To end violence against women we all need to work together, it is a worldwide responsibility being discussed all over the globe. One of the key challenges in the prevention of rape and sexual harassment is the lack of understanding around the issue of consent. In addition, the lack of laws that adequately protect the innocent and punish perpetrators adds to the number of sexual harassment cases.
Below are 16 powerful ways that we can all use as we end violence against women.
1. Listen to People
We all need to listen to the people around us as they talk about their experiences. Either when they feel uncomfortable around someone or just want to talk. The more we listen or help to reduce their exposure to the person who makes them feel uncomfortable, the more we could help reduce cases of sexual abuse. Many times perpetrators build-up to the act of sexual violence; when they feel the girl has no one to fight for her or no one will believe her.
2. Believe Survivors
It is important to believe the story of survivors when they want to talk. Whenever a victim is sharing her story; be it right after or years after, believe them, listen to them and support them. The best thing you can do is to offer them support by listening without judging them.
We can all support girls and women by breaking the stereotypes where we blame the victim for the act of violence. Rather than saying things like “look at how she was dressed,” or she was “asking for it” let us put the blame where it belongs; on the shoulders of the aggressor. If a girl does not respond to a catcall or suggestive comment, let us support her and not label her as too serious or uptight.
4. Empower Girls and Women
Empowering girls and women should start early. See, when we raise girls to know what their rights are and to know what inappropriate touch is, they are empowered. We need to do a better job all around to let girls know that they can say no and report. Ultimately, this helps to reduce sexual abuse. In the violence against children survey; which was the first of its kind; looked at abuse faced by under 18-year-olds in Nigeria.
One of the key highlights of the report was that before the age of 18; one in four girls and one in ten boys experience a form of sexual violence. Additionally, most of the victims knew their perpetrators; which could include romantic partners and family members. Children surveyed rarely knew who to talk to or what to do if they face any form of sexual violence.
5. Educate about Sexual Abuse
We all need to consciously work on educating ourselves and others. It should start by reflecting on our own gender stereotypes, biases about male privilege or the role of the woman. These all contribute to issues of gender inequalities. Many of us are victims of our culture and upbringing, and so it is important to rewrite the narrative for a more wholesome reality. Sexual violence includes all forms of sexual abuse and exploitation which include rape, unwanted touching and pressured sex such as through tricks or threats.
6. Start a conversation with boys and men about ending violence against women.
According to a report from UN Women, In all four countries of a multi-country study from the Middle East and North Africa, men who witnessed their fathers using violence against their mothers, and men who experienced some form of violence at home as children, were significantly more likely to perpetrate violent acts in their adult relationships.
Having more conversations on a community and family level will start to highlight these trends and patterns. When people realize they are high risk for certain behaviours, they would hopefully be better able to watch out for the signs.
7. Self Defence is key to end violence against women
Self-defence can be a critical step in a world where people do not always behave as they should. Simple steps can be taken to protect a woman and these can go a long way in ensuring her safety. For instance, it is a good idea for women to take taxis instead of walking alone at night. Another tip would be having pepper spray and emergency cash in your handbag at all times. Lastly, it is worth noting that you should not leave drinks open or unattended because this can get drugged or spiked.
Teach boys about consent as a concept when it comes to equality, nonviolence, respect and healthy communication in relationships. Let them understand that No means No; as this plays a big part in how we end violence against women. They should not assume that a girl is playing hard to get. Rather boys should be taught to be gentlemen and respectful at all times. [Read: Raising Boys to Men]
9. Protect yourself from unsafe situations
Because sexual violence does not respect age or class we need to talk about the ways to avoid being a victim. Girls need to understand what grooming looks like, they should also avoid being alone with a man or group of men they cannot trust. Honesty is important when it comes to dealing with the reality of what can happen when a man and woman are together. For example, some victims have been raped when they went to spend the night at a friends house.
10. Trust with Care
There are several situations where girls have been abused by people they know or men in positions of power. Knowing who to trust can make all the difference in being a victim or not. One of my mothers favourite quotes while growing up was that “It is better to be too careful than to be careless”.
11. Take Responsibility
Rather than teach girls not to get raped, we need to teach boys not to rape.
— Les💫 (@leslieavendanoa) November 25, 2019
12. Abuse should not be tolerated
To end violence against women it is important for all women and men, to know what abuse is. Though there are several types of abuse, none of them should be tolerated. These could include physical, emotional or sexual abuse and they are all damaging to the victim. An empowered and educated girl has a better chance to avoid becoming a victim of any form of abuse.
13. What you wear is not the reason.
What did you wear? this should not be the first comment a victim hears. It is not always about what you wear, because there have been cases where a woman was modestly dressed and was still abused. However, it is important to train young girls about appropriate dressing. In a world of first impressions, what you wear paints a picture of you and young ladies need to understand that it is very possible to be trendy and decent.
What women choose to wear or not wear is not consent for sexual harassment, violence, bullying, body-shaming or victim-blaming.
— UN Development (@UNDP) November 25, 2019
14. Careful with Online Strangers.
A stranger online is still a stranger and we need to understand this as we navigate the virtual world. It is important in the age of social media to be careful with whom you get comfortable and share information with. We need to caution our young ladies and women not to meet an online friend alone, because, in reality you do not really know who anyone online is.
15. Speak up to end violence
More people need to challenge traditionally toxic masculine practices and beliefs that contribute to a culture of violence against girls and women. Surprisingly, some women expect abuse from their partners; this is because they believe that this is what men do. It is even sadder when women actually encourage women to manage abuse for various reasons. Some of the reasons, for example, include sticking it out for the sake of the children, or because he buys lavish gifts afterwards.
16. Notice the subtle messages
We should not be silent and accept a culture that objectifies women. Rather, we should all question everyday narratives and messages that we either hear or come across. As you start to pay attention to what is going on in mainstream media you will get sensitized to the subtle messages that encourage violence against women.
For example, a music video that shows half-naked girls grinding, should not be encouraged. Furthermore, parents should make it a point to look out for wholesome material. When we start controlling the content our children watch while they are young it is easier for them to know what is right Following this, we can then discuss how inappropriate content is disrespectful of women. Lastly, rather than blocking everything, you can go further and share examples of what good content is.
We all need to work together to end violence against women and girls. It starts with you and me, it starts from the home. How will you start making changes in your community and circle of influence?