chapter  5
29 Pages

The Gendered Nature of Violence: an International Focus

ByHolly Johnson

Not long ago, sexual violence and intimate partner violence were hidden from public view and ignored by public policy. This began to change as the second wave women’s movement and the civil rights movement gained political power throughout the 1960s and 1970s, and feminist activists began to advocate for remedies to gendered discrimination in civil and criminal law, education, employment, and the family. As grassroots feminists opened the first shelters and rape crisis centers, it quickly became apparent that male violence against women was a widespread and deeply hidden phenomenon. In addition to responding to the immediate needs of survivors for emotional support and safety, women’s groups devoted their energies to ensuring that sexual violence and intimate partner violence are seen as societal and political – not individual – problems, and advocating for political, social and legal change (Schechter, 1982). A fundamental challenge at the time was to name women’s experiences as harmful and to make them count, first through “speak outs,” where women spoke publically about their personal experiences of male violence, then by small-scale qualitative studies and quantitative surveys.