National Agenda on Sexual and Domestic Violence Issued
"The public safety and public health costs of
violence against women are high and the impact on society too great for the
nation not to act," concludes Ending Violence Against Women - An Agenda for
the Nation, a new report by the National Advisory Council on Violence Against
Women. The report, released
Wednesday morning in Washington, D.C., is an "urgent call to action to end
violence against women."
Advisory Council members Vickii Coffey of Vickii Coffey and Associates; Judge
Vincent Poppiti of the Delaware Family Court; and Diane Stuart of the Utah
Domestic Violence Advisory Council presented the report to Attorney General
Janet Reno and U.S. Secretary of
Health and Human Services Donna Shalala at the event.
The Agenda provides a framework for ending violence against women that calls for
the coordinated efforts of victims of violence, their advocates, community
leaders, the justice systems, the health care system, the welfare system,
organized sports, the media, faith communities, colleges and universities,
businesses, the military and children's advocates. The report, along with its accompanying Toolkit to End
Violence Against Women, is designed to provide concrete guidance to advocates,
communities and policy leaders on actions they can take to help end violence
Reno and Shalala chair the National Advisory Council on Violence Against Women,
which brings together experts in domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Council was established in 1995, and is made up of nationwide leaders
in public education, victims' rights, social services, the business community,
higher education, and other fields.
Solutions to Violence Against Women
"We can and must end violence against women," concludes the Agenda,
and all sectors of society must work together to achieve that goal. Eliminating
violence against women demands a comprehensive and coordinated effort between
elected and appointed officials, government and non-government organizations and
agencies, community leaders, businesses, public organizations, and private
highlights six key areas in which "concerted, comprehensive, and
coordinated action" can help end violence against women. They are:
* Eliminating social norms that condone violence against women. Societal
tolerance and indifference towards violence against women allows it to continue,
and commonly accepted attitudes and beliefs "give rise to men's abusive
behavior towards women," finds the Agenda. Social change efforts must be
both community-based and national in their scope, and must reflect diversity
within communities. The report
calls on the nation to adopt cultural values that support equality in
relationships, respectful conflict resolution, healthy sexuality, and increase
the safety and well-being for women and girls.
* Ensuring that all victims of violence have places to turn.
Many victims of violence "feel isolated and alone," and the
Agenda finds that "there are too many communities in this nation where
crisis services are not available for victims, or where those that do exist are
taxed beyond capacity." To successfully end violence against women, communities'
responses to violence must be improved: "Community-based support systems
must be available to all women and girls across their lifespan."
Existing support systems for victims must be enhanced and sanctions for
perpetrators must be strengthened, and every community member must do her or his
part to help end violence, concludes the report.
* Enhancing the health and mental health care systems' response to violence
against women. "The health
care system is a critical point for primary care and secondary prevention of
violence against women" but many primary care providers and emergency
departments "do not routinely identify patients with histories of sexual
abuse or domestic violence," states the Agenda.
Health care systems must adopt comprehensive policies and protocols to
address detecting and preventing violence against women.
* Providing equal and safe access to the justice system.
"All violent crimes against women?must be taken seriously and
responded to as threats to the safety of the entire community," states the
Agenda, which calls on the legal system to provide equal protections to all
victims of violence. Ending
violence against women requires "the continued leadership of the criminal
justice system," with federal, statewide and community-wide policies and
laws addressing violence, and improvements to the justice system's response to
violence against women.
* Increasing women's access to economic opportunities.
Without the means for economic independence, women can remain dependent
on their abuser, finds the Agenda. Increasing
women's economic options is "both an intervention and prevention
strategy" in ending violence against women, and creating "a strong and
effective safety net" for women experiencing violence is the first step
toward this goal, concludes the report.
* Investing in prevention and early intervention with children.
