From New Delhi, India to Steubenville, Ohio, the planet is experiencing an epidemic of violence against women and girls that is intolerable and must be confronted
This past week, the horrible news about a gang rape of a drugged or drunken young girl by a couple of high school football players has finally permeated the news cycle–a coverup by local authorities prevented its timely report. Demonstrations of outrage have now ensued in Ohio which feature this young girl who demonstrated her opposition to a gang rape by stating: “I am more important than football!”
Yes, we should all be standing with this young girl and ask ourselves what is happening to young boys in our society? From the international outrage emanating from the gang rape and murder in India to the latest grotesque rape and cover up in Steubenville, Ohio, we need to stop and ask ourselves what are our responsibilities as members of society to address this escalating violence in America and around the world.
Indeed, even those who are considered the strongest among us, women who serve in our armed forces, have endured rape with impunity in the ranks for years. Finally, the Pentagon’s recalcitrance to effectively pursue rapists in the ranks has been brought to the public’s attention by the exemplary advocacy of The Service Women’s Action Network (disclaimer–I am a former board member) and a shocking film titled “The Invisible War (available on NetFlicks).” Congress, in a rare bi-partisan effort is working toward finding solutions to this vicious problem in the military.
We must stop rape impunity, especially when a local community’s mentality has perverted and placed faux sports heroes above the law for terrible crimes committed against women and girls. There is a pattern of cover-up of sexual violence when it is carried out by powerful men, or by men who have a self-interest in keeping it from the public domain.
While I appreciate the outrage of many Indian citizens and their efforts to confront their national tragedy in the recent depraved gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman referred to as”Amanat”, an Urdu word meaning “treasure,” I question just what America is doing to confront its culture of rape and violence directed toward women and girls here at home.
While the reports are finally forthcoming on the appalling gang rape in Steubenville, we have a full blown public health epidemic raging here at home in violence against women and girls. Our politicians shirk their responsibilities and look away and fail to act–indeed, the House Majority leader Eric Cantor blocked the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act because he did not want to extend the law to the protection of Native American women (apparently not all women are deserving of protection from violence in Cantor’s view).
But Congress needs to act quickly to address America’s full blown public epidemic of violence against woman and girls.
The Centers for Disease Control announced in December 2011 its findings from a ground breaking study that indicates domestic and sexual violence against American women exist at epidemic rates that affects “on average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner “. The CDC data also estimates 1 million women are raped annually and more than 6 million women are stalked annually in the United States.
The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) is the first study (also reported in 2011) by the CDC’s newest public health surveillance systems and is designed to monitor the magnitude of sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence victimization in the United States and breaks down the study by states, which contains much more detailed and explanatory data.
The UN has stepped up its efforts in advocacy and education about violence against women and girls worldwide, which is spearheaded by its ongoing campaign Unite, Say No to Violence Against Women, which is annually supplemented by 16 days against violence against women and girls in November globally.
Go to Unite’s website and educate yourself and your elected officials on how deeply pervasive violence against women and girls permeates ALL countries, societies and states throughout the world. We must all step up and speak out. Women are our mothers, sisters, wives, daughters and co-workers. Take a stand and stop the violence now.
Image of the young girl demonstrating against Steubenville courtesy of Flickr and image of Indian men demonstrating courtesy of Anonymous Art in Revolution, Facebook. The Anti-violence campaign poster is courtesy of the Unite campaign.
Tanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog. She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues. She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL. Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.
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