(Sept. 11, 2007) Stalking needs to be taken more seriously by women, men, parents, law enforcement and court officials if we want to make Illinois the safest state for all women and girls, according to a report released today by Chicago Foundation for Women.
“Frankly, we are ignoring the dangers of stalking, despite the fact that it’s one of the strongest indicators of more extreme violence. If we are talking about true prevention—we must address stalking because we can prevent a lot more women being harmed,“ said Hannah Rosenthal, the Foundation’s executive director.
Stalking was just one of the issues addressed when the “Call to Action, Part 1” report was released at their 22nd Annual Luncheon and Symposium. Stalking is the most prevalent form of violence against women and girls. A national survey found about 1 million women over 18 say they have been stalked—but in only 10 percent of those cases did women feel safe enough to call the police.[i]One in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime. Eighty-seven percent of stalkers are men.[ii]
“A Call to Action, Part 1” contains 100 recommendations—divided into seven key issues and directed at 10 specific groups of people. The 43-page report summarizes the Foundation’s yearlong, statewide anti-violence campaign, “What Will It Take?” And it sets the stage for the next phase of the campaign--getting groups, government and organizations to implement the recommendations. In announcing the findings, Mary Morten, the Foundation’s associate director thanked Gov. Blagojevich for helping fund this work, but she also called on the governor to make Illinois a national leader in violence prevention by appointing a special assistant to coordinate the millions of dollars that already come into the state to serve women who are victims of violence and help oversee the action steps in the report.
“We need someone who is strategically overseeing what we are doing, coordinating the work between departments and advocating for what needs to be done to keep women safe,” said Morten. “What we found is disturbing—violence against women and girls is considered normal and normal is dangerous for women. One out of three women will be physically or sexually assaulted in her lifetime. We need dramatic changes and that calls for dramatic leadership.”
The Foundation launched one of the country’s first statewide strategic efforts to engage men in the movement, conducted 10 town hall meetings and 40 community meetings; ran a public awareness campaign reaching millions through radio and television PSAs and a website; organized a speakers’ bureau; awarded $1 million in grants, and collected answers from thousands of Illinoisans to the question, “What Will It Take?”
The steps the report lists include:
- Men. This is not just a woman’s issue. Men commit the vast majority of violence against women and girls—more than 90 percent—yet the majority of men are not physically violent.[iii] Only with men as allies will there be significant improvements in the epidemic of violence against women and girls. We must raise standards. It’s not enough to excuse demeaning and threatening behavior by saying, “Boys will be boys.” Men must not fund sexism, the sex trade, or purchase or support anything that portrays girls or women in a sexually degrading or abusive manner.
- Businesses, unions, schools and religious institutions. Violence is a workplace, a school and a religious institution issue. There is a human cost to the violence but also a financial one: It costs businesses more than $5.8 billion a year.[iv] Businesses and unions need to sponsor community programs and internal programs for employees. Religious institutions can bring the message to the pulpit, mosque or temple. Schools can make sure children get the message that violence is not how to handle problems.
- Parents. Children see violence everywhere—on TV, in music, movies, magazines and video games. Yet being exposed to violent programming at a young age gives children a higher tendency for violent and aggressive behavior later in life. An average 18-year-old has already witnessed 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 40,000 murders. And children’s shows are just as bad—an average of 14 violent acts per hour.[v] Parents should monitor what their children watch. But we should also realize this is bigger than just a family issue—it is a societal issue. We need to stop programming that accepts violence as normal and start teaching children that violence is never acceptable.
- Elderlywomen are more vulnerable to physical, sexual and economic abuse. But it is often invisible. It is estimated that for every report of elder abuse made, 14 cases go unreported, and 90 percent of incidents are by someone the woman knows—usually family members.[vi] You can do something. Check in on your older neighbors. Spread the word about the Illinois elder abuse hotline. More people need to be able to recognize the problem and know where to go for help.
- Women with disabilities are—in some cases—up to 10 times more likely to be abused as non-disabled women.[vii] Service providers often do not ask women and girls with disabilities about abuse. Yet these women and girls not only experience violence at much higher rates, they run into different problems. They need information on comprehensive sex education, healthy relationships and sexual assault. Domestic violence and rape advocates can empower disabled women and girls, teaching that it is a human right to say, “No” to unwanted contact.
- Bullying in school. Don’t look the other way when bullying happens—step in and say something. In a recent study, when compared to other students, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning students in Chicago were three times more likely to miss school because they felt unsafe going there, three times more likely to report being the victim of sexual assault and almost three times more likely to report attempting suicide in the past year.[viii]
“We need people to understand that violence against women is everybody’s issue,” Rosenthal said.
Chicago Foundation for Women is one of the largest women’s funds in the world. Its work is rooted in three principles of women’s human rights: economic security, health and freedom from violence. Since 1986, it has awarded more than 2,500 grants and $15 million to hundreds of Chicago-area and statewide organizations. It also achieves social justice through advocacy, leadership, and public and grantee education. Learn more at cfw.org.
[ii] U.S. Department of Justice, “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence and Consequences of Violence Against Women,” 2000.
[iii] “Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey.” And “Men’s Violence Against Women: Theory, Research and Activism.” 2007
[iv] NationalCenter for Injury Prevention and Control. Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003.
[v] AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics. 2000. Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children, www.aap.org/advocacy/releaes/jstm-tevc.htm 26 July 2007; Huston, A. C. et al. 1992. Big world, small screen: The role of television in American Society. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press; and Wilson, B. et al. 2002. Violence in children’s television programming: assessing the risks. Journal of Communication, 52, 5-35.
[vi] IllinoisCenter for Violence Prevention.
[vii] Dick Sobsey, “Sexual Offenses and Disabled Victims,” Vis-A-Vis, 1988.
[viii] 2005 Youth Risk Behavior Survey: ChicagoHigh School Survey. Chicago Public Schools Department of Specialized Schools and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.