In times of crises, the numbers rise, as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic and recent humanitarian crises, conflicts and climate disasters. A new report from UN Women, based on data from 13 countries since the pandemic, shows that 2 in 3 women reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence and are more likely to face food insecurity. Only 1 in 10 women said that victims would go to the police for help.
While pervasive, gender-based violence is not inevitable. It can and must be prevented. Stopping this violence starts with believing survivors, adopting comprehensive and inclusive approaches that tackle the root causes, transform harmful social norms, and empower women and girls.
What are forms of Gender-based Violence (GBV)?
Gender-based violence can include sexual, physical, mental and economic harm inflicted in public or in private. It also includes threats of violence, coercion and manipulation. This can take many forms such as intimate partner violence, sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation and so-called ‘honour crimes’.
The consequences of gender-based violence are devastating and can have life-long repercussions for survivors. It can even lead to death.
If you are a victim of gender based violence seeking emergency care and shelter please call 800-SAVE right now.
Recognize the role of gender in violence.
While boys and men do experience abuse it is important to remember that the majority of victims of violence are female and the majority of perpetrators of violence are boys and men.
Educate yourself on the root causes of violence.
Violence against girls and women stems in male dominance and the socialization of men. Become educated on the roots of violence against girls and women! Read books and articles, join a group at school and attend any training available to you. Learn about the myths and realities of gender violence and understand how our society condones it.
Interrupt sexist and discriminatory language.
Words are powerful, especially when used by people who have power over others. We live in a society where words are used to put girls and women down. Gendered name-calling sends the message that girls and women are less than fully human. When girls and women are seen as inferior, it becomes easier to treat them with disrespect and violence. Change the way you speak to help change the way you think.
Be critical and question.
Be critical and question how the media portrays girls and women, whether on television, online, in magazines or in music videos. The media regularly uses images of violence against women, and sexually exploits girls and women to sell products. Write or e-mail the company about their negative images of women and girls and don’t buy their products.
Get the message out!
Youth do not need to rely on mainstream media to get the message out. Social media is a great way to share articles, tips and tools for the prevention of violence.
Report photos and messages that exploit women and girls.
Report any photos and posts you see that exploit or degrade girls and young women on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
If you see a guy grab a girl or push her girl into her locker, say something to stop his abusive behaviour. If one of your female friends is intoxicated at a party and being led away by a guy, stop him from being alone with her and help her get home safely.
Stop sexual harassment.
Don’t engage in any forms of sexual harassment, such as catcalling, and unwanted touching and be empowered to speak up against friends and peers who do. Don’t look the other way!
Develop an action plan.
Plan ahead what you would do in situations where people you know – or strangers – are being abusive. Sometimes it’s easier to interrupt the abuse when you know what you will say beforehand.
Stop victim blaming.
Don’t blame girls and women for how they choose to dress or judge their behavior. Violence can’t be prevented through limiting the freedoms of girls. This only allows the violence to continue because perpetrators become invisible and not held accountable, and those who witness the abuse remain silent.
Stop rape culture.
One way to stop rape culture is by not allowing people to minimize or normalize sexual assault and rape through jokes. If a peer tells a joke about sexual violence against girls and women, say you don’t find it funny and you won’t tolerate it.
Call gender-based violence what it is – violence, not “bullying.”
Using the term “bullying” to label violence against girls and women masks the truth of what is really happening. By labeling it correctly you are helping to stop a culture which normalizes and minimizes violence against girls and women.
Create safe spaces to discuss gender-based violence.
Create an after school club or group where you can openly discuss your views and experiences and support your peers.
Confront and reflect on your ideas and beliefs.
Reflect on your beliefs, actions and opinions and why you have them. Be honest, admit your faults and commit to changing the way you think and act.
Stop stereotyping men’s and women’s roles.
Social roles and expectations may affect our decisions about relationships. Men are taught that expressing feelings is not “masculine.” Examine your social roles and learn ways to express feelings directly and non-violently to create more meaningful interpersonal relationships.
Remember that violence is a choice, and it is preventable.
Don’t make excuses for friends and peers who are violent. Do not support the notion that violence is caused by mental illness, lack of anger management skills, alcohol and drug use, stress, etc. Violence is a choice, and it is preventable.
Be supportive and believe.
When girls tell you about violence they have experienced in their lives believe them. It is extremely rare for girls to invent false stories about sexual assault and violence. You may be the first and only person she tells. Believe her and support her decisions, without being judgmental.
Be aware of available resources for girls and women.
Familiarize yourself with the resources for girls and women in your community, including women’s centres, shelters and antiviolence organizations. Be a positive resource for girls close to you by sharing information and making referrals.
Be a mentor.
Volunteer your time to preventing violence by speaking to others. This brings awareness to the issue, which will motivate others to act.
Understand and practice consent!
Boys and young men need to be respectful when entering into a sexual relationship and should not feel entitled to girls and women’s bodies. Just because you are a ‘nice guy’ does not mean you should have any expectations.