“It’s been a difficult, distressing week in the news which highlights just how much further we have to go in eradicating men’s violence against women…Thank you to every one of you for making a difference every day that you come to work in CASWA – we are a powerful team”.
These were the opening lines of our Manager’s weekly e-mail to our team a couple of weeks ago. The last few weeks have been tough – the detail emerging from Sarah Everard’s murder and the consequent response and action which places yet more responsibility on women’s shoulders and fails to tackle the actual problem.
Distressed, anxious, angry, sad, scared, sickened, frightened, heartbroken, overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, numb…
It is okay if you feel any or all of these feelings. It is normal to feel any or all of these feelings.
We feel them too.
Last week, 9 members of the CASWA team spent some time reflecting and sharing the feelings they have experienced and been working through over the past few weeks in an effort to support you, our community, to navigate through your own feelings and importantly, know: you are not alone. We are also sharing how we feel as a plea to our community to understand why we must stop ignoring it, why we must all do more, why we need to tackle it properly and why we don’t escape it and we’re not immune to it in the North of Scotland.
The “it” we are talking about is men’s violence against women.
Over to our team…
Over recent weeks and months, I’ve found myself questioning how safe I actually am in the world as a woman. With news stories depicting the worst, from Sarah Everard who was sadly murdered at the hands of someone who is supposed to keep us safe, to the countless other women who have been victims of gender based violence of any kind, including assault, domestic abuse and rape. Where I fully agree that we need to spread awareness of gender-based violence, I can’t help but feel increasing anxiety levels within myself seeing all these stories and it brings it home how unsafe we really are.
I recently made a trip to Glasgow with a female friend to see a band. Having seen all the press coverage, I was on edge the while traveling and while walking the short distance from the train station to our hotel. I found myself on edge and looking over my shoulder, and not fully enjoying my time away. During the day walking around the shops I felt relatively at ease, with no real worries, however once night fell and shops were closing my anxieties increased as did my friends, we ordered food to our hotel room to avoid going out and went straight to our concerts venue and straight home again.
We walked the short distance from our hotel to the venue, which in hindsight was maybe not the best idea, but shouldn’t women be able to walk to a location without fearing their safety? Shouldn’t women feel comfortable and safe enough to attend big events without a male to “protect” them. I found myself thinking throughout the concert that I would feel more secure if my male partner was with us. Looking around the concert hall I couldn’t help but notice the large number or females who were there had a male in their group, or any females alone like my friend and I were glued to each other and never strayed from each other. I noticed that during the concert and the walk back to the hotel that I tried my hardest to keep my head down, trying to make myself invisible, maybe If I don’t look approachable I wouldn’t become a target.
I can’t help but reflect on my time away and wonder what’s changed for me that’s caused so much more anxiety around visiting cities and going to concerts. Is it the wide spread press articles of gender based violence, is it in part COVID anxiety, I know that while I was there my fears weren’t of catching the virus, but rather getting caught by a man on the streets and being a victim of gender based violence. Although with statistics that tell us over 70% of women have experienced sexual harassment, why wouldn’t we be afraid to walk home?
I feel frightened. I feel frightened for my daughter. I am frightened that she is growing up in a world where her physical, emotional and sexual safety are not protected as much as they should be. It frightens me that she will know what is like to have a boy/ man approach her and make her feel unsafe when she is only going about her daily life.
I know this will happen. I have experienced this fear for myself and know that as a girl/ women my daughter will be subjected to this fear without exception. This fear starts now and will only grow as she grows and as the male interest in her grows.
It scares me to know that she will experience fear for herself when a boy/ man inappropriately approaches and talks to her, invading her personal safe space with words that are said only for his gratification. It frightens me that she will have to alter her plans and change her actions in order for her to feel safe. That she will have to leave the shelter of a bus stop in order to get away from a boy/ man who makes her feel unsafe. That she will have to move to the other end of a bar when trying to order a drink because she is being “paid a compliment” by a man who says he is “being friendly” whilst leering at her and invading her personal space, making her feel so unsafe that she has to return to the safety of her friends before she is ready.
Girls and women have the right to feel like they can move their bodies and take themselves to places they chose without cause for fear that they are a man’s target. A girl/ women shouldn’t have to change her behaviour to counteract the behaviour of a boy/man. She shouldn’t have to always walk with others or only listen to one ear bud in order to maintain her safety. Girls and women have the right to be able to walk down the street in the knowledge that they are safe, just as boys and men are able to.
I feel frightened that my daughter is only 1 years old and yet these are the dangers that I have to prepare her for.
ANGRY & UPSET.
