Since 1994, when the Violence Against Women Act was first signed into law, support for this law to combat domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking has usually been a bipartisan issue. Not so in 2012, when not a single Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted in favor of a re-authorization last month.
At issue are provisions that call for protections for LGBT individuals, expand the availability of visas for undocumented immigrants who are victims of domestic abuse, and provide limited jurisdiction to Native American tribes to prosecute Indian and non-Indian offenders.
As we wait for Congress’s next steps on VAWA, it’s worth noting the work being done at the state level in Massachusetts. This week, Jane Doe Inc., held its fifth annual White Ribbon Day, a men’s initiative that pledges to be part of the solution in ending violence against women.
As the website for White Ribbon Day notes:
We’re taking our cue from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that speaks to how violence against women is a human rights violation and how these abuses around the world are obstacles to efforts for peace and gender equality in all societies.
In addition, we link importantly with The United Nations Secretary General’s new campaign UNited to End Violence Against Women, which is celebrated on International Women’s Day, March 8th.
More than 300 people attended the White Ribbon Day event on March 1 at the State House. Phallacies, a UMass Amherst student group that challenges notions of masculinity and works to end violence against women, took part.
“I always felt like I was forced to act a certain way, even if that was against the way I actually felt,” said UMass Amherst sophomore Chris Lowe. “Like why do I have to treat women [negatively] to be accepted by society?”
“My father, so he was abusive to my mother,” Lowe added. “But the lesson is to break out of the social roles that we’re put in as men.”