There are few subjects more personal and urgent than the issue of violence against women. Ending violence against women and educating the public about resources for survivors is one of NOW’s core issues.  

I wrote recently in this column for PRISM, a national news outlet run by women of color, about my feelings as a Black mother of a Black child, about how tired we are of seeing our kids becoming hashtags in a society that sees Blackness as a threat. 

“Prior to becoming the president of the National Organization for Women,” I wrote. “I spent the last 18 years working as a mental health therapist focusing on PTSD and other trauma. The primary indicator for post-traumatic stress is that the person has lived or witnessed a perceived threat. This threat becomes so intrusive that it interferes with a person’s daily life from their waking to sleeping hours; imagine that fear. Now consider the life of a Black person who must exist in a society of daily anti-Black aggressions. Imagine these Black mothers. ”

My training in mental health also informs my deep commitment as president of NOW to supporting survivors of domestic violence particularly during this pandemic.  

Here’s a good conversation written by two professors at Mississippi State University on the evidence that suggests intimate partner violence has increased during the pandemic.  “Stress, economic hardship, a lack of social support, gun ownership, lower educational status, and drug or alcohol abuse are risk factors for intimate partner violence,” they write. “All of these factors are exacerbated during a pandemic.”  

Women are already afraid to come forward and fear the stigma associated with speaking out against their abuser. No one is immune from this, even celebrities with high profiles. As musician FKA twigs recently detailed when speaking about her own experiences with abuse: “I just thought to myself, no one is ever going to believe me… I’m unconventional. And I’m a person of color who is a female.” 

However, more and more cultures are opening their eyes to this reality.  This past year, our own military had to take a good long hard look in the mirror after national outcry for justice for the murder and disappearance of Army Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Many survivors came forward using the hashtag #IAMVANESSAGUILLEN to tell their own stories of sexual assault, harassment and abuse in the military. Recently, an independent investigation found that the leadership at the Fort Hood military base created a “permissive environment for sexual assault and sexual harassment.” 

Ultimately a core value of respect for all was never instilled at Fort Hood and failed when it came to protecting their own from assault and harassment. NOW applauds this detailed review and investigation, shedding much needed light on the cultural change that needs to occur within the military and its leadership.  

We have reason to be hopeful that change is on the horizon, with feminist champions now in the White House. President-elect Biden is one of the original co-sponsors of the Violence Against Women Act, and as Vice President, he created the position of the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women. NOW will continue to press the new Administration to prioritize this issue during the first 100 days and enact a strong bill to reauthorize VAWA with critical enhancements.  

At NOW, we take on the tough challenges and fight the brave fights to improve our society for all.  We propose constructive solutions to difficult problems, and we build coalitions that mobilize the best talents and most productive energy of our grassroots. And it is because of your activism that we’ll be able to make this lasting change.