Social Injustices

Violence Against Women in the United States


The problem of violence against women in America is much like the problems found in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Although there were a multitude of sexist remarks and "you can't do this because you're a girl" conversations throughout the novel, racism and its prevalence in 1930's Alabama is the main issue of the book. However, sexism and racism have much in common. Both mean to oppress a select group of people. Much like racism was in Maycomb county and much of the south, sexism is almost ingrained in our culture and society. In the novel the mockingbirds are a symbol of innocence, represented by characters like Scout and Tom Robinson. With consideration to this social injustice, the women who have had to go through violence inflicted on to them by others are the "mockingbirds" in the real world. The racial problems in the book and the fact that these women have no control and are made to feel inferior is a serious injustice. This relates strongly to many points made by Bryan Stevenson in his TEDtalk, "We Need to Talk About an Injustice". In his video he talks about how, as an American society, we have lost our identity and this is evident, not only in our past, and often present, of racial prejudice,but also in the way we treat women.

Modern Day "Mockingbirds"

- The social injustice here is the unequal treatment of women everywhere, specifically in the United States, that often leads to serious, horribly cruel violence. The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women defines “violence against women” as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life.”

- Framing violence against women as a human rights violation means recognizing that women are not exposed to violence by accident. Instead, violence is the result of structural, deep-rooted discrimination which the state has an obligation to address.

- The people directly exploiting American women are, ultimately, men. Male violence is a problem for women of all income, race, and ethnic groups and affects an estimated 3-4 million women in the United States every year. This problem creates serious hardship for women. Most abused women experience fear and emotional pain, as well as physical injury. Children also suffer from witnessing the physical abuse of their mothers.

-There are many cases of violence against women in the United States, including one an incident in Ohio: " The Steubenville rape victim was an unconscious teen girl whose hours-long ordeal was recorded and broadcast on social media by her rapists' high-school peers. Again, people reacted with outrage at the horror of the crime, the insensitivity of fellow students and even media coverage that bemoaned the rapists' ruined career prospects more than the victim's trauma." (Joyce, Kathryn)

Social Context: "The Disease"

- The key issue here is that women are seen as "less than" men. This, along with America's past of violence in general, creating a wide spread culture of violence, specifically toward "minority groups", causes a number of political and social problems for many people.

- The consequences of so many problems for women are severe, not only for individual women and their health, but also to communities and the economy. The cultural effects of this injustice is evident. "Historically, studies of gender violence have focused on wife assault but it has become clear that young unmarried women are exposed to high levels of violence. Increasing evidence is available of the extent to which young women's first sexual experience is unwanted or forced" ("Women and Violence", WIN News). According to the World Bank, "violence against women causes as much ill health and death in women aged 15-44 as cancer, and more than malaria and traffic accidents combined." The economic costs of these problems, including healthcare costs, are also high.

- Preventing and addressing violence against women is not a charitable act. It is a legal and moral obligation requiring legislative, administrative, and institutional measures.

Becoming Atticus Finch

- Suggestions for minimizing violence in the US vary widely. Some people call for more police protection, stricter gun control measures, and harsher penalties for violent criminals. Others want to reduce the violence in movies and television and restrict the sale of violent video games to children. Other proposals include improving mental health care for potentially violent individuals and teaching conflict resolution in schools.

- Specific institutions and policies have been put in place to promote women’s rights and protect women from violence. There is growing awareness of the nature and impact of violence against women around the world. Innovative and promising practices are reported every year to the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, and the Commission on the Status of Women, including in the areas of investigations, prosecution, and provision of services.

- Attorney General Eric Holder issued the following statement on the House passage of the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act: “I am pleased that Congress has voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a landmark law that has transformed the way we respond to domestic and sexual violence. This reauthorization includes crucial new provisions to improve our ability to bring hope and healing to the victims of these crimes, expand access to justice, and strengthen the prosecutorial and enforcement tools available to hold perpetrators accountable."


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