News
KLICE Comment September 2016

Unashamed: Confronting Violence Against Women at University

Hannah MitchellHannah Mitchell is the Southern Coordinator for Just Love (www.justloveuk.com). Her work involves inspiring and releasing Christian students to pursue the biblical call to social justice and she is particularly interested in ending violence against women.
 

In January 2011, I went to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was 18 years old and incredibly moved by reports of the brutal civil wars which had been raging there since 1996. For five months I was based in a town in Eastern Congo called Bunia which itself had seen relatively recent and brutal intertribal fighting[1]. By the time I arrived, Bunia was playing host to the largest UN Peacekeeping Force in the world and though rebel groups frequently skirted around the town, the façade of law and order was upheld.In April 2010, the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, had called Congo the ‘rape capital of the world’[2]. Indeed, studies have shown that 39% of women and 23% of men report having experienced sexual violence in the Eastern Region of Congo[3]. Whilst in Congo I worked alongside an inspiring community of women who were all survivors of war-related sexual violence. Through a network of survivors’ solidarity groups, the women in Bunia administered microfinance loans to each other and took part in collaborative food-growing projects. Many local churches had recently changed their stance on discussion around HIV and AIDS and were keen to engage with the women’s groups, offering them full integration into the church family. Yet as a result of the violence they had suffered, many lived extremely difficult lives. Most of the women and their children had contracted HIV from the men who raped them and their neighbours were sometimes afraid to share the same water taps and latrines as them, under the false impression that HIV might be passed on through skin or water contact. For the very first time in my life, I became aware of the enormous scale and the multi-dimensional destructive power of violence against women.

When I returned home to start university, I began to link the manifestations of violence against women that I had heard about in Congo with the sexual coercion and partner abuse that my peers had experienced at school and were still experiencing from men at university. The National Union of Students reports that 1 in 7 women students has been the victim of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while at university or college and 1 in 4 has suffered inappropriate touching or groping. In order to measure the extent of discrimination, violence and abuse faced by young Christian women, Soul Action[4] surveyed delegates at the Christian conference Momentum about their experiences.In order to measure the extent of discrimination, violence and abuse faced by young Christian women. More than half of the respondents had experienced unwanted sexual touching, 30% agreed or strongly agreed that they experienced fear of their partner in a relationship and 42% had been pressured to perform sexual acts they did not want to by a partner.

Despite disturbingly high levels of sexual violence against young women in the UK, the majority of campaigns to end violence against women focus on violence abroad. It is perhaps easier for us to condemn that which happens far away from British streets, homes, churches and universities than to speak out against abuses in our own communities. If we are to campaign for an end to violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we must have the integrity also to campaign here.

I now work for Just Love, a Christian student organisation that exists to inspire and release every Christian student to pursue the biblical call to social justice. Last summer, whilst Soul Action were carrying out their survey, we met Restored, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women. In October, Just Love and Restored will be launching a campaign, called Unashamed, to engage Christian students in confronting violence and abuse against women at university. Elaine Storkey, who has worked tirelessly to highlight the importance of ending violence against women, has been one of the most important influences on this campaign. Her book, Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women, was published just as the Unashamed team was beginning to meet and plan exactly how the campaign would unfold. In this work, she explores the many forms of violence against women present in the world today. Her narrative of the birth-to-grave nature of violence against women is comprehensive and incredibly challenging to our community’s often patchy understanding of the intersectional nature of violence against women. She considers female foeticide and infanticide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, ‘honour’ killings, intimate partner violence, rape, rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking as examples of violence in which women and girls are particularly targeted.

Elaine has spoken to Just Love students on several occasions and has played a key role in inspiring them to action. The students involved in leading the campaign on the ground decided on the name ‘Unashamed’ because they want every Christian student to be unashamed in acknowledging and condemning violence against women wherever it happens on campus. We want Christians, and the churches they are a part of, to be at the forefront of fighting violence against women both in the UK and abroad. It is our hope and prayer that the Christian students engaged by the Unashamed campaign will set the tone for the church’s response to violence against women for many decades to come.

To find out more about how the campaign will be equipping students to take positive action to end violence against women, please get in touch with hannah@justloveuk.com.

You can follow the campaign as it launches over the next few weeks on Twitter (@Unashamed_16) or on our Facebook page. 

_________________________________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ituri_conflict
[2] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34502#.V9vyRJgrK00
[3] http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=186342, http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/443/202
[4] http://www.soulaction.org/
 
 

Hannah Mitchell is the Southern Coordinator for Just Love (www.justloveuk.com). Her work involves inspiring and releasing Christian students to pursue the biblical call to social justice and she is particularly interested in ending violence against women.


