This is an opinion piece written by Heather Campbell, executive director of the Advocacy Center of Tompkins County. It was NOT written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit an opinion piece, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Can’t Imagine Closing, Even For a Day. Why the Advocacy Center can’t strike on March 8th.
March 8th is International Women’s Day and women in Ithaca and across the world will join the Day Without Women General Strike to acknowledge the value that women of all backgrounds add to our communities–while receiving lower wages, experiencing greater inequity, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, domestic and sexual violence, and job insecurity. At the Advocacy Center, Tompkins County’s only provider of domestic and sexual violence services, our 20 staff will not strike. Not because we don’t collectively support the issues that the strike represents, but because we know all too well what it means for a survivor of domestic or sexual violence to not receive the support and care that they deserve.
Last year the Advocacy Center provided supportive service to 1,336 children, teens and adults in our community who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault or child sexual abuse. Our dedicated staff and volunteers answered over 1,400 hotline calls and each month we hear from an average of 35 new clients. But numbers don’t represent the real stories and real people that we hear from each day. Victims of domestic violence who know they and their children aren’t safe, but who have no place to go. Parents who are struggling to understand how someone they trusted sexually abused their child. College students who were raped but can’t quite say the words yet. Every day our staff works to empower victims of abuse and help them find safety and healing, often against great odds.
We can’t imagine closing, for even a day. However, we know that our program and many programs like ours across New York State and the United States are in real jeopardy. Federal programs, like the extremely successful and bipartisan Violence Against Women’s Act, are at risk of being defunded. Not cut–defunded. This would decimate domestic and sexual violence programs across the US and result in cuts to services in Tompkins County that will cause irreparable harm to victims of abuse.
On March 8th our staff will continue to provide critical support to victims of abuse. In addition, staff will provide opportunities for survivors and allies to protest elimination of the Violence Against Women Act funding through their stories and photos. We will educate our community on the impact of sexual and domestic violence and actions we can all take to make sure survivors’ voices are heard. We invite you to join us. For more information about how to take action to support victims of violence check out our Facebook page. www.facebook.com/AdvocacyCente