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I Am Woman: Attacking Violence Against Women

By Sandra Kohn.

As a woman who has seen and experienced a lot in her multiple decades, nothing is more abhorrent to me than violence directed at women and children.

Domestic violence, sexual assault, and other forms of gender-based violence deprive women and girls of their fundamental ability to live with dignity. Women and girls experience domestic violence and sexual assault at alarming rates. In fact, there about 270,000 rapes or sexual assaults nationwide – every year.

One in five college women have been sexually assaulted (while in college) and, according to a nearly seven-year-old report (2011), nearly 26,000 men and women were sexually assaulted while in the military.

The sad commonality is that most of these reported incidents were addressed on a limited basis or not at all. The attitude was, it seems, a cavalier “boys will be boys” position when it came to respond to this violence. It is a fact that governments, institutions, laws and policies have contributed – and continue to contribute — to the systematic devaluation of the lives and safety of victims by failing to appropriately and effectively respond to gender-based violence and discrimination.

Domestic violence is another aspect of this issue. One in three female homicide victims is killed by an intimate partner. Twenty-four percent of adult women have been physically assaulted by a partner at some time in their lives. One in four women and one in seven men have experienced severe physical violence in their lifetime by an intimate partner.

The easy availability of guns and lack of sensible gun laws play into this as 53 percent of women murdered with guns in the U.S. in 2011 were killed by intimate partners or family members, according to the FBI’s 2011 Supplementary Homicide Report.

The presence of a gun in domestic violence situations increases the possibility of homicide by 500% Let me repeat – it increases the percentage possibilities of homicide by 500%.

It is my belief that the prevention of violence against women begins at home and before that child takes her first step. We, as parents, must understand how much our behavior and the way we speak to our children impacts them. We must realize that we are creating pathways that our babies will carry forward and if we want those pathways to lead to a happy and prosperous life, it begins with us.

We all have been there, frustrated by a misbehaving child(ren), harried by a long day at work, under financial pressure, etc., etc. and then the child misbehaves, has a tantrum or breaks something, fights with a sibling, whatever, and you step in. But how?

Do you react by telling the child that they are “bad,” or do you remove the child from the situation and employ corrective action such as a time-out? Needless to say, the time-out suggestion or something similar is the appropriate measure. Telling a child that she is “bad” just launches those negative pathways and one day that child will begin to believe you.

Importance of Education

Another protection from future violence is to provide our children with the best education we can. I mean, specifically, scholastic education. A well-educated person is a more confident person and a confident person is less likely to fall victim to an abuser. In addition to scholastic education, we must teach our children that violence of any kind, by anyone, is unacceptable and intolerable.

As our children grow and move from grade school to high school, the one thing that seems to remain constant, no matter where the school, is that kids can be the meanest to their peers. Peer-on-peer abuse runs rampant in high schools.

“You are fat, you are skinny, you are a bookworm, you are stupid,” are just some of the taunts and I’m sure my description is mild compared to what actually goes on.

The bullying is disgraceful and so dangerous; and this is where having that strong parental-provided foundation becomes imperative. It is children who don’t think themselves worthy who are generally more likely to succumb to the bullying. Sadly, it is these low-esteem children who are more likely to fall victim to domestic and other abuses as adults.

Focus on Prevention

Violence against women and girls is rooted in gender-based discrimination and social norms and gender stereotypes that perpetuate such violence. Given the devastating effect violence has on women, efforts have mainly focused on responses and services for survivors. However, the best way to end violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place by addressing its root and structural causes.

Prevention should start early in life, by educating and working with young boys and girls and promoting respectful relationships and gender equality. Working with youth is a “best bet” for faster, sustained progress on preventing and eradicating gender-based violence. While public policies and interventions often overlook this stage of life, it is a critical time when values and norms around gender equality are forged.

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist and have no formal training in childhood education (other than raising my own); however, I spent decades working as the administrator of a substance abuse treatment program. My experiences have provided me with what I think is knowledge of a very special kind.

If you have any questions, or would like to provide a comment, please feel free to contact me at: kohnway@hotmail.com

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