The Pixel Project Selection 2017: 16 Books About Violence Against Women

Far from being merely a source of entertainment, it is through storytelling that culture and beliefs are framed, reinforced, and transmitted. More than that, stories have the power to fire the imagination and inspire new thoughts and ideas and thus shape – or reshape – the perspective of individuals, communities and cultures about everything from tradition to gender.

In recognition of the power of storytelling to inspire change, The Pixel Project has put together our 2017 selection of 16 books or book series that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these stories are popular fiction while others are strictly non-fiction. Nevertheless, all of them will educate the reader in some way about violence, rape culture, cultural mores and misogyny.

The books and book series in this list have been selected from a wide range of genres including thrillers, fantasy, science fiction, and investigative journalism. They all show a common trend of depicting entrenched and pervasive violence against women and sexism in the diverse societies and worlds that they portray while offering threads of hope as people and characters fight for a world where women and girls are free from abuse.

This list is by no means complete as there are hundreds of books out there that deal with violence against women in its various forms. However, we hope that these 16 books and series will be a starting point for you, as they have for others over the years, to push for change in your community and culture.

Introduction by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau; Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam and Regina Yau

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Book Selection #1: A Safe Place (1997) by Maxine Trottier

This children’s book is about a little girl Emily who, together with her mother, goes to live in a shelter to escape her abusive father. At first Emily is scared of the new place and people but soon finds that the adults are kind and the children are friendly. Told from the child’s perspective, this book is for five-to seven-year-olds who may be experiencing similar circumstances and aims to teach them that there are places that are safe and that there are people, both adults and children, who understand what they have been and are going through and are ready to offer support.

Book Selection #2:​ ​ The “Cincinnati” series (2014 – ) by Karen Rose

The Cincinnati thriller series, comprising Alone in the Dark, Closer Than You Think and Every Dark Corner, follows two FBI special agents as they work to find young women and children who have gone missing as victims of a human trafficking ring. The series explores the dark and frightening underbelly of society, bringing to light some horrible truths about child pornography, human trafficking, and drug abuse and dependence. It also showcases characters who refuse to give up and who fight to reclaim their agency and freedom, recover from trauma, and help others in similar situations.

Book Selection #3: The “Courtyard of The Others” series (2013 – 2017)  by Anne Bishop

The Courtyard of The Others series revolves around Meg Corbyn, a young woman who is a cassandra sangue, or blood prophet who can see the future when her skin is cut. Meg’s Controller keeps her and other cassandra sangue enslaved so he can have full access to their visions in order to sell them to the highest bidder. When Meg escapes her owner and seeks refuge with the Others (including vampires and werewolves) who rule the earth, she sets in motion a tsunami of social change in the world. Through Meg’s story, Bishop deals with gender-based violence head on, including rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, slavery, and human trafficking; and she does so in powerful and thoughtful ways that make no bones of the fact that male violence and misogyny perpetuate violence against women.

Book Selection #4: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club (2014) by Genevieve Valentine

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Genevieve Valentine’s vivid reimagining of the fairytale of the Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the Roaring Twenties in Manhattan. In this story, the main character Jo and her eleven sisters are controlled by their distant father who subjects them to financial and emotional abuse – aspects of domestic violence that are seldom addressed, much less explored, in books. Valentine’s deft depiction of the relationships between Jo, her sisters and her father show just how complex and damaging domestic violence can be, no matter what form it takes.

Book Selection #5: Hominids (2002) by Robert J. Sawyer

Hominids is the first book in award-winning Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer’s Neanderthal Parallax series, which centers around Ponter Boddit, a Neanderthal physicist from a parallel earth where Neanderthals were not subsumed by homo sapiens and have gone on to develop a radically different civilisation in which sexuality is fluid, gender equality is the norm and there is no rape. When he accidentally crosses into present-day earth, he ends up being accused of murder. Through this book, Sawyer does not just offer a vision of what a more equitable and less violent world might be like but also explores the issue of rape with respect and compassion through the main female character, Mary Vaughn, who survived a rape and continues to deal with the consequences of the attack throughout the book.

Book Selection #6: How to Run With a Naked Werewolf (2013) by Molly Harper

How to Run with a Naked Werewolf is the third book in Molly Harper’s Naked Werewolf series. The story opens with Tina Campbell, lately the human pack doctor for a community of werewolves, on the run from her abusive husband who has been relentlessly tracking her down since she fled their home. With the help of an anonymous code-named benefactor from a safety network specialising in relocating domestic violence survivors as well as a werewolf detective and the werewolf community she serves, her husband meets his comeuppance in the most satisfying way. Harper does not sugarcoat the danger and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experienced by survivors and while the story seems fluffy, it treats domestic violence and its consequences seriously.

Book Selection #7: The “Lily Bard” series (1996 – 2007)  by Charlaine Harris

Charlaine Harris is a prolific urban fantasy and mystery author who is perhaps best known as the author of the Southern Vampire Mystery series upon which the HBO vampire series True Blood is based. However, perhaps the most harrowing and absorbing of all her works is the Lily Bard series where the titular heroine is a rape survivor who solves grisly murder mysteries in her adopted hometown of Shakespeare, Arkansas while rebuilding her life and grappling with her PTSD. Harris – herself a rape survivor – captures the ever-reverberating echoes of pain caused by the trauma of sexual violence while showing just how much grit and strength are needed to function and move forward after the attack.

Books Selection #8: ​Lucky (1999) by Alice Sebold

In this memoir, Alice Sebold looks back at the brutal rape she experienced while in university, its aftermath, and how it transformed her life forever. The memoir reads somewhat like detective fiction because Sebold, on the advice of one of her professors, strived to remember everything about the incident, her interactions with authorities, friends and family after the incident, and her feelings throughout. She explains how she was told she was ‘lucky’ because she was not killed and her attacker left evidence on her by beating her. This story provides invaluable insights into a survivor’s world and chronicles her long and arduous journey to recovery and saving herself from her trauma.

Book Selection #9: The “Mercy Thompson” series (20016 – ) by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs’ werewolf-driven urban fantasy follows the adventures of Mercy Thompson, a coyote Shifter who was adopted into and raised by a werewolf pack but was sent away at sixteen when her foster father realised that his centuries-old son intended to marry her solely for breeding purposes. Throughout the books, Mercy battles against sexism and patriarchy as she educates her adoptive werewolf father and her werewolf husband about treating women with respect and as equals. Briggs also deals with the aftermath of rape with sensitivity when Mercy is raped, not just by tackling Mercy’s struggle with PTSD but also showing how family and community should ideally treat rape survivors.

Book Selection #10: Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (2015) by Jon Krakauer

Between January 2008 and May 2012, hundreds of students in the highly-regarded state university in the college town of Missoula, Montana, USA, reported sexual assaults to the local police. Few of the cases were properly handled by the university and local authorities. In this dispassionate and meticulously researched book, acclaimed journalist Jon Krakauer investigates and studies acquaintance rape and the prevalent rape culture in the university, town and country, making it clear why rape is so prevalent on American campuses and why rape victims are so reluctant to report assault.

Book Selection #11: ​ The “Orphan X” series (2016 – ) by Gregg Hurwitz

Bestselling high-octane thriller writer Gregg Hurwitz’s latest series features Evan Smoak who is a 21st century feminist James Bond complete with a mentor who instills respect for women in him as part of his education and training as a second-to-none spy. Although the series only has two books so far, Smoak has come up against – and dismantled – human trafficking rings and violent pimps. Also commendable is Hurwitz’s inclusion of a wide range of well-rounded female characters in both the civilian and lone spy parts of Smoak’s double life, including a single mother who is also a district attorney, a sociopathic female spy and female clients who are tougher than they look.

Book Selection #12: “Push” (1996) by Sapphire

Push is told from the perspective of 16-year-old Precious Jones, who lives in Harlem, New York with her abusive mother and is functionally illiterate, obese and pregnant with her second child, the result of rape by her father. The novel details Precious’ journey from seemingly hopeless circumstances to learning how to read and write – as the book progresses, there is an improvement in the spelling and grammar – and her struggles through the welfare system, homelessness and escaping abuse. It also shows her growth in confidence and the realisation that despite what she has been told, her colour – Precious is African American – and her socioeconomic background are not necessarily the cause of her abuse. The 2009 film Precious was based on this novel.

Book Selection #13: The “Shifters” series (2007 – 2009)  by Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent’s five-book Shifters series is about Faythe, a rare female werecat who rebels against the extreme and violent patriarchy of werecat culture to rise to become the first female leader of her pride. For new readers, the first book in the series may be off-putting because Vincent uses the book to establish just how misogynistic the werecat culture and community is and why Faythe was initially attempting to leave it. However, readers who persevere are rewarded with a powerful story that tackles everything from casual sexism and forced marriage to bride kidnapping and attempted rape – everything that Faythe has to deal with as she battles to stop other prides from taking over her own.

Book Selection #14:​ The “Soulwood” series (2016 – )  by Faith Hunter

Bestselling urban fantasy author Faith Hunter is best-known for her Jane Yellowrock series. However, it is with Soulwood, her latest series and a spinoff from the Jane Yellowrock series that she tackles everything from misogyny to church cult polygamy to violence against women. The not-quite-human lead protagonist Nell Nicholson Ingram was raised in a church cult for which underage – and even forced – marriage was the norm with men in their thirties and beyond taking multiple teenage wives and concubines. Nell rebelled against her fate and the series follows her progress as she helps her family and women modernise the church while working as a special agent on cases involving paranormal creatures.

Book Selection #15: The Female of the Species (2016) by Mindy McGinnis

While this young adult (YA) novel may seem like a revenge thriller on the surface – it is about a girl whose older sister was raped and murdered and who has hunted down the perpetrator who went free – the majority of the story is about how the protagonist Alex deals with the darkness inside her and the violence she experiences and delivers. The story has the standard YA fare of high school drama, jealousies, gossip and underage drinking, but it also features quite a bit of violence and examines the pervasiveness of rape culture among young people and learned misogyny in a straightforward manner, calling out double standards and toxic masculinity.

Book Selection #16: The “World of the Lupi” series (2003 – ) by Eileen Wilks

The werewolves in Eileen Wilks’ World of the Lupi series have some very unusual traits that set them apart from most werewolf-driven urban fantasy works. Firstly, their guiding deity is a woman. Secondly, their culture abhors and outlaws violence against women of any form even as their traditions are otherwise very patriarchal. Add in the main protagonist Lily Yu, a Chinese American detective who solves mysteries while dealing with episodes of PTSD from a traumatic childhood kidnapping and attempted rape, and you have a series that is as feminist as they come.

