After the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing 15 years ago, Hillary Rodham Clinton planted the seed for Vital Voices, a nongovernmental organization that works worldwide to support “emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs.” Cissie Swig, profoundly committed to a host of global causes, political campaigns, women’s rights and the arts, is on its board. And last Monday, she invited about 30 friends, mainly women with parallel passions, to dinner at Villa Taverna to meet Vital Voices President Alyse Nelson, who described the group’s work: identifying those women, educating and training them in financial skills, marketing, communication, leadership.
This gathering wasn’t just about providing financial support. After Nelson described projects in nearly 127 countries and suggested the possibility of a Bay Area council, guests leaped in with ideas for participating. Mills College President Janet Holmgren said Mills would be excited to be “the nexus” for a Bay Area presence; Anette Harris, board member for the International Museum of Women, suggested that institution and Vital Voices might work together on a speakers’ series; retired Bishop William Swing of the United Religions Initiative said, “A lot of times religion keeps women from taking a place at the table; we would like to sit down and talk with you about that”; radio producer-writer-Woodhull Institute founder Margo Magowan talked about training women for on-air appearances; and Cissie’s daughter-in-law Darian Swig, whose passion is Human Rights Watch, discussed the importance of supporting Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and suggested joining forces on a Liberia working group.
Cissie Swig had accomplished the evening’s goal, as she expressed in a goodnight wish: “Stay connected.”
Joran Van der Sloot, the alleged killer of Natalee Holloway, the co-ed who disappeared in Aruba in 2005, was captured tonight in Chile. He’s under suspicion for the stabbing death of 21 year old Peruvian Stephany Flores. On June 2, Flores’s body was found in Lima, Peru in a hotel room registered to Van Der Sloot.
Joran Van der Sloot, Natalee Holloway
Van der Sloot was arrested twice for Holloway’s killing. He was released twice due to lack of evidence. Part of the “lack of evidence” included Van der Sloot talking on video about Holloway’s death and how her body was taken out to sea. This video “did not incriminate” Van der Sloot because he claimed he was just trying to “impress a drug dealer.”
Violence against women is epidemic, but perpetrators like Van der Sloot, too often don’t get punished and become repeat offenders. There is little public awareness of the ubiquity of the crimes, and insufficient funding for education, prevention, prosecution, or protection for women.
When the media covers stories about victims like Natalee Holloway, it’s usually in the most sensationalistic, ineffective way. If the women are attractive, white, and middle class, as she was, networks endlessly recycle former cheerleading or prom photos. But rarely do Larry King, Greta van Susteren, or Bill O’Reilly and co. accompany these horrific stories with facts about how widespread violence against women is, featuring direct service workers, experts in the field, who can educate the public with real statistics and solutions.
Today, in the Bay Area, Roselyne Swig, founder of Partners Ending Domestic Abuse took a step towards helping to stop the violence in a more effective way. Swig convened a summit in San Francisco with leaders from Bay Area organizations committed to ending violence against women. Swig’s hope is that these Bay Area organizations will collaborate, providing a leadership position, bringing public awareness to this widespread issue, taking action to end it.
JaMel Perkins, Board President of Partners, opened the summit by sharing terrifying statistics including some of these:
31% of American women report being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend.
Around the world, 1 in 3 women are beaten, coerced into sex or physically abused.
Women of all races and ethnicities are equally vulnerable to violence by a domestic partner.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for pregnant women.
77% of those deaths occur in the first trimester.
Abused women are 60% more likely to require hospitalization while pregnant.
90% of our homeless population are victims of abuse.
The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and Homicide committed by domestic partners exceed $5.8 Billion each year. Nearly $4.1 billion of this is spent on direct medical and mental health care services.
1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically or sexually abused by a dating partner.
“Domestic violence is something we should all be concerned about,” said Swig. “We need to create a collaborative voice.”
Marcia Smolens of HMS Associates, a local lobbying group, urged advocates to use social media to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence to create change.
Judy Patrick, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California, said that the goal of her foundation is to ensure that women and families are safe, healthy, and economically secure.
Marj Plumb of the Women’s Policy Institute trains women leaders who work in direct service to affect change in Sacramento. Women working on the front lines need the skills to lobby legislators to make policy that will help women and prevent violence.
Plumb had the women at the summit break into groups and identify problems and solutions to eradicate violence. Most groups felt that education was key, including curriculum for kids at middle school level, educating families, cultural awareness, and men.
I wish the media was a better educator. It’s such a missed opportunity. Domestic violence, and all violence against women, should be renamed as “gender crimes,” receiving the elevated level of attention and punishment that hate crimes do. The word “domestic” has always softened the crime for me, a crime that’s already not taken nearly seriously enough. Too often, crimes against women are written off as cultural issues, a misunderstanding, a married woman can’t possibly be raped by her husband or alcohol was involved so no one is to blame, or she’s to blame, or the guy who said he raped her was “just bragging.”
If the Taliban had been named worldwide for what it was– gender apartheid– maybe there would have been the universal outrage against it that people felt for South Africa’s racist government. Instead, most Americans, even good old San Francisco liberals, looked away, ignoring a regime where women were beaten and murdered, daily by their husbands and fathers as part of “cultural ritual.”
This year Yale student Annie Le was murdered and stuffed into a wall; UVA star Lacrosse player, Yeardley Love was murdered by fellow lacrosse player, George Hughley; Bruce Beresford-Redmond, a producer of the show “Survivor” is the prime suspect in the murder of his wife, Monica Beresford-Redmond, who was found dead in Mexico.
All of these killings received media attention, because these women were young, attractive, or middle class. Would we know about Peruvian Stephany Flores if Natalee Holloway hadn’t been killed by the same suspect? Maybe, her father is wealthy, but she’s got a strike against her: she’s not white. How many gender crimes happened today worldwide that we don’t know about? How many are happening right now?
Statistics say that in America 3 women are murdered by their husbands and boyfriends every day.