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We're All Part of the History Being Made in Virginia Today

Statement from NOW President Toni Van Pelt

January 15, 2020

RICHMOND, VA - After a hundred-year journey full of heartbreaks and triumphs, the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is poised to finally be part of the Constitution of the United States. NOW President Toni Van Pelt is standing on the floor of the Virginia's House of Delegates today as they vote to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA.

In a historic election in November, voters swept in a feminist majority in the state legislature committed to passing the ERA, and those legislators fulfilled their promise. For more than a half century winning a constitutional guarantee of equality for women has been a top priority for NOW, with our grassroots activists mounting countless protests, rallies and marches. Now we are about to see those years of mobilizing come to fruition.

"I am proud and honored to be walking in Eleanor Smeal's footsteps as the president of NOW, especially as we cross the finish line of ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment," Van Pelt said. "I'm also so grateful to NOW activist and leader Virgina Delegate Hala Ayala for her grit and determination to make women's equal rights a reality in our lifetime."

"I have fought for the passage of the ERA for over a decade, long before I was elected to office," Delegate Ayala said. "That is why I am proud to be the Chief Co-Patron for the Equal Rights Amendment as its passage finally guarantees true gender equality in the US Constitution. Today is a major victory for women and girls throughout the country."

"Virginia has taken a huge step forward for Women's Rights and Equality in passing the Equal Rights Amendment," said Virginia NOW President Connie Cordovilla. "The rights of women under the law in our United States have moved forward 400 hundred years in a single day! How fitting it is that Hala Ayala, a Latina, has brought change to the lives of women in the Commonwealth and United States from this day forward."

Just like Alice Paul when she first started her brave journey for the ERA in the 1920s, Virginia's House of Delegates made history today. Next, the bills from the state Senate and House of Delegates will each be agreed to by the other body and ratification will become official. NOW salutes the new leadership of the Virginia General Assembly, the feminist majority that took this vote, and all the activists, NOW members, women voters and believers in true democracy who made this happen.

National Organization for Women Supports Survivors at Bill Cosby Trial

June 13, 2017

Kathy Maniscalco, Montgomery County NOW Secretary and representative for chapter with NY City NOW demonstrating support for Andrea Constand in her charge of rape against Bill Cosby at the Norristown Courthouse on Tuesday, June 13. They are around Gloria Allred.

The National Organization for Women hailed the courage of Andrea Constand in testifying in the trial of Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges, as NOW activists joined forces across state lines in a show of support for survivors of sexual assault.

"Andrea Constand's bravery is bringing the issue of sexual assault out of the shadows," said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NY. "She has the gratitude of survivors everywhere for speaking out."

Ossorio also praised Montgomery County prosecutors for their work. "District Attorney Kevin Steele took up the tough work of prosecuting a wealthy and famous defendant, when other prosecutors would not have had the spine to do so," Ossorio said. "Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feder brought compassion and skill to the trial and demonstrated her deep understanding of the unique dynamics of sexual assault. We need more prosecutors who are willing to go forward on difficult cases when it is the right thing to do."

Kathleen Shank, president of the Montgomery County chapter of NOW, emphasized that the Bill Cosby trial was a window onto a much wider problem. "This is such a high profile case, but sexual assault is happening all over our country," said Shank. "It's unacceptable that this is considered normal by some people."

"It's vital that we have a strengthened and funded Violence Against Women Act which has made it possible for these court cases even to exist," Shank continued. "Before VAWA there were very few services available to help survivors of rape and sexual violence."

Jane Manning, Director of Advocacy with NOW's sister organization Women's Justice NOW, said that the Cosby trial was a unique opportunity to spread awareness about sex crimes that involve drugging. "Drug-facilitated sexual assault is a hideous and underprosecuted crime. It's horrible for the victims, who are attacked when they are totally vulnerable, often because they were rendered vulnerable by the perpetrator."

"To make matters worse," Manning continued, "Victims of drug-facilitated sexual assault often face extra layers of blame and doubt. We need more police and prosecutors to become knowledgeable about this crime, so that they understand what to look for, how to assess victim credibility fairly, and how to build strong cases."

Rape, Violence and Equality

June 10, 2017

By Kathleen Shank, President Montgomery County NOW

The Bill Cosby and Andrea Constand rape trial is a high profile trial, but there are rape trials in court houses all across our nation. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost one in five women in the United States have been raped or experienced an attempted rape. This violence against women is pervasive because it is seen as normal by rapists and supporters. It is morally unacceptable! These court cases have only been possible since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) that has also made services available for survivors. VAWA has helped support improved law enforcement for rape, domestic violence and stalking cases as well as necessary services. More than 12 million individuals experience domestic violence annually according to the CDC. Many rape crisis centers and shelters have a wait list of a month or more because there needs to be more funding to meet the demand. It is vital we immediately call our United States Senators and Representatives requesting their support and vote for adequate funding for a strong VAWA.

There is a struggle in our country between two groups of people. There are those in support of equality for all people, and those in support of the right of men to rule over women that is then extended to their rule over other groups so there is less competition for money and power. The rule of men over women is hierarchical thinking known as patriarchy where the value of men is greater than the value of women as a group. This idea then extends to the value of some men over other men. These men exalt themselves as rulers and make laws to give themselves more rights than women and others. They seek to control women and use violence to defend their power. Rapists and perpetrators of violence use this type of hierarchical thinking about the value of women and others over which they seek to rule.

We need to start with law followed by education to help achieve equality for women and others, so we first need to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the United States Constitution so women will be more fully included and valued in our society. Everyone will benefit by being equal under the law. This would be more freedom and justice for all. Please call your United States Senators and Representative to pressure them to support and pass the ERA.

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