Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and the start of the 16 Days of Action to End Violence against Women. There are events being held across the world to raise awareness about violence against women as set out by United Nation's day of commemoration that started in 1999:
Violence against women is a human rights violation
Violence against women is a consequence of discrimination against women, in law and also in practice, and of persisting inequalities between men and women
Violence against women impacts on, and impedes, progress in many areas, including poverty eradication, combating HIV/AIDS, and peace and security
Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. Prevention is possible and essential
Violence against women continues to be a global pandemic. Up to 70 per cent of women experience violence in their lifetime.
It is very clear that the UN recognises the gendered nature of violence against women, yet nowhere in these statements are the perpetrators of violence against women named. We need to talk seriously about the epidemic of violence against women and children in our country and we need to start by naming the perpetrators.
We need to examine why 1 in 4 women in the UK are victims of domestic violence. We need to understand why 2 women are murdered a week by their current or former partners and we need to analyse our culture in which 1 in 5 women experience sexual violence in their lifetime.
We cannot do this without naming who the main perpetrators of violence against women are: men. It is men who murder two women a week. It is men who commit the vast majority of sexual violence against women, children and other men. And, it is men who are the vast majority of perpetrators of domestic violence.
We cannot end violence against women until we contextualise that violence appropriately and without using misleading statistics. The most common response to the statistic that 1 in 4 women experience domestic violence is that 1 in 6 men experience domestic violence too. Unfortunately, this statistic simply does not measure up to examination. As Woman's Aid makes clear, the statistic of 1 in 6 men is based solely on "single incidents without regard" to:
severity of violence
whether or not it was repeated - and if so, how often
the complex pattern of overlapping abuse of various kinds
the context in which it took place.
It also excludes sexual violence and emotional abuse. As Lundy Bancroft states in his seminal text Why Does he do that? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, it ignores the process of gaslighting wherein the male partner emotionally abuses the female partner into doubting their own memories as well as lashing out physically, at which point the woman is labelled abusive; when, in fact, this has been another instance of psychological abuse of the woman. It ignores the fact that women experience abuse at the hands of a male partner numerous times before asking for help whilst men are more likely to seek help for the first experience.
The failure to acknowledge the reality of gendered violence actively harms women and children. This is why I support the Counting Dead Women campaign by Karen Ingala Smith, which calls for a "fit-for-purpose record of fatal male violence against women".
We need to acknowledge that fatal male violence against women is not a series of isolated events; that these aren't 'tragedies' which could not have been prevented. We need to recognise that male violence against women and children, in all its forms, is an epidemic; that all male violence against women and children derives from misogyny and is the single most important issue we face today, which costs an estimated £23 billion per year.
For far too long, we have seen excuses made for violent men. We blame their victims for the crime of being victims. We ask 'why don't women leave violent men' instead of asking why men commit violence against their partners. We tell women they are responsible for being raped for being out in public, wearing short skirts, going to work and taking public transport. We do not tell rapists they are solely responsible for the rapes they commit.
Let's start the 16 Days of Action to Eliminate Violence Against Women by demanding that the government hold a homicide review for every misogynist murder. Let's demand the creation of an independent Femicide Observatory, funded by the government "where relationships between victim and perpetrator and social, cultural and psychological issues are analysed."
Let's stop pretending that fatal male violence against women are isolated events; or that fatal male violence is somehow distinct from non-fatal male violence. If we truly want to eliminate male violence against women and children, then we need to start contextualising male violence within a culture that classes women as sub-human.
Let's commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women by naming the perpetrators.