The 25 November was an important date in the feminist calendar with White Ribbon Day and the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on the same day. Both annual events aim to create awareness of the fact that violence against women is a human rights violation and it needs to stop.
The 16 Days of Activism is an international campaign following this, involving events and fundraising for projects or causes related to violence against women, encouraging discussion about the topic. Why is this so important? And why are we specifically focusing on male violence against women? Shockingly, 2 women are killed by a current or former partner every week, 6/7 victims of domestic abuse are women, and 9/10 defendants are men. Over the past two weeks we’ve been continuously reminded that the scale of this issue just isn’t recognised; we need events and campaigns to educate people and highlight its importance.
Yes these statistics are hard-hitting, but we need to remind ourselves that something can always be done. Erin had the good sense to bring this idea to Tower Hamlets Homes, and we’ve just completed an internal 16 Days of Activism campaign to start the discussion around gender-based violence, and Domestic Abuse in general.
It started with self-defence sessions on Monday 26 November, with a trainer from the Faith Regen Foundation showing female staff some basic moves (and have a good laugh during the process). Giggles aside, over 90% of sexual assault victims are women, and it was invaluable to learn how to act in a desperate situation.
Our next big event was Chai Day, which took place on Wednesday 28 November. Erin has done a separate blog post on this, giving a low-down of the day.
Before we knew it, it was Friday, and the first week of our 16 days was almost over. From here on, the campaign took a slightly different approach, focusing on domestic abuse in general – not just violence against women. Domestic abuse can be ‘physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual which takes places within close relationship, usually by partners, ex-partners, or family members’. In order to make sure that cases are reported and acted upon, our frontline staff need to be trained on how to deal with incidents of domestic abuse – so we invited colleagues to join us in some training sessions. Friday’s session was run by GALOP, an LGBTQ+ charity. The session gave an overview of LGBTQ+ issues relating to domestic abuse and the barriers that stop LGBTQ+ people accessing the help they need.
After a well-deserved weekend break, training began again on Tuesday 4 December – this time with Solace, a London-based charity helping women and children survivors. Solace offered bespoke training sessions for frontline staff to better equip them to spot the signs of and deal with domestic abuse. The following day, the MET popped in to talk about domestic abuse provision in the borough. The final training session took place on Friday, and was led by the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA).
And that was the last of the organised events! As the two weeks progressed, we found that colleagues started feeling more at ease discussing the subject of gender-based violence and domestic abuse. Another element to our campaign was asking staff to sign the White Ribbon Pledge, promising to ‘never commit, excuse, or remain silent about male violence towards women’. White Ribbon Ambassadors and Champions promise to go the extra mile – challenging societal conventions and educating people about gender-based violence.
We’re very grateful that one of our executive directors Will Manning agreed to take the training and become a White Ribbon Ambassador. On interviewing him, he said: “Being an Ambassador informs your mind and provides you with a lot of knowledge that you wouldn’t otherwise be aware of. It’s an interesting area relating to a topic that is important around the world. Also, it’s important for men to step up and make a stand. Of course, any violence is bad, but there are wider, more historic and social reasons why male violence against women should get more attention. […] I’m proud to go home and tell my daughter that I’m an Ambassador.
With all of this in mind, will you sign the pledge?
Words by Izzy Ingham, Graduate trainee at Tower Hamlets Homes.