October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While some progress has been made, women remain vulnerable to violence because of weak laws and patriarchal systems that minimize or ignore the issue of violence against women. The House of Representatives voted down a renewal of the amended version of the "Violence Against Women Act" because it included Native American women, members of the LGBT community, and immigrants.
Three women die as a result of domestic violence every day. An estimated one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Many physical assaults or rapes are not reported. The UN "Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women" (1993) indicates that violence against women is a "manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which has led domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the full advancement of women." This is one of the ways women are forced into a subordinate position compared to men.
Reflection on violence against women must lead to an understanding of how patriarchal systems work. All institutions - financial, political, church, educational - are patriarchal systems. Our greatest challenge is to determine creative, nonviolent thoughtful ways of working within these systems to bring about positive change. We need to recognize the power within and the power of collaboration to effect change. Great women before us have done just that, so now we vote, hold public office, own property, participate on boards, and serve on juries. We continue, knowing that no right is freely given, no law easily passed, and no advancement made without struggle.