Ending Violence Against Women

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Two Steubenville teenagers were convicted of sexually assaulting a teen while at a high school party. The town of Torrington, Connecticut is torn about a statutory rape cases among 2 18 year old football players. A young girl is gang raped and murdered in India. Another female soldier speaks out against sexual violence she endured while on active duty.

These are headlines we see every day and most of America skims over it. These are the media-worthy cases, if you will. Just like gang violence and murders on the South and West sides of Chicago are not reported every day, the scope of violence against women remains incredibly invisible to the average person in the U.S. It’s boggling that an issue that directly impacts 1 and 4 women and 1 and 6 men is still remaining invisible. It’s disheartening that America skims over this news and longs for the latest wins/losses for March Madness.

Violence against women is an epidemic in this country and every single one of us should be standing up against it. I had the incredible opportunity to sit among some of the top leaders of the anti-violence against women movement in Chicago (and beyond) tonight and discuss where the movement currently is, it’s successes, it’s challenges, where we would like to see it go. This conversation was ignited by two amazingly inspirational women in Chicago who are part of the NoVo Foundation’s 2nd cohort for the Move to End Violence.

The overall goal off the Move to End Violence is “to foster a transformation in global society from a culture of domination and exploitation to one of equality and partnership.” One of the takeaways from tonight’s discuss that resonated the most from me is that we can not and should not solely focus on the women and girls who have and are experiencing violence. Indeed, these women and girls are critical to the movement as their stories can be powerful and inspiring for themselves as well as the community. Indeed, we must look at who is being victimized as we try to understand violence. But that’s just it, we have to strive to understand violence in order to prevent it and eliminate it. We have to look to the deep root causes of violence against women including poverty, poor education, patriarchy, inequality, lack of opportunity. We have to articulate what the paradigm shift will be and we cannot do anything but sprint toward it.

We. We. We. Ending violence against women should not only be on the agenda of men and women who are fighting this battle every day. Ending violence against women should not only be addressed by rape crisis centers, domestic violence shelters, and anti-trafficking programs. Carrying out social change cannot be sustained solely by the activists in the movement today nor should it. The us vs. them that has compartmentalized this movement directly contradicts the principals driving the movement to end violence against women. That is equality, co-existence¬† — interconnectedness. We cannot end violence if we have an us vs. them mentality or structure because it is absurd to believe our world has to exist as such. If we believe that, then we belief that violence against women is inherent to humanity and will always exist. Social workers, advocates, activists, attorneys — these are not the only people we need at the table. Every one has a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother. Everyone has a stake in this and everyone should be outraged by the epidemic that is violence against women.

It is time we stop reacting and start being proactive. It is time we sit at the table with policy makers, law enforcement, social workers, corporate America,¬† small business owners, scientists, engineers, English teachers, the media, attorneys, activists, advocates, etc. It is time we truly embody “we” in the movement to providing a universally safe and healthy environment for women and girls to thrive.

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