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The United State of Women: Together We Are All Stronger

June 30, 2016

Courtesy of Principal Deputy Director Bea Hanson of the Office on Violence Against Women

The Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) was thrilled to participate in the United State of Women Summit on June 14, 2016. Over 5,000 people traveled to Washington, D.C., from all across the country and around the world; many thousands more attended via livestream, which you can watch on the Summit’s website. The White House Council on Women and Girls coordinated the event to both celebrate the progress that’s been made over the past seven and a half years and to galvanize action for the work that still lies ahead.

“Together we are all stronger” was a theme woven throughout the Summit, which was built on six pillars: violence against women and girls; health and wellness; economic empowerment; entrepreneurship and innovation; educational opportunity; and leadership and civic engagement.

President Obama addressed the Summit and expressed his optimism that tomorrow’s leaders will encourage a society that treats women with respect: “…So our girls see that they, too, are America -- confident and courageous and, in the words of Audre Lord, ‘deliberate and afraid of nothing.’”

During the Summit, various breakouts, referred to as “Solutions Seminars,” focused on violence against women issues. I had an opportunity to moderate one of these breakouts, entitled “From the Margins to the Center: Solutions to Stopping Violence in All Communities,” which was livestreamed nationally and can be viewed on the Watch the Summit (at 4:15:17). We had a very powerful discussion with courageous women who highlighted the increasing need for interventions addressing domestic and sexual violence to be led by and for diverse communities. Our panel discussed how this could be done through culturally based and innovative approaches that build on the strengths and resilience of their communities. The insights and activism of all the participants also demonstrated how our collective national response to gender violence can better address violence against all women and girls.

In preparation for the Summit, the White House Council on Women and Girls compiled a factsheet highlighting many significant accomplishments during the past seven and a half years, across many different federal agencies, to advance the Administration’s goal of ending violence against women and girls. This document is truly a testament to the tremendous hard work and dedication of advocates and stakeholders. And yet, as we all know, there is still so much more work to be done.

As part of the Summit, OVW, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA) cohosted a performance of Mary Kathryn Nagle’s (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma) play “Sliver of a Full Moon,” which is a powerful reenactment of the historic congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 2013.  The play also highlights the efforts of tribal advocates and leaders from across the country to restore the authority of tribal governments to prosecute non-Native abusers who assault and abuse Native women on tribal lands. The performance was presented in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians and the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center.

OVW, OVC, and FVPSA also cohosted a post-Summit event at George Washington University entitled “Reimagining, Reinvigorating and Moving Forward to End Sexual Assault, Domestic violence, Dating Violence and Stalking.” Leaders from national, state, tribal, and local domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence, and stalking organizations facilitated discussions for more than 400 participants on promising practices, innovative approaches, and the needs of survivors in marginalized and underserved communities. Topics included improving the criminal justice response to violence against women, as well as exploring alternative pathways to safety and healing, enhancing the role of health care providers in prevention and intervention efforts, improving access to shelter and housing, economic justice, tribal sovereignty, youth and children in the civil courts, youth leadership, and technology. This event also featured a “White House Arm Chair Discussion” with both the current and former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women, and we look forward to sharing a summary report of this convening in the months ahead.

OVW also released some new reports and funding announcements in conjunction with the Summit, including the following:

  1. Twenty Years of the Violence Against Women Act: Dispatches from the Field. This report summarizes the themes from the national tour of OVW grant recipients in which OVW staff visited 50 locations in 20 states—rural, urban, suburban, and tribal – and conducted listening sessions. The report summarizes those conversations, highlighting accomplishments and the lasting influence of VAWA on communities’ ability to respond to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking, as well as identifying barriers and gaps in services.

  2. Awards to Reduce Domestic Violence Homicides. OVW announced new investments of more than $3.2 million to reduce domestic violence homicides due to firearms. The awards will be used for enhanced training and technical assistance, demonstration programs, and the establishment of a National Resource Center on Domestic Violence and Firearms.

  3. Demonstration Programs to Provide Stable Housing to Victims of Domestic Violence Living with HIV/AIDS. OVW and the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office on HIV-AIDS Housing announced grant awards of more than $9 million to support eight local programs across the country to provide housing assistance and supportive services to low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking.

  4. Additionally, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s (OJJDP) National Girls Initiative published a report, “Unintended Consequence: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence Mandatory and Pro-Arrest Policies and Practices on Girls and Young Women.” This report was based on a roundtable that OJJDP and OVW had convened earlier this year, in conjunction with the National Girls Initiative, in which they brought together a group of advocates representing the violence against women and the juvenile justice reform for girls communities to discuss the unintended consequences of domestic violence mandatory and pro-arrest policies on girls and young women, as well as the disproportionate impact on communities of color.

As First Lady Michele Obama noted during the Summit, “the work always continues.  And by that I mean we’re never done.” But, we know that, together, we are all stronger and have the ability to make incredible and long-lasting change to bring safety and justice to all women and girls. 

Join the United State of Women and pledge to do your part so that today we can all change tomorrow. Here is the pledge:

I WILL:

Be in charge of my own body. Every powerful part.

Learn whatever I want like it's nobody's business.

Stand by my game-changing ideas.

Use my voice to stand up for my community.

Get paid the same as everyone else doing the same job.

Call out sexism when I see it.

Not be a silent bystander.

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Updated April 27, 2017