“All women and girls should feel safe on the street of [insert any city or town name here] at all times.”
This statement is what an equitable world for women and girls would feel like. As demonstrated by recent events, violence against women is a pervasive and insidious issue that exists in the United States and globally, impacting women and girls in every corner of the world. While the perpetrators of this violence are overwhelmingly male and often intimate partners, women are the ones told to modify their behavior in an effort to keep themselves safe in a toxic and inequitable reality.
This week has been solemn as we mourn women who should be with us today, and we demand justice for their murders. We join with our AAPI sisters & community in mourning the violent murder of nine individuals, six of which were Asian women, at the hands of a male white supremacist in Atlanta massage parlors. We are with our London-based sisters in mourning the murder of Sarah Everard, a South London woman abducted off the street and brutally murdered by a London police officer. Sarah’s death launched a global dialogue across social & news media last week about how unsafe women are in their day-to-day lives, as well as the need to hold men accountable for their roles in perpetuating violence against women. The executions of immigrant AAPI women in Atlanta compound both the sense of horror and the realities of racism and xenophobia against women in minority and marginalized communities of color.
This week also marked the one year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s murder. Breonna Taylor was shot, multiple times, while asleep in her own home, eroding any sense that women, especially women of color, are safe anywhere. Violence against women is ubiquitous, and it often intersects with racism, xenophobia, and other forms of bigotry. The issue of gender-based violence is tangible, universal, and the harm it results in is all too familiar.
Those of us who identify as women have all experienced the fear of gender-based violence, especially in the form of street harassment. Regardless of age, race, class, location, or creed, women are forced to make calculations every day to reduce the risk posed to them by men for merely existing. Pervasive cultures of victim shaming and victim blaming lead women to keep silent of their fears about the threats they face, all while subjecting themselves to restrictive self-policing practices in an attempt to ensure their safety. It is exhausting, denigrating, and often futile, which compounds women’s fears and feelings of helplessness and aloneness.
SFWPC applauds and supports those leading the international discourse regarding women’s safety, gender-based violence, and the failure of law enforcement to recognize and value women’s lives and offers the following commitments moving forward:
Recognizing Women’s Collective Trauma
SFWPC commits to recognizing the impact of this collective trauma women have experienced over the course of lifetimes and commits to providing a platform of empowering women’s voices related to gender-based violence, regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, class or creed. SFPWC also commits to supporting initiatives for gender-based violence prevention programming and support services provided to women.
Refusing to Accept Male Violence as Normal
Although not all men demonstrate violent behavior, the majority of gender-based violence and street harassment is perpetuated by men. Despite this, discourse related to gender-based violence often and unfairly results in shifting responsibility to women to “protect themselves.” SFPWC commits to refocusing our conversations related to gender-based violence to the choices and actions of men.
Holding Law Enforcement Accountable
The officers who killed Breonna’s Taylor have not been held accountable — we are still waiting for justice for her. And Ms. Everard’s murder and the London police force’s response demonstrate the multiple layers of victimization that women face. Law enforcement’s failure to address and perpetuation of violence against women is unacceptable. SFWPC commits to demanding accountability of law enforcement in protecting and empowering women.
Understand the Impact of Race on Gender Based Violence
Generally, women of color experience domestic violence and sexual assault at higher rates. There is an intersection of racism and sexism and the result is that women of color face greater societal barriers to reporting violence against them. Building awareness of and acknowledging these realities is key to addressing the systemic issues and dismantling the barriers to make access to help and justice equitable for women of color.