Let’s End Violence Against Women

Let’s End Violence Against Women

I live in the central Virginia area. That means I’ve been surrounded by the fears and concerns and hopes for the young woman who disappeared almost 2 weeks ago. It’s a terrible reminder of how vulnerable women, in particular, are in the world today. As a mother, my heart weeps for the parents. As a grandmother, I want to grab my two little girls and protect them from a world that still treats women as objects, victims, targets.

We are all feeling a little skittish right now. The helicopters have been hovering overhead looking for this young woman, Hannah Graham. And last weekend there were almost 2000 volunteers scouring the community, searching for details as to her whereabouts. There is a heightened awareness of the dangers in our world that don’t often surface in our lovely small college town.

The suspect has been found and will be extradited soon. So, we wait and we pray. And, we try to stick to the facts and leave wild conjecture behind. There is a lot of gossip and speculation going on right now. People are making up stories, hypothesizing on what the alleged perpetrator did, and they’re creating stories out of thin air.  It’s what happens when we have big dramas–the media are just as guilty.

Reading some of the online comments this morning I was struck by our need for conclusions, for endings. It’s hard to sit in the face of discomfort.  We want to wrap it all up neatly in a box–no matter the cost. Because we’re uncomfortable with our ‘not knowing’ we try to create the story as a way of managing our fears. How do we seek the truth, or be still, in the absence of facts when things like this happen? How do we sit with a story and hold back that tendency to place blame?

The victim blaming hasn’t fully sprung forth yet, but it will. We like to blame women for things that aren’t within their control. We ask them to wear more modest dresses so their male teachers won’t be tempted. We tell women they can’t go out at night alone because it’s dangerous. We tell girls they can prevent rape by not drinking or going to parties. We tell women not to talk about their sexual desires because it isn’t proper. We don’t want women in high offices because they are emotional and therefore unsuited for positions of power (only in the United States).  We blame women for the demise of the family, and fault them for failing to produce home cooked meals. We tell women it’s not OK to enjoy sex, to want birth control and we tell women they don’t have the right to govern their own bodies. Confident, assertive women are labeled “Bitch”.

We are telling one half of the society to take on the added burden of protecting themselves from the small percentage of predators in the world. Eve caused the big fall. Hester ruined the state of marriage. Marilyn tempted the President. Emma demeaned men by calling for gender equality. Women encourage rapists by daring to drop the veils and live independent lives.

Heavens Forbid that these men try and curb their criminal tendencies.

Yet in spite of all these fears and concerns. In the face of countless sexual assaults, domestic abuse, sexual harassment, public shaming, and death threats where is the call to responsible action–for men to stop their violent behavior? Their criminal actions.  Where are the denunciations of these perpetrators? Where is the condemnation and outrage about rape or domestic violence? Why is the other half of society sitting by and watching this happen without acting to bring about necessary change?

I’m tired of this. After a number of years working in the field of violence against women, and more recent years on the sidelines, I’m not seeing a significant change in attitudes or a decline in violent attacks. Yes, there are many more men working side by side with female allies to stop sexual and domestic violence. But there are more men cheering their buddies along and more men producing violent movies, sexist ads, and standing on the sidelines catcalling and harassing and telling demeaning jokes and supporting the ‘boys will be boys’ crap.

It’s unfair to pit the men against the women-but it reflects what our society does. There are female predators and there are a significant number of good men working to change this culture. I applaud them and happen to call some of them friends, colleagues and allies. Just this weekend I met a man who is involved in a national movement, One in Four, to educate about sexual assault.  But those who perpetrate evil or in lesser cases, abuse their male privilege have more power than the rest of us—or so it would seem.

What will it take to end violence against women? What can we do? As mothers, parents, grandparents, concerned citizens, educators, elected officials and workers in the field?

What will it take? What will you do today?

  • Carol Cassara
    Posted at 07:13h, 26 September Reply

    You’ve put into words what I believe, too. Maybe we have to “waste” a generation, because the good ole boys thing is so deeply inculcated, I don’t know. Thank you for voicing things that need to be said.

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:50h, 26 September Reply

      Thanks Carol. I don’t really know what the answer is. One of the first steps is for females working in the field to form strong alliances with male groups as only men can work to change the behavior of those boys and men who think this is acceptable behavior. As a mother I felt it was my duty to raise my sons to respect women (and all people) but beyond that….? Clearly something more significant has to happen.

