Violence against women and children comes in different forms and without help, the victims become lost in unhealthy cycles that affect everybody. All violence against women and children has a negative influence on the lives of the victims. Many victims become caught in a vicious cycle of continued abuse and shattered self-worth. If help is not available to these women and children, the devastating effects of abuse continue and create an impact on society.
There are many different forms of violence to be aware of. Three of the most common forms of violence against children are child sexual abuse, physical abuse and murder, and being a witness to abuse taking place in the home. For example, the child’s parents may have physically violent fights. Another type of abuse occurs when a child either is fleeing an abusive situation or is kicked out of the home. These children are considered throwaway children and often end up on the streets. When children have been the victim of violence, the cycle begins, and frequently their lives take a different path. Child abuse can produce dire consequences during the victim’s childhood and adulthood (Jaffe-Gill, Jaffe & Segal, 2007). Time alone does not heal the wounds of abuse.
Often, women who are victims of violence were also victims in childhood. Violence against women is very similar to the violence against children. The three main forms of violence against women are domestic violence and murder, rape and sexual assault, and prostitution, which includes pornography and strip clubs. According to an article written by Melissa Farley, Ph.D., regardless of prostitution’s status (legal, illegal or decriminalized) or its physical location (strip club, massage parlor, street, escort/home/hotel), prostitution is extremely dangerous for women. Homicide is a frequent cause of death (Farley, 2004). Besides the danger, women who escape the abuse often need years of therapy to find a sense of normalcy in their lives. This holds true with all violence toward women and children.
Some studies suggest that persons who were victims of child abuse as a youth are likely to be victims of physical abuse as an adult (Robertiello, 1998). When victims do not reach out for assistance, they can fall prey to the cycle of continued abuse such as re-victimization including rape, domestic abuse, pornography and prostitution. This occurs when a victim is looking for a place of acceptance and belonging. The sex industry and pimps prey on girls and young women who are easy targets due to low self-esteem. The cycle also becomes evident when victims of violence reach out in search of other abusive behaviors in hopes of numbing the pain. Some examples are drug and alcohol addictions, eating disorders, increased sexual behavior and Suicide. Oprah Winfrey often speaks out about her own devastation from being sexually abused. “I would tell no one until I felt safe enough to share my dark past: the years I was sexually abused, from age 10 to 14, my resulting promiscuity as a teenager, and finally, at 14, my becoming pregnant.” (Winfrey, 2007) It has been well documented that victims of abuse often gravitate toward other abusers or become abusers themselves. Nevertheless, one of the main problems associated with victims of violence is the destruction of self-worth, depression, and oftentimes Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All forms of violence against women and children have devastating effects on the victim’s self-esteem, which creates many problems to overcome creating a necessity for these women and children to receive help.
The psychological impact of violence is only part of the problem. Violence against women and children creates problems and chaos for everyone in the community. From the onset of violence in a neighborhood to routine police visits and emergency trips to the hospital, violence is clearly a problem that most want to ignore or simply hope it goes away on its own. However, the unseen problems that cannot be ignored or wished away become apparent in the future of the children involved. Without intervention, children exposed to violence may suffer long-term repercussions of their exposure, including diminished health and well-being. The children, who experience violence, either as victims or as witnesses, are also at increased risk of becoming violent themselves (Edelson, 1999). Another behind the scenes reminder is that while women are trying to escape violent situations, they are often unable to pay their medical bills and must rely on Victim Services and other government funding for help. Another factor is that because violence can create low self-worth for victims, it is not uncommon for these women and children to end up less educated and earning a lower income which may later create the need for further financial aid. Overcoming the destructive cycle can take years of therapy and assistance, and without help, the wave of violence starts all over again and leaves devastation in its wake.
Each individual has a role in breaking the momentum of violence. One way to stop the violence from growing stronger in society is to stop generalizing and accepting stereotypes. The way society responds to its victims can be a determining factor in stopping violence. It is important to listen to family, friends and the media, dissecting the words being used against a victim. By examining ones thoughts and comments, preconceived notions will change. One common question that demeans the victim is, “If she was afraid, why didn’t she just leave?” An important fact to remember is that the most dangerous time for a woman in an abusive relationship is the time when she has had enough, and she wants to leave. Another familiar comment might be, “Why was she out drinking alone?” These types of statements still blame the victim and it is just as crazy to say that the twin towers should not have been so tall. Blames must go where it belongs to stop this cycle of violence that women and children have a difficult time removing themselves from.
Besides the stereotypes and generalizations about women and children, society is bombarded with images of sex and violence everyday. The subtlety of how flooded society has become seems to be unnoticed and acceptable. So much so that many have become numb to the messages. Violence and sexual content has seeped into children’s clothes, video games and dolls. In an article by Ana Vecianasuarez, she says, “But when a doll intended for a first grader wears fishnet stockings or short shorts, I suspect the 6-year-old is getting the wrong message about what to wear and how to look” (Vecianasuarez, 2007). Images of sex and violence can blur the line between right and wrong creating more ability for more violence in society. In turn, this creates more victims and more victimizers, which keeps the cycle going strong and keeps women and children weak.
Finding solutions can be difficult because each type of violence is different as well as each outcome after the abuse is over. The most important part of creating change in society is empowering women and children. Through education and teaching victims to come forward, the importance of telling somebody and speaking out is so important to finding the solutions to ending violence against women and children. Education is also needed to teach society as a whole that violence against women is wrong. There is not enough help and funding to support the needs of these victims. This has become a “pay now or pay much more later” type of scenario. Support and education is critical in creating a safer environment for everybody. The most important and simplest way to stop violence against women and children is to enforce tougher laws and make sure blame goes where it belongs, on the offenders. One country has already stared implementing these changes with incredible results. Marie De Santis found that in Sweden prostitution is regarded as an aspect of male violence against women and children. It is officially acknowledged as a form of exploitation of women and children and constitutes a significant social problem… gender equality will remain unattainable so long as men buy, sell and exploit women and children by prostituting them (De Santis, 2000) By ending violence against women and children everybody is safer.
Violence can cause low self-esteem in its victims, which leads to many other issues and problems that can create a devastating cycle that is very difficult to escape from, but with help, there is hope. All forms of violence against women and children impact society, but by empowering women and children through education, tougher laws, and better funding. There will be help and programs for victims giving each community a chance to win this battle against abuse and violence. If this problem is not brought to an end, the cycle will continue leading to bigger and bigger problems down the road.