Violence Against Women Affects Everyone
Professor’s new book summons readers to reflection and action
Despite myriad efforts to end it, violence against women is as devastating as it has ever been. Anne DePrince, a Distinguished University Professor in DU’s Department of Psychology, is determined to change that.
In her new book, “Every 90 Seconds: Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women” (Oxford University Press, 2022), DePrince outlines the extent of the problem and examines its far-reaching implications.
DePrince shared some of her key findings and insights via email with the DU Newsroom.
Q: The title of your new book, “Every 90 Seconds,” certainly packs a punch. What happens every 90 seconds?
Every 90 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted and another woman is victimized by a current or former intimate partner.
At the same time, we continue to treat violence against women as if it’s a women’s issue or a special-interest issue.
So while “Every 90 Seconds” names the problem, the second half of the title points to the solution: “Our Common Cause Ending Violence against Women.” That is, we each share an interest in working together to address violence against women regardless of our genders or life experiences.
Q: Many readers think violence against women is someone else’s problem, a private and not a public concern. But you argue otherwise.
We’re used to thinking about violence against women as an individual problem—a problem for survivors who might struggle with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or other health impacts in the aftermath of violence. It is certainly true that violence against women has serious and sometimes lifelong consequences for survivors, but it also takes a toll on our communities.
In fact, violence against women is tangled up with the most pressing problems of our time: health care costs, education access, legal reform, immigration policy, gun violence and more. This means we each have an interest in preventing and responding effectively to violence against women.
For example, violence against women adds obvious costs to health systems for emergency care to treat immediate injuries. Less obvious, though, are long-term costs to treat chronic health problems linked to intimate violence, such as respiratory conditions. This means that people who are concerned about health care costs and access have an interest in preventing violence against women.
Costs to our communities go well beyond health care and extend to our schools and workplaces. For example, dating violence and sexual assault contribute to academic problems and attrition from schools. We all lose out when girls and women can’t bring their full talents and potential to classrooms for learning together. Beyond school, intimate violence affects workplaces too. For example, women contending with violence have described that their partners prevent them from getting to work or succeeding once they are there. This means that people who care about the success of local businesses share an interest in making sure that women workers can thrive because they are living free from intimate violence.
Violence against women makes the world more dangerous for everyone. Just consider the many ways it’s connected to gun violence. Many men who perpetrate mass shootings have histories of domestic violence. Time after time, they espouse hostile views of girls and women, or are targeting girls and women in the shootings. Since we all want to be safe in movie theaters, schools, and places of worship, we share an interest in preventing violence against women and girls.
Of course, these are just a few examples of connections between violence against women and the pressing problems of our time. The bottom line is that, regardless of our genders or life histories, we each have an interest in working together to prevent and respond effectively to violence against women.
Q: This book is clearly a passion project for you. What motivated you to write “Every 90 Seconds”?
I’ve been researching and teaching about violence against women for two decades here at DU. In that time, I’ve seen trauma science grow exponentially. We know more today about violence against women than ever before. That awareness, though, hasn’t been enough to bring about transformative change—after all, every 90 seconds a woman is sexually assaulted and another is victimized by an intimate partner.
Thanks to my partnerships with victim service agencies and work with DU’s Center for Community Engagement to advance Scholarship and Learning (CCESL), I started to learn more about what makes transformative change possible. Drawing on lessons from community organizers and scholars studying social movements, I have come to believe that we each share an interest in ending and responding to violence against women, I’m increasingly convinced that working together with people who never thought that violence against women was their issue is essential to progress.
My passion has become helping people see our shared interests, because that’s how we will discover new paths forward. Imagine what’s possible if people passionate about environmental sustainability, racial justice, economic equity, education policy, legal reform and more were to collaborate with those of us working on violence against women: We would have access to new ways of thinking about and approaching the problems we each care about. We’d have a fresh take on solutions and a way to pull in bigger and bigger networks of people to work for change.
Q: "Every 90 Seconds" invites readers to imagine a world none of us has known. What can individuals and communities do to eliminate violence?
Building a world without intimate violence is an audacious goal, so audacious that we might be tempted to give up before we even start or to react by just doing something, such as starting a new program or advocating for a new piece of legislation. Of course, programs and legislation can be very important. There’s excellent evidence, for example, that adolescent dating violence prevention programs can have a positive impact in our schools and communities. However, before leaping to any particular action, it’s important to identify how our own passions and interests connect to violence against women. As we come to understand our own self-interests, we can more effectively invite other people to find theirs. For example, we can start talking to neighbors, coworkers and relatives about the ways that violence against women is interconnected with the issues they care about, regardless of their genders or life histories. From there, we can better connect with the people and organizations working on violence against women and interconnected issues to explore new ways of collaborating and taking action together. Ultimately, it’s in all of our shared interest to find new collaborative approaches to building a world without intimate violence.