More funding, research and energy must be directed toward developing
violence prevention methods, particularly prevention strategies geared towards
young people, finds the Agenda. And
communities must take a leading role in teaching children and youth about
effective, non-violent conflict resolution and challenging existing gender roles
that place women and girls at risk: "The safety and well-being of every
child, and the safety and well-being of his or her parents, must become priority
community concerns," concludes the report.
Violence Against Women
The Agenda and the Toolkit focus on appropriate and necessary responses to
violence against women in 15 areas: Victim Services; the Health Care System; the
Justice System; Economic Security; Colleges and Universities; the Workplace;
Children; Community Education; the Media; Communities of Faith; Sports;
Challenge to Policymakers; Native Women; Military; and International Justice.
This section focuses on services and advocacy for victims of violence. According
to the report, there are more than 1,300 sexual assault programs and more than
1,900 domestic violence programs in communities across America, as well as
national organizations and state coalitions that address violence against women.
But although funding for these programs has expanded, "the
availability of services has lagged far behind the pressing needs that women and
Victims' services must be increased, expanded and improved, the Agenda says, and
for programs for victims to be successful they must meet the needs of all
victims. This requires
collaboration and information sharing between sexual assault and domestic
violence service providers, advocates and experts, as well as support from
local, state and national governments. The
Agenda calls on communities to "expand and stabilize existing services,
develop culturally and linguistically appropriate services, establish community
partnerships, and strengthen informal networks women turn to for support."
This section is designed to provide health care systems with the tools they need
to identify and prevent violence against women. Domestic violence and sexual assault are serious public
health threats, and violence against women causes physical, as well as emotional
and mental damage. Health care
providers may be the first and only professionals to see victims of violence
and, therefore, the health care system is a "crucial point of early
intervention and prevention," finds the report.
Unfortunately, the Agenda continues, many health care providers do not view
domestic violence and sexual assault as public health issues, and they
"lack the knowledge, skill and incentives to intervene appropriately."
The Agenda calls on health care systems to develop and apply policies
that address all forms violence against women, focusing both on the detection
and the prevention of violence.
This section addresses the role of the justice system in providing safeguards
for victims of violence against women and legal penalties for perpetrators.
The justice system "has a central role to play in building a
national consensus that violence against women will not be tolerated" and,
to date, the "amount and quality of reform in the legal system to address
violence?has been profound," finds the report.
Early intervention in criminal cases of violence against women, including
penalties for perpetrators, can save lives and prevent further violence.
In civil cases, access to civil legal remedies, including civil orders of
protection, also can save lives and promote victim recovery.
In all cases, the paramount goal of justice system intervention must be
"fair fact-finding and decision making, taking into account victim safety
and the need to hold offenders accountable for their crimes," concludes the
Here, the Agenda addresses promoting women's economic security so that they may
escape violence. In order for more
women to be free from the constraints of violence, all women must have access to
real economic options, including "employment that provides a living wage,
comprehensive benefits, affordable and safe housing, child care, financial
assistance when necessary, child support, health care and insurance," finds
Ensuring women's economic security requires coordinated attention to a wide
range of policy and practice issues. Communities
and state and federal governments must work together to provide women with an
economic "safety net." But,
the report notes, recent changes to welfare and child support laws at the
federal and state levels and "the erosion of funding for many housing
programs threatens to seriously weaken this safety net." Government programs must consider the safety needs of
survivors of violence to avoid "endangering lives or limiting the ability
of survivors to escape abusive partners, family members, or unsafe
neighborhoods," the Agenda concludes.
Colleges and Universities
This section of the Agenda addresses the safety of women on campuses, as well as
campus responses to violence against women.
Sexual assault, dating and domestic violence, and stalking are serious
problems on college and university campuses.
While "an increasing number" of residential and community
colleges have implemented campus-wide responses to violence, violence on
colleges and universities is "seriously under-reported," the report
The Agenda calls on all colleges and universities to design and implement
comprehensive campus-wide responses to violence against women.
