Recently, I attended Million Women Rise in the centre of London. We marched for an end to male violence against women. At the gathering in Trafalgar Square that followed the march, the screen was displaying statistics about violence against women and girls (VAWG). I was merrily tweeting away, content that somebody was raising these issues and that I was surrounded by those who cared. Walking away after these kinds of events is always hard, as you walk back into a faceless crowd of people – a world away from the community of like-minded, proactive feminists I had just stepped away from.
Walking away is especially hard when the responses to your tweets come with an anti-feminist agenda. Did you know that 60-70% of child sex offenders target girls only, 10-20% both sexes and 10% boys only? I thought this was tweet-worthy because most people are aware that domestic violence is mainly an issue of male violence against women, but they may not be aware that gender-based violence also extends to child abuse. The fact that domestic and sexual abuses are issues of gender seems undeniable in the face of such statistics. However, in response to this tweet I received the following via Facebook:
I’m not sure what this is intended to illustrate, that we need to do more to challenge sexism within the child-predator community?
Of course, this point to me seems blindly ridiculous. I pointed out that that statistic was, for me, one of many reasons for feminism to exist. His response was to malign feminism, and accuse me of sidelining the issue of abuse in order to prioritise gender issues. At no point had I, or would I, claim that child abuse would be less heinous if the gender split were more equal, or that only a feminist could find sexual violence abhorrent – and suddenly I stood accused of this. However, I would argue that gender-based violence exists largely because of a basic lack of equality for women. His response, ‘I’m not sure if that point naturally follows on from the statistic’, may sadly be all too common.
As this report into the links between gender and violence from the Scottish government says, ‘If something overwhelmingly affects one section of the population, we need to ask why and we need to do something about it.’ To me, it’s an absolute no-brainer that if analysis shows that women and girls are the most affected by domestic and sexual abuse, we have to consider why. Even if you don’t consider that gender is the main issue to focus on in abuse cases, or that inequality is the cause of abuse of women by men, why not stop attacking feminists for trying to do humanitarian work and accept that the work needs to be done?
Domestic violence is very real and much more common that most people know. If you read Refuge’s ‘what we believe’ page, they outline the following points:
- One woman in four experiences domestic violence at some point in her life.
- Two women are killed each week by a current or former partner.
- Domestic violence accounts for almost a quarter of all violent crime.
- In 90% of domestic violence incidents in family households, children are in the same or next room.
- On average a woman will be assaulted by her partner or ex-partner 35 times before reporting it to the police.
Refuge’s CEO, Sandra Horley, has recently warned that the charity is at threat of closure now that their funding has been cut by 50%. This is an absolute tragedy given the priceless work they do, how few people do it and how little money there is for those that do. How can we allow money to be constantly flowed away from women’s charities while they also receive less public support than many other high-profile charities? Donkeys receive £20 million a year from generous public support. The donkeys thank you. But really? We’d rather see women and children beaten, terrified and forced onto the streets because they have fled an abusive partner while the donkeys thrive? Refuge already turns away 230 people a day who need somewhere to stay after leaving an abusive partner. Many of these women and children end up homeless. They are also at risk of having no option but to return to their partner, where they face the threat of death. 50% of murders in the US are committed by husbands upon their wives. We’re not talking about a minor slap every so often – this is calculated, brutal violence. Its emotional effect is so devastating that it often takes women years to pluck up the courage to seek out help from an organisation like Refuge. And now, with 230 people turned away each day, there is even less hope for these women.
Women’s charities do not receive enough donations or government funding to do their important work as it is. Donkeys get more money per year than all of the women’s charities put together, who work to alleviate issues such as rape, prostitution, female genital mutilation, domestic violence and human trafficking (for sex, labour and organ harvesting). Well, donkeys are pretty, after all.
So what, will it be – donkeys or humans?
Please, please, please help Refuge to stay afloat and keep doing what they’re doing. And to the man who commented on my tweet – please stop arguing on Facebook about domestic violence and do something to help. The causes may be debatable, but the effects are very real.
You can donate to Refuge and read more about their work on their official website.
- Refuge warns it could be forced to close (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘Clare’s Law’ is little help if the police don’t perform their basic duty | Sandra Horley (guardian.co.uk)
- Outcry at betrayal of domestic violence victims (independent.co.uk)