Gender-Based Violence in America

The tragedy that unfolded in California has ignited a conversation about gender-based violence in the US, something that we often believe is an issue reserved for other parts of the world. For all the women I know who have been scared of their partners, and for all the women who are currently scared of their partners, I hope we can keep this conversation going. Avoiding violence, protecting yourself from sexual assault, and the inevitable fear that accompanies both of these things, are a reality for women in this country. How are we so spectacularly failing our little boys that our little girls grow up to be scared of them?

‘”Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.’

Margaret Atwood, Writing the Male Character (1982)

Women don’t like to walk alone at night. Women don’t like to walk by large groups of men, at any hour. The comments, the stares, the catcalls, the anger when you don’t respond. Women have their friends trail them to a bar when they’re meeting a date, so someone is watching if things get out of control. Women have other friends on speed dial, in case things go wrong when they’re trying to break up with their partner. Women are ridiculed because they do many activities in groups, but women know there is safety in numbers. And numbers don’t lie. One out of every five American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime.

The point is, gender-based violence is happening here, in our communities. And this is a point men understand. Once you find yourself in a relationship with a caring, kind, respectful man, you will also find that he is constantly aware of and concerned for your safety. It’s nice, of course, until you realize that a healthy part of his concern stems from his knowledge. That he knows even more than you do about what some men are capable of. A chilling realization, indeed.

  • In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States, intimate partner violence accounts for between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims
  • In the United States, 83 per cent of girls aged 12 to 16 have experienced some form of sexual harassment in public schools
  • Annual costs of intimate partner violence have been calculated at USD 5.8 billion in the United States in 2003

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5 thoughts on “Gender-Based Violence in America

  1. lawmrh says:

    Although Elliott Rodger’s horrific misogynistic violence stemmed from mental illness, I agree wholeheartedly with the basis and sentiments postulated in your post: “Avoiding violence, protecting yourself from sexual assault, and the inevitable fear that accompanies both of these things, are a reality for women in this country. How are we so spectacularly failing our little boys that our little girls grow up to be scared of them?” Timely, succinct and well articulated.

    As in the cases of Jared Loughner in Tucson, James Holmes in Aurora, and Alan Lanza in Sandy Hook, I remain so infuriated about the appalling negligence of family members, mental health professionals, law enforcement and school personnel who allow such incredibly dangerous ticking-time bomb people to fly below-the-radar and for years!
    – Mo

    • thelimberlawyer says:

      Thank you, as always, for thoughtful commentary. It feels like this particular tragedy has sparked a real discussion about some broader topics related to the treatment of women, which could hopefully be a good thing for everyone.

      As for the mental health component of these types of incidents (which happen with such disturbing frequency), I know all too well the ways in which our systems are failing these people. They start out as vulnerable, ill children and end up dangerous and out of control. And no one intervenes.

      • Law Guy Seppy says:

        This right here is the key. There needs to be intervention. At the moment in Australia the ironically named Liberal party (equivalent of the US Republican party) is trying to deregulate healthcare, making it more difficult to receive mental healthcare.

        As someone who works in a criminal law firm, I can tell you many mental health is often the underlying precipitating factor in sexual offences.

  2. MikeW says:

    While the “remedy” in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” has never been the elegant Eighth Amendment compliance approach, I have wondered about the potential for “Gamma Knife,” and like non-invasive technologies for tweaking identifiable defects associated with the fear-anger-hatred-violence cycle in people before they get felonious. Is it possible to change behavior in precise, targeted radiologic intervention? I don’t know. It seems it would be much less expensive than repeat offenses and the opportunity cost of a lost working citizen to the correctional system. Your thoughts?

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