Is it so shocking to believe that women should be able to get blind drunk without being raped?

Offensive? The poster warning against binge drinking

In December, I spoke to the Yorkshire Post about the above poster produced by Calderdale Council.  Anti sexual-violence posters are regularly produced by police forces to celebrate Christmas, a collection of which are reviewed in this piece by Ending Victimisation and Blame.  Campaign messages are not neutral.  They can either reinforce or challenge accepted narratives.  Calderdale’s poster, like too many others, reinforces the message that women should be held responsible for what happens to them.

Though the poster doesn’t explicitly mention rape,  the lines “when you drink too much you lose control and put yourself at risk” together with an image of a dishevelled young woman in a short dress, make clear that the risk is that of sexual violence. The article was picked up widely re-reported including in The Independent and Daily Mail and eventually discussed in a piece by Sarah Vine under the title “Sorry sisters, but girls who get blind drunk ARE risking rape” in which she stated her  refusal to join “the chorus of feminist disapproval” and argued that women need to take responsibility for their own safety, going on to mention “one or two nasty brushes” that made her realise how important it was to not willingly put herself in the path of danger and “stupidly” becoming a victim.

The concept of a victim of violence ‘willingly and stupidly putting themselves in the path of danger’ is judgemental victim blaming.  Whether though an act of choosing  or not choosing to do something, a victim of sexual violence is never responsible for what is done to them. Rapists and abusers are the only ones responsible for rape and abuse.

Rapists and abusers use excuses to justify their actions,  to discredit their victims and to shift responsibility for their choices away from themselves and on to their victims.  They use exactly the kind of excuses encapsulated in the Calderdale poster and Vine’s piece, in short: “She didn’t take care. “ or “She was asking for it.”

The government estimates that there are around 78,000 rapes in the UK every year, that’s 214 every day. On top of this, there are an estimated 476,000 other sexual offences. Women and girls make up the vast majority of victims and 95% of those who experience serious sexual assault identify the offender as male. Most – but not all –  victims of sexual violence and abuse are stone cold sober when they are abused.  Those who are drunk or intoxicated through drug use are no more deserving of abuse. Most (an estimated 91%) victims of rape and sexual violence know their attacker before they are abused.  45% of rape victim/survivors identifying a current partner   as the rapist, a further 11% identifying a date and yet a further 11% identifying a former partner.  It’s hard to see how Christmas and New Year sobriety would make any difference to these women.

Sex with a person whose judgement is impaired – for example through alcohol or drugs – means they are legally unable to consent.  Non-consensual sex is rape.  If Calderdale Council want to run a useful campaign related to increased alcohol consumption around Christmas and New Year, they might consider  addressing this issue instead. It’s hard for me to imagine that their poster would prevent any woman from drinking.  Perhaps I’m naive to the powers of persuasion of a public awareness campaign. It isn’t so difficult to imagine a victim of rape who had been drunk, who had been partying, who had been wearing a short sequined dress seeing the poster and questioning her own responsibility.  Self-blame, shame, fearing that she will not be believed and questioning whether what happened was rape are  all reasons that contribute to an estimated 79-85% of rapes not being reported. If rapes are not reported, who benefits? Rapists whose behaviour goes unpunished and who are free to rape again.  That’s why I said the only ones who are helped by the Calderdale posters are rapists.  They’re provided with victim blaming excuses and are less likely to be held to account when victim/survivors are deterred from reporting

Calderdale’s poster will not reduce sexual violence, neither will it assist victims.  If Calderdale Council want to reduce sexual violence, then they need to focus on men and boys.  The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioners’ September 2013 Quarterly Performance Report details that reports of sexual offences increased by 51.1% in the 12 months to June 2013. The report identifies that this is the largest increase across all police forces and compares to a national average increase of 8.9%.  . Men, boys, women, girls, policy makers, support providers need to understand the concepts of consent and coercion.  Consent alone is not enough, but must always be understood in the context of coercion at both the individual and societal level.   Clearly there is much to be done.

