CHILD ABUSE & VICTIMIZATION
WOMEN & HIV/AIDS
- Girls are 5-6 times more likely to become infected with HIV than boys.
- In sub-Saharan Africa, girls account for 2/3 of the eight million young people living with HIV/AIDS.
- In Trinidad and Tobago, HIV rates are 5 times higher in girls than boys aged 15-19.
- In Cambodia, more than 40% of sex workers under the age of 19 are HIV positive.
- Sixty percent of new HIV/AIDS infections worldwide occur among girls and young women ages 15-24.
- Girls risk becoming infected at a much younger age than boys.
- Today 47% of the 36.1 million people living with HIV are women and this proportion is growing.
Reasons Behind the Numbers
Men’s power over women — often expressed through violence and coercion over sexual decision-making — is a critical factor behind these statistics. Furthermore, when women become HIV positive, they are often targets of violence from their families and communities. Many factors contribute to this vulnerability:
1. Cultural Values and Beliefs
In many countries, masculinity is associated with having multiple sexual partners, and with controlling the frequency and form of intercourse. Femininity is associated with ignorance about sex and passivity during the sexual act. These cultural values prevent women from learning about and negotiating for safer sexual practices, or leaving high-risk relationships. Cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriage, and polygamy also contribute to the rapid increase of the epidemic.
Girls and women often lack access to information about how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, women’s lack of education and skills training increase their risk of poverty, and behavior that raises their risks of HIV infection, e.g., sex work and drug abuse.
3. Policy and Legislation
In many countries, policy and law enforcement officials ignore violence against women generally and the links between violence against women and HIV/AIDS. Few, if any laws, protect women from domestic violence, including rape within marriage. Unmarried women often have no legal protection from partner abuse. Even where violence against women is outlawed, violence often goes unpunished and women are afraid to press charges. As a result, men often feel free to abuse women, and women find it impossible to negotiate safe sex with husbands or sexual partners.
Women are often economically dependent on the men they live with, making it difficult to leave a relationship, even if it is abusive and it exposes them to the HIV/AIDS infection. Women in poverty are at particular risk. They may become victims of trafficking, and trapped in forced prostitution and sexual slavery, and/or turn to drugs, all raising the risk of HIV infection.
Women often have difficulty obtaining treatment if they are victims of violence, or have contracted HIV/AIDS. HIV/STD prevention services, condoms and treatment centers can be intimidating, unavailable or insensitive. Further, women who are HIV positive are often denied treatment.
6. War and emergency situations
During armed conflict, women and girls are threatened by rape, domestic violence, sexual exploitation, trafficking, sexual humiliation and mutilation. Rape by military personnel imposes even greater risk of HIV infection than do other types of unprotected sex.
WELFARE TO WORK
- More than 50% of battered women surveyed in one study stayed with their abusive partner because they did not feel they could support themselves and their children.
- More than 25% of the women surveyed said they were prevented by their abuser from having access to money, and over half were prevented any access to charge accounts.
- A study found that the more economically dependent a battered woman was on her abusive partner, the more severe the abuse.
- Almost 25% of battered women surveyed had lost a job in part because of the effects of domestic violence.
- Studies throughout the country show that between 40 – 60% of current female welfare recipients have experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives, and up to 25% have been abused in the last year.
ANIMAL ABUSE & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
“One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to torture an animal and get away with it.” – Margaret Mead
The links between animal abuse and family violence are irrefutable. Often, animal abuse may be the only visible sign that a woman or child is being victimized by violence. Abusers use animals to threaten victims and coerce them into doing what they ask. Many women are afraid to leave their abusers because they do not want to leave their pets in a vulnerable situation. Moreover, a child who tortures animals is more likely than his or her peers to commit acts of violence against other human beings.
Thanks to the local SPCA in the Florida Keys, DAS clients can leave their pets on a temporary basis with the animal shelter. For more information, call the Domestic Abuse Shelter at (305) 743-4440.
- The FBI found that a history of cruelty to animals is one of the traits that regularly appears in its computer records of serial rapists and murderers.
- To researchers, a fascination with cruelty to animals is a red flag in the lives of serial
rapists and killers.
- Patrick Sherrill, Brenda Spender, the Boston Strangler, Jeffrey Dahmer, the Son of Sam, and the Columbine High School students all tortured animals before harming human beings.
- In 88% of 57 New Jersey families being treated for child abuse, animals in the home had been abused.
- In one study of battered women, 57% of those with pets said their partners had harmed or killed the animals. One in four said that she stayed with the batterer because she feared leaving the pet behind.
- In 1993, California became the first state to pass a law requiring animal control officers to report child abuse. Similar legislation has been introduced in Florida.