1 is 2 Many Blog

  • Supporting Survivors Across the Lifespan: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, 2015

    Today, the international community unites to recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day: a time to bring visibility to the issue of violence experienced by older adults, express intolerance for abuse, and work toward prevention.

    A serious human rights violation that too often goes ignored, elder abuse can include physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; neglect; and financial exploitation. Global data indicates 4 to 6% of adults over the age of 60 have experienced at least one of these types of abuse in the past month alone—a conservative estimate that amounts to 36 million cases worldwide. In a 2010 study, 1 in 10 community-residing older adults in the United States reported experiencing abuse the previous year.

    Though both women and men can experience abuse in later life, greater female longevity, coupled with women’s higher risk for poverty and social isolation, suggests that elder abuse is a gendered category of violence. In many respects, violence against older women is an extension of the same social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls earlier in their lives: entrenched gender bias; impunity for abuse; and unhealthy conceptions of masculinity. In fact, violence by an intimate partner or spouse is a common form of elder abuse, though perpetrators can also be a caregiver outside the family, an adult child, or any other person with whom the victim has a relationship of trust.

  • “Don’t Look to Your Left, Don’t Look to Your Right -- It’s on You.”

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks on campus sexual assault

    Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks on campus sexual assault, at the University of Illinois, in Urbana, Illinois, April 23, 2015. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    “Don’t look to your left, don’t look to your right, it’s on you.” Vice President Biden spoke these powerful words last Thursday at a rally held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) to address the travesty of sexual violence on our nation’s college and university campuses. The Vice President galvanized an enthusiastic mass of students, administrators, community leaders, advocates, and survivors to mark Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and to celebrate the "It’s On Us" campaign.

    It’s on Us, launched by the Administration last September, is an initiative that focuses both on the dignity and rights of survivors, and on the broader societal responsibility for preventing and putting an end to sexual assault on college and university campuses. By proclaiming “it’s on us,” the campaign emphasizes that everyone—including bystanders and those not immediately impacted by sexual assault, as well as institutions like schools, law enforcement, religious and athletic organizations, and others—must step up to the plate. Bystanders, both as individuals and as a collective, have the opportunity and the agency to intervene when someone else is at risk. They also have the ability to discourage harmful behaviors by establishing a new conversation on healthy relationships, positive images of women, and a rejection of gender inequality.

  • Marking the First Anniversary of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault

    Last week marked the first anniversary of the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault (the Task Force), established by President Obama on January 22, 2014. Since its inception, the Task Force has worked to explore the scope of this serious problem, foster the development of best practices, and improve the federal government’s efforts to prevent and effectively respond to sexual assault on our nation’s campuses. 

    On April 29, 2014, Vice President Biden released the Task Force’s first reportNot Alone – which included recommendations, action steps, and sample policy language to help colleges and universities better address the problem. Three additional resources with sample policy language – Definitions of key terms in sexual misconduct policies, Role of the Title IX Coordinator, and Interim and supportive measures for victims – were released on September 19, 2014, in conjunction with the White House’s announcement of It’s On Us – a new public awareness campaign and cultural movement aimed at fundamentally shifting the way we think about sexual assault.

    The Task Force recognizes that developing strong partnerships between law enforcement agencies, campus administrations, and other community stakeholders is important to sexual assault prevention and response efforts­. To that end, the Task Force is pleased to share a sample memorandum of understanding (MOU), created to improve communication and coordination between campuses and local law enforcement. The MOU is a tool that colleges and universities can use and adapt as they seek to strengthen collaborations, enhance prevention efforts, and address the needs and choices of survivors of sexual assault. 

    As the Task Force enters its second year, we look forward to working with people across the spectrum of campus life in the fight to end sexual assault on our nation’s college campuses. We know that it’s on us – all of us – to step up, take action, and protect our nation’s students.

    More information on the sample MOU can be found here.

    Tina Tchen is the Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls.

  • Improving the Fight Against Intersecting Epidemics: An Update on Federal Efforts to Address HIV/AIDS and Intimate Partner Violence Among Women and Girls

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and an important time to draw attention to the alarming prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) among women and girls. This is particularly true for women living with HIV, over half of whom have experienced IPV in their lifetime. An HIV diagnosis can trigger or exacerbate violence, while trauma and abuse can negatively impact management of this illness. Thus, for women and girls affected by the intersecting epidemics of HIV/AIDS and IPV, the consequences for their health and well-being can be devastating.

    As physicians who care for women, we see this intersection among our patients all too often; and, both data and experience have shown that women and girls of color are often disproportionately affected. Addressing the violence in our patients’ lives is therefore a critical part of supporting them to achieve optimal health outcomes, including improving their ability to adhere to treatment, achieve viral suppression, and live longer and fuller lives. 

    In an effort to respond to these complex problems, last year the Interagency Federal Working Group established in 2012 under President Obama’s memorandum released a report titled Addressing the Intersection of HIV/AIDS, Violence against Women and Girls, and Gender–Related Health Disparities. The report outlined five major recommendations and emphasized the need for cross-agency collaboration to better address how violence against women and girls influences HIV acquisition and negatively affects the health of women living with HIV.

    Today, we are proud to announce two major accomplishments stemming from this report. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program have provided an outstanding example of Federal interagency collaboration. This joint effort will specifically allocate funding and resources to support transitional housing for women living with HIV, and who are experiencing violence in their lives. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is also releasing a Trauma-Informed Approaches concept paper that identifies a new framework to address trauma experiences and victimization. This framework aims to help individuals, like women living with HIV, to modify negative behaviors resulting from trauma and ultimately improve health outcomes.

  • Supreme Court Decision in U.S. v. Castleman Will Save Women's Lives

    This week, the Supreme Court decided a case that will save women’s lives.

    Back in 1996, Congress made it a crime for anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence to possess a gun. As Vice President Biden has often noted, there is a direct connection between gun violence and domestic violence: when a domestic abuser has a gun, a victim is 12 times more likely to die than when he doesn’t. 

    Some courts, however, have set a high bar for what counts as a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” – which has meant that many domestic abusers have been allowed to keep their guns. 

    But in United States v. Castleman (written by Justice Sotomayor), the Court changed all that. It recognized that domestic violence is a unique kind of crime that doesn’t always fit everyone’s idea of what’s “violent”: often, it can involve pushing, grabbing, shoving, scratching, or hair pulling – and which, over time, can “subject one intimate partner to the other’s control.” The Court also recognized that, in a number of states, these acts are prosecuted as crimes of “offensive touching” – which, before this week, meant some courts didn’t consider them to be domestic violence. But now, according to the Court, that’s enough to subject a convicted domestic abuser to the federal gun ban.

    This is a landmark opinion. As so many abused women know, what happens to them is a far cry from “offensive touching.” It is terrifying and debilitating, and can rob her of all manner of trust, security, and hope. It can make her – as the Vice President has also said – a prisoner in her own home. But at least now, the law recognizes that those who are convicted of these crimes have no business having a gun.

    Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women.

  • Ending Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in the United States

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on The White House Blog. See the original post here.

    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.