Kim Gandy, President and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence was the keynote speaker at Zonta Club of Dallas Advocacy Night on 28 October. Gandy spoke about legislation as well as the current status of women and trends related to violence against women. Gandy has spent decades fighting for and bringing attention to women’s rights and domestic violence. As an attorney she prosecuted violent offenders and was an instrumental force in the passing and two subsequent re-authorizations of the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA). She also served in a leadership capacity for 22 years at the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Gandy is the one national media outlets and even professional sports industry leaders turn to when they need pertinent and timely information on domestic violence issues. She has been featured in publications such as TIME and Newsweek and appeared on news programs on CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and NPR, and on “The Colbert Report,” “Oprah” and “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Kim shared statistics on the scope of domestic violence nationally as well as as how individual states are faring from information in her organization’s 24-hour Census of Domestic Violence Shelters and Services. For example, in a 24-hour survey, the National Network to End Domestic Violence found that U.S. domestic violence programs served nearly 65,321 victims and answered more than 23,045 crisis hotline calls in one day alone. The census illustrates how much work there is to do to meet victims’ needs.
In that same survey, 6,126 women were turned away from shelters/housing because there was no space for them. This is due to reduced government funding and staff, cuts from private funding sources and reduced individual donations. Kim also stated, “Domestic violence is a public health crisis. Abuse affects chronic diseases.” Cortisol is raised from being under constant stress and in fight or flight mode. Raised cortisol and adrenaline levels have negative effects on the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine and immune systems of victims.
If children are present in a home where domestic violence occurs, they also suffer long term health issues due to raised cortisol and adrenaline levels. This spurred some discussion in the room about how it might be something insurance companies could take note of and consider flagging domestic violence offenders as uninsurable or charge them higher rates, much like they do smokers. However, victims and their children who would most likely be negatively affected if this were to occur.
Kim shared stories from domestic violence victims are the same everywhere no matter which state or town in which they occur, what kind of neighborhood, what the socio-economic status of the victim is, their age, ethnicity, etc. She did mention that men can also be victims of domestic violence, but they usually have more means to escape than women do, so it is a different situation.
Former Club President and Area One Director elect, Barby Crabtree, opened the event and shared a bit about the Zonta Club of Dallas’s history. The Dallas club is 91 years old, the oldest service organization in Dallas, but is still probably one of the area’s “best kept secrets.” Club President, Lileen Coulloudon, closed the event by stating, “globally, gender-based violence is the most pervasive and least recognized human rights violations.” She also shared information about Zonta’s relationship with the United Nations and the meaning of the color orange that members in attendance were wearing. She provided a brief synopsis of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th as well as information about the 16 Days of Activism. She invited everyone to attend a future club meeting.
The event was attended by 40 club members and guests. There was a question and answer session as well as time for fellowship and networking. Several guests voiced an interest in finding out more about Zonta. The club is pleased to share Zonta’s mission with those who attended. This was the first time the club hosted this type of event and hopes to host more in the future.