97% of women at risk, 100% of men need to take action – Labour Article
8 March 2021 marked International Women’s Day. A day where women were acknowledged, celebrated, and praised for the progress achieved in gender equality. However, this year, the week following saw women taking a necessary stand against sexual assault.
Following the arrest of a police officer on 10 March due to the connection to the kidnapping and murder of Sarah Everard, many women began to share their experiences and how the story was reflective of their daily fears.
In a survey run by UN Women UK, it was found that 97% of women, aged 18-24, have experienced some form of sexual assault. Only 4% reported the crime, as many avoid authorities due to lack of trust in the system’s capability to handle male violence towards females. Something that is understandable as the man arrested for the assault of Sarah Everard was himself in a position of institutional power.
Society has normalised the education of women to not walk alone at night. It has also been normalised for women to be prepared; keys for defence, suitable footwear if they need to escape fast, and a phone to remain in touch with friends.
Sarah Everard followed these common rules. She wore bright clothing, walked along lit streets, and was in contact with her partner. Despite this, she still became a victim of male violence.
Knowing Sarah did her part to stay safe, many women have been calling for the shift of responsibility for women’s safety to be put onto men. This view of moving accountability is reflected in the work of Dr Jessica Taylor. In 2017, she founded Victim Focus, a campaign aimed to eradicate victim-blaming. This includes calling for the change from questioning if the woman was prepared, to questioning men’s behaviour.
The proposal implies women should not be responsible for stopping themselves from being assaulted. It also argues against the normalisation of having to educate women on how to prevent abuse in the first place. Men should be held responsible and should be educated on how their behaviour, such as normalising objectifying women and laughing at sexist jokes, is damaging to gender equality. Their current lack of effort to prevent such behaviour contributes to the high levels of male violence towards women.
Similar concern is aimed towards the normalisation of ‘lad culture’, ‘locker room talk’ – and what it really is – misogynistic humour, as evidenced by the 2019 Warwick University Rape Chat Scandal. The scandal went viral when screenshots of a male students’ group chat were found to be full of sexist comments and threats of rape such as “Rape the whole flat to teach them a lesson”. One individual even dismissed the comments as a joke, saying it is just “how boys talk”.
Whilst the men received a fine of £1,150, the exposure of what some young men joke about in private, whether as extreme or more subtle, led to concern for women’s safety despite current progress in gender equality.
Moving the focus from teaching women how to avoid assault to teaching men how their behaviour can contribute to the issue, was reflected by Baroness Jenny Jones. Speaking as a Green Party peer in the House of Lords, Jones mentioned the implementation of a ‘#CurfewForMen’.
Whilst some saw the proposal as extreme, the idea started a conversation. Women – fed up of doing all they can yet still being at risk – began to call for all men to realise their responsibility. It campaigned for men to join in the efforts to prevent sexual violence on the streets; speaking out against normalised sexism and objectification of women.
This call for change has led to the SitDownAndShutUp Movement, founded by three students at the University of Exeter. The campaign gained over 1,800 followers on Instagram within the first 10 days of launch and received over 200 anonymous stories from sexual assault victims.
In an interview with the movement’s creators, Jaime Wheeler, Alice Orlik and Yasmin Gooch, the women explained the naming behind the movement was to portray how “women are indoctrinated to believe we should remain silent”. The title Sit Down and Shut Up is aimed to “rebel against [this] silence” as “it is now the time for men, for the system, to finally listen to us”. The women also explained they started the movement because of their “anger against the perpetuated rape culture” within society, especially at universities. They felt “enough is enough, and something must change”.
On 22 March, the SitDownAndShutUp movement held their first sit-in event at the University of Exeter Forum. It received great attendance and had multiple students speak up against the violence and normalised sexism they have experienced. The women expressed they feel “young people are less likely to follow the traditional stereotypes surrounding women”, and therefore hope with the growing support from students, their movement will be “a catalyst for social change, beginning with the issue of sexual violence against women”.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Kristen Taylor
Point of Information
Men! Go listen, learn and be better human beings – A Liberal Response
Kristen’s article is fantastic. I am pleased that a POI writer once again is discussing the horrific sexism that plagues our country. However, I want to take a different tone. As I usually do in my articles, especially with subjects like this, I want to use devices of rhetoric.
Firstly, I want to encourage any man reading this to simply go and find one social media account that discusses sexual abuse. I will even link an account I personally recommend, Everyone’s Invited. That is the first step, just go and do that.
Then of course listen. Listen for a few days. Everyone’s invited has been truly eye-opening to me in the last few weeks, posting thousands of testimonies of women who have suffered sexual abuse. When we see this stat we look at ourselves, our friends, and think “we wouldn’t do that, it’s fine”. However, that isn’t the point!
The stories on Everyone’s invited are horrific and sickening. If you listen even just for a few days, you will realise how guys have ruined people’s lives by simply not picking up on the signs. It is the small comments that go unnoticed, that are joked about, that we think are all okay. But some get internalised for a few men, and then it is taken to sickening new heights.
Men, you need to wake up. That is the only thing I can say. It is a sudden realisation, and it will come to you. Follow Everyone’s invited for two days, and it will come. You will realise how truly horrifying the situation is. Once you realise, and you have to realise, then you will be motivated to make change.
So simply go, listen and be a better human being.
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Max Anderson
Dwindling faith from women – A Conservative Response
I would like to think we live in a world where we can depend on the police, especially when dealing with a crime so emotionally and physically destructive as rape. As highlighted by my Labour colleague, the majority of victims do not report incidents of rape. This is very unsettling.
Personally, I have strong support for the police as an institution. I believe that here in Britain we have the best policemen and policewomen in the world. But as the Sarah Everard incident shows, there are fatal flaws. As a society, we need to feel safe in the knowledge that we can have serious conversations with our police and report all crime in the hope they will be able to help. As of this moment, I do not feel this sentiment exists.
We need to go further than the simple performative actions of posting on Instagram and virtue signalling. We need genuine conversations with eachother in order to move forward as a society in combatting rape. Everyone should be able to leave the house without the fear of being sexually assaulted. Clearly telling women to carry a key or rape alarm is not an acceptable solution.
The main issue is that those who perpetrate such abhorrent actions and beliefs are not the people who are going to read what my colleagues and I have written. They are not going to look at people’s Instagram stories and change their ways. Someone willing to commit such disgusting acts is fundamentally not of sound mind or mental state.
Overall, I am pessimistic. I believe that a move back to the stability of two-parent households would go a long way to tackling the issue of rape, as I have argued previously. But the issue of rape culture is something much more deeply embedded within society. The Warwick University Scandal shows that these attitudes are held even within respectable institutions.
Obviously, it is not all men who believe or act in this manner. But as highlighted, these incidents can be found in the places one least expects. It is anguishing but understandable when women say they do not trust any men. It is because they simply do not know who the bad ones are.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce