Protect victims of dating violence and stalking from gun violence

October, 2014 – please forward widely

Current federal firearms laws do not protect all domestic violence victims.  We are in the midst of a culture shift.  Millenials, coming of age today, are getting married later in life than earlier generations.  74% of 20-somethings are unmarried, compared to 32% in 1960.[1]  Current federal firearms laws do not protect these young people.  We must insist Congress address this omission and ban people who have committed dating violence or stalking from owning firearms.

S. 1290, S. 2676, and H.R. 4906, bills introduced by Senators Klobuchar and Blumenthal and Representative Capps respectively, would close gaps in current law and ensure victims of dating violence and stalking are protected from firearms violence. Urge your Senators and Representatives to support these life-saving bills. Congress is back home until the elections. Call your Senators’ and Representative’s DC and district offices and let them know it should not matter whether or not you are married to an offender—federal law should protect ALL victims, including victims of dating violence and stalking.

Background: In 1996, Congress passed the Lautenberg Amendment, prohibiting people convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from owning firearms.[2]  Legislators understood that many violent felony-level crimes involving domestic violence are ultimately pled down to misdemeanors—as with the recent case involving football star Ray Rice. The law already prohibited gun ownership by felons, and Congress expanded that ban to ensure abusers could not use plea bargains to evade the consequences of their actions.

Dating Violence: The federal domestic violence firearms ban does not apply to offenders who harm their dating partners.[3]  Under current federal law, the abuser who punches, strangles or beats a dating partner is still legally able to purchase firearms even if convicted of the misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.  This is unconscionable!  The law must protect ALL victims of domestic violence, regardless of their marital status!

This is a serious gap in federal law – we demand Congress fix this!

  • A woman whose partner owns a firearm is five times more likely to be killed than a woman whose partner does not own a firearm.[4] 
  • A majority of intimate partner homicide victims are killed with firearms.[5]

We must tell our legislators the current definition of ‘intimate partner’ is woefully out of date and insist they expand the definition to include former and current dating partners.

Stalking: Federal law also fails to keep guns out of the hands of persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of stalking.  The Cardinals football team just signed Chris Rainey, who pled guilty to a misdemeanor stalking charge.[6]  Rainey sent threatening messages to his ex-girlfriend, telling her, “Time to die, bitch”.[7]  Despite his misdemeanor stalking conviction (he pled down from a felony charge), Rainey, who explicitly threatened his girlfriend’s life, can legally purchase a firearm.  Stalking is legally defined as conduct pursued “to kill, injure, harass, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate, or cause substantial emotional distress”.[8] Clearly, stalking is a very serious crime, but federal law fails to keep guns out of the hands of convicted offenders like Chris Rainey.

  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 19 men have been stalked.[9]
  • 76% of women killed by intimate partners were stalked before being murdered.[10]

Contact your Senators and House member to support S. 1290, S. 2676, and H.R. 4906, bills introduced by Senators Klobuchar and Blumenthal and Representative Capps.

 

IT’S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AWARENESS MONTH.  BE SURE YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVE ARE AWARE - EDUCATE THEM AND ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR THESE BILLS!!

 

ACTION: CALL OR EMAIL YOUR SENATORS & TELL THEM:

"We support S.1290 and S. 2676, because keeping guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers is key to saving lives.  Dating partners need to have the same protections as other intimate partners!  Stalking is a key indicator of lethality.  Lives are at stake - the sooner Congress acts, the fewer people will die!"

ACTION!! CALL OR EMAIL YOUR REPRESENTATIVE & TELL HER/HIM:

“We support H.R. 4906, because keeping guns out of the hands of abusers and stalkers is key to saving lives.  Dating partners need have the same protections as other intimate partners!  Stalking is a key indicator of lethality.  Lives are at stake - the more quickly Congress acts, the fewer people will die!” 

Tell your friends, family and loved ones to call and email too!

WE NEED TO FLOOD CONGRESSIONAL OFFICES WITH CALLS AND EMAILS!

ACTION!! MEET WITH YOUR MEMBERS OR THEIR STAFF AND EXPLAIN WHY PROTECTING PEOPLE FROM GUN VIOLENCE IS IMPORTANT TO YOU:

Your Members of Congress must understand that this issue impacts their state and their constituents.  All victims of domestic violence and stalking need protection from gun violence.  These bills will save lives!

ACTION!!  ATTEND CAMPAIGN EVENTS AND ASK THE HARD QUESTIONS:

Ask your Senators and House member, in public forums or letters to the editor, whether or not they will support bills such as S. 1290 and S. 2676 (Senate race)/H.R. 4906 (House race) to keep guns out of the hands of violent offenders.

Further Reading:

 

_____________________________________________________________________________

 

[1] Pew Research (2010).  The decline of marriage and rise of the new families.  Retrieved from http://www.pewsocialtre

nds.org/2010/11/18/the-decline-of-marriage-and-rise-of-new-families/.

[2] 18 U.S.C. 92(g(9))

[3] 18 U.S.C. 921(33)

[4] John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research (2003).  Firearms and intimate partner violence.  Retrieved from

www.jhsph.ed/gunpolicy/IPV_firearms.pdf.

[5] Bridges, F. S., Tatum, K. M., & Kunselman, J. C. (2008).  Domestic violence statutes and rates of intimate partner

and family homicide: A research note.  Criminal Justice Policy Review, 19(1), 117-130.

[6] Smith, M. D. (2014).  Cardinals sign Chris Rainey, whom Steelers cut over domestic violence allegation.  Retrieved

from http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/09/09/cardinals-sign-chris-rainey-whom-steelers-cut-over-

domestic-violence-allegation/.

[7] ESPN (2010).  Chris Rainey faces felony stalking charges.  Retrieved from http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story

?id=5570905.

[8] 8 U.S.C. 2261A (2(A))

[9] Fox, J. A., & Zawitz, M. W. (2004). Homicide trends in the United States’ US Department of Justice. Office of Justice

Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.  Retrieved from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/homtrnd.htm

[10] McFarlane, J. M., Campbell, J. C., Wilt, S., Sachs, C. J., Ulrich, Y. & Xu, X. (1999).  Stalking and intimate partner

femicide.  Homicide Studies, 3(4), 300-316.

Support S. 1290

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, supports S. 1290, which addresses the intersection of stalking, dating violence, and firearms violence. Current federal firearms law protects only victims of domestic violence from firearms violence. Victims of the equally dangerous crimes of stalking and dating violence lack those same protections.  

See below for the NRA's most recent alert and our response.

Support the passage of S. 1290.

International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA)

April 22, 2014

ACTION NEEDED ON INTERNATIONAL VAWA – CALLING FOR BI-PARTISAN SENATE SPONSORS

Worldwide violence against women around the world is a horrific and pervasive human rights crisis that demands our response. Far too many women and girls in every country fall prey to exploitation, are attacked as they attend school, endure violence in the home, or are raped as a weapon of terrorism, occupation and war.  At least one out of every three women globally will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime—with rates reaching 70 percent in some countries. 

On November 21, 2013, The International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA),  H.R.3571, was re-introduced in the House by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), with bipartisan support from Reps. Richard Hanna (R-NY), Chris Gibson (R-NY), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). The House bill has 56 sponsors.  Now we need everyone’s help to encourage the Senate to do the same and re-introduce a bipartisan IVAWA.   

