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A Stamp To Stamp Out Domestic Violence

Kumu Gupta

As we marked 23rd Anniversary of VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) on Sept. 13th 2017 and October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I wanted to talk about my proposals to the US Postal Service and United Nations Postal Administration for a postal stamp for Domestic Violence Awareness.

Here in the U.S., as per National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) , every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten and an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. Being in the U.S. has not made it easy for  victims of domestic violence in Indian American community to seek help either. Even today, Indian women continue to suffer in silence due to pressures of the culture and their upbringing and some consider it their fate they deserve for not being a good ‘bahu’ (daughter-in-law). The ultimate fear that stops women from reporting abuse and getting help is the ‘disgrace’ it will bring to their family back home in India and fear of abandonment in a foreign land. One main cause for domestic violence in the Indian community  is the arranged marriage system, where a young man feels pressured into marrying a girl of his parents choice in India, while he might be with another girl in the US who might not be Indian. And this phenomenon knows no status or education level’s.

As per Saheli, a South Asian women’s support group based in Boston metro area providing free support to domestic violence victims, their Domestic Violence Program from January 2016 to December 2016 showed  total # of Clients: 182  with total # Advocates : 11 and case load growing 16 to 20 % each year. And between 2012 and 2015, Saheli domestic violence advocates served over 577 survivors of domestic violence. During that time period, these advocates spent close to 3,000 hours in meetings with women and families to counsel them, create individualized safety plans, and provide referrals to housing, legal, economic, immigration, and mental health resources. In 2015 alone, Saheli advocates spent over 681 hours assisting domestic violence survivors (Source: Saheli).

In 2011 President Obama awarded the President’s Citizen’s Medal to Vijaya Emani (posthumously, as she was killed in car accident ) for her courage in overcoming speaking out against abuse. According to the White House, Emani became a role model for victims of domestic abuse because of her strength and determination in overcoming domestic abuse in her own life. She broke a long-held taboo in the Indian American community by speaking out about the issue publicly. 

VAWA was authored by then Senator Joe Biden and we are so fortunate to have Vice President Joe Biden at the helm fighting on behalf of victims. As Vice President Biden has said “ No one deserves to be abused and no woman should ever blame herself ".

Thus last October, during Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I filed a  proposal for a Forever Domestic Violence Awareness Stamp with the US Postal Service and in April this year a proposal with the U.N. Postal Administration for a U.N. Domestic Violence Awareness Stamp, who said they would give it consideration. I felt having such a Postal Stamp would make this  issue prominently  visible to everyday people both in the US and globally on a regular basis, every time someone mail’s something, for a long time to come.

In 2019 when the USPS stamp is expected to be issued , if approved by the USPS Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, it will be the 25th Anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). In 2003, a special Stop Family Violence Semi postal Stamp was issued by USPS by special Act of Congress, a percentage of whose sales went to Dept. of Health and Human Services for Domestic Violence programs. The Stop Family Violence semi postal stamp, authorized by P.L. 107–67, the Stamp Out Domestic Violence Act of 2001, provided assistance to the programs and organizations fighting domestic violence. The stamp was issued on October 8, 2003.

I also looked into reviving the authorization of IVAWA, International Violence Against Women Act, legislation to address violence against women through United States foreign policy, filed by my former Congressman William Delahunt and was told it will be reconsidered soon.

"He For She " Stamps image Courtesy UNPA

(Kumu Gupta has been volunteering her time to help victims of domestic violence for past few years and is recipient of MA Governor, Norfolk County District Attorney Citations and was nominated in 2011 for President’s Citizens Medal (White House) for her work. )

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