If women as a group were able to escape male violence, we would not be men’s victims. Women as a group have obviously not yet found a way to stop or escape rape, wife abuse, incest, sexual harassment, or other forms of male tyranny. (Dee Graham, in Loving to Survive)
A new survey released in the U.S, entitled The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, details the extent and effects of male violence against women. It is a nationally representative survey that assesses experiences of sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence among adult women and men in the United States and for each individual state.
The data reiterates the type of findings feminists uncovered during the seventies:
*More than half (51.1%) of female victims of rape reported being raped by an intimate partner and 40.8% by an acquaintance
*Across all types of violence, the majority of female victims reported that their perpetrators were male. Male rape victims and male victims of non-contact unwanted sexual experiences reported predominantly male perpetrators. Nearly half of stalking victimizations against males were also perpetrated by males.
* For female rape victims, 98.1% reported only male perpetrators. Additionally, 92.5% of female victims of sexual violence other than rape reported only male perpetrators. For male victims, the sex of the perpetrator varied by the type of sexual violence experienced. The majority of male rape victims (93.3%) reported only male perpetrators.
The streets are dangerous for women goes the mantra, therefore we should not walk alone at night. A woman needs a man’s protection (if only from other men), which is why her best survival strategy is to live with a man. This is the commonly-held view, and is backed up vigorously by news articles and TV dramas.
Radical feminists have long been attempting to dispel these popular patriarchal myths.
When feminists first began researching male violence, they discovered that women are at most danger from the men nearest and dearest to them. Female children are sexually abused by family members, usually a father, uncle or brother. Women are more likely to be murdered by their husband than by an unknown man, and men annihilate their families with frightening regularity. Similarly, if a male friend offers to walk a woman home “to protect her”, she is more likely to be raped by him than a passerby.
In 1973, Walter Gove found that “for women the shift from being single to being married increases the likelihood of being murdered, while for men the shift decreases their chances.” Gove obtained similar findings for single as compared to married women as regards to “accidental deaths.” It is, of course, likely that many accidental deaths were murders.
It was also found that:
Virtually all mass murderers are men, and most of their victims have been women.
Incest is a form of sexual violence that is primarily directed against female children by adult male perpetrators (Finkelhor (1980; Herman with Herschman, 1977). Herman and Herschman found that 92 % of incest victims are female and 97% of the perpetrators are male.
The term “Sexual Harassment” was coined for the first time by Catherine Mckinnon. It applies to both the workplace and the street. The primary function is “to assert women’s sex role over her function as a worker” (Farley). Farley identifies the penalties used by men if women do not comply with their sexual demands: “verbal denigration of a woman sexually, noncooperation from male co-workers; negative job evaluations or poor personnel recommendations; refusal of overtime; demotions; injurious transfers and reassignment of shifts, hours or locations of work, loss of job training; impossible performance standards and outright termination of employment.”
Liz Kelley (1987) found that women are exposed to a continuum of male violence throughout their lives. At one end of the continuum are frequent events such as sexual harassment (catcalls or lewd marks made by strangers on the street) and pressure to have sex. Virtually all women in Kelley’s sample had been exposed to these forms of violence. Many reported having to deal with sexual harassment daily. The report did not include elder abuse, which is most often committed by sons against elderly, poverty-stricken mothers (Schlesginger 1988) in Loving to Survive p.84)
Male violence is crucial in upholding male domination against women. It is necessary to terrorize an oppressed group so that they don’t revolt. Without the threat of male violence hanging over their heads, women would simply take back their land, children and property.
In Loving to Survive, Dee Graham considers the extent to which male violence threatens women’s survival:
Men are currently pushing their power to the limit: they now have the ability to determine whether our planet will survive. There is no doubt that men threaten everyone’s–and virtually everything’s– survival.
History reveals that groups of human beings are capable of systematically killing members of other human groups. Humans have killed other humans: six million Jews, hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, and over 110, 000 Japanese, the latter within a matter of seconds at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. John Hodge (1973) estimates that 150 million lives were lost in the slave trade from Africa. Just as a child who witnesses her mother being battered by her father feels physically threatened, women who witness male-male violence also feel physically threatened. The observation of violence among others creates fear of physical violence and thus constitutes emotional violence.
Women’s fear of male violence against us (women) is justified. Approximately half of those killed in each of these groups were women, and the killers of each of these groups were almost entirely men. In addition, men are known to have made women their primary targets.
For example, Woods (1974) notes that “the most reliable estimates suggest that in the course of three hundred years they executed about nine million people” branded as witches. Kors and Peters (1972) argue that witchcraft in Europe dated from 1100 to 1700, a period of six hundred years, with the last witch “legally burned in Europe as late as the 1780s”. Thus nine million executions may be a conservative estimate if the period was actually twice as long, though this figure is usually given as an upper limit. Who are “they” that executed the witches and who were the witches? Williams and Williams (1978) note that the “accusers were mostly men, [and the] accused mostly women.” (p.4)
There is an eerie silence surrounding the witch-hunts. It is as though contemporary women daren’t breathe a whisper about it, daren’t contemplate about what men have done to them. Women alive today exist in the shadow of a massacre. There must be psychological repercussions. It was indeed an efficient way of making sure women remained cowed for centuries .Mention the burning times to women and they will give you a blank look, or dismiss it, or worse, attempt to tell you that the people who were murdered really were witches.
Would it be appropriate to mock the massacre of the Jews in the same way that the massacre of nine million women is mocked every Halloween? But the massacre of the Jews included men, making it a legitimate horror deserving of a place in the history books. The massacre of the wise women of Europe is shrouded in silence. Because of course, the fear is that men may do it to us again.
Last week, on Monday 13th of December a woman was beheaded, by men, for “witchcraft”. Not in Europe or America, this time, but Saudi Arabia.
The woman, Amina bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was executed in the northern Saudi province of al-Jawf on Monday.
A source close to the Saudi religious police told Arab newspaper al Hayat that authorities who searched Nassar’s home found a book about witchcraft, 35 veils and glass bottles full of “an unknown liquid used for sorcery” among her possessions. According to reports, authorities said Nassar claimed to be a healer and would sell a veil and three bottles for 1500 riyals, or about $400.
It is important that we keep pointing out how dangerous men are to women, lest we forget:
“The only way we can come out of hiding, break through our paralyzing defenses, is to know the full extent of sexual violence and domination of women…In knowing, in facing directly, we can learn how to chart our course out of this oppression. (Barry, 1979, in Loving to Survive)