Peace on Earth Begins at Home:
Reflections from the Women’s
JUDITH LEWIS HERMAN
How can we stop violence against women? This has been a central question facing the international women’s movement in the last three decades. As feminists have sought to name and understand the vast scope of this problem, we have also begun to think about political violence in new ways. Following Minow, I would like to expand on some of the commonalities of violence between nations and between intimates.
First, a point that may seem obvious, but that is all too often overlooked, is that violence works. People often use violence to get what they want. In sexual and domestic life, violence is used worldwide by men to dominate women. In the United States, a recent national survey, conducted by the National Institute of Justice in collaboration with the Communicable Disease Center, reports that 18 percent of women have been victims of rape, and 22 percent have been beaten by an intimate partner (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998). Most such crimes are never reported to police. Victims fear the consequences of disclosure because, more often than not, the perpetrators are well-respected men, and their crimes are socially condoned. The high prevalence of sexual and domestic violence is by no means unique to this country. Throughout the world, crimes such as wife-beating, rape, rape-murder, honor killings, dowry killings, and witch-burnings serve a political function of intimidation, reminding women of their place (United Nations Population Fund, 2000). These acts of violence, often carried out in a ritualized fashion similar to lynching, are both expressions of a system of male supremacy and a means of perpetuating it (Brownmiller, 1975).
When it comes to communal or national conflict, people also frequently use violence to get what they want. One group of people may want to drive another group out of a disputed territory or kill them and