Cyber Violence against Women and Girls: Is this thing on?

This post is part of an ongoing series on the intersection of law and how it interacts with violence against women, illuminating how it is equally critical to make effective implementation of law, as well as the legislation itself, a priority. For background and the inspiration of this series, start here

Violence against women and girls takes many ugly forms. The most common form is often cited as direct physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner, experienced by an estimated 35% of women worldwide. Though effective implementation is often a problem, many countries offer at least some legal protection from physical intimate partner violence. But what happens when an abuser is hiding behind the keyboard of a computer? With the spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs), humans across the globe are more connected than ever. While ICTs provide new resources in the fight to end violence against women and girls (VAWG), like apps that help women get home safely, they also create a new set of problems.

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The intersection of violence against women and the law

In an ongoing series, Global Rights for Women will begin to shed light on the intersection of law and how it interacts with violence against women, illuminating how it is equally critical to make effective implementation of laws a priority. It is our goal to increase awareness and provide different perspectives about the impact of laws on women around the world. Gender-based violence takes many forms and functioning legislation is the bedrock through which the rest of the system and the public must operate to keep women safe. However, in almost every country in the world, laws also function to discriminate against and harm women. Therefore, laws must be refined to affirm and enforce women’s rights unequivocally. Sharing these perspectives is critical to realizing our mission of promoting women’s human rights to equality and freedom from violence through legal reform and systems change.

Laws have the power to shape public discourse and change cultural attitudes. For centuries, violence against women, specifically in intimate relationships, was a right men openly exercised. But in 1871, the Supreme Court of Alabama became the first court to directly rescind the legal right of men to beat their wives. Thereafter, Maryland became the first state to pass a law making wife-beating a crime in 1882. Then, forty years ago in the United States, the women’s liberation movement was successful in passing first-of-their-kind domestic violence laws, providing civil orders of protection for victims. In this country, most laws permit victims to obtain restraining orders, eviction of the abuser from the victim’s residence, no-contact or stay-away mandates, child and spousal awards and custody provisions, among other critical things to staying safe. Continue reading

A Call for Healer-Allies

Though the work of Global Rights for Women focuses on systems change and legal form, we believe that in order to do our work effectively, we have to be continuously connected to the voices and experiences of survivors. In a four-part series on trauma-informed skills, Twin Cities, Minnesota advocate and survivor Sarah Super will share her insights on how we can be trauma-sensitive in our support of survivors of gender-based violence. Read on for Part One. 

Whenever I attend a training on psychological trauma that ends with a conversation about the importance of self-care, I find it hard to not roll my eyes and tune out.

Don’t get me wrong; self-care is a healthy practice for everyone. Most people say they perform at their best when they eat nutritious foods, exercise, get enough rest, and take time for themselves. But there are not enough kale salads and bubble baths to heal anyone from trauma.

When we see self-care as the answer to healing from trauma, we fail to understand that the nature of trauma happens in relationship to another person or group of people. Sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, war, and racism are all traumatic experiences that happen in a social context. In some cases, the victim knows the perpetrator(s) firsthand, and in other cases, they are strangers. Either way, there is a human interaction in which the perpetrator leaves the victim powerless and betrayed. Continue reading

Global Rights for Women brings lessons learned in Minnesota to the world

When Global Rights for Women works with partners around the world to achieve women’s human rights to equality and freedom from violence, we stand on the shoulders of our foremothers here in Minnesota. When we train legal professionals and advocates in Moldova, Lithuania or Serbia we bring Minnesota’s experience of more than 40 years developing and honing laws to protect women and best practices for their implementation.

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A Different Face of Moldova

By some measures, Moldova is a broken country. It is the poorest country in Europe and has had no government since October, when the prime minister was ousted as a result of a banking scandal. There is corruption from the highest levels of government to the police officers on the street.

