Progressive Women Must Unite in Support of International Violence Against Women Act

May 29 2010 Published by under Issues, U.S. Senate

International Violence Against Women Act

The World Health Organization just released appalling statistics on domestic violence against women. The ten country study included: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ethiopia, Japan, Peru, Namibia, Samoa, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand and the United Republic of Tanzania. The report concludes that violence against women is widespread. Amnesty International is urging Americans to support the International Violence Against Women Act in response to these horrifying statistics.

Amnesty International Fights Violence Against Women

Although the WHO study doesn’t include the US, the incidence of domestic violence and intimate partner violence in this “free land” are chilling. On average, more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day. In 2000, 1,247 women were killed by an intimate partner. The same year, 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. Intimate partner homicides accounted for 30% of the murders of women and 5% percent of the murders of men. *

Over two-thirds of violent victimizations against women were committed by someone known to them: 31% of female victims reported that the offender was a stranger. Approximately 28% were intimates such as husbands or boyfriends, 35% were acquaintances, and the remaining 5% were other relatives. (In contrast, victimizations by intimates and other relatives accounted for only 5% of all violent victimizations against men. Men were significantly more likely to have been victimized by acquaintances (50%) or strangers (44%) than by intimates or other relatives.) **

And contrary to popular notions, domestic violence also occurs often against well-educated, well-to-do women — as written about by Susan Weitzman in her book “Not to People Like Us”: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages.” As a country that highly values personal liberty, these kinds of statistics are quite simply unacceptable. Although we like to think of America as a nation of the free, there are hundreds of thousands of women in this country who are not free. We can’t solve this problem in our own country — imagine how bad it is in countries that do not have all of our resources.

The WHO study reveals:

– Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.

– Many women said that their first sexual experience was not consensual. (24% in rural Peru, 28% in Tanzania, 30% in rural Bangladesh, and 40% in South Africa).

– Between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically abused during pregnancy.

– Every year, about 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide

– Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children subjected to sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.

Violence against women is the result of a power over and power under structure. It’s the result of patriarchy maintaining its power and control, using economic, physical, and emotional weapons to do so. I can’t help but wonder why we, one of the richest countries in the world, continue to look the other way as our own women are murdered every day, let alone women around the world. Domestic violence is so ingrained in our culture, people barely bat an eye. When Rhianna was beaten up to Chris Brown, it was only days before the headlines were “Why did she stay?” instead of “Why did he beat her?”.

The attitudes about violence toward women are neanderthal-esque here, we’re still stuck in the “are you sure this isn’t her fault, after all, they were fighting” stage. There are countries where this is not tolerated and where a man is shunned for this kind of thing. It would be really great if this country could evolve to that point one day. But I digress.

Domestic violence is the result of the same patriarchal, authoritarian power structure best represented in this country by the old boys club of the current Republican Party, which fights to maintain the status quo of white male privilege. Now, if those white males respected and honored women and minorities, we wouldn’t have a problem necessarily. But while they give lip service to those ideas, their main concern is keeping other groups down so they can stay up. But the Republican Party isn’t in power right now (as evidenced by the never-ending shrieking and cries for special prosecutors to impeach the Democratic President). Perhaps we can push forward with legislation to better protect women and children here and all over the world.

According to Amnesty International’s website, “The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) is the first comprehensive piece of legislation in the United States aimed at ending violence against women and girls around the world. It would improve our government’s response when women are victims of sex trafficking and rape during war and would provide aid to women’s groups on the ground working to help survivors of domestic and sexual violence.”

Your representatives need to hear from you if you support this legislation. This is the kind of legislation we can hope to get passed with a Democratic majority. Our Vice President has long stood up for women’s rights. If not now, then when?

We need to make our voices heard on this issue. We can’t afford to be silent.

The violence aimed at women in this country and around the world is unacceptable. Please join me in standing up for your sisters around the globe.


*Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief, Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, February 2003. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. 1993-2004, 2006.

**Ronet Bachman Ph.D., U.S. Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Violence Against Women: A National Crime Victimization Survey Report,” January 1994, p. 1

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