The first time he smacked her, she was six months pregnant. They’d been married a very short time and this was her first indication the honeymoon was over. The next time, he hit her so hard she went into preterm labor, but she told the hospital she fell down the stairs. The third time, she had a newborn in her arms and it was all she could do to keep her baby from falling to the floor. That was the last time. She called the police, escaped to a shelter and never looked back. She accessed every resource available and though the journey was hard with many bumps in the road, she re-created a new life for herself and her son. By some miracle, her husband learned his lesson after some time in prison and never went after her again.
It is stories like this one that demonstrate why the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act (VAWA), which President Obama signed into law this week, is so important. "Violence is one of the leading causes of death in all parts of the world for persons ages 15 to 44," according to the Center For Disease Control (CDC). Domestic violence is particularly prevalent during pregnancy. In fact, in the United States, approximately 1 out of 6 women is beaten by her partner during pregnancy. In other parts of the world, the statistics are incredibly, much higher—1 out of 3 women—in large part because gender-based violence is widely accepted as a normal part of society.
I’m attending the National CARE Conference this week and among the subjects we’re learning about and lobbying on is Gender Based Violence. It’s an American issue as well as a global one, and we’re asking our Representatives to support a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to support the implementation of the U.S. strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence globally. This isn’t a Democratic thing. It isn’t a Republican thing. Members of both parties in the House and the Senate are circulating it because, virtually everyone agrees—it’s a moral thing.
When women are abused physically, emotionally or sexually, the impact extends far beyond the walls of her home. It affects her children, family and community. It traps her in poverty. The stories of women around the world tell us that the main reason they stayed with their violent partners is because they had no other source of income. Some women finally find the resources they need to escape. Others are beaten to a pulp again and again until they die or emotionally implode.
You know that woman. She’s a member of your family, a neighbor, a lady at your church or the president of your bank. Or maybe she’s you. If you’re a woman in the U.S., grab hold of the resources available in your community and save your life and the lives of your children. If you want to help women around the world, contact your representatives and ask them to support the letter to Secretary Kerry being passed from office to office in the House and the Senate. Already this week, they’ve received thousands of emails from people like you. Let’s make it millions more and really make a difference. Let’s stop the violence together. Click here to find out who your representatives are. Click here to email the letter to your congressman/woman and senator.
Jeanne Faulkner, R.N., lives in Portland, Ore., with her husband and children. And co-author of, The Complete Illustrated Birthing Companion: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating the Best Birthing Plan for a Safe, Less Painful, and Successful Delivery for You and Your Baby. Got a question for Jeanne? Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and it may be answered in a future blog post.
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