The Effect of the Status of Women on Sexual Violence Against Women

Student: Emily Davis
Major: Political Science
Advisors: Dr. Michele Leiby, Dr. Fiacre Bienvenu

Emily DavisSexual violence is an atrocious phenomenon that affects women all over the world. A women’s status in society greatly influence their life. There is literature out there that argues that women may receive backlash if they try to gain better rights. This study intends on continuing that understanding of the relationship between the status of women, the presence of sexual violence, and the backlash effect. I hypothesize that the status of women influences the presence of sexual violence conditional on time in which women have gained rights or pushed for more rights. I use a longitudinal case study approach to analyze the relation between the status of women and sexual violence during and after conflict. This Independent Study finds probable linkage between the status of women and sexual violence because of backlash from society.

Emily will be online to field comments on May 8:
Noon-2pm EDT (PST 9am-11am, Africa/Europe: early evening)

59 thoughts on “The Effect of the Status of Women on Sexual Violence Against Women”

  1. Congratulations, Emily! This is such a difficult RQ and hypothesis to examine because of severe underreporting and under-analysis of sexual violence crimes, but also because of the complexity of the relationship between women’s empowerment and sexual violence.
    Given that you are headed to a graduate school program that focuses on understanding the dynamics of conflict and violence, and peace processes, I’m curious if you plan to continue your investigation of sexual violence, and if so, what those next steps might look like.

    1. Hello Dr. Leiby,

      I do plan on continuing my research! I know I only scratched the surface of this topic. The next steps I will probably take will be continuing my research more on the backlash effect. As you know, this was a difficult phenomenon to measure, but I do believe it plays a role in the status of women and the presence of sexual violence. Also, I do want to start focusing from a humanitarian assistance perspective on what can be done to improve the status of women and prevent sexual violence from happening in the future. Thank you for the comment!

  2. Congrats Emily! I can definitely sympathize with your “What I learned” comments. 🙂

    1. Thanks Maya! As with any research project, I definitely left with more questions than answers.

  3. Hi Emily! This is a big project with a big question. I understand why you would have selected the South Africa case study to examine the question, it seems like a good place to start. If you were to continue this project, do you have other case studies in mind?

    1. Hey Margaret! Other case studies I was considering included Ghana, Sierra Leone, Kenya, Libera and Sri Lanka. It would be interesting to compare some of these states to South Africa to see the differences and similarities in the levels of sexual violence and the status of women. Thank you for the comment!

  4. Emily,

    I’m glad you are going to continue to pursue your studies of gender, peacebuilding, conflict, and political violence. This is such as hard topic to study for all of the reasons that you discovered (and those that Dr. Leiby noted above). I can see why legal attempts to codify womens’ rights would play a role in creating backlash. As I think about related questions, I wonder whether you might expect differences in the backlash effect in post-conflict cases where women played a more prominent vs. a less prominent role in conflict resolution as well. Did you find anything about this in your review of the literature, or do you have any initial thoughts about this in light of what you have studied?

    1. Hello Dr. Krain,
      When looking at the literature regarding the backlash effect, there was some but not as much as I wanted. However, I still wanted to look at the backlash effect because I thought it was an important phenomenon that needs to be researched more. I also think it is important to keep researching of the differences in prominent vs. less prominent roles women have in the peace-building process after a conflict (Maybe another I.S. topic?). Overall, I plan on developing this research topic more in graduate school. Thank you very much for the comment!

  5. Emily, I don’t have the words to describe how amazed I am by the thoroughness of your research design, your deep dive into the existing literature and the case study, and the relevance of your topic! Awesome job!
    Could you explain more about how HIV/AIDS stigma plays into the status of women? Are there any differences during and after apartheid?
    Congratulations on all your hard work!

    1. Thanks Cara! When I was talking about the stigma around HIV/AIDS, I was addressing the overall issue of social stigma and how it plays a role in how society treats certain groups of people. Like with most social stigmas, there is still some stigma against those who suffer from HIV/AIDS but not at the same levels as before apartheid. Thank you for the comment!

  6. Wishing you all the best for your ongoing studies next year!

    What perspectives do you think the gender and peace studies literature would bring to your project?

