Silence is the Enemy: Focusing on reducing sexual violence

i-f875c0b07d9b3cb6229668554781b35a-alice.jpgFor the past few years, I have been horrified by Nicholas Kristof's posts about violence against children in various crisis zones around the globe - and I have been captivated by his stories of choosing to engage as a human being with such distress and pain rather than a so-called "impartial" or "objective" journalist. In particular, I think of his reporting in 2004 from Cambodia about children forced into sex slavery and his decision to try to buy two girls to free them from traffickers, and his decision with his family to open a school east of Phnom Penh to educate girls to help prevent future sex trafficking.

I read these columns and was in awe of someone who didn't just report on horror but did something *active* to stop it. But I didn't think there was any way I could actually do anything about it myself. I thought I would keep into my little corner of the blogosphere, and while we send money as we can to the Burma Foundation or to various feminist enterprises to fight violence against women, it feels very far removed.

I'm hoping for a bit of a sea change with this post.

Kristof reported most recently on the continuing sexual violence -- or as he puts it more accurately, mass rapes -- against girls and women in Liberia. Hailed, in this country, as the country founded by freed slaves from the United States, and where Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is the first female president of a country in Africa (hey, how cool, she was on the Daily Show!), Liberia also had a horrific civil war in recent memory where, Kristof reports, "as many as three-fourths of women were raped."


He tells the stories of 3-year-olds who have been raped.

3-YEAR OLDS. That's close enough to Minnow's age to make no difference. Almost 30% of rapes in Liberia are to kids under four years. Horror.

And they are not alone. In an unconscionable number of countries across the world, the raping, beating, and sexual mutilation of women and children is considered "normal." Can you imagine living in such a culture? Some of you (many more than anyone might think) may have grown up in households where such violence occurred -- or, to take it out of the convenient passive voice, where men so abused women and children. I would think some of you may have yourselves been so abused, something I have a hard enough time trying to understand. Imagine then, living in a culture where such abuse happened to everyone... or at least, all the women or kids you knew...

Sheril Kirshenbaum of The Intersection read Kristof's column, and decided not to shake the story off. She and Isis started mobilizing a blog response -- blogs in June would specifically focus readers' attention on the sustained and devastating sexual violence experienced by women and children across the globe, and urge readers to get up and DO something.

A place to start:

  • Call your congressperson. Congresspeople, in fact. Look up their contact information here. Tell them you have been compelled to contact them to find out what they can do to stop sexual violence against women and children in all forms, and abroad as well as in this country.
  • Donate money (or time, if you have the skills) to Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders). They provide medical care to the children and women Kristof reported on, and to countless other women and children in war-torn countries across the world.
  • Donate money or time to your local women's shelter or to the National Domestic Abuse Hotline 'cause as much as we want to think this is a furrin problem, it ain't (although perhaps it's not so grevious here).
  • Spread the word about this blog effort - through telling your own stories to friends and family, or through getting involved in your community shelter projects.
  • Join in (with your own story, or not) on your own blog. A bunch of bloggers far more eloquent than me (updated list here) are donating any blog traffic money collected in June to MSF, and more traffic means more donations. We'll be joining in, although details are still fuzzy (as we really don't make enough to make our traffic donation worth while - so need to figure out a multiplication factor) - I'll post an update with the final plan. In the meantime, visit the list and read their posts on this topic, or look for their tweets with hashtag #silencehurts .

Let's see what kind of support we can drum up to actually start solving some of these problems. In the end, isn't mass rape a problem we should really figure out, instead of how to make the next coolest iPod?

Share your ideas and posts in the comments... I'll be looking forward to having readers join in. Or if you choose to speak out IRL, that is phenomenal too. Thanks for your efforts.

More like this

Other things you can do. If you're a guy, get involved in what MEN can do to reduce sexual violence. Realize that men perpetrate most of ALL violence that happens in our society (and the world). Start to confront sexism and gender inequality at the grassroots. These things are what eventually lead to violence against women by passively allowing women to be devalued.

Two little links:

And this at a time when the rape hotline in my own city has just had its funding removed. I am certainly going to do what I can to make sure my voice is heard on this matter.

By Katherine (not verified) on 02 Jun 2009 #permalink