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The Most Tolerated Human Rights Abuse: Violence Against Women is More Prevalent Than Ever

Staff Voices, Featured

The Most Tolerated Human Rights Abuse
Violence against women is more prevalent than ever. 
by Cheryl Thomas
This article was originally published in the Star Tribune.

In 2023, twenty-eight women were killed by their husbands or partners in Minnesota where Global Rights for Women is headquartered. 

Despite a drop in the overall number of homicides in both Minnesota and globally, the most recent data from 2022 confirm that the rate of intimate partner homicide actually increased. Minnesota’s statistics reflect global numbers: world wide, 89,000 women and girls were intentionally killed in 2022  according to the United Nations. This figure represents the highest yearly number recorded in the past two decades.  

As we know at Global Rights for Women, those numbers do not even scratch the surface. One in three women globally will suffer physical violence, often as sexualized brutality as we have seen recently during conflict and as so often happens in private.  Countless others experience threats, and emotional coercion and control. While murder is the last violent act in a domestic violence victim’s life, because of socially enforced silence and stigma, we often don’t see or understand the cruelty women and children live with every day.

Despite its crushing individual and global impact, and its prevalence as the most tolerated human rights abuse of our time, men’s violence against women and girls has been normalized, and not considered an urgent criminal issue or a threat to public safety. 

In our recent report documenting the MPD’s response to domestic violence – the most common form of gender based violence – we reported the stories of women whose male partners injured them permanently and severely – one man who shattered his partner’s teeth in an assault with a baseball bat shortly after she’d given birth, another who broke a woman’s orbital bone, another who smashed a vertebrae in his partner’s neck.  

Our report described how in Minneapolis, abusers can flee the scene of violent assaults without concern that police will pursue them or investigate these crimes; they currently violate orders for protection with impunity. Even the most dangerous men – men who we have the tools to identify based on their conduct and history – are not stopped; they are free to commit further violence or murder.

In the past, Minnesota has been recognized around the world as a leader in the most innovative community responses to violence against women.  Leaders here were global pioneers – establishing the first women’s shelter in St. Paul, creating some of the first-ever laws to prohibit domestic violence. 

The Duluth Model of Coordinated Community Response was awarded the Policy Award by the World Future Council in 2014. The work of Duluth’s own Ellen Pence, including the creation of the Power and Control Wheel, has been translated into dozens of languages and is relied upon around the world as a tool to effectively respond to gender-based violence. 

Today, Global Rights for Women calls on our state leadership to restore this powerful legacy and seek out ways to better respond to violence against women and girls.

As Congress works to finalize the budget for Fiscal Year 2024, we are deeply concerned that the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (VOCA) is facing a $700 million cut in funding.  We know the impact will fall hardest on those who need it most:  programs in rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color. Potentially millions of survivors nationwide will lose access to lifesaving and life-sustaining services to escape and heal from domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, and other crimes.

Working with partners from Minnesota and around the world, I know how funding shelters, housing, advocates, legal assistance and more, saves lives and gives survivors the tools to live with dignity. These cuts endanger victims, their families and communities nationwide.

Congress and your representative need to hear from you about the devastating impact these cuts will have for survivors and the programs that serve them.

It is time for us to restore leadership and innovation by prioritizing and reforming our systems to address the most prevalent human rights abuse of our time – violence against women and girls. 

Cheryl Thomas is the founder and executive director of Global Rights for Women.