|Posted by Anne Siren on March 29, 2013 at 3:05 PM|
By Anne Siren
Deerfield Beach – Getting into law school was fairly easy for Terry O’Neil, but the incentive she had for it was painful.
The scene is New Orleans. O’Neil had a great job at the French Consulate as a translator.
But things weren’t so hot at home although it was August in New Orleans, the month when heat is hurtful.
O’Neil was 22.
At breakfast, O’Neil asked her husband for a divorce. They had no children; the relationship had been spiraling downward and they were both young enough to move on.
That’s when her husband started whacking away. Her screams went unnoticed. She found herself on the couch trying to protect her head.
And here’s the part that is pretty hard to believe. It was time for work. They had one car, and O’Neil was the driver.
They cleaned up and left.
On the way to taking her husband to work, he apologized.
That’s when she reiterated the divorce idea, and that’s when the apologetic husband whacked her again.
This week, O’Neil, now president of the National Organization of Women [NOW], a practicing attorney and mother of a daughter, was keynote speaker for Women’s History Month, sponsored by a coalition of several groups: Democratic Women’s Club of Northeast Broward, Pro-Choice Coalition, Broward County Women’s Hall of Fame, American Association of University Women, Broward Teachers’ Union and several NOW groups.
Prior to the event, O’Neil recounted how her life led her to NOW. Holding a second cup of coffee, she remembers how terms like “battered” and “victim” were no longer part of her vocabulary.
“I was ashamed. It’s like saying, ‘Hey, I married a loser who hits.’”
Now, her life as an advocate for women, as an attorney and blogger for Huffington Post, is a happy one.
Happy because she calls herself a workaholic, and her efforts to bring the “War Against Women” up front requires a workaholic.
Here are some of NOW’s issues:
Pay for women – Women work a lifetime of unequal pay, she says, citing the 77 cents on the dollar that their male counterparts earn. “When we get to retirement, we have smaller savings. Two-thirds of minimum wage earners are women. Women of color are extremely lower in their net worth.”
Not enough women elected to offices – “Research has shown that when 35 percent of decision makers are women, more money is spent on resources for health care, social services and education. Less money is spent on weapons, alcohol and tobacco,” O’Neil said. Today, women make up 18 percent of Congress. “Running a country is not rocket science. Women can look at the whole picture,” she said.
NOW is a strong force in supporting Planned Parenthood. “Many Catholic women support NOW because they care about teenage girls; they will not impose their religion on others.”
O’Neil wants to see fully-funded, comprehensive sex education programs in public schools.
She wants statistics out in the open: One in five women are sexually molested; one is 70 men are sexually molested. “Government agencies are now tracking this information,” she said.
She wants the population to know that “rape is a serial crime.”
The “Woman” question, a phrase coined by O’Neil, is the question legislators are not asking.
The “Woman” question can only be answered by women. And that question is “What do you need?”
Says O’Neil, “Women who make it to agencies for help have already shown resilience and competence. Don’t treat them as victims. Ask them what they need. They must be in the driver’s seat.”
While the applause, cheering and energy of O’Neil’s presence rallied the female- dominated audience at the Doubletree Hilton, O’Neil had some fun with the next round of facts.
What she related to this audience is really happening in state legislators. Women are presenting bills that put prohibitions on men seeking Viagra and/or similar prescriptions. In Ohio, one bill required men to undergo a psychological assessment and a cardiac stress tests 90 days prior to receiving the prescription.
In Virginia, Sen. Janet Howell’s bill requiring rectal exams for men on erectile dysfunction meds, failed by two votes.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house from uninhibited laughter.