If Calderdale Council want to better support victims of sexual violence, then they might want to consider funding local specialist women’s support services.  It is interesting that on the council’s web-page for information and support on rape, sexual assault and sexual abuse the services listed are in Manchester, Huddersfield and Wakefield – none of which are in Calderdale. Does the council  provide or fund any specialist services for victims of sexual violence?  Calderdale Council may also like to consider whether future campaigns support victims and ensure that they challenge not reinforce self-blame, shame and victim blaming.  At the same time as Calderdale Council ran their victim-blaming campaign, the police force responsible for Calderdale, West Yorkshire Police, were running an appeal to increase reporting of sexual violence.  I’d happily raise my glass to the Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee, who, taking quite a different approach to that of the council , is quoted as saying :

 “Sadly society at times has negative perceptions about sexual offending and these perceptions allow sexual crime to go unreported and offenders to go unpunished, we need to change those perceptions by providing people with information that enables them to understand better the nature of the problem and what it is that constitutes rape or other sexual violence.

“And that is why my commitment is to the victims of this dreadful crime that, if they come forward and tell us what has happened, we will not only do all we can to bring the offender to justice but also with our partners provide support and counsel to help them through what is a very difficult and distressing time.

Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Restricting women’s movement and choices and putting responsibility for men’s violence against women and girls on to women and girls will never reduce men’s violence.

Vawg – I hate how vawg has become a word.

Yesterday I went to a meeting about men’s violence against women and girls in London.  Access to the meeting room was initially difficult because when I entered the building and told the person on reception that I was here for the ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Meeting’ in Room X, she told me that the room was booked for something else. Eventually she told me that the room was booked for the ‘fourth meeting’.  Could someone have asked to book a room for a ‘vawg meeting’ and been misheard, I suggested. Yes, of course they could, it transpired.   I hate how vawg has become a word and this was an unwelcome reminder.  At the start of the meeting, I started doing a tally about how many times the word ‘vawg’ was used.  I almost immediately forgot because the actual subject matter demanded full attention and constructive engagement.

I hate how vawg has become a word because it allows users to disconnect from VIOLENCE against WOMEN and GIRLS.  It hides the violence. If we who are engaged in raising awareness about men’s violence against women and girls as a step towards ending men’s violence against women and girls, want to raise awareness, how are we doing this if we allow the very words to be erased? Never more so when even ‘vawg’ is misheard and becomes ‘fourth’.

I hate how vawg has become a word though I celebrate that as a concept it has entered the mainstream because it connects the different forms of men’s violence against women and girls under patriarchy: rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, femicide, FGM,  prostitution, pornography and other harmful practices.

I hate how vawg has become a word because I am not particularly fond of acronyms and jargon.  Lazy acronyms make important information inaccessible to the ‘not one of the club’ non-specialist.

I hate how vawg has become a word though I acknowledge that it is useful when we’re writing, especially when we’re tweeting and have restricted characters (Men’s Violence against women and girl is 37 characters) and in these situations I use VAWG or MVAWG myself. It really doesn’t take so long to say it: “violence against women and girls” though, does it?

I hate how vawg has become a word because it renders men – the perpetrators –  invisible. I know, I know, not all men. But saying that men as a class benefit under patriarchy and men’s violence against women and girls is an instrument of maintaining women’s subordination is not the same as saying ‘all men are violent and women never are’.  It really isn’t.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say patriarchal violence against women and girls but this also disguises the role and responsibility of men.

I hate how vawg has become a word.

Clare’s Law: the domestic violence disclosure scheme

The basic principle of allowing women to find out if a partner/prospective partner has a violent history is sound.  I’ve spoken to several women who have had violent relationships who have told me that they think it would have made a difference to them, to have what we might call ‘warning signs’ confirmed.

But I have a number of concerns:

  • Most domestic violence is not reported to the police, estimates vary but it is thought that only 24-40% of domestic violence is reported to the police, so the possibility of false negatives is high, “no history on record” is not the same as “no history” or “no risk”.  Women are psychologically undermined through domestic violence, they learn to question and doubt themselves, being told that a  man who is showing signs of coercive/aggressive/violent behaviour has no record, may make a woman more likely to doubt what is happening or to blame herself.
  • Will there be sufficient specialist help available if a woman finds out a man has a violent history? We know that specialist services are facing unprecedented cuts. Women’s Aid research has shown that in 2013 there are 21 fewer specialist refuge providers in 2013 than there were in 2010.
  • What if she has children? (By him or a previous partner)  Will there be pressure on her to leave from social services or face child safeguarding enquiries?
  • If she doesn’t leave and is killed, will agencies use the fact that she knew as a way of absolving themselves of any responsibility?
  • What happens to the man? Presumably, if the woman chooses to leave him, he will simply move on to another relationship. Are perpetrator programmes available?
  • Will a woman be pressured to report a crime if she wants to use the scheme? Not all women want to and pressurising a woman to take action before she is ready could put her at further risk.

