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How many women do you know who have been victims of violence?

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There is a wonderful conversation going on on LiveJournal about rape. I say wonderful, but it is, of course, difficult and painful, and, yes, at times empowering and amazing. Cereta, the original poster, asks thoughtful questions about the men who try to stop and/or help women avoid sexual violence. She calls them “That Guy” and wants to know where they are and wants to hear stories of them. (She’s also a fantastic moderator so the conversation is controlled and civil. Anonymous posting is allowed because of the nature of the subject. It very much feels like a safe space.)

The conversation brought up something that I knew wasn’t widely realized but I didn’t realize just how hidden it is.

How many women do you know who have been a victim of violence?

Sit with that question for a moment and really think. You don’t need to tell me the answer, you don’t need to tell me their stories. I just want you to consider it and keep that answer with you as we speak, most especially if you are a man. Let me give you some statistics:

  • 1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
  • 1 out of 4 women in the United States has been a victim of domestic violence. 3 out of 4 people know someone who has been a victim.
  • Women ages 15-44 are more at risk from domestic violence than from cancer, war, malaria, and war accidents.

So I ask again, how many women do you know who have been victims of violence?

Is the statistic higher than 1 out of every 4 women you know? I’m not surprised if it is. It’s that way for me, too. It’s tempting when you find out you know of more violence than is statistically reported to ask what it is about the women you know or the places you go that causes this. Don’t do that. When you look for cause you come very close to victim-blaming (i.e., it is something about them that causes them to be raped/beaten/abused). Domestic violence (including rape, to bring this back to the post) is both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality. There are risk factors that contribute to but not cause violence against women and the majority of them can be categorized under societal gender inequality. Perhaps if you’re aware of more than 1 in 3 or 4 women who have been victims of violence then that is not because of something they did or some place they went, it is because they felt comfortable telling you.

Is the statistic lower than 1 out of every 4 women you know? It isn’t. I can (sadly) almost guarantee that. You know her, you just don’t know it’s happened to her. Or maybe you aren’t aware of all the things that constitute violence against women. The violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or economic and includes behaviors that “frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound.” If you still need a refresher about what it is, please check any and all of the websites listed below. If your female friends haven’t told you of their experiences it could be for many reasons. They could feel ashamed of what happened to them, they could think it’s their own fault, they could fear that you would not understand and that telling you may make them feel worse.

Remember, none of this is about you. It’s about the violence, the situations women find themselves in, and they ways in which they must act in order to feel and be safe.


Call for help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224. http://www.ndvh.org
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) http://www.rainn.org.
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474 or TTY 1-866-331-8453 http://www.loveisrespect.org

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Written by tldegray

June 10, 2009 at 8:25 pm

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