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Sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, harassment, violence against women, and other forms of gender-based violence are pervasive and costly issues in Massachusetts, across the country, and around the world. In addition to the definitions, facts and statistics, it’s important to understand that domestic violence and sexual assault occur because of cultural and social factors that foster these and other forms of violence as a means to maintain control and power in individual relationships as well as community and societal dynamics.

Gender-based violence is a symptom of a deeper problem: the oppression of people by virtue of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender identity, religion, or other characteristics. People often identify with more than one of these attributes and can experience multiple and overlapping oppressions as a result. For instance, a transgender woman of color could face discrimination and violence because she is a woman, not white, and not cis-gender.

The occurrence of gender-based violence doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Yes, it’s about an individual’s exertion of power and control over another person using sex and violence as the weapon. But it’s also how these forms of violence are used as strategies of power and control of one group over another as a way to reinforce the status quo. The clearest example is how rape is used as a weapon in war. In much the same way, sexual and domestic violence reinforces gender roles which can determine economic, educational, professional, mobility, political, and other opportunities. In essence then gender-based violence is a human rights violation.

Ever heard the phrase “moving upstream?” In social justice lingo it means getting to the root of the problem and addressing its causes, so as to stop the problem from continuing to flow. The theory goes that unless we look upstream, our attention will remain focused only on reacting to and addressing the problem after the fact.

As a statewide membership organization, dedicated to preventing and abolishing sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, JD) firmly believes that unless we understand and operate in this context, we will be stuck downstream, forever providing support for those who have already experienced violence while not ending the violence in the first place.

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