Image shared via a creative commons license by Open Democracy on Flickr.
I am going to preface this post with a defence. Why? Because this is how I have to have these conversations now. I am going to be attending the Reclaim the Night march on the 21st of November. Reclaim the Night is a march against male violence with its roots in the 70s feminist movement.
A recent survey by the young women’s magazine More in 2005 found that 95% of women don’t feel safe on the streets at night, and 65% don’t even feel safe during the day. 73% worry about being raped and almost half say they sometimes don’t want to go out because they fear for their own safety.
In every sphere of life we negotiate the threat or reality of rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment. We cannot claim equal citizenship while this threat restricts our lives as it does. We demand the right to use public space without fear. We demand this right as a civil liberty, we demand this as a human right. Source
I understand that the second I say male violence, men reading this will have bristled. I profusely refute the idea that men are somehow innately violent, or unable to control their sexual desires. Rather I believe a culture that continually objectifies women, portrays them as sex objects, as things to be won and lost, and male sexual desire as something un-responsible and uncontainable, men will be taught that they are owed sex, and that women are to be bought and sold. They will be taught that with money, comes power, and power is the currency that males/female relationships are built on, transactional in essence, men must get their due.
Nearly a quarter of 14-year-olds [girls] have been forced to have sex or do something sexual against their will, and one in four 16-year-olds [girls] have been hit or hurt in some way by someone they were dating Source
Male violence against women is an inconvertible fact. Reclaim the Night marches against it. It is firstly an all (identifying) female march, and then followed by a rally with speakers and musicians (men are welcome to the rally), bringing together women, women’s organisations and unions, speaking out against male violence and reclaiming the spaces from which we are told we are not safe, not permitted, that we must be protected from.
How about we remove the need for protection?
Reclaim the Night stands up and says that women are never to blame for male violence, we battle against rape apologists who claim that women’s drinking, flirting, manner of dressing, or sexual proclivities mean they deserves it. We fight against rape myths that say one kind of sexual contact must lead to another, that say that women want it, that not saying no is the same as yes, and that women falsely report disproportionately to other crimes (“the allegations of rape that are false are exactly the same as that of any other crime i.e. 6 – 8%“ Source )
Britain has the lowest rape conviction rate in the EU, coming “bottom of 33 countries in the study.” Source
In 2007-08, only 6.4% (43,970) of the 686,272 reported incidents of domestic violence reported to the police resulted in a conviction in court Source
I am told again and again when I stand up against rape and domestic vioelnce that doing so is somehow ‘divisive’. That old tune: ‘women commit violence against men too, and men hurt men too, this should be about all violence, not just one bit of it’.
Fuck you and the privilege you sailed in on.
In domestic violence cases between 2004-5 and 2008-9, “Convictions of men were up […] from 18,659 to 45,484” while “the number of women convicted of domestic violence is up […] from 806 […] to 2,968 “ Source
Male sexual violence against women is about power, and property. Male rape is also about power, but it is an inherently different offence (and much rarer – in the year 2005-6 0.4% of adult males were raped, and 5% of adult women were*), and requires a different approach in supporting victims. As does non-sexual violence.
The patriarchal construction of masculinity and the power dynamics within a society where women have for centuries been oppressed by men leads to men committing acts of violence and harrassment [sic] against women. Not all men do this, sure, but they are doing it in sufficient numbers to ensure that 45% of the female UK population suffer stalking, domestic violence or sexual victimisation in their lifetime. Source
With sexual violence on the rise, with already scarce rape crisis centres under threat, in a society where young girls are raped as punishment for their or their peers’ misdemeanours we need to stand up. We need to fight. Splitting hairs, trying to denigrate these facts by propagating myths and apologist rhetoric, or suggesting that to fight for one cause is to belittle another is at best ignorant, and at worst abhorrent.
1 in 10 women this year will experience some form of gendered violence (that is domestic or sexual abuse committed against them by a man). source
The lifetime statistic is 1 in 4 **
These are all reasons why I will be attending the Reclaim the Night event on the 21st. I will also be tweeting, taking pictures, videoing, grabbing interviews, and otherwise amplifying the event to the best of my ability. Look out at @hannahnicklin for more news about my collating it, and to follow me on the day. I don’t get to anywhere near as many protests as I would wish, time is a factor, but it’s mostly not being able to afford the travel, so I want to make the most of my time there.
If you are in or around London, please do consider joining this year’s Reclaim the Night march. If you can’t, do check http://reclaimthenight.org for information of other marches throughout the country. If you can do neither, please challenge male violence in every way that you can. Challenge gender roles, challenge damaging views of masculinity, challenge rape myths and apology. This is our society, and we can stand up and make it safer for everybody.
* These figures are not strictly comparable on equal terms as the percentage is of each gender – so unless the female and male population were exactly the same the two percentages represent different divisions of total population – however as the female population outstrips the male, this doesn’t denigrate my argument.
** The 1 in 4 figure I used was a 2% rounding up of the 23% of women who experience (and report) sexual assault as an adult shown in this home office report the rounding up was just to get a easily divisible figure, and should be very easily exceeded by the amount of un-reported assult/harrassment (40% of adults who are raped tell no one about it – and YES you can reliably calculate these figures – one method is gathering the information from victims seeking support at rape crisis centres).
NB. When referring to women in this post I am reffering to people who identify themselves as women. Trans/other non CIS women are also subject to gendered violence, and often suffer a greater backlash for trading power structures.