VAW - Do something!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007
What’s in a name? The politics of portraying victims of violence against women
There was this video I watched while taking a training course to become an advocate for battered women. It is about a Caucasian woman from an upper class who was in an abusive relationship. Throughout the short clip, the woman kept on mentioning that she didn't get out of the relationship because she didn't see herself as a battered woman. She thought the term "battered women" applied to law class and mostly black women. Of course, she had 1001 other reasons why she stayed in the relationship.

However, the main story of this woman was that she didn't even know what to call herself or the situation she was in. Admitting that she was a battered woman would mean seeing herself as a law class and uneducated woman, which was not her.

If battered women themselves have a problem with the term because of the image associated with it, what chance is there to effectively teach potential victims and abusers about VAW?

Sokari brought to my attention a recent UNIFEM public service announcement video "Let's end violence against women". A London-based advertising agency produced the video for UNIFEM. The images that stayed with me from the promo video are women living in extreme conflict areas, all women of color and all obviously from a non-Western culture. To me it's yet another wrong depiction of a wide-spread problem as the problem of those poor, far away, less fortunate, less educated… people. The danger with this type of half-accurate portait is that it obscure the reality and send out a wrong message – it's "their" problem not mine type of obscurity. Ask any advocate working to raise awareness about the challenges of VAW, and you will hear that it's making people understand the magnitude,the different forms of the problem, the red flags, the fact that it's a campaign by the abuser against the victim and so on.

Ironically, the video states that 1 in 3 women is a victim of some type of violence against women - globally. And yet, it failed to show the diverse type of women who are affected regardless of economic status, education, race, religion, geographic location etc. It would have been an eye-opener if there were also images of women in business suits and brief cases, doctor’s gowns….

Just out of curiosity, I checked out UNIFEM/USA's website to see if they have any projects in the USA. Typically, the site talks about the plights of those far away women in Afghanistan and Darfur. Nothing about, for example, domestic violence in the US. You search the site for "domestic violence in the US" and you get a page sounding like "web-searching 101 - fool!" I thought the 1:3 ratio of abused women was world-wide not jut poor countries-wide. I really wonder why UNIFEM/USA won't have a single project on VAW in the USA. Why?

What you can do
Write UNIFEM and urge them to come up with a more powerful and more accurate public announcement. As it stands, their recent video pushes the problem to somebody else denying the urgency of the matter at all levels. Write your concerns to:

Ms Noeleen Heyzer
Executive Director
304 East 45th Street
15th Floor
New York, NY 10017
Tel: +1 212-906-6400
Fax: +1 212-906-6705

While you are at it, also ask why UNIFEM/USA doesn't support any VAW projects in the US?
posted by Fikirte @ 4:03 AM  
  • At May 25, 2007 at 9:10 AM, Blogger Chris Green White Ribbon UK said…

    I agree with your comments about the portrayal of violence against women when it is portrayed as "out there". I also get sad about a lot of the images of women which are shown in a lot of the anti voiolence campaigning. There is an excellent 200 page report by VicHealth on Social Marketing campaigns focussing on Violence against Women produced by donovan and Vlais.
    UNIFEM in the UK is working with us in the White Ribbon Campaign UK in campaigning adn awareness raising about the issues at home, and I know that UNIFEM in Australia has even closer links with White Ribbon Campaign

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