Clare’s Law needs to be resourced and that means investment in, not cuts to, specialist women’s services.

I’m concerned that the government is going for quick fixes and potential headlines.  The number of women killed though domestic has remained consistent for over 10 years. Yet that’s not the whole story.  It’s being reported today that 88 women were killed through domestic violence last year, but I’ve counted 120 women killed through men’s violence, including 16 women who were killed by their sons.  Clare’s Law would not have helped them. We’re not being told the whole story about men’s fatal violence against women.  A long term, wide reaching approach is needed.  Men’s violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. Quick fixes are not the solution.  Clare’s Law, may make a difference to some women who request information, but it’s not enough.

25th November – What’s In A Name?

Mirabel sisters

In July 1981, at the first Feminist Conference  for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Bogota, Colombia, 25th November was declared an annual day of protest, the International Day Against Violence Against Women, in memory of three sisters who had been murdered.  Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel were assassinated in a ’car accident’ in the Dominican Republic in 1960. They were political activists, killed for their involvement in efforts to overthrow the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo.  At that first conference, women linked and denounced all forms men’s violence against women from domestic violence, rape and sexual harassment to state violence including torture and abuse of women political prisoners.

On 6th December 1989,  Marc Lépine shot 14 female  students  dead and injured another 10 at the University of Montreal, Canada claiming he was ‘fighting feminism’.  This led to  a group of men in Canada launched the first White Ribbon Campaign in 1991.  The White Ribbon Campaign has become a global campaign to ensure men take more responsibility for reducing the level of violence against women.  I support men’s acknowledgement of their role in ending violence against women, it is essential for this to happen if we are going to end men’s violence against women and girls.

On December 17, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The UN invited governments, international organisations and NGOs to organise activities designated to raise public awareness of violence against women on this day.

Increasing though, the 25th November is referred to as White Ribbon Day by the majority of the minority of people actively interested in ending men’s violence against women and girls.  The campaign by men overshadowing, not complementing, the International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women.  Based on a huge assumption about the founders of White Ribbon Day,  one  might be tempted to question the race and sex dynamics at play when a campaign founded by white men eclipses a campaign founded by women of colour.

Sadly, many even fail to take the time to understand even the central them of ‘White Ribbon Day’ as illustrated by an email a colleague of mine received from an organiser of a ‘white ribbon event’ who told her that their day would be ‘for all victims of domestic violence, because men can be victims too’, simultaneously erasing the linking of the different forms of men’s violence against women and the campaign for men to take responsibility for their violence against women.

Men’s violence against women is endemic:

  • globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence (World Health Organisation)
  • In Japan 15% of women reported physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime; in Ethiopia it is 71%
  • 17%of women in rural Tanzania, 24% in rural Peru, and 30% in rural Bangladesh reported their first sexual experience as forced
  • 66,000 women are killed through men’s violence every year, in the USA four women are killed though men’s violence every day
  • In the UK, 120 women were killed by men in 2012, so far in 2013, more than 100 have been killed; the Home Office estimates that  69,000, women are raped every year.

UK media reports of violence against women and girls disproportionately cover violence against white and middle-class women in comparison to those of women of colour and working class women (unless they are sensationalising race and/or other oppressions, such as murders of prostituted women) and I do not want to contribute to this generally or specifically in relation to the erasure of Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel from the history of femicide:  men’s fatal violence against women.

Women’s activists have marked November 25 as a day to fight violence against women since 1981.  For me the 25th November is The International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women.  It is about recognising the global nature of men’s violence against women. It is about standing side by side with my sisters.

On The International Day for the Elimination of  Violence Against Women this year, I’ll be commemorating the UK women killed through suspected male violence this year on the twitter account @countdeadwomen.  I will start with the 2nd January when Janelle Duncan Bailey, 25 was strangled by ex-boyfriend Jerome McDonald.  Every 10 minutes, I will move on and tweet the next date on which a woman was killed and the name of the women and the man convicted or primary suspect for her killing.  If I start at 6.00 am, and name a women every 10 minutes, I’ll still be naming women at midnight, 18 hours later.

Don’t these feminists just need to lighten up and have some Halloween fun?

