On the depressing side of things, new data indicates that nothing has changed when it comes to rape and other forms of violence in adolescent dating [Salon]. A study just published (full text available only to subscribes, abstract available to everyone) in JAMA finds that 1 in every 5 young women in high school are attacked by an intimate partner, whether in the form of date rape or other forms of physical battery. Indeed, the prevalence of this violence is probably underestimated by the survey, which undersamples women in poverty, Black women, and Hispanic women - who other studies show are more likely to experience partner violence than more privileged women.
The really depressing thing about this survey is that it just confirms studies that have been done over and over again on high school and college-aged women for the past 20 years, indicating that nothing much has changed. Worse, there are numerous strategies which are known to produce positive changes - peer education for men focused on changing sexist and violence-enabling beliefs, peer education for women focused on assertiveness and risk reduction, courses in women’s self-defense, coordinated rape response teams, battered women’s shelters, and so on. But the people with the economic and political resources to make change simply will not invest the needed resources to institutionalize these services. (What a surprise, since the people who have the economic and political resources to make change are, overwhelmingly, men, and it’s boys who not only are not being attacked, but are specifically doing the attacking.)
If anyone asks you why we still need an organized, agitating feminist movement, tell them to think of five women they know. Ask them whether they want one of those five women to be tortured by someone she should be able trust. If the answer is no, we still need feminism. For more on violence against women and what you can do to end it, see my article What You Can Do to Support Women’s Rights, my letter on why We Need Campus Activism, the website of the Stop Family Violence campaign, and NOW’s Violence Against Women campaigns page.