52 Mondays (37/52): Being Born Female Is Dangerous for Your Health (reprise)

"I haven't had tomorrow."
~Elizabeth Taylor

I want to begin with a few numbers. Not too many of them.

First, let's establish that all violent crime rates have been relatively stable for the past fifteen years. Acknowledging that...

  • Males commit approximately 90% of all violent crime in America, and males are the recipients of most of that crime (77%). However...
  • For the 14% of violent crimes made up by domestic homicide cases - more 2400 in the US every year - women are 70% of the victims, and females are 5x as likely to be a victim of interpersonal violence as males.
  • Exploding the crime base across all female homicide victims, 64% were killed by an intimate partner or family member.
  • Females are the victims in 82% of all sex-related homicides.

In towns and cities across America, backlogs of untested rape and DNA evidence kits sit gathering dust, risking contamination, getting lost. In small jurisdictions, these may number in the one-to-two hundreds. In large regions, in the thousands.

A decade ago, renowned scholar Elaine Murphy told us that being born female was dangerous to our health. She meant dangerous to women's physical, mental, and reproductive health. However, it behooves us to acknowledge that our female-ness is generally dangerous to our health in ways that are much more pervasive than even Elaine Murphy described. We are well aware for instance, even if the privileged majority remain loathe to admit the truth, that racial bias continues to thrive in American jurisprudence. So, it would seem, does sexism.

According to the Department of Justice, as many as 80% of rapes go unreported. Half of victims don't report their rapes because they fear they won't believed. Two-thirds don't report because they fear their attacker either won't be prosecuted or, if prosecuted, won't be convicted. 

Sexual assault is the only felony in America in most states where the testimony of the victim is all that's required to bring an indictment, and 67% of victims fail to report for fear of disbelief and/or an inadequate justice system. As women comprise 82% of all victims in sex-related crimes, and as the OED defines sexism as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex, one can hardly deny an allegation of sexism in our system of jurisprudence. At least in the area of rape. 

This is very simple.

If we were serious about rape, we wouldn't have in excess of 21,000 untested DNA and rape kits lying in warehouses and hospital storerooms around this country. We wouldn't have three states out of 50 who have enacted legislative reform with regard to evidence kits and 26 with no state reform and either no information on their backlogs (nine states) or limited information (17). 

Being born female is dangerous to our collective health beyond the scope of Elaine Murphy's brilliant seminal exposé. Women are the victims of more than 1600 domestic homicides every year in America, and yet we persist in following outmoded models of handling domestic abuse within the civil/family court system, issuing DVPOs from family court judges and penalizing criminal infractions (when we penalize at all) with civil fines. Despite wide bodies of evidence that criminally domestic violent behavior should be treated as criminally violent behavior and despite considerable evidence from the NY integrated court system that a one-judge model sharply reduces violent incidents, states proceed with bifurcated systems and display shock and consternation when women die at the hands of their abusers.

63% of boys and young men under the age of 21 are currently in prison for murder doing time for killing their mothers' batters, because we have a system of jurisprudence designed to protect the property of our founding fathers' descendants (i.e., upper income white men) and punish those who threaten the property of our founding fathers' descendants. In America, when a child dies at the hands of another, there is a public outcry, because children are considered innocent and worthy of protection. But a woman? 

Well, I'm sure she must've made a bad choice at some point along the way. Did anyone see what she was wearing? 

52 Mondays is my 2015 project here on wrighterly. Each Monday, I'll post a different essay on some topic related to domestic violence (or a tangential topic). The purpose is to raise the level of dialog on these issues if only among the modest audience I currently enjoy.



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