Artist Emma Bolland took and shared on twitter a photo of a mannequin in the window of the Amazing Party Company fancy dress shop in Leeds.  After seeing the photo, I called the shop to complain, by this time they had removed the knife from her chest, they told me “It isn’t a woman who has been stabbed.  It’s a zombie nurse.  Zombie’s don’t really exist. It’s just a bit of fun”

The stereotype of the ‘sexy nurse’ isn’t fun, it is objectification, 90% of nurses are women, it is reducing the role of a nurse to a woman’s sexual agency. It is pure and simple sexism. A UK poll found that for men a nurse was the most sexually-fantasized-about job. Reducing nurses to sex objects is an insult to the hard work and professionalism of the thousands of women in nursing and contributes to the devaluing of the role and towards sexual harassment of nurses in their place of work.

As the Amazing Party Company – who describe themselves as a family run retail business –said “Zombie nurses don’t exit.”  Zombie nurses don’t exist, but stabbed women do, stabbed nurses do. I’d like to see them explain the fun of stabbed nurses to Penny and John Clough, whose daughter, 26 year old nurse Jane Clough, was stabbed 71 times by her former boyfriend Jonathan Vass before he slit her throat in the hospital car park.  Or the family and friends of 25 year-old estate agent Nicole Waterhouse from York or 28 year-old Gabrielle Stanley from Doncaster, both of whom were stabbed to death this month.  From my records of women killed through suspected male violence I know that 33 UK women were stabbed to death by violent men in 2012.  At least a further 11 women have been killed though stabbing so far this year, probably more – if 2012 was typical, stabbing seems to be the most frequently used form of murder. Stabbed nurses, stabbed women, I’m failing to see the fun side.

Those stabbings take place within a wider context of fatal male violence against women.  In total, I know of 120 women killed though male violence in 2012 and a further 100 already suspected so far this year. Not fun.

Jane Clough  had written in her diary that she thought Jonathan Vass would try to kill her after she ended their relationship.  In the December before he murdered her, Vass was charged with 9 counts of rape and 4 of assault against Jane. Against the reported wishes of both the police and the Crown Prosecution Service, Judge Simon Newel granted him bail.  Making male violence against women fun contributes to a society that doesn’t take the threat of male violence against women seriously. A society that doesn’t taken male violence against women seriously is one in which bail can be  granted to men with a history of violence against women.

I’m still not finding this fun.  Happy Halloween Amazing Party Company.  Did you make  a good profit out of the fun that is fatal male violence against women?

Image

Who gets to define femicide?

I’ve been undecided about the use of the term ‘femicide’  to describe the list of names of the UK  women killed through suspected1 male violence.  The term is useful because it takes the concept of fatal male violence against women beyond domestic violence and that’s important, many people’s understanding of the concept of fatal male violence against women stops and ends at women killed through domestic violence.  However, that the term ‘femicide’ in itself fails to name the male as the agent is problematic.  An early definition of femicide as “the killing of females by males because they are females” dealt with this, though there is a convincing argument for the inclusion of women killed by women because of the influence of patriarchal values.

In 2012, the participants of the Vienna Symposium on Femicide agreed the following:

Femicide is the killing of women and girls because of their gender, which can take the form of, inter alia: 1) the murder of women as a result of intimate partner violence; 2) the torture and misogynist slaying of women 3) killing of women and girls in the name of “ honour”; 4) targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict; 5) dowry-related killings of women; 6) killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and gender identity; 7) the killing of aboriginal and indigenous women and girls because of their gender; 8) female infanticide and gender-based sex selection foeticide; 9) genital mutilation related femicide; 10) accusations of witchcraft and 11) other femicides connected with gangs, organized crime, drug dealers, human trafficking, and the proliferation of small arms.

As a list of some of the forms that femicide can take, this is helpful and aids the understanding of femicide as something much wider than domestic violence.  The use of the term ‘inter alia’ meaning ‘among other things’ indicates that even they were not convinced that this included everything.  They’re right, it certainly doesn’t include everything.  The definition fascinates me.  It is 123 words long.  123 words and the words man, men or male do not appear once. The full declaration is over 800 words long.  It mentions men and boys once, in reference to ‘sensitising education programmes’. The argument that femicide can also include the killings of women by women because of the influence of patriarchal values is not so convincing that it warrants the absence of the identification of men as perpetrators in a declaration to take action to end femicide that spans over 800 words. The vast majority of women who are killed, are killed by men, whilst it is also true that the vast majority of killers of men are also men, this cannot warrant the failure to name men as the killers of women.  One of the significant achievements of feminism is getting male violence against women into the mainstream and onto the policy agenda.  One of the threats against this achievement is that those with power take the concepts and under the auspices of dealing with the problem shake some of the most basic elements of feminist understanding right out of them.  The exclusion of male violence from the declaration on femicide is inexcusable.  Inexcusable because failing to name the agent will not help us to end, or even reduce, fatal male violence against women.  Could failing to name men as the agents of femicide be a patriarchal political act?

