Yesterday a judge told a man who forced a woman to drink bleach, hit her with a cricket bat and urged her to kill herself that he could walk away and get on with his life because she wasn't "vulnerable". This was a very hard judgement for women to accept.
It seems the judge has suggested that a woman, who is educated to degree level and can speak fluent English and has friends, has not really suffered domestic abuse to the same degree. This is blatantly and completely untrue. I am constantly told by educated, successful women, even those with a network of friends, that they too are being abused. They ask for help. They need help. Women who are being abused, from all backgrounds, are sometimes murdered. The femicide census shows us that over a thousand women have been killed by men since 2009. Many of them knew their murderer as a partner, ex-partner or family member.
Last night I felt overwhelmed. I felt as though women will never get the message through to our courts, or the police, or our government, or men on social media, that women need change. Women need the justice system to take our safety seriously and give us justice when it has been threatened or our lives have been taken.
On 11th March I began a series of bike rides to commemorate the women murdered by men known to them in 2016. I decided to dedicate each ride to a named woman in honour of each of those beautiful, courageous, wonderful women who had their lives stolen by a man, leaving behind a tapestry of grief for those who loved them.
I ride to raise awareness of just how horribly they died, sometimes after years or even decades of abuse. I also ride to raise money for Wearside Women In Need. They face a slash in funding by Sunderland Council in their budget from £568,000 to £0 from July 2017. They currently run a variety of domestic violence and other services for women and four refuges that are all at risk of closure. At at time when judges let domestic abusers who beat a woman with a cricket bat walk free, those refuges are needed more than ever. They pick up those beaten women. They help to put their lives back together. They save lives.
I did my first ride for murdered women in honour of Katrina O' Hara who was stabbed to death outside her place of work by her ex-partner who was angry that she had dumped him. She was the mother of five children. Today I will do my 9th bike ride for Bethany Hill who had her throat slashed repeatedly by her ex-partner and his new partner. I never ride less than 10 miles. Most often I ride between 20 and 40 miles if weather and daylight allow. I work full time but I am doing the best I can to honour those poor women and I have a moment of overwhelming sadness at how many bike rides I will need to complete this year. I wish it was less. I hope next year it will be less.
On Mother's Day I rode for Caroline Andrews who was strangled to death by her husband Stuart. Stuart also stole £267,000 from Caroline's father who was suffering from Dementia. He wrote a letter to her four children lying to them and saying their mother had died of an "accident". He is behind bars. I'm pleased. The judge jailed him, quite rightly, for life. Judges need to jail our abusers every time.
The many lives left in tatters by men who murder women need commemorating. That is what I ride for. I ride for Caroline. I ride for the other 92 women murdered by men in 2016. I ride for the women in Wearside who are being told by Sunderland Council that they must muddle along with whatever comes in place of their refuges. I ride for the woman who is at this very moment being held by her throat against a wall and told she is worthless. I ride for the next woman who will lose her life at the hands of a man she loves. I want to reach a day where I can just ride my bike. I would like a future where no women are killed as a result of domestic violence. Until then.... I'll just get on my bike.
You can donate here if you would like to support me and follow the rides I post on Instagram and Twitter under #Ride4MurderedWomen https://t.co/xUp7rLeGtiSuggest a correction