Given these facts, it is not surprising that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action calls violence against women a violation of the human rights of a majority of the world's population. Women are statistically safer out on the street than they are in their homes.7
Violence against women is woven into the fabric of society to such an extent that many of us who are victimized feel that we are at fault. Many of those who perpetrate violence feel justified by strong societal messages that say that rape, battering, sexual harassment, child abuse, and other forms of violence are acceptable. Every day we see images of male violence against women in the news, on TV shows, in the movies, in advertising, and in our homes and workplaces. It is a fact of life for women of all ages, races, and classes.
I have never been free of the fear of rape. From a very early age I, like most women, have thought of rape as part of my natural environment--something to be feared and prayed against like fire or lightning. I never asked why men raped; I simply thought it one of the many mysteries of human nature.
In the broadest sense, violence against women is any violation of a woman's personhood, mental or physical integrity, or freedom of movement through individual acts and societal oppression. It includes all the ways our society objectifies and oppresses women. Violence against women ranges from sterilization abuse to prescription-drug abuse, pornography, stalking, battering, and rape.* It includes the sexual and physical abuse of young girls and the abuse of elders.
Every form of violence threatens all women and limits our ability to make choices about our lives. Sexual violence is particularly insidious because sexual acts are ordinarily and rightly a source of pleasure and communication. It is often unclear to a woman who has been victimized and to society as a whole whether a sexual violation was done out of sexual desire or violent intent or whether these motivations are even distinguishable, because violence itself has come to be seen as sexual or erotic.
Thirty years ago, most forms of violence against women were hidden under a cloak of silence or acceptance. As more and more women talked with each other in the recent wave of the women's movement, it became apparent that violence against us occurs on a massive scale; that no woman is immune; and that family, friends, and public institutions have been cruelly insensitive about it.
Over the past thirty years, women have mobilized to offer direct services to those who have encountered violence, to educate people about the range and nature of male violence against women, and to develop strategies for change. This chapter reflects the important work of some of these women.
years of age, these programs have been shown to prevent dating violence and sexual violence. Furthermore, dating violence appears to be a risk factor for intimate partner violence later in life and is also associated with injuries and health-compromising behaviors, such as unsafe sex, substance abuse, and suicide attempts (Smith et al., 2003; Wolfe et al., 2009). Accordingly, the prevention of dating violence can be assumed to be preventive of intimate partner and sexual violence in later life (Foshee et al., 2009).
One dating violence prevention program that has been well evaluated using a randomized controlled design is Safe Dates. Positive effects were noted in all four published evaluations (Foshee et al., 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005). Foshee et al. (2005) examined the effects of Safe Dates in preventing or reducing perpetration and victimization over time using four waves of follow-up data. The program significantly reduced psychological, moderate physical, and sexual dating violence perpetration at all four follow-up periods. The program also significantly reduced severe physical dating abuse perpetration over time, but only for adolescents who reported no or average prior involvement in severe physical perpetration at baseline. Program effects on the experiencing of sexual dating violence over time were marginal. Safe Dates did not prevent or reduce the experiencing of psychological dating abuse. Program effects were primarily due to changes in dating violence norms, gender role norms, and awareness of community services. The program did not affect conflict-management skills. The program was found to have had a greater impact upon primary prevention as opposed to preventing re-abuse among those with a history of previous abuse (Foshee et al., 1996, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2008).
Two school-based programs for preventing dating violence in Ontario, Canada, have also been evaluated (Wolfe et al., 2003, 2009). An outcome evaluation of The Fourth R: Skills for Youth Relationships used a cluster-randomized design and found that, based on self-reported perpetration at 2.5-year follow-up, rates of physical dating violence were 7.4 percent in the program group and 9.8 percent in the control group—a difference of 2.4 percent. However, for reasons not fully understood, this decrease of self-reported perpetration was found in boys (7.1 percent in controls versus 2.7 percent in intervention students) but not in girls (12.1 percent versus 11.9 percent). The program—evaluated by sampling more than 1,700 hundred students aged 14 to 15 years from 20 public schools—was integrated into the existing health and physical education curriculum and taught in sex-segregated classes. An underlying theme of healthy, nonviolent relationship skills was woven throughout the 21 lessons, which included extensive skills development using graduated practice with peers to develop positive strategies for dealing with pressures and the resolution of conflict without abuse or violence. The cost of training and materials averaged 16 Canadian dollars per student (Wolfe et al., 2009).