Despite the #MeToo movement, sexual and gender-based violence is rising, under recognized and urgently in need of redress. It’s so prevalent, and surging so fast that we’re in danger of becoming inured to it, which is why November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is worth observing.
Violence against women is everywhere. It’s a key factor prompting migration to the US from Latin America, including in the caravan. A new report found that violence against South African women doubled year after year, prompting a summit this month in Pretoria to grapple with the problem. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women (35 percent) worldwide experience sexual violence.
In the U.S., it may be as high as nearly two in three women (63 percent, including 19 percent who are raped, and 44 percent who experience some other form of sexual violence). Violence against women in the U.S. is getting worse, fed by rising domestic violence rates (including murder of women by their partners) and growth in domestic terrorism targeting women, as in this month’s Tallahassee shooting—by no means an isolated incident.
On this issue, faith groups have much to answer for. The Catholic Church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals it hasn’t adequately addressed. A recent Vatican synod proposed language affirming the Church’s commitment to combatting sexual violence, and even that was controversial. But the Church isn’t alone in this. Other denominations and religions haven’t always assured safety, equal access and status for women, either. Historically Christianity embraced patriarchy. Islam relies on a similar understanding of the status of men.