International Violence Against Women Hearing

Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, members of the House Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight met to discuss the International Violence Against Women Act. It was an impressive bi-partisan discussion on ending gender-based violence both at home and overseas.  Many interesting points were made, and I felt it was time to give them credence, to air them out.

Violence Against Women in the United States

Violence against women is an epidemic in the United States: domestic violence, sexual assault,  human trafficking.  These things are not going away and the statistics are not improving. These issues must be addressed.  But how?

First of all, we need to hold our justice system accountable for enacting laws on the books.  Perpetrators of violence against women need to be convicted and held accountable for their actions. It seems like common sense, but so many perpetrators slip through the cracks, so many get off with a slap on the hand,so many are released to do it again. This should not be. Mandatory stricter sentences need to be enacted and enforced. Judges need to use common sense so that a  woman fighting and testifying in court for her life is not dismissed with a wave of the hand only to be doused with gasoline and set on fire by her husband days later. The justice system needs to WORK.

Secondly, we need to stop the double standards. Human trafficking in this country is taking hold.  It can be seen in every major city in the US. Often, young women are bought and sold into prostitution rings. Here in the United States, these same women, women who are held against their will, are treated as criminals and are convicted. We see human trafficking in other countries and we consider it a crime, the women victims. In the United States, we ignore the long deep roots human traffickers have made, and go for the easy arrest. Local officials need more training and information on human trafficking so that they are able to break up the rings. These young women live in terrible oppressive situations, and we need to do more to bring light to this fact, and set these women free.

We need to enact the help of men, particularly young men. Listen VERY carefully to me. Young men have the ability to make a huge difference in this fight. It is amazing how young men step up, become advocates, and find answers to this problem when we treat them as a solution  rather than a perpetrator. We need to reach out to our young men and enact their help in ending violence and giving women the dignity they deserve.

We need to end the fact that violence against women is considered a pre-existing condition in our healthcare system.  This is a post in and of itself.

Finally, we need real assistance for the children of victims of domestic abuse. It is time to stop spouting rhetoric and get it done. It is known that those who see domestic violence in their own lives are more likely to become violent in their own future. We need to stop the cycle of violence. We need more funding for programs, we need more volunteers.  We need to protect those children that cannot protect themselves and give them real role models. Again, we need not pay this lip service, we need to act.

Violence Against Women Internationally

Women face rape at the hands of military regimes. They face genital mutilation. They face slavery. They face oppression. They face violence.

Let me be clear. We need to stop overlooking these tremendous violations and dismissing it as a difference in culture. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IS NOT A CULTURE. It is a travesty. It is sickening. And our permissiveness in the name of culture gets us one result: more women raped, more women killed, more women enslaved.

We need more tough talk followed by tough action. We need sanctions. We cannot look at who gives us oil, who provides us with bailout money, who is too big for us to handle and look the other way when these horrible acts take place.  We need to act. We need more attention on places like Burma, one of the world’s worst offenders in the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war. We need to show them that we mean business.

What can we do as individuals?

Write your congressmen and congresswomen and state that you want them to support the International Violence Against Women Act. State that you want stricter sentences for those that commit acts of violence against women in our own country. Support local programs that assist those who are victims of violence. Volunteer to become  a mentor to the youth. Educate yourself on the issues. Become a knowledgeable advocate for those that are in need.

What solutions do you have to this problem?  We are in desperate need of innovative programs that help put a stop to violence against women.  I will value your responses.

Special Thanks to Rep. Bill Delahunt, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, Rep. Ted Poe Ambassador Melanie Verveer, U.N. Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman, and the founder of Breakthrough, Malika Dutt for a wonderful and informative bi-partisan hearing.

This post is cross-posted at Down to Earth Mama.

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