Successful responses to the problem of violence against women on campus
must involve all members of the campus community - students and faculty - and
should coordinate victim services, campus law enforcement, health and mental
health services, campus housing, student organizations and disciplinary boards.
This section of the Agenda addresses the role of businesses and unions in ending
violence against women. The report
calls on employers to provide enhanced security for its female employees, as
many victims of violence are working women.
This reality makes the workplace a "central point" for
intervention and prevention, but while there is a "growing movement"
by employers and unions to address domestic violence as a workplace issue, there
has been less attention paid to sexual assault and stalking, the report notes.
The Agenda calls on businesses and unions to take action to prevent and respond
to all forms of violence against women by developing written policies against
violence, implementing security measures, and providing trainings for all
employees. The report also urges
companies to form collaborative partnerships with community-based sexual assault
and domestic violence programs to develop workplace, anti-violence protocols.
Note: portions of this section of the Agenda were not available when Speaking Up
This section of the Agenda focuses on early intervention and prevention efforts
geared towards children and youth. Violence
against women impacts "millions of children each year," the report
says, calling for stronger crisis intervention programs for children exposed to
violence, either as witnesses to violence or as victims. The Agenda calls on
communities to develop a "broad array" of primary prevention and early
intervention programs that target boys, girls and young families.
Here, the Agenda outlines ways to build community awareness of violence against
women. Ending violence against
women requires a "multi-faceted approach designed to inform and effect
change," and community education programs can be powerful tools in building
awareness and changing public attitudes, finds the report.
Community education campaigns can increase public understanding on
violence against women, mobilize community action to promote change, and build a
stronger network of community support for victims.
Victims of violence also benefit from public education campaigns.
In addition to promoting social change, campaigns inform victims about
the services available to them, and communicate that violence against women is
wrong and that victims are not to blame for the abuse.
The Agenda calls on all members of the community - the media,
corporations, organizations, and community groups - to take part in public
This section of the Agenda urges the media to portray more responsible messages
about violence against women. The
media plays a powerful role in society - influencing public opinion, how
consumers view themselves, their neighbors and their communities, according to
the report. And the
"responsible voice of the mass media is critical to communicating that
violent behavior is unacceptable."
The Agenda calls on the media to use its influence to help end violence against
women: "the challenge for the media, as well as for advertising and
entertainment agencies, is to utilize their influence to send messages that
promote positive attitudes regarding the status and value of women and girls,
gender roles, and nonviolence." The
media has a responsibility to portray violence against women in an accurate
manner that is sensitive to the needs of victims, rather than glorifying or
condoning violence. The report
urges the media to form partnerships with advocacy groups and community
organizations to promote and distribute new and more effective violence
This section of the Agenda provides members of the religious community and
religious organizations with guidance on how to address and respond to violence
against women. Religious and
faith-based organizations are "uniquely positioned to champion efforts to
end violence against women," finds the report. These organizations can reach large numbers of people with
messages of safety and support for victims, and are "especially important
to communities that have been traditionally underserved by other prevention and
While "philosophical differences have created tension" between some
religious organizations and victims' advocates, many have formed partnerships to
address violence against women, and the Agenda urges others to do the same.
Working with advocates, religious organizations can help their members
who are victims of violence, and express to all their members that violence is
unacceptable and that there is "no foundation in religious doctrine for
violence against women," states the report.
This section of the Agenda focuses on the role athletes can play as positive
role models for respectful and non-violent behavior. The report calls on high profile athletes to "recognize
their potential to influence youth with their behavior."
It also finds, however, that violence against women by male athletes
"is often too tolerated at the expense of their victims."
Regardless of their societal status, athletes must be held
"responsible for all acts of violence or abuse," the report says.
In addition, athletes are in a unique position to communicate positive
anti-violence messages to the public. The
Agenda calls on athletes and the sports industry to use the visibility of both
male and female athletes to reinforce "messages consistent with our
nation's commitment to end violence against women."
