Reflection on Gender-Based Violence: Spencer Cantrell
Recently the Episcopal Church joined the International Anglican Women’s Network in commemorating the 16 Days Campaign against Gender-Based Violence. This campaign was started in 1991 by the Women’s Global Leadership Institute and is observed annually by Anglicans worldwide. The International Anglican Women’s Network has composed a page of resources on gender-based violence available here. The Episcopal Church’s Spencer Cantrell, provincial delegate for the Anglican Communion at UNCSW 2013, shares her first-hand experience with gender-based violence in this post.
As an Episcopalian, I feel like my calling is in helping women who are survivors of violence. I have helped women both in the U.S. and abroad who survived violence at the hands of an employer or a loved one, and unfortunately, the system in place to help was not always sufficient.
I was fortunate to be able to serve in the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC) for one year as an Episcopal Missionary in Hong Kong, where I worked for the Mission For Migrant Workers. This was an amazing experience, because I was able to help migrant women, mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia, who came to Hong Kong to be domestic workers. These women were often vulnerable to exploitation and deplorable conditions in their new homes: 18 hour work days, separation from family for years at a time, a low minimum wage, and rest days that weren’t enforced. In my office, I was greeted daily by women with a plethora of problems: women fired for no reason after 1 day or 5 years, women who pawned family lands to pay to work in Hong Kong, and women who had been kicked, punched, bruised, burned, assaulted, or raped.
These women were courageous, and many went through a rigorous legal system to get what was owed to them, standing up for themselves, even at the expense of finding new work or being able to fully support their families. But that should not be the case. Women should not be punished for being survivors of violence.
Back in the United States, I am in law school and working with survivors of domestic violence. These are women who have been abused by husbands, boyfriends, or partners. Unfortunately, these women also have to overcome extreme obstacles in leaving their abusers. Regaining emotional and financial independence is almost impossible without a network of support.
That’s why I’m glad we have the Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence. It’s important to shine a spotlight on the gendered violence women are facing. While men also face violence at home and in the workplace, this violence disproportionately affects women. One in three women around the world will face intimate partner violence in her lifetime. God calls us in Micah 6:8 to “do justice and to love kindness.” Eradicating violence against women is an integral part of this.
As always, if you know someone who might be experiencing violence, share the domestic violence hotline number with them: 1−800−799−SAFE(7233).
I’m also thrilled to have the opportunity to represent the Episcopal Church at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW) in March 2013, where the theme is also “Elimination and Prevention of all forms of violence against Women and Girls.” This will be an incredible opportunity to learn about the work of women from all over the world to stop gendered violence. Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions about my work at the UNCSW or as a YASCer!