On a week that started with IWD and ended with Mother’s Day I am once again left in what can only be described as despair a t the state of violence against women in this country. I am sure today Mothers and our coaches and mentors at Girls Out Loud will be navigating difficult conversations with teenage girls about personal safety that borders on restricting their freedom and liberties. Freedoms we have fought hard to secure and yet freedoms that are compromised every day by the patriarchal and misogynistic society we still live in. It I heart-breaking that we constantly have to tip toe along a line of inspiring young women to stand up, find their voice, get out of their comfort zone and know they are enough; alongside warning them about going out at night, walking alone at any time in the day, showing too much flesh, not checking in, having safe words, staying in built up/lit areas, being careful about who they talk to etc etc. It is a dilemma all parents face and for Mums especially it is a tough and confusing conversation.
Why can’t we keep women safe? And I know it is not all men, obviously it is not, but this does not really help us stay safe nor keep our daughters safe does it? And on this occasion the alleged perpetrator was a Police Officer, a trusted male, an authority figure – it just makes it so much harder to manage the fallout, so now we have to tell our daughters to distrust the very establishment that is there to protect them?
We must do more to tackle the level of violence against women in our society, it feels like no matter how much awareness we bring to these issues no shift in the level of heinous crimes, sexual abuse, rape, stalking, trolling is evident. And the Metropolitan Police handling of the vigil for Sarah Everard this week made me cry with anger and pain. I found it hard to watch and even harder to understand their plan or lack of it.
Then Jess Phillips MP showed up on The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday with her compassion and forthrightness and expressed the way I was feeling with perfect clarity and a bubbling anger for a system that cares more about statues and fly tipping than women. Unless we implement real penalties for violent crimes against women like rape, sexual assault, stalking and murder as a society we are saying women don’t really matter. It appalls me that the sentencing for defacing a statue is higher than rape. In the past decade incidents of violence against women have increased, in fact this year we have seen the highest figures on record, yet women and girls don’t report and when they do prosecutions are low. On the Police’s performance this week, are we still wondering why women don’t report?
Women can share their stories online, march in solidarity and blog to their hearts content but it is NOT us carrying out the crimes. We need men to get angry about this and step up, call it out and take action. If not for Sarah for their daughters.
Girls Out Loud is calling for a recognition and acceptance that this is a real issue – we need more education for boys and girls on respect and boundaries, we need more convictions, tougher sentencing, more women making laws and in positions of authority that matter and more resources to support women who have experienced violence. Women’s Safety: It’s Time To Change.