I’ve written about the murders of 18 year-old Samantha Sykes and 17 year-old Kimberley Frank in other pieces.  It was their murders by Ahmad Otak that convinced me that a list of women killed by men through domestic violence, simply was not enough. Otak wasn’t the boyfriend of either of them, but of Elisa Frank, Kimberley’s sister.  The murders of Samantha and Kimberley don’t fit the definition of domestic violence, but they’re absolutely about a man trying to exert power, control and coercion in his relationship, reports of their murders have stated that he was attempting to show Elisa that he would allow no-one to stand in the way of them being together. The murders of Kimberley and Samantha were every bit about male violence against women, control and coercion through the display of the power to kill.  I doubt anyone would try to say that the murders of Samantha and Kimberley weren’t femicide.

I’ve been challenged about the inclusion of older women killed in the process of robberies and muggings in my work naming the women killed through male violence.  In 2012, six older women, aged between 75 and 88 were killed by much younger men, aged between 15 and 43 as they were robbed or mugged:

Irene Lawless, 68 who was raped, beaten and strangled by 26 year old Darren Martin. Pornography depicting rape and featuring older women was found on his home computer.

Margaret Biddolph, 78 and Annie Leyland, 88 were strangled and robbed by Andrew Flood, 43, who knew them through his job as a taxi driver. He’d also robbed a third woman elderly woman and threatened to kill her cat.  He was clearly targeting women.

Delia Hughes was 85 when she was killed by 25 year-old Jamie Boult. He struck her repeatedly about the head with a hammer, a hammer he was carrying specifically because he intended to kill.  When Boult was sentenced, Delia’s daughter, Beryl said

“I’ve never seen a dead body before. Seeing my mum her head battered, covered in blood, black and blue with bruises, sitting in a pool of blood, blood splattered on the walls, this is a sight that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

The murder of Delia Hughes was not simply a robbery gone wrong.

Similarly, Jean Farrar, 77, was kicked and stamped on by Daniel Barnett, 20, until she was her virtually unrecognisable.  Her  son Jamie was absolutely right when he said 2Daniel Barnett did not need to enter my mother’s house that night. He chose to. Upon finding my mum at home, he easily could have left.  Instead he chose to beat her and throw her against the wall. And when she screamed in pain, he chose to kick her, stamp on her, and jump on her head until she was unable to scream any more.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Jamie Boult and Daniel Barnett’s choices to carry out robberies, that these choices also included choices to inflict fatal violence was not inevitable.

Paula Castle was 85 when she was knocked to the ground when she was mugged by Jiervon Bartlett and Nayed Hoque who were both 15.  They may not have intended to kill her, but they also mugged another woman the next day.  They were clearly targeting women.  

I’ve been told that the killing of elderly women as part of a robbery or mugging is “not femicide”.  I disagree.  These women were killed because they were women.  And if their killings are not femicide, then it is because the term femicide is being misused

Epistemology questions what knowledge is and how it can be acquired. The acquisition and identification of what constitutes knowledge does not escape structural inequalities of sex, class and race.  Dr Maddy Coy of the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University calls for the recognition of practice-based evidence, for example from specialist women’s organisations, to be considered as expertise as worthy as that of academics.  It’s ‘participant observation’ when it’s produced by an academic, it’s ‘anecdotal’ when it comes from a women’s services provider.  Does the objectification of women and the valuing of us on our merits based on the patriarchal fuckability test mean that it is the murders of elderly women that are those most likely to be excluded from the term femicide?  Women talk about the mixed blessing of becoming invisible as we grow older, is that what has happened with the term femicide?  Has sex inequality, particularly in patriarchally infected academia and state bureaucracies, depoliticised them term ‘femicide’ to the point that male violence has been erased from the concept?  Until the hierarchies of knowledge  are eradicated, then the role of anything considered knowledge in upholding structural inequality, is open to question.

How easy is it to escape socially constructed gender? How many of us, if our values were assessed and measured, would be found not to be influenced – at all – by sexism and sexist stereotypes?  Do we know that the population of men who kill women are not more sexist and misogynistic than a control group? When misogyny and sexism are so pervasive, are all but inescapable, can a man killing a women ever not be a sexist act?  A fatal enactment of patriarchy?