 

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Book Cover Credits:

  1. A Safe Place – From “A Safe Place” (Amazon.com)
  2. Every Dark Corner – Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  3. Etched in Bone – Courtesy of Ace, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  4. The Girls At The Kingfisher Club – From “The Girls At The Kingfisher Club” (Goodreads)
  5. Hominids – Courtesy of Robert J. Sawyer
  6. How To Run With A Naked Werewolf – From “How To Run With A Naked Werewolf” (Goodreads)
  7. Shakespeare’s Counselor – Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  8. Lucky – From Wikipedia
  9. Silence Fallen – Courtesy of Ace, an imprint of Penguin Random House
  10. Missoula: Rape And The Justice System In A College Town – From “Missoula: Rape And The Justice System In A College Town” (Amazon.com)
  11. Orphan X – Courtesy of Gregg Hurwitz
  12. Push – From Wikipedia
  13. Alpha – From “Alpha” (Goodreads)
  14. Flame In The Dark – Courtesy of Faith Hunter
  15. The Female Of The Species – From “The Female Of The Species” (HarperCollins.com)
  16. Dragon Blood – Courtesy of Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2017

Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2017 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 6th annual list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities. The intent of this list is simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. The women and girls in this year’s list hail from 15 countries and 6 continents.

Many of these outstanding women and girls have shown that it is possible to transform personal pain that came out of facing gender-based violence, into positive action to stop violence against women, empower themselves and to show other survivors that it is possible to move forward with dignity and happiness. They have refused to let bitterness and pain get the better of them, opting to stand up for themselves and for other women and girls instead.

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence inflicted on themselves but they have stepped up to do what is right: to speak up for women and girls who cannot do it for themselves, sometimes at great personal risk. All this requires immense courage, generosity of spirit and a strong, enduring heart.

Without further ado, here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2017 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women would be an inspiration to others to get involved with the cause. To that end, we hope you will generously share this list via Facebook and Twitter to give these extraordinary 16 women and their work a moment in the sun.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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Female Role Model 1: Ana Salvá – Spain

Bangkok-based Spanish freelance journalist Ana Salva arrived in Southeast Asia in 2014, eventually focusing on reporting about violence against women in Cambodia. In 2016, she began investigating the crime of forced marriage and forced pregnancy under the Khmer Rouge regime and its impact on the mental and physical health of women. This resulted in an incisive article published by The Diplomat – “The Forced Pregnancies of the Khmer Rouge”. She said: “The international criminal laws continue to lack [interest] to address gender crimes that have impacted women worldwide. And for forced pregnancy, a lot of cases are forgotten. No international courts have pursued forced pregnancy to date. That is the problem for the future too, I think.”

Female Role Model 2: Anuja Gupta – India

Anuja Gupta is one of India’s leading experts on the issue of incest/child sexual abuse. In 1996, at a time when no one in the country was talking about this taboo subject, Anuja started the non-profit RAHI Foundation, India’s first incest/child sexual abuse response organisation. RAHI’s work has laid the foundation for this issue to come to light and continues to shape the way it is addressed in the country. Anuja said: “Everyone has to make violence against women and children their issue and I think the strongest action we can take is to not lose momentum regardless of our social or political contexts. No matter how far away it may seem, always keep an eye on the goal of a world free of violence.”

Female Role Model 3: Carrie Goldberg – United States of America

Carrie Goldberg is a pioneer in the field of sexual privacy who uses her legal expertise and the law to defend victims of revenge porn and other forms of cyber violence against women. The impetus for starting her own firm to tackle the issue of online sexual privacy and harassment came when she was harassed by a vengeful ex who threatened to send intimate pictures she’d given him to her professional colleagues. Today, her law firm, C.A. Goldberg, PLLC focuses on Internet privacy and abuse, domestic violence, and sexual consent. Goldberg is also a Board Member and Volunteer Attorney at the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and its End Revenge Porn campaign.

Female Role Model 4: Daisy Coleman – United States of America

Daisy Coleman was 14 when she was raped and left on her family’s front lawn in the small town where she grew up, enduring a backlash from the townsfolk who subjected her to intense victim-blaming, cyberbullying, and slut-shaming. Today, Coleman is an anti-sexual assault activist and co-founder of SafeBAE (Safe Before Anyone Else) to help prevent sexual violence and educate young people in the U.S. about the issue and to stand together with teen sex assault victims. As part of her work, she also appeared in Netflix’s documentary Audrie & Daisy about her experience.

Female Role Model 5: Hera Hussain – Pakistan and the United Kingdom

Hera Hussain is the founder of Chayn, a UK-based open source gender and tech project that builds platforms, toolkits, and runs hackathons to empower women facing violence and the organisations supporting them. Chayn’s resources and services include pro bono work for anti-violence against women organisations as well as a groundbreaking toolkit for women who want to build their own Domestic Violence case is so valuable to women who cannot afford legal representation. She says: “Tech gives us the chance to reach a wide audience on shoe-string budget and enable those women who are looking to understand what is happening to them and what to do about it.”

Female Role Model 6: Karla Jacinto – Mexico

Karla Jacinto was lured into forced prostitution at the age of 12 by a human trafficker who offered her money, gifts and the promise of a better life. By age 16, she estimates that she had been raped 43,200 times as she was forced to service up to 30 men a day daily for four years. Karla was rescued in 2008 as part of an anti-trafficking operation in Mexico City and is now fighting back against Mexico’s human trafficking crisis by raising awareness of how the criminals work so potential victims can spot red flags.

Female Role Model 7: Kerstin Weigl – Sweden

Kerstin Weigl is a journalist who has been awarded the “Lukas Bonnier´s Grand  Prize for Journalism” for her unique study of all the women who have died in Sweden as a result of violence in close relationships during the 2000s. The investigation was undertaken together with Kristina Edblom, for the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, uncovering and reporting the stories of 267 women since the series began. Kerstin is also the co-founder of Cause of Death: Woman, an investigative report on violence against women the US, South Africa, Egypt, Sweden, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil, Congo, Spain and Russia.

Female Role Model 8: Malebogo Malefhe – Botswana

In 2009, Malebogo Malefhe was shot eight times by her boyfriend, putting her in a wheelchair for life. Malefhe, a former basketball player for Botswana’s national team, has devoted herself to fighting domestic violence in her native Botswana and combatting culturally-ingrained victim-blaming by teaching women that it is not their fault when men hurt them. She told NPR: “I tell women to look at the signs while they still have the time. Walk out while they still have the chance. […] I tell women that every time a crime is perpetrated, they should report it. […] Women need education to open them up to the realisation that abuse is prevalent and they need to find ways to overcome it.

Female Role Model 9: Marijana Savic, Serbia

In 2004, Marijana Savic founded Atina as part of the response of “the women’s movement in Serbia to the problem of human trafficking, and non-existence of adequate programmes of long-term support for the victims and help in their social inclusion”. Atina became the first safehouse for victims of trafficking in the country and provides comprehensive support for survivors of violence, exploitation and human trafficking in Serbia. Marijana said: “A person who survived violence needs more than accommodation. […] A right solution for many women is to get support from the community, to understand why the violence is happening, to have full support in safe place, which does not always have to be a safe house.”

Female Role Model 10: Paradise Sourori – Afghanistan

Paradise Sourori is Afghanistan’s first female rapper. Over the last eight years, she has had to flee her country twice, received numerous threats of rape, death, and acid attacks as well as being brutally beaten by 10 men on the street – all because she refuses to stop singing about the gender-based violence and injustices suffered by Afghan women. “[The police] told me I should stop singing,” says Paradise. “That’s when I knew that if I stayed silent, nothing would change.” Today she has resettled in Berlin, Germany and continues to make her music to champion Afghan women.

Female Role Model 11: Ronelle King – Barbados

Ronelle King is a rape and sexual assault survivor who had enough of the nonchalant cultural and social attitude towards violence against women and girls in Barbados. She “had the idea to start a hashtag that would create a forum for Caribbean women to share their daily experiences of sexual harassment and abuse” and so the #LifeInLeggings hashtag and movement was born. The movement has spread rapidly throughout the Caribbean region, The National Women’s Commission of Belize supports the group and UN Women has partnered with them to assist with regional projects.

Female Role Model 12:  Saida Ali – Kenya

Saida Ali was 16 when her older sister fled back to her family home after being assaulted by her husband. Ali helped her sister leave the abusive marriage and that was the start of her lifelong commitment to stopping violence against women. Today, Saida is the executive director of Kenya’s Coalition on Violence Against Women, taking on domestic violence and rape cases across Kenya. Her campaign, Justice for Liz, was waged on behalf of a schoolgirl who was raped and left for dead. The campaign garnered international media attention and the perpetrators were eventually jailed.

Female Role Model 13: Samra Zafar – United Arab Emirates and Canada

Samra Zafar arrived in Canada as a 16-year-old bride in an arranged marriage to an abusive husband who beat, controlled, and raped her. Determined to escape her marriage, she managed to squirrel away a few hundred dollars now and then even though her husband forced her to give up her earnings to him. With her savings and multiple scholarships, she funded her education, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Economics from the University of Toronto with the highest distinctions. Today, Samra is the founder of Brave Beginnings, an organisation dedicated to helping women rebuild their lives after oppression and abuse.

Female Role Model 14: Sharmin Akter – Bangladesh

Sharmin Akter was only 15 years old when her mother attempted to coerce her into marriage to a man decades older than her. However, instead of surrendering to family wishes, she spoke up to protest for her right to an education. In recognition of her courage, she was awarded the 2017 International Women of Courage Award from the US State Department. Sharmin is now studying at Jhalakathi Rajapur Pilot Girls High School to fulfil her goal to become a human rights lawyer fighting against the harmful tradition of forced marriages.

Female Role Model 15: Stephanie Harvey – Canada

Stephanie Harvey is a five-time world champion in competitive Counter-Strike, and longtime female pro-gaming icon. In her 16 years in e-Sports as a player and 7 years as a games developer, she has routinely pushed back and spoken out against toxic misogyny, sexism, and the chronic online harassment of female gamers that is endemic in the gaming world. As part of her activism, she co-founded MissCliks, a gaming community group currently focused on “recognising the under-representation of women as role models in geek and gaming culture, giving support and exposure to those female role models, and helping to create a culture of authenticity, advocacy, unity, and bravery.”