IVAWA calls for a comprehensive U.S. response to end violence against women and girls globally by:

  • Directing the Department of State and USAID to develop a comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy to prevent and respond to gender-based violence;
  • Integrating efforts to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls as part of U.S. foreign assistance programs including health, education, economic growth, legal reform, political participation, social norm change, humanitarian assistance, and foreign security training, among others;
  • Supporting overseas non-governmental and community-based organizations working to end violence against women and girls; and,
  • Ensuring uniform data collection, reporting and accountability measures are in place to track investments in programs that address gender-based violence. 

Resources: IVAWA Toolkit  

www.aiusa.org/ivawa

www.futureswithoutviolence.org/section/ivawa
https://my.care.org/site/SPageNavigator/ADV_IVAWA_2014.html

www.womenthrive.org/ivawa-thanks

 

Please urge your Members of Congress to cosponsor and pass IVAWA today!  Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Mark Kirk (RIL), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) have already committed to lead on IVAWA.  But they need Republican partners tojoin the effort and become original cosponsors of the bill so that our efforts, in the spirit of VAWA,  are truly bi-partisan 

Suggested Phone Script:

You can reach the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224.3121.

1.)             Telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member. Ask to speak with the aide who handles women’s issues or foreign affairs issues.

2.)             After identifying yourself as a constituent, tell the staffer that you would like to leave a brief message. 

“Please tell Representative/Senator ____________ that I support the International Violence Against Women Act.”

3.)             Ask for the position of your Member of Congress on the bill.  If they are a co-sponsor, thank them for their support and urge them to help pass IVAWA in 2013.

4.)             If they are not a  cosponsor, you can say: 

“Please urge the Representative/Senator ____________ to cosponsor the bill and help pass IVAWA in 2014.”

5.)             And add:

“I support the bill because:

  • Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation occurring globally.
  • An estimated one in every three women globally will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. 
  • The International Violence Against Women Act supports measures to prevent violence, protect survivors and bring perpetrators to justice. 

Check to see if they voted for VAWA in 2013 and thank them for that.

You can and should request a written response to your telephone call.

While every Senator should be asked, special efforts should be made for the following Senators:

*Senator John Barrasso (R-WY): (202) 224-6441

*!Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ): (202) 224-4521

*Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI): (202) 224-5323

*!Senator John McCain (R-AZ): (202) 224-2235

!Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): (202) 224-6665

!Senator Rob Portman (R-OH): (202) 224-3353

* = on Senate Foreign Relations Committee

! = voted for S. 42, VAWA 2013

 

For questions or more information, contact Celia Richa of Futures Without Violence at 202-595-7387, cricha@futureswithoutviolence.org or Julia Drost of Amnesty International USA at (202) 675-8758, jdrost@aiusa.org.

 

 

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.  If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org

 



Keep Up the Pressure Over Recess for the Military Justice Improvement Act.

 

  • Click here for the list of MJIA supporters.

  • Click here for the bill cosponsors.

  • Click here for the amendment cosponsors.

  • Contact these undecided senators (Capitol Switchboard 202-224-3121 or check their websites for direct office numbers):

Whitehouse (D-RI)

Barrasso (R-WY)

Cochran (R-MS)

Ron Johnson (R-WI)

Lee (R-UT)

McConnell (R-KY)

Moran (R-KS)

Rubio (R-FL)

Toomey (R-PA)

 

  • It’s also important to thank senators for supporting the MJIA. They need to hear from us, too! Please also ask them to keep the pressure on leader Reid and their colleagues to ensure the MJIA gets a vote in the US Senate.

 

Call your Senators and Ask Them to Vote for the Military Justice Improvement Act!

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence supports Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to add the Military Justice Improvement Act (MJIA) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which is expected to be on the Senate Floor as early as next Wednesday, November 13. 

S. 967 (MJIA) has 38 bipartisan sponsors and 47 Senate supporters but we need 13 more votes to ensure that there is no filibuster and to pass this amendment for survivors.   We have less than a week to make our calls and tweets.

Take Action NOW!

  1. Tweet at your Senators asking them to support the MJIA. To find your Senators’ Twitter handle, visit: tweetcongress.org.  Sample tweet:@Senator’sTwitterHandle Listen 2 voices of survivors & VAWA advocates: Vote 4 the MJIA amendment 2 the NDAA.
  2. Contact your Senators directly at their DC offices. The Senators listed below need to hear from you right away with this message:
“Support the Military Justice Improvement Act as an amendment to the NDAA because military survivors deserve justice. You must listen to the voices of survivors and act to address the outrageous epidemic of military sexual assault. After VAWA, the MJIA is the next critical step in addressing sexual assault.”

 

Background: The MJIA is a result of advocates and policy makers listening to the voices of survivors. We have heard over and over again the stories of what happens when survivors report and why many don’t report.  All Senators need to listen to these voices and support the reforms survivors say they need.  The MJIA creates an independent objective and non-biased military justice system worthy of the men and women in uniform. We all know that prosecuting sexual assault and domestic violence requires specialized training, and the MJIA would ensure that prosecutors have expertise in these crimes.  

It’s not just advocates, though, who are saying significant change is needed in the military’s approach to major crimes. Military leaders have gone on record with their deep concerns about how the military has thus far responded to sexual assault. In an April 19th speech at Parris Island, General James Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps said: "Why wouldn't female Marines come forward?  Because they don't trust us. They don't trust the command. They don't trust the leadership.” And then went on to lament a climate in which leaders have "become so soft" on holding wrongdoers accountable.

Just as a bipartisan coalition of Senators came together to pass the Violence Against Women Act to protect survivors and communities, so too must the Senate come together to pass the MJIA and protect survivors and all men and women in the military.

The following Senators need to hear from you THIS WEEK:

ALEXANDER, Lamar (R-TN) (202) 224-4944

BARRASSO, John (R-WY) (202) 224-6441

BAUCUS, Max (D-MT) (202) 224-2651

BOOKER, Cory (D-NJ) (202)-224-3224

BOOZMAN, John (R-AR) (202) 224-4843

BROWN, Sherrod (D-OH) (202) 224-2315

BURR, Richard (R-NC) (202) 224-3154

CHIESA, Jeff (R-NJ) (202) 224-3224

COATS, Daniel (R-IN) (202) 224-5623

COBURN, Tom (R-OK) (202) 224-5754

COCHRAN, Thad (R-MS) (202) 224-5054

CORKER, Bob (R-TN) (202) 224-3344

CORNYN, John (R-TX) (202) 224-2934

CRAPO, Mike (R-ID) (202) 224-6142

DURBIN, Richard J. (D-IL) (202) 224-2152

ENZI, Michael B. (R-WY) (202) 224-3424

FLAKE, Jeff (R-AZ) (202) 224-4521

HATCH, Orrin G. (R-UT) (202) 224-5251

HELLER, Dean (R-NV) (202) 224-6244

ISAKSON, Johnny (R-GA) (202) 224-3643

JOHNSON, Ron (R-WI) (202) 224-5323

KAINE, Tim (D-VA) (202) 224-4024

LANDRIEU, Mary L. (D-LA) (202) 224-5824

LEE, Mike (R-UT)  (202) 224-5444

McCONNELL, Mitch (R-KY)  (202) 224-2541

MORAN, Jerry (R-KS) (202) 224-6521

MURRAY, Patty (D-WA) (202) 224-2621

MURPHY, Christopher (D-CT) (202) 224-4041

PORTMAN, Rob (R-OH) (202) 224-3353

REID, Harry (D-NV) (202) 224-3542

RISCH, James E. (R-ID) (202) 224-2752

ROBERTS, Pat (R-KS) (202) 224-4774

RUBIO, Marco (R-FL) (202) 224-3041

SHELBY, Richard C. (R-AL) (202) 224-5744

TESTER, Jon (D-MT) (202) 224-2644

TOOMEY, Patrick J. (R-PA) (202) 224-4254

WARNER, Mark R. (D-VA) (202) 224-2023

WHITEHOUSE, Sheldon (D-RI) (202) 224-2921

 

Resources:

New York Times story from 11/7/13

Fact sheets and talking points

 

  • For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters, and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.
  • Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page. 
  • If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org

 

Prolonged Government Shutdown Continues to Threaten Services for Victims

What is your Congressperson doing to keep shelters and rape crisis centers open?

The House seems no nearer to passing a bill to reopen the government than before.  Progress is stalled in Congress and we need every voice in your state to call for Congress to work quickly to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling.

Tell your Congressperson to tell House leadership:

“Open the government and end the shutdown now. The country’s domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers cannot access the funding they need to help victims. These lifesaving services will close down unless you vote now to end the shutdown and lift the debt ceiling with no conditions.”

Congress finally passed a bipartisan, inclusive reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act just a few months ago. It was hard work, but in the end they put partisan politics aside and did what was right for victims across the country.

Now the House has to agree to move forward on another bipartisan, inclusive bill to reopen government and lift the debt ceiling. Tell your Congressperson that if this is not done, the crucial work that VAWA authorized will not be available in your state to respond to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.

 

ACTION ITEM 1:  TWEET REPRESENTATIVES TO SAY #JUSTVOTE

Find Members’ Twitter handles here.

.@[handle] The #shutdown is hurting #DV & #SA victims & programs. #JustVote to open govt & lift debt ceiling with no conditions.

 

ACTION ITEM 2:  CALL MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES & URGE THEM TO VOTE TO END THE SHUTDOWN

Find your Representative’s phone number here, or call toll-free through 1-888-659-9562.

When you’re connected to their offices, say (or leave a message saying): 

  1. I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _____________.
  2. Please tell Representative _________ to vote to re-open the government and lift the debt ceiling, with no conditions. The shutdown is placing domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in serious danger of closing, leaving victims with nowhere to turn for safety and support.
  3. The House must move to a vote in order to ensure that life-saving services will continue to be available to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

###

For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit www.4vawa.org.

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

Government Shutdown Jeopardizes Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Victims and Programs

Urge the House to vote to end the shutdown now by voting for a clean continuing resolution!

The federal government shutdown is having a very real impact in the lives of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault across the country.  Because the federal agencies that administer funding for the thousands of programs that serve victims have ceased operating, many programs are already (or will soon be) without access to the federal resources they rely on to provide life-saving services every day.  A prolonged shutdown means that victims fleeing violence and seeking supportive services will be without access to emergency shelter, an advocate during the rape kit exam, crisis intervention, or other critical services needed to escape and heal. 

Even before the shutdown began, service providers across the country were often operating on shoestring budgets, having been squeezed by repeated cuts to funding and the federal sequestration.  The truth of the shutdown is that the burden on Congress to agree on the federal budget is tragically being passed off to victims, amplifying their vulnerability and forcing them to stay in harm’s way.  

Victims are bearing the weight of our lawmakers’ inability to agree on federal spending.  While programs remain committed to staying open and providing services as long as they possibly can, they will not be able to weather an extended shutdown. The shutdown must end now in order to ensure that no more programs have to close their doors to victims in desperate need of services and support.

 

Targeted Action:

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was renewed in March with bi-partisan support in the House and Senate.  The government shutdown undermines this lifesaving bill.  Let’s call on those who voted for VAWA to make good on their commitments – to fund the federal government’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault.  Tell all Representatives, especially Republicans who voted for VAWA (found here) that the shutdown is endangering the very victims they voted to protect just a few months ago!

 

For more information on how the shutdown is impacting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence:

NNEDV’s press statement

NAESV’s press statement

The Nation article

ThinkProgress article

 

ACTION ITEM 1:  TWEET REPRESENTATIVES TO SAY #JUSTVOTE

Find Members’ Twitter handles here.

.@[handle] The #shutdown is hurting #DV & #SA programs, leaving victims with nowhere to turn. Need clean CR now! #JustVote

 

ACTION ITEM 2:  CALL MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVE & URGE THEM TO VOTE TO END THE SHUTDOWN

Find phone numbers for Representatives on our target list here.

When you’re connected to their offices, say (or leave a message saying): 

  1. I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _____________.
  2. Please tell Representative _________ to vote to end the shutdown and pass a clean continuing resolution to fund the government. The shutdown is placing domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers in serious danger of closing, leaving victims with nowhere to turn for safety and support.
  3. The House must move to a vote in order to ensure that life-saving services will continue to be available to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

###

For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org

 

Sequester cuts are gutting services for victims!

While Congress is at home, remind them of the importance of domestic and sexual violence service providers in your community.

While Congress continues to stall on passing a budget for this fiscal year, the across-the-board spending cuts known as “sequester” are having a devastating impacting on some of America’s most vulnerable, including victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  As more and more cuts go into effect under the sequester, the number of beds available, doors open, and counselors at hand plummets, often leaving victims and their children with no choice but to face homelessness or return to their abusers.  Victims at life-threatening crossroads – those seeking emergency shelter, crisis intervention, protection orders, legal advice, advocacy, and other supportive services – are victimized further as they are turned away from services that have had their budgets slashed by sequester.

The truth of sequestration is that the burden on Congress to agree on the federal budget is tragically being passed off to victims, amplifying their vulnerability and forcing them to stay in harm’s way.  Victims are bearing the weight of our lawmakers’ inability to agree on federal spending. As members of Congress are home this month for recess, make your voice heard.  Take this crucial opportunity while your lawmakers in their districts to tell them about how sequestration is victimizing some of America’s most vulnerable citizens and impacting your community.

ACTION ITEM 1:  TALK TO YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHILE THEY ARE IN DISTRICT

Find a schedule of events on your Members’ websites and go visit them at town halls, open houses, and other community gatherings they hold during recess. While there, ask questions or talk to you Senators/Representative about the importance of serving victims of domestic and sexual violence, the continued needs for these programs in your community, and the devastating impacts of sequestration and other budget cuts. Urge your Members to end the sequester and pass a budget that address the needs of those who are most vulnerable.

ACTION ITEM 2:  CALL YOUR SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES TODAY AND TELL THEM TO END THE SEQUESTER! 

Find your Representative’s phone number here. Find your Senators’ phone numbers here.

When you’re connected to their offices, ask to speak to the staff person who handles funding or the budget

Tell (or leave a message for) the staffer:

  1. I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _____________.
  2. I am grateful that the Violence Against Women Act has been renewed by Congress, thanks to a strong bipartisan vote in both chambers.
  3. Please tell Representative/Senator _________, however, that VAWA’s promise cannot be fulfilled if the sequester cuts are maintained. 
  4. Congress must end the sequester and invest in VAWA, FVPSA, and VOCA programs to ensure that life-saving services will continue to be available to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

ACTION ITEM 3:  TWEET YOUR Members of Congress

Find your Members’ Twitter handles here.

