In wake of what seems to be a never-ending list of Hollywood sexual harassment and assault allegations, Angelina Jolie gave a presentation this week highlighting the three myths she believes fuel ongoing sexual violence—both at home and around the world.
The actress, mother of six, and Special Envoy of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was the keynote speaker at the UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial Summit in Vancouver on Wednesday.
Despite advancements made around the world, Jolie echoed the statistics that show sexual violence—rape, sexual assault, sexual abuse and incest—still occurs in conflict zones around the world.
Addressing politicians and military leaders, Jolie urged those in power to help UN peacekeepers better respond to sexual violence around the world. She then described three myths she believes are the reason such crimes continue to persist.
The Canadian Press
“The first myth is that this behavior is sexual,” Jolie explains. “All too often these kinds of crimes against women are laughed off, depicted as a minor offense by someone who cannot control themselves, as an illness, or as some kind of exaggerated sexual need. But a man who mistreats women is not oversexed. He is abusive.”
Jolie gives the example of UN claims that nearly every female Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh has survived sexual violence, sexual assault, or rape.
She points out that the sexual violence is not about sex, but rather the abuse of power.
“This is rape and assault designed to torture, to terrorize, to force people to flee, and to humiliate them. It has nothing to do with sex. It has everything to do with the abuse of power.”
Jolie says the second myth is that sexual violence isn’t “serious” enough to warrant significant criminal punishment.
Even with more than 120 million girls worldwide having experienced forced intercourse or sexual acts, statistics show that the likeliness of victims reporting sexual violence is much lower. This is even more the case in high-conflict areas due to cultural stigmas that discourage victims from reporting, or governments that lack infrastructure.
The third myth is that we can’t do anything to stop sexual violence—both at home and abroad. She says too many people who learn the magnitude of the problem often believe it’s far too widespread to make a difference.
But Jolie insists it is not impossible, stating that countries around the world have the “laws, the institutions, and the expertise in gathering evidence. What is missing is the political will.”
It’s that ongoing abuse of power that allows sexual violence to continue being used as a war tactic in 19 countries—even those who prohibit such by law.
Political will would enforce these laws, and uphold them against perpetrators to the fullest extent of their crimes.
Though she spoke on Wednesday about sexual violence around the world—and predominantly such in areas of conflict, Jolie didn’t shy away from sharing a glimpse of her own experience with sexual violence, warning others that it can happen anywhere—even where you work.
One of the now more than 85 women to have spoken out with sexual assault and harassment allegations toward Hollywood movie mogul, Harvey Weinstein, Jolie told the New York Times in October that she “had a bad experience with Harvey Weinstein in my youth, and as a result, chose never to work with him again and warn others when they did. This behavior towards women in any field, any country is unacceptable.”