Department of Health and Human Services declared violence the number one health problem for women over two decades ago, and recent studies show that the problem is not diminishing. Consider these statistics: .
- Domestic violence is the single major cause of injury to American women, exceeding muggings, gang violence, murders, and accidents (New York: 1993. The Commonwealth Fund) .
- One woman is raped every two minutes in the United States (The Commonwealth Fund, July 1998) .
- Every nine seconds in America a woman is physically abused (Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey).
There is no simple explanation for the frequency of violent crimes against women, but it has been suggested that one contributing factor may be the way women are portrayed in the media. Women are often depicted as victims of violence or as sexual objects, and researchers have found that these media portrayals may influence how women are viewed and treated in society. Film, television, music, music videos and computer games have all been criticized for content considered demeaning to women, such as sexual objectification, depictions of violence against women, and the frequent association of violence with sexuality. (Linz, Donnerstein. and Penrod 55).
Mounting evidence suggests that negative perceptions of women in entertainment can affect women in real life. Research examining onscreen violence toward women finds that emotional desensitization can occur after viewing as few as two films with sexually degrading and violent themes. Studies also show that men who view a number of films in which women are portrayed in sexually degrading or violent situations become increasingly less disturbed by violence against women and less sympathetic toward female victims of violence. In addition, films initially found demeaning to women are judged to be less so after prolonged exposure (Linz, Donnerstein. and Penrod 55). .
Some people target pornography as the medium most likely to depict women in an offensive manner.