We Have to Protect Women and Girls

We all have women in our life that we care deeply about, mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters. And there are some really frightening issues facing them in this country right now, that need to be addressed. But it isn't what you might be thinking as you read this. The issues threatening this nation's women and girls aren't transgender people, or who is using which bathroom. The problems are much deeper rooted in the fabric of this society, and we've swept them under the rug. Conservatives are going on and on about protecting women and young girls from something that isn't a problem, while deliberately ignoring the real problems at hand. So here are some issues that really are a problem, and where you might be able to better focus your time and energy:

Domestic Violence: According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. An average of three women per day are murdered by an intimate partner. 45% of children in these homes will also be abused. According to the CDC, children who have been exposed to family violence suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as bed- wetting or nightmares, and are at greater risk than their peers of having allergies, asthma, gastrointestinal problems as well as chronic headaches, and are more prone to aggressive outbursts in school. The CDC estimates that the national cost of domestic violence is approximately 8.3 billion due to medical treatments, mental health care and loss of productivity. The average sentence for a man who kills his female intimate partner? 4-6 years. So what can be done? Visit http://16days.thepixelproject.net/16-ways-to-stop-domestic-violence-in-your- community/ to learn more about how you can make a difference.

Rape: According to the Department of Justice and the CDC, 1 in 6 women will be the victim of rape in her lifetime. And 80% of those will be raped by someone they know. You might also be surprised to know that only 1 out of 6 rapes are reported, and there are an estimated 700,000 untested rape kits in the U.S. Some of these kits date back decades and the victims have suffered while their attacker roams free. Women aren't a priority when it comes to the funds to test the kits, and even when they are tested, and a perpetrator identified, the sentences are often very light. Visit https://rainn.org/get-information/sexual-assault-prevention/bystanders-can-help to learn more about putting an end to rape culture.

Sex Trafficking: Since 2007, there have been 14,588 reported sex trafficking cases in the U.S. In a 2014 report, the Urban Institute estimated that the underground sex economy ranged from $39.9 million in Denver, Colorado, to a staggering $290 million in Atlanta, Georgia. The average age of sex slaves in the U.S. is 12-14 years old. And the average ratio of convicted offenders to victims? 8.5% to every 100 (U.S. Dept of State). Learn more and help stop sex trafficking at: https://traffickingresourcecenter.org

Women's Reproductive Health: There is so much controversy in the U.S. surrounding whether comprehensive healthcare for women should include birth control, abortion, or even reproductive healthcare and preventative care. Many women are unable to afford birth control, and some insurance plans refuse to cover it. Thankfully, organizations such as Planned Parenthood are able to provide these women low or no cost birth control, yet many Americans want to do away with Planned Parenthood. We have a cultural war going on around what a woman should and should not be able to do with her own body. In 2013, more than 486 bills related to restricting women's health and access to reproductive rights have been introduced in various state legislatures. However, zero restrictions regarding men's bodies and healthcare have been presented on the floors of statehouses in the U.S. We don't always know a woman's circumstances , or reasons for making a particular healthcare choice. A woman cannot necessarily avoid an unwanted pregnancy if the option to use birth control is out of reach. She cannot make a real decision about whether to end a pregnancy, have a child, or choose adoption if the option to have an abortion is unaffordable and out of reach. Repeated studies done by national and international experts have shown that restrictions on abortion don't reduce frequency, but rather increase women's dependance on illegal and unsafe procedures.Yet we continue to allow male politicians to decide women's futures. To learn more, please visit: http:// www.reproductiverights.org/our-regions/united-states

The Wage Gap: Women still make .77 for every dollar their male counterpart makes in the same field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics studied 535 full-time occupations in 2014, and in the 125 occupations that had comparable earnings data, men earned more than women in every one of those professions, except for stock clerks and order fillers. The profession with the largest wage gap in the study was personal financial advisor, showing a startling $633 difference in pay per week. In looking at the top 100 major tech companies, only 6% of chief executives are women. The biggest culprit in the wage gap issue? Women have to juggle both their career and the at home responsibilities that disproportionately fall on their shoulders. In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that the "second shift" is still a major issue. Only 20 percent of men reported helping out with housework and child care responsibilities. So what can we do? More companies need to implement policies that enable women to be both moms and workers, such as paid family leave and supported childcare. Society also needs to encourage men to take a fair share of at home responsibilities. Men aren't encouraged to stay home with sick kids, that responsibility is automatically thrust on working Mothers, and is then used against her as an excuse for paying her less. Learn more about the "Second Shift" at: http://red- party.com/women-work-and-the-second-shift/

These are all pressing issues that are affecting this nation's women and girls. Stop falling for the conservative smokescreen; this has nothing to do with safety. It has everything to do with politics and divisiveness. Transgender people have been using the facility they feel appropriate for them for years without incident. There is no inherent danger in sharing a public bathroom with a transgender person. In the 17 states and 225 cities that protect a transgender person's rights, there have been no incidents of the law being used maliciously to harm women and girls in any way. In fact, it is transgender women who are most at risk in cities and states enacting bathroom bans. Forcing these women into male facilities doesn't protect anyone, it is only begging for violence. 22 trans women were murdered in the U.S in 2015, and so far in 2016 we are in the high teens. We are better than this as a country. Transgender people are not the enemy. So few people actually take the time to educate themselves and understand us. If you're reading this and fall into that group, please take the time to go to http:// www.transequality.org/issues/resources/understanding-transgender-people-faq and become part of the solution so that we can all work together to combat the real issues facing the women in our lives.