Tuesday, March 11, 2008

STOP the "Shhh, Don't Say Anything" Cycle

March: National Women's History Month. March 8: International Women's Day.

With the recent shooting deaths of 7 women -- 2 young, beautiful university students and 5 women of various ages and backgrounds innocently shopping in a Lane Bryant store, a sixth woman in the same store that was shot survived -- sending ecards or short "thinking of you" emails just isn't enough when it comes to acknowledging the significance of women.

While these recent killings of innocent women in the United States of America are horrible, tragic, sickening, and senseless, sadly, they represent millions of women all over the world that are the victims of violence who go unnoticed by neighbors, family members, the media, and the world.

Statistics relate important and valuable information, but sometimes when we read statistics it's easy to be shocked, but not necessarily moved to action.

For example, what moves you more:

  1. According to the World Health Organization, one in three women will be victims of violence in her lifetime. OR
  2. According to the World Health Organization, you must choose which one of these three women you will stand by and let be shot, raped, beaten, and/or mutilated: your mother (fill in your mother's name), your sister (fill in your sister's name), or your daughter (fill in your daughter's name).

When we put a face and a name to those "three" women, it brings the reality that violence against women lives closer to home than we might realize. Sadly, the truth is much more devastating. The majority of women who experience violence against them experience it at the hand of a male either in their own family, someone they are dating, or someone they know.

Each one of us can probably name AT LEAST three women we know that have been victims of some sort of violence. Perhaps, our own name can be counted in that list.

The way the world reacts to violence against women is shocking to me. It's a double edged sword that men rarely, if ever, experience. When was the last time you heard a man who has been raped accused of "asking for it" because of the way he was dressed? Rape is awful no matter who it happens to, but for a woman to come forward as the accuser takes an extra gallon of courage. She not only has to face the shame and humiliation of reliving the act all over again, but she also has to "prove" she was not "asking for it."

For both women and men, if the violent offender is/was a family member, bringing the violent actions to light is even more difficult. I know this personally. Two of my uncles on my mom's side are two of the most hideous creatures to walk this earth. As the younger sisters, two of my close female relatives were on the receiving end of very violent, sexual acts from two older brothers. One younger sister was only 5-years-old and the other was only 7-years-old when these monsters for older brothers began their disgusting acts. Both of these uncles are still alive living just outside of Aberdeen, South Dakota and are still as disgusting as ever. And, shockingly, one of these uncles served on numerous Boards of Directors throughout his political and farming career.

My family is not unique.

I wonder: how many of these "upright citizens" like my uncles, who have a past of violence against women, serve out their lives free from charges brought against them because women are intimidated by society and/or other family members to remain quiet about violent actions they suffered through?

When do we stop remaining silent? When do we stop looking the other way?

Violence in the places we should feel safe, our schools and our homes, is reaching record numbers. But when we add on the globally increased numbers in human trafficking, genital cutting, "honor" killings, forced and child marriage, and sexual violence during war or in refugee settings, the result is beyond imagine.

In the early 1900's, a unique and surprisingly small group of women petitioned, demanded, marched, fasted, were imprisoned, and sacrificed greatly for females in the United States of America to have the right to vote. In 1920, their dedicated work won American women this precious right.

88 years later, women of the United States of America have the opportunity to band together and create another powerful force of action: Demand the passing of the International Violence Against Women Act (S. 2279) introduced in October 2007 by Sens. Joseph Biden (D-Del) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind).

Amnesty International USA, Women Thrive Worldwide, and the Family Violence Prevention Fund worked together to help draft this groundbreaking federal legislation.

The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) calls for:

  • The creation of a comprehensive U.S. federal strategy to prevent and respond to violence against women on a global level.
  • More than $1 billion over five years to support new assistance programs in 10 to 20 countries and expanded assistance to local groups working to stop violence against women.
  • Development of emergency measures that will enable the United States to respond to large-scale outbreaks of violence against women, such as mass rape during armed conflict, and the development of mechanisms for bringing perpetrators to justice.

At least five Republican senators are needed to co-sponsor the I-VAWA legislation. If you live in a state represented by a Republican senator, CALL and/or WRITE that senator telling them you support the I-VAWA legislation and you want them to sign on as a co-sponsor. Currently, the key states to the passing of this legislation are: Alaska, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

Absolutely, ALL states are important and critical, but again, people shock the hell out of me...how politicians can put politics above the safety and well-being of ALL women in the world is beyond me, but do I believe it can happen? Yes.

That's why ALL voices are important. Male or female...stand up, speak out, and change the world for your mothers, your sisters, and your daughters -- CALL your senator NOW to urge them to sign on to the I-VAWA bill.

Changing the world's view on violence against women works to change how violence against women is looked upon in our own communities, in our own families, in ourselves.

For more information on the I-VAWA legislation or to see if your senators have co-sponsored I-VAWA (S. 2279) visit: www.amnestyusa.org/ivawa.

Do something to truly celebrate National Women's History Month and International Women's Day. Take action to pass groundbreaking legislation that helps and works to protect all women.

Make a difference.

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