Vowing to Protect Against Threatened Cuts to the Violence Against Women Act, Hold Congress and Administration Accountable to Women, NOW-NY Launches Town Hall Series and Fight Back NOW Teams
NEW YORK, NY – The National Organization for Women-New York (NOW-NY) launched the Take Rape Seriously NOW Campaign at a press conference today, aimed at fighting back against President Trump’s and Attorney General Session’s anti-women agenda and the threats already being made against funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Just steps away from offices of several local VAWA recipients and the Fearless Girl statue, NOW-NY was joined by representatives from Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney’s office; Mary Haviland, Executive Director of NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault; Nicole Fidler, Supervising Pro Bono Attorney, Sanctuary for Families; Jennifer Becker, Staff Attorney at Legal Momentum; Antonia Clemente, Co-Founder of The Healing Center; and NOW-NY supporters.
“President Trump’s blatant disregard for women’s rights is clear to see anywhere you look, as he attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, limit birth control access and ban immigrants from this country,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NY. “We have every indication he will seek to defund the Violence Against Women Act, and that’s why NOW-New York is launching ‘Take Rape Seriously NOW,’ to raise awareness in New York of this very real threat and to mobilize the tens of thousands of NOW supporters across the state to take action. We refuse to be silent, and we will hold Congress accountable if they support Trump’s attempts to diminish our rights.”
President Trump’s team – unapologetic for his “locker room” talk and humiliating attacks on women – has already alluded to defunding the program’s 25 VAWA state programs in a recent budget blueprint from the Heritage Foundation. The campaign calls on the New York congressional delegation to continue to fully fund VAWA, implement VAWA with the vigor of every other administration since its inception in 1994, and to oppose any legislation or budget cuts that would seek to dismantle the rights of women. As a part of the campaign, NOW-NY will hold Women’s Town Halls around the state, beginning with their “Speak Up, Speak Out Against Violence” kick-off tonight, and will mobilize Fight Back NOW Teams to take action.
“Since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act has been helping reduce domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. Crime isn’t always the result of a nameless bad guy. It’s often the person you know, even the person you’re closest to. VAWA is one of the best ways to prevent these crimes, reduce violence and save lives. It is foolish to cut funding for these programs,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12).
“At a time when the fundamental rights of women are under attack, we must stand together to protect the Violence Against Women Act,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “Over the years, VAWA grants have provided survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence with crucial and even life-saving support services. I am deeply troubled and concerned by the anti-women rhetoric and agenda being put forth by the President and his closest advisors. Instead, we should be bolstering support for VAWA and standing against violence.”
VAWA has transformed the way government responds to domestic and sexual violence and has served as a model around the world. New York State has benefited tremendously from VAWA grants. In 2016 alone, the state received $7.7 million in federal funding, an increase of $662,000 to support survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault through programs offered by non-profit organizations, hospitals and law enforcement agencies across the state.
“VAWA allows the New York City Anti-Violence Project to serve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer survivors of intimate partner violence and sexual violence. The elimination of funding for VAWA programs, or a cut in funding, would significantly affect the clients we serve every day, particularly LGBTQ New Yorkers who are most impacted by violence and most vulnerable,” said Beverly Tillery, Executive Director, New York City Anti-Violence Project.
“By educating judges and justice system professionals [through VAWA funding] the hope and expectation is that sexual and domestic violence survivors will meet a more trauma-informed system equipped to understand the full range of harm experienced by survivors and an accurate understanding of the safety risks presented in these cases,” said Jennifer M. Becker of Legal Momentum. “Despite incredible successes this work is not done, evidenced by reports of judges engaging in victim blaming and issuing minimal sentences to violent offenders.”
“The Violence Against Women’s Act, signed into law in 1994 and reauthorized three times since by Republican and Democrat Presidents, funds programs for survivors of sexual and domestic violence as well as provides protections for LGBTQ survivors, immigrants and tribal survivors of violence. It provides funds to virtually all of the rape crisis and domestic violence programs in New York City, training for law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and judges, culturally specific programming for under-served populations, campus sexual assault and civil legal services. New York receives nearly $8 million from VAWA. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the first 10 years after VAWA passed, the rate of intimate partner violence in the US declined by 64%. A decrease in VAWA funds would be devastating to survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the United States,” said Mary Haviland, Executive Director of the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault.
“Nearly 20 years ago, a VAWA grant enabled my organization – Sanctuary for Families – to create the Courtroom Advocates Project (CAP),” said Nicole Fidler of Sanctuary for Families. “It’s an innovative program designed to identify and assist domestic violence victims from the first minute that they enter the courthouse seeking protection from their batterer. With funding from VAWA over the years, CAP is a bedrock in NYC family courts.”
“This government stressed to say that money towards Violence Against Women is a government waste. Well, we’re not government waste. The children are not government waste. Women are not government waste. We matter. We matter and we make a difference in our communities,” said Antonia Clemente of The Healing Center.
About the National Organization for Women – New York
NOW-NY advocates for the women and girls of New York, by working to defend reproductive rights, fight economic inequality, and end discrimination and violence against women. As the largest NOW chapter in the country, they play a key role in shaping both the local and national debate on the issues that impact women.