Did you know that the United Nation’s Secretary General’s campaign UNITE to End Violence Against Women has designated the 25th of each month as ‘Orange Day’? Orange day, “invites us to wear something orange to highlight the call for the eradication of violence against women without reservation, equivocation, or delay” (see www.un.org). That’s quite a few days in a year dedicated to raising awareness about violence against women. And yet this type of violence is identified as a, “continuing global pandemic… with 70% of women worldwide experiencing violence… 1 in 3 women experiencing sexual violence” (www.un.org/www.thinkprogress.org). To bring this closer to home, look at your child’s class and think that 7 out of 10 girls in that class are at risk to the experience of significant violence. Wow, that’s intense.
The UN considers violence against women to be, “one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world…and is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women.” Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential.” Worldwide does not mean some distant place, it means here on Maui as well. 1 in 7 women in Hawai’i has experienced a forcible rape during their lives, 80%+ from a known male perpetrator. (Go to the Sex Abuse Treatment Center of Hawai’i website at www.satchawaii.com for more information and statistics).
Are you depressed yet? I am. So let’s move to solutions. What are practical things that every parent can do to address this issue in our community so our children grow up in a safer, healthier world?
Education • Skill building • Become a positive, proactive leader.
Educate yourself and your kids: Don’t pretend violence isn’t happening when it is. If we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. In fact, key factors that support the continuation of violence are silence and inaction. I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “If you are not outraged then you are not paying attention.” We need to bring awareness to their actions (education) and give them alternatives (skill building). We can’t gloss over joking that escalates into teasing that escalates into bullying. The statement “Oh, boys will be boys” is an outdated response that allows violence to continue. A good website to help educate yourself about bullying and the proactive steps we can take is www.tobecomeateacher.org/preventing-bullying-cyber-bullying/
Skill Building: I encourage adolescents and adults to watch Jackson Katz’s Ted Talk, Violence Against Women—it’s a men’s issue as an introduction to his Bystander Approach. Then visit his website to learn about his Mentors in Violence Prevention Model. There are role-plays you can do with your children to increase awareness of violence that happens daily and give them the skills to act courageously in the moment. Katz states that, “People in US society have been socialized to be passive bystanders in the face of sexist abuse and violence.” This is what he calls, “Bystander apathy.” Katz encourages everyone to stand up when we witness daily acts of joking, teasing, bullying, and disempowerment of another and he gives us tools to do it, “without risk of personal injury.”
Most people think there are only two options, engage with the offender, which may lead to more violence or stay quiet and be safe. We justify our inaction, our apathy, by saying things to ourselves like, “I’m not this child’s mother…It’s not my place to step in…He didn’t really mean it…” The attitude of fear of retaliation is statistically inaccurate. Studies are showing that when even one person says, “Knock it off…I don’t like that…Stop.” in the moment, with conviction to someone who’s crossed the line that s/he backs down 9 out of 10 times (89%). The fear of attack is unfounded. Yet, what most of us choose to do is to brush it off. This is apathy. We need small daily acts of courage. Having the courage to speak up when we experience seemingly insignificant acts of inequality and disempowerment. Name it. Bring awareness to the social discomfort that is usually glossed over. No need to shame, just name it. “That’s not funny.” We don’t have to get aggressive ourselves, just say, “NO” with conviction right now.
The most fundamental leader for our kids is a parent – YOU: You have the opportunity to show your children everyday what courage looks like and that being courageous is attainable. Become the role model that does not give tacit approval by watching, pretending as if it isn’t happening, laughing it off, and becoming numb. For example, we embody courage as we tell the guy at the store who yelled at our 5 year old for touching the glass cake counter that he scared her and that’s not right. We model for her that she is worth standing up for and how to do it for herself in the future. We become a healthy role model and a true leader. When we stand up, we show our chil dren how to be brave, which models for them the ability to stand up when they hear a joke that crosses over into teasing and maybe even becomes bullying. Small acts of bravery, daily sets the stage for our children to change the statistics on violence cited in the first paragraph.
There are many resources on the internet including www.stopbullying.gov. There is also a great film called, “Girl Rising” (www.girlrising.com). It shows different situations where girls show courage in standing up for themselves and others and the importance of education.
The inequity in the education of girls and boys may not be an issue on Maui, but seeing the film can again provide role models of courage amidst adversity for our Maui kids who then grow up to be positive adult leaders with the focus on girls and women as empowered bystanders. Not victims, potential victims or survivors. This can give them fresh new ideas about how to be supportive to their peers, as well as help inspire them to be leaders in their peer culture, as well as with younger girls.
If you are interested in creating a community Girl Rising event or would like to learn some leadership parenting exercises please call/text Sherry Lynn Fisher at 205-2482.
*In memory of Charli Scott and Mo Monsalve.
Image Credit: Angelica Belmont