– Vital Voices and The Avon Foundation for Women have announced a new collaboration with the U.S. State Department to stop violence against women. “The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Women” will address the need for serious, sustained on-the-ground research and development, as well as actionable, collaborative, culturally-sensitive local solutions that can create measurable change. To facilitate the new partnership, Avon and the Avon Foundation for Women announced $1.2 million in donations to Vital Voices to bring together 15 country delegations to share insights, forge collaborations, and seek ways to overcome challenging cultural realities that have been barriers to progress. Actress Reese Witherspoon, Avon’s global ambassador and honorary chairperson of the Avon Foundation for Women, announced the sale of Avon’s newest fundraising product – the Women’s Empowerment Ring – with 100 percent of net profits going to support domestic violence programs. Learn more at www.avon.com.
MILITARY – There were 3,230 restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault involving military members as either victims or subjects in Fiscal Year 2009, an 11 percent increase from the previous year. The Department of Defense says it believes the increase is due in part to a social marketing campaign encouraging victims to come forward. This year, 123 victims converted their reports from restricted – a confidential reporting option that allows service members to obtain medical, mental health care and other services without becoming involved in the military criminal justice process – to unrestricted. More than one in five (714) of the reports of sexual assault in 2009 were unrestricted. The Department of Defense released its “2009 Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military” on March 16. Read the complete report here.
FL – After fatally shooting his wife, Anicia Yankton, while she worked at a Publix grocery store in Orlando this month, Andreau Yankton was confronted by a police officer and committed suicide in the parking lot outside. According to the Orlando Sentinel, there have been other shootings at or near Publix facilities in the past few years: in February 2009, a worker at a Publix warehouse shot and wounded a co-worker after a dispute; and in December 2008, a security guard shot and wounded the boyfriend of his estranged wife in the parking lot of a Publix in West Palm Beach.
MA – More than 350 people, including Lt. Governor Timothy Murray, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, WBZ Sportscaster Steve Burton and others, pledged their commitment to be part of the solution and help end violence against women on White Ribbon Day on March 2. The campaign encourages violence prevention advocates and others to wear a white ribbon, display a poster at workplaces, organize events to speak out against violence toward women, and challenge attitudes and behaviors that condone or tolerate violence. For more information on White Ribbon Day, including a photo and video gallery, click here.
ND – For the second time in less than a year, state representative David Weiler has been charged with domestic assault, reports the Bismarck Tribune. Weiler first pled guilty to charges of simple assault against his wife in April 2009. The Weilers have separated but, in the most recent incident, the police report says that Nicole Weiler alleges that her husband punched her in the face several times. Weiler was elected to the state House in 2000 and re-elected in 2004 and 2008. He could be barred from serving if his House colleagues deem him ineligible to serve or impeach him, but action will have to wait until the legislature is back in session.
NM – Governor Bill Richardson signed two domestic violence bills into law this month. One strengthens the definition of household member in the state’s Crimes Against Household Members Act and the Family Violence Prevention Act to correspond with the federal definition and focus attention on intimate, dating partner and elder abuse. The other bill creates a Domestic Violence Commission in statute. Governor Richardson had created the Commission by Executive Order in 2007, but this new action allows the group to continue working on domestic violence issues.
OH – Governor Ted Strickland signed the Shynerra Grant Law on March 17, giving Ohio juvenile court judges the authority to issue protection orders against youth younger than 18. The law is named after a Toledo teen who was murdered by an abusive former boyfriend in 2005. Supporters say protection orders can help curb harassment and abuse before they escalate, the Columbus Dispatch reports. The new law allows the order to be wiped from a juvenile’s record once he or she is 19. It will take effect in 90 days.
INTERNATIONAL – Despite continuing resistance from religious and cultural elites, over the last five years women in the Middle East and North Africa have made modest progress and are enjoying more economic opportunities, fewer barriers to education, and greater abilities to participate in the political process – but women in the region still suffer from greater inequalities than do women elsewhere. According to “Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Progress Amid Resistance,” a new study released this month by Freedom House, 15 of the 18 countries in the region recorded some gains in women’s rights over the past five years. Kuwait, Algeria and Jordan have made the most significant progress while Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian Territories – countries enduring internal conflict and the rise of religious extremism – recorded declines. Only Tunisia and Jordan offer specific protections against domestic violence, and none of the countries explicitly prohibit spousal rape. Read the report here.
HAITI – There are increasing reports of women experiencing sexual violence in the wake of the devastating earthquake. No reliable data on the number of sexual assaults are available, but Amnesty International released a report last week finding that thousands of women living in temporary camps around Haiti are threatened by sexual violence and have inadequate protection from authorities. The earthquake disrupted existing reporting systems for victims, and the capacity of local organizations to help women get access to medical and mental health services has been undermined. In a column in The Daily Beast, Liesl Gerntholtz, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Women’s Rights Division, says: “The camps are unsafe places, and many women live with strangers, having lost contact with family members and friends… Although some latrines have been provided, there is no separation of facilities for women and men – and no lighting – so these are unsafe after dark… The camp is on open ground, allowing anyone to enter the camp and shelters.” Read Amnesty International’s report, “Haiti: After the Earthquake: Initial Mission Findings, March 2010” here.