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What is gender-based violence?

Gender-based violence means violence against a person because of their gender. This includes physical and psychological violence by intimate partners, sexual assault, rape, and stalking. It also includes physical and psychological violence against people who do not conform to traditional gender roles like gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, and gender questioning people.

What does gender-based violence look like in the life of a survivor?

In the workplace, gender-based violence includes unwanted sexual requests, comments, touching, or sexual assault, and requests for sex in exchange for a job, or a job benefit like a raise, promotion, or time off to care for a family member. It includes refusing to hire, firing or harassing a person because they do not conform to traditional gender roles or identities. It also includes threatening to fire or report a person to immigration or the police for refusing unwanted sexual contact.

In the home, gender violence includes physical, sexual and psychological violence that is used by one person to exercise power and control over another. For workers, it can be especially hard to leave a situation of domestic or intimate partner violence because they may rely on an abusive partner for food, shelter, and other basic survival needs. One type of psychological violence is controlling a worker’s financial resources like paychecks, public benefits, or bank accounts.

In public spaces like in the streets or on public transportation, gender violence includes unwanted catcalls, comments, exposing oneself, and unwanted touching. It also includes using threats and verbal abuse when a person rejects or ignores these behaviors, or asks for the person carrying them out to stop. Finally, it includes threatening, bullying, or assaulting a person because they do not conform to traditional gender roles.

What are barriers to survivor leadership?

One key barrier to survivor leadership is gender-based violence itself. A survivor who is grappling with trauma, physical injuries, stress, lowered self-esteem, depression or anxiety in the wake of violence suffers harm to their health and spirit. These effects can stop survivors from recognizing the power they have.

A second critical barrier to survivor leadership is poverty. Gender-based violence disproportionately impacts low-income communities. These are communities where survivors are often working long hours for little or no pay. They have caregiving responsibilities and lack affordable childcare, eldercare, or healthcare to alleviate those responsibilities. They must navigate complex systems of public benefits to ensure their families are taken care of. While they may have incredible leadership qualities, many workers lack the time, resources and support to exercise their full range of talents and abilities.

Survivors have the most potential to address gender-based violence in their communities. They have lived through it, and know what must change to stop gender violence. Lawmakers and leaders should listen to the voices of those most affected by gender violence when creating policy solutions to end it.
Survivors also have the potential to enact change at a community level. They can build deep, trusting relationships to enable other survivors who share their identities to come forward, heal, and exercise their rights. When survivors can see each other, hear each other and work together, community action will follow.

Why should survivors lead the movement to end gender-based violence?

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