"Amnesty International calls for an end
Somewhere in the world, a woman is subjected to violence every two seconds. At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Usually, the abuser is a member of her own family or someone known to her. More than 60 million women are “missing” from the world today as a result of sex-selective abortions and female infanticide.
Amnesty International believes that this violence against women must stop, and, beginning on Nov. 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women, the organization is asking all citizens to make the human rights of women their business. For 16 days, until Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day, Amnesty International urges everyone to take action every day and tell the world about this human rights scandal and make governments act on their obligations to women.
Amnesty International bases its work on the definition in the U.N. Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
Gender-based violence against women is violence directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. Progressive interpretations of this definition affirm that acts of omission, such as neglect or deprivation, can constitute violence against women. Structural violence (harm arising from the organization of the economy) is also considered by some to be part of violence against women. Violence against women may be physical, psychological and sexual.
The consequences of violence against women go far beyond immediate physical damage to the victim. For many they last a lifetime. Women who have been raped may suffer unwanted pregnancy, HIV/AIDS infection and rejection by their community. Long-term effects of violence against women include abuse of alcohol and drugs, depression, other mental health disorders and suicide.
The repercussions of violence against women reverberate throughout the family and community. Children in particular are damaged when exposed to it. Actual or threatened violence creates an atmosphere of fear that limits the lives of women everywhere. When women’s lives are restricted by force and fear, society is impoverished economically, politically and culturally.
The underlying cause of violence against women lies in gender discrimination: the denial of women’s equality with men in all areas of life. Women are also targeted because of their race, class, culture, sexual identity or HIV status, or because they are from poor or marginalized communities.
Virtually every culture in the world contains forms of violence against women that are nearly invisible because they are seen as normal or acceptable.
Worldwide, women have a higher incidence of poverty than men; their poverty is more severe than that of men; and increasing numbers of women are poor. The negative effects of globalization are leaving more and more women trapped on the margins of society. Poverty can be both a cause and a consequence of violence against women.
Women from all socio-economic groups are at risk of physical, sexual and psychological abuse and deprivation by their intimate partners. However, a recent World Health Organization report suggests that women living in poverty suffer disproportionately. Lack of economic autonomy, denial of property rights or access to housing, and fear of losing their children mean that few women can risk the truly daunting consequences of leaving violent situations and attempting to secure justice from a legal system that may be discriminatory or indifferent.
Control of women’s sexuality is a powerful means through which men exert their dominance over women. Women who do not conform to accepted standards of female identity — such as lesbians or women who chose to live independently — often face severe punishments. Often the punishment takes a sexualized form, such as rape.
The right to reproductive health care and the right to reproductive autonomy are central to women’s control over their own lives. Women have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children. They have the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health. This requires access to health care and information and education about contraception.
Women have the right to make decisions free from discrimination, coercion and violence. As long as violence against women is hidden, condoned or ignored by society and authorities, as long as the perpetrators are not punished, violence against women will continue.
For each of the 16 days of the campaign, Amnesty International has identified the causes they deem most urgent in stopping violence against women and urges everyone to take action through the various opportunities they have created. Daily action alerts are available at www.web.amnesty.org/actforwomen.
A local issue
One out of every four women in America will suffer some kind of violence at the hands of her husband or boyfriend during her lifetime. Very few will tell anyone — not a friend, a relative, a neighbor or the police. Victims of domestic violence come from all walks of life — all cultures, all income groups, all ages, all religions. They share feelings of helplessness, isolation, guilt, fear and shame. All hope it won’t happen again, but often it does.
While domestic violence remains one of the most under-reported crimes in America, more and more women are utilizing the personal and legal resources available to help them leave abusive relationships. In Central Indiana, there are a number of resources available to women trying to leave abusive relationships.
• Domestic Violence Network of Greater Indianapolis: 317-475-6110
• Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence: 317-917-3685
• Crisis and Suicide Intervention Service: 317-251-7575
• Indiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-332-7385
• National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE
• Marion County Sheriff’s Department Victim Assistance: 317-231-8124
• Indianapolis Police Department Victim Assistance: 317-327-3331
• Adult Protective Services: 800-992-6978
• Center of Hope at Wishard Hospital ER: 317-633-HOPE
• VINE (Marion County Jail Release Notification): 800-278-8134
• Marion County Prosecutor’s Office: 317-327-8500
Advocacy, support groups and counseling
• Breaking Free: 888-254-8988
• Julian Center: 317-941-2200
• Family Advocacy Center: 317-327-6900
• Family Service: 317-634-6341
• Legacy House: 317-554-5272
• Prevail: 317-773-6942
• Wishard Hispanic Health Project: 317-630-6636
• Fresh Start of Indiana: 317-541-1655
• HELPLINE (information and referral): 317-926-4357
• TANF/Medicaid/Medicare: 317-931-2920
Shelters and transitional housing
• Salvation Army/Ruth Lilly Center: 317-637-5551
• Julian Center Shelter: 317-920-9320
• Holy Family Shelter: 317-635-7830
• WINGS: 317-925-2914
• Queen of Peace: 317-916-6753
• Coburn Place Safe Haven (transitional housing): 317-923-5750