Saturday was International Women’s Day. I didn’t get any flowers, or a cup of tea in bed or anything like that. Am I not an international woman?
And I didn’t even get to go to the Million Women Rise March in
Although I didn’t make it to the march this Saturday, I did go, with my Mum, on the Reclaim the Night march last November. My favourite slogan was:
“Whatever I wear, wherever I go
Yes means yes and no means no”
Which in a country, like ours, where the conviction rate for rapes hangs around the 5.7% mark is something that clearly needs repeating; and I did, very loudly, all the way up
5.7% It’s an appalling statistic, isn’t it? And a statistic that the police know that they’ve got to improve on, as much of the problem is as a result of victims dropping out of the process:
“research shows that attrition - or cases dropping out - happens at every stage from initial complaint to trial. But Yates said the biggest attrition rate was with the initial police investigation. If inertia followed a complaint, "what was always going to be a difficult case can often become an impossible one"
By the time the police have got involved, it’s already too late, the crime has been committed. Our aim should be to stop the crimes in the first place.
All types of violence against women, not just sexual, is very, very common. One in four women will experience some kind of domestic violence during their life time. (I realise domestic violence is a far wider category than rape, but stick with me for the moment).
And if that many women experience domestic violence it means that there are a lot of men out there being violent towards women.
So, how many? Well, I don’t know and nor does anybody else, because it’s not the kind of thing we talk about in polite company. But what if it was, for example, a 3:1 ratio to account for say more than one woman being subject to violence from the same man or the few women who receive violence at the hand of another woman? That’s still millions of men and that really is shocking. I can hardly believe that number myself and I don’t find domestic violence hard to imagine at all; I know women who have experienced domestic violence and I’ve witnessed it. Yes, me the epitome of middle class, female professional!
Violence towards women is one of life’s great levelers; in both victims and perpetrators it crosses class, income group, educational attainment, colour, nationality, race, religion, political views, language and age.
And it makes me wonder, how many people have to be doing something before it becomes a cultural norm?
It’s not a new fangled thing, sweeping the nation like bird flu could. I think it has always been ‘acceptable’ to be violent towards women, behind closed doors.
I think the situation may even be improving, it’s hard to know. What is good is that the police now take it more seriously and don’t stand there like a bunch of lemons, as they used to in the seventies, in people’s driveways refusing to come across the threshold because ‘it’s a domestic’ and therefore none of their business.
Improving it may be but it’s not gone. Making something illegal doesn’t change whether it’s culturally acceptable. Proactive prosecution of the crime, when it comes to light is definitely a start but we need more than just the law.
Silence about something, not mentioning it, like we don’t mention the prevalence of domestic violence, is tantamount to being complicit.
And this is, of course, where the solution lies. Last year, I blogged about the White Ribbon Campaign. I was very excited because this is a campaign by men to stop male violence against women. Domestic violence is too often treated like a women’s issue. But it’s not a women’s issue, it’s a man’s issue. And whilst men are the problem they are also the solution.
The White Ribbon Campaign aims to get men to create the new cultural norm that it’s not acceptable to be violent towards women. It works by getting men talking about it and promoting that there is nothing masculine about hitting women.
You know, I am pretty sure, that me blogging about the fact that it’s wrong to hit women isn’t really going to have any impact on a man’s behavior, if he is that way inclined. He probably already knows that women don’t like it; but if he overhears, perhaps at the pub or in the office, another man start talking about how unacceptable it is, how unmanly it is, then that might just make a difference.
So back to the issue with rape.
I was interested to read on PC Bloggs how many of the commenters on a recent post about rape were concerned about the inability to work out what has happened if the woman is say, drunk or not. But this I think is missing the point and ignoring what consent is.
Positive consent is not the absence of dissent. It should be very clear to a man when a women is consenting to sex, there should be no mistake. If a man waits for a woman to give positive consent to sex then he is not in danger of raping her. There should be no waiting for a woman to say no. If she can’t say no, because she’s too drunk, then she can’t say yes, can she? A woman who is playing hard to get is not giving positive consent.
As the chant goes, it doesn’t matter what a woman is wearing only yes means yes and no most definitely means no.
Again, the solution is in changing the norms of behavior or in other words the prevalent culture that finds an absence of dissent a case for assuming there was consent. It is men who need to be demand positive consent from their sexual partners and not go forward without it, not women who need to be clearer. It is men who are the solution.
So, to all you guys who have read as far as this, I say: Please, don’t think because you would never dream of being violent towards another person or not getting anything less than positive consent that you have no part to play in changing these pernicious norms of society. Even though you may not be aware, it is likely you will know women who have experienced domestic violence and probably the men who have perpetrated it.
I am looking at those men, who know that violence is wrong and who understand what positive consent means, to help spread the word to all men what is and isn’t acceptable.
If you want to find out how then join the White Ribbon Campaign and pass it on.