    1. Hello Dr. Kille,
      I think gender and peace studies are a critical perspective that would have been a great addition to my project. I was looking at a lot of feminist/gender research when trying to define the status of women. When I do continue this research and trying to find peaceful solutions, I will defiantly look at literature from the peace studies perspective. Thank you for the comment!

  7. This is very interesting, Emily, I really enjoyed your presentation! I know that this is a topic that you are very interested in, and that comes through in your presentation. I’m wondering: how did you come about choosing this topic, and specifically to focus on the backlash effect?

    1. Thanks Emma! My I.S. was inspired by the work I did for my Junior I.S., which looked at sexual violence in ethnic conflicts. Additionally, when I was reading various academic journals, some mentioned the presence of a backlash effect and it was something that I wanted to continue to explore.

  8. Great presentation and congratulations!! You mentioned that it was often hard for you to connect personal stories with statistical evidence which I understand it a huge struggle. I was wondering what sources offered these personal stories and how you found those sources?

    1. Thanks Emmy! When looking for personal stories, some of the sources I used included an academic journal article that was submitted to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. It specifically looked at gender and included some personal accounts of violence against women. I found it when looking at the Truth and Reconciliation Report. It was really helpful!

  9. Emily,

    Congratulations! You chose to study an incredibly important, but incredibly challenging topic. Coming out with more questions than answers is certainly part of the process. My question is what can be done? Do you think there are certain strategies which could improve the status of women and, by extension, decrease sexual violence?

    Congrats again! I’m super happy for you and I am looking forward to seeing what you do next!

    1. Thank you so much Emily. I think it is important to continue to improve the status of women by passing more legislation, diminishing social stigma and providing more economic opportunities for women. Additionally, I think giving women more access to education would improve their status overall and hopefully decrease sexual violence. I appreciate your comment and I look forward to see what you accomplish with your Ph.D.!

  10. Emily! This is such a fascinating project!

    You mentioned how, during apartheid, black women were doubly disadvantaged because of their race and their gender. In terms of violence against women post-apartheid, did you find anything that says this continues to be the case?

    1. Thanks Allie! After apartheid, I found that violence against women continued post-apartheid, but in some different ways than during apartheid. This made it difficult to determine if the status of women improve or did not change at all. Great question!

  11. Hi Emily – Awesome Job! Can you please tell me why you chose to conduct your case study on South Africa?

    1. Thanks Aunt Janet! I chose South Africa because I was looking for a case with an “average” amount of sexual violence because it would be a lot easier to measure if there was any fluctuation of sexual violence. Also I was looking for a conflict that happened after the Cold War, to rule out any proxy wars and keep it to intrastate conflicts. South Africa fit all of these criteria!

      1. Emily,

        Very well thought out and impressive. I enjoyed your I.S. I think you have a very exciting future ahead!

  12. Hey Emily!

    Good job with your I.S.! I’m super proud of you. A question that I had is what made you interested in this subject?

    1. Thank you Izzy, it means a lot! This all began my sophomore year when I took Peace Studies. We were assigned a group project and we had to analyze a conflict and prescribe a peace-building solution. I felt like we didn’t address gendered violence as well as we could have, which made me want to understand the underlying causes of gendered violence and sexual violence. I appreciate your comment!

  13. Hi Emily,

    Congratulations on your IS completion! Fascinating and thought-provoking work. (Also very crucial to be asking these questions and drawing these connections)

    In light of the noted difficulties in finding information and data regarding sexual violence, what kinds of improvements do you anticipate will (or should) be undertaken in the near future so that researchers such as yourself and others in the field will be able to continue to answering and analyzing such complex questions?

    Excited to see your interests develop as you pursue your graduate degree!

    1. Thank you so much Connor! A big portion of the information I gathered was from multiple Demographic Health Surveys of South Africa. They did ask if an individual experienced sexual violence, but it would have been helpful to know when they experienced sexual violence. This would have helped me with my timeline of the variation of sexual violence during and after apartheid. This was an issue that, when we studied abroad in Switzerland, multiple researchers and experts brought up because the information that was provided was not enough. I look forward to see what you do in law school and I am so excited that we’re both moving out to Colorado!