If an 800 word declaration on  femicide is the best that policy makers and ‘experts’ can come up with and yet it does not mention the words ‘male violence’ ,  if it does not name men as the agents and beneficiaries of fatal male violence against women, it is time for feminists to take back the term and make sure that the definition is ours.

Footnotes

 1 I have to say ‘suspected’ until a trial has been held or an inquest in the case of a man who has also killed himself.

2 Credited to   Diana E. H. Russell

 

Counting Dead Women

2021: UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2020: UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2019: 115 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2018: 166 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2017: 150 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2016: 125 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect 

2015:   138 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2014156 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect 

2013151 UK  women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

2012: 141 UK women killed by men or where a man is the principal suspect

This short film clip introduces the Femicide Census 

Counting Dead Women in Other Countries

Remembering the women who are killed though male violence does not mean forgetting those who live

Most women who are victims of male violence don’t get killed.  I’ve been writing – a fair bit – about the UK women who are killed through  male violence; women who were killed by their partners, ex-partners, sons, grandsons, fathers, rapists, robbers, friends and more. But the women who are killed by men are only part of the story.

The government estimates that around 400,000 women are sexually assaulted and 85,000 women are raped every year. Most women live to tell the tale, except, according to the same report, around 28 per cent of women who are raped never tell anyone.  That means almost 24,000 women in the UK were raped last year, and no-one, except them – and the man or men who raped them – knows. It means that you may know one, or more woman, who was raped in the last year and have no idea. Others might tell a friend, or an organisation like Rape Crisis, but only around 15% tell the police.

UK police receive an average of one phone call per minute about domestic violence, that’s around 1,300 calls a day, or 570,000 a year.  Over eighty per cent of these calls are from women.  Most, through certainly not all, are still alive. There are various estimates of what proportion of domestic violence that occurs is reported to the police, it is usually stated that something between 26-40 per cent is reported. This means that between 60 and 74 per cent of domestic violence is not reported to the police. Even if you assume that one phone call means one incident and take the higher estimate of reporting: 40%  (and therefore the lower estimate of under reporting) and so assume that for every one incident reported, 1.5 are not, this would mean 855,000 domestic violence incidents happen – and are not reported – every year.  Most, but not all, of the women who experience these violent assaults from them men they share their lives with, are still alive.

Between 11th and 15th June 2012, Women’s Aid members reported that approximately 11,380 women were supported in non-refuge/community-based services.  In addition there were an estimated 2,095 calls to local and regional domestic violence helplines. Most, but not all, of the women who used these services and made those phone calls, are still alive.

Women’s Aid estimate that 19,510 women and 19,440 stayed in refuges last year. Around 69% of them had sought help from the police, around two thirds of them had been experiencing violence for at least two years before they contacted the police. Around a third of women living in refuges had never contacted the police. Most of them are still alive.  More than half had spent more than five years living with an abusive man before leaving him, more than half had left him at least once before.  Not dead.  But you don’t live through domestic violence until you reach the point where – for your own safety and well-being, and/or that of your children – you choose to move in to a refuge, and remain unaffected.

Some of the women who have been raped in the last year, or who have experienced sexual assault, or who reported male violence to the police, or who stayed in refuges, or who phoned helplines, or visited outreach services, who took out injunctions, whose situation was discussed at a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference, who were visited by social services because of safeguarding concerns about their children, who told only a friend, or who told absolutely no-one at all, some of these women will be dead this time next year. Most will not be.  Some of the women who will be dead this time next year, are living in fear of death now, as you read this.  Some of them will have told a friend, a family member or a professional that they ‘know’ that ‘x’ is going to kill them , that it’s just a matter of time. Some of them don’t expect to die, because that sort of thing happens to someone else.  Most of them will be right, but some will be badly and sadly wrong.  Some of the women who have told someone that they are afraid that they are going to be killed will be wrong, too many of them will be right.

I want us to know about the women who are killed through male violence, I want us to commemorate them and to learn lessons from their deaths that might prevent other women being killed.  That doesn’t mean I ever forget those that live every day  with male violence, or its after-effects.  Portia Smart wrote a painfully honest blogpice: Being is Bewildering  on living with PTSD after multiple experiences of male violence and a woman left this comment on my petition asking the government to properly record and analyse all forms of fatal male violence.  They say so much about living with male violence even after the violence itself has stopped:

“My father beat my mother even after she divorced him, he beat my mother when I was a child and that’s all I knew! My brothers thought it was ok so they beat me, it didn’t stop until we moved away, so I know all about male violence and what it does to children and women, it demoralizes them, makes them feel like they deserved it, that they started it, that they didn’t wear the proper dress or didn’t have their make up right or didn’t get the tea in time, or didn’t clean up after the kids…male dominance was a part of my life for a very long time and the police did nothing for a very long time, my mother is 70 odd years old now and still she gets afraid when people shout…..that’s my father’s legacy.”

