Women’s Media Center makes sexualized violence in conflict
visible with new project: Women Under Siege
New York, February 8, 2012 - Sexualized violence is being used to devastate women and tear apart communities around the world, conflict by conflict, from Libya to the Democratic Republic of Congo. With the launch of our new project, Women Under Siege, the Women’s Media Center is sending the message to the press, and the world, that we can make the unspeakable visible and comprehensible, and in doing so, start to bring about an end to a violent epidemic that women suffer globally.
Created by Gloria Steinem, a co-founder of the Women’s Media Center, and with a pioneering grant from activist and philanthropist Bonnie Schaefer, Women Under Siege breaks down how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. This project works from the belief that understanding what has happened from the Holocaust onward might have helped us to prevent or prepare for the mass sexual assaults of other conflicts.
“Documenting the problem allows individual victims to know they’re not alone or at fault, and allows the institutions of society to create remedies, from laws to education,” says Steinem. “By making clear that sexualized violence is political and public, it admits that sexualized violence can be changed.”
With blog entries by CBS correspondent Lara Logan—a very personal telling of what happened to her in Tahrir Square and how it has changed her understanding of sexualized violence; photojournalist Lynsey Addario, on how painful it has been for her to cover rape in Congo; Gloria Steinem, on why she founded the project; as well as Tia Palermo, author of last year’s groundbreaking study that revealed that four women are raped every five minutes in Congo; and Karestan Koenen, who writes about her own rape in Niger from the perspective of her work as a Harvard psychologist and epidemiologist—Women Under Siege has created a space for writers, photographers, and survivors to share their work in the field.
The site includes analyses of how sexualized violence has been used as a tool of war—whether to humiliate, to ethnically cleanse, to retaliate, and so on—and provides testimonies of victims in the Holocaust, Bangladesh, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, and Egypt.
“Women Under Siege brings important voices to the issue of sexualized violence in conflict that can reach the press and public in profound ways,” says Julie Burton, president of the Women’s Media Center. “By clarifying how women’s bodies have become targets and casualties of war, the media can speak to one of the most crucial issues of our time in a more informed way.”
Both the World Health Organization and the UN Security Council have recognized that there is a lack of research on sexualized violence in conflict, while there is increasing demand for better analysis in order to work toward prevention and healing. Women Under Siege brings insight that can now be used in this fight to decommission one of war’s most effective means of destroying the enemy—sexualized violence.
The Women’s Media Center was founded by Jane Fonda, Robin Morgan, and Gloria Steinem to make women and girls visible and powerful in the media. This is accomplished by promoting women as subjects and decision-makers within the media, training women and girls so they are media-ready and media–savvy, monitoring and exposing sexism in the media, and creating innovative new media and original content. The Women’s Media Center is directly engaged with the media at all levels to ensure that a diverse group of women are present in the newsrooms, on air, in print and online, as sources and subjects.
Director, Women Under Siege