Today, women around the world are striking from their paid and unpaid work to demonstrate the magnitude of our contributions to society. This global protest coincides with International Women’s Day, which “celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.” Although women’s value to our socio-economic system is undeniable, we are still given lower wages, experience higher rates of workplace discrimination and harassment, and are more vulnerable to other forms of social injustice and inequity. Go figure.
Following January’s National Women’s March, A Day Without a Woman hopes to bring women together in solidarity to demand gender equality on a systemic level. This is important to women in the U.S. during our current presidential administration, which seeks to further oppress women by revoking our freedoms and chipping away at our nation’s progress. One of the most alarming developments is the targeting of the Violence Against Women Act. If federal funds provided through VAWA were cut, it would limit, or perhaps eliminate, programs and centers that provide much needed services and support to sexual assault and domestic violence survivors nation-wide.
As a victim advocate at a sexual assault center, my coworkers and I are afraid. Not only is our job security at risk, but we face unemployment by something other than our own terms. Our ultimate goal is to work until the job is no longer needed. And our jobs are very much needed, right now and for the foreseeable future.
We witness firsthand how prevalent sexual assault and domestic violence is in our communities. Someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. Twenty Americans are abused by an intimate partner every 60 seconds. By that math, there are 30,000 victimizations over a span of only one day in the U.S. alone. Furthermore, most of these survivors have or will experience multiple instances of sexual assault and domestic violence throughout their lifetime. These traumatic experiences can have long-term negative impacts on individual survivors, as well as their loved ones, and even their communities.
Knowing this, we understand how important our services are. Survivors deserve ongoing counseling and advocacy. They deserve justice, whether or not that means going through the criminal justice system. They deserve someone who will, above all else, believe them and treat them with dignity and respect. If we close our doors, we deny survivors their basic human right to freedom and equality.
As a staff made up entirely of women, we are moved to see women around us working together. As nonprofit employees, who sacrifice a salary that accurately reflects our time and effort, we appreciate the demand for recognition of what is commonly deemed “women’s work.” As advocates for survivors, serving predominantly women (who make up 90% of rape and sexual assault victims), we also look forward to a day where all women experience gender and social equity. But because of the work we do, we have to show up. We have to keep our doors open. The possibility of them permanently closing is too real for us to entertain.
It’s important to note that many women won’t be able to strike today due to lack of support, financial stability, or various other barriers. Thankfully, A Day Without a Woman has offered other forms of protest for those of us who can’t strike. Organizers have asked protesters to wear red, a color associated with the labor movement, as well as revolutionary love and sacrifice, as a symbol of solidarity with women who make difficult sacrifices for themselves, their families, and their communities. Organizers have also suggested that protesters avoid shopping (with the exception of small, women- and minority-owned businesses) to demonstrate the value of women consumers (which is very important in a capitalist economy). These are actions sexual assault and domestic violence program staff can take and still keep our doors open to the thousands of women—and men—in our communities who need our services.
In addition to wearing red and mindful spending, consider adding a call to your local representatives to your to-do list today. Urge them to defend VAWA, Planned Parenthood, Roe v. Wade, and trans students’ rights. You can also support your local sexual assault center or domestic violence shelter by donating your time and/or money to their programming. This type of support will be even more imperative if federal funding is cut.
Although many women are marginalized and silenced—especially those who are impoverished, POC, immigrants, with disabilities, Muslim, and LGBTQ—we still have the power to make an impact. There is value to a woman’s job, a woman’s dollar, a woman’s voice, and a woman’s determination. There is strength in women, across all spectra, who come together to demand equality and prosperity for each other. Change is possible where there is will, where there is collaboration, and where there are women to push toward it.