This week, I was honored to join a first-of-its-kind meeting at the White House: a roundtable of business leaders and advocates called upon to discuss building public-private partnerships aimed at helping end domestic violence and sexual assault in the United States. The meeting served as an opportunity to share strategies and concrete steps companies can take to address violence in their workplaces and communities.
During the gathering, we heard from several companies that are working to improve the status quo, including Avon, Macy’s, Allstate, Viacom, and Kaiser Permanente.
The need for action could not be more urgent. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in five women is the victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. In fact, 60% of Americans 15 years of age or older know a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault.
Not only does domestic violence affect victims and families; it can also harm entire communities and the nation. More than 8 million paid days of work are lost every year because of domestic violence, and even by conservative estimates, domestic violence costs our economy more than $8 billion a year in lost productivity, health, and mental health costs alone.
Since day one, the Obama administration has worked hard to combat violence against women. Vice President Biden has championed many of the administration’s efforts, including helping create new campaigns to reach teens and young adults, and working to build new initiatives to reduce domestic violence homicides. And to lead by example, President Obama has directed federal agencies to develop policies to address domestic violence and sexual assault in the federal workforce. Recently, President Obama established the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
The White House’s commitment coincides with NO MORE’s goal of bringing together corporations to increase support for domestic violence and sexual assault programs. A collaboration of corporations and nonprofit organizations, NO MORE seeks to normalize the conversation around these issues and end the stigma, shame, and silence of domestic violence and sexual assault. Bringing the NO MORE campaign to White House for this important conversation was a reminder that working together can help end violence against women.
The spirit of yesterday’s gathering can be summed up by something President Obama once said about domestic violence:
We need to make sure every victim of domestic violence knows that they are not alone; that there are resources available to them in their moment of greatest need. And as a society, we need to ensure that if a victim of abuse reaches out for help, we are there to lend a hand. This is not just the job of government. It’s a job for all of us.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.