Opinion

Sayler: Violence against women now an international crisis in America

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Violence against women is an epidemic — a global health crisis. The World Health Organization estimates about 30% of women have been subject to either intimate or non-partner violence during their life.

Fourty-two percent of female victims of intimate partner violence report being physically injured and some have fatal outcomes like homicide or suicide.

These numbers are likely low due to under-reporting which also leads to perpetrators never facing consequences for their actions. Women are often afraid to report this violence because of fear of not being believed, stigmas, or retaliation or ostracizing by the abuser, friends, or family members. As many as 38% of murders of women in the United States are committed by male intimate partners, with the majority of these from gun violence.

Violence against women is any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or mental harm or suffering to women and girls. This includes physical and sexual violence, deprivation of liberty, threats — including economic and emotional or psychological abuse. The devastating consequences of this violence can cross generations and last a lifetime. It affects individuals in every community regardless of age, religion, ethnicity, economic status or nationality.

In the U.S., Native American women experience sexual assault and domestic violence at higher rates than any other ethnicity.

Over 84% of them experience violence in their lifetime, and they are murdered at more than 10 times the national average. In their lifetimes 45% of black women, 35% of Latinx women and 19.6% of Asian American women have experienced intimate partner violence, sexual violence or stalking. 43.8% of lesbian women and 61.1% of bisexual women have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner compared with 35% of heterosexual women.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated and further exposed this crisis. Civil unrest and humanitarian crisis like climate change-related disasters have a disproportionate impact on women and girls, often leading to increased violence against them.

October was National Domestic Violence month. Nov. 25, 2021 was the United Nations official commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. We must continue to bring awareness of and solutions to the domestic violence epidemic.

The Violence Against Women Act addresses domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking and human trafficking. It was introduced in 1994 and must be reauthorized about every five years. Before its passage, domestic violence and sexual assault were often considered a family matter and were not treated as crimes.

The bill classifies domestic violence and sexual assault as crimes.

Currently, the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2021 passed the House with bipartisan support and has support from President Biden, but we are still waiting for its passage in the Senate. Contact your Senators and ask them to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act in the Senate. This extreme level of violence against women is preventable.

Editor’s note: Becky Sayler is a local women’s rights advocate and frequent contributor to Women’s Watch.

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