I feel angry and upset that we should have to question our safety when we are walking alone. I read about a woman who is now running on her treadmill instead of going out in the winter evenings as she is scared to run alone in the dark. I thought about her article when I went out for a walk yesterday evening. I felt relatively safe as I didn’t meet anyone and I kept to the ‘lit up areas’ however it should not be the case that if I met a strange man that I should have to question my safety, nor should I have felt I had to stick to the ‘lit up areas’. I feel like I have less freedom in the winter nights as I feel like I have to reduce the routes that I would normally walk due to lack of street lighting, the fact that I feel that I have to do this angers me!
OVERWHELMED, EXHAUSTED & FRUSTRATED.
As I have heard and witnessed the impact of some high profile and not so high profile cases of violence against women over the last few weeks, I felt a huge sense of being overwhelmed.
I am overwhelmed by the realisation of how far we still have to go to begin to change attitudes and beliefs about violence against women. I also realised this feeling has been creeping up on me for the last few weeks and I am exhausted and I am frustrated. My first thoughts were for all of the women I work with or who have experienced abuse and violence and I felt very small and powerless. I was reminded that I am just a tiny, minute part where change on a global level is needed. It is not a comfortable place to be, something every women is likely to have felt at some point.
Every day I hear the experiences of women who have been traumatised, and at times like these I wonder when things will really change. Change has to happen on an individual and community basis, by educating ourselves and our young people to understand how to change our values and belief systems to reject violence against women. The digital age comes with its pitfalls but, it also provides us with a platform for change, to light up the message of eradicating violence against women and girls within our own and our communities.
SAD & DISAPPOINTED.
I’m sad and disappointed by it all and that violence against women is still happening. I feel embarrassed to be part of a society where this is happening. It is horrible and still shocks me to my core. We think we’re moving forward, but are we?
I’m disappointed to hear people still victim-blaming. It is appalling. And even worse, when people victim blame, they 100% believe it. I’m sad, disappointed and disgusted to hear people still thinking like this. Women can and do put everything in place to try to keep themselves safe, but violence towards them still happens.
I feel sometimes we are fighting a losing battle. These men think that they can do whatever they want and not be held accountable and society lets them get away with it. We need to make perpetrators visible and accountable.
We have to call out and challenge their behaviours, and teach our children acceptable ways of treating others. This is a fight that we all have to do together, today not tomorrow.
ANGRY, BUT DETERMINED.
My first feeling is anger, but now I feel determined. Violence against women is being spoken about, and acknowledged, even Nicola Sturgeon had addressed this as being a male problem, it’s their behaviour that needs to change, not ours. We know we don’t live in a fair society, but now the drums have started beating, we need to keep beating them!!
ANGRY & DETERMINED.
Violence against women and girls is not new. I would never walk alone after dark, always checking that I had keys etc to defend myself with, and would constantly look over my shoulder. Now my daughter does the same. I’ve searched the internet for safe and legal self-defence items, which I tell myself will give my daughter those precious seconds to get away and save her if the unthinkable happens. I do this so I can sleep at night, but I still wait up for that text to say she is home.
Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard’s brutal murders had once again put violence against women and girls back into the spotlight, briefly. Since Sarah’s abduction, rape and murder over 80 women (who deserve to be remembered) have been murdered by men. Yet women are still having the same demands thrown at them: don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t wear revealing clothes, don’t walk alone…why are we so focussed on blaming the victim and their behaviour? No one wants to be raped or murdered! On the flip side there is little advice on how to talk to boys about violence against women and girls and how they can help create a safer world for everyone. Where is the demand that men take responsibility for their actions and to end violence against women and girls? Even as I write this I wonder how many readers will be men who are looking for guidance on how to help challenge the continual violence faced by women and girls.
We need structural change to overcome the systematic pattern of male violence, instead we have leading politicians who clearly have little grasp on the definition of misogyny, never mind the immediate and long term impact on every single woman and girl.
In the face of all of this I remain determined to keep challenging discrimination, inequality and violence and raise awareness on how we can ALL stand together to create a safer future. Not only for my daughters but also for my son.
No one should have to endlessly worry about their safety.
ANGRY, BUT HOPEFUL.
I feel angry. To be honest, I’ve felt angry for quite a while. My anger stems from a combination of sadness, frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, fear and exhaustion. I’m angry because I’m quite sure that if something else was affecting 1 in 4 people, 1 in 5 people, and killing someone every three days, like it is for women, it would be addressed with more determination, energy and compassion. I’m angry that men’s violence against women is so often ignored, overlooked or quickly forgotten about. I’m angry because the silence surrounding this can be deafening and sometimes this feels like a very lonely fight. I’m angry about the apathy, the diffusion of responsibility (#notallmen) and the lack of action. I’m angry because this is a conversation some of us get to opt out of.
