As the world battles COVID-19, another global pandemic rages: Nearly one in three women worldwide will face physical or sexual violence during their lives, according to a new study by the World Health Organization.
Unfortunately, there's no vaccine for this health crisis.
WHO officials say the antidote for violence against women is to educate boys. School curriculums should include lessons in mutual respect and mutual consent in sex. And governments are asked to do more to improve services for victims and address economic inequalities that can trap women in abusive relationships.
“Violence against women is endemic in every country and culture, causing harm to millions of women and their families, and has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
The study's findings are sobering:
- Some 31% of women ages 15-49, or up to 852 million women, have experienced physical or sexual violence.
- A husband or intimate partner is the most common perpetrator.
- A disproportionate number of victims are in the poorest countries.
"These numbers are very shocking and really are sort of a wake-up call for governments to be doing much more to prevent this violence," report author Claudia Garcia-Moreno told Reuters.
Examples can be found everywhere, and many victims can be reluctant to talk about their experiences, especially with the stigma surrounding sexual assault.
Assault victim Danielle Leukam of Rochester says it has taken two years, but she finally feels free enough to talk about the man who broke into her home in 2018, raped her and threatened the lives of herself and her son.
“I feel so free being able to speak and use my voice, but I still feel fearful for when he gets out," Leukam told Post Bulletin reporter Emily Cutts. Leukam's assailant will be eligible for parole in 12 years.
Statewide, domestic violence affects one in four Minnesota women, according to data from Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center. Last year in Minnesota, nearly 70,000 victims received services from domestic violence agencies.
Sexual assault and abuse is an entire community’s problem, not just a problem for one gender, and we all have to do our part to find solutions and put those plans into action.
Local resources for victims include:
- Women's Shelter and Support Center, 285-1010. womens-shelter.org
- Rochester Police Department. 911. Letter to victims.
- Family Service Rochester. 287-2010. Women's Domestic Violence Group
- Minnesota Department of Public Safety. 651-201-7000. Minnesota Resources for Crime Victims.