The following post appears courtesy of journalist and producer, Paula Zahn. Ms. Zahn is one of the many celebrities who has partnered with the Department of Justice to raise awareness of issues around violence against women.
In my 30 years in journalism, I’ve covered issues of violence against women all too often and I’m proud to join the Department of Justice’s effort to raise awareness and work to decrease this problem.
Several people have asked me why I chose to join this effort now. For the first time, I’m executive producing my own television series – for Investigation Discovery (ID) – and in the course of researching cases to include, I’ve been deeply moved by the courageous stories of survivors and the devastating effects on the families of victims.
Despite the gains made in reducing stalking incidents, I am alarmed by the number of victims who are simply falling through the cracks, who are let down by the very system that is in place to protect them. And, as a mother, the issues that the Department is helping to address are vitally important to me personally, so I thank them for allowing me to join their effort.
I am also especially honored that the Department chose me to moderate their discussion highlighting National Stalking Awareness Month.
Awareness months serve as a marker to bring attention to issues that plague our society and they provide an opportunity to challenge practitioners and the public to work harder for progress on a particular issue.
Stalking is a particularly insidious form of violence against women – one which is largely misunderstood by the public. Yet it impacts so many people. In a 12 month period, the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that an estimated 3.4 million persons ages 18 and older were victims of stalking. And the most alarming figure I’ve come across is this: 76 percent of domestic violence homicides were preceded by stalking.
Stalking is difficult to recognize, investigate and prosecute, so I commend those in law enforcement, the judicial system, and in advocacy and victims rights organizations who are making a difference. We must also engage the public, who can play a critical role in ending stalking and other forms of violence against women.
As a journalist, I understand first hand the critical role and responsibility the media plays in helping shape public understanding on issues, which is why I’m proud that my boss at ID, president and general manager Henry Schleiff, has also pledged the network’s support to help shine a spotlight on the 15th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act.
I hope that media across the country will partner with their communities, the government, advocates and survivors in helping the public understand the pervasiveness and severity of this crime and that together we can work toward an end to all forms of violence against women.
Paula Zahn is executive producer and host of On the Case with Paula Zahn on ID: Investigation Discovery.