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Think global, act local

Kristen Cordell reflects on the work still to be done in her own country, the USA, to challenge the violence done to women.
Kristen Cordell
10 March 2009

I really am honored that an international audience, interested in the global perspective of gender and women's issues, reads this blog. But I would like to set aside a few words for the brave women in my own country, the USA, who face violence on a daily basis.

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Last week, I was quite inspired to hear Ban Ki Moon address the plenary on the topic of violence against women. Moon, who is responsible for the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women told the gathered members of the CSW that "violence against women is an abomination. I'd like to call it a crime against humanity." It is this sort of high-level attention and dedication of resources that are key to moving violence against women to the forefront of international issues.

I left the session enthusiastic and excited to be a part of global change. Over the weekend I was reflecting on my excitement with a good friend who remarked, "yes, but for all of our change abroad, it's much too bad we cannot make a change here in our own country." She referred me to a film she had just seen on sex trafficking in New York entitled Very Young Girls. I knew that the issue of sex trafficking in the States is a serious one, and a bit more research brought me to some shocking statistics. The U.S. Justice Department found that 1,200 alleged incidents of human trafficking were reported in the U.S. over the 21-month period from January 2007 to September 2008, 90 percent of which involved females and 63 percent U.S. citizens.

Of course, trafficking is not the only (nor the most prevalent) way women in the U.S. experience violence- the recent high profile abuse and battery of famous pop star Rhianna has brought the issue of rampant intimate partner abuse to light.  Even more distressful is the rise and tolerance for partner violence in a younger population of women. A recent study by the American Bar Association about the pervasiveness of ‘dating violence' within the teen population revealed that 1 in 5 teenagers in a serious relationship reports having been hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner- the numbers are much higher (3 of 5) for verbal and mental abuse. Uncovering these statistics I suddenly felt a bit silly about my time spent uncovering abuse rates in the DRC- while totally ignoring the plight of my fellow citizens.

Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence Yakin Erturk commented earlier in the week, that it is not nationalized culture that is responsible for gender-based violence (an excuse she hears regularly) but instead a global patriarchal culture. She is completely right- and we have a large case of that patriarchy here in the states as well.  This must be addressed from a policy standpoint- including through legal statutes, such as the Senate Bill for "Improving Assistance To Domestic And Sexual Violence Victims Act Of 2009". Secondly, civil society must continue to investigate and advocate for the needs of those in our own community in ways that fit that community. I am reminded of a presentation I saw early on in the CSW by UNIFEM Australia, on their very successful White Ribbon Campaign, which involves men in the fight against gender based violence in a very relevant and systematic manner. Advancing the causes of women in our own communities, through like programming will contribute to a greater sense of international equity and dignity for women as a global collective.

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