Most male violence against and abuse of women doesn’t kill women, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. It doesn’t mean that those affected are not profoundly affected

Femicide: UK women killed through suspected male violence January – August 2013

Many people know the statistic: ‘two women in England and Wales a week are killed through domestic violence‘; but how many try to connect with that and to feel the impact of what it really means?

Through naming the women killed, I’m trying to made the horror and unacceptability of what is happening to women feel more real. I began, in January 2012, by  recording the names of all women killed through domestic violence but as time went on, I wanted to make the connections between the different forms of fatal male violence against women. Since I started the list, I’ve counted 197 dead women.  I’m not going to stop counting and naming the women until I think the government is doing the same, ‘counting dead women’ and doing all it can to make the connections, making good its commitment to end male violence against women.  Please join me demanding action from the government by clicking here and signing my petition.

When I started keeping the list, I was shocked and angry about the lack of attention given to these murders, and what feels like a wilful refusal to look at the links between the forms and causes of violence against women. Male violence against women and girls is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men, and until a government seriously approaches the issue from that perspective, women and girls will continue to be beaten, raped, assaulted, abused, controlled and killed by men.

The list below is the 78 UK women killed through suspected male violence so far in 2013.  78 women in  243 days, that’s one  woman every 3.1 days.

Janelle   Duncan Bailey 25 02-Jan
Akua   Agyueman 23 03-Jan
Anastasia   Voykina 23 07-Jan
Myrna   Kirby 57 11-Jan
Suzanne Bavette Newton 45 13-Jan
Virginja   Jurkiene 49 19-Jan
Chloe   Siokos 80 22-Jan
Debbie   Levey 44 28-Jan
Sasha   Marsden 16 31-Jan
Una   Crown 86 31-Jan
Hayley   Pointon 30 03-Feb
Pernella   Forgie 79 07-Feb
Ganimete   Hoti 42 11-Feb
Samantha   Medland 24 17-Feb
Alexis   Durant 42 20-Feb
Glynis   Solmaz 65 20-Feb
Dimitrina   Borisova 46 21-Feb
Victoria   Rose 58 02-Mar
Chantelle   Barnsdale-Quean 35 04-Mar
Susan   Cole 54 06-Mar
Christina   Edkins 16 06-Mar
Jennifer   Rennie 26 11-Mar
Daneshia   Arthur 30 18-Mar
Pamela   Jackson 55 last seen 20 March
Ellen   Ash 83 21-Mar
Mary   Roberts 50 27-Mar
Janis   Dundas 63 05-Apr
Deborah   Simister 45 08-Apr
Lisa   Clay 41 09-Apr
Mariam   Ali Shaaban Hussain Khesroh 24 11-Apr
Dawn   Warburton 40 13-Apr
Naika   Inayat 52 17-Apr
Jabeen   Younis 32 19-Apr
Irene   Dale 78 27-Apr
Heather   Arthur 50 29-Apr
Salma   Parveen 22 29-Apr
Christine   Baker 52 30-Apr
Margaret   Knight 77 01-May
Margaret   Mercati 63 15-May
Margery   Gilbey 88 24-May
Georgia   Williams 17 26-May
Yvonne   Walsh 25 02-Jun
Krishnamaya   Mabo 39 03-Jun
Myrna   Holman 76 03-Jun
Reema   Ramzan 18 04-Jun
Katie   Jenkin 20 08-Jun
Alice   McMeekin 58 08-Jun
Marianne   Stones 58 09-Jun
Lilima   Akter 27 14-Jun
Zaneta   Kindzierska 32 16-Jun
Mushammod   Asma Begum 21 20-Jun
Linzi   Ashton 25 29-Jun
Rania   Alayed 25
Louisa   Denby 84 01-Jul
Susan   White 51 01-Jul
Kate   Dixon 40 02-Jul
Denise   Williamson 44 05-Jul
Sabeen   Thandi 37 07-Jul
Shavani   Kapoor 35 10-Jul
Jane   McRae 55 17-Jul
Julie   Beattie 24 19-Jul
Rosemary   Gill 48 20-Jul
Alexandra   Kovacs 25 21-Jul
Jean   Redfern 67 22-Jul
Sarah   Redfern 33 22-Jul
Keisha   McKenzie 28 29-Jul
Linah   Keza 29 31-Jul
 
