WASHINGTON - July 22 - Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) launched today its 700women.org campaign, an innovative web-based initiative to push for congressional reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) -- legislation that has helped millions of domestic violence and sexual assault victims and is due to expire in September.
"Women in the United States are safer because of VAWA; they are much more likely to find alternatives when the home is no longer a safe haven," said Dr. William F. Schulz, Executive Director of AIUSA. "Failing to reauthorize the act would be a symbolic return to the Stone Ages, when women suffered the scourge of domestic violence in silence."
As part of its multi-year Stop Violence Against Women (SVAW) campaign, AIUSA launched 700women.org to encourage rapid, widespread support of VAWA reauthorization. Designed to reach the public on a very personal level through survivors' and activists' individual testimonies, 700women.org is founded on startling statistics: 700 women in the United States are raped or sexually assaulted by their partners each day.
The campaign's title illustrates its goal: enlisting 700 people to take action each day on behalf of the 700 victims. By signing a petition in support of VAWA and forwarding a link to others, thousands of activists will indicate to Congress how imperative VAWA is for women nationwide. As the campaign unfolds, 700women.org will identify community leaders that will organize local lobbying efforts. The organization will also publicize the campaign through extensive online advertising and promotion.
First passed in 1994, VAWA has led to pivotal improvements in criminal justice and community-based responses to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in the United States. Since its implementation, states have passed more than 660 laws to protect victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, demonstrating the considerable impact of the act. Passage of VAWA is a centerpiece of AIUSA's SVAW campaign.
To encourage public participation in the campaign, Academy AwardR-winning actresses Halle Berry and Mira Sorvino have joined 700women.org and lent their own testimonies to the site. Ms. Berry, AIUSA's spokesperson for VAWA reauthorization, hopes to meet with congressional representatives in Washington, D.C., in the future to discuss passage of the bill. Ms. Sorvino, a spokeswoman for AIUSA's SVAW campaign, works with the organization on several issues, including the rape of women in Sudan and the trafficking of women to Kosovo.
"Grassroots activism has gone online, facilitating instant action and participation," said Sheila Dauer, Director of AIUSA's Women's Human Rights Program. "By joining 700women.org, Ms. Berry and Ms. Sorvino will have a tremendous impact on a public that now lives by the Internet. We are grateful to them, as well as the Senators and Representatives, for raising awareness about the need to bring the epidemic of domestic violence to a halt and to reauthorize a comprehensive and effective VAWA."