Press Releases / June 5, 2017

The women of the 19th Congressional District demand answers on funding and reauthorization of Violence Against Women Act

Many of those in attendance were rape survivors.

HUDSON, NY (June 3, 2017) – Just weeks after Rep. John Faso (NY-19) voted “yes” to pass Donald Trump’s replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the National Organization for Women – NY and the Columbia County Women’s Democratic Committee (CCDC) organized a Women’s Town Hall to specifically address the Congressman on the issue of ending sexual assault and domestic violence.

On Saturday, over 100 people attended the speak-out held in Hudson, NY to hear directly from violence survivors and local organizations about the importance of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) funding which supports legal help, crisis care, shelter, and other critical services for the thousands of women and girls who experience violence in the district each year. The Violence Against Women Act, one of the critical targets for reductions in Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, funded 128 programs across New York State in 2016.

Faso refused several invitations to attend. He has stated on the record that he believes town halls are not “a productive use of people’s time.”

Sonia Ossorio, president of the National Organization for Women – New York, said, “Congressman Faso missed a genuine opportunity to listen to the women he represents about the ways violence has changed the course of their lives and the ripple effect it has throughout the district on children and families. Thousands of women in his district are impacted by violence every year. These women deserve a representative in Washington who will show up for them when it matters.  Congressman Faso is clearly not that person.”

Keith Kanaga, Chair of the CCDC said, “Once again, John Faso is refusing to engage on an issue critical to the health and well-being of his constituents. Preserving funding for the Violence Against Women Act ensures critical support is available to victims of domestic and sexual violence right here in Columbia County. The Columbia County Democratic Committee will continue to seek and support candidates who are prepared to address the issue and work to solve it—not pretend it doesn’t exist.”

The Town Hall was organized by the National Organization for Women-NY and the Columbia County Democratic Committee. Co-sponsors were Hudson Valley Feminists, Hudson Valley Strong, Indivisible 19, Indivisible Chatham, NY19 Votes, and Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. This Women’s Town Hall is part of a series of town halls NOW New York is organizing across the state to document the importance of the Violence Against Women Act and make the undeniable case for fully supporting its programs. Over 37,000 people have already signed a petition calling on Trump and Congress to preserve funding.

Featured speakers included many individual survivors of rape or domestic violence who participated to share their stories, as well as Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-New York; Chelly Hegan president and C.E.O. of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood; Joan Crawford, Deputy Executive Director of Family Services; and others.

Joan Crawford, Deputy Executive Director of Family Services, said, “VAWA saves lives. In the past year, Family Services law enforcement partners completed close to 2,000 lethality screens as part of our domestic violence homicide prevention program…Our communities are safer because of VAWA. [Also,] in the past year, 1300 incidents of domestic violence were referred to Family Services, alone.”

Chelly Hegan, President and C.E.O. of Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood, said, “John Faso is not to be trusted until he takes the vote on VAWA….We are not fighting for new rights, we are fighting for the oldest rights, the right to move through the world without the threat of violence, with agency and power and respect.”

Megan Ultimo, a survivor and victim advocate for Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence said, “People are more likely to go back to their abuser if they have no help, no support system, no one to point them in the right direction and tell them not to look back. It is crucial to have help out there, which is why it is so important that funding remains intact for these types of programs.”

After two hours of powerful testimony and individual stories of pain, trauma, and resilience, NOW New York President Sonia Ossorio spoke to the audience, “Gender based violence knows no age, no class, no location. It is an epidemic. I hope that you take this moment of resistance with you, especially at the voting booth.”

A Facebook live recording of the Women’s Town Hall can be viewed here.

The National Organization for Women- New York (NOW New York) advocates for women and girls across our state by working to defend reproductive rights, fight economic inequality, and end discrimination and violence against women.