I want to talk about "violence against women". By that I mean stopping violence against women - eradicating it from our society.
Violence against women is like a terrible disease and, like all diseases, it has devastating effects on many members of our workplaces and our communities.
Violence against women is like a cancer in our society - hidden from view - but very dangerous. Many women die. Others live - and endure the beatings, the kicking, the broken teeth, the crushed fingers, the cigarettes stubbed out on their arms and legs and breasts.
Domestic violence is much more common that most people realize - it is a daily reality for millions of women. Even if you are not experiencing it yourself, you may well know a woman who is. The shocking statistics speak for themselves.
A National Crime Victimization Survey found that approximately 2.8 million women aged 12 years and older experienced aggravated and simple assaults in 1998.
A National Violence Against Women Survey carried out in 1995-1996 found that 52 percent of women reported being physically assaulted either as a child or as an adult.
Based on these reports, an estimated 52 million American women have been assaulted during their lifetimes.
And it is nearly always women who are attacked by men, men who are either their current or former partners. In three out of five million violent offences in 1994, the victim knew the perpetrator.
Violence affects not only women in the United States but also women all around the world. We hear of sickening attacks on women and girl children in many countries:
- We see acid thrown into the faces of young women in Bangladesh
- We see honor killings of young women in Pakistan
- We see bride burning in India
- We see female infanticide in China and India
- We see female genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East
- We see the rape of tiny babies in South Africa
What can we, as American women, do about this universal violence against women?
At home, we must help to break the cycle. We must not be defeated by violence against women.
As friends and neighbors, we must be understanding. We can help women make their own decisions - and we can provide them with information about how to do it. If they are injured, we can make sure they get medical attention. We can help to look after their children.
If there is one thing we can do above all else - we can offer our support. We can support individual women - and we can support the community agencies that help battered women and their children.
For women in other cultures, we, American women, must draw international attention to their plight. We must publicize - to the widest audience possible - the ghastly atrocities perpetrated against women every minute of the day.
We must insist that governments listen to our message and provide the protections to women that all citizens deserve.
If we are active citizens, we will be helping all women - American women and the women of the world.