January 08 2020

#16days of gender-based violence: The women paying the ultimate price of men’s violence

Mia Scally, Lecturer in Forensic Psychology/Criminology writes a moving post about gender-based violence facing women all over the world.

Gender-based violence is a pervasive and persistent issue faced by women all over the world. It can be defined as “any act that is perpetrated against a person’s will and is based on gender norms and unequal power relationships.”.

The UNHCR state that “It encompasses threats of violence and coercion. It can be physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual in nature, and can take the form of a denial of resources or access to services. It inflicts harm on women, girls, men and boys”.

#16days is a global movement coordinated by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership that highlights gender-based violence, seeking to raise awareness and manifest change. The United Nations supports the movement as part of their own campaign, UNiTE which seeks to end violence against women by 2030. This is no small undertaking.

111 shoes at Hendon campus

On Thursday 9 January a stage was erected in the main building of our Hendon Campus. On the stage were 111 pairs of shoes to represent the women that died as a result of male violence in 2019. Too many! We must do better.

Sadly, these are unlikely to be the final figures and I recommend you to read Counting Dead Women by Karen Ingala Smith which goes into more detail about those that were killed.

We invited staff, students and local residents to take a moment to remember the women who paid the price of men’s violence and society’s failure to protect them.

A section of 111 pairs of shoes on a stage

The data and research show a horrifying increase in domestic violence

Gender-based violence is a local, national and international issue and continues to disproportionately pervade the lives of women in every society across the globe. Every week, two women are killed as a result of domestic violence and abuse in England and Wales alone. This figure does not even take into account the number of women who die by suicide as a result of the abuse experienced such as women like Justene Reece

Justene Reece died by suicide in February of 2017. On her suicide note she wrote: “I’ve run out of fight”. Justene is not an anomaly. According to Refuge, almost 30 women attempt suicide daily as a result of abuse. From #metoo to #timesup to #16days, women across the globe are standing up and saying ‘no more’.

Despite this, little has changed and women are more at risk than ever and recent figures show that domestic abuse killings in England and Wales have reached a five year high.

Societal and structural inequalities faced by women on a daily basis contribute to the notion that women are property, somehow less human, and deserve less than men – who have traditionally held positions of power in society. From cat calling, to sexual harassment, from ‘just another domestic’ to homicide. It is a slippery slope and women leaving an abusive relationship are more at risk than ever.

Rape prosecutions are at their lowest, funding to services is being cut, and welfare services disadvantage the women that need it most. The family courts are no exception to this, with survivors stating that their children and themselves are being put at risk by a system that doesn’t take their voices into account. Repeated system failures and societal expectations are contributing to women dying. Women have nowhere to turn. Even third sector support is a ‘postcode lottery’.

It’s time to make a change

In a recent evaluation of domestic violence protection orders, it was identified that police intervention resulted in a reduction of the number of ‘incidents’ a women might experience. Whilst this is positive, we need to ensure that trained police officers are available. Current funding cuts are having an impact on the ability of police officers to respond to reported crime, leaving women unprotected.

“There is a general lack of awareness amongst the general public on what they can do if they become aware of incidents of domestic abuse involving other people.”

Home Office, 2016, p27

However, society has a role to play as well. On average a women will experience 35 incidents before calling the police. It’s time we open our eyes. We can all help in reducing gender-based violence: this is not the responsibility of women alone. Too often we ask women to put in the work to keep themselves and their children safe.

“From my understanding of working with survivors, a lot of the pressure of the work that we ask them to do is situations that they’ve not put themselves in, they’ve been put in, and now we’re asking them to do the work to keep their children safe, it’s a catch 22.”

Professional; Scally, Horvath & Adler, 2019

Men too must stand up and say no more. As Jackson Katz states, it’s a men’s issue. Whether this be contacting the police, supporting  woman they know that has experienced a form of gender-based violence, or simply shutting down ‘rape jokes’. Cultural change is required.

“In the months leading to the tragic death of [the victim], family, neighbours, and colleagues appear to have held more information than agencies around the nature of the relationship between [the victim and the perpetrator], and the abuse within it.”

Home Office, 2016, p27

Recently there has been a push by third sector organisations to recognise the impact that bystanders can have on reducing domestic violence and abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has developed an excellent page on how to help.

In short, violence against women is not a private issue; it’s everyone’s business. We can all do something to raise awareness, support the women experiencing violence and fight against toxic masculinity.

You are not alone – there is support

Below are a list of support lines that may be useful if you or anyone you know if currently experiencing abuse. Please speak to someone, or contact a support line. You are not alone.

As a survivor from a recent study stated: “You are strong and together we can be a lot stronger”.

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