Violence Against Women - This isn’t “our” problem, it’s (all of) our problem: our message to the Caithness & Sutherland community.
You might have wondered about our silence last week. Violence against women is our every day: our team commit and dedicate their professional, working lives to raising awareness and supporting women, children and young people for whom violence against women is a lived and constant reality. As a team of women, we are acutely aware of what life is like for women and how unsafe the world is.
We took time last week to digest and reflect on the truly awful, and triggering, news. This last week has been profoundly shocking and heart-breaking in so many ways – Sarah’s murder first & foremost, press hatred towards Meghan Markle clearly evidenced in the newspaper extracts shown in her interview; police actions on Saturday night at the vigil; further afield VAW marches in Australia in protest at high ranking political perpetrators. All of this in one week. We took time to review the response across the press and social media over the past week. What we’ve learned, in all honesty and with incredible sadness, is that there is still so much work to. And we ask you: please don’t shake your head in disagreement; please don’t roll your eyes; please don’t say “not all men”; please don’t stop reading here.
We waited until this week to convey an important message: this ISN’T last week’s news. It doesn’t stay there, it shouldn’t stay there and quite frankly, it can’t stay there. Violence against women won’t go away unless we all do something. It is not good enough anymore to choose to ignore it. If you are in a position where you can ignore it…please know, acknowledge and respect that this is a privilege you have that others do not.
We need you to play your part. We need you to stop ignoring and start listening; start learning and taking action. Until we challenge ourselves to reflect; until we are critical and consider how our thoughts, beliefs, speech and actions (or lack of) contribute; until we start believing and stop blaming women and until we take real action, absolutely nothing will change.
Last week was a stark reminder of the reality of violence against Women. Violence against women can be understood on an escalating continuum. It begins with gender roles and stereotypes and sexist “locker room” banter and jokes. It ends, tragically, in fatality. For every four women you know, statistically, one of them will have experienced domestic abuse. For every five women you know, statistically one will have been a victim of rape and sexual violence. 97% of young women and over 70% of all women have experienced sexual harassment. On average, one woman is killed by a man every three days. Last week a woman walking home did not arrive.
Why are we ignoring this? Why are we accepting this? Why do we think this isn’t a problem? Why aren’t more of us outraged?
As a society, we need to start treating violence against women with more urgency, with more determination and to be honest, with more bravery. We need you to stop shying and shrinking away from this.
Last week was a week that ended celebrating Mothers and began with International Women’s Day - a theme this year that encouraged everyone to #choosetochallenge. Through the heartbreaking and disturbing events that unfolded it has provided each and every one of us with a purpose and an obligation to choose to challenge.
This isn’t a problem of the city, it is a problem here in Caithness and Sutherland.
If you are still reading this, take a moment to reflect on the ways that you can choose to challenge violence against women. This can start by listening, believing and not blaming women. It begins with quiet reflection – reading, watching and listening. It begins through small conversations and actions with family and friends. It starts by taking steps to make spaces feel and be safe for women. And it starts by abandoning the “not all men” hashtag. We know not all men are perpetrators, but the hashtag is not helpful – time and energy trying to prove you aren’t part of the problem changes absolutely nothing and does not recognise the role that we all play. We are a feminist organisation. We don’t hate men, we love, like and respect them. But we are so tired of saying this, of having to qualify and justify being feminist. We strive to make the world a more equal, inclusive and safe place. Sadly perpetrators of domestic abuse and violence against women continue to live among us. As domestic abuse specialists working locally, we know this too well.
For International Women’s Day last week CASWA shared what we choose to challenge as an organisation to make the world a safer place for women and girls (we choose to challenge domestic abuse, violence against women, gender inequality, victim blaming, gender roles and stereotypes, harmful attitudes, myths and misconceptions).
This week, we turn to you and ask: What will you challenge? What will you do?
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RASASH – Rape & Sexual Abuse Service Highland
Image credit: Mentors in Violence Prevention