Project Woman has a long history dating back to 1974. Initially organized as a volunteer operated rape crisis center it became dually certified as a domestic violence emergency shelter program in 1975. At a time when there was no Violence Against Women Act there were few options and protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence.
Today – only 40 short years later – do we remember what we have been working to overcome? Do we realize that in 1966 battering became for the first time a legal basis to petition for divorce, but that the victim had to prove to the court that there were a “sufficient number of beatings?” Are we aware that Native women on reservations were sterilized into the early 1980s as a routine practice? Do our young people realize that women were not allowed to seek medical/health care without their husband or father’s permission? We may be aware that current data indicates that 1 in 4 women on college campuses are sexually assaulted but do we realize that research published in 1985 states the same statistic? The Violence Against Women Act is now 23 years old. It was seen as an Act of hope at the time it was signed by President Clinton.
Today – we celebrate the progress made but we must also be diligent in speaking out on behalf of the lives of women, men and children who continue to be impacted by violence. According to 2016 census data, there are just over 322 million people in the United States. If 1 in 4 people are victims of abuse this means that there are 80,500,000 survivors among us today. It seems simple to me. This is a “state of the union” that should not become invisible or minimized. We all have a stake in making sure we don’t forget what we have been working to overcome! It’s On Us!
Laura Baxter, Executive Director