[content note: violence; rape culture; FGM]
Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls. Around this time of year we tend to hear lots of horrific statistics and stories about VAWG. The scale of the problem can seem huge and overwhelming. Sometimes we can feel useless and disheartened by it. So I thought I’d write a list of things YOU can do to help change the culture of violence and help eliminate violence against women and girls.
- Believe, listen and support those who confide in you about rape, sexual assault and abuse and provide them with links to support services. There is a very real problem in our culture of survivors not being believed and this can have devastating consequences. Many survivors never talk about what happened; it is vital that if they have the courage to talk that you support them by listening and believing.
- Challenge those who perpetuate rape myths. For example, the majority of rapists are not strangers in dark alleys but people known to the victim. For more information on rape myths and the reality of rape please go to the Rape Crisis website.
- Do not engage in rape jokes and challenge those who do. Rape is a very serious issue that has a long-lasting impact on its survivors and the culture prevalent in society around rape such as jokes and insensitive language work to undermine the seriousness of this crime, as well as to cause survivors unnecessary pain and psychological trauma.
- Take the White Ribbon Pledge. ‘I pledge not to commit, condone, or remain silent about male violence against women.’ The White Ribbon Campaign encourages men to speak out against domestic abuse and violence, but anyone can take the pledge.
- Follow the rules of ‘enthusiastic consent’ when engaging in sexual activity or educating others. Enthusiastic consent is the idea that a simple ‘yes’ is not really enough, because a ‘yes’ can be coerced or unwilling. Instead, what should be required is true enthusiasm, and for that good communication between all parties involved is essential.
- Educate yourself and others about the reality of rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, and prostitution. For example, FGM and forced marriage are not simply things that occur outside the UK. FORWARD estimates that as many as 6,500 girls are at risk of FGM within the UK each year.
- Write to your local MP and/or Police and Crime Commissioner and ask them what they are doing to improve conviction rates, to stop our culture of violence and how they are supporting survivors and services.(writetothem.com)
- Donate, support and volunteer for local, national and international charities working to end VAWG and support the survivors of violence. This is particularly important at the moment with funding to many charities and support services being cut. Volunteers who donate their time for free are often the lifeblood of charities who couldn’t run without them. (For a list of charities see our pages Hampshire Links and Outside Hampshire)