Sexual violence is a serious global problem that women unfortunately are not immune to. Research shows that 1 in 3 women have experience some form of physical or sexual violence. Usually committed by the victim’s intimate partner, these acts of violence are unpredictable and sometimes unavoidable. In fact, around 120 million girls worldwide (slightly more than 1 in 10) have experienced forced intercourse or other forced sexual acts at some point in their lives. Sexual violence is a traumatic experience that can have significant long term physical; emotional; psychological; and academic consequences. Sexual violence is an urgent public health problem affecting millions of women and men each year. These statistics are staggering, and unfortunately depict the true magnitude of such a disturbing issue.
Understanding the experiences and needs of victims can contribute to the development of informed policies and protocols. It is also important to understand how cultural beliefs and values influence an individual’s decision to formally report the incident. At times, disclosure of these incidents can result in the victim being ostracized within their society. It is imperative that we advocate for policies addressing how unacceptable sexual violence is, where victims receive the needed support and perpetrators are held accountable for their actions. We must alert the public, and force the hands of political leaders to propagate the demand for a more civil society.
Although these numbers are alarming seeing some of the images are just as stark. It is truly sad to have learned of the heinous and brutal attack on the young woman by the five thugs. Regardless to how much the media attempted to implore the public not to share the video, it nonetheless went viral and invoked feelings from people around the world. Many of us supported the woman, empowering her to move forward with her life. We and informed her that we are behind her and wanted to give her the respect she deserved.
International Women of H.O.P.E. and its members make a personal pledge to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women and girls. As Agents of Hope, we strive daily to challenge the community to speak out on the issue of domestic violence, learn about sexual violence, and ultimately raise public awareness. It is imperative that we change the culture of violence against women and girls by giving a voice to this monstrous act.
We are demanding that the Haitian Police initiate an investigation to apprehend the rapists and bring them before the courts to answer for their bestial, cowardice and traumatic act. In the video, one of the rapist is heard speaking of respect and it brings to question the true definition of respect. Unfortunately, this is not a simple definition. Respects in various cultures are mingled with attitudes about equality, diversity, and sexuality. It is these attitudes that breed a platform for sexual violence to exist. We are urging administrators, police officials, and elected officials to play important roles in influencing attitudes and behaviors, that contribute to a societal culture which rejects sexual and domestic violence. Policies and practices that prevent and respond to sexual violence must be prevalent. We know that formal policies and response protocols play an integral part in creating an environment where everyone knows that sexual violence is unacceptable. An environment where survivors can receive the services needed, and perpetrators are held accountable for their offenses.
It is without question that violence against women and girls are rooted in a systemic discrimination but issues of socioeconomic, age, politics, education, and cultural exclusion need to be part of this conversation. These are critical considerations when developing an inclusive strategy responding to the complex and layered nature of sexual violence. Let us be clear, sexual assault is a crime that warrants necessary appropriate actions. However, the responsibility for addressing sexual assault does not stop at law enforcement. The responsibility continues with us all as global ambassadors. As ambassadors, we need to never turn a blind eye to injustice. We need to work with our legislators and demand that they uphold the law, consistently punishing these acts, and change the laws when applicable. It is with this kind of focused attention and collaboration that sexual assault will be eradicated from our local and global communities. It is a fact that policies and protocols are particularly beneficial when combined with public education and prevention initiatives.
International Women of hope will work diligently to combat the scourge of domestic and sexual violence, and declare that it is not tolerated in all our communities. Our organization stands with the survivors to help, no matter where they are in the process, and will not rest until every person can feel safe in their home, community, and the world. Until women can live, free of the fear of domestic and sexual violence we will continue to raise our voices.