Speaking Out: First Week of Session & New Findings on Silence about Violence

According to a recent report released by the Avon Foundation and GfK Public Affairs Foundation, an estimated 22% of women in the United States say they have been victimized by domestic violence, and 13% have faced sexual assault- yet more more than half of American women have never discussed these issues with their friends. The report- which focuses on North America- provides in-depth data about the silence that surrounds issues of gender-based violence, and fears that women have about speaking up against abuse. And while a study of this magnitude has yet to be implemented in Palestine, the results of this report still resound heavily with the culture of shame and stigma impacting survivors of abuse and violence here. As we’ve just launched our Fall session of The Women’s Group, we’re working to address the very topics raised by the Avon Foundation report, which include opening dialogue about domestic violence, equipping mothers with tools for responding to violence, and raising awareness about women's rights. Below, some of the most profound results from the report can be found- as well as how they relate to the situation of women and girls in Palestine, and how we're working to break silence through our women's empowerment programs.

Abeer, current instructor in TWG and a female entrepreneur in Nablus, shares encouraging words about women's participation in their communities as fall session begins.

  • Three out of four American parents with children under the age of 18 said that they have not had a conversation about domestic violence or sexual assault with their children. In Palestine, parents’ silence about- and even participation in- forms of violence are widespread. Whether it’s forcing daughters into early marriages or being unaware of sexual abuse symptoms, mothers and fathers often aren’t aware of- or talking about- critically important issues. This session, we’re equipping moms with explanations about the harmfulness of early marriage, or how to speak about sexual violence with kids- with the goal that these classroom discussions will turn into conversations at home.
  • Even though 75% of Americans say that they would step in and help a stranger being abused, the reality is most people do not help. This session, we’re stressing the value of women’s participation in the community- and while this can range from getting involved at their child’s school to becoming a more empowered decision-maker, we’re also discussing women’s roles when it comes to witnessing violence. This includes teaching women safety tips about removing children from violence, and understanding that they can safely action when it comes to stopping acts of abuse in their neighborhoods.
  • Among the women who experienced domestic violence and then told someone about it, more than half (58%) said that no one helped them. When we’re having in-depth discussions at TYO about heavy topics like violence against women, we’re cognizant that we can’t just start discussions about these intensive, intimate issues without providing ongoing, solution-focused support. Under the guidance of our Psychosocial Program Manager, we ensure women can feel TYO is a safe space- and also connect them with necessary resources in the community when needed.

So as this report breaks ground in the United States, we’re hopeful that it will continue to help us break the silence here in Palestine, as well. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for more updates from The Women’s Group, and the conversations that come from it!

Cayce Pack is the Women's Empowerment Program Coordinator at Tomorrow's Youth Organization. Above, she writes about a recently released report on domestic violence in the U.S., and how it relates to Palestine.