Saying ‘no’ to violence against women

To break the chain of sexual violence in our world, we have to stand up every time a woman or a girl is devalued or demeaned.

By Cindy Ring Ruble

We live in a world in which one in three women will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That statistic represents about 1 billion women. Think of three women and girls in your life and then think again about this statistic. When we put faces to the numbers, it becomes personal. The reality is that it is personal.

One in three girls and six out of 10 boys will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18. Every person assaulted is somebody’s daughter, son, brother or sister. Recently I read an article in the paper where I live about a 24-year-old teacher who was raped after hailing a taxi following an afternoon of shopping.

As Christians, and as fellow human beings, we ought to be outraged by the high number of sexual assaults routinely perpetrated against women around the world. More than that, as people of faith, we should stand alongside the victims and actively work for justice and change in our world -- for the prevention and eradication of sexual crime.

On Feb. 14, 2013, millions of people took to the streets, open squares, shopping areas around the world to say no more violence against women and children in an event called One Billion Rising. A total of 207 countries participated.

As an advocate for women and children with CBF, I participated in two One Billion Rising events here in Penang, Malaysia.

The first was with a wonderful local nonprofit, The Women’s Centre for Change, where I volunteer as facilitator for school and community talks to prevent child sexual abuse.

Later in the day, I participated in a second One Billion Rising event at a local shopping center. Men, women, and children rose up and danced in solidarity to the strong lyrics of “Break the Chain.”

To really break the chain of sexual violence in our world, we have to stand up every day -- every time a woman or a girl is devalued or demeaned.

We have to recognize that pornography normalizes the objectification of women and girls as sexual objects and impacts the way boys and men see women. It also impacts negatively the way young women see themselves.

Sexual crime occurs in every socioeconomic level, every ethnic group and every religion. Eighty percent of sexual crimes are committed by perpetrators known to the victim. So our “stranger danger” warnings to our children will not suffice to protect them or us.

In Malaysia, I work to prevent child sexual abuse and to eliminate violence against women. I know prevention efforts can and do reduce sexual crime. Knowledge is power. When women and children are equipped with knowledge about abusers’ modus operandi, profile characteristics of sexual predators and steps they can take to avoid dangerous situations and relationships, sexual crime can be reduced.

However, equipping women and children with knowledge is not enough. Victims and potential victims need your help. Children need the help of responsible adults around them. Potential victims need advocates who will step in to protect them from harm.

They need eyes watching out for them. They need ears listening to their muted voices. They need tongues speaking up for them when they are manipulated and scared into silence. When sexual abuse does occur, they need legal action to be taken against the perpetrators. They need justice.

Survivors need us to stand with them, to walk alongside them through their pain until they find a door opening for recovery. They need 1 billion people rising up and taking a stand for them.

-- This commentary appeared previously in the Fellowship blog.

OPINION: Views expressed in ABPnews/Herald columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.