Fifty-three years ago on this day, Patria, Maria, and Antonia Mirabal were beaten to death by henchmen of the dictator Rafael Trujillo, leader of the Dominican Republic at that time. The Mirabal sisters were known dissidents of Trujillo’s tyrannical regime.
Trujillo’s reign over the peninsula was brutal marked by a suspension of civil liberties and extreme violence, particularly against women with his voracious sexual appetite and penchant for rape. The assassination of the Mirabal sisters marked a significant shift in Dominican politics and Trujillo’s supporters took flight. He was assassinated less than a year later.
The United Nations commemorated the Mirabal legacy by establishing November 25th as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Over fifty years later, and the statistics are staggering.
One in three women throughout the world will be a victim of abuse in her lifetime.
In some countries, one-third of women report that their first sexual experience was forced.
Between 500,000 to 2 million people are trafficked annually into situations including prostitution, forced labor, slavery or servitude, according to estimates. Women and girls account for about 80 per cent of the detected victims.
The cost of intimate partner violence in the United States alone exceeds $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion is for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion.
It’s time for change.
Domestic and sexual violence in the United States is difficult to measure on a national level, but the reality is that many women and young girls experiencing violence don’t report it and remain silent. According to NOW, young women, low-income women, and minorities are more likely to be victims of this type of violence.
Envision a world where women aren’t silent, but rather, are invited to the table. Where they’re given a platform to speak and propose their ideas for change. Where they have equal access to resources for their families and their communities. Where they can become leaders with equal representation in our governments.
Building on women’s leadership roles is paramount to any agenda for global change. We have seen women step up and take charge as political representatives of war-torn communities, such as in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
The International Violence Against Women Act (I-VAWA) was introduced in 2010 as a measure to support intervention, health and education services to ensure women can avoid becoming a victim of abuse. It has yet to pass Congress, although there is a push for it to be reintroduced for a vote in front of the Senate.
This is one small step towards change. But what can you do right now?
Talk about it, for starters. Today is one day. But there are women and children coping with abuse every single day of the year. Consider the way your children or friends and family approach violence. How are women represented in your circles? What language do you use? What images?
We like to think that we’ve come a long way since the women’s movement of the 1960s, but the truth is there is still a tremendous amount of inequality and gender bias in the workplace, media, political representation, and in our conversations and personal relationships. The disproportionate number of women who are victims of abuse is enough of an indicator that we still have a long way to go.
This isn’t just an American issue.
This isn’t just a political issue.
This isn’t just a women’s issue.
This is a human rights issue.
It’s time we all step up to the plate and take the pledge to stop using physical and sexual violence against ANYONE starting now.
If you are a victim of abuse or a concerned friend or family member who may be experiencing abuse, there are resources for you.
You are not alone. There are people out there who know where you’ve been and can get you help.
The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women also marks 16 Days of Activism, culminating in Human Rights Day on December 10th.
What causes or issues matter to you?
How will you be an activist in your homes and communities today?