Male violence against women is not new but it has been brought to the fore following the tragic murders of Sarah Everard on 3rd March 2021, and Wenjing Lin on 5th March 2021. These events have rightly re-energised conversations about women’s safety and levels of violence perpetrated by men against women. However, the conversation rarely turns to the ways in which violence against women can be prevented.
Violence against women is a very real problem in our society. UN Women report that 97% of women aged 18 – 24 in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in a public place, with the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimating 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16. Globally, the World Health Organisation’s latest prevalence estimate suggests that 30% of women will experience domestic and/ or sexual violence in her lifetime***
The only way to effectively end male violence against women and girls is to prevent it from happening in the first place. To do this, we must tackle the root causes of violence, including gender inequality, and the social and cultural norms that allow violence to exist. We must work in partnership to educate people about the causes of violence, and develop interventions that tackle these causes.
What someone is wearing, how, when or where they are travelling or how they have responded to their perpetrator in the past are not the causes of violence. Likewise, acts of violence against women are not ‘one-off’ or random events.
Instead, male violence against women is a public health issue which can be predicted and prevented. A systemic problem calls for a whole-systems response. This means partners working together, including but not limited to police, health, criminal justice, education and the voluntary sector. Violence is everyone’s business, and everyone has a role in preventing it.
In Wales, we have taken steps to address these causes and propose how we can develop a new preventative approach. The Blueprint for the Prevention of Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence, developed by Welsh Women’s Aid and the Wales Violence Prevention Unit, recognises that violence against women is preventable and outlines what a public health approach to prevention would look like for Wales.
We are currently working with Welsh Government and partners to ensure that the refresh of the Violence Against Women, Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Strategy is influenced by evidence on ‘what works’ in prevention, and includes voices of people who have experienced violence in the home, community or workplace.
Of course, there is still a lot work to do. Real, lasting change cannot be made overnight, but in working together and engaging everyone in the conversation – men, women and children – we believe we can truly make Wales a safe place for everyone.
Violence against women is the fault of a few but preventing it is a responsibility for us all. As we work together to end violence against women, we urge you to take small steps make women feel safer, and to encourage your friends, family and loved ones to do the same. In public places:
Make space: don’t jog or run up behind someone. If possible, cross the road.
Show you’re not a threat: Don’t stare and focus your attention elsewhere.
Make yourself known: Make a noise, like talking on your phone, to alert someone that you’re there and you mean no harm.
Keep comments to yourself: Catcalling or making comments about a stranger’s appearance is not a compliment and can be terrifying.
Be an active bystander: If you see someone in trouble, show your support. For example, ask if they are okay. If you do not feel it is safe to approach, call for help.
If a friend, colleague or family member makes a joke or comment that you think is concerning, because it encourages or promotes violence against women and/ or misogyny, challenge their behaviour. Welsh Women’s Aid have developed a useful Bystander Toolkit with do’s and don’ts on how to act safely and provide support.
Listen to people with lived experience: If someone discloses an experience of violence to you, most importantly believe them and listen.
If you are a survivor of violence, know that what happened to you is not your fault. There is nothing you could have or should have done differently. If feel able to but haven’t yet done so, please consider speaking to someone you trust about your experience. This could be a friend or family member, or helpline. The Live Fear Free helpline is available 24/7 for free advice and support or to talk through your options.