Jane Manning, former sex crimes prosecutor and current survivor advocate, considers herself a person who doesn’t back down when it comes to seeking criminal justice accountability for sexual assault. “There aren’t a lot of us doing this kind of work in the nonprofit zone,” she said.
Manning has spent much of her life prosecuting sex crimes, domestic violence, and child abuse. As a survivor advocate, she has also immersed herself in the complex social issues involved in the fight to end violence against women. Now, as Director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project, Manning helps sexual assault survivors push back on a criminal justice system that is all too willing to dismiss their rights.
Editor’s Note: I originally wrote this post on February 17, 2020, and it is an interesting study in how questions from the past about the Gates Foundation are now being answered as the couple finalizes their divorce and their two paths diverge.
When one of the richest women in the world decides that gender equality should be more of a priority, what impact does that have? Should we cheer, or fear, this development?
In February 2021, 18-year-old Úrsula Bahillo was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, an officer in the Buenos Aires police force. The femicide led a group of Argentine women to create the organization Mujeres en Acción, an entirely volunteer brigade of women providing support to survivors of gender-based violence in the Latin American region.
Úrsula’s untimely death was the 44th femicide registered in Argentina in the first two months of 2021, and its occurrence prompted immediate outrage in the country. After all, the 18-year-old victim had followed all the recommended steps: she reported her attacker to the police stations and the courthouse. She got a restraining order that made it illegal for him to come near her, but he broke the restraining order numerous times. One major way the system fell apart for her: Úrsula requested a “panic button” from the police, but she never got one. Her last message to her friends read: If I don’t come back, tear everything down.
It’s finally happening: America is charting its course as a nation to remedy our problems with gender equity and equality. What is contained in the momentous document, and how will it affect funding for gender issues?
The President and Vice President begin the document by locating the issue in our current context of heightened stakes for women and girls in the US and across the globe:
This document, the first-ever United States government strategy on gender equity and equality, is a part of that noble American tradition [of valuing equality]. It comes at an inflection point for the economic security, safety, health, and well-being of women and girls in our nation and around the globe. COVID-19 has exacerbated preexisting economic, health, and caregiving crises that disproportionately impacted women and girls long before the pandemic struck. Following the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression, women’s participation in the American labor force plummeted to its lowest level in over 30 years. Rates of gender-based violence have risen significantly, and racial and ethnic inequity has deepened.
Editor’s Note: The following essay by Dr. Susan M. Blaustein, Founder and Executive Director, WomenStrong International, discusses the transformational potential of #MeToo to empower change locally and globally.
In their remarkable new book Awakeningabout the global #MeToo movement, feminist scholars Rachel Vogelstein and Meighan Stone have shined a light on the courage, creativity, and resilience of women all over the world who have alchemized their pain as survivors of sexual violence into fierce, undaunted activism.
These brave women, from Brazil to Tunisia to Nigeria to Sweden and myriad places in between, have harnessed available digital technologies to share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, connect with other women, sound the alarm loudly, and press for change. They’re fighting not only for victims’ safety in reporting these crimes and accountability for their perpetrators; enraged and emboldened, they’re aiming to institutionalize legal protections and disrupt the prevailing cultural and religious moraes that have long sanctioned violence against women in the first place.
Editor’s Note: The following commentary on domestic violence is by Debbie I. Chang, MPH, president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation.
Throughout a career advocating for the health and well-being of children and families, I thought I knew a lot about domestic violence and its impact. I knew that trauma, including exposure to domestic violence in childhood, has a deep and lasting effect on health. Like many people, I thought what happened in people’s homes was a private matter. In fact, some would narrowly say, “It’s not my business.”
Now I know domestic violence is all of our business. It is truly a public matter. And it is preventable.
Work being done abroad by Synergy for Justice and its executive director Christy Fujio is enhancing justice and accountability for sexual violence and torture.
The conflict in Syria has been going on for roughly ten years now, with little sign of it ceasing. American media coverage has more or less moved on from shedding any light on the topic. Although the general populace has moved on, certain organizations and individuals remain hyper focused on what they can do to help ensure that survivors are supported and justice is achieved.
Synergy for Justice is one such organization. For more than six years, the organization has been working with local partners and lending a hand to the crisis. At the height of the violence, torture and detention in 2015, the organization was founded by Christy Fujio, Dr. Ingrid Elliott and Dr. Coleen Kivlahan.
As our young women come up in the world, they face a deluge of information online, much of which is contributing to their sense of safety, or lack thereof. A new report from Plan International helps to break down the ways that online disinformation is impacting the lives of girls ages 15 to 24 around the world.
The report, The Truth Gap, helps to explain how girls and young women in 33 countries are experiencing information they find online. The report discovered that one in five girls (20%) feels unsafe due to false information that comes from the internet.
“The ugly truth is that more people are still motivated by the desire to prioritize men’s income-generating and reputations than they are by the desire to ensure women’s rights and safety.” — Soraya Chemaly, Rage Becomes Her
Prioritizing women’s rights and safety in today’s world is not easy, and it won’t become any easier as long as our culture puts men’s earnings and men’s reputations first, which it almost always does. Think of any number of powerful men whose reputations and money-generating capacities completely undermined women’s rights and safety: Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Donald Trump, Bill Cosby, Jeffrey Epstein….and the list goes on and on. It’s a list that defines our culture, a culture of men and money first, and women and safety last, in our public and private lives, in government, business, and the non-profit sector.