Disturbing events over the past few months have given new urgency to plans for a massive campaign to end violence against women. Enemies of women's rights have taken control of Congress, putting funding for the new Violence Against Women Act in jeopardy. After a stealth campaign focusing on crime and taxes, the right wing extremists are shedding their camouflage and showing their true colors. Republican leaders are eager to re-write the Crime Bill, which allocated a record $1.6 billion to fight violence against women.
Nicole Brown Simpson's voice pleading for help on a 911 tape has drawn sustained public attention to the abuse she and millions of other women have suffered at the hands of their husbands or boyfriends and also to the criminal justice system's failure to protect them. The cold-blooded murder of Sandra Peacock by her husband might have gone unnoticed in the press, but Baltimore Circuit Judge Robert Cahill's sentencing of Kenneth Peacock to 18 months on work release also grabbed headlines. The judge compared the case to a drunk driving accident and called the murderer a "non-criminal."
"These events underscore the need for vigorous actions to save women's lives," says NOW President Patricia Ireland. "We have made violence against women a crime, now we are going to make it a shame. We intend to make violence against women as socially unacceptable as it is illegal."
Organizing for the April 7-9 events is in high gear, as feminists from across the nation make plans to come to Washington, D.C. to voice their discontent, and share strategies on how to stop violence against women. NOW leaders have issued a call to action that includes a four-point plan on ending the violence to: protect, fund and implement the Violence Against Women Act; pass new federal measures to prevent violence against women; change the culture so that it teaches respect, not violence; and organize to elect more feminist women in 1996. Activists who would like more information on the call to action, or a copy of the plan, are urged to contact their chapter presidents, state coordinators or the NOW Action Center in Washington, D.C.
The April actions include a Young Feminist Summit on Violence, the first national display of the Clothesline Project (a visual display of T-shirts with messages on violence against women, similar to the AIDS Quilt) and a massive "We Won't Go Back!" Rally on Sunday, April 9.
NOW activists have long been on the leading edge in dealing with issues of violence against women on a community level -- setting up rape crisis centers, battered women shelters and conducting training for law enforcement officials and judges on responding more effectively to the violence. With the April mobilization, NOW continues taking action to deal with the epidemic of violence against women in this country.