Around 700 women suffer abuse or sexual assaults each day in the U.S.
By KANTELE FRANKO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University student Tara Salazar has lived on the East Side her whole life and says she has become accustomed to violence, like many other women in the area.
"I go to sleep at night hearing gun shots, and I don't even flinch anymore," Salazar said.
As a member of the human rights organization Amnesty International, Salazar has become particularly interested in violence against women and is speaking out about the issue.
The 26-year-old McGuffey Road resident is encouraging others to take a stand by signing a national petition to renew the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which expires at the end of September.
The petition to encourage Congress to renew VAWA before it expires is sponsored by 700 Women, a branch of AI's Stop Violence Against Women campaign. The 700 Women campaign gets its name from the statistic that 700 women are abused or sexually assaulted each day in the United States.
About the act VAWA supporters can sign an online petition at the Web site, www.700women.org, to encourage Congress to renew the act, which created new crimes for domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. The act was reauthorized in 2000 to provide funding for programs to educate people and help victims of those crimes.
If it is renewed this year, VAWA will target provisions for underserved groups such as elderly, disabled and minority women, those who have legally immigrated, and those in rural areas, said Heather Parker, the Ohio statewide coordinator for the Stop Violence Against Women campaign.
Salazar is one of more than 63,000 men and women who have signed the petition, including actresses Halle Berry and Mira Sorvino.
Salazar has taken her personal campaignfarther than a signature by downloading fliers and brochures to post around the community, and making a shirt to wear in support of 700 Women.
She said many crimes in Youngstown, especially domestic violence and rapes, have become so common that they don't get the attention they deserve.
"The violence is outrageous," she said. "Our world shouldn't be like that."
Statistics from various research groups show that incidents of domestic violence nationally have decreased by as much as 50 percent since VAWA initially was passed.
But in the Youngstown area, incidents of domestic violence have been increasing, said Malinda Gavins, director of the Sojourner House women's shelter.
"It continues to be a serious problem in this area," Gavins said. "There needs to be community involvement so that women aren't afraid to report it."
Salazar said one of her goals is to educate people about the fear and silence that victims of sexual assaults and domestic violence often experience.
"I want people to understand that it's not that they want to be there," in a position where they are too afraid to come forward as victims of violence, she said.