End Violence Against Women & Girls – Peace & Justice Nov. 25 at 9am
Written by Tom Walker on Saturday, November 21, 2020
This Wednesday November 25 at 9am we’ll have as our first guest E. Scott Osborne, President of the UN Women Gulf Coast Chapter. Scott will talk about violence against women and girls.
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Click HERE to read a great UN report on the status of women in the world.
Our second guest will be Christian Hind, SPARCC Lead Domestic Violence Counselor.
The Safe Place and Rape Crisis Center, Inc. (SPARCC) was formed in Sarasota as a non-profit agency in 1979. SPARCC is the only state-certified center for domestic violence and sexual assault services for Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. All of SPARCC’s services are free and confidential. In addition to serving survivors, SPARCC is actively engaged in promoting social change through community awareness and education, in an effort to prevent future violence.
Here’s an op-ed Scott Osborne wrote which appeared recently in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
Picture all the women you ever dated, or all the women you knew from high school, or the women in your family. Take a minute. No rush.
Now count off by threes.
Chances are, those one-in-three women – those women you know – have experienced gender-based violence. In fact, fully 35% of women experience it at some point in life. Gender-based violence does not discriminate by race, ethnicity, marital status, religion, or socio-economic position. It does not just target women who are poor, vulnerable to trafficking, or in far-off countries.
Physical violence is common, encompassing everything from hairpulling to that extra tight restraining grip on the arm to beatings and rape. Emotional violence takes the form of control and abuse: verbal hostility, control over a woman’s behavior or speech or dress, or control over finances.
But the problem remains hidden. Women are socialized to feel responsible, to feel ashamed, to feel they need to “protect” violent men, not report the incident or press charges. The cost to individual women is devastating, but society as a whole pays, too. Medical and mental health care, lost wages, and criminal justice expenses all add up.
In the US alone, annual costs of intimate partner violence were estimated at $5.8 billion in 2003. That’s billion, with a B. In India, women lose up to five days of paid work for every violent incident; in Uganda, women lose approximately 11 wage days per year, affecting their children, households, and the local economies.
Clearly, change is in order. But to change we need to understand the real causes of this violence.
There are many misconceptions: it is not caused because a man has a temper, or too much to drink, or lost his job. It is not caused by men in criminal trafficking rings, though those do exist. And it is not caused because a woman doesn’t have dinner ready on time or wears a short skirt. This thinking perpetuates false narratives and deters us from meaningful change.
The real root causes of violence against women are three-fold.
First, a widespread belief in the superiority of men. This includes social conditioning that masculine authority is natural; almost everywhere, men are trained to dominate — and women are trained to accept this domination.
Second, the lack of consequences of using violence. If society sees men’s physical strength as an acceptable way to express needs and exert control, negative consequences do not follow.
Third, acceptance of economic and legal inequality for women. When women are paid less for work of equal value, or are treated differently under the law, it sends a message that they are inferior and subordinate.
Are these old, deep-seated social norms? Absolutely. Can they be changed? Absolutely.
For the past ten years, the Gulf Coast Chapter of UN Women USA has held a Walk to End Violence to raise awareness about the problem and funds to combat it. We’ve walked on Siesta Beach, in Payne Park, and in our neighborhoods. We have invited community groups such as SPARCC, the Police Department, and local high school clubs to shed more light on the issue.
This year our walk continues, virtually. We kick off our campaign on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and end on December 5, with activities every day. We invite you to join by registering for this year’s walk. But even if you can’t join us, here’s what you can do.
Engage men. Women are overwhelmingly the victims, not the perpetrators. Stop viewing this as a women’s issue to solve. Men need to change and grow to understand that healthy masculinity does not require control, violence, and the denigration of women. (There are certainly cases of men and trans people who are targets of gender-based violence, but their numbers are extremely small compared to female victims.)
Insist on equal wages and laws. Without equal treatment in workplaces and the justice system, women remain dependent and vulnerable. Men benefit from systemic privileges that validate a position of control. This harms women – and society.
Start early and sweat the small stuff. Children absorb behavioral norms very early on. Seemingly small things such as off-hand sexist comments, joking references to domestic violence, or gross disparities in household chores, set the stage for problematic attitudes and behaviors later in life. Grandparents and teachers matter too. We are all models for the next generation.
Throughout history, social norms have evolved. VAW is not immutable. Our generation can change our understanding of what it means to be a man, advocate for human equality in workplaces and legal systems, and raise our children with intention.