Tuesday, July 27, 2004

svaw chat

As most of you know, I work in the field of domestic violence. I also chair a local Violence Against Women (VAW) committee. Amnesty has a two year campaign on VAW that started this year. Yesterday they had an all-day online chat with one of their state coordinators. I had submitted a question prior to the chat, and Elizabeth responded to it. I thought it might be of interest to SAS’ers as it is about institutions and social change – I was curious to know how a non-sociologist would respond (and hoped it would give me SOME ideas). My question and her response is here:

Question Submitted by John:
Hello I am a sociologist and as such, see much of the continued incidence and prevalence of VAW as being rooted in our institutions and/or social structure. Institutions, by their very nature are quite stable, so the are very resistant to change. So, my question is, does anyone have any specific tactics on how to change our institutions? I think that we need all of the current tactics that we have PLUS ones that are specifically designed to change, modify and/or replace our current institutions. Are you aware of any tactics that are designed to do precisely that? Thanks much and thanks for this initiative.

Elizabeth Jennings answers:
Hi, John. You’re right: Changing institutions can be very difficult. Generally, it happens from three directions: From above (government laws and policies that force institutions to act in a non-discriminatory way), from below (grassroots pressure and cultural change to end gender-based discrimination), and from within (among staff and leaders in institutions that want to create a culture that respects all people). Ending violence against women in the U.S. military is just one example of a current effort to change an institution at all three levels. Through the AI Stop Violence Against Women Campaign, a grassroots effort is underway to pressure U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to develop a military-wide protocol to address domestic violence of service members and service members’ spouses, and to address sexual assault of female soldiers by their colleagues. AI’s top-down and bottom-up efforts to end violence against women in the U.S. military supports the long-standing work being done by U.S. military personnel (men and women, enlisted and officers) who are trying to change the culture and process of the armed services from the inside out in order to ensure that women may serve their country without fear of other soldiers. To learn how to take action on this particular institution-changing issue, go to

The summary of the entire chat can be found here:


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