Sep 16, 2010
CONTACT Lisa Lederer

Celebrities, Faith Leaders and Survivors Urge U.S. Action to End Global Epidemic of Violence Against Women

Call for Immediate Passage of the
International Violence Against Women Act

 WASHINGTON, DC - Actor and human rights advocate Samantha Mathis today joined a strong coalition of faith leaders, survivors and advocates on Capitol Hill to call for immediate U.S. action to help end violence against women and girls globally. Pointing to recent headline-making incidents in Iran where a woman may face stoning for alleged adultery, and in Afghanistan where a woman was recently mutilated for trying to flee abuse in her home, speakers at the Capitol Hill event urged passage of the pending International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA - H.R. 4594/S.2982) before the November elections.

“I experienced the tragic consequences of violence and came face to face with the horror of brutal murders of women when I travelled to Guatemala with Amnesty International and met with the family members of victims,” Mathis said in her remarks. “We cannot stand by and tolerate horrific acts of violence any longer. The United States Congress has the opportunity to take action and stop the violence by passing the International Violence Against Women Act.”

“My province of origin, the South Kivu province of the Congo, has the highest rate of rape in the world. All these rapes are known and not consistently prevented,” said Rose Mapendo, survivor and advocate from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and a featured speaker at the event. “This is why I am speaking out for women and encouraging them to raise their voices for all of us.”

“Violence against women is unfair, unjust and a gross violation of women’s human rights. Every day we hear of a new episode of women and girls being raped, abused or killed because of their gender,” said speaker Ritu Sharma, Co-founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide. “Passing I-VAWA would show strong U.S. resolve on this issue, but time is running out.”

“We recognize that often, in contexts of oppressive social customs adhered to by men and women alike, ending violence against women requires much more than a legal response,” said George Ward, senior vice president of international programs for World Vision U.S. “This means that our approaches must focus on promoting equitable relationships between the genders and taking a comprehensive view of working with men, women, girls and boys to address harmful societal notions of power, protect rights and reduce vulnerability.”

I-VAWA has strong bipartisan support in both Houses of the 111th Congress, with 118 sponsors in the House and 31 in the Senate. This groundbreaking bill would apply the force of U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance toward preventing gender-based violence, which is estimated to affect one in three women and girls worldwide. The legislation supports U.S. programs that prevent violence as well as health and survivor services, encourages legal accountability and efforts to change public attitudes, promotes access to economic opportunity and education, and improves the U.S. response to violence against women in humanitarian situations. It includes support for local organizations already working in their own communities to prevent violence and help victims. It makes the issue a U.S. diplomatic priority and asks the U.S. government to respond to instances of mass violence against women in conflict situations within three months.

There is strong U.S. public support for the issue. A 2009 poll by Lake Research, commissioned by the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women Thrive Worldwide, found that a majority of voters (61 percent) across partisan and demographic lines say addressing global violence against women should be one of the top priorities for the U.S. government. Eight in ten (82 percent) express support for the bill, and six in ten (62 percent) intense support. I-VAWA maintains salience with voters when compared to other foreign policy priorities like promoting democracy and trade, fighting corruption abroad, and reconstructing Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 200 groups support its passage, including domestic and international women’s NGOs, humanitarian groups, faith-based organizations and U.N. agencies.

I-VAWA’s lead sponsors in the Senate are Senators John Kerry (D-MA), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME). Leads in the House include Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who are the congressional sponsors of today’s breakfast event in Room B 340 in the Rayburn House Office Building. The event will feature a short clip from a film featuring the story and work of speaker Rose Mapendo in the DRC. Entitled, “Pushing the Elephant,” it will be screened nationally in March 2011 on the PBS series Independent Lens.

For more information on the bill, visit

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In addition to the Family Violence Prevention Fund, the following organizations signed onto this news release: Amnesty International, CARE, Food for the Hungry, Global AIDS Alliance, Jewish Women International, Refugees International, Tahirih Justice Center, Women Thrive Worldwide and World Vision.

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