A lot of attention has been directed towards women who attend college and the alarming statistics of sexual assault that goes on behind the walls of academia, but little attention has been paid to the overall numbers of women who become victims of sexual assault. The article that appeared in NY Times on December 21st (read the whole article here) reminded us that universities aren't the only places where women are assaulted, nor are their students among those that run the highest risk of sexual assault.
Above all, we need to remember these women when we talk about rape and sexual assault. Women at the margins are the ones who bear the brunt of the harshest realities, including sexual violence, and they do so with the least resources.
Money matters; but more than that, who has the money matters even more. Respect follows money; those who have less of the latter, get also less of the former. And this is where sexual assault comes into the picture: just as with catcalling (read the article here), the women who receive the least respect are also overwhelmingly the ones who receive the greatest amount of unwanted attention and sexual assault. And one of the common denominators among these women is lack of money.
Poor women are easy targets for they lack the most elementary protections most of us take for granted. Not only do they struggle to provide for themselves and their children, they struggle also with the less-than-favorable perceptions of society. Poor women are often portrayed as, if not irresponsible, then at least not completely motivated to do something about their situation. And because of this negative perception, they meet often the harsh judgment of society, which further removes them from any possibility of being respected by those around them, which puts them at a higher risk of sexual assault. The cycle is as vicious as are the consequences: a woman who commands little respect is fair game for those who seek a target, simply because they are less likely to report the crime. If 16-20 year-old women are at the greatest risk of sexual assault, when you add to the mix an absent parent or two (due to the outrageous practice of imprisoning large segments of the population), or the simple factor that few parents have the time to pay attention when they work two or three jobs for wages that don't pay event their most basic needs, you get why the highest numbers are found among the poor. And this is assuming that we have accurate numbers to begin with.
The wealthy have the resources to report abuse. They command the respect that is needed to be heard in the courts, and they aren't dismissed as irrelevant.
But the poor don't have equal resources. They don't command the respect that is needed to be heard anywhere, and they are often dismissed as irrelevant.
Women are some of the most disadvantaged human beings on earth. Their lives are made difficult by unrealistic expectations, unrealistic demands, and the relentless requirement to always obey and please a man. Women do the majority of the work in this world, yet they own 1 % of the available property. Women are kept in poverty on purpose, because those who are poor have few choices, and few choices equals less respect. But when we speak of justice, especially as Christians, it would behoove us to remind ourselves that if money is needed for us to be respected as human beings, why was Jesus so poor?