Domestic violence is all over the media right now, from NFL players getting a metaphorical slap on the wrist for actually putting their hands on a woman, to the threats and a hoax website designed to shame and scare Emma Watson away from advocating for women’s rights at the United Nations.
Not to discount the very real male victims of domestic violence, but the focus here is on the huge disparity and the structual violence against women present in every society in the world.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, four out of five victims of domestic violence are women. It is such a problem that Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organisation Director-General describes it as a “global health problem of epidemic proportions.”
“One in three women will experience violence in her lifetime,” according to Amnesty International. “Her experience will deprive her of human rights, put her at risk of mental and physical health problems, and potentially trap her in poverty.”
Globally, between 38 (WHO) and 70 (UMich) percent of women murdered die at the hands of an intimate partner. By comparison, less than 4% of men are killed by women, and the overwhelming majority are women defending themselves (University of Michigan’s Women’s Justice and Clemency Project). So why are we trying to downplay these facts and act like suffrage and the women’s right movements of the 1970’s solved all of these issue that are still so shockingly prevalent?
Is it because we don’t want to feel accountable? Or perhaps because we simply aren’t as educated as we should be?
The United Nations has declared, “There is a growing consensus that the best way to eliminate these practices is through educational campaigns that emphasize their dangerous health consequences.”
It may seem like it is an individual’s own responsibility to educate themselves, but that is a cop out. That mentality just paves the way for us to ignore issues we see within our own familial and social circles instead of taking them on and affecting real change. If your brother is beating his wife, you are responsible for letting it continue if you stand by and do nothing. If she dies, would you ever be able to get another good night’s rest, knowing you could have done something?
Well, in close to half of all murders of women, it is apparent that there was someone just as willfully ignorant or unable to act in nearly every case. Society is still dominated by men, so we allow the powerful ones virtual impunity.
How many instances can you think of in which an athlete, rock star or actor got away with beating, raping or even murdering a woman?
Even more shocking is the unmistakable trend of women receiving far harsher sentences for defending themselves. The previously mentioned University of Michigan’s Women’s Justice and Clemency Project cited, “A study conducted by The Michigan Battered Women’s Clemency Project of homicide convictions and sentences over a three year period from 1986 to 1988, inclusive, in Oakland County, Michigan, revealed startling levels of discrimination against defendants who are victims of domestic violence. Results showed that domestic violence victims had higher conviction rates and longer sentences than all others charged with homicide, including those with previous violent criminal records. Overall, a white female defendant with no criminal history who was convicted by a jury of killing a white person could expect an average sentence of 10 to 30 years. However, if the woman was a victim of domestic violence, her predicted sentence increased to life.”
How can you help to end this disheartening, worldwide trend that affects all women?