Advocates for Women Survivors of Violence, Nationwide

4/2/2014 - 10 women in DC, Chicago, St. Paul, Des Moines, New York and Mammoth Lakes, CA fasted as part of the "Advocates for Women Survivors of Violence" team. The following are testimonials from some of the women fasters:

Cecelia Friedman Levin: "I was honored to participate in the Act. Fast. Women's Fast for Families campaign with a group of advocates across the country to raise awareness of the critical need of immigration reform. We shared information about the fast on ASISTA's website yesterday and today. Possibly the most physically difficult part for me was preparing dinner for my family and sitting down with everyone while they were eating. But at that moment, I realized what a tremendous privilege it is to be with my family at dinnertime and how thousands of immigrant women nationwide can't share a meal with their families, or read stories to their children at bedtime. Without a doubt, the fast strengthened my resolve to work towards immigration reform that could help reunite and keep families together."

Julia Toepfer: "Fasting has been a very interesting and contemplative experience for me. In addition to this 24-hour fast for immigrant survivors of violence, I have pledged to fast every Wednesday during Lent. Fasting is very challenging for me, but each time I do it, I can't help but think of the unbearable sacrifice that millions of families, women and children, are forced to make because of unjust immigration laws. They have to cope with the emptiness of a missing loved one every day. My fasting pales in comparison, but it is an act of compassion and it is a tangible and meaningful action I can take to call for immigration reform. For me, it is something real that I can do about a crisis that often seems uncontrollable and irresolvable."

Teresa Vyhanek: "I was really excited to participate in the fast with other advocates of immigrant survivors. During the day when my tummy would give a little rumble I was able to reflect on all the immigrant families I've met in my lifetime who have survived too many crimes, who are still separated from their immediate family members, who still struggle to live in the shadows, and have to fight to have even their basic needs met. I am proud to have fasted in solidarity with other advocates across the country to show Congress that we need Comprehensive Immigration Reform now! I want to be able to stop counting they number of women and families who have survived, and start counting the number who THRIVE."

"It was a very positive experience to join such a wonderful group of advocates in forming our team, “Advocates for Immigrant Survivors.” I was really glad that this helped us shine a light on why immigration reform is so critical to help reduce the vulnerabilities to abuse and exploitation and provide a better pathway to safety and well being for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. One of the highlights was having a photo collage for our team with each person holding a sign of why they fasted. In my case, I sought to highlight that I fasted because immigration reform is a critical human rights issue in the United States. Our organization sent out the photo collage and link to the excellent blog that Royce wrote for our group through facebook, twitter, and in our weekly e-newsletter that goes out to over 3,000 people via email. We also provided a link encouraging folks to sign the petition to Speaker Boehner on the We Belong Together website.

I also forwarded the email to a number of Hill offices and other agencies we collaborate with and received positive feedback from the Offices of Senator Menendez, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Congresswoman Roybal-Allard. They said they retweeted our posts. I also received positive messages from staff at OVW, the Family Violence Prevention and Services Office of HHS, and the White House Office of Public Engagement. Additionally, I sent the collage through my personal facebook and some shared it forward. I also called the office of Speaker Boehner and spoke with a staffer to inform her about our team and why we were fasting and asking her to convey to the Speaker that we are waiting for him to show courage and leadership to move comprehensive immigration reform forward. I also left a voicemail on the Speaker’s machine with the same message in case the staffer did not fully capture my impassioned plea.

Overall, the fast was not as difficult as I had expected since I was doing it in solidarity with others and, most of all, in solidarity with the countless immigrant families facing such tremendous hardship, vulnerabilities, uncertainty and separations from loved ones. My small sacrifice paled in comparison, but I was glad to be part of this larger effort to continue to build pressure and momentum and shine a light on the needs of immigrant survivors who too often are silenced and driven into the shadows. I am grateful to We Belong Together for providing us this opportunity to join in this effort." -- Rosie Hidalgo

Here is a list of the women who fasted:

1. National Immigrant Justice Center (DC and Chicago)
Royce Murray, participating from DC area
Julia Toepfer, Lauren Shapiro, Jennifer Chan, Kate Banner all participating from Chicago, IL.

2. Casa de Esperanza, St. Paul, MN
Rosie Hidalgo, based in DC area but will be traveling tomorrow.

3. ASISTA Immigration Assistance,Des Moines, IA
Cecelia Friedman Levin, based in DC area.

4. Violence Intervention Program, New York, NY
Cecilia Gaston

5. Wild Iris Family Crisis and Counseling Center, Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sandra Facincani