Author of Adam and Steve, a novel about reexamining your prejudices

Posts tagged ‘Violence against women’

A lesson of tolerance from the Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the United States of America

Girl Scouts of the United States of America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over a decade of statistics evidencing sexual violence against females in America tell a sobering story that, if we are truthful, comes as no surprise.

  • In 1995, of the 126,000 children who were victims of sexual abuse, 75% were girls.
  • In 1997, girls 16-19 were four times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.
  • In 1998, one of every six or 17.7 million American women were the victim of an attempted or completed rape.
  • In 2003, nine of every 10 rape victims were female.
  • In 2006, 232,960 women or 600 women everyday were raped or sexually assaulted. *

Females are overwhelmingly the victims of sexual violence perpetrated by heterosexual men.  Nonetheless, to their credit, women, for the most part, do not condemn the entire heterosexual male population for the epidemic of violence against them in this country. If they did, society as we know it would cease to exist. Few women would endanger themselves or their daughters by living under the same roof with a man whose heterosexual orientation was the root cause of female sexual abuse.

To condemn an entire group for the acts of a few is a hallmark of intolerance and prejudice. The Girl Scouts of the United States of America, an organization devoted to the well-being of America’s girls and young women, has refused to so broadly blame heterosexual men. Accordingly, membership in the organization as adult volunteers is open to both women and men 18 years and over. The organization uses screenings and reference checks conducted by independent, third-party agencies to protect girls and young women from potential volunteers and staff who might cause them harm. See, http://www.girlscouts.org/for_adults/volunteering/volunteer_faq.asp.   This approach seems to have worked.  We have not heard stories of sexual abuse within the Girl Scouts or of its supporters demanding the prohibition of heterosexual males from serving as volunteers.

On the other hand, by refusing to accept gay scouts or permit gay volunteers, the Boy Scouts of America has condemned the entire gay population for sexual violence against boys. In a change of policy, the organization now allows gay youth as scouts, but continues its prohibition against gay volunteers. Some view this change as a step in the right direction. Others view it with fear and trembling. In actuality, the new policy is morally inconsistent and perpetuates the BSA’s blanket condemnation of gay men. The BSA and many of its supporters use their homophobia as a shield against a simple and, perhaps, inconvenient truth. Sexual orientation is not what makes either a heterosexual or a homosexual man a predator. The BSA’s new policy is only an expression of the organization’s continuing prejudice and intolerance, both of which the BSA has no right to teach our children.

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* Http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims, and http://.now.org/issuew/violence/stats.html.  See, National Institute of Justice & Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women Survey, 1998; U.S. Department of Justice, 2003 National Crime Victimization Survey, 2003; U.S. Department of Health $ Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, 1995 Child Maltreatment Survey, 1995.

It’s the right time for VAWA

Although women comprise 51% of the electorate, they’ve been a strangely silent majority. That silence may have lulled some of our misogynistic politicians to ignore the cardinal rule of elective politics.  Vote against 51% of the electorate and it’s very likely you won’t remain in office. Republican Senators, at least with respect to reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), got the message. With their Democratic counterparts, they overwhelmingly passed the reauthorization sending it to the House. What the House Republicans will do is anyone’s guess. 

VAWA was comprehensive legislation enacted in 1994 to counteract the growing violence against women in our country. It provided for, among other things, the strengthening of penalties for sex offenders; training VAWA evil of police, prosecutors and judges; establishing of the National Domestic Violence Hotline; providing legal relief for battered immigrant women; and protecting Native American women who very much-needed protecting since one Native American woman in three had been a victim of sexual violence, and she had a ten times greater chance of being murdered. (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-violence-women-20130213,0,3781667.story). See, http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa factsheet.pdf

By everyone’s standards, VAWA was a huge success. Intimate partner violence declined by 67%; homicides of females decreased by 35%; reporting of domestic violence significantly increased; and all states strengthened their domestic violence laws.  http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa factsheet.pdf.  Notwithstanding the impressive outcomes, in 2011 VAWA expired and Congress, as it has with other much-needed legislation, wouldn’t act in a bipartisan way to reauthorize VAWA. Conservative Republicans identified three provisions each concerning minority women that they couldn’t support.

 Women’s health and safety are at stake. Consequently, VAWA is not the legislation for Republican Congressmen to vote their prejudices. Rather, VAWA presents the perfect opportunity for them to show they care about every woman, especially since being tolerant and compassionate to battered women shouldn’t be all that difficult. As Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said “a victim is a victim is a victim – and violence is violence.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-votes-to-reauthorize-violence-against-women-act/2013/02/12/ddb2487e-752c-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb_story.html

It’s a no-brainer. Ending violence against women should be universally supported at least in the eyes of that 51%. Republican Congressmen take note. Voting your intolerance could shorten your career immeasurably.

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