuals from trying to steal women’s humanity. A third of the women in the world will experience violence perpetrated against them. This violence puts the victims in a position of inferiority to their abusers, furthering the inequality between man and woman. Central to Judaism is the principle that all humans are created b’tselem Elohim, in the image of the divine. Every human being is created to reflect God’s power and awe. Theoretically, if we are all created this way, how could any one person be any greater than another? The values of Judaism reject this huge inequality in the world. In addition, Leviticus 19:16 compels us not to “stand idly by the blood of a neighbor.” As Americans, our neighbors are the people of the world, and their blood is being spilled. We can no longer watch as women of the world are attacked and belittled by men. We, both as Jews and as Americans, must take a stand. While I have never personally experienced such horrifying violence, a close friend of mine grew up completely immersed in it. From the time she was born, she witnessed her father abuse her mother physically, sexually and emotionally. When she became a teenager, this abuse fell upon her. After struggling with this situation for fifteen years, her family was finally freed when he was arrested for repeated assault. He is currently serving a two-year long sentence in jail. My friend’s story is a direct result of support instituted by the Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994 to begin to address gender based violence in the United States. VAWA-funded programs allowed my friend’s family to afford expensive lawyer fees and still keep themselves alive and well. This kind of support is completely absent in many parts of the world. Though organizations exist to fight for victims of violence, many require additional support to increase their impact and to accomplish necessary reforms. In addition, many international governments turn a blind eye to violence against women, an injustice that I-VAWA strives to address. In many of these places, gender based violence is expected, even considered a cultural norm. Local advocates have been fighting this violence for years, and the United States government could provide much-needed support. I implore you, for families the world around in situation as bad as and worse than that of my friend, to support the International Violence Against Women Act.
This week, in honor of International Women’s Day, Representative Jan Schokowsky (D-IL-9) reintroduced the International Violence Against Women’s Act (H.R. 1340). The bill would provide concrete tools to change the circumstances that lead to gender-based violence, 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 world.

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