Our Streets Undermine the Safety of Women; UK government and the Police Must Take VAWG Seriously

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

WWSC STATEMENT ON THE SARAH EVERARD VIGIL What happened at the Clapham Common Vigil for Sarah Everard was disgraceful. We fully support the vigil attendees & condemn the Met Police’s disproportionate response. The police demonstrated the very thing that took Sarah Everard life: male violence, entitlement & control over women.

WWSC MISSION Women Who Self Care was founded out of frustration. We know that women are strong and capable and have the capacity to do almost anything that they put their mind to. Our society however, constantly undermines and blocks women’s potential and safety. The world is set up to facilitate men and their needs, but not to equally facilitate the needs of women. We see Self-Care as an essential addition to primary healthcare, particularly for those in need with limited access to healthcare. Access and information to self-care will also help to reduce the burden on the National Health Service and empower women to have autonomy over their health. However, we also see Self-Care as a political stance. If women are not put first by society, then we will put ourselves first.

In the UK and the developed world, women can seemingly do everything. We can vote, be CEOs, own land, wear trousers...but one thing that is still not available to women, is freedom from male violence.


Whilst violent crimes have statistically reduced since 1981, Femicide (violence against women committed by men - see Thandie’s article on Femicide in South Africa here), still remains a worrying and prevalent issue. It is important to note that whilst statistics may reflect a reduction in violent crime, this does not always represent an accurate picture of improved safety. For instance, ‘Sexual offences fell by 24% in April to June 2020, compared with April to June 2019', but during the Pandemic there was a ‘7% increase’ in Domestic Abuse-related crimes (Domestic Abuse is still not a specific criminal offence); an increase from 'the same period in 2019 and an 18% increase in 2018’. Between the months of April and May, there was a ‘9% increase in Domestic Abuse-related offences. It is easy to say that the lockdown is directly responsible for this increase in abuse, but as domestic abuse-related crimes have ‘been increasing in recent years, it is not possible to determine what impact the coronavirus pandemic may have had on the increases in 2020'.

Sexual offences (these are crimes such as rape or sexual assault, child sexual abuse or grooming, and crimes that ‘exploit others for a sexual purpose, whether in person or online’) recorded by the police decreased by ‘7%’ in the year ending June 2020. This may feel comforting on a surface level, but with the lockdown confining people to their homes, and domestic abuse rising, it is sadly more likely a reflection that violence has moved from the streets and into the home.

On average, a woman is killed by a man every 3 days in the UK, ‘62% of all women killed by men (888/1,425) were killed by a current or former partner', 'at least 34% of women killed had children under 18 years of age', and ‘a history of abuse was known in 59% of 1,042 femicides committed by current or former partners or other male relatives’.

We are aware and committed to highlighting and putting an end to violence against women globally, however in this paper, in light of the tragic murder of Sarah Everard and the Met Police’s disproportionate and violent reaction at the Clapham Common vigil, we are highlighting the present issues within the UK to call attention to the seriousness of violence against women. Our sources below are from the Office for National Statistics, the Home Office and the End Violence Against Women coalition.


STATISTICS


Overview:


Relate to Young Women & Girls:

  • Young women and girls affected by gangs experience high levels of sexual violence including sexual exploitation, sexual assault, individual rape and multiple perpetrator rape. (University of Bedfordshire for the OCC, 2013)

  • In 2013, the police recorded at least 1,052 reports of sexual violence in schools, of which 134 were reported as rape. (FOI, 2014)

  • 31% of young women aged 18-24 report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood; 90% are abused by someone they know and 66% are abused by other children or young people under 18. (NSPCC, 2011)

  • In 2012-2013, 22,654 sexual offences against under-18s were reported to police in England and Wales with four out of five cases involving girls. (NSPCC, 2014)

  • Most women in the UK do not have access to a Rape Crisis Centre (Map of Gaps, 2007).

  • A third of people believe women who flirt are partially responsible for being raped (Amnesty, 2005)


FGM

  • Over 60,000 girls under the age of 15 are at high risk of FGM every year in England and Wales. (City University, 2014)

  • Over 137,000 women in England and Wales are already living with the consequences of FGM. (City University, 2014)

  • ‘Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003’ made it an offence for FGM to be carried out anywhere on UK nationals or permanent residents.

  • In September 2014, NHS hospital trusts in England were treating 467 female patients newly identified as having been subjected to FGM and 1,279 female patients previously identified as having been subjected to FGM. (HSCIC, 2014)

Forced Marriage

  • In 2013 the Forced Marriage Unit gave advice in 1302 cases of possible Forced Marriage

  • The vast majority of Forced Marriage cases are young people between ages 17-25, and 82% are female.

  • In 2010 2823 incidents of ‘honour’ based violence were reported to the police (IKWRO)


Trafficking and prostitution

  • The UK is a significant site of international and internal child trafficking. The vast majority of trafficked children in the UK are aged 14-17, with many girls trafficked for sexual abuse and exploitation. (Strategic Threat Assessment: Child Trafficking in the UK, CEOP, 2009)

  • Only 19% of women working as prostitutes in flats, parlours and saunas are originally from the UK (The Poppy Project, Sex in the City: Mapping Commercial Sex Across London, 2004).

  • 80,000 women work in ‘on-street’ prostitution in the UK. The average age women become involved being just 12yrs old (Home Office, Paying the Price. A consultation paper on prostitution, 2004).

  • 3 out of 4 women in prostitution become involved aged 21 or younger, and 1 in 2 aged 18 or younger (Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit)

  • As many as 85% women in prostitution report physical abuse in the family, with 45% reporting familial sexual abuse (Paying the Price).

  • 75% of children abused through prostitution had been missing from school (Paying the Price).

  • 87% of women in street-based prostitution use heroin (M. Hester and N. Westmarland, Tackling Street Prostitution: Towards an Holistic Approach, Home Office Research Study 279, London, 2004).

  • 8.9% of men in London aged 16-44 reported having paid for sex in the past 5 years (Paying the Price).

  • In the UK as many as 60 women involved in prostitution have been murdered in the last 10 years (Home Office, Paying the Price: A consultation paper on prostitution, 2004).


LGBTQ+ relevant

  • Data from the Crime survey for England and Wales (CSEW) (2015-17) shows gay and bisexual men are more likely than heterosexual men to be victims of all crime, including the crimes framed within the Ending VAWG Strategy.

  • Data from the CSEW (year ending March 2018) shows gay men were more than twice as likely to be victims of domestic abuse.

  • Evidence tells us many men do not report abuse because of feelings of shame, embarrassment, denial and stereotypes of masculinity.

  • The number of men and boys aged 13 years old and over reporting a sexual assault has increased by 57%


#ENOUGHISENOUGH

Statistically more crimes happen in the dark. In the light of day people could pay their respects at the Sara Everard vigil, including the Duchess of Cambridge, however when the sun went down, true to the statistics, violence upon women ensued.


The vigil being held at night was symbolic to the fact that women are commonly fearful to venture out at night for fear of being attacked. The coming together as a collective of women to grieve and mourn a tragedy that so easily ‘could have been me’ was significant.


Individually as a Women, you are not attacked, followed or harassed every night, but with ’97%’ of women aged 18-24, saying that they have been sexually harassed, and ’80% of women of all ages’ having experienced sexual harassment in public spaces, the fear of a potential threat (or even history repeating itself) stays with women.


The timing of the Met Police’s arrests and manhandling of vigil attendees, was a visual representation of the anxiety that many women have across the nation, that when the sunsets, we are at the mercy of male violence.

Enough is enough. Women’s safety must be taken seriously.