The statistics on gender-based violence are staggering: one in four women will experience domestic violence, while one in five women will be raped in their lifetime. That’s why every October, the YWCA organizes the Week Without Violence, an annual campaign to raise awareness and encourage action on the issues of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
In the 1970s there were no services to support women experiencing gender-based violence in Buncombe County. The women of the YWCA organized alongside our community to support the creation of Helpmate and Our Voice, two local organizations that support survivors of domestic, intimate partner, and sexual violence. We’re incredibly proud of the growth both of these organizations have seen and we continue to partner to provide support for our community. Together in 2015 in response to a report that found that survivors of gender-based violence had to fill out 61 different forms, visit eight different places and retell their story over twenty times to access the support and services they needed directly following their assaults. We knew this was not reasonable or even attainable to many. Again, our community came together. We joined forces and created the Family Justice Center (FJC). The FJC brings a number of community partners together under one roof in order to better support survivors by offering coordinated services and resources. Today the YWCA can be found in the FJC with a dedicated on-site office in order to provide childcare for survivors seeking services so they won’t have to tell their stories in front of their children.
In addition to providing child care to survivors so they can access services, attend court, find housing and attend job interviews, the YWCA advocates for laws, policies, and systems change to support survivors.
A vital part of the YWCA’s Week Without Violence is Advocacy. On the agenda, this year is the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Enacted in 1994, VAWA expanded the available tools that enable comprehensive criminal justice responses to gender-based violence and provided countless services and protections for survivors. The act, however, expires every five years and must be reauthorized by Congress. As it stands, VAWA expired in 2018, and in 2021 we’re still waiting for reauthorization. For the past couple of years, the bill has languished in the Senate mostly because it would amend federal law to prohibit those convicted of dating violence and stalking from firearm ownership and force abusers to turn over their firearms. Disagreements over such prohibitions on gun ownership have resulted in VAWA remaining unauthorized for over two years. The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the likelihood by five times that a woman will be killed and the YWCA of Asheville strongly endorses H.R. 1620. This bill is a critical piece of bipartisan legislation that improves and expands services for survivors, closes loopholes to offer more protection, and provides further housing protections and economic security assistance for survivors. Click here to contact your officials today