We have all seen it. A woman groped on a bus, a schoolgirl shouted at on the street, a stranger offering to take her home. Perhaps we were some of these women, or perhaps we watched it happen to others. What did you think, what did you say or do? Did you think it was just a bit of banter, to be expected? Did you think someone else would intervene?
Last year we supported 16,285 women and children, the highest number in the history of our organisation. We are now experiencing an epidemic of women abused in their relationships - not feeling safe at home, at work or on the streets, women and children sexually assaulted, raped and exploited. The problems these women face are deeply rooted in society’s treatment and attitudes towards them.
This kind of abuse isn’t exclusive to women, but it is disproportionally carried out on women, and so here we have an uncomfortably gendered issue that must be addressed by all of us, because we all have the opportunity to change it.
Not all men are abusers, and not all women are victims, neither of us want to be intrinsically linked to either category. We want to unify men and women to explore the underlying issues of gender-based violence and take a stand. What kind of attitudes and beliefs are resulting in actions that harm women? Are we contributing to these unwittingly? Uncomfortable issues, but vital to discuss.
We need to keep looking at the gendered messages we give our children about boys and girls and we need to challenge the adults that never listened. We can say 'It is not locker room banter, that compliment undermined her in a professional setting, you need to stop harassing her or you’ll be reported.'
It is undeniably a risk to stand up for others, and we would not advocate jeopardising your safety, but doing nothing is putting her in even more danger. Unchecked behaviour escalates, repeated offences with no consequences is addictive. By turning a blind eye you grant the perpetrator an invisibility cloak, and the victim too.
Report it anonymously. Tell someone you trust. Speak to the victim privately. You are not powerless, they are. If everyone felt that someone else would intervene, nothing would be done. Regardless of your gender, together we can end violence against women and girls, all we have to do is care.