State Radio’s Chad Stokes Speaks Out on Violence Against Women Act

Chad Stokes lists Dispatch and State Radio on his musical resume. But his passion lies equally with Calling All Crows, the non-profit service organization he founded with tour manager Sybil Gallagher that mobilizes musicians and fans to empower women around the world. In the Op-Ed piece below, they call on fans, citizens and U.S. Senators (particularly Scott Brown of Massachusetts) to support the Violence Against Women Act, currently before Congress.

Violence against women is the global issue of our generation.  It’s a devastating and costly crisis and, as the days, hours, and minutes tick down before D.C. closes up shop for the holidays, Congress has an unprecedented opportunity to do something about it by passing the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA).

Every day, atrocities are committed against women and girls around the world.  This terror takes many forms.  Women are beaten and murdered by their husbands.  Children are trafficked for sex.  Teenagers are caned because they were raped.  Girls are sexually assaulted as they seek food and water in refugee camps.  Brides are burned for dowries that are too small.  Women are murdered for (supposedly) “dishonoring” their families.

The consequences of this violence are exponentially far-reaching and grim.  Victims of violence face far greater risks for a host of health problems, including HIV/AIDS.  Many are unable to have healthy babies, or care for and support their families.  Fear spreads through communities.  Girls cannot go to school, women cannot hold jobs- and a result is increased poverty and instability.  To be clear, this is not an isolated or occasional problem; it happens across the globe every single day.  The United Nations reports that 1 in 3 women worldwide will be beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in their lives.  This is a gross violation of human rights and an intolerable moral outrage.

But there is something we can do about it.  We can urge Congress to pass IVAWA – legislation that would, for the first time, make stopping violence against women and girls a priority in U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid.  On Tuesday, I-VAWA was passed with bi-partisan support by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and we need your support to make sure it continues to move toward passage in Congress.  After years of grassroots lobbying, the comprehensive and multi-sectoral strategy outlined in IVAWA is closer than ever to passage, becoming law and being implemented.  And here’s what it will mean...

The International Violence Against Women Act (S. 2982) will:

  • mandate the appointment of senior officials in both the State Department and USAID to be responsible for the issue;
  • require interagency coordination, monitoring and evaluation of programs and regular briefings to Congress;
  • provide comprehensive, five-year individual country plans for 5-20 countries with high levels of violence against women and girls;
  • provide a strong programmatic component to respond to violence against women in humanitarian relief,  peacekeeping, conflict, and post-conflict settings; and
  • spotlight widespread violence against women and girls in real time – such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – by requiring the Secretary of State to develop emergency response plans.
  • Build the effectiveness of overseas non-governmental organizations – particularly women’s non-governmental organizations – in addressing violence against women.

A bi-partisan group of lawmakers has tirelessly championed IVAWA in 2010, including Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), as well as Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA), Ted Poe (R-TX) and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL).  In particular, we are so proud and thankful for the leadership of the author of IVAWA, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and our U.S. Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – John Kerry.

Our other elected representative, U.S. Senator Scott Brown, has yet to step up and co-sponsor the bill.  While these are challenging economic times, the investment that is outlined in I-VAWA is just a drop in the bucket for what we could – and should – be doing to end violence against women and girls around the world.  This legislation is a courageous first step.  We hope Senator Brown is able to find that courage and commit to doing his part to support and pass IVAWA before Congress recesses for the holidays.

There is broad support for this legislation.  A poll conducted last year for the Family Violence Prevention Fund and Women Thrive Worldwide found that 61 percent of voters said addressing global violence should be one of our government’s top priorities.  A majority believe that working to end violence against women will lead to greater economic and political stability worldwide - voters want our government to help end violence against women because they see it as an appalling human rights violation, a dangerous public health epidemic, an often-irreversible path to poverty, and a hideous tactic of war. They see passing I-VAWA as a step in the right direction.

And they’re right.  That’s why this legislation has such strong support from a broad-based coalition of leading international and domestic women’s, violence prevention, human rights and development organizations including Calling All Crows.

We speak out because we can.  We speak out because we refuse to live in a world in which violence against women is an everyday occurrence.  We speak out because one more woman raped, one more woman sexually assaulted, one more woman sacrificed to violence… is simply one too many.  We speak out because we can envision a world where women are lifted up and celebrated for their contributions to their family, community, nation, and world – instead of living in fear.

Speak out because you can. Urge your elected officials to support I-VAWA today.

Musician Chad Stokes (State Radio, Dispatch) and tour manager Sybil Gallagher are lifelong Massachusetts residents and co-founders of Calling All Crows, a service organization dedicated to mobilizing musicians and fans to empower women around the world.  At Calling All Crows’ 3rd Annual Benefit Show in Boston, the organization made a $100,000 donation to help Darfuri women start small businesses.

To learn more and take action on I-VAWA, please visit You also may view this video from OxFam America.