“I promise to never use, excuse, or remain silent about men’s violence against women.”
Think of four women and girls you know. Family, friends, colleagues. Statistics from Refuge show that one on four of them will experience domestic abuse in her lifetime. One in four.
Let’s grasp the nettle, here. The vast majority of violence is committed by men – 82% of violent crime and 95% of sex offences. While men are more likely to be victims of violent crime from strangers, usually other men, women are overwhelmingly more likely to be victims of severe domestic abuse. 49% of all assaults on women are committed by an intimate partner.
I’ve seen it in public. When we lived in our first house in Heaton, my wife and I were watching TV one night. Angry sounds erupted outside, and on a neighbour’s path a man was pushing a woman against the front door, she was struggling to get away. I banged on the window and rushed outside. By then the woman was on the floor, and the man kicking her legs. He ran off, I went to attend to the woman as my wife joined me.
She was older than us, perhaps in her late fifties. We asked her was she injured? Did she need first aid? No, but she would have a few bruises. Did she want us to call the police? No, she didn’t want that. Would she like to rest inside and have a cup of tea? Yes. So we did. Did she have somewhere safe to go? Yes she did. We called her a taxi and sorted out the fare.
Everyone has to judge the situation, and keep their own safety in mind. But please don’t just walk by – pretty much everyone has a mobile phone these days to call the police.
While most violence is perpetrated by men, it’s not all men. So why are some men so violent, when others find misogyny and violence abhorrent? And what can we do about it?
Some will have personality disorders that make them unable to feel empathy. Some are badly affected by drug and alcohol problems.
Long term studies show that traumatic childhood experiences correlate with lifelong effects. Children experiencing parental or domestic abuse, or having a father in prison, or growing up in a home with alcohol or substance abuse have worse life outcomes. This can include boys having a greater propensity to violence. It’s statistical, of course – it would be offensive and wrong to assume that everyone with a tough childhood becomes a dysfunctional adult.
Sadly, services that support children with trauma have been cut to the bone over the past dozen years. As a matter of public policy, if we want to fix it, we have to fund it.
That brings us to culture. This is where all men can help, right away, by calling out abusive attitudes and behaviours against women and girls.
I was fortunate to have these values as part of my childhood. My Mam helped set up the women’s refuge in Middlesbrough back in the 1970’s. I played with the kids of the women in the refuge. I remember being taken by her, as a seven year old, on the very first Reclaim the Night March in Leeds in 1977. That was a response to women being urged to imprison themselves. To curfew after dark because a serial killer was at large. If you can, support this coming Saturday’s Reclaim the Night March in Newcastle.
We now have two strapping teenage boys of our own, and I’m humbled by how mindful many young people are to issues of misogyny and gender based violence.
This Friday, 25th November, is White Ribbon day. A campaign for men and boys to challenge violence against women and girls. If you see something out of order happen while out or at work or you hear a mate in the pub make a dodgy comment – call it out, if you can, if it’s safe. It’s not ‘banter’, it’s not normal, it’s not okay.
And please join me in making the White Ribbon pledge: “I promise to never use, excuse, or remain silent about men’s violence against women.”
It’s time men took responsibility to change this forever.