I had the privilege to mark International Women’s Day with two incredible survivors and campaigners, Claire Throssell and Naomi Clayton.
Claire has battled for changes in the family courts since her children Jack and Paul were murdered by their father and Claire’s ex-partner on a contact visit in 2014.
Naomi fought to have her case of childhood sexual abuse heard in the criminal courts, successfully challenging the initial CPS decision not to proceed with the case.
The stories of Naomi and Claire are not rare. Every day, women face similar battles to keep themselves and their children safe. At IDAS we support 10,000 women across Yorkshire who are surviving abuse and violence. 10,000 women supported by IDAS alone! Every day, there are more than 3,000 reports of domestic abuse in the UK. 3,000 reports every day. During lockdown domestic abuse reports and calls to helplines have surged.
The day after my evening with Claire and Naomi, the heart-breaking news broke of the murder of York woman Sarah Everard, a woman who was simply walking home.
Social media sites were flooded with the accounts and the rage of women and girls. Thousands of voices saying the same thing, telling the story of the sustained abuse that every woman has experienced on the streets, in the home and at work. The catcalling, the gropes, the put downs, the flashing, the assaults. These are common occurrences for women and girls across the UK. It should be a national scandal that in public life and in private women are treated this way.
The day after the news of Sarah’s murder, Jess Phillips read the names of all the women murdered by men in the UK during 2020. It took nearly 5 minutes. Listening to the names of those women, occasionally accompanied by the names of their children was agonising.
And yet, in tones similar to the "All Lives Matter" cries that fail to recognise the reality of institutional racism, this prompted many to remind us that it’s "Not All Men", to point to figures that show that women are abusive too.
The reality of course is that there are male victims, that not all men will abuse, not all men harass and catcall and stalk. Most men don’t. And yet, the abuse, the harassment, the put downs have become so much part of the fabric of women’s lives, that sometimes we don’t even notice them. A bad experience is chalked up as one of those things, a comment on the street is put down to the ignorance of some men, feelings of fear as we walk alone are suppressed.
But, this week, something changed. In our grief for Sarah and for every woman who has been murdered or assaulted or abused, our shared experiences as women were laid bare.
We must capture this moment and from our cacophony of rage and grief we must fight for change.
We must galvanise our energy and the energy of the growing number of men who ask ‘what can we do’?
It’s "Not All Men", it never was, but all men are needed now to step forward and make a change.
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