Every year to coincide with International Women’s Day, my colleague, Jess Phillips, reads out in Parliament the names of all the women who have been killed over the last year in the UK where a man has been charged or convicted. It still is an astonishing number, 118, over two women every week. This year that took place last week with a sad and bitter irony that Sarah Everard’s name was about to be added.
We should be shocked not only by the number of women who are killed in this way, but by the lack of media interest in most of those deaths. We can only imagine the fear of each victim. Each one is someone’s loved one, someone’s child or someone’s mum. There is no fitting tribute that can match the scale of the atrocity of the murder of Sarah Everard or of the 118 other women, but if the legitimate concern and the protests and the shock cause our society to think again, that must be the minimum acceptable outcome.
Domestic violence touches far too many victims, mainly women but men too and their children. That is unacceptable. We’ve got to be shocked enough to say there is no level of violence that is acceptable for women in Britain. There is no level of fear that runs on for weeks and years that is acceptable. This can never be political correctness. It is the basic standard of protection that both women and men should expect.
It’s right that we ask our Police and prosecuting authorities to redouble their efforts to play their role. Our NHS can be there not just to heal the effects of attack but to signpost victims to places where they can get help. We need the partnerships between different agencies to ensure that victims don’t go undetected. We need to demand that refuges for those fleeing domestic violence are properly funded. The latest figures tell us that 4800 domestic abuse victims are turned away mainly through lack of space – that’s in today’s Britain.
But in the end we all have a part to play if we are going to take this moment to change attitudes in a way that helps prevent this violence. Those protesting inevitably drew criticism but protest is not what is shocking. What is shocking is if we don’t condemn the culture which allows violence to pass unnoticed in modern Britain. This isn’t a woman’s issue, it’s a challenge to every one of us, man or woman.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 20 March 2021.