By Kelly Grehan
I’m going to start with a question: why is the starting point for hearing about crimes in which victims are typically women to ask what she did wrong?
How many times upon hearing about a rape do people respond with questions like – well why did she get in his car? Why did she drink so much? Why was she dressed like that? Why did she lead him on? Why did she not run/scream/fight back?
How many people on hearing about domestic violence respond by saying why did she not leave? Why was she was always winding him up? Why was she smiling if she was scared? Why did she have a baby with him?
I could go on.
There are numerous high profile cases I could use to illustrate this- Adam Johnson, Johnny Depp Mike Tyson, Bill Cosby, Rolf Harris. Men for whom, as soon as their crimes became known excuses and victim blaming began.
Of course people can cite ‘innocent until proven guilty’ as a reason, but my experience is that there is an approach taken by a large group of people upon hearing about these offences which differs from that they would take if hearing about a car theft, robbery or fraud.
So why is this? Is it because of the misogyny which continues to plague our society? Or is it because by distancing themselves from certain behaviours people feel they can protect themselves from being a victim of such a crime? Or is it because there is a collective failure in our community to want to accept the scale of violence against women in our society because to do so would mean admitting an unpalatable truth and would surely mean we need to address it?
Statistics show that the number of offences against women, including domestic abuse, rape and sexual assaults, rose by almost 10% to 117,568 in 2015-16.
Although men do suffer violence from women research shows that domestic violence is a deeply gendered issue for example Metropolitan Police statistics show that male violence against women made up 85% of reported domestic violence incidents and that 5% of domestic violence incidents were perpetrated by women in heterosexual relationships. Staggeringly four times as many women as men are killed by a current or former partner. Two women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence in England and Wales.
With regards to sexual violence approximately 85,000 women and 12,000 men are raped in England and Wales alone every year; that’s roughly 11 rapes (of adults alone) every hour. These figures include assaults by penetration and attempts.
So 1 in 5 women aged 16 – 59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. Roughly 90% of those who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the offence. 3% of reported rapes are believed to be false.
What we also know is that women who experience domestic, emotional and sexual violence experience guilt, denial, post traumatic stress and depression so a victim blaming culture is very damaging and can actually contribute towards reasons why women do not report or escape the situation.
I showed this blog to a friend who was a victim of long term emotional and domestic violence. This was her response:
“Funny that thing about why didn’t she scream, why didn’t she fight back – I’d always thought I would fight back but logistically your size makes a big difference, fear is the biggest factor because I was too busy thinking how can I survive this and not make it worse than trying to fight. Self preservation kicks in and you try and survive. Who’s going to believe you when it’s your boyfriend and happened in your house/bedroom? You’ve got to live with him so you make it as easy as possible – enough people have said you should get out and should finish it. Now you’re embarrassed and hurt. It’s your kids birthday the next day or you’re meeting friends you can’t let down again. No one gets it so you just continue. Besides you have more placating to do and stories to cover so this doesn’t happen again.”
What I really want to do is to ask people to think about their reaction upon hearing of abuse against women and what the effects might be of that reaction.
If you have been affected by any of these issues :
24-hour National Domestic Violence Freephone Helpline 0808 2000 247
The National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 802 9999
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