Gender-Based Violence is any act done on or to a person against their will as a result of gender norms, and unequal power relationships. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological abuse, threats, coercion, and economic or educational deprivation, whether occurring in public or private life (Ott, 2021). Women are disproportionately affected by GBV. That’s why there’s a lot of focus on ending the vice.
“Men who kill women do not suddenly kill women, they work up to killing women.” Caroline Criado Perez (Gupta, 2021)
GBV can manifest in many different forms, whether it is early and forced marriages, rape, trafficking of persons, sexual violence, femicide, and honor killings. Victims of violence, especially women of color face many barriers to accessing resources and safety. These barriers range from: fear of criminal justice systems; the lack of a financial safety net; religious and cultural barriers; fear of deportation; lack of awareness or knowledge of the legal system; lack of adequate childcare services; lack of low-cost housing options, and skepticism of social service institutions (YWCA, 2017).
Sexism and MisogynyKerwin Kofi Charles, professor at the Harris School of Public Policy, and his colleagues find that sexism affects women through two channels: one is their preferences that are shaped by where they grow up, and the other is the sexism they experience in the place they choose to live as adults (Charles, 2018).
Sexism prevails in a society where its people believe women’s capacities are inferior to men or where people think that families are hurt when women work, and men and women should adhere to strict roles in society. These unfortunate norms exist within women themselves and are largely influenced by where and how a woman was raised. An example of such a background norm is a girl who grows up within a culture that prizes men as leaders and women as playing only supportive roles to male leaders.
Misogyny is defined as the hatred of women. Fifty years after Ruth Bader Ginsberg worked to secure constitutional equality for women, misogyny is still alive and well in the American system. If we are taught to hate or devalue an entire group of people, we’ll make incorrect assumptions and unfair judgments about the group and the individuals in it.
During the Vice Presidential debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence, Kamala Harris was often talked over and rudely interrupted repeatedly by her male counterparts. While men also rudely interrupted one another, norms for females often require female candidates to embrace service towards others over themselves. Thus, to redirect the flow of conversation, Harris has to find a way to do so while also maintaining likeability to men. Some of the societal expecations for women result in women being more election- and risk-averse than men. Women can be discouraged by barriers that men do not face, including constant positioning to serve men, sexist media coverage, intrusive questions about their life choices, overt sexual harassment, online misogynist abuse, or accusations of lying (Poloni-Staudinger, 2020).
StalkingStalking is when someone repeatedly harasses or threatens someone else, causing fear or safety concerns. It is a crime that can touch anyone regardless of gender, age, race, or sexual orientation.
About 1 in 6 women and 1 in 17 men have experienced stalking in their lifetimes, and nearly 54% of female victims and 41% of male victims experienced stalking before the age of 25 (CDC, 2021). Stalking tactics include: unwanted phone calls, watching, following, or tracking a victim, sneaking into the victim’s home or car, doing things to scare the victim or let them know the perpetrator had been there, and leaving strange or potentially threatening items for the victim to find. It is a very scary and uncomfortable situation to find yourself in.
Stalking is a crime in all the states in the USA but less than one-third of the fifty states classify stalking as a felony if it’s a first offense. This leaves stalking victims without protections afforded to victims of other violent crimes (NCADV, 2017). Stalking is often an indicator of other forms of violence and is linked to femicide.
The most prevalent form of stalking involves previous personal or romantic relationships between the stalker and the victim. The stalker may try to renew the relationship and when the victim spurns these unwelcome advances, the stalker often turns to intimidation.
Stalking takes its toll emotionally, psychologically, and even financially. The victims suffer higher rates of depression, anxiety, insomnia, and social dysfunction compared to the general population.
Breaking the Cycle of Gender-Based Violence
People who are being stalked may fear talking to others. It is extremely important to keep dialogue open with your friends, families, colleagues, and children and to help them talk about any subtle discomforts they are experiencing with members of different genders. It is important to listen closely to the people in your lives and their body signals and places where they are not talking. It is important to engage in dialogue that helps you learn what messaging and ideas they are internalizing about themselves and their gender so you can begin to process those messages with them and interrupt unhealthy messaging.
If you struggle with healthy beliefs about your own gender, it is so important to see a therapist who can help you understand where you have experienced past or present gender-based violation. The more you can identify where others did not protect you and where they should have protected you, the better you will be able to protect your children and others in your communities.
Smaller discomforts are especially important to keep tabs on. Getting really honest about what is happening by asking direct questions is essential. Knowing and sharing with anyone experiencing any kind of violation what is appropriate behavior is essential. Making sure they know they can tell you anything is also important. If they or someone they know is being sexually harassed and/or stalked, showing them how to be an advocate for themselves or that person by going to the authorities is essential.
CDC. (2021, January 8). Stalking: Know it. Name it. Stop it. From Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/injury/features/prevent-stalking/index.html
Charles, K. K. (2018, August 1). The Effects of Sexism on American Women: The Role of Norms vs. Discrimination. From Becker Friedman Institute: https://bfi.uchicago.edu/insight/research-summary/the-effects-of-sexism-on-american-women-the-role-of-norms-vs-discrimination/
Gupta, A. H. (2021, March 25). Misogyny Fuels Violence Against Women. Should It Be a Hate Crime? From The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/25/us/misogyny-violence-against-women-hate-crime.html
NCADV. (2017, January 30). Quick Guide to Stalking: 16 Important Statistics, and What You Can Do About It. From NCADV: https://ncadv.org/blog/posts/quick-guide-to-stalking-16-important-statistics-and-what-you-can-do-about-it
Ott, M. (2021, June 4). Gender-based Violence. From WOMEN FOR WOMEN INTERNATIONAL: https://www.womenforwomen.org/blogs/series-what-does-mean-gender-based-violence?src=%20GGGS202https://www.womenforwomen.org/blogs/series-what-does-mean-gender-based-violence?src=GGEV224A&ms=cpc_google_awarness&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign
Paquette, D. (2016, August 25). More than half of US men think sexism is over. From WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/08/more-than-half-of-men-in-the-us-think-sexism-is-over/
Poloni-Staudinger, L. M. (2020, October 20). Because misogyny is still alive. From WHY SOCIAL SCIENCE: https://www.whysocialscience.com/blog/2020/10/20/because-misogyny-is-still-alive-and-well-and-women-still-dont-rule-equally-to-men
YWCA. (2017, September). GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE FACTS. From YWCA: https://www.ywca.org/wp-content/uploads/WWV-GBV-Fact-Sheet-Final.pdf
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Sarah Hobson, Ph.D. specializes in supporting teams, departments and schools, businesses, and government agencies in building inclusive innovative change-making communities who understand how to connect well with and join diverse populations in providing needed sustainable resources for all youth and families.