Reflections on the 16 Days of Action

By Anne Baenziger

“Violence against women remains one of the most tolerated violations of human rights.” –Phumzile Mlambo (Director of UN Women)

I am a 20-something from a small mid-western American town living in Dublin and if I’m honest, 16 days ago, I didn’t know much about violence against women or VAW. I have watched the news, heard the famous stories, and have even had friends tell me their personal stories, but I did not know what the global picture of violence against women looked like. I don’t think I will ever comprehend its entirety but during the #OrangeTheWorld campaign I have learnt loads about the issue. Here’s 10 things I learnt about violence against women in the 16 days.

  1. IT’S HOLISTIC. Violence against women happens in many different ways. Most of the time we think of physical or sexual abuse but violence also occurs in terms of emotional, psychological, or even social forms against women.
  2. IT’S A BIG DEAL. Sexual exploitation affects 4.5 million people, 98% are women and girls…that’s equivalent to the entire population of Ireland! (The United Nations)
  3. IT’S PERSONAL. 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence- mostly by an intimate partner (UN Development Programme). Half of all women killed in 2012 were killed by an intimate partner or family member (UN Office on Drugs and Crime).
  4. IT STARTS AT A YOUNG AGE. 60% of severe abuse in Ireland starts before the age of 25 (Women’s Aid). 700 million women alive today were married before 18.There is mixed data on the “going rates” for child brides. Coverage by the BBC in Jordan suggests each girl is married for anywhere between $2,800-14,000. However, broker sources suggest the majority of girls are sold into marriage for $350-1,000. (UN Women)
  5. IT HAS LONG LASTING CONSEQUENCES. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is “intentionally altering or causing injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.” 133 million girls and women alive today have undergone FGM in 29 countries where it is most practiced. (UN Women)
  6. IT’S OFTEN NOT RESOLVED. Only half of all sex crimes (i.e. rape and sexual assault) in Ireland are resolved and that’s just the ones that are actually reported! (Women’s Council of Ireland)
  7. IT’S IN OUR HOMES. 1 in 5 Irish women will experience domestic violence in her life. (Women’s Aid)
  8. IT’S IN OUR PUBLIC PLACES. From cat calling to rape to mob attacks to femicide, public forms of violence occur worldwide prohibiting girls from going to school, women from having freedom to travel or work. (UN Women)
  9. IRELAND’S DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Here’s a few organisation in Ireland helping women avoid, recover from and fight violence: National Women’s Council of Ireland, Women’s Aid, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Safe Ireland, Turn Off the Red Light, Tearfund Ireland, Sexual Violence Centre Cork, Rape Crisis Network of Ireland, COSC (The National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender Based Violence), and Ruhama.
  10. YOU CAN HELP PREVENT IT. You can share resources, simply learn more about VAW, ask your workplace if they have programmes in place, push for laws preventing VAW and promote healthy relationships in your community. (Futures Without Violence)

Though I am grateful to have learnt this information, it has left me with little hope. The colour orange was chosen for the campaign because it is bright and optimistic, representing a future free from violence against women and girls. When it comes to thinking optimistically about bleak tragic life circumstances, I turn to scripture to try to make sense of it all. There I find the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1:2). There I find God binding up the broken hearted (Psalm 147:3), healing through His own wounds (Isaiah 53:5), and rescuing us from violence and oppression (Psalm 72:14). There God calls us beloved (Jeremiah 31:3), forgiven (1 Peter 2:24), free (Galatians 5:1), whole (Colossians 2:10), never alone (Deuteronomy 31:8) and new (2 Corinthians 5:17). Violence of any kind was never part of God’s plan. A.W. Tozer, a Christian pastor and author, says, “salvation was bought not by Jesus’ fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love.” Love is what is needed to end violence against women. So above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

 

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