In January 2011, I went to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was 18 years old and incredibly moved by reports of the brutal civil wars which had been raging there since 1996. For five months I was based in a town in Eastern Congo called Bunia which itself had seen relatively recent and brutal intertribal fighting[1]. By the time I arrived, Bunia was playing host to the largest UN Peacekeeping Force in the world and though rebel groups frequently skirted around the town, the façade of law and order was upheld.

In April 2010, the UN’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, had called Congo the ‘rape capital of the world’[2]. Indeed, studies have shown that 39% of women and 23% of men report having experienced sexual violence in the Eastern Region of Congo[3]. Whilst in Congo I worked alongside an inspiring community of women who were all survivors of war-related sexual violence. Through a network of survivors’ solidarity groups, the women in Bunia administered microfinance loans to each other and took part in collaborative food-growing projects. Many local churches had recently changed their stance on discussion around HIV and AIDS and were keen to engage with the women’s groups, offering them full integration into the church family. Yet as a result of the violence they had suffered, many lived extremely difficult lives. Most of the women and their children had contracted HIV from the men who raped them and their neighbours were sometimes afraid to share the same water taps and latrines as them, under the false impression that HIV might be passed on through skin or water contact. For the very first time in my life, I became aware of the enormous scale and the multi-dimensional destructive power of violence against women.

When I returned home to start university, I began to link the manifestations of violence against women that I had heard about in Congo with the sexual coercion and partner abuse that my peers had experienced at school and were still experiencing from men at university. The National Union of Students reports that 1 in 7 women students has been the victim of serious sexual assault or serious physical violence while at university or college and 1 in 4 has suffered inappropriate touching or groping. In order to measure the extent of discrimination, violence and abuse faced by young Christian women, Soul Action[4] surveyed delegates at the Christian conference Momentum about their experiences.In order to measure the extent of discrimination, violence and abuse faced by young Christian women. More than half of the respondents had experienced unwanted sexual touching, 30% agreed or strongly agreed that they experienced fear of their partner in a relationship and 42% had been pressured to perform sexual acts they did not want to by a partner.

Despite disturbingly high levels of sexual violence against young women in the UK, the majority of campaigns to end violence against women focus on violence abroad. It is perhaps easier for us to condemn that which happens far away from British streets, homes, churches and universities than to speak out against abuses in our own communities. If we are to campaign for an end to violence against women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, we must have the integrity also to campaign here.

I now work for Just Love, a Christian student organisation that exists to inspire and release every Christian student to pursue the biblical call to social justice. Last summer, whilst Soul Action were carrying out their survey, we met Restored, an international Christian alliance working to transform relationships and end violence against women. In October, Just Love and Restored will be launching a campaign, called Unashamed, to engage Christian students in confronting violence and abuse against women at university. Elaine Storkey, who has worked tirelessly to highlight the importance of ending violence against women, has been one of the most important influences on this campaign. Her book, Scars Across Humanity: Understanding and Overcoming Violence Against Women, was published just as the Unashamed team was beginning to meet and plan exactly how the campaign would unfold. In this work, she explores the many forms of violence against women present in the world today. Her narrative of the birth-to-grave nature of violence against women is comprehensive and incredibly challenging to our community’s often patchy understanding of the intersectional nature of violence against women. She considers female foeticide and infanticide, female genital mutilation, child marriage, ‘honour’ killings, intimate partner violence, rape, rape as a weapon of war and human trafficking as examples of violence in which women and girls are particularly targeted.

Elaine has spoken to Just Love students on several occasions and has played a key role in inspiring them to action. The students involved in leading the campaign on the ground decided on the name ‘Unashamed’ because they want every Christian student to be unashamed in acknowledging and condemning violence against women wherever it happens on campus. We want Christians, and the churches they are a part of, to be at the forefront of fighting violence against women both in the UK and abroad. It is our hope and prayer that the Christian students engaged by the Unashamed campaign will set the tone for the church’s response to violence against women for many decades to come.

To find out more about how the campaign will be equipping students to take positive action to end violence against women, please get in touch with hannah@justloveuk.com.

You can follow the campaign as it launches over the next few weeks on Twitter (@Unashamed_16) or on our Facebook page. 

_________________________________

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ituri_conflict
[2] http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34502#.V9vyRJgrK00
[3] http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=186342, http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/443/202
[4] http://www.soulaction.org/

 

1. Latest KLICE News - September 2017

2. Latest Ethics in Brief 22.6 - Relational Companies: A Christian Perspective On Corporate Responsibility Jonathan Rushworth

3. Ethics in Brief 22.5 - Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children: Shaping a Church Response Tim Davy & Mark Walley

4. KLICE Comment August on Harnessing Religious Energies for Better Energy Policy

5. Ethics in Brief 22.4 - Reasonable Accommodation and Religious Liberty Alasdair Henderson