Sexual violence -- statistics are easy to ignore

It seems that in the past months, the public has finally discerned the true dimensions of sexual violence. Yet statistics on the subject speak for themselves. And they have been around for a long time. We just refused to face them.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Sexual
violence -- statistics are easy to ignore - NewsMavens
A group of women. Image from Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

For weeks now, the subject of sexual harassment and gender-based violence has dominated public discussion. At times, it seems as if the world has just discovered the scope of the problem.

“The endless reports of women from the film industry, politics and most recently also from professional sports should not surprise us.  We should have known," wrote Der Standard editor, Beate Hausbichler, in a blog entry.

Online archives abound with data. According to an EU-wide survey, conducted by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, every third woman in Austria has experienced sexual harassment. And that is just one reliable source of information.

The problem is that anonymous surveys and statistics are easy to ignore. It takes real people sharing their personal stories to draw the public’s attention to the problem. Only then do attempts to downplay and distract no longer work.

Another problem with the studies is that while they highlight the numbers of victims, they often conceal the data on perpetrators. Ursula Kussyk, head of an emergency call organization assisting rape victims, recently told Der Standard:

“Until now, the perpetrators were faceless. What the current debate has done for the subject is that it has given the perpetrators faces -- often very famous ones. To many, this is shocking."

The problem is as clear as never before, commented Beate Hausbichler. She claims that, "we still live in liberal democratic societies, far from gender equality. Women are exposed to assault and sexual violence on a daily basis. The power gap is such an integral part of our culture that many men see no harm in exploiting their position of authority to gain sexual satisfaction."

Thanks to the recent reports of numerous brave women, now we know that we won’t live happily ever after, unless that changes.

Details from the story:

  • One in three women experiences physical or sexual violence at least once in her life.
  • Two out of three victims of physical or sexual violence were attacked by a family member.
  • In 2012, almost half of femicides worldwide were committed by a sexual partner or a family member of the victim.
  • At least 140 countries have legislation against domestic violence, 144 -- against sexual harassment. However, those laws are not always implemented to their full extent.
  • 37 countries refuse to prosecute rapists, if they have married or intend to marry the victim.
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