Organized sports can play another important role in helping to eliminate
violence against women, as participation in athletics "serves as a key
formative experience for young people."
Sports can have a strong impact on young people's development of values
and, through sports, boys and girls are taught "respect for oneself and
others." Therefore, youth
athletics are an "ideal venue for promoting healthy relationships and
underscoring the importance of ending violence against women and girls,"
concludes the report.
Promoting the Safety of Native Women
Here, the Agenda focuses on a coordinated tribal and federal response to ending
violence against native women. Violence
against native women "must be viewed in the context of the history of
assimilation policies and practices implemented by the United States."
The federal government and the tribal governments have "concurrent
jurisdiction" over certain crimes, and some federal policies regarding
violence against women "have undermined traditional tribal leadership, law
enforcement response and the economic stability of many tribes," finds the
The Agenda calls on the federal government to support tribal nations in their
efforts to address violence against women.
The safety of native women in Indian country "depends on an
effective tribal justice system that is working in partnership with Federal law
enforcement." Tribal and federal partnerships can be enhanced by
"disregarding the race of perpetrators" of violence against native
women, and by "affirming tribal court authority" to ensure the safety
and well being of native women in Indian country.
Role of the Military
This section of the Agenda examines the military's role in helping to assure the
safety of women. The Defense
Department has a "unique" role to play in preserving national
security, and preventing violence against women is part of securing the national
defense," finds the report. Violence
against women committed by military personnel against civilians or women in the
military is "detrimental to unit morale, cohesion and military
The military "can take pride in the significant initiatives" it has
already undertaken to end violence against women, but there is more to be done,
according to the Agenda. The
military needs to strengthen the "training and management" of its
personnel on issues of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.
The military also must continue to form collaborative partnerships with
civilian organizations to address violence against women.
Working together, the military and civilian communities "can
significantly improve intervention and prevention efforts," concludes the
Promoting International Justice
This section of the Agenda outlines what the United States can do to protect and
uphold the human rights of women around the world. Internationally, violence
against women takes many forms, and there are "many avenues for U.S.
leadership on international efforts to prevent violence against
women," finds the report.
One of the most prevalent forms of international violence against women is the
trafficking of women, and the Agenda calls on the U.S. to take an active role in
working to combat the problem. This
requires coordination between government and non-government agencies in this
country, as well as collaboration with foreign governments to develop laws and
policies regarding the trafficking of women.
The U.S. also should provide
humanitarian assistance that is "directed towards promoting women's
fundamental social and economic quality abroad," concludes the report.
Challenge to Congress and the Executive Branch
This section of the Agenda provides federal policy makers with recommendations
on ways to use federal legislation to help eliminate violence against women.
Public officials have played a "powerful role" in the country's
efforts to end violence, and must continue to do so, finds the report.
Congress must adopt laws that "advance the safety and
well-being" of women and girls, and the Executive Branch of government must
support such legislation, as well as ensure that its grant making, policy
directives and programs are "consistent" with national efforts to end
violence against women.
In the 1990s, federal initiatives addressing violence against women
"significantly expanded," and the highlight was passage of the
Violence Against Women Act of 1994. The
Agenda calls on Congress to continue its legislative commitment to ending
violence, and allocate more money to efforts to stop violence, increasing
appropriations for "intervention and prevention programs, research,
training and technical assistance."
Ending Violence Against Women - An Agenda for the Nation is available online
We encourage you to forward these
articles to your friends or colleagues, as well as reprint or adapt them
for your own newsletter or website. When you do, please do not make
changes to the content and in particular, do not delete third party
credit information. Please also include the following credit line:
"Reprinted and adapted from 'News Flash' , an online newsletter of the Family Violence Prevention Fund."
Family Violence Prevention Fund 383 Rhode Island Street, Suite 304 San
Francisco, CA 94103-5133