Gendered violence is a pervasive issue, spanning across the globe, and affecting millions. Despite the widespread prevalence, the movement to end sexual violence has been slow, with small victories. Within the U.S. specifically, there is a false perception that we seem to have a handle on gendered violence. Do not be fooled- this is not the case.
In the land of the free, where supposed liberty and freedom prevail, 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes occur each year (The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2006). According to the National Crime Victimization Survey 2006 data, there were 226,590 rape and sexual assaults, which translates into more than 600 women daily (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2007).
This is far from being an issue we have under control.
There is lots of talk recently about gendered violence used in times of war, particularly within the international women’s rights field. However, we don’t really discuss this topic regarding what is happening to our American sisters. While women in the armed forces are fighting violence in the form of war, they are being violated sexually, physically, and emotionally and experience gendered violence. A recent report put out by the Department of Defense (DOD) highlighted how ‘normal’ this type of violence is for women in the military. In 2009, a total of 3,230 restricted and unrestricted reports of sexual assault were filed- that’s an 11% increase from the previous year. Within this number, 53% were assaults by service members on other service members and 87%, were cases of women being perpetrated by men.
This is unacceptable.
Sexual coercion is used to control and manipulate women who are fighting to keep this country safe. How can we ask women to go to war for America when we can’t promise their safety? Or that their sexual freedom is not guaranteed? How can we ask women to join the military knowing the likelihood of them getting raped by their fellow service men is so high that we don’t even address this issue beforehand?
Many people I’ve talked to has mentioned the fact that while this is an issue, and we know about, no one seems to think there is a solution. Does this mean we abandon our military women? Like all forms of gendered violence, the root of it comes down to gender roles and gender performance. I would argue, that the male standard of performing gender within the military is a hypermasculine image. Is it too much to ask for a change to occur within our own culture to address masculinity? I don’t think so…yes it’s a hard issue to tackle, yes it’s completely insitutionalized, yes it’s going against the patriarchial social system- but are these excuses enough for our lack of action? Enough is enough! Our women, our sisters are dying from violence- their physical and emotional selves are being dominated by this violence. We need to take a stand- together and make this issue as important as it should be.
So what can you do? We as advocates and supporters of women’s rights need to start challenging constructs of masculinity and femininity to help address thep problem of gendered violence. Before you start a revolution out there, start one within yourself. What are your ideas of gender? Of your gender identity? Gender performance? Violence against women? Gendered violence? How does this issue affect you on a personal & daily level? On a community level?