.@[handle] We can’t afford to hurt victims of DV & SA any further. End sequester cuts that are devastating services victims need! #nomorecuts

###

  • For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.
  • Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.

  • If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

After 7 Years, Senate Finally Confirms Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms (ATF) Director!

Tell Your Senators This is Only the First Step: We Need Universal Background Checks to Save Women’s Lives!

Last week, the United States Senate finally came together to confirm Todd Jones at the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). This is an important and symbolic moment for gun violence prevention advocates, as this Bureau has been without a director for 7 years and the NRA remained neutral on this vote! 

A group of 60 Senators, including six Republicans, voted for cloture and to consider his nomination and a group of 53 bipartisan Senators, including a few key Senators who voted against the Manchin-Toomey background check compromise, voted for his nomination. This vote was a meaningful step forward to address gun violence and shows the pressure we have been putting on our members of Congress is working- and they are listening!  If we can get the same 60 votes for gun safety, we can pass the Senate bill on background checks.

This August, Senators are home in your states and they need to hear that the debate over gun safety measures in our country is far from over. Without changes to current law, domestic abusers can continue to access guns through loopholes in the background check system. Zina Haughton, who was murdered last year by her husband with a firearm in a Wisconsin spa, is just one example of how domestic abusers with restraining orders can circumvent the background check system by buying guns through private sellers.

The nomination of the ATF Director was an important first step in the right direction, but Congress still needs to tackle universal background checks that will keep women, children and families safe so that perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence cannot access firearms! Please contact your Senators’ offices today to tell them their job is not done! We need Congress to stand up for women, children and families and pass comprehensive gun safety legislation.

Some resources for your advocacy:

 

ACTION ITEM 1): CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND URGE THEM TO REVISIT GUN SAFETY LEGISLATION!

Find your Senators’ phone numbers here.  

When you call, be sure to ask to speak to the staff person who handles gun safety issues and say: 

  • I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________. 
  • I am a leader in the community working to end violence against women and I urge Senator [insert name] to support gun safety legislation that would expand background checks for all gun sales in commercial settings. There are too many loopholes in current law that allows domestic abusers to access firearms and by expanding the background check system, we can pass commonsense proposals that will reduce violence against women and save lives.
  • Thank the staffer for their time.  

 

ACTION ITEM 2) TWEET THESE MESSAGES TO YOUR SENATORS!  

  • Just called [Insert Twitter Handle] in support of expanded background checks that will #savewomenslives4vawa.org #demandaction
  • Presence of gun in domestic violence situations increases risk of homicide 4 women by 500%. Act now! 4vawa.org #savewomenslives
  • When states require bkgrnd checks 4 all gun sales 38% fewer women shot 2 death by intimate partners 4vawa.org #savewomenslives
  • Over 6 million guns transferred each yr thru private transfers without bckgrnd checks. Take action! 4vawa.org #savewomenslives
  • .[Insert Senator’s Twitter handle] Take lethal impact of guns in domestic & sexual violence cases srly. Support univ background checks! #savewomenslives

 

###

For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit  4vawa.org.

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email tontfvawaalerts@icasa.org. For more info, go to www.4vawa.org.

 

Tips for Advocating for Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Survivors and Programs

August Congressional Recess is Approaching and We All Need to Take Action!

Members of Congress are heading home to their districts for the August Recess – and now is a great time to reach out to your members and talk to them about the importance of domestic violence and sexual assault programs and services in your community, and the need for legislative responses that meet the needs of ALL survivors.

Throughout the month of August, the National Task Force will send out a weekly alert highlighting a particular area of legislation or issue that needs your support and advocacy, whether it’s gun violence prevention, addressing sexual assault in the military, reforming our immigration system, or preventing cuts to federal domestic violence and sexual assault programs.

See below for the first alert and watch this space for additional action items, messaging, and sample social media posts – all ways that you can make your voices heard on critical issues facing survivors, advocates, and programs! 

As we gear up for the months ahead, here are a few reminders for long-time advocates and important tips for newcomers on actions and resources that can help your in-district advocacy:

Contact your Members of Congress:

  • Not sure who your Members of Congress are or how to contact them?  Find your Representative’s phone number here.  Find your Senators’ phone numbers here
  • Find your Members’ Twitter handles here. You can also search for them on Facebook or find links to their Facebook/Twitter accounts through their websites.
  • Many Members will be out in the community throughout August at town halls and other local events. Find out where they’ll be by checking their website or calling their district offices. Approaching Members at events in your area is a great way to make sure they are aware of issues that matter to you.

Advocate with your Members of Congress:

  • If your Member has been supportive of legislation and programs that meet the needs of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, be sure to thank them!
  • Share stories about what you’ve seen in your community and why these issues matters to you. Statistics are powerful (check here for state-by-state statistics), but personal stories and anecdotes really help make the case.  Victims and survivors of DV/SA rarely get to talk to their Members of Congress so all of us need to be their voice and support system.
  • Ask for a commitment. If you’d like your Member of Congress to take a particular action on a piece of legislation, ask her/him directly or ask the staff person to get back to you with an answer about the Member’s position on your issue.
  • Members of Congress are increasingly using social media as a way to talk about issues with their constituents.  Tweet at your Members of Congress, share articles or stories with them on Facebook, and be creative about ways to engage with them.

#1 - Military Sexual Assault is currently a hot topic, including New York Times and Washington Post editorial opinions.  The National Task Force supports Senator Gillibrand’s efforts to add a version of her bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which will come up in September.  She has 44 Senate supporters and needs 7 more sponsors or vocal supporters to give her/our amendment a chance.

Congress goes home at the end of this week and members will not be able to add their names as sponsors once they’re gone so please call today.  And work with your local and state allies to meet with or go to places where your Senators will be in attendance and ask them to support Senator Gillibrand.  If you need more information click here, or or just google military sexual assault. 

Ask these Senator for their Sponsorship/Support:

#ALEXANDER, Lamar (R-TN) SD-455 4-4944

BARRASSO, John (R-WY) SD-307 4-6441

BAUCUS, Max (D-MT) SH-511 4-2651

BOOZMAN, John (R-AR) SH-320 4-4843

BROWN, Sherrod (D-OH) SH-713 4-2315

#BURR, Richard (R-NC) SR-217 4-3154

CHIESA, Jeff (R-NJ) SR-C1 4-3224

#COATS, Daniel (R-IN) SR-493 4-5623

COBURN, Tom (R-OK) SR-172 4-5754

CORNYN, John (R-TX) SH-517 4-2934

*CRAPO, Mike (R-ID) SD-239 4-6142

DURBIN, Richard J. (D-IL) SH-711 4-2152

ENZI, Michael B. (R-WY) SR-379A 4-3424

HATCH, Orrin G. (R-UT) SH-104 4-5251

*HELLER, Dean (R-NV) SH-324 4-6244

#ISAKSON, Johnny (R-GA) SR-131 4-3643

JOHNSON, Ron (R-WI) SH-328 4-5323

LANDRIEU, Mary L. (D-LA) SH-703 4-5824

LEE, Mike (R-UT) SH-316 4-5444

McCONNELL, Mitch (R-KY) SR-317 4-2541

*MORAN, Jerry (R-KS) SR-361A 4-6521

MURRAY, Patty (D-WA) SR-154 4-2621

MURPHY, Christopher (D-CT) SH-303 4-4041

#PORTMAN, Rob (R-OH) SR-448 4-3353

REID, Harry (D-NV) SH-522 4-3542

RISCH, James E. (R-ID) SR-483 4-2752

ROBERTS, Pat (R-KS) SH-109 4-4774

RUBIO, Marco (R-FL) SR-284 4-3041

#SHELBY, Richard C. (R-AL) SR-304 4-5744

TESTER, Jon (D-MT) SH-706 4-2644

#TOOMEY, Patrick J. (R-PA) SR-248 4-4254

WARNER, Mark R. (D-VA) SR-475 4-2023

WHITEHOUSE, Sheldon (D-RI) SH-530 4-2921

 

###

  • For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.
  • Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page!      
  • If you aren't on one of this email list or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mail list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

URGENT ALERT: Military Sexual Assault Legislation Gaining Momentum! Ask Your Senators to Add Their Support So Bill Passes on Senate Floor!

