The World Health Organization reports
one in three women around the world will experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter calls abuse of women the most serious human rights issue facing the world today. In an interview with VOA, and in his new book A Call to Action
, he outlines the seriousness of the abuse — both globally and in the United States. Human rights organizations and activists hope his attention to the issue will give them a boost in fighting the problem.
Former President Carter learned about these abuses through the global work of the Atlanta-based Carter Center, where abuse of women was the focus of a 2013 human rights conference.
"The most serious problem is murder of baby girls by their parents. And the abortion of the girl fetus if the parents find out she's going to be female," Carter said.
"We've been dealing with 79 different countries, and as I've been in those foreign countries, and also throughout the United States, I've seen the tangible examples of how horribly women and girls are treated, much worse than anyone knows," he added.
His research into the scope and seriousness of abuse against women culminated in his 28th book, A Call to Action
, which explores the culture and causes of the abuse. He says the United States is not immune to the problem.
"One of the worst places in America for sexual abuse or rape is on the great university campuses," he said. "On university campuses, about one out of four women are sexually assaulted while she is in college. About four percent, one in 25, ever reports a rape when it's committed."
But for Elizabeth Powley of the Chicago-based non-profit Heartland Alliance, there is no shortage of heartache and pain in the stories she hears from abroad.
"Violence against women is a transnational issue, it's not an issue just for women overseas," said Powley, who has spent time working with women in earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
"Simply the lack of street lighting at night [in Haiti] made it extremely dangerous for them to leave their homes, to leave their tents at night to go out in search of water or whatever it was they needed to take care of their family," she said. "And we saw incidents of rape and violence skyrocket in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake."
She views President Carter as an ally in the fight against the abuse of women, and she said his voice in the issue helps combat long held views and attitudes, particularly with men.
"Gender based violence won't be solved if only women want to solve it, so he brings an extremely important voice to the conversation," said Powley.
She said one of the best ways to curb the growing violence is by educating boys and young men to respect women, leading to better decision-making when they become adults.