Yet Global Rights for Women saw a different face of Moldova when our team traveled there in December to train police, prosecutors, judges, forensic doctors and social service providers in best practices in responding to sexual violence. We saw hope, commitment and real progress toward keeping Moldovan women safe from violence. As US Ambassador to Moldova, James Pettit, said in his end-of-year message, “despite its problems, Moldova has immense potential. Your resources, your human capital, your spirit of creativity and hard work – subtract the problems, and Moldova could be a prosperous, democratic, European country.” Continue reading

Rooting out a global culture of rape

Originally published in the Star Tribune:

Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, who is being disciplined by the Army for atteows_144849982649276mpting to stop the sexual abuse of children by an Afghan military officer, compared the U.S. military’s reaction to the rape of Afghan boys to the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. While the comparison is apt, it only begins to suggest the global nature of rape tolerance.

Although the Afghani and Penn State cases concerned boys, victims of sexual violence are most often women and girls. A 2013 global review established that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Put another way, the number of women affected by this crisis — 2.5 billion — roughly equals the combined populations of China and India.

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The Institutionalization of Rape on Campus

This article was originally published on the Ms. Blog:

Editors’ note: We wanted to address the controversy surrounding the op-ed below, and note that we have changed the title and one asterisk-marked sentence in order to more accurately represent the position of the author. We are extremely concerned about the horrors of ISIS’ terrorist campaign of rape, grotesque violence and murder and want to be clear that neither the Ms. Blog nor Amy Lauricella, the author of the piece, intended to equate ISIS’ mass rapes as an instrument of war with rape on college campuses. The author, an attorney who is fighting on the frontlines of the movement to end violence against women, intended to issue a wake-up call about the high and unacceptable levels of institutionalized rape on college campuses. Ms. and the Ms. Blog have always provided a platform for feminist ideas, including controversial positions. While we certainly do not think that the rape campaign of ISIS terrorists can be equated with the high levels of college rape, we do think that sexual assault is becoming institutionalized on college campuses, and we must continue to push college administrators to take action to protect students. It is believed on the basis of sound research that at least one in five college women will experience a sexual assault on campus. And a recent report from the Association of American Universities put that number at least as high as one in four. This is unacceptable—and it’s an institutional, not individual, problem.

The horrors of the Islamic State are becoming increasingly well known. This month, The Washington Post released a series covering life in the Islamic State, with one piece centerStop Rapeing on women and highlighting that they live in constant fear of sexual violence. Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch reported on “a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery and forced marriage by ISIS forces” of Yazidi women.

In a New York Times op-ed piece, David Brooks expressed his alarm about ISIS’ rape program. Writing, “[t]his wasn’t supposed to happen in the 21st century,” the reader gets the impression that ISIS’ treatment of women is an anomaly in modern-day society. As an attorney at Global Rights for Women, a nonprofit that works around the world to achieve effective reform on violence against women, I know that the institutionalization of rape occurs around the world, even in the U.S. According to a 2013 global review, 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence.

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Sending a Message to Amnesty International

ProstitutionAmnesty Logo and sex trafficking, which are often indistinguishable, perpetuate a severe form of violence against women and girls. While prostitution is sometimes characterized as a “choice,” few women would freely choose to sell their bodies if they have other options for economic survival. Therefore, it is inexplicable that Amnesty International, one of the leading human rights organizations in the world, will be submitting a draft policy supporting full decriminalization of the sex industry at its International Council Meeting from August 7 – 11.

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When Culture Conflicts with Human Rights

In Global Rights for Women’s work to end violence against women and girls around the world, we get the question, “Aren’t you trying to impose ‘western values’ on people who have different cultures and traditions?” There are several answers to this question, but they all come down to the fact that women’s rights are human rights. The right to be free from violence is not limited to certain countries or cultures.

women-protesting-violenceOne answer is that we only work in places where we’re invited, usually by a local women’s rights NGO. Often these local organizations are seriously under-resourced and working against tremendous obstacles. When they see a conflict between culture and women’s rights their priority is to keep women safe in their communities.

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A tribute to Sharon Rice Vaughan

Sharon Rice Vaughan

Sharon Rice Vaughan, cofounder of Women’s Advocates, the first battered women’s shelter in the U.S., was a tireless activist for victims of domestic violence. Her groundbreaking work is a great inspiration to those who work to end violence against women. “Sharon changed our lives. She changed the world.”

Read more about Sharon Rice Vaughan’s legacy: National Bulletin on Domestic Violence Prevention

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