For the first time in decades, we have a real chance to reform the military justice system and address the epidemic of sexual assault! Senator Gillibrand’s legislation, ensuring that professional military prosecutors are responsible for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases, is gaining momentum!

Here is what you need to know: every 21 minutes, a service member is assaulted. In 2012 alone, there were 26,000 cases of unwanted sexual contact. Only 9.8% of victims ever report these devastating crimes, citing fear of retaliation, and the majority of those who do report experience social, administrative or professional retaliation within their unit. For decades, military leaders have promised to try harder to end this scourge of violence but sexual assault in the military remains an epidemic.

Senator Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 967) has 36 bipartisan co-sponsors and 2 more Republican Senators, Senator Cruz (R-TX) and Senator Paul (R-KY), pledged their support to her bill! This legislation would reform the military justice system by authorizing professional military prosecutors to make decisions about which cases should proceed to trial. Under the current system, commanding officers, not trained legal experts, have the sole authority to decide whether a case is brought to trial.

Senator Gillibrand plans to offer her bill as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that could be considered by the Senate as early as this month! We need every single Senator, especially those who have not yet signed onto the bill, to co-sponsor this measure and support it as an amendment on the Senate floor.  The vote could occur in the next two weeks before Congress goes home for their August recess.

Please take urgent action now to ensure that Senator Gillibrand’s bill passes the Senate when it is considered in the coming weeks!

ACTION ITEM 1): CONTACT YOUR SENATORS ON THE TARGET LIST BELOW AND URGE THEM TO CO-SPONSOR THE MILITARY JUSTICE IMPROVEMENT ACT!

Senate Target List (Senators not yet on the bill or openly in support):

Arkansas: BOOZMAN, John (R-AR) SH-320 202-224-4843

Colorado: BENNET, Michael F. (D-CO) SR-458 202-224-5852

Connecticut: MURPHY, Christopher (D-CT) SH-303 202-224-4041

Georgia: ISAKSON, Johnny (R-GA) SR-131 202-224-3643

Idaho: CRAPO, Mike (R-ID) SD-239 202-224-6142

Idaho: RISCH, James E. (R-ID) SR-483 202-224-2752

Illinois: KIRK, Mark (R-IL) SH-524 202-224-2854

Illinois: DURBIN, Richard J. (D-IL) SH-711 202-224-2152

Indiana: COATS, Daniel (R-IN) SR-493 202-224-5623

Kentucky: McCONNELL, Mitch (R-KY) SR-317 202-224-2541

Louisiana: LANDRIEU, Mary L. (D-LA) SH-703 202-224-5824

Montana: BAUCUS, Max (D-MT) SH-511 202-224-2651

Montana: TESTER, Jon (D-MT) SH-706 202-224-2644

Nevada: REID, Harry (D-NV) SH-522 202-224-3542

North Carolina: BURR, Richard (R-NC) SR-217 202-224-3154

Ohio: BROWN, Sherrod (D-OH) SH-713 202-224-2315

Oklahoma: COBURN, Tom (R-OK) SR-172 202-224-5754

Pennsylvania: TOOMEY, Patrick J. (R-PA) SR-248 202-224-4254

Rhode Island: WHITEHOUSE, Sheldon (D-RI) SH-530 202-224-2921

Texas: CORNYN, John (R-TX) SH-517 202-224-2934

Virginia: WARNER, Mark R. (D-VA) SR-475 202-224-2023

Wyoming: ENZI, Michael B. (R-WY) SR-379A 202-224-3424

When you call, be sure to ask to speak to the staff person who handles military/defense legislation and say:

  1. I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________. 
  2. I urge Senator [insert name] to co-sponsor S. 967, The Military Justice Improvement Act, which will hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and provide victims of military sexual assault access to safety and justice.
  3. Thank the staffer for their time.  

Don’t forget to call back and contact your other Senator if they have not yet signed on!

Resources for your phone call:

 

Below are the Senators who have already co-sponsored the bill.  If you have a moment, call and thank them:

Co-sponsors of S. 967:

BALDWIN, Tammy (D-WI) SH-717 202-224-5653

BEGICH, Mark (D-AK) SR-111 202-224-3004

BLUMENTHAL, Richard (D-CT) SH-724 202-224-2823

BOXER, Barbara (D-CA) SH-112 202-224-3553

CANTWELL, Maria (D-WA) SH-311 202-224-3441

CARDIN, Benjamin (D-MD) SH-509 202-224-4524

CARPER, Thomas R. (D-DE) SH-513 202-224-2441

CASEY, Jr., Robert . (D-PA) SR-393 202-224-6324

COLLINS, Susan  (R-ME) SD-413 202-224-2523

COONS, Christopher A. (D-DE) SR-127A 202-224-5042

FEINSTEIN, Dianne (D-CA) SH-331 202-224-3841

FRANKEN, Al (D-MN) SH-309 202-224-5641

GILLIBRAND, Kirsten E. (D-NY) SR-478 202-224-4451

GRASSLEY, Chuck (R-IA) SH-135 202-224-3744

HARKIN, Tom (D-IA) SH-731 202-224-3254

HEINRICH, Martin (D-NM) SH-702 202-224-5521

HEITKAMP, Heidi (D-ND) SH-502 202-224-2043

HIRONO, Mazie K. (D-HI) SH-330 202-224-6361

JOHANNS, Mike (R-NE) SR-404 202-224-4224

JOHNSON, Tim (D-SD) SH-136 202-224-5842

LEAHY, Patrick J. (D-VT) SR-437 202-224-4242

MARKEY, EDWARD (D - MA) SR-218 202-224-2742

MENENDEZ, Robert (D-NJ) SH-528 202-224-4744

MERKLEY, Jeff (D-OR) SH-313 202-224-3753

MIKULSKI, Barbara A. (D-MD) SH-503 202-224-4654

MURKOWSKI, Lisa (R-AK) SH-709 202-224-6665

PRYOR, Mark L. (D-AR) SD-255 202-224-2353

ROCKEFELLER, John. (D-WV) SH-531 202-224-6472

SANDERS, Bernard (I-VT) SD-332 202-224-5141

SCHATZ, Brian (D-HI) SH-722 202-224-3934

SCHUMER, Charles E. (D-NY) SH-322 202-224-6542

SHAHEEN, Jeanne (D-NH) SH-520 202-224-2841

UDALL, Tom (D-NM) SH-110 202-224-6621

VITTER, David (R-LA) SH-516 202-224-4623

WARREN, Elizabeth (D-MA) SH-317 202-224-4543

WYDEN, Ron (D-OR) SD-221 202-224-5244

 

Senators who have pledged their support for the bill:

CRUZ, Ted (R-TX) SD-185 202-224-5922

PAUL, Rand (R-KY) SR-124 202-224-4343

Voted for Gillibrand in Armed Services Committee (3)

DONNELLY, Joe (D-IN) SH-720 202-224-4814

HAGAN, Kay R. (D-NC) SD-521 202-224-6342

UDALL, Mark (D-CO) SH-730 202-224-5941

 

ACTION ITEM 2): USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO CONTACT YOUR SENATORS!

Find your Senators’ Twitter handles here and use our sample tweets below:

  • Lend your voice to victims of military sexual assault & join @SenGillibrand’s @Thunderclapit in support of #MJIA: http://bit.ly/1dCJudg 

  • [insert Twitter handle] Protect those who protect our country! Support the Military Justice Improvement Act. #militarysexualassault #EndMilitaryRape #MJIA

  • [insert Twitter handle] Victims of sexual assault in the military deserve safety & justice. Support S. 967 #militarysexualassault #MJIA #NotInvisible

Sample Facebook post:

Please contact your Senators today and urge them to support Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act that would reform the military justice system to finally protect victims of sexual assault! By authorizing trained, professional military prosecutors, not commanding officers, to make decisions about sexual assault cases, victims will finally see the justice they deserve. This legislation could come to a vote on the Senate floor as early as next week- and we need every Senator’s support. Service men and women have fought hard to defend our country- now we have a chance to stand up for them. #MJIA



For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page.

If you aren't on one of the VAWA email lists or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mailing list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

Ask Your Senators to Take a Strong Stand and Support Justice for Survivors

Say No to Sexual Assault in the Military

Victims of military sexual assault often feel hopeless.  Advocates, watching the pain victims of military sexual assault endure, demand that the military enforce discipline and order.  Congress is listening.  According to the 2012 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office report released recently by the Defense Department, an estimated 26,000 cases of sexual assault occurred last year, a 37 percent increase from 2011!  The President, Pentagon officials and top military leaders promise to try harder, but all the promises in the world mean nothing unless there is bias-free investigation, prosecution and freedom from fear of retribution.  We must demand action, not just words and promises.  Call your Senators now and ask them to support justice for survivors!

The House passed the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA) and the Senate Armed Services Committee has also passed its version of the NDAA in June. While both measures include important new provisions to protect victims, neither goes far enough. The Senate bill will come to the floor either at the end of July or in September after the August recess, and we can use our voices to make these improvements even stronger.  The best way to do that is to ask Senators to co-sponsor the Military Justice Improvement Act, S. 967, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and 33 bipartisan co-sponsors (see list below).  Senator Gillibrand intends to add her bill as an amendment to NDAA on the Senate floor in order to ensure that professional military prosecutors are responsible for investigating and prosecuting sexual assault cases. It should NOT be handled by the perpetrator’s commanding officer, which can result in conflicts of interest and abuse of power. This bill sends a strong message to the Senate to add this important provision to the NDAA before final passage.

We must stand with Senator Gillibrand and our other champions in Congress who are demanding that the military protect and defend those who put their lives on the line to protect us.

ACTION ITEM 1): CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND ASK THEM TO CO-SPONSOR THE MILITARY JUSTICE IMPROVEMENT ACT!

Find your Senators’ phone numbers here.   

When you call, be sure to ask to speak to the staff person who handles military/defense legislation and say:

  • I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________. 
  • If your senator is not a co-sponsor (see list below) say:
I urge Senator [insert name] to co-sponsor S. 967, The Military Justice Improvement Act, which will hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and provide victims of military sexual assault access to safety and justice.
  • If your Senator is a co-sponsor say:
I am grateful to Senator [insert name] for co-sponsoring S. 967, The Military Justice Improvement Act, which will hold perpetrators of sexual assault accountable for their actions and provide victims of military sexual assault access to safety and justice.
  • Thank the staffer for their time.   Don’t forget to call back and contact your other Senator!

 

Resources for your call:

 

ACTION ITEM 2): TWEET YOUR SENATORS

Find your Senators’ Twitter handles here.

  • [insert Twitter handle] Protect those who protect our country! Support the Military Justice Improvement Act. #militarysexualassault #EndMilitaryRape #MJIA
  • [insert Twitter handle] Victims of sexual assault in the military deserve safety & justice. Support S. 967 #militarysexualassault #MJIA #NotInvisible

 

S. 967 (Gillibrand, D-NY)  Sponsors: 34

Dems:

BALDWIN, Tammy (D-WI) SH-717 4-5653

BEGICH, Mark (D-AK) SR-111 4-3004

BLUMENTHAL, Richard (D-CT) SH-724 4-2823

BOXER, Barbara (D-CA) SH-112 4-3553

CANTWELL, Maria (D-WA) SH-311 4-3441

CARDIN, Benjamin (D-MD) SH-509 4-4524

CARPER, Thomas R. (D-DE) SH-513 4-2441

CASEY, Jr., Robert . (D-PA) SR-393 4-6324

COONS, Christopher A. (D-DE) SR-127A 4-5042

COWAN, William M. (D-MA) SR-218 4-2742

FEINSTEIN, Dianne (D-CA) SH-331 4-3841

FRANKEN, Al (D-MN) SH-309 4-5641

GILLIBRAND, Kirsten E. (D-NY) SR-478 4-4451

HARKIN, Tom (D-IA) SH-731 4-3254

HEINRICH, Martin (D-NM) SH-702 4-5521

HEITKAMP, Heidi (D-ND) SH-502 4-2043

HIRONO, Mazie K. (D-HI) SH-330 4-6361

JOHNSON, Tim (D-SD) SH-136 4-5842

LEAHY, Patrick J. (D-VT) SR-437 4-4242

MENENDEZ, Robert (D-NJ) SH-528 4-4744

MERKLEY, Jeff (D-OR) SH-313 4-3753

MIKULSKI, Barbara A. (D-MD) SH-503 4-4654

MURPHY, Christopher (D-CT) SH-303 4-4041

PRYOR, Mark L. (D-AR) SD-255 4-2353

ROCKEFELLER, John D. (D-WV) SH-531 4-6472

SANDERS, Bernard (I-VT) SD-332 4-5141

SCHATZ, Brian (D-HI) SH-722 4-3934

SCHUMER, Charles E. (D-NY) SH-322 4-6542

SHAHEEN, Jeanne (D-NH) SH-520 4-2841

WARREN, Elizabeth (D-MA) SH-317 4-4543

WYDEN, Ron (D-OR) SD-221 4-5244

Repubs:

COLLINS, Susan  (R-ME) SD-413 4-2523

GRASSLEY, Chuck (R-IA) SH-135 4-3744

JOHANNS, Mike (R-NE) SR-404 4-4224

MURKOWSKI, Lisa (R-AK) SH-709 4-6665

 

For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters, and updates continue to visit www.4vawa.org. Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page!  If you aren't on one of this email list or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mail list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

Over the July 4th Recess, Tell Congress that We All Deserve Freedom from Violence!

Members of Congress are home in their districts for the July 4th Recess – and as we celebrate what freedom and independence means for each of us, we must remind Congress that we all deserve to be free from domestic and sexual violence!  

  • 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
  • 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have experienced an attempted or completed rape.  
  • Every day in the US, three women are murdered by an intimate partner.
  • 15.5 million children are exposed to violence annually.
  • 26,000 cases of sexual assault related incidences occurred in the military, 3,374 were reported, and just 300 were prosecuted.
  • In one 12-month period, 3.4 million adults were victims of stalking.

