People can just be plain mean. I'm sure many people have experienced bullying at some point in time, but with advancements in technology and widespread adoption of the Internet, cyberbullying has become a factor. And, in some cases, bullying can drive someone over the edge.
In October 2006, Megan Meier, a thirteen year-old from Missouri, took her own life after her adult neighbor, Lori Drew, harassed her on MySpace. Drew pretended to be a boy and told her that 'the world would be better off without her'.
Drewwas only convicted on misdemeanor charges.
Cyberbullying was only a part of what pushed Phoebe Prince, a fifteen year-old Irish girl who moved to Massachusetts, to commit suicide this past January, as her peers harassed her both in person and via Facebook.
Regardless of the severity of the reaction, bullying is a real problem, and there are new tools for bullies to use. But there is some hope.
The Girl Scouts Research Institute released a study in 2009 entitled, Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today, which shows the following statistics:
It is only a small comfort that the statistics show that teens are opposed to cyberbullying. The fact of the matter is, it still happens. That is why mentoring programs need to be available to both young men and women in order to provide support.
The Girl Scouts have put together age-appropriate tips for how to work with girls who are dealing with bullying issues. You can also find their study here.
Violence is a tragic reality for many women (and men), both here in the United States and abroad in other countries. To provide some context, I did some research on domestic violence here at home, but also in China and Russia (a comparison amongst major global players). This is what I've found.
According to an article in the China Daily, Chinese authorities receive about 50,000 complaints of domestic violence a year. Violence occurs in all walks of life; it affects people in both urban and rural areas and is present across all levels of society. There isn't, however, adequate legislation to deal with the issue. According to Sun Xiaomei (professor at the Chinese Women's College), who was interviewed for another China Daily article, in 2000, there were only 2,000 reports of domestic violence.
That number has climbed dramatically.
Sun states, "Society is well aware that domestic violence exists, but there are no guidelines in law to clarify when judicial departments can get involved or how the perpetrators should be punished". She argues that the government should clarify what domestic violence is and what the consequences are.
According to Women's News, 14,000 women are killed by their husbands or partners annually, and 1 in 4 Russian families has experienced domestic violence.
Like China, the government has not taken the steps needed to rectify this problem. According to Amnesty International, offenders are not likely to face consequences.
There is also a cultural element; women in Russia are pressured to remain married, even if they are in an abusive relationship. The stigma associated with being alone is strong enough that women shy away from divorces.
Statistics provided by the American Bar Association show that about 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are assaulted by their partners annually. About 1,247 women are killed, while domestic violence claims about 440 men annually.
The number of assaults in the US is much higher than that of the other countries, but the number of deaths appears to be lower. Additionally, the US government has made steps that Russia and China have not by creating legislation to define domestic violence and its consequences.
For the actual statutes, please click here.
The long and the short of it is that, no matter what the statistics say, domestic violence is unacceptable. Some countries have taken more steps than others to address the problem, but there are still many people who need help.
If you are in trouble, please seek help from a local organization or hotline.
The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799- SAFE (7233) or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
Some people may ask why we need so many organizations promoting women's rights and supporting women-related issues. Isn't it the 21st century? Haven't we fixed all the gender-related problems that our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers faced?
The simple answer is: no.
While progress has been made over the past few decades (suffrage was granted not even a century ago, so I can't say centuries), there are still discrepancies between the treatment and protection men and women receive under both social rules and legislation.
That is why I am starting a series on this blog that highlights the reasons why women's organizations, like A Woman's Bridge, are still very much needed.
I'll kick this off with the topic of health care. By this point, someone would have to be living on the moon in order to avoid hearing about health care reform. And a New York Times article that was written by Denise Grady on March 29, 2010 points out some interesting (and surprising) information about the newly passed legislation:
Being a woman was a pre-existing condition.
Grady writes, "Until now, it has been perfectly legal in most states for companies selling individual health policies - for people who do not have group coverage through employers - to engage in 'gender rating,' that is, charging women more than men for the same coverage, even for policies that do not include maternity care. The rationale was that women used the health care system more than men. But some companies charged women who did not smoke more than men who did, even though smokers have more risks."
The result? Women often wound up paying hundreds more than their male counterparts, and only because of their gender.
But the new law has changed that, making this piece of legislation another positive change in gender equality.
The fact that until last month, women often had to pay more than men for health insurance is an example of why we do this - why we work to make sure that every woman has a chance to succeed.
This opens up a much larger topic concerning women and finance, which not only will be a future post, but is also a main focus of A Woman's Bridge. AWBF is partnering with ARCH in order to create a financial literacy program. It's in the planning stages, but promises to be a very exciting opportunity.