First in a series of posts which will lead-up to White Ribbon Day 25th Nov 2017
Labour Leader used the phrase “warped and degrading culture” – to describe where the abuse of women is accepted and normalised and is thriving in the corridors of power, including Westminster.
Starting a few weeks ago in Hollywood, the tide of women, in particular, who have now come forward to report sexual harassment and abuse is a rising one.
The Office of National Statistics reported that in 2016 there were 2 million reports of domestic violence in the UK.
In terms of actual figures…
A large number of domestic abuse-related incidents were recorded by the police (1.03 million) in the year ending March 2016. Following investigations, the police concluded that a domestic abuse-related criminal offence was committed in approximately 4 in every 10 (41%) of these incidents (421,000).
What is significant is that over half of unsuccessful prosecutions (53%) were due to either victim retraction. This could be for a number of reasons, and workers in this area suggest that it is because of lack of support for the abused or because of pressures from (or related to) the abuser.
Now, of course, men can be the subject of domestic violence and abuse but the evidence seems to show that…
…. men are significantly more likely to repeat perpetrators and significantly more likely than women to use physical violence, threats, and harassment.
In a six-year tracking period, the majority of recorded male perpetrators (83%) had at least two incidents of recorded abuse, with many having a lot more than two and one man having 52 repeat incidents.
Whereas in cases where women were recorded as the perpetrator the majority (62%) had only one incident of abuse recorded and the highest number of repeat incidents for any female perpetrator was eight.
The study also found that men’s violence tended to create a context of fear and control; which was not the case when women were perpetrators.
Source: Womens Aid
What has been noticeable in the last few weeks has been the attitudes of some to these disclosures.
Some men have reacted by suggesting that Men who are being abused are being ignored.
This is patently and whilst some men in this situation may not feel they can come forward, statistics suggest that at least twice as many women will still be the same situation.
Indeed the #metoo campaign not only gave strength to women to come forward but also men.
Some men have reacted by suggesting that Women can harras men too..
Well, of course, this is a possibility – but as a tactic to ignore or sideline the current reports, it’s not a very fair one. It misses totally the key issue – which is one of power or dominance.
Some men have noted that they might be accused of harassment if they engage in ‘banter’…
This is also a cheap tactic that avoids the issue.
Being flirtatious, or having ‘banter’ with others is clearly linked to the actual or perceived power in that conversation.
At a party and guy talking with a woman in a flirtatious way will have boudaires set by the social context. BUT, and this is clearly the case with the recent reports for Hollywood and Government, where there is a power or status differential these boundaries are different.
Equals having a ‘bit of banter’ IS NOT the same as an employee and their boss; a teacher and their student; an MP and their PA.!!!
These power differentials are important as they become the lines across which ‘banter’ cannot cross.
What gives a group of men the ‘right’ to make ‘aggressive’ sexualised statements to a woman?
So, an MP allegedly sending multiple inappropriate texts “when drunk” to a researcher in her early twenties is clearly crossing that line…
An MP texting a work experience colleague, suggesting there would have been sexual contact had he been younger … crosses the line …
A married MP who has had affairs with at least two young researchers in the past few years – is, I feel crossing the line by virtue of the fact he was in a position of power and as such we have to question how consensual those affairs really were.
I agree with the man who said to me that this seems to be a trial by media and that something more formal needs to be done; however, I do feel that the media reports have allowed others to come forward who may have felt they would not been heard.
In the recent allegations, Politicians of all parties of being were accused of being “very handsy” in lifts and one minister of being “not safe in taxis”
The idea that women feel that cannot trust a man to understand and know his boundaries is one I find deeply bothersome. It negates all other comments about media bias and ‘women abuse men too’ since such statements possibly seek to divert the discussion.
The answer, by the way, is very simple.
WE can ALL become more aware of our behaviour. Take account of any formal, implied or assumed power imbalance and take personal responsibility for anything we do or say that may cause another person embarrassment.
Men who miss the point about how women can feel at risk in the presence of men simply ask yourself the following …
Would I want my mother, wife, sister, daughter to witness or be the focus of THAT behaviour?
The White Ribbon Campaign
In 1991, a handful of men in Canada decided they had a responsibility to urge men to speak out against violence against women. They decided that wearing a white ribbon would be a symbol of men’s opposition to men’s violence against women.
Today that campaign has spread worldwide.
I am pleased to be an Ambassador for this Group and would encourage all men to think about violence against women – not just in this country, but worldwide.