I’m angry because of all the steps women have to take and are told to take every single day from a young age to promote our safety. I’m angry because my safety has to factor so highly in many of the day-to-day decisions I make and I have to risk assess and modify my behaviour on the basis of being a woman. I’m angry that in the wake of horrific news, the conversation turns to what more we can do to keep ourselves safe. I’m angry because this “advice” is steeped in privilege, ignorance and victim-blaming.
I'm angry that we’re still blamed anyway. I’m angry that as women our behaviours are scrutinised, analysed and criticised. I’m angry that energy, attention, responses and blame is misplaced and not where it should be: on those who perpetrate violence against women.
Most of all, I’m really angry because if am lucky and it isn’t me that something happens to, it will always be another woman. Always. How on earth can this be okay? I’m angry because we keep being told we can prevent things, but women aren’t the answer to prevention. Women aren’t raped because they are wearing a skirt that is too short, they aren’t harmed because they stayed in an abusive relationship and they aren’t murdered because they are walking home alone. They are raped, harmed, abused and murdered because a man made the choice to rape, harm, abuse and murder.
I’m angry because this issue is so huge, insidious and ingrained in our society that I find myself shaking my head in disbelief and sadness on a regular basis repeating the phrase, “there is so much to do”. I’m angry because it is so overwhelming and sometimes I don’t know when we’ll get there.
Despite all of my anger, I am also hopeful. Hopeful a few more people will “get it”, a few more people will start conversations, and a few more people will take action. I’m hopeful a few more people will be brave enough to challenge themselves and others, a few more people will educate themselves. I‘m hopeful that a few more people will be accountable and accept their role in tackling this. Quite simply: we need you to be.
Sarah Everard, Sabina Nessa, Terri Harris and 3 children - all headline news in a period of 2 weeks. I am sad, confused and anxious but most of all angry and frustrated.
Angry at society that tolerates violence against women; angry at a police service which doesn’t vet properly and actively tolerates misogyny on a daily basis; rage at the men who perpetrated these unspeakable crimes. So frustrated that it happens so often and we always hear “we need to change, we need to tackle this”. We attend rallies and sign petitions but it then every time it seems to fall by the wayside as something else distracts us.
I am so angry of fearing for my 16 year old daughter- angry at myself for the constant internal battle I have to allow her to be the young woman she is, and to have the freedom to grow; whilst wishing she isn’t going out with her friends, isn’t going to wear that outfit, isn’t going to get on that bus into town, isn’t going to go for a run. Not because I don’t trust her – I’m just terrified that because she is a woman she will be harmed. I hate that she has to learn like every woman from every generation before her how to keep herself safe, be told not to do this, not to do that , not to bring harm on herself………
There may have been a change in the last few weeks – shock disgust and grief have turned words into actions for some if not all. There seems to be a growing awareness that it is not up to a woman to have to take steps to protect herself just because she is a woman. Maybe this is the start a different conversation. Maybe my future granddaughter in years to come will look back on this in history as a turning point. I hope so.
These are the voices and feelings of our team. There are so many feelings we are all feeling at the moment and we hope this blog post helps you to feel less alone in how you are feeling. We know that some people, particularly those who have directly experienced violence towards them, the main feeling at the moment might be a feeling of numbness. We appreciate that some people will have had to disengage, to switch off the news and to avoid the conversation because of how triggering this may be. We want you to know that it is okay if you have had to do this – please look after yourself and know we and many organisations like us are here.
We hope that this blog post has gone some way to helping people understand why so many of us feel sad, angry, anxious, upset, exhausted, frustrated and disappointed. Why so many of us are so passionate. At CASWA, we’ll ALWAYS keep pushing for change, we’ll ALWAYS keep saying, “we’re not accepting this”, we’ll ALWAYS challenge and we’ll ALWAYS be a voice for victims. We just sincerely hope that some more of you will join us.
PLEASE REACH OUT TO ANY OF THESE HELPLINES IF YOU NEED SUPPORT:
- CASWA - Call us on 0345 408 0151 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Find your Nearest Women's Aid group Here - https://womensaid.scot/find-nearest-wa-group/
- Scotland's Domestic Abuse and Forced Marriage Helpline - Call: 0800 024 1234 or Email: email@example.com and Website: https://sdafmh.org.uk/
- Rape Crisis Scotland - Call: 08088 01 03 02 or Text: 07537 410 027 and Website: https://www.rapecrisisscotland.org.uk
- Rape and Sexual Abuse Service Highland (RASASH) - Call: 03330 066909 or Email: Support@rasash.org.uk and Website: https://www.rasash.org.uk/