On 25 November, the Zonta Club of Gaylord Area fought high winds, cold temperatures and snow to honor the United Nations’ International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women by assembling a display on the courthouse lawn. 128 flags were solemnly placed. Each flag representing one of the reported Otsego County victims of domestic abuse or sexual assult from this past year. The Zonta Says No Banner was displayed behind the flags.
Jessica O’Dell, Victim Advocate for Otsego County, provided the statistics used by Zonta. From 1 October 2012 to 30 September 2013 there were 11 child abuse, 9 criminal sexual conduct and 108 domestic assault cases reported in Otsego County. Gina Theriault, local Zonta member and Community Corrections Services Program/Case Manger comments that “These are recorded numbers of abuse, and there are many more instances that are never reported. It is our goal to bring awareness to the situation and work towards reducing domestic violence within our community. If you are a victim of domestic abuse or rape/sexual assault we encourage you to call the Women’s Resource Center for help.” Jan Maninelli, Executive Director of the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan commented that “In addition to the numbers you already have, the Women’s Center served 23 sexual assault victims that would be among the numbers not reported to the police and/or prosecutor.”
Local Zonta members are collecting non-perishable food items for the Safe Home of the Women’s Resource Center of Northern Michigan during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. The Safe Home serves women escaping abuse from a five county area including Otsego County. Staff from Gaylord’s office will drive Otsego County residents to the Safe Home located in Petoskey.
Last year, the Safe Home provided 119 domestic abuse survivors and their children with 3,382 nights of refuge. Families were provided with more than 10,100 meals, as well as all their daily needs. Domestic abuse services for survivors are provided at no cost. The Zonta Club of Gaylord Area also sponsors an annual scholarship through the Women’s Resource Center to help Otsgeo County Women returning to school after escaping abuse.
Amber Theriault, President of the Zonta Club of Gaylord Area comments that “it is vital we not only support and advocate for local women, but also for women throughout our world. It is disturbing that one in three girls will experience violence. By better understanding the plight of victims on an international level we can better understand domestic developments. Look at human trafficking. It is an international problem that has become one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. Gangs have discovered that it is easier to obtain ‘product’ and that they are less likely to be prosecuted than when dealing drugs. Zonta International has worked to inform members through annual workshops and conferences so that we can better serve our communities. If you visit a rest-stop along I-96, you’ll likely to see one of Zonta International District 15’s posters translated in three languages with the Michigan Human Trafficking Hotline phone number.”
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Zonta International’s nearly 1,200 clubs in 65 countries are participating in this effort in their local communities in support of Zonta Says NO, a campaign to raise awareness of and increase actions to end violence against women and girls around the world through service and advocacy.
“We cannot and must not ignore the fact that violence against women and girls is still pervasive in all kinds of countries and societies, with one in three girls impacted during their lifetime,” said Zonta International President Lynn McKenzie. “It’s in our backyard. Zonta International has been committed to its prevention and eradication for many years. In 2013, as the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women focuses on fighting violence against women, we support the initiative with ‘Zonta Says NO’.”
Since June 2012, the Zonta International Foundation has raised more than $600,000 to fight violence against women. Zonta clubs across the world have organized more than 40 events as part of Zonta Says NO, from panel discussions on violence against women and screenings of topical films, to displaying Zonta Says NO banners and hosting charity auctions.
Zonta Says NO began in November 2012 and will continue through December 2013, focusing on the service and advocacy actions of Zonta clubs and districts to prevent and end violence against women and girls in their local communities. Zonta International’s ongoing efforts to end violence against women and girls are carried out through the Zonta International Strategies to End Violence against Women (ZISVAW) program and through Zonta’s partnerships with the United Nations and its agencies.