Letter from the Director
For more than four decades, our country has come together in a fight to end violence against women. This fight continues today in every state across this nation, and it is one we cannot afford to shrink from now. Much progress has been made, but too many challenges -- and too many victims -- remain.
New data released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control offer a stark reminder of what is at stake:
- In the United States, more than one in three women has experienced violence from an intimate partner during their lifetimes;
- Nearly one in five has been raped;
- Approximately one in six women has experienced stalking victimization.
These are crimes of intolerable pain and suffering; and these are crimes that touch the lives of an intolerable number of women.
Throughout a 30-year career in this field, I've worked with committed policy-makers and advocates at the state level to build Kentucky’s response to domestic violence and rape. We have established and funded battered women’s shelters and rape crisis centers; changed laws that have created and extended more protections to women and that have increased accountability for those who choose to perpetrate these harms. In the last few years, I have watched with appreciation as some of my colleagues have begun to design and evaluate programs that will not only treat, but also help prevent, incidences of violence against women.
Advancing efforts at prevention must involve understanding the root causes endemic to violence against women and the nature and extent of their harms. To that end, I have spent the last decade working with colleagues to develop an innovative research center at the University of Kentucky.
This fall we announced yet another major step forward in Kentucky’s fight to address violence against women. In partnership with Verizon Wireless, the Center has launched a first-of-its-kind scholarship program for battered women. The purpose of the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Program is to assist women in accessing education as a means of escaping the violence in their homes.
Why introduce access to college as part of the fight against violence? Research consistently demonstrates that college degrees can contribute to the financial status of graduates: over an adult's working life, college graduates earn on average nearly $1 million more than those holding only a high school degree. Women with a bachelor's degree earn 82 percent more than those without one.
The benefit of a college degree can also be a protective factor for battered women. We know that women living in poverty may be at increased risk of victimization and that economically disadvantaged neighborhoods have higher rates of intimate partner violence. Research also shows that experiences of intimate partner violence are associated with lower levels of employment for women.
Finally, one study of women who had been residents in domestic violence shelters found that those with the least financial resources were the most likely to be re-abused after leaving shelter. Importantly, when women have college degrees and earn higher incomes, they have more financial resources available to flee and remain free from abusive relationships.
And so the University of Kentucky’s Center for Research on Violence Against Women, relying on a strong partnership with Verizon Wireless, is stepping in to offer women who have been served by one of Kentucky’s domestic violence programs a scholarship opportunity; the opportunity to use college as a means of leaving violence behind. To make this possible, Verizon Wireless is donating $100,000 to the Center’s education endowment. The gift will provide a $4,000 scholarship to one woman each year. The Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Program is also a collaborative with the Registrar’s Office at the University; their supportive staff are eager to help women access all additional financial aid resources to which they are eligible. Women in our Empowerment Scholarship Program will also receive an academic advisor from the University and a domestic violence advocate from the Bluegrass Domestic Violence Program. This venture is an extraordinary coming together of the corporate community, the University, and the advocacy community all to the benefit of battered women and their children.
The Women’s Empowerment Program is among the newest innovations in our fight to end violence. I fervently hope that as you learn of our new program and the incredible potential it offers, you will be inspired by the generosity of Verizon Wireless and help expand the Women’s Empowerment Scholarship Program. Do as Verizon has done; create a scholarship in your own name; name it for someone you honor; name it for the cause. Let’s come together to end violence against women, one diploma at a time.
Carol E. Jordan