The story and sidebar on page 8 of this issue end the RoundTable’s series on violence against women. Writers explored several issues. Some of these are universal, such as the many forms of violence against women: bullying, stalking, unwanted sexual advances, forced prostitution, rape, incest, beating, battering – physical and emotional, financial captivity, and murder.
Some issues are national, such as the evolution of laws designed to protect women and how those laws can fail when the actual victim of abuse does not match the putative “ideal” victim imagined by the drafters of legislation. Race, gender identity, and social status have been known to tug off the blindfold of justice when women like these have been victims of abuse.
Many of these issues have gained significant media attention in the last month amidst allegation of sexual harassment and abuse by politicians, media executives, and others.
On the local level, writers looked at police and community responses to the continuing outrageous plague of violence against women. The police are trained in how to respond to domestic violence calls, and social workers are on hand to help the victims get counseling, find temporary shelter, obtain orders of protection, and proceed through the criminal justice system.
Violence arises from an imbalance of power that the abuser is not interested in correcting. It takes a lot of courage to try to extricate oneself from a violent situation, but some are able to do it.
Community response to violence against women here in Evanston, broadly, takes two forms: aiding the survivors and helping them heal, and enlisting men to fight the scourge of violence.
The YWCA-Evanston/North Shore offers services to survivors of domestic violence and their children to help them regain their dignity and autonomy. The organization offers programs to teenagers – and younger children – about how to grow up to be compassionate leaders.
New this year in Evanston is the community-wide effort to encourage men to take a stand against violence against women by speaking up and speaking out against instances of denigration, abuse, or violence against women.
One of the many heartbreaking aspects of being alone on the street is coerced sex. This can be as basic as survival sex – trading sex for food, clothing, shelter, or even drugs. Or it can take the form of forced prostitution or sex trafficking. As with all instances of violence, women are not the only targets, but they are usually the main targets.
The RoundTable’s series was limited, giving at most an overview of the universality, complexity and insidiousness of violence.
Violence in the family reverberates on all the members. Exposure to a violent environment is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that have immediate and long-term negative effects on children. These children have difficulty concentrating in school, they engage in risky health behaviors, they often have chronic health conditions and shorter than average life expectancy. As the number of ACEs increases, so does the risk for these outcomes, according to the CDC.
Violence begets violence, as it spirals from generation to generation. We have seen an unconscionable number of spree killings in the past few years.
Jane Mayer wrote a piece in the New Yorker on June 16 of this year called “The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings.” She quotes Rebecca Traister who wrote in New York magazine, “What perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.”
We have no pretense that any of our articles and editorials are going to change the mindset of anyone who chooses to beat, batter, stalk, imprison, rape, or otherwise harm another. But we can hope that these stories will have reached into the consciousness of some readers and that they will become more sensitive to and alert for signs of violence or abuse and perhaps extend a compassionate, non-judgmental hand to help. We hope all men will join in and take a stand.