Violence Against Women Act (1994)
and Take Back the Night Marches
Grade Level: Grades 10-12
Estimated Time: One class period
What courageous steps are women taking to confront domestic violence?
Excerpt from “Breaking the Rule of Thumb,” a film by Andrea K. Elovson. (Running time 6:11) Used with permission. The complete film is available from Women Make Movies.
In 1972, feminists in Washington, D.C. founded the nation’s first rape crisis center. Other centers were soon established across the country. In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The act was created in response to the nation-wide, grassroots work of activists concerned with domestic violence, sexual assault, date rape, and stalking. This lesson introduces students to the history of efforts to stop violence against women.
Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of how grassroots efforts led to the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.
Students will be able to understand the connections between local and national efforts to end violence against women.
How is violence against women rooted in gender discrimination and inequality?
Why is violence (against women or any violence) a community problem and not a private problem?
Computer with Speakers and Internet Access
This Lesson Plan (PDF)
Warm Up Activity: Film Viewing and Discussion
Show a clip from the film Breaking the Rule of Thumb (6:11 min.), also located above.
Ask students to discuss the saying “Rule of Thumb.”
Subsequent discussion can concentrate on establishing key terms: violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and dating violence.
Students can use dictionaries to enhance their knowledge of these terms.
Main Activity: Research, Summaries, and Discussion
Divide the students into pairs. Have each pair go to Click and read the section “Grassroots Activism and Coalition Building” in the chapter Politics & Social Movements.
Have the students write definitions of “grassroots” and “coalition building.” Then ask them write down examples of grassroots activism and coalition building efforts.
Combine pairs to make groups of four. Have these groups share their definitions and examples. Then have the groups return to Click and locate the link for “Violence Against Women Act.” This link will take them to the Department of Justice website.
Have the students read the section “Areas of Focus.”
Each group is responsible for summarizing one of the four areas of focus. The summary should include a definition of the focus area and the available resources.
Bring the class back together and have the students present their findings. Follow with a discussion that returns the focus to the history of Violence Against Women Act and community activism today. Guiding questions include:
Have you heard about Take Back the Night marches? What about Rape Crisis Centers/Domestic Violence Shelters? How would you research their histories?
Why is it important to have the federal government involved in combating violence against women?
Why do you think it took twenty-two years after the founding of the first rape crisis center for Congress to pass the Violence Against Women Act?
Extension Activity on Native American Women
The Office on Violence Against Women in the U.S. Department of Justice provides specific support for Native American communities.
Have students return to the Department of Justice website and search for sources there.
Have students go to the timeline in the Click chapter Body & Health and have them click on “2007: Maze of Injustice.” This 100-page report (PDF) is filled with beautiful illustrations and moving quotations that students can easily access to learn more about violence against women in Native communities and what is being done to stop it.
Common Core Anchor Standards
Speaking and Listening
Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Next Up: Lesson Plans for Workplace & Family
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The idea of the “Click! moment” was coined by Jane O’Reilly. “The women in the group looked at her, looked at each other, and ... click! A moment of truth. The shock of recognition. Instant sisterhood... Those clicks are coming faster and faster. They were nearly audible last summer, which was a very angry summer for American women. Not redneck-angry from screaming because we are so frustrated and unfulfilled-angry, but clicking-things-into-place-angry, because we have suddenly and shockingly perceived the basic disorder in what has been believed to be the natural order of things.” Article, “The Housewife's Moment of Truth,” published in the first issue of Ms. Magazine and in New York Magazine. Republished in The Girl I Left Behind, by Jane O'Reilly (Macmillan, 1980). Jane O'Reilly papers, Schlesinger Library.