TW: Violence and domestic violence.
My check of the news this morning brought further details in the shocking case of Sarah Everard which shows us all that women are not safe from male violence and deserve better. The fact that a “serving police office” is being questioned in relation to her murder shows us that women are threatened and attacked by men from all walks of life. A female Met Commissioner, Cressida Dick, is asked to reassure women that they are safe. How can she? She’s not the one attacking and murdering women.
Exactly a year ago, on 11 March 2020, Lien Dinh was stabbed in her work by her ex-husband. It all took place in sleepy Tonbridge. I know Tonbridge, stabbings don’t happen there. Except, it did. The couple had divorced years before but that had not stopped the abuse that Lien suffered at the hands of this man. So, she had put a restraining order in place. He received notice of this the day before he plunged a knife into her neck. Lien survived. The assailant is still awaiting trial, now planned for next month. He has pled not guilty to attempted murder.
Women are attacked, stabbed, raped, abused, beaten, controlled, coerced and murdered by men often. There were 207 women killed in Great Britain last year, a drop of 36 on the year before. 19 in Scotland. It felt, until recently, that women were being heard, being listened to and we were making headway with violence towards us. Recently, however, we have witnessed startling public displays of misogyny that should alarm us all. For, if we are so willing to publicly dismiss and disbelieve women, then there’s a danger that the message we send is, that it’s ok. That women are not to be believed, protected, or offered the right to live without fear of attack, assault, sexual violence.
Piers Morgan acted like the poster boy for misogyny when he stomped off the set like a bairn the other day. He felt it perfectly acceptable to say that a woman had lied about having suicidal thoughts. Let that sink in. A man who was part of an industry that thought it appropriate to hack a dead girl’s phone, felt he was able to use his public platform to call a woman a liar for opening up about her mental health struggles. That act of hacking Milly Dowler’s phone and deleting messages was yet another abuse inflicted on a 13-year-old girl by a man. What Piers didn’t like was being called out for his misogynistic BS. So he showed just how mature he was by pulling on a petted lip and running off, throwing all his toys about as he went! This is male entitlement on show and although I’ve made light of it here, we really need to challenge it at every turn.
In Scotland, we have had another startling display by a man who admitted his behaviour was inappropriate. His own defence QC called him a “sex pest”. I don’t know him that well. His behaviour is no shock to women who are well aware of how badly men act. However, what is truly shocking is that we should expect a woman to support him, apologise for him and effectively turn a blind eye to it all. That a woman chose not to, has led to her being abused and having her reputation mired in the aftermath of a man who knew better. This man was not alone. Others were found to have acted inappropriately. They are not “daft wee laddies” to quote one male defender of this behaviour. They know that they harm when they act in this way. By talking it down, we relieve them of their responsibility. Don’t do this. Choose to challenge.
I have survived male violence. Despite the many calls to my home by police, despite the mountains of evidence, the neighbours who witnessed, the scars on my body and the weapons found in the home, the man responsible was not put in prison until he stabbed a neighbour. At that point, his defence was that I had left him, so I was the cause of his behaviour. As unbelievable as this is, it was used and is used by violent men. It’s used by murderers and the press use it openly when reporting cases.
In a recent discussion about women’s rights, I was astounded when I recounted my only experience with trying to escape to a women’s shelter and had someone use that on social media to effectively call me a liar. They had no idea of the impact of this, neither did they care. Their followers liked the post and each like reinforced their false belief that any woman who tries to leave can do so easily. Scottish Women’s Aid has a campaign of No Woman Turned Away because this experience happens all too often to women. Councils must offer housing but often that will not be a safe way to leave. A flat in the same area as an abuser will not mean a safe exit. We need to change this discourse. It’s false and it’s downright dangerous.
This is not ok. This is not ok. We deserve better. We demand better. Sarah Everard deserves better. Lien Dinh deserves better. Milly Dowler deserves better. There are women working in Scottish politics who deserve better. Your wives, girlfriends, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers and grandmothers all deserve better.
Women don’t lie about sexual assault, domestic abuse, threats of murder, assault, rape, being battered or coerced. We can’t change our behaviour to stop these things happening to us. It’s men who need to change behaviour.
Stop telling your daughters not to drink too much, wear those clothes, walk home alone, get in a mini cab, accept a drink, speak to someone, etc. Start telling your sons to stop raping, hitting, touching, kissing, sending pictures of their anatomy, abusing, battering, threatening and coercing women or partners.
Not all men rape, but some do. That’s not a women’s issue, that's a man’s issue. Not all men stab and abuse, but some do. Men, it’s up to you to ensure that these men are challenged and their actions prevented. It’s not ok to bully anyone into silence. You men have to be the ones leading the prevention of this behaviour by your sons, brothers, nephews, uncles, fathers and grandfathers.
The theme for International Women’s Day was #ChooseToChallenge. In our recent history, it has never been so necessary or urgent. With the emergence of this story, we have also seen the emergence of #NotAllMen a sad indictment of not only the value we place on women but also male entitlement. Men are literally wanting praise for not killing, raping, mutilating, beating, harassing, stalking and abusing women. Guys, you don’t get praise for not being a threat to us. It’s the least we should all expect.