THE BLOG

It's Important to Focus Attention on Violence Against Women That Is Endemic

25/11/2014 09:53 GMT | Updated 24/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Today we will hear a lot about ending violence against women. It's the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: the special day when celebrities and politicians around the world show their support, make the announcements they have saved for this day. Let's not be cynical about that: it's important to focus attention on violence that is endemic, with its roots buried deep in every culture that oppresses, objectifies and trivialises women, including our own. But today is also like any other day in that around the world women will be traumatised, injured and killed by violent men - often men who dominate and control the most intimate aspects of their lives.

Some of the announcement made today will make a real difference in women's lives. Others will help raise awareness, and that in itself makes change possible - let's not forget the importance of publicity to campaigns against female genital mutilation, for example, or our own campaigns at Women's Aid for the law to recognise the repeated, coercive, controlling abuse at the heart of the most dangerous domestic violence, or for the government to act to protect life-saving women's refuges.

Yet, after today, two women a week will still be killed in England and Wales, at the hands of a partner or former partner. The police will still receive one call every minute relating to a domestic violence incident. Three quarters of a million children will still witness domestic violence every year.

This is not a counsel of despair. There is much we can do - and that local specialist services are doing minute by minute in this country - to keep women and children safe, support them to rebuild their lives. But if we want to make a lasting change after today, what can you, I, all of us do to help? Here comes the challenging bit!

For a start, we can challenge sexism and the blaming and further victimisation of women who have been abused: in social media, mainstream media, everyday conversations. If you wouldn't laugh at a racist insult, or blame a Black person for an assault against them, don't pretend sexism is funny, don't blame women for being raped, or for staying with a violent partner.

After today, when the acknowledgement of gender-based violence is no longer visible across the headlines making it more comfortable to challenge sexism, don't go back to a cosy state of denial. Recognise that although many men never abuse women, many do, and all women are affected by this fact. Recognise that as men commit over 90% of violent crime, it shouldn't be that hard to accept that they commit the vast majority of domestic and sexual violence. Recognise that acknowledging this isn't man-hating. In fact, there are many men who acknowledge it too, though we certainly need more.

Above all, after today don't go back to that tacit agreement where we don't mention domestic violence and other forms of violence against women, where it's full of shame, taboo - in other words where we all provide the veil of secrecy that is exactly what perpetrators need and what keeps victims in their place: keeps them as victims. Today is a special day, but let's make it a bit less special.