Violence Against Women Is A U.S. Problem, Too

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In preparation for the upcoming session of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Rashida Manjoo, recently released a report on her 2011 mission—conducted at the invitation of the U.S. Government—to the United States. This was the first visit of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women since 1998, and her findings suggest both progress and a call to action.

The report affirms that women in the United States experience violence. No surprise there, but it is a clear indication that violence against women (VAW) knows no national, political, ethnic, religious, or socio-economic boundaries; it happens here, it happens everywhere.

In 2008, approximately 500 women were raped every day in the U.S., according a National Crime Victimization Survey. Domestic violence was highlighted as “an extremely underreported crime.” When reported, it is rarely prosecuted and where investigated, has a low conviction rate. This is a global truism.

In 2007, according to the report, 64% of female homicides in the U.S. were perpetrated by a family member or intimate partner. Again, global trends, localized.

Worldwide, one in three women experiences physical, sexual or emotional violence in her lifetime; one in five experiences rape or attempted rape. Yet, while every woman is at risk, some human rights violations make certain women more vulnerable. That holds true in the United States, too.

The Special Rapporteur identified several groups of women for whom a lack of human rights protections and destructive gender norms play a part in disproportionate experiences of violence. Some of the patterns are shocking:

  • African-American women “experience intimate partner violence at rates 35% higher than their White counterparts.” Despite accounting for only 8% of the U.S. population, “in 2005 they accounted for 29% of all female victims of intimate partner homicide.”
  • Immigrant and undocumented women in the U.S. often face higher rates of sexual harassment in the workplace and of battering than other women, yet are less able to report these crimes due to their legal status, isolation and other factors. “A 2004 study in New York City found that 51% of intimate partner homicide victims were foreign-born.”
  • Women in the military face hierarchical and highly masculine conditions that have a detrimental impact on reporting gender-based crimes. One study indicates that only 29% of active duty women who experienced unwanted sexual contact in the previous 12 months reported it.

 

  • Women in detention often come from one violent environment to another, even when in the custody of the very government that is meant to protect them. A 2008-09 study cited found that “4.7% of women in prison had experienced sexual assault by an inmate and 2.1% had experienced sexual misconduct by a staff member.”

 

  • For Native American women “the rate of violent victimization…is more than double that among other women.” One Congressional source found that “34% of Indian and Alaska Native women will be raped in their lifetimes and 39% of them will be subject to domestic violence.”

As with most human rights violations, these and other patterns track vulnerabilities such as poverty, incarceration, lack of access to health care and social services, socio-economic isolation and discrimination, and departure from traditional gender norms.

For some, such as women in detention, the conditions in which they live yield particular forms of VAW, such as the use of shackling. Improvements such as the Prisoner Rape Elimination Act are important, but women in detention face a number of rights violations that put them at risk of violence, and improvements to the policies that govern women’s detention centers must be made—and then enforced.

Native American and Alaska Native women living in sovereign territory often face complex jurisdictional issues between state, federal, and tribal criminal justice systems, making protection, reporting, and prosecution nearly impossible (to learn more see Amnesty International’s report, Maze of Injustice). The Tribal Law and Order Act, which passed last year, aims to close some legal loopholes and increase protection of American Indian women. We are now pushing for rigorous implementation of the law and sufficient funding to make it work.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), seeks to improve the response to any incident of violence against women. Passed in 1994 and reauthorized twice since, VAWA brings together health, housing, criminal justice, and social services to prevent and respond to VAW and protect survivors. VAWA will soon be up for reauthorization again, which will give us the opportunity to advocate for legislation to address some of Ms. Manjoo’s recommendations.

For many of us, the Special Rapporteur’s new report merely elucidates things we already knew. Importantly, we must take from her findings the lesson that women are at risk everywhere—even in our own backyard—and that one human rights violation frequently begets another.

The report’s recommendations suggest ways that we can all work together to change the dangerous gender norms that enable VAW and prevent reliable enforcement of laws against it.

To stay informed as we seek opportunities to hold the U.S. government accountable for protecting women at home and abroad, please “like” the Amnesty USA Women’s Human Rights Network on Facebook.  We look forward to working together to end VAW in the U.S. and around the world.

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8 thoughts on “Violence Against Women Is A U.S. Problem, Too

  1. rape and mistreatment of women occur even in 2001, because It still exists countries, men and law that do not consider sexual, physical and psychological abuse as a crime or abuse but as something properly established.

