Prioritizing Women’s Issues to Reinvigorate Feminism in the West

In light of recent protests concerning the election of U.S. President Donald Trump, a significant observation can be made as to the lack of focus by women’s groups to prioritize strategic aims. While Black Lives Matter activists focus on one central tenant, the relationship between police and young black men, women’s groups have yet to pinpoint the most pressing issue facing women. These latest protests mentioned Planned Parenthood and equal pay but not the most urgent problem facing women, domestic violence.

According to the 2017 Center for Disease Control and the Department of Justice reports on domestic violence, the reduction seen between 1993–2010 has not only plateaued but is showing a significant increase. Domestic violence threatens the very autonomy of women and the significant gains made in recent years by first and second wave feminism.

In the CDC’s report concerning Intimate Partner Violence, twenty-three per cent of adult women have experienced domestic violence. Compare this new report to the 1993–2010 DOJ report that showed a significant reduction in domestic violence especially among Hispanic women. The recent surge seems to indicate that women’s groups have forgotten their most pressing necessity in the arena of Women’s Rights. Although there are many women’s groups that continue the fight for equality on this issue, there has been no cohesive united front to combat the problem of violence against women in recent years. In the U.S. alone, forty per cent of all homicides of women were committed by their intimate partner according to the CDC 2017 report, which is staggering by any standard. The DOJ 2006–2015 report on IPV showed that violent partners were remanded, meaning they were denied bail, only fifty-two per cent of the time. In domestic violence cases, the victim only presses charges forty-eight per cent of the time. Policy makers in the U.S. do not seem to understand that the release of these violent partners not only places victims, their families and law enforcement at risk but also the public at large.

It has been reported by both the DOJ and CDC that victims of domestic violence are at higher risk of injury or death upon separation from a violent partner. Seventy per cent of victims injured or killed fall into this category. For years domestic violence was limited to verbal, physical or sexual abuse during the relationship but due to the rates of stalking post break-up, violence actually can begin at this stage. In two recent cases in Louisiana and Mississippi, according to CBS News reports, the victim, their families and law enforcement were targeted by the violent partner. In each case there were multiple fatalities. According to a 2007 CDC report 16,800 homicides a year are attributed to IPV. Despite this statistic, there is not a considerable outcry among feminists or a strategy to combat the recent surge.

What is more disturbing in the statistics that the CDC reported in 2017, is the breakdown of those victimized among different groups of women. All women from every race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and education are affected by IPV but not equally. The CDC reported in their National Prevention of Intimate Partner Violence report, that multi-racial women, Native American women and non-Hispanic black women are the largest proportion of IPV. Hispanic women were the only group to maintain significant reduction in IPV although at thirty-four per cent that reduction, unfortunately, is still too high. This begs the question concerning the difference between outreach of Hispanic women in comparison to non-Hispanic black women, Native American women and multi-racial women. Do Hispanic women’s groups have a better strategy concerning IPV in their communities? Also what could they offer to other minorities and even white women on the subject?

Other groups that are disproportionately affected by IPV are bisexual and lesbian women. These two groups of women suffered IPV more than heterosexual women. It has always been assumed that men were the perpetrators of IPV but as this report shows women are assaulting and stalking other women as well. Transgender women have also been underreported in terms of IPV although in 2016, twenty-one deaths of transgender women were reported and in 2017, eleven transgender women have been killed so far. Of these homicides only one suspect has been arrested while the other cases remain open.

Socioeconomic status also shows increased rates of IPV among those below $25k (Australian $37,797) a year than those at $50k (Australian $65,595) a year. Education, lack of resources to leave an offender and a perceived tolerance of IPV in poorer communities, are theories concerning the reasons why this group is affected more than those making $50k a year according to the CDC 2017 report.

Unfortunately, physical violence is not the only outcome but one of a triad including sexual assault and stalking. In 2015, the CDC reported that eleven per cent of teens under eighteen years of age reported sexual dating violence. Three per cent of these teens reported being stalked by their intimate partner as well. Among adult women, ten percent reported being stalked by their intimate partner. Sixteen per cent of adult women also reported sexual violence by their intimate partner as well.

The protests that were sparked by Access Hollywood’s recorded interviews with sitting U.S. President Trump could have begun a concentrated outcry that the Federal Civil Rights Act include both IPV and sexual assault as a hate crime against women. Unfortunately, due to the lack of cohesion among women in the entertainment industry and prominent women’s groups, these fleeting opportunities to draw marketed attention to and combating IPV are fading in the wake of the Senate probe into Russian involvement in the last U.S. election.

2010 CDC report: National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: Frieden, Thomas R., MD, MPH Director; Degutis Linda C., DrPH, MSN, Director; Spivak Howard R., MD, Director

2017 CDC report: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence across Lifespan: Mercy James A., PhD, Director; Houry Debra E., MD, MPH Director

The Role of Violence Against Women Act in Addressing Intimate Partner Violence: A Public Health Issue: Modi Monica N., Palmer Shealiah, and Armstrong Alicia, Journal of Women’s Health 2014, 23(3): 353–359