About 1 in 3 women has experienced violence during her lifetime, according to the World Health Organization — an epidemic that is truly worldwide. In the days leading up to Human Rights Day on Tuesday, Dec. 10, the United Nations health agency wants to spread awareness to prevent violence against women and girls.
Physical injuries are just the tip of the iceberg: Unintended pregnancies, post-traumatic stress disease, increased drug and alcohol misuse, and poor overall health can result from violence against women, whether perpetrated by an intimate partner or a stranger. For some, the consequence is death — 38 percent of all women’s murders are committed by intimate partners.
“For too long,” writes the agency, “impunity, silence and stigma have allowed violence against women and girls to escalate to pandemic proportions.”
How to stem the tide? RESPECT, the agency’s new policy framework to prevent violence against women, proposes seven strategies that can help:
Relationship skills strengthened.
Empowerment of women.
Environments made safe.
Child and adolescent abuse prevented.
Transformed attitudes, beliefs and norms.
Ambitious? Yes. But each strategy is evidence-based. For example, early exposure to violence has been linked to negative health outcomes later in life, and traumatic stress linked to violence can damage physical and mental health.
Witnessing domestic violence is the single biggest predictor of whether a child becomes either a perpetrator or victim of intimate-partner violence later in life. Those realities turn child abuse prevention into an insurance policy not just for girls but for the women they become.
Even non-policymakers can adopt the RESPECT framework in their lives. Building relationship skills, challenging norms that demean women and making your environment safer — including limiting access to guns and weapons, and reducing drug and alcohol use — can make life safer for women and girls.
The message is simple: Violence doesn’t just happen, and we know enough to act now.