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Symposium examines gender violence issues

Megan Loney | Monday, October 6, 2008

Knowledge of an issue gives way to action, said Professor Luzmila Camacho-Platero during her introduction of the lecture portion of the two-day Gender Violence Symposium held at Saint Mary’s, Thursday.

The four-member panel discussion was held in Vander Vennet Theater in the Saint Mary’s Student Center from 5 to 7 p.m.

Information of gender violence is spreading due to individuals taking a stand Camacho-Platero said. As part of that stand, Edith Miguda, Yana Hasmanova, Bettina Spencer, and Linda S. Baechle each gave a talk discussing a different aspect of gender-related violence on Thursday.

The first two speakers, Miguda and Hasmanova, focused on international gender issues, while Spencer and Baechle’s talks were more locally focused.

The first talk, given by Miguda, an assistant professor of history at Saint Mary’s, was entitled “Women and Violence in Electoral Politics in Africa.”

She focused on the gender violence – typically against women – that occurs during election periods in African countries.

“The causes of this violence stem from the intense competition of the electoral races,” said Miguda. “It is a manifestation of historically unequal power between men and women.”

Hasmanova, an associate professor of Slavic and East European Language and Literature at Ohio State University led the second talk.

Her presentation, “Trafficking in Women: Reality and Representation” covered human trafficking in Eastern Europe.

Spencer, the third speaker, spoke about perceptions of sexual violence in terms of individuals.

Spencer, an assistant professor of psychology at Saint Mary’s, focused on three determining factors – racism, sexism, and classism – people use to form their perceptions on gender violence and where they place the blame, whether on the victim or the perpetrator.

She referred to several studies during her talk in which subjects were presented with a scenario of sexual assault and were asked to decide whether the blame was with the perpetrator or the victim. The results of the studies demonstrated that the blame was more often than not placed on the victim of the crime and not the perpetrator, she said.

The fourth and final presenter, Linda S. Baechle discussed how the justice system prosecutes offenders.

“We have an illusion that there is going to be justice for victims,” she said. “But it isn’t like television where the cases are always solved and the perpetrators are punished.”

Baechle was one of the four panel members who participated in the discussion panel part of the Gender Violence symposium. She is the executive director of St. Joesph County’s YWCA. During her talk, she shared the statistics of gender violence crimes and their judicial persecution in South Bend. The findings of the court watch were printed in Thursday’s issue of the South Bend Tribune.

She said fewer than a handful of the perpetrators of sexual crimes in South Bend during the past four years had been convicted and that arrests are not often made.

This talk especially affected some students in attendance, including freshman Marisela Garcia.

“I had the biggest reaction to the last speaker’s talk,” said Garcia. “The fact that there are almost no repercussions [for the perpetrators] really surprised me.”