Now Featured in the Patheos Book Club
The Cross and Gendercide
A Theological Response to Global Violence Against Women and Girls
By Elizabeth Gerhardt

Book Excerpt

Gendercide: A Social & Theological Problem

Linda walked tentatively into my small basement office. She was a young woman withshort-cropped hair and a fresh, newly stitched wound that stretched from her temple, ranacross her cheek and ended at her chin. Linda related her terrifying story with little affectand trembling hand gestures. "My husband chased me around the house with a butcherknife and caught up to me, slashing me in my arm and face." She rolled up her sleeve to

show me more stitches. "I ran out of the house screaming, and my neighbor called the police." Linda's face finally began to mirror the pain in her voice, and she began to sob. "The policeman walked across the lawn, looked down on me and asked me what I had done to deserve my husband's abuse." She pointed to her cheek, "I feel like I've been victimized twice, first by my husband and second by the police!" Linda was my first client and my first

introduction to the shadow world of violence against women and girls. Over the years I heard hundreds of stories from battered women and girls. Through each story I learned more of the cultural, religious, historical and political supports for violence and the global scope of these heinous crimes.

Violence against women and girls is a human rights problem that impacts the lives of millions of families and communities. In the United States one out of every four women has experienced domestic violence and one out of six has experienced attempted or completed rape. Almost one and a half million women have been abused during the past year, and the health costs are an astounding 5.8 billion dollars. Violence against women has been identified as the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine and is one of the country's most expensive health problems. Globally, it is a significant and complex human rights problem that exacerbates the problems of poverty, child abandonment, communicable diseases and homelessness. The perception of violence as a private, family problem has obscured efforts to increase the visibility of this dilemma as a public human rights issue that affects all members of society. Violence against women and girls crosses all borders, cultures and classes.

Statistics that provide a snapshot of the extent of this global problem are overwhelming. Although prohibited in most countries, violence continues and is permitted by political, social, and religious institutions and systems and remains the major cause of the most violent attacks on women and girls. Global violence against women and girls takes on many forms: widespread rape as a tool of war, gender-selective abortions, female genital mutilation, sexual trafficking, disfigurement and economic exploitation of women, among other horrific violent crimes. Maymuna, a fifteen-year-old Nigerian girl, was forced into marrying a sixty-five-year-old local man. She conceived three months later. Her labor lasted for days before she was taken to a hospital that was three hours away. By the time she arrived, her uterus had ruptured, and she struggled to survive. As a result of hemorrhaging,