Several Amherst women’s sports teams (basketball, lacrosse, golf, volleyball, soccer, tennis, softball, field hockey, ice hockey and track and field) are partnering with a local non-profit organization, Amherst Community Connections, to participate in its campaign: “Restoring Dignity for Homeless Women, Period.” The campaign will use the money it raises to secure sanitary items, condoms, undergarments and housing help for homeless women in Amherst. Amherst Community Connections aims to raise at least $5,000 to move women who have found employment into safe, sustainable housing. It is crucial to direct our energy and resources towards helping women move out of the street or shelters due to higher risk of gendered victimization including rape and sexual assault, sex work and physical abuse.
Many studies point to the overlap of homelessness and gender inequality as a danger to homeless women’s safety and stability. The risk of sexual assault threatens homeless women at far higher rates than homeless men. Studies have found that the factor of housing status greatly “affected whether a woman would be sexually assaulted, but that relationship did not exist for men.” Additionally, many more homeless women report incidents of sexual assault than lower-income housed women; private shelter is a key variable in these differing rates. Many homeless women were initially escaping situations of domestic violence and continue to be dependent on their abusers from previous relationships because of their lack of housing options.
Fear of abuse is another aspect of the gendered perils of women living in public spaces. Jennifer Wesley’s 2009 study analyzed how fear plays into women’s sense of self and security:
“A gendered analysis of fear finds that, overall, women feel most vulnerable to unpredictable sexual violations — ranging from objectification and harassment to violent crime — in outdoor, public space.”
Thus, there is an urgent need to provide housing for women in order to alleviate the physical and emotional dangers of sexual assault and other risks for women. The “Restoring Dignity” campaign will aim to supply security and safety to those who are most vulnerable to gender-specific threats.
The group has set up a fundraising website at https://www.gofundme.com/ladymammothscampaign. Those interested in supporting the cause can provide donations at that address.