Ending Violence Against Women is possible!
A message of solidarity to all survivors and those supporting them.
** Content warning: violence against women **
Too often violence against women happens behind closed doors and goes unreported. It rarely makes the news – but even in a year when it has dominated the headlines, as it has in recent months following the murders of Bibaa Henry, Nicole Smallman, Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa and too many other women, change remains painfully slow. Figures from the London Assembly show that in the year to the end of September 2021, total sexual offences in London had increased by 15%, rape by 9% and other sexual offences by 19%. Not only are these figures shocking, they likely only represent the tip of the iceberg. We often hear the statistic that 1 in 3 women have experienced violence, but ask yourself – do you actually know any women who have never faced any form of violence or harassment? I don’t.
Deeds not Words
You will say that there have been some attempts to address the issue. The Domestic Abuse Act – a piece of legislation that women’s rights organisations have been pushing to have on the statute books for DECADES! – finally received royal assent earlier this year. And now the ratification of the International Labour Organisation Convention 190 to end violence in the world of work is in the pipeline. While these are welcome, anyone paying attention will know that without adequate resources and serious efforts to address patriarchal social norms as well as gender responsive public services to prevent and respond to ongoing violence, including suitable services for ALL survivors, these laws are barely worth the paper it’s written on. As Cat Smith MP said recently: 'you can't legislate your way out of misogyny'.
Addressing domestic violence in silo does very little to eradicate all violence - as the latest injection spiking craze illustrates. It is the systemic nature of violence, how deeply ingrained it is across all our institutions and how it intersects with other forms of discrimination that makes it so incredibly difficult to uproot. That is precisely why calls to for more street lighting is not a solution and why having plain clothes police patrolling bars is part of the problem. We have seen the evidence - ask anyone in a Black and Minoritised community how they feel about having more police on the streets! To eradicate violence against women and girls we need a system change.
The scale of the problem is HUGE and it can be easy to feel dispirited. Don’t. Wherever we are, feminist activists and women’s rights organisations continue leading the way in keeping this issue on the agenda, coming up with solutions and making change happen. Ending violence against women and girls is possible. So keep up the good fight, be inspired and support those who are leading the charge. To mark the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls, London Feminista is highlighting some of these amazing organisations – with a spotlight, as always, is on smaller, intersectional, feminist organisations. Please support them and donate if you can 😊
I had the great pleasure to meet and work with Seyi Akiwowo, the founder and director of Glitch! - and what energy and vision she has! As a local councillor in the London borough of Newham, she received a flood of abuse when a speech she made in the European Parliament went viral. She chose to fight back in the best way possible: by exposing the impact of online abuse and establishing an organisation that provides training and educational programmes, campaigns and advocates to make the online world safer for all, especially for those who are affected the most - women and girls, people of colour and non-binary people. We all have a role to play in becoming better digital citizens, make our online spaces safer and help those experiencing online abuse. Here are some tips from Glitch on how: Being an Online Active Bystander ... and donate!
Imkaan is the only UK-based, umbrella women's organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and Minoritised women and girls - i.e. women who are defined in policy terms as Black and 'Minority Ethnic' (BME). Imkaan works to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls – and, with its members, represents the expertise and perspectives of frontline, specialist and dedicated Black and minoritised women’s organisations that seek to prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. The term 'Black' is used in the political sense, to encompass all women whose herstorys originate from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Latin America, including the indigenous peoples of Australasia, the Americas and the islands of the Atlantic Indian and Pacific Oceans. Imkaan is at the forefront of leading the development of the Black and Minoritised Women’s Anti-Racism Feministo for the Ending Violence Against Women’s Sector - something we can all learn from. You can donate here.
Founded in November 2014, Sisters Uncut is an intersectional feminist direct action collective that opposes the UK government’s systematic cuts to domestic violence services. It is open to women (including trans and intersex women), nonbinary, agender and gender variant people and organises in a non-hierarchical way using consensus decision-making. In October 2015, Sisters first grabbed the headlines when they took their protest to the London premiere of Suffragette. They did so again in March this year, when thousands – of mainly women - gathered in defiance of police orders against the vigil organised by #ReclaimTheStreets in memory Sarah Everard on Clapham Common. Soon after dark, the police tried to disperse the crowd but soon began to brutally manhandle women. Sisters Uncut fought back and continue to protest against routine and systemic police violence perpetrated by the police – including the Police, Crime and Sentencing and Courts bill currently making its way through Parliament and which could expand police power to ‘Stop and Search’, criminalise our right to protest and impact traveller communities - and more. Sister Uncut don't have a donate page - they tend to organise crowd funders - but you can contact them here.
Help and support
If you or someone that you know is experiencing or has experienced domestic violence, there is help available. You are not alone and no one deserves to experience violence and abuse. We want to make sure you get the right support and information, and speak to professionals who can help.
You can call the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. The helpline is open 24/7 and is free to call. They can help you to get in touch with your local specialist domestic violence service.
Other contacts you may find useful:
RapeCrisis Helpline If you would like to speak to someone about an experience of sexual violence, you can call on 0808 802 9999 (open 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm daily).
National Stalking Helpline: 0808 802 0300 (09:30 – 16:00 Weekdays (except Wed 13:00 – 16:00)
LGBT* Domestic Violence Helpline: 0300 999 5428 or 0800 999 5428 (10am – 5pm week days, 5pm – 8pm Monday and Thursday, with a trans* specific service on Tuesday afternoons)
ChildLine – for help and support if you’re 18 or under: 0800 1111 (24hr)