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V is for Vote in Cincinnati

Originally published in:
The Cincinnati Post

The YWCA's battered women's shelter in Cincinnati is over capacity.

The Rape Crisis and Abuse Center of Hamilton County is straining to respond to 10,000 calls a year from abused women.

Federal funding for both organizations has been stagnant or reduced in the last several years while problems escalate.

Disturbing statistics like those have prompted the playwright of "Vagina Monologues" to visit Cincinnati Wednesday with a call for voters to choose the candidates in November who will respond best to an epidemic of violence against women.

Eve Ensler, founder of V-Day, an international organization seeking an end to violence against women and girls, said all people should consider sexual and physical abuse of women a top national priority.

"It's not a women's issue. It's everybody's issue," she said.

Her organization is not endorsing candidates but encouraging voters to ask questions, including:

• Whether they feel safer than they did four years ago.

• Whether the Bush administration has followed up on promises to improve the lives of women in Afghanistan and Iraq.

• Whether federal funds are being properly used to fight sexual and physical abuse of women.

Ensler said the problem affects everyone. In addition to the women assaulted, their children and spouses suffer. A mother scarred by rape may have trouble instilling a healthy attitude about men in her sons.

A woman may be too scarred to engage in a healthy sexual relationship with her spouse, sometimes suffering flashbacks years after being assaulted, she said. "If you look at the faces of the women who have been raped, you know it has changes their lives forever," Ensler said.

She was joined Wednesday by Ann McDonald, director of the Rape Crisis Center of Hamilton County, and Charlene Ventura, YWCA president and CEO.