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AAUW Update: Advocating policies to end gender discrimination

Even though it was a short, 35-day legislative session, and there wouldn’t be many bills in play, six women from the Ashland branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) made their annual trek to Salem for their February Lobby Day at the Oregon state capitol.

Sixty-three women from Oregon AAUW branches, including Regina Ayars, Sara Brown, Phyllis Fernlund, Susan Hollandsworth and Catherine Lutes from the Ashland branch and Susan Moen representing Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) convened at the capitol to meet with their legislators.

The morning program focused on Title IX: There shall be no discrimination in any educational institution based on gender.

A series of briefings helped prepare attendees for discussions with their legislators about Oregon’s policies on sexual harassment. The speakers were Jackie Sandmeyer of the Campus Coordinator Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Task Force; Sybil Hebb, Legislative Director at the Oregon Law Center; Karin Moscon, Education Equity—Civil Rights specialist at the Oregon Department of Education; and Jackie Swanson, an attorney with Graves & Swanson LLC.

The Ashland contingent had separate meetings with Sen. Alan DeBoer and Rep. Pam Marsh and acknowledged them for their work in passing Oregon’s Equal Pay Act of 2017. (AAUW Ashland will provide information to the community about the Act on April 10, Equal Pay Day.) Rep. Marsh was acknowledged for her work in helping pass HB 4145, which closes the “Intimate Partner Loophole,” also known as the Boyfriend Bill, by preventing convicted stalkers and domestic violence offenders from buying guns and keeping guns.

The Ashland women raised two concerns in their conversations with DeBoer and Marsh: staffing for Title IX oversight and resources for K-12 Violence Prevention training. In the morning briefings, attendees learned that Karin Moscon from the Oregon Department of Education was allotted only one-fourth of her time for her Title IX Coordinator responsibilities. A single, one-quarter time employee seemed inadequate to monitor sexual harassment cases in Oregon’s public schools.

A handout from the Sexual Assault Task Force Oregon cited statistics that “Oregon remains second in the nation in rates of sexual violence, where 1 in 4 women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime, and 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys experience sexual abuse before turning 18, with the highest prevalence rates occurring between the ages of 12-17.”

Susan Moen, Executive Director of Jackson County SART, pointed out that while Oregon has passed legislation in support of sexual violence prevention and response, there is inadequate funding to provide the necessary infrastructure and prevention education programs to end violence before it happens.

The Ashland AAUW women appreciated the willingness of Sen. DeBoer and Rep. Marsh to meet with them and engage in mutual sharing of information and concerns. AAUW sees Lobby Day as citizenship in action.

— AAUW Update, a report prepared by members of the American Association of University Women, Ashland Branch, appears quarterly. For more information, go to ashland-or.aauw.net.