Our Opinion: Violence against women is everyone's problem

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Rape and sexual assault have been mankind's scourge since before they were even recognized by society as crimes. Even today, there are cultures where acts of violence against women are still condoned, whether or not laws exist to criminalize them.

There are as many reasons for violence against women as there are individuals who commit it. The pervasiveness of physical and emotional offenses against women stems from a variety of factors; until recently, and according to certain religious traditions, women have been considered chattel, like livestock, and could be treated as such. Modern-day economic and societal pressures can leave men feeling powerless and emasculated; alcohol and drugs add fuel to violent impulses, and oftentimes the victim's only transgression when the score is being settled is that she happens to be nearby.

Resentment that the long, uncertain struggle for women's equality may be achieving results — however limited — is another motivator. Churlish, insulting comments about women by the president may have led some men to feel they have permission to think of women as objects of recreation and for the release of frustrations.

The underlying causes are intractable, and even though committing gender violence is undeniably a willful act, criminalization has had limited deterrent effect. Failure to report crimes, fear of testifying, and recantation further erode law enforcement's efforts. Therefore, those who wish to confront the problem must also, by necessity, deal with its consequences: the permanently shattered lives, the psychological and emotional destruction.

Sadly, a more recent twist on gender violence includes LGBTQ individuals among the list of victims; the rising visibility and gradual shedding of the stigma associated with these groups has caused them to attract their share of abuse. Because the need for justice is so brutally and abidingly apparent, aid groups like the Elizabeth Freeman Center, a domestic violence and rape crisis organization based in Berkshire County, are a critical component of our society's response to the problem. Often, organizations like the Freeman Center are a victim's only recourse, especially when trapped in a recurring domestic abuse situation.

Tonight at 6, the Freeman Center stages its seventh annual "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" fundraiser, which sets forth from North Street and Columbus Avenue in Pittsfield. Walkers — spurred on by financial pledges from supporters — will proceed in decorated women's footwear to raise funds for the center, elevate public consciousness of the issue and show solidarity with victims. Men, whether they choose to wear stilettos or not, are encouraged to participate because the problem of gender violence is a problem for everyone, not just the victims.

"Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" presents an opportunity to contribute to this most worthy cause, not just monetarily, but also by a show of moral support from the community through an enthusiastic turnout. We encourage all to attend and to contribute, for the good of all.




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