Most people would be frightened and likely take action to protect themselves and help others at risk if they heard there was a pandemic. Yet, violence against women is a "global pandemic," according to the United Nations. But it is all-too-often hushed up, ignored or disbelieved. Victims are shamed. Perpetrators are persistent and often evade the law. In some countries, domestic violence is not even against the law.
"Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential," reports the United Nations. "The costs and consequence of violence against women last for generations."
On Nov. 25th of each year, the UN asks for a turn-around. The day is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Its color is orange. To see how many buildings were colored with orange lights last year in order to raise awareness about violence against women, visit www.flickr.com/photos/unwomen/sets/72157649322853638/.
The project encourages people to light up their communities in orange. Call your town supervisor or mayor; school superintendent; housing center director; community group leaders, etc., and ask to have orange lights on buildings, or to have posters or banners displayed.
"NYSUT'S membership is more than 70 percent women, and with our strong commitment to social justice issues, this makes the 16-day campaign for the Elimination of Violence Against Women a worthy and necessary campaign for us to support," said NYSUT President Karen E. Magee.
Nov. 25 is only the start of the campaign to raise awareness and set up change. It is the beginning of a 16-day campaign that ends on Dec. 10, which is Human Rights Day.
"The focus must now be on prevention and, although there is no single solution to such a complex problem, there is growing evidence of the range of actions that can stop violence before it happens," said UN Under- Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. "This comprehensive approach forms the core of the new framework developed by UN Women and our partner agencies."
An example of one of those programs is a train-the-trainers workshop for girl guides.
Ideas for action during the 16-day campaign include:
- Spread the word on social media.
- Set up discussions among professionals and community members about the role of violence.
- Have a forum at the college you are attending.
- Invite a speaker into the local high school.
- Invite government and community leaders to wear orange.
- Invite journalists to showcase organizations that are helping women and changing patterns.
- Organize orange dances or flash mobs.
- Have a bicycle party with orange streamers.
- Host events in malls.
For more information, go to www.unwomen.org.
The U.N. reports that 35 percent of women and girls globally experience some form of physical and or sexual violence in their lifetime, with up to seven in 10 women facing this abuse in some countries. Violence against women comes in many forms in different societies, and can include cutting, beating, punching, servitude, forcing young girls into marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual trafficking and much more.
For many people, the violence comes from intimate relationship partners. It often begins right in their living room, bedroom or parked car. The perpetrator is often an intimate and may excuse behavior later on by saying they were drunk or high and don't remember; it will never happen again; they need understanding because of how they were abused as a child; etc.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following signs of abuse. Be on alert if a partner does any of the following:
- calls you names, insults you or puts you down;
- prevents or discourages you from going to work or school;
- prevents or discourages you from seeing family members or friends;
- tries to control how you spend money, where you go, what medicines you take or what you wear;
- acts jealous or possessive or constantly accuses you of being unfaithful;
- gets angry when drinking alcohol or using drugs;
- threatens you with violence or a weapon;
- hits, kicks, shoves, slaps, chokes or otherwise hurts you, your children or your pets;
- forces you to have sex or engage in sexual acts against your will; or
- blames you for his or her violent behavior or tells you that you deserve it.
Further, the Mayo Clinic adds, "If you're lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you might also be experiencing domestic violence if you're in a relationship with someone who:
- threatens to tell friends, family, colleagues or community members your sexual orientation or gender identity;
- tells you that authorities won't help a lesbian, bisexual or transgender person;
- tells you that leaving the relationship means you're admitting that lesbian, bisexual or transgender relationships are deviant;
- says women can't be violent; or
- justifies abuse by telling you that you're not "really" lesbian, bisexual or transgender."