Eliminating Violence Against Women in the UK

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, a day for optimism, hope and solidarity. But the idea of completely eliminating violence against women can also sometimes feel impossible. The statistics are terrifying: here in the UK, 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence at some point during their life, 2 women a week are killed  by a current or former partner, 47,000 women a year are raped and over 20,000 girls are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

The end of violence against women is going to take a long time and it’s going to be hard, but we have seen incredible gains just during the last 30 years. For example, rape within marriage was made a crime in 1991. 74% of the population think a woman is neither fully nor partially responsible for being raped if she is wearing sexy or revealing clothing, despite merciless media messages to the contrary. Here in Cambridgeshire, there are 4 women’s refuges and 2 rape crisis centres where 40 years ago there was nothing. All this has been achieved in just one generation thanks to the hard work and determination of feminists and survivors.

 We need to carry on this work.  We need to work on raising awareness of violence against women, changing social attitudes and placing the stigma on perpetrators rather than survivors. These things can all be broken down into small steps – wearing a white ribbon, and telling people why we’re wearing it. Printing off an awareness-raising poster and putting it up somewhere where plenty of people will see it, or sharing it on facebook or twitter. Challenging our friends and family if they make jokes or comments that trivialise sexual or domestic violence. Educating ourselves – learning the facts and stats, reading women’s accounts of their experiences. Making sure that if someone we know ever tells us that they have been raped or sexually abused, or that they are in an abusive relationship, we will know what to say, what not to say and where they could go for help and support if they want it.

These are just a few simple suggestions: there are so many ways that each of us can contribute. If you have any other ideas for how we as individuals can work to end violence against women, or have taken action yourself, then please share them with us.

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