  • Lisa Froman
    Posted at 07:59h, 26 September Reply

    This violence against women is unbearable and it is world-wide.
    Sometimes it breaks my heart to think of the suffering. I think keeping these topics in public view, no matter how unsavory, (sexual slavery, abuse, etc) helps to educate the masses. This gives me hope that there will eventually be a shift in thinking. I have one child–a grown son. I hope I have taught him well.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:36h, 26 September Reply

      Yes, unbearable. I learned to shut it out, or to remove my emotions from the work…otherwise it becomes to difficult to help. I do hope we have that shift. Like you, I have adult sons and have done all I could do to help them understand and take a different path.

  • Mindy Mitchell
    Posted at 08:08h, 26 September Reply

    Well said, Walker. It is so easy to get caught up in the shaming of women. It is not acceptable.

    • Walker
      Posted at 08:36h, 26 September Reply

      Thanks Mindy. It is unacceptable. And, if only it was as simple as all of us saying that in unison!

  • Judy Freedman
    Posted at 10:05h, 26 September Reply

    It is so sad that this is the state of things in this world. The media and television only perpetuates these issues.

    • Walker
      Posted at 09:45h, 27 September Reply

      Agreed Judy. Thanks for chiming in.

  • Ellen Dolgen
    Posted at 11:17h, 26 September Reply

    This is truly such an important blog. We need to speak out and up. There definitely is a trend to take away women’s basic human rights. It is scary!

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:00h, 27 September Reply

      Yes, Ellen. There is power in our voices when we band together.

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal
    Posted at 15:49h, 26 September Reply

    Walker, as you no doubt would have guessed, I fully agree.

    Male privilege assumes inequality between men and women, an attitude that when left unchecked, leads to entitlement, sexism, homophobia and many other discriminatory beliefs.

    Men who abuse more than likely were shaped by a patriarichal belief system, therefore the idea of male privilege has been normalized for him, the result of which is, he feels entitled.

    If we really are outraged (and God help us if we aren’t) then we must have the personal will to unpack the systemic issues behind-both our attitude toward, and the causes of-violence against women.

    If we unpack it we will find a society that willfully objectifies and sexualizes women, an environment that easily defaults to rape culture, and last, one that still accepts stereotypes that perpetuate outdated examples of manhood and womanhood.

    Solutions are vital if we are to break the ceiling that holds us down. Needless to say it is going to take more than getting men who are likeminded to agree, we actually need them to use their voice. But we also need help from women; we can’t assume that we all agree that ending VAW should be at the top of the agenda simply because we have gender in common.

    Sadly we are a people that often give lip service to “doing the right things socially,” but we don’t necessarily back it up with our votes cast, or dollars spent.

    Great post, I linked to the post I wrote about DV and the blame game, you may find it interesting too.

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:04h, 27 September Reply

      Elin, beautifully put. Lately I’ve noticed that our elected officers, on the state and national level, seem to have regressed–or maybe they’ve just stopped hiding behind politically correct words. Putting our money and vote towards a more diverse pool of elected officials would be one useful tool. Although I have to recognize the work and dedication of Joe Biden in setting up and continuing to champion VAWA.

      We need many solutions if this next generation, our grandchildren, are going to create and live in a more equitably and violence-free world. Thank you for all you do.

  • Elaine Ambrose
    Posted at 18:45h, 26 September Reply

    We start at home by raising sons who respect women. We monitor their friends and discuss how they treat females. We speak out against local acts of violence and volunteer at local shelters. I can’t change the global problem, but I can act within my family and community.

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:18h, 27 September Reply

      Elaine, yes I agree. But sadly we send them out to a world where even our politicians degrade women–it’s tough to counter the influences of a culture wed to objectifying and at the same time defiling women.

  • Sisters From Another Mister
    Posted at 10:21h, 27 September Reply

    This. So much this.
    As a Mom of 12 and 16 year old girls in an increasingly violent society, I fear their having freedom, of gaining independence – because I fear for their safety. As we talk of the atrocities that happen so far from home, it pains me to have to discuss the injustices in our own back yard.
    Collectively we have a voice, I thank you for starting the conversation.

    • Walker
      Posted at 10:41h, 27 September Reply

      I agree-collectively we have a voice and we have the energy to go out and make change–bit by bit, at home, in our kids schools, in the workplace, the bar, the locker room… But we have to be willing to create a little discomfort.
      Thank you for speaking up.

  • Beverly Diehl
    Posted at 02:03h, 05 October Reply

    I think probably the most important thing we can do is keep talking abut it, keep putting the onus on the rapists – not the victims, and refuse to let it fade out of the spotlight.

    Thanks for this.

    • Walker
      Posted at 17:23h, 05 October Reply

      Yes, yes. And, we talk to other men about how they can help change the attitudes about rape and sexual violence in our society.

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