Female Role Model 16: Vera Baird – United Kingdom

Commissioner Dame Vera Baird is an outspoken advocate for stopping violence against women in her capacity as the police and crime commissioner for Northumbria. She has publicly spoken out against a judge who made victim-blaming comments regarding a rape case and was recently negotiating with local government officials in an attempt to stop the withdrawal of funding for women’s refuges in Sunderland. Prior to becoming a police commissioner, she was a lawyer who championed feminist protesters, took on pregnancy discrimination cases, and influenced law in domestic violence cases. Baird was made a Dame in December 2016 in recognition of her life-long fight for gender equality.

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Photo Credits:

  1. Ana Salvá – From “Q&A: Journalist Ana Salvá on the Crimes of Forced Marriage and Forced Pregnancy Under the Khmer Rouge” (VOA Cambodia)
  2. Anuja Gupta – Courtesy of the RAHI Foundation
  3. Carrie Goldberg – From http://www.cagoldberglaw.com/team/carrie-goldberg/
  4. Daisy Coleman – Courtesy of Safebae.org
  5. Hera Hussain – Courtesy of Hera Hussain
  6. Karla Jacinto – From “Human Trafficking Survivor Karla Jacinto Was Raped 43,200 Times as a Teen, Now She’s Telling Her Story to Congress and the Pope” (Seventeen)
  7. Kerstin Weigl – From https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kerstin_Weigl_2015-11-06_001.jpg
  8. Malebogo Malefhe – From “Shot By Her Boyfriend And Now Using A Wheelchair, She Found A ‘New Me’” (Ryan Eskalis/NPR)
  9. Marijana Savic – From “Four women’s rights activists you need to know” (Atina/UNFPA)
  10. Paradise Sorouri – From “Afghanistan’s first female rapper: ‘If I stay silent, nothing will change’” (Eliot Stein/The Guardian)
  11. Ronelle King – From https://www.youtube.com/user/purehazeleyes
  12. Saida Ali – From “The Activist Taking On Patriarchy To End Domestic Violence In Kenya” (The Huffington Post)
  13. Samra Zafar – From “The Good Wife” (Luis Mora/Toronto Life)
  14. Sharmin Akter – From “Fighting Early Marriage: Bangladeshi girl to receive US award” (The Daily Star)
  15. Stephanie Harvey – Courtesy of Stephanie Harvey
  16. Vera Baird – From “Northumbria Police boss Vera Baird made a Dame in New Year’s Honours list” (www.chroniclelive.co.uk)

How To Disrupt 16 Practices of Gender-based Violence In College Life

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Every year, we are pleased to welcome a guest “16 For 16” article from our partner, Breakthrough – a global human rights organisation working to make violence and discrimination against women and girls unacceptable. Their cutting-edge multimedia campaigns, community mobilisation, agenda setting, and leadership training equip men and women worldwide to challenge the status quo and take bold action for the dignity, equality, and justice of all.

This year, Breakthrough shares a list of 16 actions that college students can take to disrupt violence against women in college life.

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Many rigid gender norms–cultural rules about how people should behave because of their perceived gender–can cause harm because they perpetuate a culture where gender-based violence is seen as a normal or even inevitable part of the college experience. Some of these practices have become so normalized in college and university life that they can seem impossible to change. But YOU can become an agent of change by unpacking the norms that drive these practices, and thinking outside the box to disrupt and challenge the ways these cultural norms cause harm to students in your community.

Here are 16 examples of gender norms in practice that we’ll bet you’ve come across before. Are some of these prevalent at your university? If you’re interested in disrupting and transforming any of these practices on your campus, Breakthrough’s Action Hotline is a great resource to get you started! We offer free mentorship for students looking to change culture on campuses across the U.S., and help you brainstorm, plan, and implement your idea for action.

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Practice #1 – “Ladies Night!”

You’ve probably seen this in the form of “women drink for free” or “$2 cover for ladies.” – the promise of drunk women in a way that promotes rape culture. Possible disruptive actions? Satirise the ways in which drunk women are used as objects in advertising to call this practice out for what it is. Create media campaigns that show how pervasive–and harmful–this practice is, and model new ways of getting customers and making money that don’t involve rape culture.

Practice #2 – Victim blaming (Among Peers)

Bullying or shaming survivors of violence, often by suggesting that they were responsible for their own victimisation as opposed to placing blame on the person who chose to commit an act of violence. This can increase the incidence and harmful effect of violence. Potential disruptive actions? A “No Blame” campaign – Collect and share examples of victim blaming on campus and offer solutions and healthier frameworks. Respond to victim blaming by flooding social media or apps like YikYak with positive messages calling out this practice. You and your friends dress up as referees – striped shirts and whistles – and throw a flag when you hear or see victim blaming behavior.

Practice #3 – Victim blaming (Institutional/Systemic)

Rules and policies enforced (or not enforced) by administrators and staff place blame on the actions of the victims, and not on the person that chose to commit violence against them. It is asking survivors what they were wearing, how much they drank, or what they could have done differently to avoid violence. Potential disruptive actions? Run a spotlight campaign focused on highlighting what should be included in school policy, and explaining the harms caused by institutional victim blaming. Speak out to local and national media when cases of institutional victim-blaming occur to bring external pressure to bear on the situation.

Practice #4 – “Rating” Women Based on Their Looks and Sexual Availability to Men

This practice can be a formal system among a specific group on campus, or an informal “in-joke” most often amongst men. It sounds like “she’s a ten” or language like “grenade” used to refer to women. Whatever the language, this practice says that a woman’s value is based on her looks and sexuality, creating a culture where men are pressured to have sex with certain women, and women are expected and pressured into sex or are assaulted and raped. Potential disruptive actions? Whistleblowing – reveal the depths of this practice if it has become a tradition. Make it clear that it happens on your campus and will not happen anymore – take inspiration from the Harvard Women’s Soccer team.

Practice #5 – Sexual Scoring

Like so many harmful norms, this one has a long history in language like “notches on your belt or bedpost”. This practice arises out of the idea that masculinity = having lots of heterosexual sex, and coercive and non-consensual behavior often become accepted parts of the game. Potential disruptive actions? Get competitive instead about calling out actions that pressure people to have sex. Keep score on that and share strategies and tips to step up your game.

Practice #6 – Taking/recording Photos/Video Without Consent

Whether through hacking, hidden cameras, or in other ways, taking intimate or degrading photos, videos, Snapchats and more without the person’s knowledge, permission, or consent causes harm whether it is shared or not. Potential disruptive actions? Use stories of people affected by this practice to create understanding of the harms and impacts it causes. Transform conversations around sexual consent to include discussions of intimate photos and videos.

Practice #7 – Non-Consensual Photo/Video Sharing

Often existing alongside the previous practice, the act of sharing or threatening to share intimate photos and videos without their consent (even if they were taken with consent!) as an unacceptable violation that often causes harm, shame, and stigma. Potential disruptive actions? Use storytelling to encourage a sex-positive, non-shaming approach to conversations around intimate photos. Run reactive campaigns when incidents occur that show solidarity with victims.

Practice #8 – “Rush boobs” (And Other Trophies)

An often formalised component of sexual scoring is the collection of “trophies”, sexually objectifying women and creating a culture that pressures men to “get” sex however they can. Trophies and a high score are prioritised over consent and respect. According to Total Frat Move: “Since the dawn of the internet, fraternity members have been convincing girls to write “Rush (Insert Fraternity Here)” across their chests for promotional purposes.” Potential Disruptive actions? Call out and replace this practice by writing “RUSH __” on random objects to showcase the absurdity of the tradition. Flood social media with this on the relevant hashtags.

Practice #9 – The “Friendzone”

Ah – the “friendzone”. The idea that “nice guys” are entitled to the romantic or sexual interest of a woman, and that men are “victims” of women only wanting to be friends with them (the horror!). This is one of the more insidious and seemingly benign components of rape culture and really needs to go. Potential disruptive actions? Create a multimedia campaign using examples of the “friendzone” from pop culture– TV shows, lyrics, films, or blogs. Talk about the inherent sexism and use this idea to elevate discussions around consent and autonomy. Designate a space on campus to be an actual “friend zone” – where people of all genders can just be friends without the pressure of sex, or a space where friends can be honest with each other about their expectations of their relationship. Or maybe a space to keep anyone who complains about being in…….the friendzone.

Practice #10 – Shaming Women’s Sexuality (“Slut-shaming”)

This age-old practice of using loaded language to shame women for their sexuality or their appearance is a prime example of the double-standard for women when it comes to sex (see “sexual scoring” above). Potential disruptive actions? Take the shame out of sexuality through sex-positive storytelling. Offer new ways to talk about the moments that are often linked to slut-shaming (AKA “the walk of shame” becomes the “stride of pride”).

Practice #11 – Rape Culture Banners (“Drop Your Daughters Off Here, Dads”)

Every fall, massive banners displayed across Fraternity houses meant to intimidate new students – particularly first year women – are unfurled (trust us, you can google it). These banners often contain threatening and offensive messages that trivialize sexual assault. Potential disruptive actions? Take inspiration from Will & Bill who started Banner Up! At Indiana University in response to rape culture banners at their school. Get dads involved since these banners often implicate them as well.

Practice #12 – Control of Access to Alcohol

On many campuses, men (and most often, fraternities) have control over other students’ access to alcohol. Students, and especially underage students, have limited access to alcohol, which creates greater opportunity to isolate, coerce, force alcohol on, and sexually assault others. Potential disruptive actions? Flip the script – put women or other groups in charge of access to alcohol for a change. Work with chapters at other schools to challenge problematic policies and rules at a national level.

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Practice #13 – Homophobia and Transphobia

Dehumanising LGBT folk through discrimination, violence, and the use of homophobic and transphobic language is a problem in and of itself. It also is used to regulate and police other people’s behaviors and reinforces inequity and violence. Potential disruptive actions? Build empathy culture: create systems of peer accountability for homophobic and transphobic behavior. If you are not LGBT yourself, center the experiences of LGBT students in your work on your own campus and build strong alliances.

Practice #14 – “The Perfect Victim

The practice of discrediting victims based on their sexual history, appearance, gender, race, or any other facet of their identity is common and is a part of victim blaming. Promoting the idea of a “perfect victim” makes it easier to disbelieve, blame, and silence all survivors of sexual violence and/or relationship abuse. Potential disruptive actions? Offer new, real narratives from survivors in your own community. Run campaigns that seek to broaden campus-wide understanding of who can be a victim.

