Did you know that the United States is one of the world’s top 10 most dangerous countries for women? The United States shares this spot with countries that permit genital mutilation, acid attacks and arranged child marriages. It was disturbing to see that America is the only Western nation to appear on the list. Why is this? Our nation has prided itself on being a beacon for freedom around the world! How can we be a world leader when we have failed to look at our own country’s condition regarding this issue?
The list of most dangerous countries for women put together by the Thomas Reuters Foundation out of a survey of 500 experts considered six different criteria: healthcare; economic resources; cultural and traditional practices; sexual violence and harassment; non-sexual violence and human trafficking. America was ranked third with Syria in terms of danger of sexual violence, including rape, sexual harassment, coercion into sex and the lack of access to justice in rape cases. The survey identified the Democratic Republic of Congo as the next worst.
The U.S. ranked sixth for non-sexual violence, including conflict-related violence and forms of domestic physical and mental abuse. We did not rank for the other four out of the six categories
Upon closer inspection, we identified ways in which the U.S. falls behind when it comes to violence against women and decided to focus the blog on just a few:
Prosecute sexual violence. First, as a nation, we must decide that ranking as the 3rd most dangerous country in terms of sexual violence against women is unacceptable. Both the unwritten policy of not processing rape kits and the practice of charging mostly female victims of sexual assault for evidence-gathering rape kits, bear witness to an inexcusable tolerance for sexual violence against women as well as an unacceptable practice of placing the burden of sexual assault on the victim, not the perpetrator where it belongs. Additionally, the message we convey when we decide not to process victim rape kits for possible DNA – the single most effective form of evidence in convicting sexual predators- is that victims don’t matter and it (rape) is not that important. It is law enforcement’s responsibility to send these kits off for testing, not the victim’s. And when we choose not to urgently process them, we send a message to victims that the sexual assault they experienced is not that important. To the rapist, we tell them their crime is no big deal and we will allow them to roam free to rape again.
In addition, in some jurisdictions victims are also charged for rape kits. The fact is, the victim has already born the highest cost of the crime of sexual assault – the assault itself. Adding a financial charge to aid prosecution of the rapist is Double Abuse® at its worst. Multiple stories recently brought to light show that rape kits, tools that should be used to help victims and punish abusers, are instead being utilized as weapons against victims. Rape kits should be offered at no cost to the victim under the National Violence Against Women Act, but unless this Act is enforced and honored multiple women will continue to be charged for rape kits and harassed by insurance companies for payment.
Recognize and treat emotional abuse as violence. Sexual violence isn’t the only crime we fail to punish appropriately. Although many European nations are beginning to criminalize emotional abuse, America still fails to recognize how harmful emotional violence can be. Some refuse to consider it violence. But the link between ongoing emotional abuse and its long term effects on victims which can include, among other things, various forms of PTSD, Complex PTSD, autoimmune disorders, and heart issues are well-documented. Truth is emotional abuse carries as much weight as physical violence, but the U.S. has yet to recognize this reality. Along with these European nations, The M3ND Project recognizes the violent nature of ongoing emotional abuse against both men and women.
Please join us in raising awareness around the deeper societal issues that have earned the U.S. its ranking on the list of most dangerous countries for women. Circulate this blog piece. Comment below and add to the dialogue we have begun. Continue the conversation with us through social media, our website and the blog. In particular, on Monday, November 25, we ask you to share our social media posts about International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
We all know that to make real strides, the work must start with ourselves. The M3ND Project cares deeply about this issue and is dedicated to educating and equipping individuals and organizations to end emotional and physical violence against women. We need to examine ourselves up close to see how our own cultural and personal blind spots might be keeping us locked in mindsets that are discriminatory, apathetic or cause oppression of others. Be brave. Choose to make a difference within yourself so you can be an agent for change in our country.