In an announcement that the International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was introduced to the US Senate on Oct. 31 I saw the following:
Imagine a world without violence against women...
Imagine a world where women are free to thrive
Compare that with the traditional rape and violence prevention messages that are aimed at restricting women's actions. The series of "Don't ..." statements attempt to limit women's lives in ways that would be clearly unacceptable if they were directed at men.
Those who defend this double standard will find reasons to justify their expectation that women will either follow this advice or will be deliberately putting themselves at risk. Yet many of their justifications would apply equally to men.
Take drinking for example. Women are warned against the perils of binge drinking and are told that if they become crime victims they have brought crime upon themselves. Yet men also get assaulted during binge drinking. And men do die from binge drinking, either directly through alcohol poisoning or indirectly through drowning or other means.
These gendered "Don't ..." messages directed at women impact the decisions of criminals and would-be criminals and they impact the decisions of juries -- often in favor of rapists and abusers. The result is that so-called crime prevention methods which blame victims contribute both to crime and to injustice. Yet many continue to cling to these methods.
Those who say that this double standard exists and is okay because of the amount of crime directed at women will frequently be the same people fighting against laws and funding of work explicitly meant to protect women from crime.
"Men are victims too!" they will yell along with stats showing that more men than women are victims of non-sexual assaults. Yet it is only women who are supposed to live like they are evading constant physical danger.
This double standard has little to do with sense or true practicality. Since most of those who commit sex crimes are men, too many men prefer a response that allows them to be lazy about preventing crimes against women. The man who sees a woman's drink being spiked and who chooses to say nothing can tell himself that he is blameless if the drink's owner is later raped. The woman who failed to monitor her own drink is the one at fault for not worrying about rape prevention.
This also explains some men's obsession with the "women lie about rape" mantra. It's faster and lazier to find an excuse to label an alleged victim as the perpetrator of a hoax than it is to insist that all who want to have sex ensure that they have full, legal consent which won't ever be viewed by the other person as exploitative or unwanted.
To be truly effective at crime prevention, the "Don't ..." statements need to be aimed at those who inflict violence and those who are tempted to do so. Rather than limiting the options of women in the name of crime prevention, their options need to be widened.
From the press release for I-VAWA:Research has shown that giving women in poor countries economic opportunity empowers them to escape and prevent violent situations.
The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA), if passed, would incorporate proven solutions for reducing violence against women into U.S. foreign assistance programs.
The I-VAWA would promote women's economic opportunity, address violence against girls in school, encourage legal reform, work to change public attitudes, and support health programs and survivor services, especially in crisis situations.
Women who have economic options experience less violence. Owning property, for example, can give women greater bargaining power within households and protect them against domestic violence. In Kerala, India, for example, a study showed that only 7 percent of women who owned property suffered from physical violence, compared to 49 percent of women with no property.
I-VAWA was developed by the Women's Edge Coalition, Amnesty International USA, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, and members of Congress with the help of organizational partners. It was drafted in consultation with more than 150 groups including U.S.-based NGOs, U.N. agencies and 40 women's groups across the globe.
The Women's Edge Coalition is hosting a petition on its website in support of I-VAWA. Go check it out. If you also support the I-VAWA, please let it be known.
I created the following graphic so anyone who is interested can easily help show their support and spread the word. Please feel free to borrow this graphic with the link to my post.
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Labels: Violence Against Women