Archive for the sexual assault Category

Turning the Tide: Part 1

Posted in abortion, activism, child abuse, child marriage, child molestation, child pornography, child prostitution, child rape, Defining Violence, domestic violence, dowry crimes, elderly abuse, female genital mutilation, female infanticide, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, HIV, honour crimes, human rights, India, intimate partner violence, mail-order brides, male perpetration, men, misogyny, molestation, pedophile, pedophiles, pedophilia, politics, porn, Pro-Feminist Men, Prostitution & Trafficking, rape, reproductive rights, sati, school violence, sex selective abortion, sex trafficking, sexual assault, sexual harassment, single mothers, slavery, social work, son preference, united nations, war, widow cleansing on December 6, 2007 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed

The fight to end violence against women is both historic and universal. Historic, because gender inequality, which lies at the root of this violence, has been embedded in human history for centuries and the movement to end it challenges history, custom and, most critically, the status quo. Universal, because no society is an exception to the fact that violence against women is perpetrated through social and cultural norms that reinforce male-dominated power structures. The struggle is nothing less than a demand for full human rights to be unconditionally extended to all people everywhere.Those engaged in this struggle recognize that despite important advances that have laid the foundation for universal human rights, the work has only just begun. In October 2004, on the 25th anniversary of the landmark Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the committee monitoring international implementation stated, “In no country in the world has women’s full de jure and de facto equality been achieved.”

In most countries, in fact, the reality remains bleak. Discriminatory social norms and practices continue to impede women’s full enjoyment of their human rights. Insufficient political will, the extensive under representation of women in decision-making positions and a lack of resources to address the issue are further impediments to progress.

Asserting human rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted without dissent by the United Nations in 1948, recognizes the “equal and inalienable rights” of all people, “without distinction of any kind.” Violence against women contravenes a number of the fundamental human rights laid out in this Declaration such as the right to security of person; the right not to be held in slavery or subjected to inhuman treatment; the right to equal protection before the law; and the right to equality in marriage. Nevertheless, states sometimes deploy the argument of cultural relativism to defend practices that abuse women. According to the first United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, “The universal standards of human rights are often denied full operation when it comes to the rights of women.”

This book highlights through written description and visual representation many of the persistent expressions of gender-based violence. The testimonies of women and girls emphasise that there is no room for complacency or a false sense of rapid progress in the fight against inequality. To the countless women still suffering today, any positive changes that have been achieved must bear little relevance to their immediate reality. Nevertheless, remarkable developments have taken place in recent years, due in large part to the commitment of a few to change the behavior of many. In the face of formidable forces maintaining the patriarchal systems that give rise to both discrimination and violence against women, there is evidence that the tide may be turning.

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Sexual Assault and Harassment: Part 2

Posted in child marriage, child rape, Defining Violence, feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment on December 4, 2006 by breatheinspirit

The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed“:

“Generating reliable data on sexual violence

According to a sexual violence expert from the United States, “rape appears in many guises” and, as such, requires careful investigative methods that capture the range of women’s and girl’s experiences. When researchers use narrow definitions of sexual violence, the reported rates of sexual crimes are likely to be relatively low. Crime-victim surveys reflect this: While they are useful because of their broad scope and comparable methodology, questions on sexual violence may not discriminate between different types of sexual assaults and/or perpetrators. In data presented by the WHO on a select number of crime-victim surveys, rates of reported sexual victimization (recorded in the five years to each survey) range from less than 2 percent in Bolivia, Botswana, China and the Philippines to 5 percent or more in Albania, Argentina, Brazil and Columbia.

Although still scarce and somewhat difficult to compare because of differences in data-collection techniques and definitions used, more targeted sexual violence surveys typically generate higher rates of reporting among participants. A variety of such surveys from the United States, for example, suggest that between 14 percent and 20 percent of the general population of women in that country will be raped at least once in their lifetime. In the Czech Republic, 11.6 percent of women responding to a national survey reported that they had experienced forced sexual contact, most commonly in the form of vaginal intercourse. Forty percent of a random sample of 420 women in Toronto, Canada, reported at least one episode of forced sexual intercourse since the age of 16. Specific subgroups are at an even greater risk. Research from the United States on women with disabilities, for example, indicates they are at one-and-a-half time greater risk of sexual victimization than women without disabilities.

