Violence against women is the most explosive topic for me. Four years ago, in a job interview, a panelist asked me what I thought was the most critical feminist issue. I paused and, in that moment, my mouth began moving without forethought.
This was my stand then and is my stand today: “Violence against women is the most critical issue for me. There are unspeakable acts of torture against women in every country, in every town; most of them, though, we will never know about. Most of these acts are buried the moment a hand, acid, or knife touches the skin of a woman. They are buried in the heart of the woman who is beaten, raped, or killed. There is no other issue for me that more resoundly denies the basic humanity of a woman than sexual violence. No other act of torture can murder the livelihood and promise of a young girl but still leave her physical body intact as rape. There is nothing parallel to the gross normalcy of using women and their bodies in acts of domination, war fare, or for one sided sexual gratification. There is no greater measure of the cultural and global betrayal against women than the secrecy and rampant evil we simply allow when justice for a survivor dies in the silence of her scream.”
There are so many campaigns for ending violence against women or raising awareness for international activism. What I have learned from my experiences as a writer and researcher on this topic is that violence against women is at your fingertips. There is no walk across state lines to find survivors who need help now. Local domestic shelters or crisis agencies have openings for trained hotline responders or are in need of clothes donations. Where there are women, there are vast needs to combat sexual violence.
To truly learn the face of violence you must see its failed judicial system, lack of training for law enforcements, and the way a courtroom sounds when a jury cannot absorb air-tight medical expert testimony and relies upon gendered and cultural stereotypes to deliver a “not guilty” verdict.
It is not enough to hope the violence stops. In a recent article, I advocated that feminists know when enough is enough. It is, however, also imperative that feminist know when hope is not enough. Ending violence against women necessitates one thing: local, community action.