The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Why is counting so important?

Today is 25 November 2013. More specifically though it is the International Day for  the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is a day rightly which is sobering and uncompromising in its message. Male violence against women is a reality in all corners of society and we must move towards a situation where we name the problem rather than bury our heads in the sand and pretend it does not exist.

Against this backdrop I was horrified to hear in the House of Commons, during a debate on women and the cost of living that 180 women a day are being turned away from Women’s Aid refuges due to underfunding. This is a shocking statistic, not only when you consider the sheer volume of women attempting to escape violent partners and who are patently in need of such services, but who will have no alternative but to return to the violent partner whom they have fought desperately to escape from just to guarantee a roof over their head. Therefore it allows the cycle of abuse to perpetuate itself once again.

Services such as those provided by Women’s Aid are not only a vital backstop in times of crisis but also an opportunity for women to take stock and to rebuild their lives again. They provide a chance for women and their children to be safe, secure and free of harm. Clearly they are a much needed service.

The government response to Lisa Nandy MP was fairly flippant in my view. They simply suggested that domestic violence does not occur in every home. Absolutely not, but in my eyes one home suffering from the effects and realities of domestic abuse is one home too many. Organisations like Women’s Aid should be given every resource at the Treasury’s disposal to create a sanctuary and safe haven for women.

Being within an abusive relationship is not a healthy reality for any woman, yet it is the only reality many women know. Domestic abuse is primarily about control and the subordination of women. A lesser amount of funding being available to organisations like Women’s Aid will ensure that abusive, controlling and harmful men are allowed to perpetuate that cycle of abuse and keep women living in fear emotionally, and physically. That is not an outcome which any right-thinking woman or man in 2013 would welcome. They need funding, and they need it now.

Social networks bring truth to us at times, and one woman’s use of Twitter today brings that home to all of us. Somewhere in the UK today a woman is spending the day tweeting, not about last night’s ‘The X Factor’ or the latest gossip from the Australian jungle. No as we approach 2014 this woman, taking no credit and for no real gain is tweeting the names of women killed at the hands of male violence this year. Her name is Karen Ingala-Smith and she is the CEO of the charity NIA which is committed to “delivering cutting-edge services to end violence against women and children.”

Karen is tweeting out the names of the 116 women killed by male violence this year. She began just after 6 AM this morning and will be tweeting well past midnight. Her commitment to ending violence is uncompromising and unwavering. Why count the names though?

For Karen the answer is simple.

“For some reason I thought that naming the women killed made the horror of what is happening seem more real.”

I agree here. Numbers are numbers, and alone, quantitatively at least they only tell half the story, and it is easy to feel ambivalent towards them. They do not provoke any particular emotion; they are simply a stand-alone denotation.

But Karen is right naming the women does make those numbers feel more real. Behind every one of those numbers there was a life, a friend or relative to somebody. A life cruelly terminated at the hands of a violent, oppressive, controlling and narcissistic man. A life unnecessarily terminated at the hands of a violent man.

There is no hierarchy in death at the hands of a violent man, or indeed at all. Each one of these women and girls was gone too soon. Women killed because they were women. Because men feel they have a right to express supremacy over women, and they believe the delusion that men are somehow superior to women whilst women are inferior. That is why these women are dead. That is why we need a seachange in attitudes towards women with less misogyny and less violence and less abuse. The bottom line is this though. Violence against women and girls has no place in our society or any other. Women and girls have a right to live in a world free from violence and free from abuse. This is something they should not have to beg for, or plead to men for, it is something they should expect and rightly so.

Today also marks the beginning of 16 days of action for the elimination of violence against women and girls. However I am privileged to know many women for whom 365 days a year represent action in this regard. We should follow their lead and their example.

This is why the scandal of the underfunding of organisations like Women’s Aid’s refuges is nothing short of a scandal. Until they receive proper funding, the numbers counted by Karen will continue to rise not decline. That is why I have discussed both of these things in one piece. There is a clear link between the two, showing that actions have consequences and I say that without apology or sugar coating.

In closing let me come back to this word. Elimination. Not reduction nor decrease but elimination. Women should not have to experience violence just because they are women or at all. They are wonderful and beautiful human beings. They should not have to live in fear of persecution, torment and violence at the hands of men ever! The objective of today is the elimination of violence against women, girls and children of course. Women deserve to live in a world where they are free to be how they want to be without fear of violent and disgusting reprisals by Neanderthal men.

I speak for myself and many others I am sure when I say that I will not rest nor be content until the number of dead women Karen has to count stands at zero, is that really too much to ask, that a man is never violent to a woman again. Nothing she does can provoke them. It is not her fault. It is a man’s violent choice to be a violent man. It is not a done deal.

However it is women who bear the consequences. It was difficult when writing this blog today to know what sort of tone to adopt. Whether to be happy about the possibility of elimination of violence against women and girls, or whether to be sombre and solemn about lives lost. I believe elimination of violence is possible. I also believe however that we should not forget lives lost, for the lives of those women mattered, and they made a contribution to the planet. For those women still here they fight on and I stand with them in the fight. Some final words. Never give up. All women are worth it and your lives are valuable.

If, reading this you are struggling because of male violence, I stand with you and I support you.



Also here is a link to Karen’s petition, entitled, Stop Ignoring Dead Women

Follow the Counting Dead Women Twitter Account @countdeadwomen.



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