The use of explicit questions in these surveys helps to overcome underreporting related to biases or preconceptions associated with the semantics of rape. Even employing the language of forced or coerced sex, rather than rape, can produce more accurate estimates of women’s and girl’s exposure to sexual violence. In a South African Study, 11 percent of the adolescents surveyed said they had been raped, but further 72 percent reported being subjected to forced sex. A survey of unmarried adolescents seeking abortions in 17 hospitals in China found that 48 percent had experienced sexual coercion at least once.

An increasing number of studies have focused on the issue of coerced or forced sexual initiation among adolescent girls. Average estimates of coerced first sex among adolescents around the world range from 10 percent to 30 percent, but in some settings, such as Cameroon and Peru, the number is closer to 40 percent. In a survey of high school students in Korea, 39 percent of sexually active females reported that their first experience of sex was the result of force or pressure from their partner. Studies of nine countries in the Caribbean estimated that incidents of forced first intercourse were as high as 48 percent.

 Identifying the Perpetrators

Many studies have confirmed that most perpetrators of sexual violence are known to the victim. In fact, according to the WHO, “One of the most common forms of sexual violence around the world is that which is perpetrated by an intimate partner.” In a recent study of a representative sample of married and unmarried young men and women in Kenya, more than one in five sexually experienced young women had been subjected to nonconsensual sex. Those who had been married were at a greater risk of coercion than respondents who had never been married, and husbands were often identified as perpetrators. Other studies from around the world that have specifically investigated intimate-partner violence suggest that on average one in five women has been forced to have sex by her partner – in some settings those numbers are much higher. In general, sexual assaults by intimate partners are reported tow to eight times more often than assaults by strangers.

One sexual violence expert concluded, “The most important lesson learned about interpersonal violence in the past 20 years is how frequently it is perpetrated by apparently normal individuals.” Rather than verifying assumptions that rape is committed by a small number of disturbed men, research suggests that many men around the world share the attitudes and beliefs necessary to commit an act of sexual violence. In other words, the “high prevalence of rape largely reflects a high level of social tolerance of the crime.”

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Sexual Assault and Harassment: Part 1

Posted in feminism, gender stereotypes, gender violence, intimate partner violence, male perpetration, rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment on November 20, 2006 by breatheinspirit

 The below text is copyright, “Broken Bodies – Broken Dreams: Violence against Women Exposed”:

“Debunking the Rape Myth

Common myths and assumptions related to sexual violence are shared the world over. They often reflect and reinforce social attitudes and customs that aggrandize male aggression while at the same time purporting female passivity. In many settings, sexual activity is popularly represented as a “battle of the sexes”, in which sexually driven men are expected to compel sexually hesitant women. The implicit message is that it is socially acceptable for sexual transactions between men and women to involve some degree of force. The explicit outcome is that the majority of victims of sexual violence around the world are female, and the majority of perpetrators are male.

Ideas about what constitutes “unacceptable” sexual behavior between men and women more often serve to protect the status quo of male dominance, such that “the volition, perceptions, and feelings of the woman or girl: are “amazingly absent from most cultural definitions of violence.” Determinations of the moral, legal or social permissibility of a given sex act are more likely to focus on the context in which it occurs – “who did it to whom and under what circumstance” – rather than on “the act itself or its impact of the woman.” This failure to consider the rights and wellbeing of women and girls is vividly demonstrated in nearly universal attitudes towards rape.

According to conventional assumptions prevalent across cultures, rape primarily happens in dark alleys or other remote locations, is committed by strangers and involves physical brutality. The act of rape is a social aberration and, therefore, a rare event. Following this logic is the notion that the majority of rapists are sociopaths – mentally ill men who have uncontrollable sexual urges. If they are not part of the “lunatic fringe”, then they are men who have been unnaturally provoked by sexually promiscuous women. In the latter model, responsibility to prevent rape falls to the potential victim, a sentiment illustrated in the recommendations of a Malaysian parliamentarian who argued, “Women should wear purdah [head to toe covering] to ensure that innocent men do not get unnecessarily excited by women’s bodies and are not unconsciously forced into becoming rapists. If women do now want to fall prey to such men, they should take the necessary precautions instead of forever blaming the men.

