ABC News’ Sarah Parnass and Freda Kahen-Kashi report:
A week after President Obama signed a bill reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, celebrities and business leaders came to the Capitol today to end domestic abuse.
Actors from television and film joined advocates in Washington, D.C., to celebrate “No More Day,” a day of the No More campaign designated to raise awareness about patterns of domestic violence and sexual assault that still take place in the United States.
“Twilight” actress Ashley Greene kicked off the day’s events, while “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’s” Mariska Hargitay and “Project Runway’s” Tim Gunn played roles later on.
Greene spoke at a Senate briefing about findings of a recent survey on dating violence among teens and young adults.
“If we want to encourage bystanders to become upstanders, it’s essential that young adults are educated early in their teen years so they know what to look for and what to do,” Greene told a hearing room full of advocates and members of the media this morning. “Simply telling a friend that you support them and that they don’t deserve to suffer can make an enormous difference. Spreading these messages is exactly why the No More campaign is so important.”
— Ashley Greene (@AshleyMGreene) March 13, 2013
Greene identified herself as a voice “out for those who cannot speak out for themselves,” but she also served as a brand ambassador for Avon’s mark brand. Greene announced mark’s plans to donate $125,000 for 25 new grants for colleges looking to expand programs that prevent or raise awareness about sexual assault and relationship violence.
Mark President Meg Lerner said Avon was founded on a desire to empower women.
“We believe that women deserve the right and the opportunity to earn an income to support themselves and their families,” Lerner said at the briefing, “because when women have this opportunity to earn an income, it has a powerful ripple effect on their families as well as on their communities.”
— Joyful Heart Found. (@TheJHF) March 13, 2013
Hargitay left an event with Vice President Joe Biden to speak at a luncheon at the National Press Club, where she addressed issues regarding the way rape kits are processed.
“If you get a rape kit done, we assume that it gets tested,” said Hargitay, who plays a detective on TV. “The bottom line here is a rape kit can bring justice, often an integral part of the survivor’s healing, and it is vital in keeping rapists off the street. And yet, federal authorities estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of untested rape kids across the country.”
Hargitay is founder and president of the Joyful Heart Foundation, an advocacy organization for victims of sexual assault. JHF held a live Twitter chat about domestic violence and sexual assault Wednesday afternoon for those who couldn’t be in Washington.
Gunn could not be at any of the events in the city, but the fashion dean at Fifth & Pacific Companies, Inc. (formerly Liz Claiborne Inc.) lent his voice to those condemning abuse and supporting No More Day.
Gunn wrote in an op-ed published today that victims of domestic abuse are not strangers.
“They are our co-workers, our friends, or family,” Gunn wrote. “But too often, domestic violence and sexual assault are hidden and the pain of the individual is unknown, largely owing to feelings of embarrassment, shame, and even self-loathing.”
His letter advocated using the No More symbol – a turquoise circle outlined in silver, with a smaller circle cut out in the middle like a thick letter O – to combat the stigma associated with domestic violence in the United States.
“No More – like the pink ribbon for breast cancer and the red ribbon for AIDS – can reduce this stigma by making the issues more visible. With more people using the symbol, sharing the symbol, and seeing the symbol whenever there is a publicized incident of domestic violence and sexual assault, No More can raise radical new awareness that these problems occur around us every day and in every region of the country,” Gunn wrote.
Other important figures who contributed to No More Day included Christine Mau, the European design director at Kimberly-Clark, who shared her heart-wrenching story of escaping an abusive family and partner; Samantha Yakal-Kremski of the Verizon Foundation and Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Utah, who poked his head into the hearing to “take a break from budget wars” and to thank those in attendance for their work to end domestic violence.
Crapo said he intended to introduce an amendment Thursday to help victims receive services through the Crime Victims Fund.
Elsewhere on the Hill, veterans who were sexually assaulted and harassed in the military testified before a Senate subcommittee about their experiences with sexual violence.