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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, when we devote time and energy to making ourselves and those around us aware of one of the most insidious and silent problems that plagues women, men, and children in this country. Earlier this month on RACblog we discussed how can channel our moral outrage at domestic violence into action and urge our Members of Congress to support the International Violence Against Women Act (H.R. 3571/S. 2307). You may be aware that domestic violence is an issue in this country. You may not know, however, about how crucial the issue of gun violence prevention is to the protection of victims of domestic abuse.
This month, Washington State will be receiving their ballots to vote on two contradictory ballot initiatives related to gun violence, which they will send in by mail by November 4. Ballot initiative I-594 would require universal background checks for all gun purchases, including private sales. Laws similar to this have been passed elsewhere, including last year in Maryland where the new law has already led to a significant drop in gun deaths state-wide. Confusingly, an alternative ballot initiative I-591 would act to prevent state background checks unless a federal law was established. I-591 relies on the fact that a bipartisan federal background check law failed last year.
More than 30,000 people are killed by firearms each year in the United States, according to statistics. Each year, there are more school shootings, more incidents of gun violence in homes and more suicides by guns and yet, each year brings another round of congressional inaction to address this violence. But, there is more we can do in our communities to meet this challenge. The Reform Movement has partnered with Metro Industrial Areas Foundation to reach out directly to local mayors to ask gun manufacturers to lead reform in their industry. To do this, mayors will ask the gun manufacturers to create first-rate networks of dealers that meet high standards of security, record keeping and cooperation with law enforcement and bring child-proof, theft-proof guns to market – along with a variety of other gun safety technologies.
By Michael Lieberman This month we celebrate the fifth anniversary of the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years. The Anti-Defamation League and the Religious Action Center played critical roles helping to lead the very broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations that advocated for the HCPA for more than a dozen years.
If you’ve turned on the television or even glanced at a newspaper over the past several weeks, you’ve likely seen coverage of Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens running back who punched his then-fiancée Janay in an elevator. The renewed conversation about Rice’s actions and about the NFL’s reaction is a disheartening, if timely introduction to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which we observe in October to boost anti-violence efforts and to draw critical attention to a problem far too often swept under the rug. With greater public attention being paid to incidences of sexual violence and violence against women – in the NFL and on college campuses are two examples that come to mind first – what can we learn about how our culture at large understands domestic violence? It echoes harmful myths that, until not so long ago, relegated domestic violence to the private sphere: domestic violence was a personal, private matter between spouses rather than an issue of national concern for gender equality and fundamental respect for all people. Beginning the 1980s, advocates against domestic violence were able to bring the issue to national attention for the first time, initiating cultural shift that eventually brought about passage of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which for the first time made domestic and sexual violence a crime under federal law.
This week, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Religious Action Center sent a check for $5,000 to our partners at Nothing But Nets to fund anti-malarial initiatives in Liberia, the country at the heart of the Ebola epidemic. But why fight malaria when Ebola is killing so many?
The United States has a problem with mass incarceration. Though our country only makes up 5% of the world’s population, we have 25% of the world’s incarcerated population. One in 99 adults live behind bars, marking the highest rate of imprisonment in American history! One in 31 adults are under some form of correctional control, which includes prison, jail, parole and probation populations. In California this November, voters have an opportunity to change that.
Last year, Angelina Jolie made national news after revealing that she had undergone a preventive double mastectomy because she had a BRCA1 gene mutation which dramatically increased her risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. Last week, Myriad Genetics, Inc., a company well known for its breakthrough research showing the connection between BRCA gene mutations and an increased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, was at the Federal Circuit defending some of its patents related to the BRCA genes. BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes produce proteins which suppress tumors, and consequently people with BRCA mutations are at a greater risk for certain cancers. This case is especially important to Ashkenazi Jews because Jews of Ashkenazi descent are more likely to have harmful BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations than the general public.
During my senior year of college, I worked as a courtroom advocate at the St. Louis County Domestic Violence Court, a division of the court system that deals exclusively with orders of protection in cases of domestic violence. I worked with petitioners to create or improve their safety plan (i.e. what strategies did they use to keep themselves as safe as possible from their abuser?) and to connect people to resources available in our community, like counseling programs, employment assistance, shelters and transitional housing, and legal services. Throughout my year at the court, I watched hundreds of petitioners share evidence of their abuse before the judge, who asked the same, simple question every time: "Does your abuser’s behavior make you fear for your safety?"
We are less than a week away from Tuesday November 4: Election Day 2014. The election this fall is a very exciting and important time for voters across the country to make their voices heard, with numerous opportunities to weigh in on races for the House and Senate, state legislature, state executive positions, and mayoral and city council races. In addition, 40 states will also be voting on 139 ballot measures, such as Massachusetts’ Ballot Question 4 on Paid Sick Days and Nebraska’s Initiative 425 on raising the minimum wage. Four states will be voting on minimum wage ballot measures this election day. There are also important ballot initiatives happening in other states: Washington State’s Ballot Initiative I-594 which would require universal background checks for all gun purchases, California's Proposition 47, which would dramatically change California’s criminal justice system, and Tennessee’s Amendment One, which would undo language in the state’s constitution saying that the right to choose is a fundamental right. It is crucial that individuals get to the polls to make their voices heard on these important policy areas!