Such delimiting characterizations of sexual violence support impunity for the average rapist, not only because they blame the victim, but also because they disguise the global reality: that sexual assault, including rape, is more often perpetrated by someone known to the victim and occurs in her own home or in another familiar environment. Rape does not necessarily involve physical force, and the perpetrator need not be pathological. Evidence from countries around the world confirms that while the classic “stranger” rape does exist, it represents only the “tip of the iceberg” of sexual assault. Understanding the true extent of sexual violence is fraught with a number of challenges, not least of which is defining exactly what it entails.

Coercion, consent and choice

In the last 20 to 30 years, women’s rights activists have emphasized the basic human rights of women and girls – and the accountability of men and boys in respecting those rights – when differentiating between acceptable sexual contact and sexual violence. They suggest that force is not inevitable of control over women. Their work has informed contemporary definitions of sexual violence, which increasingly challenge conventional stereotypes that interpret “real” sexual violence only in the context of stranger rape.

In a 2002 global report on violence and health the World Health Organization (WHO) defined sexual violence as “any sexual act, attempt to obtain a sexual act, unwanted sexual comments or advances, or acts to traffic, or otherwise directed, against a person’s sexuality using coercion by any person regardless of their relationship to the victim, in any setting, including but not limited to home and work.” Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence involving bodily contact. Rape is a further delineating form of sexual assault that entails “physically forced or otherwise coerced penetration – even if slight – of the vulva or anus, using a penis, other body parts or an object.

A key determinant of sexual violence within this definition is the issue of coercion – which may involve physical force but also can involve “psychological intimidation, blackmail or threats – for instance the threat of physical harm, of being dismissed from a job or of not obtaining a job that is sought. It may also occur when the person aggressed is unable to give consent – for instance, while drunk, drugged, asleep, or mentally incapable of understanding the situation.:

By emphasizing the concept of coercion rather than physical force, the WHO definition of sexual violence calls attention to the potentially wide range of behaviors that violate the rights of the victim. A definition based solely or even primarily on coercion presents challenges, however, because what amounts to coercion may be highly contested by those involved: A victim may experience behaviors as highly coercive when the perpetrator does not. To overcome ambiguities inherent in interpretations of coercion, many women’s rights activists have stressed the primacy of consent.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has described consent as the “legal dividing line between rape and sexual intercourse.” Another expert explained that a definition of sexual violence based on consent “recognizes and ratifies a simple principle … [which is] our personal sovereignty. We have the right not to be acted upon unless we wish to be acted upon and communicate that wish to the actor. Our silence is not our permission.”

Other feminist theorists prefer the concept of choice to that of consent because “it does not implicitly assume that men initiate all sexual overtures.” The language of choice, even more so than consent, underscores and promotes female autonomy in sexual relations.

Choice is the exception, rather than the rule, however, for many women and girls around the world. A teenage girl in South Africa observed, “Forced sex is the norm. It is the way people interact sexually.” In qualitative research in Zimbabwe, young women acknowledged their powerlessness in sexual relationships: “A woman can refuse, but then this woman will run the risk that she will be forced into sex. I would like to change it, but it cannot be done because a woman needs to follow the man.”

Even when choice is clearly absent, many women and girls who suffer sexual assault still may not view their victimization as rape because their experience is not represented in hegemonic definitions of sexual violence. Based on encounters reported by a national sample of college women in the United States, researchers concluded that from one-fifth to one-quarter of all college women are at risk of an attempted or completed rape during their college years. However, for those respondents whose experiences were categorized as completed rape according to the standard definition used by the researchers, only 46.5 percent believed the incident to be rape. Forty-nine percent said it wasn’t rape, and 4.7 percent said they did not know.

Any attempts to study sexual violence must understand this important distinction. As one women’s rights advocate noted, “Just because a woman doesn’t call it rape, doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel violated.”

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