by Staff Contributor Camry Haskins
The third and final installment of “A Path Appears” tackles issues of violence against women around the world. Just in the United States alone, domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women, with one woman being killed every six hours. More than three times as many people died from domestic abuse than those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2000-2006. Domestic abuse affects the entire family and leads to many residual affects. Abuse can be mental or physical, though often they are seen together. Women are left in a state of self-blame and self-denial. Victims of abuse often feel trapped and without their own power. Communities that often blame the woman for staying or for doing something that instigated the abuse in the first place worsen this.
The episode began in Atlanta, Georgia, where Nicholas Kristoff traveled with actress, Regina Hall, to an unlisted women’s shelter. The Women’s Resource Center is a 90-day program that takes in women and their children and helps them get back to a stable place in the community. Kristof and Hall spoke to residents of the Women’s Resource Center. While there they heard stories of women who were arrested for “false report of a crime” when taking back their statements against their abusers in the court. For women who are trapped in a cycle of abuse, they end up being the ones penalized by the legal system. The Women’s Resource Center helps these women work through their own legal struggles. Unfortunately this program is only a band-aid to the problem. There are too many battered women to accept, and so many are referred to homeless shelters unless their batterers are still actively pursuing them.
Another way that domestic abuse is being targeted in the United States is through groups like Men Stopping Violence. This organization is designed for convicted men to analyze their own behavior. Unlike women’s shelters, there is no confidentiality given to the men in this program. They are forced to look at their actions without giving themselves any verbiage that would divert their blame. Every man who has entered this program, started out believing that they were not abusers but they gradually come to realize that this is not the case.
Kristof leaves Atlanta with the message that in order to address violence against women you have to focus on men and boys. Shelters and laws are only a bandage on the problem. To truly address the problem there is a need to educate and change mindsets. This issue directly impacts and shapes men’s very existence, as well as, women.
After leaving Atlanta, Kristof travels to Kibera, Kenya with Mia Farrow. They visit Shining Hope, an organization that targets education, healthcare, as well as, any other issues that appear within the slum community. Kennedy Odede is a local man who became the driving force of change within Kibera. He started the Kibera School for Girls, with his wife Jessica Posner, an American girl who traveled to Kibera for school and changed her life path after meeting Kennedy. The Kibera School offers free education to girls in the slum in return for their parents/guardians volunteering five weeks a year. The Kibera School was ranked number one in the district on the government test to enter 8th grade. The girls who enter the Kibera School are empowered to develop powerful goals. Kennedy and Jessica fight for much more than education though. Fifteen percent of girls in Kibera are raped or abused before starting preschool. The episode follows two different stories. One is of a four year old girl who is raped by a boy just a couple years older than her while they are both left home alone since their parents work. The other girl had been raped by her grandfather for years before developing an infection and being able to no longer hide the abuse. In both cases, Kennedy and Jessica were at the front of the battle, fighting for justice. Just as in Atlanta, an overarching finding is that in order to successfully put an end to violence against women and girls, it is important to educate men and boys. Kennedy also runs a soccer program that instills values to the boys who join.
Cases of domestic violence are not private matters, nor are they are not personal matters; they are crimes against humanity and should be addressed as so.
February 16, is the last day to watch all three videos online from PBS. Click here to watch.