Anu   Kappor 27 04-Aug
Caroline   Parry 46 08-Aug
Mayurathy   Perinpamoorihy 06-Aug
Judith   Maude 57 11-Aug
Gail   Lucas 51 14-Aug
Orina   Morawiec 21 15-Aug
Julie   Connaughton 57 16-Aug
Jane   Wiggett 57 16-Aug
Sabrina   Moss 24 24-Aug
Merissa   McColm 31 25-Aug
Betty   Gallagher 87 25-Aug

Simone Jabakhanji – Infertility, suicide and male violence

Reports on the inquest into the death – by hanging – of Simone Jabakhanji, 27, bring together two issues that are important to me: male violence against women and infertility.   Simone’s death has been covered in the mainstream British press including  the Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Sun and The Independent. She was from Lancashire but living in Gambia in August 2011 when she died.

The Independent, The Sun and The Telegraph describe Simone as a bride, the Mail as a newlywed bride.  Actually she wasn’t, she was a woman.  A woman who had been married to a man for a year and a half at the time of her death.  A woman who was a human being worthy of acknowledgement in her own right regardless of her marital status, a woman who does not need to be defined by virtue of her relationship to a man, or indeed any other person.

The Sun refers to Simone as “Row wife” in the title of its piece on her, the Mail refers to her “tempestuous relationship” with husband Mohammed Jabakhanji and the Independent describes how Mrs Jabakhanji had been rowing with her husband ( thus positioning her as the active subject, the instigator and him the passive object, the receiver) .  Most reports also cover that Janice Lally, mother of Simone Jabakhanji, told the inquest that her daughter was frightened of Mohammed Jabakhanji, that she had to give him quiet space for days when he got angry, that this quiet space was preferable to him breaking her legs.  Close friend of Simone, Abigail Stone told the inquest that she had spoken with her friend on the day of her death and had advised her to return to England.  Not one of the sources above used the phrase “domestic violence”, not one of them referred to Simone’s death in the context of “male violence against women and girls”.

The titles of three of the four pieces manage to tell us that Mohammed Jabakhanji was African and place Simone Jabakhanji’s death in the context of her husband’s infertility.  The Sun, winning a rare prize for relative diplomacy, waits until the first paragraph of its piece before raising the issues of either race or infertility.  Positioning  Simone’s death in relation to her husband’s infertility further removes  Mohammed Jabakhanji from the role of abusive perpetrator and closer to that of victim, victim of infertility.  The Mail doesn’t quite let him off the hook, telling us that his infertility was a result of his unhealthy lifestyle, his smoking  cannabis and drinking.  Mohammed Jabakhanji may well have been infertile, but I know of no fertility test that has the ability to identify the cause of infertility as alcohol or smoking.  There is a correlation between heavy drinking and smoking and reduced fertility, but correlation is not causality.  It is worth considering too, that there would probably be far fewer babies born if the relationship were quite so straightforward.

Coroner Simon Jones has been quoted as saying,  “When a death like this happens in this country [the UK], we get police statements, photographs of the scene.  To record a verdict of suicide in the UK, I have to be satisfied to a very high standard of proof that she did what she did intending to end her own life.”

“But we can’t be certain what she did was done with the intention of ending her life. That would be at odds with the conversations she had with family and friends. Similarly there is no evidence to suggest anyone else was involved.”  Simone’s body had been embalmed without an autopsy in Gambia before being repatriated to the UK.  An open verdict was recorded in relation to her death.

Several small studies have demonstrated a link between infertility in women and psychological distress, reporting high rates of anxiety, depression and suicide. There is less research into the impact of male partner infertility on women’s mental health. It is possible that if Simone Jabakhanji killed herself, her husband’s infertility was a factor, possibly even a crucial one in her decision.   However, research from the Women and Equality Unit, has shown a  clear relationship between domestic violence and suicide in women victims: every year in the UK, 500 women who have experienced domestic violence in the last six months, commit suicide.  Despite each of the four articles managing to link Simone’s death to Mohammed’s infertility, not one of them positioned it in relation to domestic violence, into his coercive, controlling and frightening aggression.

Another woman dead, reduced to her status in relation to a man; another man’s violence minimised and overlooked.

Simone Jabakhani