  2. rape and mistreatment of women occur even in 2001, because It still exists countries, men and law that do not consider sexual, physical and psychological abuse as a crime or abuse but as something properly established.

  3. Down here in the south, as with many places, it is an "unwritten" law that says a woman's place is in the home. There are too many men and boys who somehow think they are "entitled" to behave in this manner. While it is much more accepted for women to work outside the home than it ever was before, there are still many men, and women alike, that think a man has a right to demand certain behaviors, and to be given what they call "respect". We as women, still face that ever so old struggle, of being considered equal and on the same level as our male counterparts. No matter how educated we are, or how skillful we are in our chosen profession, when it comes to matters at home, we are still expected to perform, behave and live as our significant others wish. That may not be a problem for some, but there are plenty of us who feel that this leaves the doors wide open to disappointment and high expectations on the part of the women who can't seem to live up to it; according to their male counterparts. Some men can be narrow minded, and unable to expand their perspectives on how women are viewed and what exactly their roles are at home. This leads to dysfunction and chaos in the family and marriage…especially if the woman wants to be considered as a equal partner, who has any say so over how things should be. It isn't because the woman is wrong, it's because she can't convince her man that there is another way to look at things, and that her feelings and opinions should be valued as well. This can lead to turmoil in the marriage, and even escalate to a level that is harmful and dangerous. Until women are considered worthy and honorable in roles other than mother and wife….it isn't going to stop. We as women have to stick to our convictions as well…and make changes if the situation doesn't improve. I speak from experience…and I know how discouraging it can be, and how hurtful it can be…when you are not valued as a person or character with your own identity. Let's hope it does change….the world would be a better place.

  4. Down here in the south, as with many places, it is an “unwritten” law that says a woman’s place is in the home. There are too many men and boys who somehow think they are “entitled” to behave in this manner. While it is much more accepted for women to work outside the home than it ever was before, there are still many men, and women alike, that think a man has a right to demand certain behaviors, and to be given what they call “respect”. We as women, still face that ever so old struggle, of being considered equal and on the same level as our male counterparts. No matter how educated we are, or how skillful we are in our chosen profession, when it comes to matters at home, we are still expected to perform, behave and live as our significant others wish. That may not be a problem for some, but there are plenty of us who feel that this leaves the doors wide open to disappointment and high expectations on the part of the women who can’t seem to live up to it; according to their male counterparts. Some men can be narrow minded, and unable to expand their perspectives on how women are viewed and what exactly their roles are at home. This leads to dysfunction and chaos in the family and marriage…especially if the woman wants to be considered as a equal partner, who has any say so over how things should be. It isn’t because the woman is wrong, it’s because she can’t convince her man that there is another way to look at things, and that her feelings and opinions should be valued as well. This can lead to turmoil in the marriage, and even escalate to a level that is harmful and dangerous. Until women are considered worthy and honorable in roles other than mother and wife….it isn’t going to stop. We as women have to stick to our convictions as well…and make changes if the situation doesn’t improve. I speak from experience…and I know how discouraging it can be, and how hurtful it can be…when you are not valued as a person or character with your own identity. Let’s hope it does change….the world would be a better place.

  5. Cool tech post. I was arguing with my mom on this issue on the last friday. I can prove I was true by the help of this post. Thank u mate.

  6. Cool tech post. I was arguing with my mom on this issue on the last friday. I can prove I was true by the help of this post. Thank u mate.

  7. It is very disturbing indeed that there are women who believe that it is right to be treated bad by their male counterparts all in the name of respect the the woman is required to accord to the man.

    The question here is: what drives the woman to believe that the man has the right to demand respect while in the proccess infringing the right of the women?
    In other words, what are the factors contributing to such beliefs of both men and women? For instance culture and religion.

    It is high time that these two be reconcilled with human rights so that it is clearly defined what is right and what is not.

  8. It is very disturbing indeed that there are women who believe that it is right to be treated bad by their male counterparts all in the name of respect the the woman is required to accord to the man.

    The question here is: what drives the woman to believe that the man has the right to demand respect while in the proccess infringing the right of the women?
    In other words, what are the factors contributing to such beliefs of both men and women? For instance culture and religion.

    It is high time that these two be reconcilled with human rights so that it is clearly defined what is right and what is not.