Despite the progress we have made toward addressing and preventing these crimes, an overwhelming need for victim services, intervention, and prevention efforts remains.  Congress needs to hear from you that responding to the needs of domestic and sexual violence victims is still an urgent priority!

A number of key issues impacting victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking are currently being considered by Congress:

  • Immigration Reform – While the Senate recently passed a comprehensive bill that will help bring immigrants out of the shadows, provide a path to citizenship, and strengthen protections for immigrant victims of violence, the House of Representatives has yet to take up a similar bill.  As the House moves forward on this issue, they must pass legislation that meets the needs of immigrant victims.  

  • Gun Safety – Both the House and the Senate must continue to work towards passing legislation that would require background checks for all gun sales in commercial settings.  There are too many loopholes in current law that allow domestic abusers to access firearms and by providing for commonsense additions to the background check system, we can reduce violence against women and save lives.

  • Funding – Local service providers have already experienced years of funding cuts and are struggling to keep their lights on and doors open in order to provide safety and support.  The Congressionally-mandated sequester cuts are further decimating the resources that victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking need to escape and heal from violence and abuse.  Congress must end the sequester and invest in VAWA, FVPSA, and VOCA programs to ensure that lifesaving services will continue to be available to victims of domestic and sexual violence.

  • Military Sexual Assault – NTF will be asking that Senator Gillibrand’s Military Justice Improvement Act, S. 967, be adopted when the Senate takes up the National Defense Authorization Act in the weeks ahead. Important reforms are included in this amendment including removing the decision to prosecute from the “chain of command” and placing it with high-ranking experienced and independent military prosecutors.  

ACTION ITEM 1): CONTACT YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND ASK THEM TO SUPPORT LEGISLATION AND PROGRAMS THAT HELP VICTIMS FIND FREEDOM FROM VIOLENCE!

Find your Representative’s phone number here.  Find your Senators’ phone numbers here.  Many Members will be out in the community during Fourth of July celebrations, so you can also approach them at events in your area!

Deliver the following message:

  1. I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________. 
  2. As we celebrate the fourth of July, with its message of freedom, I urge Senator/Representative [insert name] to support legislation and programs that help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault find freedom, independence, and safety.
  3. Some of the issues that are most important to me are [reference immigration reform, gun safety, military SA and/or funding, as detailed above].
  4. Ask if your House or Senate Member supports any or all of these important improvements and offer to send information or stories from your program or community
  5. Thank the staffer or Member for their time.  

ACTION ITEM 2): TWEET THESE MESSAGES TO YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS! 

  • Find your Members’ Twitter handles here, and use the sample tweets below.

  • [Insert Twitter handle] As we celebrate freedom, remember that all deserve to be free from domestic violence & sexual assault. #endDV #endSA

  • [Insert Twitter handle] This July 4th, help victims of abuse gain independence by investing in the resources programs need to provide safety and support!

  • [Insert Twitter handle] Freedom means not living in fear of being murdered by an abusive partner. #savewomenslives #DemandAction

  • [Insert Twitter handle] Freedom means knowing you can escape abuse and still remain in this country safely & legally. #supportCIR

###

For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org. 

Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page!      

If you aren't on one of this email list or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mail list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation is on the Senate Floor TUESDAY!

Urge Your Senators to Safeguard Protections for Immigrant Victims of Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.

The Senate has begun considering legislation that will reform the nation’s immigration laws and systems. As they begin debate this week, they need to hear from you that any final Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) bill must safeguard and enhance protections for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of abuse.  There are as many as 1,000 proposed amendments and we need to make sure that the Senate stands firm for immigrant women and opposes amendments that intend to undermine or derail all our work to prevent and treat domestic violence and sexual assault in the immigrant community.

Abusive partners and opportunistic predators often exploit a victim’s lack of immigration status, or dependent immigration status, as a way to maintain power and control and to keep victims silent.  Many immigrant women are particularly vulnerable to abusive or exploitative situations in their homes and workplaces due to their lack of immigration status. Unfortunately, despite current provisions of US immigration law intended to reduce these vulnerabilities, many obstacles to immigrant survivors’ access to safety and justice still remain. The time is NOW to make your voices heard on CIR in the Senate!   

ACTION ITEM 1): CONTACT YOUR SENATORS AND TELL THEM THAT CIR MUST PROTECT AND SUPPORT THE NEEDS OF VICTIMS

Call your Senator’s office by dialing (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak to your Senator. Don’t know your Senators?  Look them up here.

When you call, be sure to ask to speak to the staff person who handles immigration legislation and say:

  • I am a constituent from [city and state] and my name is _________. 
  • I urge Senator [insert name] to Support S. 744 and Comprehensive Immigration Reform, because having immigration status helps bring victims out from the shadows and helps to prevent further victimization and exploitation. I also ask the Senator to support provisions in S. 744 that strengthen protections for immigrant survivors of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking, and to reject any amendments that discourage victims from accessing law enforcement for help or that leave immigrant victims with no access to safety net benefits that help them recover from and escape abuse.   
  • Thank the staffer for their time.  

ACTION ITEM 2): TWEET THESE MESSAGES TO YOUR SENATORS! 

  • [Insert Senator’s Twitter handle] Support a #CIR that enhances protections for immigrant victims of domestic violence & sexual assault
  • [Insert Senator’s Twitter handle] Bring victims out of the shadows & help them find safety. Support #CIR & S.744
  • Abusers can exploit victims’ lack of immigration status to maintain power & control. The Senate must support #CIR to enhance victim safety!
  • #CIR must make it safe for victims to seek help from law enforcement & must be responsive to victims’ needs
  • [Insert Senator’s Twitter handle] Safety net benefits help victims escape & recover from abuse. Support #CIR & S. 744.

ACTION ITEM 3): WATCH THIS SPACE!

Stay tuned for more action alerts and ways you can make your voice heard on other important issues related to sexual and domestic violence, including funding for programs and services, gun safety/background checks  and sexual assault in the military legislation.

###

  • For more information, fact sheets, press coverage, support letters and updates continue to visit 4vawa.org.
  • Follow us on Twitter at @NTFVAWA and “like” our Facebook page!      
  • If you aren't on one of this email list or want to add members of your staff or state/community leaders to our grassroots alerts e-mail list, send names and contact information including email to ntfvawaalerts@icasa.org.

 

The National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Mourns the Passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg

It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Senator Lautenberg was long-time champion on behalf of victims of domestic and sexual violence, supporting the passage and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act over the past two decades.

“Today marks a day victims of sexual violence lost an ally and a true advocate. Senator Frank Lautenberg was a champion, and his voice as an anti-sexual violence advocate will be missed,” said Monika Johnson Hostler, President, National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.

His signature effort on behalf of victims, however, was his legislation making it a federal crime for persons convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence to possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition. “As those of us in the field know all too well, many violent crimes of domestic violence are pled down to misdemeanor convictions. Prior to the passage of the Lautenberg Amendment in 1996, many abusers who had been convicted of violent crimes against their intimate partners continued to have access to firearms, despite the seriousness of the violence involved in the crime,” said Katie Ray Jones, President of the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

Senator Lautenberg knew that the intersection between gun violence and sexual and domestic violence was all too often lethal to victims. Abusers with firearms are five times more likely to kill their intimate partners when considering other factors; more than half of women murdered with guns are killed by family members or intimate partners. Female intimate partners are more likely to be murdered with a firearm than all other means combined.