Practice #15 – Colluding with Those Who Commit Violence

Protecting students and others who perpetrate violence because of their perceived value to the school is all too common on campus and in communities everywhere, and it normalises and increases the amount of violence committed. Potential disruptive actions? Create accountability culture: work with students to understand that it is not in the best interest of the community to protect those who commit violence, use student and local media to draw attention to cover ups, work with alumni, parents, and others to hold the administration accountable for transparency.

Practice #16 – “Standards”

Peer-led committees or boards enforce a code of conduct within student organisations, in a system that is meant to protect the reputation of an organisation. Potential disruptive actions? Change your standards: it’s a peer enforced system. Challenge shaming within your community. Check yourselves.

If you’re inspired to take action to disrupt any of these practices–or want to take a closer look at the norms that drive a culture of gender-based violence in your community–take advantage of Breakthrough’s Action Hotline today!

16 Anti-VAW Organisations, Campaigns, and Activists using Pop Culture to fight Violence Against Women

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From books, comic books, movies, pop music, and tv shows to graffiti, online memes, tattoos, cosplaying, and street fashion – pop culture is what and who most of us read, watch, listen, and wear. Traditionally, it has been dismissed by the establishment as ubiquitous lightweight entertainment for the person on the street. Nevertheless, from fears that Rock music would promote promiscuous behaviour amongst teens in the 1950s to allegations that video games contribute to violent behaviour in children to Harry Potter fans rallying to fundraise for good causes, pop culture also has a history of being regarded as extraordinarily effective at transmitting powerful ideas and messages to the masses.

The power of pop culture has been magnified manifold since the advent and evolution of radio, film, and the internet over the course of the 20th century. In today’s lightning-fast internet-connected world, its influence is more potent than ever as streaming services like Netflix and Spotify have gone global, social media channels like Tumblr create an proliferation of interactive worldwide fandoms, and celebrities now hold court on Facebook with live videos that go viral. From using pop culture mediums such as comics and YouTube videos to raise awareness about VAW to collaborating with celebrities to amplify messages, today’s anti-VAW organisations and campaigns are dialling into pop culture to reach out to communities with added impact.

Here at The Pixel Project, we realise what a huge role pop culture can play in influencing communities, educating young people, mobilising support, and raising the resources needed to address, prevent, and even stop violence against women (VAW). In recognition of the profound influence that pop culture has on the hearts and minds of individuals and communities worldwide, we present 16 anti-VAW organisations, campaigns, celebrities, and activists using pop culture to fight VAW in a variety of ways.

Written and compiled by Samantha Joseph with additional content by Regina Yau. Introduction by Regina Yau and Samantha Joseph.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #1: Aaron Haroon Rashid and “Burka Avenger” – Pakistan

Aaron Haroon Rashid created Burka Avenger, an animated Pakistani TV series, to emphasise the importance of educating girls. It features a protagonist who is a teacher in an all-girls’ school by day, and wears a burka when fighting misogynistic villains and carries strong themes of women’s empowerment.

Empowering With Pop Culture #2: Anita Sarkeesian and “Tropes vs Women” – Online

Feminist social critic Anita Sarkeesian documents the often sexist and misogynistic view of women in popular culture through her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series which also addresses violence against women and objectification of women in video games. Ironically, launching the series resulted in a deluge of sexist harassment for Anita. [TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains graphic depictions of violence against women.]

Empowering With Pop Culture #3: Breakthrough and the “Ring the Bell/Bell Bajao” campaign – India

Breakthrough and its founder, Malika Dutt, have used pop culture in a slew of campaigns to promote gender rights and bring awareness to violence against women. Bell Bajao, or Ring the Bell, is their most famous campaign is renowned for using a series of striking public service announcements on YouTube calling on bystanders to take action. The campaign later evolved to involve the likes of Patrick Stewart and Michael Bolton calling on men to take action to stop violence and discrimination against women.

Empowering With Pop Culture #4: Celeste Barber and #celestechallengeaccepted – Australia

Using popular social media platform Instagram, Australian comedian Celeste Barber fights the notion of self-objectification that women and girls are supposed to be constantly aware of their bodies and how they are rewarded for sexualisation through ‘likes’ by putting up her own pictures side-by-side those of celebrities like Niki Minaj and Kim Kardashian.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #5: Flavia Carvalho and the “A Pele da Flor” (The Skin of the Flower) Project – Brazil

When talented tattoo artist Flavia Carvalho had a client who wanted to cover up a scar on her abdomen that was inflicted through a violent attack because she refused the advances of a man in a nightclub, Carvalho started her A Pele de Flor project to help other women who have sustained scars from VAW. In addition to helping survivors boost their self-confidence via beautiful tattoos, she shares the before and after pictures of the scars with the stories of how the women received them to raise awareness about VAW.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #6: Gender-flipped Book Cover Posing – United States of America

Fantasy author Jim C Hines noticed a trend of ridiculously posed women on the cover of popular urban fantasy novels, and decided to draw attention to sexist cover art by parodying them in a series of photographs. Since then, he’s raised money for several charities through these efforts, and roped in several other authors, including John Scalzi, Charles Stross, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #7: Mariska Hargitay and the “NO MORE” Campaign – United States of America

Mariska Hargitay’s Joyful Heart Foundation launched the NO MORE campaign in hopes of normalising conversation surrounding domestic violence and sexual assault, allowing victims to feel more empowered about coming forward with their stories. NO MORE is backed by familiar faces from television and music, including Courteney Cox, Samantha Ronson, and Mary J Blige.

Empowering With Pop Culture #8:   Meghan Rienks and the “That’s Not Cool” campaign – Online

Youtube star Meghan Rienks, Futures Without Violence and the Ad Council team up for the That’s Not Cool campaign, to help teens identify abusive behaviour in relationships. Accessible through platforms like Youtube and Kik, the campaign is aimed at promoting healthy relationships among teenagers.

Empowering With Pop Culture #9: Megan Rosalarian and Gender-flipping Objectifying Comic Book Art – United States of America

Megan Rosalarian, pseudonym of writer and artist Megan Rose Gedris, tackles the hypersexualised representation of female superheroes in comic books, for example Black Canary and Star Sapphire, by re-drawing them as male superheroes in revealing outfits and titillating poses.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #10: Ram Devineni and “Priya’s Shakti” – India

Ram Devineni is one of the creators of Priya’s Shakti, a comic book whose protagonist is a young rape survivor fighting gender crimes in India with the help of the goddess Parvati. Inspired by the horrific gender-based violence making the news in India, Priya’s Shakti exposes issues of gender-based violence that are often left untackled because of patriarchal attitudes.

Empowering With Pop Culture #11: Saint Hoax and the “Happy Never After” Campaign – Online

Middle Eastern artist Saint Hoax uses Disney Princess characters to illustrate domestic violence in the series of Happy Never After posters. The princesses, visibly bruised, are featured with the tagline ‘When Did He Stop Treating You Like A Princess?’, a move that Saint Hoax says underlines the fact that domestic violence can happen to anyone. [TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains graphic depictions of violence against women.]

Empowering With Pop Culture #12: The “Don’t Cover it Up” Campaign – United Kingdom

YouTube beauty expert Lauren Luke and anti-violence against women charity Refuge produce a video as part of the ‘Don’t Cover It Up’ campaign. In the video, Luke appears to be beaten and bruised, an intentionally shocking presentation to make people face the realities of abuse victims and hopefully urge them to seek help rather than ‘cover up’.

Empowering With Pop Culture #13: The “It’s On Us” Campaign – United States of America

A US national campaign, It’s On Us aims to help keep men and women safe from sexual assault, especially on campus. The campaign works with celebrities such as Zoe Saldana, John Cho, Minka Kelly and Josh Hutcherson to create videos that advocate for consent, safety and intervention in non-consensual situations.

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Empowering With Pop Culture #14: The Pixel Project and the “Read For Pixels” campaign – Online

The Pixel Project is an anti-VAW non-profit which specialises in online campaigns that combine social media, new technologies, and pop culture/the arts to raise awareness, funds, and volunteer power for the movement to end VAW. Over the years, their campaigns and programmes have reached out to diverse pop culture communities and influencers including music fans, foodies, and geekdoms. Their most popular campaign is their Read For Pixels campaign featuring award-winning bestselling authors talking about VAW to their fans via live Google Hangouts and raising funds online for the cause.

Empowering With Pop Culture #15: The #WhatIReallyReallyWant Campaign – Worldwide

Project Everyone, founded by director Richard Curtis and Global Goals, took the 1996 girl power anthem ‘Wannabe’ (with the blessing of The Spice Girls), and updated it for their #WhatIReallyReallyWant campaign featuring women and girls from around the world telling the United Nations and the world what they really want: to stop violence against girls, ending child marriage and equal pay for equal work.

Empowering With Pop Culture #16: YWCA Canada and the #NOTokay Campaign – Canada

YWCA Canada’s #NOTokay campaign uses TV series, video games and music videos and representations of assault in them to illustrate that it isn’t okay. Each 15 second video highlights the casual way violence against women is used in shows like Family Guy, and how we shouldn’t be okay with it. [TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains graphic depictions of violence against women.]

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The Pixel Project VAW e-News Digest — ’16 for 16′ 2016 Edition

news-coffee9-150x150Welcome to our annual “16 for 16” Special Edition of The Pixel Project’s VAW e-News Digest. In this edition, we bring you the top 16 news headlines in each category related to violence against women over 2016.

2016 is remembered by many for its significant cultural and world events, and this is no exception for the news and developments about violence against women. While there have been distressing news such as violent acts going viral and politicians identified with rape culture, there has also been growing awareness, bolder acts of resistance and progress in legislation.

Here are the 16 biggest trending VAW headlines of 2016:

Every contribution matters. If you have any news you’d like to share about violence against women, please email The Pixel Project at info@thepixelproject.net. If you prefer to receive up-to-the-minute news concerning violence against women, follow us on Twitter .

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

With all good wishes,
The Pixel Project Team


General Violence Against Women


 Domestic Violence


Rape and Sexual Assault


 Human/Sex Trafficking


 Female Genital Mutilation


 Forced Marriage and Honour Killing


Activism

16 Ideas for Supporting your Local and National Rape Crisis Centres

 

When faced with a crisis, many victims feel they have nowhere to turn. Rape Crisis Centres offer a refuge and a beacon of hope to survivors, ensuring that they receive the best quality medical, mental and emotional care. Rape Crisis Centres are community-based organisations that work to help victims of rape, sexual abuse and sexual violence. These centres may serve a state, city, a college or any other community.

Rape Crisis Centres are integral to a person when in need. They offer emergency support, individual counselling, medical attention, legal advocacy, community and professional education, emergency shelter and more. Some Centres extend their programming and partnerships to offer childcare, pet care and other assistance.

Many Rape Crisis Centres are certified non-profit organisations, meaning they are supported in large parts by the generosity of their community. This support can be financial or voluntary. As part of The Pixel Project’s “16 for 16” campaign, we present 16 ideas for supporting your local and national rape crisis centres. These recommendations range from digital to in-person and from voluntary to monetary. They are simply a starting point for the many unique ways you can support rape crisis centres around the world, ensuring they can continue their missions of serving those in need.

Written, researched, and compiled by Rebecca DeLuca

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Idea recommendation #1: Support the centre’s social media efforts

Rape crisis centres and other nonprofit organisations across the world are turning to social media to reach supporters and those in need. They offer educational tools along with resources such as crisis hotline phone numbers and live chats. By supporting your local rape crisis centre on social media – through liking their page, following them on Twitter and engaging with their posts – you help to share that life-saving information to a lot more people, and help them reach those in need of their services.

Idea recommendation #2: Volunteer

Working with a limited budget, most rape crisis centres only have the operating budget to support a small number of staff. Thus, volunteering with your local rape crisis centre ensures they are able to serve more people in need. Volunteer positions vary from administrative tasks, outreach programming, and managing phones. Furthermore, many rape crisis centres will provide its volunteers with detailed training.

Idea recommendation #3: Offer pro bono resources

Your technological skills may be valuable to your local rape crisis centre, more so than simply volunteering. These skills include design, legal, accounting, computer science and more. Many rape crisis centres are in need of these skills, and offering your services for free allows the centre to spend their small budget in other areas.

Idea recommendation #4: Invite them to speak at your events

When planning an event for your school, business or community, consider the ways you can include your local rape crisis centre. When appropriate, your local rape crisis centre can set up a table to recruit volunteers, handout business cards and other information, or provide a short introduction before or after the event.

Idea recommendation #5: Become an advocate

An important way to support a rape crisis centre is ensuring that those in need are aware of their services. Becoming aware of the programmes your local centre provides, understanding the process, knowing the hours and having emergency phone numbers handy will ensure people can connect with the services they need. Asking your rape crisis centre for business cards with important information, or making your own, is an easy way to ensure you have the most accurate information with you at all times.

Idea recommendation #6: Support fundraising campaigns

In the majority of cases, rape crisis centres are certified nonprofit organisations, meaning much of their operating budget comes from the financial support of their donors. Rape crisis centres may fundraise year round, or for specific campaigns supporting special programmes. Financially supporting your rape crisis centre ensures they can acquire resources necessary to provide services to those in need. If you are unable to support the fundraiser financially, you may consider becoming a leadership volunteer for the campaign, where you will help plan events and connect with potential donors.

Idea recommendation #7: Purchase and wear swag

Promoting a rape crisis centre will connect it with those in need and potential volunteers and donors. An easy way to do this is by using the products you receive in giveaways, or purchase from the crisis centre. T-shirts, water bottles, pens, and other swag items will promote the centre’s name and programmes, encouraging other likeminded individuals to donate or volunteer.

Idea recommendation #8: Attend Events

To fundraise for their programmes, many rape crisis centres host local events within the community. These events may vary from evening galas where tables are sold, to concerts, BBQs, and smaller events. Purchasing tickets to these events and participating in fundraising activities such as silent auctions will help the rape crisis centre continue their programmeming.

Idea recommendation #9: Support them in a walk or marathon

If you enjoy running, walking or biking, consider supporting a rape crisis centre in your upcoming marathon. Marathons and walkathons are perfect opportunities to reach out to your community of peers for small donations. Crowdfunding for a rape crisis centre will not only help alleviate stress on the centre’s financial budget, but it will introduce the centre to potential donors and volunteers.

Idea recommendation #10: Tell your story

If you have been helped by a rape crisis centre, consider telling your story anonymously or publicly. You can share it on your blog, or the centre’s blog if they have one, on social media, at an event, or allow the centre to share your story on your behalf. By sharing your story you will encourage others in need to seek out refuge, and you will help potential donors and volunteers understand the benefits of the centre, encouraging them to support the cause.

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Idea recommendation #11: Graphics and Banners

During Sexual Violence Awareness Month in April, Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October or at any other time throughout the year, consider “donating” your social media profiles to the rape crisis centre of your choice. Donating your profiles are easy – you simply need to change your profile and cover photos to a specifically designed image which would include the name of the centre and emergency phone numbers. By donating your profile, you not only stand in solidarity with victims and survivors, but you provide life-saving information to your online network, some of which you may not know are in need.

Idea recommendation #12: Clothing and other in-kind gifts

Rape victims often have to turn over their clothes for evidence after a rape or assault has occurred, forcing them to wear hospital robes. Many rape crisis centres accept clothing and other in-kind gifts to give to survivors in their time in need. This simple action plays a small part in reducing the stress of the situation, and helps to give dignity back t the survivor.

Idea recommendation #13: Become a language advocate

Rape crisis centres serve clients who speak various languages. When in crisis, speaking to someone in your native language relieves some of the stress. If you are fluent in more than one language, working with your local rape crisis centre allows the organisation to reach more people and has the potential of making a troubling time easier.

Idea recommendation #14: Use your business

If you are a business owner, manager, or sell your own products, consider setting up a period of giving to support a rape crisis centre. During this period, a percent of your sales will be donated to the centre you have selected. You may also consider sponsoring an event. Both options not only benefit the rape crisis centre, but will be a source of promotion for your company.

Idea recommendation #15: Amazon Smile

Amazon Smile offers a unique way to support a rape crisis centre of your choosing. Setting up Amazon Smile is as simple as selecting the charity of your choice. At no additional cost to you, when shopping on Amazon via Amazon Smile, 0.5% of the purchase price will support the charity of your choosing.

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Idea recommendation #16: Donate your cellphone

Many rape crisis centres collect old cellphones that are still in usable conditions. Traditionally, the crisis centre will receive funds from the cellphones you donate, and that money will have a direct impact on the centre’s programmes and services. In some cases, your cellphone may even be provided to somebody in need. Donating your cellphone or organizing a cell phone drive in your community not only benefits the environment but the rape crisis centre as well.

The Pixel Project Selection 2016: 16 films about Violence Against Women

Film-Reel-225x300 (1)This is the fifth year that The Pixel Project has published a list of powerful and thought-provoking films, documentaries and television shows that depict violence against women and girls. Some of these films were made for the sole purpose of information and education while others have entertainment as their primary goal while addressing important themes such as violence, rape culture, the conflict between tradition and societal evolution, and gender equity.

While pop culture has been slowly moving away from sexist and overly sexualised portrayals of women following a trend of more awareness of feminism, there are still those who are pushing back against the change, showing that there is still a long way to go before proper gender equality is achieved.

In this case, film can be an effective medium for disseminating the message that equality is beneficial to all, whether it be the individual, society or economy. The 16 films in this list tell harrowing stories of violence but are also portraits of survivors, supporters and fighters. We hope that they inspire you to join us in our quest to end violence against women and to be a catalyst for change in your own community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam

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Selection number 1: A Crime Unpunished: Bangladeshi Gang Rape

In this short documentary, VICE News explores how a deeply ingrained patriarchal culture, traditional practices and religious beliefs come together to create a tacit acceptance by individuals, communities, local leaders and the police of violence against women and girls. In the film, VICE News correspondent Tania Rashid interviews survivors, the police, activists, and even rapists to bring understanding to the phenomenon of pervasive physical and sexual violence against women and girls in Bangladesh. 

Selection number 2: A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness

This film directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy documents the story of 18-year-old Pakistani Saba who refused to marry the man picked out for her by her parents. She married for love instead and survived a subsequent attempted honour killing by her father and uncle. Unusual in that it depicts the issue of honour killing from the perspective of a survivor, this documentary is a scathing and eye-opening examination of the traditions that influence the law when it comes to issues of gender-based violence, as well as a look at how societal pressure influences women to ‘forgive’ their assailants.

Selection number 3: Be Relentless

This bilingual (English and Spanish) documentary follows single mother of two and ultramarathoner Norma Bastidas as she sets the record for the longest triathlon ever, swimming, running and biking 6,054km from Cancun, Mexico to Washington DC, USA.  In this triathlon, Bastidas followed a known route of human traffickers to raise awareness about human trafficking, aid child protection projects and raise funds for scholarships for survivors in the USA and Mexico. Be Relentless is also the story of a survivor – as a 19-year-old, Bastidas was deceived into travelling to Japan for a modelling job that did not exist and ended up being sold at an auction. Years after escaping and now with a family of her own, Bastidas decided to use her athleticism for a cause close to her heart.

Be Relentless Trailer from iEmpathize on Vimeo.

Selection number 4: Gulabi Gang

This film follows Sampat Pal Devi, an extraordinary woman who leads the group of Indian women activists called the Gulabi Gang in her native state of Uttar Pradesh in India. The women wear pink saris (gulabi means pink in Hindi); the group was formed as a response to widespread domestic and other forms of violence against women. Sampat herself was married as a young girl and abused by her in-laws. After escaping her situation, she became an advocate for and supporter of women in the same situation, especially lower caste women who do not have a voice in society. Gulabi Gang highlights Sampat’s passion and strength as a leader, showing her unique way of resolving disputes and how she and her team work to empower women to fight against gender violence, caste oppression and corruption. The film sheds light on the plight of rural women who have little or no social power in a society where violence against women is pervasive.

Selection number 5: He Named Me Malala (2015)

This film about Malala Yousafzai, now 19, the young Pakistani peace activist and 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, reveals the events leading up to her being shot by the Taliban. It depicts her recovery and continuing journey to speak out and work against opposition to the education of girls, especially opposition through violence. While it highlights the reasons behind Malala’s unwavering fight for gender equality, the film is also a portrait of a teenager who is both inspired and inspiring. The film shows her father playing an important role as supporter and a strong male advocate for her cause – he named her after a folk hero – but it also makes clear that Malala’s choices are her own.

Selection number 6: I am Nojoom, Age 10 and Divorced (2014)

This Yemeni drama (Ana Noojoom Bent Alasherah Wamotalagah) tells the story of 10-year-old Nojoom whose father marries her to a 30-year-old man and who asks a judge in Sana’a to grant her a divorce. Based on the autobiography of Nujood Ali, now 18, who was forced into marriage with a much older man when she was nine years old and directed by Yemen’s first female producer Khadija al-Salami (herself a survivor of forced child marriage), this film depicts the struggles of the young protagonist to obtain a divorce in the absence of laws against child marriage. I am Nojoom has received positive reviews from international press and is one of the entries for Best Foreign Language Film at the 89th Academy Awards.

Selection number 7: Jessica Jones

One of several current television series that is based on comics, Jessica Jones stands out for having a female superhero (the eponymous Jones) and for effectively portraying trauma and its psychological effects. The series addresses issues of rape, abuse, coercion, consent and post traumatic stress disorder with realism, with the stories’ noir quality letting the viewer get a visceral feel of the damage that assault can do. The writers have consciously avoided fetishising rape, and the viewer does not see it on screen. While the series does see Jones trying to use her abilities to help others, it also sees her struggle to deal with the aftermath of a sexually and emotionally abusive relationship, a journey that any victim of abuse can identify with.

Selection number 8: Mad Max: Fury Road

This blockbuster has a lot of things going for it, not least the heart pounding action that is phenomenally choreographed and executed. The focal point of this film is its female protagonist who never wavers from her cause and is strong enough to both take care of business by herself and ask for help. With its rallying cry of “We are not things!”, the film sends a clear message that women are not and should not be treated as property. The basic plot of the film revolves around five women escaping sexual slavery aided by another woman, Furiosa. This film has generated a slew of articles and Internet discussions on feminism, rape culture in film – it is interesting to note that though rape is a strong underlying theme in this film, it is never shown – and gender equity in pop culture.

Selection number 9: The Uncondemned

“In every single conflict, if you start asking questions, you will find that sexual violence is used. Why? Because it is an extremely effective tool of conflict.” Though rape was classified as a war crime in 1919, it was only in 1997 when it was first prosecuted by two tribunals attempting to offer justice for war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This documentary recounts the trial of a former Rwandan politician for his knowledge of the rapes and involvement in other war crimes through the stories of the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and the group of young lawyers and activists who fought to have the systematic and targeted rape perpetrated during the war prosecuted as a war crime by the tribunals.

Selection number 10: Murdered by My Boyfriend

This BBC3 film centres on a little-covered topic – teenage intimate violence. Closely based on real events, it follows bright 17-year-old student Ashley who meets and falls in love with charming and seductive Reece, a young man a little older than her. Ashley’s idealistic dreams of love, marriage, motherhood and her career are slowly torn down by Reece’s increasingly controlling and abusive behaviour, paranoia and violence. The title tells the viewer how it ends, but the BAFTA-winning film still conveys a sense of building tension and tragedy as it portrays the gradations of abuse, such as teasing becoming bullying and love becoming control and how difficult it is for outsiders to understand what goes on in such a relationship.

Selection number 11: Murdered by My Father

The online-only follow-up to 2014 film Murdered by my Boyfriend, this BBC3 docudrama follows the story of 16-year-old British girl Salma who is torn between her father’s conservative values – he wants her to marry the man chosen for her so that he can ‘die happy’ – and her Western life, which includes a secret relationship.  Based on true events, the film examines forced marriage and honour killings among Asian communities in Britain – issues that many are unaware exist in this developed nation. Its portrayal of traditional values in conflict with ‘modern’ living will hit a cord with many viewers.

Selection number 12: North Country

Inspired by real-life events that led to a class action sexual harassment law suit in the United States, this film chronicles the life of Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) as she returns to her hometown after escaping an abusive husband and starts work at the local mine in the late 1980s. The female employees at the mine endure a constant stream of sexual harassment, intimidation, abusive language and other forms of assault from the male employees while their employer turns a blind eye. Aimes files a lawsuit against the company and eventually persuades her co-workers to join in a class-action suit. This film accurately portrays the ingrained gender bias and misogyny that dogged (and still dogs) the industrial employment sector, and how aversion to change and a pack mentality can lead to violence against the minority party. It also shows how standing up to what is right – in this case, a gender-equal and safe workplace – is fraught with difficulty.

Selection number 13: Palwasha – Rays of the Rising Sun

The first commercial television serial in Afghanistan, Palwasha – Rays of the Rising Sun is a soap opera style series that follows the life of a young woman called Palwasha, a rare female judge in her traditional and religious Afghan community. Created by Indian filmmakers, this Afghan serial uses the dramatic style of Indian soap operas that is incredibly popular in Afghanistan to bring social propaganda into Afghan homes, showing women in powerful leadership positions, addressing issues of domestic violence, and attempting to educate the public that they should trust the official legal system and not resort to serving justice themselves.

Selection number 14: Private Violence

This feature-length documentary seeks to bring awareness to the plague of domestic violence that women in the USA face every day. Told through the eyes of two survivors, one of whom is now an advocate for abused women, this film is takes a look at the intimate partner violence as an entrenched problem in a society that does not truly understand it and is meant to serve as a call for better and more urgent responses to it. The film basically uses the experiences of the two survivors as case studies to explore flaws in police and judicial responses, the obstacles women face when wanting to leave an abuser and misconceptions of domestic abuse.

Selection number 15: Room

This Oscar-nominated film tells the story of a young woman held captive in a small room for seven years and her five-year-old son, how they cope with their captivity, finally gain freedom and learn to live in the outside world. Though the woman, known only as Ma throughout most of the film, was abducted as a teenager and is systematically raped, the film does not show any of this. Told mostly from the perspective of the boy Jack, the film instead focuses on how he and his mother slowly learn to live in the outside world again and deal with their trauma, how other people react to them, and the complex feelings of happiness and grief that they and their family go through.

Selection number 16: What’s the Point?

Part of the At Stake documentary series by Project Change!, What’s the Point takes a close look at the practice of female circumcision in Indonesia. Although different from the practices in African countries – it does not remove the whole clitoris and labia – it is still an invasive and painful procedure that poses serious risks to the girls’ health. It is a widely accepted practice in Indonesia and believed to ‘clean’ the girl and keep evil spirits away from her. The film showcases the beliefs behind the often chaotic rituals of circumcision and the beliefs that inform and propagate this practice.

Watch the full documentary here.

Transforming Personal Pain Into Positive Action: The Pixel Project’s 16 Female Role Models 2016

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Today is the first day of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence 2016 campaign and The Pixel Project is kicking things off with our 6th annual list of 16 female role models fighting to end violence against women in their communities. The intent of this list is simple: to highlight the good work of the heroines of the movement to end violence against women wherever they are in the world. The women and girls in this year’s list hail from 16 countries and 6 continents.

Many of these outstanding women and girls have shown that it is possible to transform personal pain that came out of facing gender-based violence into positive action to stop violence against women, empower themselves and to show other survivors that it is possible to move forward with dignity and happiness. They have refused to let bitterness and pain get the better of them, opting instead to stand up for themselves and for other women and girls.

Others on this list may not have experienced gender-based violence first hand, but they have stepped up to do what is right: to speak up for women and girls who cannot do it for themselves, sometimes at great personal risk. All this requires immense courage, generosity of spirit and a strong enduring heart.

Here in alphabetical order by first name is our 2016 list of 16 female role models. We hope that these women are an inspiration to others to get involved in the cause. To that end, we hope you will generously share this list via Facebook and Twitter to give these extraordinary 16 women and their work a moment in the sun.

It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.

Note: Information for all role model profiles is sourced via online research and is based on one or more news sources, articles and/or The Pixel Project’s own interviews with them. The main articles/reports from which these profiles have been sourced can be directly accessed via the hyperlinked titles. Please do click through to learn more about these remarkable women.

Written and compiled by Regina Yau

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Female Role Model 1: Balkissa Chaibou – Niger

balkissa-chaibou_croppedBalkissa Chaibou wanted to become a doctor, but when she was 12 she found out that she had been promised as a bride to her cousin. She fought to get out of the pending marriage by taking her family to court and seeking refuge at a women’s shelter until the bridegroom’s party left. Balkissa is now 19 and she campaigns for other girls to say “no” to forced marriage. She visits schools, speaks to tribal chiefs about the issue, and has also spoken at a UN summit on reducing maternal mortality, which is a health issue linked to early marriage.

Female Role Model 2: Bogaletch Gebre – Ethiopia

bogaletch-gebre_croppedBogaletch Gebre is a victim of female genital mutilation (FGM) who was born in Kembatta, a region in Ethiopia where FGM was endemic and women were largely uneducated. She learned to read by visiting the church school under the pretext of collecting water and eventually received a scholarship to study in the U.S and Israel. She returned to Ethiopia to help better the lives of women and girls and has spent 16 years campaigning for women’s rights in Ethiopia. Through her relentless activism, Gebre has successfully reduced the rate of FGM in some parts of the country from 97% to just 3%.

Female Role Model 3: Clementine Ford – Australia

clementine-ford_croppedMelbourne-based Clementine Ford is an Australian feminist and author who has has written and spoken up fiercely and consistently about male violence against women, first in Adelaide’s Sunday Mail and opinion pieces in the Drum, then in the Fairfax website Daily Life. Her book Fight Like A Girl is part memoir and part polemic – detailing her development as a feminist and addressing the issue of violence against women head on. Ford is seen as a feminist who led “feminism back into the boxing ring” as she fights back against silencing and harassment online by naming and shaming men who verbally attack or threaten her, often replying to them publicly.

Female Role Model 4: Fatou Bensouda – Gambia

fatou-bensouda_croppedAs a high school student, Fatou Bensouda would sneak into nearby courts to watch the proceedings and she noticed that women in particular were not “receiving the protective embrace of the law. For me that is one of the things that informed my decision to say, ‘This is what I want to do.’” Today, Bensouda is the chief prosecutor of the international criminal court (ICC) in the Hague where she works to mete out justice to war criminals and genocidal despots. Her own position as a woman from West Africa has also informed the character of Bensouda’s ICC – she has made it an explicit goal of the court to challenge the rape and exploitation of women and children in war.

Female Role Model 5:  Frida Farrell – Sweden

frida-farrell_croppedWhen she was in her early twenties, Swedish actress Frida Farrell was tricked into attending a fake photoshoot, kidnapped, drugged and sexually trafficked to men in an apartment on London’s upmarket Harley Street. Over a decade after she escaped her abusers, Farrell co-wrote the film Selling Isobel which was based on her harrowing experiences in the hope that her story will stop other women getting into the same situation. She said: “I wanted people watching to know that it could happen to any girl,” Frida explains. “You don’t have to be foreign, poor or not speak the language. People think these kinds of things just happen to poor immigrants, but it could happen to English girls too.”

Female Role Model 6: Jacqueline de Chollet – Switzerland

jacqueline-de-chollet_croppedOver the past 30 years Jacqueline de Chollet has been active in the fields of Women’s Health, Social Justice, Education, Public Housing, and the Arts. She created the The Global Foundation for Humanity U.S. and the Association du Project Veerni to support the Veerni Project – a project that tackles the issue of child marriage in Rajasthan, India by improving the health and education girls and women in the region. de Chollet said: “We believe that by giving these girls access to education, health and the workplace, Veerni can empower them to take their rightful place in the lives of their communities and their country. Only then will they be able to exercise their human rights and live free from coercion disease and poverty.”

Female Role Model 7: Laura Dunn – United States of America

Laura Dunn is the Founder and Executive Director of SurvJustice, a national nonprofit providing legal assistance to sexual violence survivors across the U.S. She founded SurvJustice after being raped by two men from her crew team at the University of Wisconsin in April 2004. She said: “Afterwards, I struggled for years through campus, criminal and civil systems without receiving justice. Through this tragic experience, I learned about the laws and how to advocate for survivors.” In 2014, Dunn graduated the University of Maryland Carey School of Law where she received the William P. Cunningham Award for her national campus sexual assault advocacy, which includes passing the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization and advising the White House Task Force to Protect Students Against Sexual Assault.

Female Role Model 8: Loubna Abida – Morocco

Moroccan actress Loubna Abidar was vilified and assaulted for playing a local prostitute in the award-winning film Much Loved, ultimately sending her into exile as a refugee in France. However, she refuses to be silenced by fatwas, online death threats and violence. In her autobiography La Dangereuse, Abidar frankly discusses how she went from overcoming poverty, exclusion and physical and sexual attacks by her father to becoming one of North Africa’s the most acclaimed young actresses and feminist voices in recent years. In an interview with Women Of The World, Abidar said: “In the Arab world generally we have this problem of rapes committed by people known to the victims — by relatives, fathers, uncles. I don’t only talk about my own story, I have done a lot of work with activist associations, especially with little girls living in the mountains.”

Female Role Model 9: Nadia Murad Basee Tahar – Iraq

On August 3, 2014, when ISIS militants attacked Nadia Murad Basee Tahar’s village of Kocho, Iraq. Six of her nine brothers were killed. Murad (then 19 years old) and her two sisters were forced into sexual slavery while their mother was executed as she was considered too old to be a sex slave. Murad was raped, tortured, and beaten frequently until she escaped and made her way to Germany where she began devoting her life to assisting other Yazidi women and girls who have suffered as she did. Murad is now a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador. In September 2016, Murad announced Nadia’s Initiative which is dedicated to helping women and children victimised by genocide and crimes against humanity.

Female Role Model 10: Omaima Hoshan – Syria

omaima-hoshan_cropped15-year-old Omaima Hoshan, a Syrian refugee, runs workshops to discourage child marriage in Jordan’s Za’atari refugee camp. “When I see young girls getting married, it scares me,” Hoshan says in a video from the United Nations refugee agency. “Girls from my home have their future lost or destroyed. This is something I can’t accept.” Hoshan leads girls in drawing, acting and lecture sessions, spreading information about underage marriage and encouraging girls to stay in school and to speak to their parents about the issue, according to Mashable.

Female Role Model 11: Rachana Sunar – Nepal

rachana-sunar_croppedWhen Rachana Sunar was 15 and still in school through a scholarship programme, she was informed by her parents she would marry a man she had never met before. Sunar escaped child marriage by misleading her parents into thinking that if she dropped out of school they’d have to pay for the past three years of her scholarship. Today, Sunar is a very vocal campaigner against child marriage in Nepal and says that dialogue is the only way to change entrenched attitudes to girls in rural Nepal.

Female Role Model 12: Radha Rani Sakher – Bangladesh

radha-rani-sarkher_croppedWhen Radha Sani Sakher was 14, she narrowly escaped an arranged marriage with the help of an educated cousin and her mother. Sakher returned to school with the help of her teachers and an aid group. Today she studies social sciences at Dinajpur’s regional university and is part of the “wedding busters” who campaign to stop child marriage. To date, she has saved 20 girls from forced marriages. Sakher’s goal is to build a centre for girls to find refuge from underage marriages until they are legally adults because “The situation has improved a little in recent years, but underage marriage still enjoys impunity.”

Female Role Model 13: Sarian Karim Kamara – Sierra Leone

sarian-karim-kamara_croppedSarian Karim Kamara underwent the brutal ritual of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) twice when she was just 11 years old. It took Kamara four years after becoming sexually active to get to know her body and experience her first orgasm. Today, she teaches other FGM survivors how to work with their bodies to experience sexual gratification and have a healthy sex life. Kamara said that an openness to explore one’s body in the wake of devastating physical trauma and a supportive sex partner are essential for FGM survivors to achieve sexual pleasure. “Even though the clitoris has been removed, that doesn’t stop us from having full capacity of pleasure during sex.”

Female Role Model 14: Tabassum Adnan – Pakistan

tabassum-adnan_croppedPakistani activist Tabassum Adnan was married off when she was just 13-years-old. After suffering 20 years of physical and mental abuse, Adnan divorced her husband, which resulted in the loss of her children, home, and finances. To help stop gender-based violence that commonly affect Pakistani women including forced marriage, child marriage, honour killings, acid attacks and domestic violence, she started the NGO Khwendo Jirga, a first of its kind women-only jirga, where women meet weekly to discuss violence against women and swara, or giving women as compensation for crimes.

Female Role Model 15: Vidya Bal – India

vidya-bal_croppedVeteran Indian feminist activist Vidya Bal has spent her life fighting against violence against women and other forms of gender discrimination. In 1982, she founded the Nari Samata Manch (Women Equality Forum) and has gone on to create, support, and counsel women’s groups. Bal said of her organisation’s work: “We want to create awareness that it is about being a good human being—and not about being a “feminine woman” or a “manly man.” Only then, we can aspire for an equitable society. This is a small experiment. I am hoping to make a small difference. Often I meet young boys telling me that after listening to my lectures their perspective of girls changed! Maybe that’s just a temporary thing—but still a good thing.”

Female Role Model 16: Zahra Yaganah – Afghanistan

zahra-yaganah_croppedZahra Yaganah grew up as an Afghan refugee in Iran and, at 13, was married off to a violent man. Today, her book Light Of Ashes – part fiction, part memoir – which chronicles her traumatic life as a child bride is one of the fastest-selling books in Afghanistan. Using her writing to speak out, Yaganah breaks taboos by explicitly writing about taboo topics including marital rape, menstruation and the lifelong damage caused by child marriages. Yaganah hopes that her book will help Afghan women break free of the violence. “It is impossible for Afghan women to read this book and not find an issue that reflects their life story,” she said. “Women can find their path, despite all the problems they have.”

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Photo Credits:

  1. Balkissa Chaibou – From “The girl who said ‘no’ to marriage” (BBC News Online)
  2. Bogaletch Gebre – From “How Bogaletch Gebre is Bringing an End to Female Genital Mutilation in Ethiopia” (KMG via ibtimes.co.uk)
  3. Clementine Ford – From “This is why we have women-only spaces, and why I don’t want to hear your complaints” (The Sydney Morning Herald)
  4. Fatou Bensouda – From “Fatou Bensouda, the woman who hunts tyrants” (Judith Jockel/The Guardian)
  5. Frida Farrell – From “The Sex Trafficking Victim Who Turned Her Nightmare Into A Feature Film (Huckmagazine.com)
  6. Jacqueline de Chollet – Courtesy of Jacqueline de Chollet
  7. Laura Dunn – Courtesy of Laura Dunn
  8. Loubna Abida – From “Actress Loubna Abidar refuses to be silenced by fatwas, death threats or violence” (Pierre Terdjman/New York Times)
  9. Nadia Murad Basee Tahah – From “A Yezidi Woman Who Escaped ISIS Slavery Tells Her Story” (Kirsten Luce/Time)
  10. Omaima Hoshan – From “This 15-Year-Old Syrian Girl Is Campaigning Against Child Marriage in Her Refugee Camp” (Makers.com)
  11. Rachana Sunar – From  “Child marriage in Nepal: ‘A girl is a girl, not a wife’ (Rachana Sunar/The Guardian)
  12. Radha Rani Sakher – From “Bangladesh’s ‘Wedding buster’ takes on illegal child marriage” (Bas Bogaerts/Plan International)
  13. Sarian Karim Kamara – From “Decades after undergoing genital cutting, woman teaches other FGM survivors how to enjoy sex” (Women Of The World/New York Times)
  14. Tabassum Adnan – From “Pakistani activist wins Nelson Mandela award 2016” (Tabassum Adnan/The Express Tribune)
  15. Vidya Bal – From “Meet the Feminist Fighting India’s Entrenched Misogyny” (Frances Smith/Vice)
  16. Zahra Yaganah – From “The former child bride who is using her story to liberate Afghan women” (Andrew Quilty/The Guardian)

The Pixel Project Selection 2015: 16 films about violence against women

Film-Reel-225x300 (1)In this day and age, film is a particularly effective medium for teaching and learning. This is why, for the past four years, The Pixel Project has been publishing lists of powerful films, documentaries and television shows that seek to inform and educate the public about the worldwide scourge of violence against women, its various forms, and what everyone can do to stop and prevent it.

In recent years, mainstream film has been slowly moving away from traditional sexist portrayals of women and VAW, both following and informing a trend in popular culture to be more respectful and aware of women’s rights. This year’s Mad Max: Fury Road, a blockbuster action film starring Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy, is a shining example of a film that used no gender stereotypes and that ignited lots of discussion on gender roles and portrayals. This is certainly a big step in the direction of gender equality but there is still, of course, much more to be achieved.

This year’s list of films and documentaries portray women and girls from diverse backgrounds who all have one thing in common – they are victims and survivors of violence against women. Though many of them may be difficult to watch because they deal with harrowing subjects in an explicit manner, it is important to watch them because they are portrayals of the truth. We hope that they will inspire you to join us in our quest to end violence against women and to be a catalyst of change in your own community.

Written and compiled by Anushia Kandasivam. Additional selections by Catalina Rembuyan and Regina Yau.

Call To Action: Help us reach the $25,000 fundraising milestone for our Celebrity Male Role Model Pixel Reveal campaign this holiday season by giving generously to our “16 For 16” fundraiser (which also includes #GivingTuesday)! Find out more and donate to get awesome book and music goodies at http://is.gd/16DaysGT2015 

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Selection Number 1: A Daughter’s Debt

One of the first films to explore women’s issues among the Hmong people, A Daughter’s Debt follows three generations of Hmong-American women as they talk about cultural practices that include bride purchase, polygamy and marriage by capture, and how these practices affect them in their community in the United States. The film was screened at the recent Cannes Film Festival as part of the Short Film Catalogue.

Selection Number 2: A Handful of Ash

For almost a decade, reporters Nabez Ahmad and Shara Amin shed light into one of the most taboo topics in Kurdish society: female genital mutilation. They took their documentary, A Handful of Ash, which was produced in 2003, to the Kurdish Parliament, allying with a German-Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Wadi. At first, no one paid attention except for a few female politicians. But the film and the campaign was the start of a movement. Three years later, Human Rights Watch released a report on female genital mutilation in Kurdistan. In 2011, female circumcision was outlawed across Iraqi Kurdistan. In 2013, two years after the campaign’s success, The Guardian released a 17-minute condensed version of A Handful of Ash, viewable of their website.

Selection Number 3: After the Rape: The Mukhtar Mai Story

[Trigger warning: This video contains descriptions of rape] Mukhtar Mai is a Pakistani woman from a rural village who was gang-raped on the orders of a local tribal clan as a form of honour revenge in 2002. Mukhtar defied custom to speak up and report the rapes to the authorities. Mukhtar’s bravery and quest for justice ignited a series of events that has led to more awareness of women’s rights in rural Pakistan. Realising that education holds the key to changing society’s mentality, Mukhtar opened two schools for girls in her village as well as a crisis centre for abused women.  The documentary follows the progress of the school and tracks the profound impact that education and access to the crisis centre has empowered women and girls in this rural part of Pakistan.

Selection Number 4: Daughters of Mother India 

In 2012, a young woman was violently gang-raped and murdered in New Delhi. The incident sparked widespread outrage, generating discussion and criticism of India’s long history of gender violence and inequality, precipitating public protests against the state and central governments for what was seen as continued failure to provide security for women in India. Daughters of Mother India documents the response of Indian policy makers and activists to the epidemic of sexual violence in the country. The film has received strong commendations and high praise from viewers both within India and beyond.

Selection Number 5: Forced 

Calgary filmmaker Iman Bukhari wanted to bring to light the fact that forced marriages happen in a first-world nation such as Canada. Her documentary sheds light on the continuing cycle of forced marriages in families and though the film does emphasise that these marriages can happen to any gender, it follows the story of a female victim and features interviews with a mother who forced her daughter into marriage. Bukhari has stated that her intention for Forced is to open a dialogue about forced marriages with the aim of bringing the issue out into the open and helping to end the cycle.

Selection Number 6: GTFO

This documentary is about the pervasive misogyny and abuse of women in the gaming world. It documents not just gamers but also female game designers, developers, programmers and others in the gaming industry who consistently receive abuse for being the ‘wrong’ gender in what is still a boys’ club, as well as the abuse and intimidation of women who speak out against it. Documentary maker Shannon Sun-Higginson was inspired to make the film after watching a clip from a major gaming competition in which a player repeatedly sexually harassed his teammate.

Selection Number 7: Hey…Shorty

Inspired by the now iconic 1998 documentary on street harassment War Zone, this short documentary was created and produced by five interns at Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an organisation in Brooklyn, New York, committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women. The filmmakers, who ranged from 15 to 18 years old, spent eight months interviewing young women of colour in their neighbourhood about the impact of street harassment on their life. The documentary also features interviews with several men of colour, both young and old, about their intentions behind the behaviour, and examines the root causes of the phenomenon of the harassment of women in public spaces.

Selection Number 8: It Happened Here

[Trigger warning: description of rape and examples of rape threats] This documentary is about the pervasive and seemingly unstoppable phenomenon of sexual assault on the campuses of American colleges and the apathy and dismissive behaviour of the authorities involved. The film contains personal testimonials of five survivors and reveals their struggles to get justice and the blame they face from those who should be on their side. It also serves as a mouthpiece for these women and others who are speaking out against the institutionalised cover-ups of campus sexual assaults.

Selection Number 9: Out in the Night

This documentary asks the question: Do women have a right to defend themselves against street harassment? The film follows the story of four young African-American lesbian women who were walking through a New York neighbourhood one night in 2006 when they were confronted, harassed and assaulted by an older man. When the man became violent, the four friends fought back to defend themselves. When the police arrived at the scene, the women were arrested. They were subsequently charged with gang assault, assault and attempted murder. The film follows the lives of the women and explores how race, gender, gender identity and sexuality plays a part in violence perpetrated on strangers, especially women. It also discusses how these factors were sensationalised and criminalised by mainstream news media.

Selection Number 10: Provoked

This 2006 film starring Bollywood leading lady Aishwarya Rai tells the story of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, an Indian woman in an arranged marriage who moves to the UK with her husband, and who later kills him after enduring years of abuse. The film follows her trial, incarceration and subsequent appeal in court. In real life, Ahluwalia’s appeal became a landmark case in British law and is still used as precedent today; it changed the legal definition of the word ‘provocation’ in cases of domestic violence so as to reclassify her crime to manslaughter instead of murder. Ahluwalia’s case also created awareness of domestic violence amongst immigrant families in the UK.

Selection Number 11: Rape on the Night Shift

[Trigger warning: Survivor accounts in this video include vivid descriptions of sexual assault.] This documentary, a collaboration between PBS Frontline and The Center for Investigative Reporting at the University of California Berkley, tackles an issue that probably has never been explored in film before: the sexual abuse of immigrant women in the janitorial industry in the United States. The assaults are perpetrated by co-workers, managers, building supervisors or security guards. The film features firsthand accounts from survivors and explores and reveals the dangers and difficulties confronted by these women working in low-paying jobs in deserted buildings at night.

Selection Number 12: Searching for Angela Shelton

In this award-winning documentary, filmmaker Angela Shelton drives around the United States looking for and surveying other women named Angela Shelton. Shelton’s search for other Angela Sheltons started as a simple effort to locate as many women with the same name across the United States as she could. When speaking with the women, she found that about 70% of them were survivors of childhood sexual abuse or other forms of domestic violence. This, coupled with events in her own childhood, when she and her siblings were sexually molested by her father and stepmother, inspired her to make the documentary wherein she interviews the other Angela Sheltons, culminating in her confrontation with her father. Following the documentary, Shelton created a Survival Manual to help survivors of violence heal: www.survivormanual.com

Selection Number 13: Speak

At first glance, this film seems to be a typical teen movie, but it actually deals with a little covered topic – teen sexual assault. The film is told from the perspective of Melinda Sordino (Kristen Stewart), a sardonic teen who starts a new year of high school as a selective mute. She is ostracised by her peers and labelled her a ‘squealer’ as she had called the police to a house party. The truth about why she did this is not revealed until much later when Melinda herself comes to terms with her trauma and finds the courage to speak out. Based on the Laurie Halse Anderson novel of the same name, the film shows how sexual assault can damage a young person’s sense of identity and explores the difficulties victims face in verbalising their trauma and telling a person in authority what happened.

Selection Number 14: The Hunting Ground

The Hunting Ground is a documentary that exposes and discusses rape culture on American university campuses. Aired at the Sundance Film Festival this year, the film sparked strong reactions, gaining almost unanimous praise from critics and a standing ovation from audiences, but also passionate denial and skepticism from some viewers. Inspired by The Invisible War (selection number 15), The Hunting Ground follows Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clark, two survivors of sexual assault on campus who refused to be intimidated or silenced by their respective school administration and became activists on rape culture. A day before the film was released in theatres, the Campus Accountability and Safety Act was re-introduced by a bipartisan group of US Senators accompanied by Pino and Clark.

Selection Number 15: The Invisible War

This award-winning documentary is an investigation into rape and sexual assault within the United States Armed Forces. It features interviews with veterans from various branches of the armed forces, journalists, advocates, mental health professionals and members of the military justice system, among others, and touches on the inadequate care for survivors of sexual assault, failures to address incidences of sexual assault and forced expulsion of survivors from service. The film, which calls for changes to the way the military handles reports of sexual assault, has won numerous awards and has had some influence on government policies aimed at reducing the prevalence of rape in the armed forces.

Selection number 16: The Storm Makers

This Cambodian-French co-production documents human trafficking in Cambodia where most of the victims of human trafficking are young women who are lured with promises of better opportunities abroad. In reality, they are held prisoner and forced to work in horrific conditions, sometimes as prostitutes.This film follows the story of a particular young peasant woman, Aya, who was sold to work in Malaysia aged 16, where she did not receive any salary and was beaten and abused. She returned to her village with a child, the result of rape. It also documents the lives of two powerful traffickers known as ‘Storm Makers’.

The Pixel Project’s VAW e-News Digest – The ’16 for 16’ 2015 Edition

News-Coffee9-150x150Welcome to our annual Special Edition of The Pixel Project’s VAW e-News Digest for the “16 For 16” campaign. In this edition, we bring you the top 16 news headlines in each category related to violence against women from the past year.

2015 saw landmark decisions by countries to eradicate female genital mutilation as Nigeria and Gambia both outlaw the practice and the United Kingdom makes it compulsory to report its occurrence. Initiatives against domestic violence have also seen progress with countries adopting new measures to help protect women. Silicon Valley giants like Twitter, Reddit and Google have also taken steps to decrease occurrence of violence against women online.

To start off, here are the 16 of the biggest trending VAW headlines of 2015:

Every contribution matters. If you have any news you’d like to share about violence against women, please email The Pixel Project at info@thepixelproject.net. If you prefer to receive up-to-the-minute news concerning violence against women, follow us on Twitter . It’s time to stop violence against women together.

Best regards,
The Pixel Project Team


Violence Against Women – General


Domestic Violence


Rape and Sexual Assault


Human/Sex Trafficking


Female Genital Mutilation


Forced Marriage and Honour Killing


Activism