So it’s Valentine’s Day weekend and millions of Americans are celebrating with a visit to their local movie theater to catch 50 Shades of Grey.  

What a commentary on our culture.

I’m not going to rehash why going to the movie is a bad idea.  There have been a lot of excellent articles about why we shouldn’t waste our time on this movie.  Read them.

Instead, I thought I’d share a few numbers that give some perspective on the effects of violence on women around the world:

perspective on 50 shades of grey


1 in 4

An estimated 1 in 4 women will be a victim of violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime.*


1/3 of all women worldwide face beatings in the home. (Half The Sky)

70 x

A woman is 70 times more likely to be murdered in the few weeks after leaving her abusive partner than at any other time in the relationship.*


A major study by the World Health Organization found that in most countries, between 30-60% of women had experienced physical or sexual violence by a husband or boyfriend. (Half The Sky)

 3 to 4 times

Worldwide, men who were exposed to domestic violence in their childhood are 3 – 4 times more likely to commit intimate partner violence than men who did not experience domestic abuse as children.*


The number of nations that still participate in female genital mutilation.  It’s estimated that over 3 million girls/year endure this ritual. It has no medical purpose, is incredibly painful and in many cases leads to serious health issues throughout life. In some cases, it results in death.


Women and girls make up 98% of victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.

2 Million

About 2 million children are exploited every year in the global commercial sex trade.  The average age of a trafficking victim is 12 years old.

And lest we dismiss this as a problem in developing nations:


The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488.  The number of American women who were murdered by current or former male partners during that time was 11,766. *


The number of women in the U.S. who experience physical violence by an intimate partner ever year.*

Nine Seconds

A women is beaten every 9 seconds in the United States.*


The percentage of financial abuse that occurs in all domestic violence cases. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to abusive relationships is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them without the necessary financial resources to break free.*


The number of days of paid work women lose every year because of the abuse committed against them by current or former male partners. This loss is equivalent to over 32,000 full-time jobs.*


The number of children exposed to domestic violence every year.*

$9.5 Billion

Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States.


Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States.


The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day.

9-10 Million

The number of Americans who will watch 50 Shades of Grey this weekend (based on box office projections).

* Taken from the Huffington Post article, 30 Shocking Domestic Violence Statistics That Remind Us It’s an Epidemic 
I think these numbers give some perspective on the sexual violence that is glamorized in 50 Shades of Grey.  Nine to ten million Americans will throw their money at this film, sending a message to young women struggling with identity and acceptance, that it is somehow acceptable to be treated this way.  Violence against women is nothing new, but when we send the message that this type of behavior is exciting and empowering, that’s not ok. In the end, it will only serve to add to the numbers above.

As agents of cultural change, we must do more.  Boycotting the movie is a fine thing to do, but that won’t change reality for the people that are represented in the numbers above.

Here are a few people who are doing something to help:

The National Center on Sexual Exploitation has a campaign that comes directly at the 50 Shades movie,  telling people to boycott the movie and give $50 to your local women’s shelter instead.

Put Yourself In Her Shoes is an organization run by a friend of mine.  They are working to build homes for women trying to escape domestic violence.

Traffick911 works to help rescue young people out of trafficking situations in the United States.

A21 works against international human trafficking.

Tostan works specifically toward the ending of female genital mutilation in developing nations.

There are of course many other organizations that are in the trenches trying to help people caught up in sexual violence, but there is so much more work that needs to be done.  I hope that our justified outrage over 50 Shades of Grey leads to more conversation, but even more importantly, I hope it leads to action.  The numbers don’t lie.  We have a lot of work to do.