  14. Congratulations Emily! I really like your project and I find your questions really interesting in the context of Apartheid in South Africa. Would you consider expanding your research into other African countries, specifically ones that participate in different cultures? I hope you go on to do more research in this in the future! Good luck!

    1. Thanks Anna! I think it is really important to look at different countries with different cultural perspectives. It would be interesting if variables stayed the same or if they would change for different reasons. I was considering other African and Middle Eastern countries and it is something I would want to revisit in graduate school.

  15. Hi Emily! I just wanted to tell you how proud I am of the work you’ve done! I’m so glad that you were able to find such an interesting case study and see valuable results. In any way did your IS help inform or reinforce your choice of graduate degree? Can’t wait to see you become a great human rights advocate!

    1. Thank you so much Sarah! My I.S. definitely reinforced my choice in graduate degrees. I wanted to narrow down my focus to human rights because it is something I am passionate in. Additionally, participating in Amnesty International on campus helped too! I look forward to see what you do in the future too.

  16. Thanks for sharing your research on this really important topic, Emily. It has been inspiring to see how passion you bring to questions of gender equity and justice – starting way back in our First Year Seminar! This project really brings it full circle and I am glad to see you’ll be continuing your exploration in graduate school next year. Wishing you all the best – and keep in touch! -Prof. Bos

    1. Hello Dr. Bos,
      Thank you so much! Taking FYS and Women, Power and Politics with you helped with my research process. What I learned in those classes were applicable to my research topic. I will definitely keep in touch!

  17. Emily,
    Thank you so much for sharing your research. I realize that you say that you only scratched the surface, but it is the kind of scratching that needs to be done! You should be very proud of the work you have done and what you were able to accomplish. I hope that you do get a chance to expand upon your work. We need more people like you doing this kind of research!

  18. Congratulations on completing IS! I’m sure that more scholarly research on the backlash effect will help policymakers and human rights advocates implement better preventative measures to protect women, especially women in conflict zones. It was a pleasure to read your research this year. Thank you for sharing your work!

    1. Thank you very much! I honestly could not of done this without you and our weekly writing center appointments. I think my I.S. would have been a complete mess without your input and perspective.

  19. This is such important research! I loved your “I.S. is really hard” comment. It is certainly not easy and you should be proud that you did it!!! Congratulations!

  20. Hi Emily!
    Congratulations! What an interesting and important project. Thank you for sharing. I am so very proud of you!

  21. Awesome job, Emily. I know you worked really hard over the year and your topic is really important.

  22. Great job, Emily! Thank you for writing and shedding light on a topic that is hard to grapple with but still very important to acknowledge. I am excited for your for graduate school and wish you the best!

  23. Great work, Emily. What an important and timely topic it is!
    It was great to work with you in the NT course, and I wish you the best as you are beginning the next chapter of your life journey!

  24. this is super cool and astute i dont know if i ever told you that. Can’t wait to see you in some government office ruling over the rest of us peons

    1. Thank you very much JP! It really means a lot. I look forward to see what you achieve in the future!

  25. Emily,
    What a wonderful topic. It says so much about your sensitivity and thoughtfulness to look out for the downtrodden.
    Great work that indicates an important future ahead.
    Go Scots! Go Bagpipers!
    Ann Briggs

  26. Excellent presentation, Emily! It’s great to see such strong and intelligent women working on such an important problem. I’m excited to see what your future holds. Congrats!

  27. This is a really interesting topic, and it seems like you handled a tricky subject really well! Congrats, and I’m excited to see what you do with this in the future!

  28. Emily, this is a very important topic, and I am glad to hear that you will continue to pursue it in graduate school. I was curious whether you considered “events” that demonstrated women’s progress toward higher status such as the number of women elected to office, or holding any public office, or new laws purporting to provide new rights or protections for women. I am very curious about the incidence of sexual violence in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, all of which have had changes in the rights afforded women in the last 10 years. Would you consider a study in which you compared one of those countries to South Africa? I do agree that the research here is hampered by women being reluctant to report incidents. How did you deal with this issue in developing your thesis? As a former political science major, I thought this was fascinating, and I do hope you will pursue it as we need a handle on cause and effect for these terrible crimes against women! Good luck!

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