"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

STOP Violence Against Women

Did you know that while Sarah Palin was Mayor of Wasill, Alaska, her administration cut funds that paid for rape kits (used for evidence collection in suspected rape cases) and then "shifted the burden onto the victims"?(1) That's right folks; they charged the victims of sexual assault for rape kits! AND, that's a lot of victims! That same article cited some alarming statistics (from Amnesty International) - that "one out of three women in the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime", and that "in the United States, a woman is raped every 6 minutes." Just one more thing; the Alaskan rape rate is 2.5 the national average. Whoa!

I'll spare you any more about Sarah Palin. I'll leave the serious commentary on Palin to real experts like John Stewart, Stephen Colbert and the comedic think tank at Saturday Night Live . We need to discuss an issue of real importance - Violence Against Women. The statistics above tell a serious story, a story of a world in which women still do not have an "equal" place at the table. And while we in the United States seem to think we are more advanced than so much of the rest of the world, the problem of violence against women in our own nation is significant.

Although much of the conversation about violence against women has surrounded domestic violence, there is another systemic form of violence against women that has only started to get the attention it deserves - sexual violence against women in the military. It's one thing to sign up for military service knowing one could be injured or killed in combat, but should rape by a fellow soldier be a consideration? A recent ABC News story quoted Congressional Representative Jane Harman as saying that "Women serving in the military today are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than be killed by enemy fire in Iraq",(2) and recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office bear this out.

Beyond the risk of sexual assault of female military personnel, civilian spouses are also at risk, and based on the phenomenal rate of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coupled with the inculcation of the use of violence and dehumanization occurring in soldiers that will (if they have not already) return home, there is a huge potential for physical and/or sexual assault of their partners.

So long as people are indoctrinated to see other human beings as something "less than",they can justify whatever they choose to do to them; it gives "power over" others and "provides the common thread between military campaigns and assaults against women" according to Lucinda Marshall.(3) It's a story as old as time, and it is high time to create a new story. It is time to take a stand against violence, and particularly the violence connected with militarism that translates into so many other forms of violence, including violence against women.

Although it will be a long struggle to stem the tide of militarism that grips our nation, we can still take important steps to reduce violence against women at home and abroad.

TAKE ACTION: You can join the Stop Violence Against Women Campaign at Amnesty International. While you are there, consider advocating for the International Violence Against Women Act currently being considered by Congress (and introduced by Senator Joseph Biden).



(1) "A Culture of Violence Against Women: More Than Rape Kits", http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/09/16-8
(2) "Sex Assaults Against Women in Military 'Epidemic'' http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Vote2008/story?id=5491514&page=1
(3) "The Connection Between Militarism and Violence Against Women http://www.awakenedwoman.com/marshall_militarism.htm

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