End Violence Against Women
At the beginning of March there was a plan for this month’s article, as the month has progressed there has become an obvious subject that we need to take a look at, and therefore this article is completely different to the plan.
As March has developed, 2 big inter-linked stories have emerged, and they are this month’s focus.
The Disappearance of Sarah Everard
So, let us take you back to the 3rd of March. More accurately we go back to 21:28 which was the last time anyone heard from 33-year-old Sarah Everard from London. She had just come off the ‘phone to her boyfriend as she walked home from visiting a friend.
Advice for people particularly walking home at night, had been to talk on the telephone as you walk, which Sarah had done.
Having been reported missing by her friends on the 4th, it was the 5th when the police announced on twitter that they were increasingly concerned for the welfare of Sarah.
Following a week of searching and appealing for help from the general public, on the 9th Police announced that they had arrested a serving police officer over the disappearance of Sarah.
It was the following day that human remains had been found, which were later to be identified as that of Sarah Everard by her dental records.
RIP Sarah Everard
Violence against Women
What the sad story of Sarah Everard does and has done is shine a light on the subject of violence against women. Saturday 13th saw a vigil take place on Clapham Common, near where Sarah was last seen. The vigil was being held to remember Sarah. Eyewitnesses talk of how the vigil was being held peacefully, until about 18:30, when police moved in to take control of the area. The scenes that followed were harrowing to witness, seeing women forced to the ground and handcuffed by officers. Police stated later that 4 people were arrested for public order and Coronavirus breaches.
Later, these scenes were turned around by campaigners and the wider public, to move the focus away from the police, and politics, and to look at the wider issue of violence against women.
It goes without saying that everybody has the right to walk the street and live their life without the threat of or actually receiving violence, whether they are male, female or children. That said, sadly the statistics show that women experience far more violence against them by the opposite sex as opposed to men.
2019 Statistics from the UK Government’s Violence against Women and Girls Strategy Refresh Factsheet show:
- In the UK, 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse and 1 in 5 sexual assault during her lifetime. Globally this rises to 1 in 3.
- The Crime Survey of England and Wales estimates 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16, equivalent to an estimated
- 4 million female victims, and
- 631,000 male victims.
- 5 in 6 victims (83%) did not report their experiences to the police.
- An estimated:
- 1% of women (510,000), and
- 8% of men (138,000) aged 16-59 experienced sexual assault in the last year.
- Approximately 2 million adults experienced domestic abuse last year, with 695,000 of these being male.
These statistics are harrowing reading and shows how violence affects women more than men.
Information on violence experienced by women does not stop there. All over the news channels came stories of how even at schoolgirls are subjected to sexual harm by boys, who ‘put hands on their knees and under our skirts’. This quote alone shows how early it is ingrained in minds that boys can do what they like with girls, of course this is not the fact of life and nor should it be. Therefore, education of living side by side regardless of gender has to begin at an early age.
If we turn our attention to the House Commons, where MP Jess Philips rose in a debate on the 14th and read out a list of 118 names of women and girls who were killed where a man has been charged or convicted as the primary perpetrator.
Having looked at the statistics and listened to stories over recent days one thing is clear, and that is:
Violence against women must end.
What Can be Done to End Violence Against Women?
According to the UN there are 10 clear things that can be done in order to end violence against Women, as well as in truth violence in general. These 10 things are:
- Listen and Believe
It is important to understand that when a woman shares her story of violence, she is taking the first step to breaking the cycle of abuse. We all owe it to her to give her the safe space she needs to speak up and be heard.
Remember that when discussing cases of sexual violence, a victim’s sobriety, clothes, and sexuality are irrelevant.
It is important that we all remember that the perpetrator is the sole reason for assault and must bear the responsibility alone. If you hear people victim-blaming, call it out, and counter the idea that it is on women to avoid situations that might be seen as “dangerous” by traditional standards.
- Teach the Next Generation
Sometimes people forget that the examples we set for the younger generation shape the way they think about gender, respect, and human rights. With this in mind it is important that we all start conversations about gender roles early on, and challenge the traditional features and characteristics assigned to men and women.
Why not point out the stereotypes that children constantly encounter, whether in the media, on the street or at the school, and let them know that it is OK to be different.
Encourage a culture of acceptance.
Talk about consent, bodily autonomy and accountability to boys and girls, and also listen to what they have to say about their experience of the world. By empowering young advocates with information, and educating them about women’s rights, we can build a better future for all.
- Call for responses and services fit for purpose
Services for survivors are essential services.
This means that shelters, hotlines, counselling, and all support for survivors of gender-based violence need to be available for those in need.
It is important that we all hold the powers that be accountable for the services that they provide, and where these are not suitable, lobby and call for more.
- Understand consent
Freely given, enthusiastic consent is mandatory, every time.
It is important that listening for an active ‘yes’ as opposed to listening for a ‘no’, and make sure that the ‘active yes’ is there from all involved.
Adopt enthusiastic consent in your life and talk about it.
Remember that unhelpful phrases like ‘she was asking for it’ or ‘boys will be boys’ attempt to blur the lines around sexual consent, placing blame on victims, and excusing perpetrators from the crimes they have committed, and it should always be remembered the perpetrator is the sole person responsible for the act committed.
While those that use these lines may have fuzzy understandings of consent, the definition is crystal clear.
When it comes to consent, there are no blurred lines.
- Learn the signs of abuse and how you can help
There are many forms of abuse and all of them can have serious physical and emotional effects. It is important that signs of abuse are learned and understood by all, as well as places of support should you or someone you know be at risk of or suffering from abuse.
- Start a Conversation
We hope that by just writing this month’s article we are starting a conversation in our circle of readers; this conversation can then be taken wider. Remember that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation that has been perpetuated for decades.
It is pervasive, but it is not inevitable, unless we stay silent!
- Stand against rape culture
Rape culture is the social environment that allows sexual violence to be normalized and justified, fuelled by the persistent gender inequalities and attitudes about gender and sexuality.
Naming it is the first step to dismantling rape culture.
Every day we have the opportunity to examine our behaviours and beliefs for biases that permit rape culture to continue. Think about how you define masculinity and femininity, and how your own biases and stereotypes influence you.
- Fund women’s organisations
Donate to local organisations that empower women, amplify their voices, support survivors, and promote acceptance of all gender identities and sexualities.
- Hold each other accountable
Violence can take many forms, including sexual harassment in the workplace and in public spaces. Take a standby calling it out when you see it, examples include:
- Inappropriate sexual comments, and
- Sexist jokes.
Create a safer environment for everyone by challenging your peers to reflect on their own behaviour and speaking up when someone crosses the line, or by enlisting the help of others if you do not feel safe.
- Know the data and demand more of it
To effectively combat gender-based violence, we need to understand the issue. The use of the statistics above, help us to understand the scale of the issue.
Moving forward we hope that by starting the conversation around violence against women, we can help to end it, making the World better place for us all to live.