As we quickly roll into November and the holiday season, we remember October for a number of reasons; however, one important one is often forgotten. October was Domestic Awareness Month in the United States, but the purple ribbons — representing courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending domestic violence — were over shadowed by the flood of pink for Breast Cancer, which shares October as an awareness month. Undoubtedly both causes are worthy, but the uncontrollable plague of cancer seems to be easier to digest with the mainstream public and no one — not even NFL players — are afraid to wear pink all year long in support. Domestic violence is preventable, and it’s victims are more than just the wives of abusive spouses, but their children. So where was the purple?
Four million women are victimized by domestic violence every year, and three women die from abuse each year. Women and girls aged 16-24 are the most vulnerable, but violence affects Americans — as well as their international counterparts — regardless of gender, age, income, sexual orientation, race or religion. Victims of domestic violence are often also victims of modern slavery/human trafficking, via sex trafficking and forced marriages. The plague of domestic violence in the U.S. affects a woman or girl every nine seconds as a woman is assaulted physically and/or sexually. The most shocking fact about domestic violence is that most of these incidents/assaults are never reported. The reporting of domestic violence has continued to decrease even more in times of economic hardship because women so often stay with their abusive partner for financial sustenance in addition to fear and feel they do not have the needed resources to escape their abusers.
Although the numbers of those in situations of domestic violence are shocking in the U.S., these victims are not alone. Domestic violence has become seemingly a global plague, studies show that between one quarter and one half of all women in the world have been abused by intimate partners. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that in 48 surveys from around the world, 10-69% of women stated that they had been physically assaulted by an intimate partner at some point in their lives. The WHO also reports that studies from a range of countries show that 40-70% of female murder victims were killed by an intimate partner.
Domestic violence violates the fundamental human rights of women and often results in serious injury or death. Woman and girls are abused by their husbands and fathers, young girls are exploited by sex tourism and trafficking, girls in many countries are forced into arranged marriages at early ages. Twice as many women are illiterate as men due to the large gap in education, and girls are still less likely to get jobs and excel in the work place than boys. Girls, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are infected by HIV/AIDS in excessively large rates at two to three times higher than boys. Girls are more likely to become victims of trafficking or forced into the sex industry than boys, and with at least half a million under the age of 18, they make up the largest group in the sex industry.
Honor killings, are an archaic form of a death sentence, usually without trial or any form of defense for the victim, that are conducted almost exclusively on woman. They are rarely seen as a legal issue but a private family issue, and while many may think they only happen in the Middle East, this is a far cry from the truth. Honor killings also take place in the West, but are handled as forced suicides. These “murders” are a deplorable fact in many counties and cultures, causing many young girls to live in fear, shame and secrecy. Just last month a young girl was stoned to death in Iraq for having a Muslim boyfriend, and her violent and callous, death where caught on film (Teenage Girl Stoned to Death for Loving the Wrong Boy).
While domestic violence is the most prevalent form of abuse against women and girls, it is only one of many challenges and abuses that girls disproportionately face over that of boys. Chinese baby girls are aborted, abandoned or worse; however, they are not alone in their preference for male children. Woman and children are disproportionately more likely to be victims of forced migration, with 35 million refugees worldwide, more than 80% are women and children.
Many girls in Africa undergo female circumcision, otherwise known as female genital mutilation (FGM). At least 130 million girls and women are affected worldwide, and another 2 million are at risk every year, according to UNICEF. The use of FGM has changed little in the last ten years, and efforts need to be made in communities to both education on the reality and risks of FGM as well as to place more preventative measures and laws in effect.
Because one in three women around the globe experience domestic abuse in their lifetime, it truly is a global plague and one that clearly needs more awareness than one overshadowed month in the U.S., but a global movement of empowerment and support. Working to end child and forced marriages and gender inequality are the first steps in seeing a decline across the globe in the abuses against women and girls.