Times of war and strife attract international attention and intervention. Large scale conflicts seem to stir within us an intrinsic desire for justice. But when we are not at war, the country breathes a collective sigh of relief. We are no longer tuned into CNN at all times, we merely skim the paper, and we do not talk about “those awful things happening in the Middle East right now”. We do all of these things because it seems though we have escaped and survived imminent danger. We won/We lost/We’re in negotiations/We killed the leaders.
As a country, we define “peacetime” as a period in which no violent conflict is occurring. No drafts. No drone strikes. No terror attacks. Our unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness remain intact. “Peacetime’ soothes us and we are convinced that we are safe. However, if men are not dying in war, if machetes and grenades are not beingyielded are we “at peace”? The answer is simple: absolutely not. The real threat and violence is not coming from outside our borders but within our own territory. Instead of violence being aimed at our armed men and women, it is a series of attacks on bodies our nation deems unworthy of protection. And we need not to look any further than our own front yard.
- An average of 237,868 individuals are sexually assaulted annually (age 12+). That is one person violated every two minutes.
- The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq: 6,614
- The number of women, in the same period, killed as the result of domestic violence in the US: 11,766
- Approximately 14,500 to 17,500 girls from other countries are smuggled into the U.S. and exploited in sexual slavery.
These statistics are not from a small African country or the Middle East. Real violence is occurring to real people on our soil. Have these forms of violence become so prevalent and common that they need no special attention or focus? Additionally, what does this mean to those who are victims and survivors of such attacks? If this is peacetime, who exactly is at peace? The U.S is not the mythical “City Upon A Hill”: American exceptionalism is non-existent. We are not at war, but we surely are not at peace.
Everyday countless men and women are fighting individual battles that are often unrecognized. There are no great monuments honoring victims of abuse or assault. We do not rigorously pursue and prosecute perpetrators. The danger of sexual and inter-partner violence is real and we need to stop ignoring these blaringly obvious facts. As a country, we must rethink what exactly post-conflict looks like not only within the U.S, but worldwide.
Let us be outraged that 97% of sexual assault offenders will never spend a day in jail.
Let us actively pursue and punish perpetrators of violence like we do countries that break peace agreements.
Let us embody the legacy we have built for ourselves.
Let us truly strive for peace.
Four groundbreaking organizations striving to end sexual violence in the United States:
Manvi: “a New Jersey-based women’s rights organization committed to ending all forms of violence and exploitation against South Asian women living in the US.”
Mending the Sacred Hoop: a grassroots organization striving to “end violence against Native women and children while restoring the safety, sovereignty, and sacredness of Native women in their tribal communities”
Men Stopping Violence: “a national training institute that provides organizations, communities, and individuals with the knowledge and tools required to mobilize men to prevent sexual violence”
INCITE!: “a nation-wide network of radical feminists of color working to end violence against women, gender non-conforming, and trans people of color, and our communities. We support each other through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing”