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GBV is more than violence directed against a person because of their gender. GBV can be physical, sexual, psychological or economic, and often derives from power inequalities between the instigator and the victim.

Advocating for Victims of Gender-Based Violence

Annekathryn Goodman, MD, MPH, is dedicated to fighting gender-based violence.

Gender-based violence (GBV) against women is a global pandemic as more than one billion women alive today are, or will be, victims. GBV is more than violence directed against a person because of their gender. GBV can be physical, sexual, psychological or economic, and often derives from power inequalities between the instigator and the victim.

Dr. Goodman is particularly interested in GBV following disasters, and recently held a city-wide journal club focused on articles related to this topic. “Gender-based violence exists regardless, but when a disaster hits the rates of it go up extraordinarily,” she said. One recent example is in Mozambique, where the UN is investigating reports alleging that community leaders forced survivors of Cyclone Idai to exchange sex for food.

Participants in the journal club included urologists, gynecologists, disaster responses professionals and other physicians involved in human rights advocacy work. “Everyone there could talk about ways in which GBV has presented itself in their work, and this journal club created space to tell these stories and think about possible ways forward,” Kristen Giambusso, journal club attendee and Deputy Director of Baseline Operations at the Mass General Office of Global Disaster Response, said.

As a member of the national Trauma and Critical Care Team and fulltime practicing Gynecologic Oncologist, Dr. Goodman is uniquely qualified to study this issue. She has deployed to numerous international disaster sites in her 25-year career at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Annekathryn Goodman, MD, MPH, gives apresentation on gender-based violence at the 2019 Missioncraft course at MGH.

“The thing that really interests me and gets back to this sort of meta level of why does this world do this? Is the framework of culture, how society is set up and the thought that what happens after a disaster merely uncovering what’s there all the time?” Dr. Goodman asks. “(We’re) not dealing with the fact that gender-based violence is allowed in society, that it’s unpunished, that it’s expected almost in society.”

Still in the early stages of convening interested professionals, Dr. Goodman is figuring out how their work can best address GBV. “My hope is to be a place where people can connect and have information exchanged and to find the tools that they need where ever they are in the world,” she said.

In the meantime, Dr. Goodman is partnering with fellow MGH Associates in Global Health Adeline Boatin, MD, MPH, and Thomas Randall, MD, to produce a newsletter. ‘Global OB/GYN News: From Academics to Advocacy and Action’ is a monthly publication that focuses on newsworthy women’s health issues.

“The global health community has a responsibility to make every effort to address this issue,” Louise Ivers, MD, MPH, DTM&H, Executive Director of the MGH Center for Global Health, said. “Dr. Goodman is a passionate advocate and I am proud to stand with her in the fight against gender-based violence.”

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