Making Democracy Work


Purpose of the VAW Action Team

The purpose the League of Women Voters Action Team is to mobilize a concerted effort against all forms of violence against all people, with a particular focus on those forms most often directed against women and LGBTQ+ individuals. The LWV Action teams seeks to advance this goal by the dissemination of information and resources, not through the provision of direct services.

History of the VAW Action Team

At the 1994 LWVUS Convention, the League adopted a position on Violence Prevention. Since then the League has continuously supported violence prevention and support programs in all communities (LWVUS: Impact On Issues 2016-2018). Also in 1994, the League endorsed the landmark Violence Against Women Act, which provided for assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence. In 2013, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act expanded the protection to include gays, lesbians, transgender individuals and Native Americans and immigrants.

VAW is a recent addition to LWVODC's list of Action Team topic. We first became interested in 2014 when the Durham Crisis Response Center invited LWVODC to work with them to increase awareness of domestic violence in our community. DCRC counselor gave a thoughtful talk about the challenges faced by families of violence as well as organizations providing support. LWVODC, however, did not follow up with further events.

The topic was revisited in January 2015, when, in response to an LWVODC Focus Area Survey, numerous members wrote in violence against women as their top area of interest. Also, during this time campuses around the country were screening the movie, "The Hunting Ground," which featured sexual assault on campuses, including the UNC-Chapel Hill. Given that our counties house three large universities and multiple community colleges and our members' interest, LWVODC decided to examine violence against women in depth and formed the Action Team.

Background Information about Domestic Violence

  • One of the most critical and common questions surrounding violence against women is why a survivor would stay with her abuser. In order to create a non-judgmental and supportive community for survivors, we should understand that survivors are making the best choice they can at that moment, from the choices available to them. Survivors often stay due to lack of resources or fear for the well being of themselves, their children, their family, or even their pets. Leaving an abusive relationship can be an extremely traumatic, challenging, and dangerous experience and should not be trivialized.
  • Secondary Survivors: "Secondary survivors" are individuals who are not personally experiencing violence, but who are supporting a friend, loved one, coworker, neighbor, or other individual with whom they have a close relationship that is directly experiencing violence. This can also be a painful and upsetting experience, and it is crucial for secondary survivors to practice self-care while being a supportive relationship. Secondary survivors should seek to be empowering figures that do not personally determine what is best for the survivor, but instead provide a non-judgmental, compassionate, and safe environment. Secondary survivors may also want to provide access to resources, both material and organizational.
  • The Power and Control Wheel is a tool to help survivors, secondary survivors, advocates, team members, or interested league members understand the forms that abuse can take.
  • Fact sheets about Domestic Violence can be found at the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Policy and Politics Surrounding VAW in NC and Orange-Durham-Chatham

Current NC Legislative Goals

Information adapted from the NC Coalition Against Domestic Violence's legislative agenda

  • State Budget: 2017-2018 State budget does not make any cuts in funding to domestic violence. However, funding increases are needed.
  • "Amend `Disclosure of Private Images' Offense to Improve Victim Safety and Offender Accountability": The recently-passed "Disclosure of Private Images" law has made what is commonly referred to as "revenge porn", or "the incredibly harmful act of disseminating explicit images of someone without their consent" (NCCADV) illegal. However, this law can be improved to:

    1) protect all victims of this crime and not only those who are in a `personal relationship'...;
    2) protect victims whose images were originally taken without their consent; and
    3) protect victims when perpetrators superimpose images on their likeness" (NCCADV).

  • "Provide Protection to DV Survivors while DVPOs are on Appeal": Amend legislation to ensure that domestic violence survivors are protected while their Domestic Violence Protective Orders are on appeal.
  • "Amend NC General Statute 50B to Provide Equal Protection for All DV Survivors": Remove Domestic Violence Protective Order qualifications that require a dating relationship to be heterosexual for an Order to be granted
  • "Amend NC General Statute 50B to Clarify that Judges have Discretion to Remove Firearms": Amend legislation to "reinstate our district court judges' authority to order the surrender of firearms in any DVPO case where the judge finds it an appropriate remedy for the safety of the victim and children" (NCCADV).
  • "Technical Provisions Clean Up": "NCCADV has completed a comprehensive review of statutes related to domestic violence and stalking and has identified several technical inconsistencies/holes. The LWV Action Team supports amending these as follows:

    1) Add `cyber stalking' as a crime and `child in common' as a relationship which triggers a `domestic violence hold' in N.C.G.S. 15A-534.1, `Pre-trial release conditions for crimes of domestic violence';
    2) Revise the definitions section of the NC Victim's Rights Act, N.C.G.S. 15A-830(a)(7)(d) to include victims of strangulation (N.C.G.S. 14-32.4(b))."

  • "Support Fully Funding the Housing Trust Fund and Family Court": In order to provide survivors with the best support available, the Housing Trust Fund and Family Court should be fully funded to provide affordable housing and speedy legal action, respectively.

How LWV Members Can Help and Community Resources

Members can help through influencing policy action, volunteering with or donating to "on-the-ground" or policy groups, and advocating for change in their communities.

Community Resources
The following groups are working on these issues in our local communities and can provide additional resources: