140 Characters of Gender-Based Violence

By: Jenny Tolep, External Relations and Communications

This year’s March Madness has fired up more than just crazed basketball fans. It has also propelled a fight against gender-based violence.

During the recent Kentucky vs. Arkansas basketball game, Kentucky Wildcats super-fan and PSI Global Ambassador Ashley Judd shared a comment on Twitter stating Arkansas was, “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” Shortly after tweeting, Judd said she received inappropriate comments and sexually based threats. She decided to fight back against gender-based violence.

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Judd admits her comment against Arkansas was made in the heat-of-the-moment, and she would have phrased her words differently had she been in a calmer state. She further explained that she deleted the tweet to prevent the situation from escalating further. However, Judd stands strong in her opinion that misogyny, harassment and threats of violence are not justified.

“The way things happen on social media is so abusive and everyone needs to take personal responsibility for what they write and not allowing this misinterpretation and shaming culture on social media to persist – and by the way I’m pressing charges,” said Judd during a recent interview with MSNBC.

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This is not Judd’s first encounter with gender-based violence. In a recent online essay, she recalled her earlier experiences as a victim of sexual assault, rape and incest.  Judd states that she has changed from “undefended and vulnerable victim to empowered survivor,” now acting as an advocate for women’s rights and a voice for those who have gone through similar situations. As part of this work, she has served as a panelist and moderator for the Women Deliver Conference, has advocated for the International Violence Against Women Act and has been a PSI Global Ambassador since 2002.

Social media today provides a new outlet for abuse, adding to the wide-range of gender-based violence that already exists. Globally, one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. This abuse can take many forms, including causing mental or emotional harm.

Although media and technology can be used negatively, it can also be harnessed for positive change. Judd has used her situation as an opportunity to release her online essay and interact with individuals on Twitter to discuss gender-based violence. Strategies such as mobile apps, videos, radio and online advertisement are also effective tools for addressing gender-based violence.  For example, PSI Zimbabwe’s recent gender-based violence campaign uses radio and TV ads to encourage survivors of gender-based violence to seek confidential counseling and medical services.

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Ever-evolving technology and new platforms pose both a challenge and an opportunity for stemming the global gender-based violence epidemic. Advocates like Judd can be an inspiration for changing global norms and addressing gender-based violence in all its forms.

In concluding her essay, Judd calls all of us to action: “We have much to discuss, and much action to take. Join me.”

As part of PSI’s global mission, we make regular efforts to fight gender-based violence. To learn more visit: http://www.psi.org/health-area/gender-based-violence/