“Although many in Congress have hesitated to address the impact of gun violence on victims of domestic violence, Senator Lautenberg was always unafraid to fight for restrictions on convicted abusers’ access to firearms,” said Rita Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “Thanks to the tireless efforts of Senator Lautenberg, who fought to protect victims of domestic violence from firearms violence, the Lautenberg Amendment became law. “

There are still too many victims of domestic violence who are shot and killed by an intimate partner. Yet Sen. Lautenberg’s law helped to prevent a great many deaths of victims by firearms.

“We honor his memory as a true champion of victims’ rights and protections. It is fitting that we will remember his name every time his law, the Lautenberg Amendment, is used to protect additional victims of domestic violence,” said Esta Soler, President of Futures Without Violence.

For more information, please see this report compiled by Sen. Lautenberg’s office:


 

Statement of Priorities for Response to Sexual Violence in the Military

Sexual violence—including abuse of children, sexual harassment, and sexual assault—is a pervasive problem in the U.S. military. The Department of Defense reports that there were 3,374 reported sexual assaults and 26,000 anonymous incident reports in 2012 alone, and there were likely many more survivors who chose not to make such statements or report other forms of sexual violence. While sexual violence is in no way limited to the armed forces, recent public outcry over particularly inflammatory incidents provide an opportunity to make substantive changes in the culture surrounding, and in particular the response to, sexual violence. Our brave service members deserve respect and safety from everyone around them. These shifts are imperative for the safety of all service members and will make the military an example to civilian society of integrity and responsibility with regard to this issue. In addition, preventing sexual violence and responding to survivors will enhance our military readiness. Mutual trust and respect are key to service members’ performance and well-being.

The following sections provide the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence’s (NTF) broad recommendations regarding the prevention and response to military sexual assault (MSA). They are not tied to particular pieces of legislation pending in the Congress.

Prevention:

Sexual violence occurs across a spectrum of acts, from lewd or sexist comments to rape, and victims include children and adults of all sexes. Prevention of all forms of sexual violence remains the key to ensuring safety for service members and their families and a professional, respectful work environment for all service members. The most effective tool in preventing sexual violence is social norm change – ie, transforming the military’s current culture and attitudes regarding gender and gender roles. Although the NTF appreciates that the military has taken many recent steps to address sexual violence, social norm change requires a multi-pronged strategy that improves upon and expands current military efforts and makes it clear that perpetrators will be held accountable for engaging in such behavior or allowing such behavior to occur.

NTF recommends the following changes to address prevention of sexual violence:

  • Create an office within each branch that is devoted to sexual violence prevention.
  • Strengthen standards for personnel in sexual violence prevention roles.
  • Ensure that all service members receive training on sexual violence that includes: awareness of the spectrum of acts constituting sexual violence, including the connection between sexual harassment and sexual violence; prohibited acts and consequences; bystander intervention; reporting procedures; and available services/assistance. Current modules on the “buddy system” and victims’ actions are not adequate in preventing sexual violence.
  • Ensure that all service members receive such training on sexual violence at multiple instances throughout their time in the armed forces. NTF applauds the military for ensuring that all service members receive training on sexual assault at the beginning of their service, but repetition of broader training will improve retention of the information and reinforce the seriousness with which the military treats this issue. 
  •  Clearly communicate that perpetrating sexual violence, or allowing subordinates to engage in such behavior, will engender a swift response with serious consequences.
  • Prohibit any person who trains service members from engaging in sexual relationships with trainees.
  • Prohibit persons with a history of sex-related crimes from enlisting in the armed forces.
  • Immediately discharge current service members with sexual violence-related convictions in civilian courts.

Survivor Services:

Sexual violence creates short- and long-term needs for survivors. It is important to recognize every survivor of sexual assault responds differently to the attack and thus a range of services as options, but not requirements, will be most effective in meeting that individual’s needs. In addition, services should be available on an on-going basis, as each survivor will be ready for a particular service at a different time. Survivors should not be forced to engage in any services or processes that they do not feel are right for them; for example, survivors should have access to mental health services even if they are not interested in pursuing a court martial or other legal response to the assault. Finally, all members of the armed forces, their families, and associated personnel ages 12 and older should have access to these services, regardless of active duty status.

NTF recommends the following changes to improve survivor support mechanisms:

  • Require that each brigade have at least one trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner to respond to all survivors requesting evidence collection.
  • Require that evidence collection kits be retained for 5 years even if the survivor does not initially want to press charges.
  • Require that all service members receive information about their reporting options, including information about the limits of confidentiality and availability of support services for each option.
  • Ensure that all survivors receive their rights guaranteed under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.
  • Provide survivors with time off to receive services on or off base, as they prefer. These services should be accessible without requiring that their commanding officers be informed of the purpose of these visits.
  • Ensure that survivors can access care through the Veterans Administration without a diagnosis of PTSD.
  • Provide survivors with special counsel to provide legal advice and, if the survivor wishes, representation in a court martial.
  • Prohibit retaliation against survivors for reporting assaults and require that the Inspector General investigate all allegations of retaliation.
  • At the survivor’s request, allow the commander to transfer the survivor or accused in order to ensure the survivor’s safety.
  • Train Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates on working with immigrant victims, including a basic overview of protections under immigration law that are specific to immigrant victims. At a minimum, the Department and Services should share the USCIS brochure entitled, Immigration Options for Victims of Crimes, with immigrant service members and with non-service member victims who report sexual harassment and assault.
  • Ensure that all training and response efforts recognize and validate the experiences of survivors of all sexes and those who are assaulted by members of the same sex. Ensure that all survivors are treated with respect regardless of the nature of the assault.

Offender Accountability:

NTF supports offender accountability that meets the needs of the survivor and community. NTF recommends that the military retain a range of options to meet these needs and not institute mandatory court martial nor long mandatory long minimum sentences. All options should emphasize the seriousness of sexual violence and be instituted with the survivor’s best interests in mind. The statute of limitations on sex crimes should be removed so that survivors may pursue legal options when they are ready or when the evidence is available to support a court martial.

In order to ensure accountability, Congress should make the following changes to the handling of sexual assault reports and court martials:

  • Require commanding officers to inform the investigative division immediately after receiving a report of a sexual assault. The commanding officer should also enter the report into an electronic database within 48 hours (or as soon as possible if there are internet connectivity problems).
  • Remove the decision of whether and how to proceed with a court martial from the chain of command for the survivor and accused. In other words, at no point should commanding officers have control over the sexual assault report nor the prosecution of the case.
  • Appoint special prosecutors to handle sexual assault cases within the military justice system. These prosecutors should have a rank of at least Lieutenant Colonel in order to ensure that experienced officers are responsible for these cases.
  • Prohibit commanding officers from overturning or mitigating guilty verdicts and sentences.
  • Require convicted service members to receive a punitive separation or dishonorable discharge.
  • Note all substantiated complaints of sexual violence in a convicted service member’s personnel records.
  • Promptly enter all convicted service members into the civilian sex offender database.
  • Retain all reports (unrestricted and restricted) for at least 50 years.
  • Periodically review reports and case files—while maintaining confidentiality—to ensure compliance with new procedures.
  • Ensure uniform treatment of sexual violence cases across the Department.

Next Steps:

NTF looks forward to working with Members of Congress in their efforts to make the military a safer place for all service members and encourages swift action in making these recommendations law.