Natalie Collins FRSA, Founder of the DAY Programme and the Own My Life course, reflects on recent publicised acts of violence against women, and the urgent need to stand up against it. Join her, along with Fellows Karen Ingala Smith and Leyla Hussein at Friday Conversations on 29 November to explore this further.
On the 5th of this month, two teenage boys were sentenced for killing 14-year-old Ana Kriégel. The boys were 13-years old when they killed her. On the 10th of this month, parts of 24-year-old Anastasia Yeshchenko’s mutilated body were found when the man, who has admitted killing her, fell into a river while trying to dispose of parts of her body. Her name can only be found in the eighth paragraph of a Guardian article about her murder, and in searching for details of her online, it is easier to find a photograph of her severed head than to learn more about who she was. As I write this, the New Zealand trial continues of the man accused of murdering 21-year-old British woman Grace Millane, with news sites including the BBC using the alleged murderer’s defence as a headline “Backpacker died ‘when sex act went wrong’”. Grace’s body was found buried in a suitcase. After an outcry, the BBC clarified in the headline that this was a claim made by the defendant.
Ana, Anastasia and Grace are three of the women killed by men this month, but there are thousands more. In 2018, it was found that 87,000 women globally were killed by men (50,000 by an intimate partner). Within the UK, 147 women were killed by men in 2018, with domestic homicides at a five-year high. For every woman or girl who is murdered by a man, there are millions more who are abused and traumatised by male violence and control. As government cuts continue to impact the most vulnerable it is not only men killing women that has increased, so too has the likelihood that men can rape women (and other men) with impunity. In just one year, the charging of rape suspects has fallen by two-thirds. Only 1.4% of women who report rape (one in 70) will find the man who raped them charged with an offence, with few of these men ever convicted.
Then there are the millions of women and girls whose genitals will be mutilated so they can be presented as acceptable to men in systems and cultures in which women’s primary or sole value is sexual and reproductive. Female genital mutilation is harmful and a form of sexual assault and child abuse, with many activists, politicians and religious authorities seeking to eradicate the practice across the globe. However it is increasingly practiced by cosmetic surgeons within Western cultures, as pornified versions of the female body dominate how women and girls see their bodies (and how men and boys think female bodies should look). Labioplasty is the world’s fastest-growing cosmetic procedure.
Every woman or girl who is murdered, has their life cut short by a man who generally views her as a possession. A huge web of people (her family, friends, colleagues) are damaged and destroyed by violent men’s choices. Every man who abuses or sexually violates a woman or girl diminishes her life, her health, her capacity to thrive, build relationships, work, parent. Every woman or girl who is mutilated has both her body and soul cut open, with the emotional and physical impact spreading across all areas of her life and throughout society.
Women’s murders rarely make it onto the front page of newspapers (unless the details are particularly salacious). The everyday nature of men’s violence, abuse and control is so commonplace, as to be barely worth acknowledging never mind seeking to prevent. The harm of female genital mutilation remains unspoken and unknown, except for those who bravely continue to speak out. On 25th November 1960, three sisters Patria, Minerva, and Maria Teresa Mirabel were assassinated in the Dominican Republic. By 1981 Latin American and Caribbean feminists began marking 25th November as a day to combat and raise awareness about violence towards women. The ways male violence is elided and ignored was raised within the United Nations for years before in 1993, they adopted the Declaration for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. By 1999, 25th November received its official UN resolution as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Twenty years later and men are still murdering, abusing and sexually violating women. With the advent of the #metoo movement, light has been shone on abusers within Hollywood, the music industry, politics, comedy, sports, business, education and the church. But even as light has been shone, rape charging has diminished and the number of women killed has increased. This is all very bleak, but we cannot allow the hugeness of the issues prevent us from seeking to effect change. Which is why, in the week of 25th November 2019, you are invited to join three women and RSA Fellows working to bring change to these pervasive issues!
Karen Ingala Smith has pioneered a femicide census in the UK, documenting the number of women killed by men. She is the CEO of Nia, a London-based domestic and sexual violence charity working to help women recover and move on after men have hurt them and their children. Leyla Hussein is a psychotherapist and social activist. Founder of Daughters of Eve and the Dahlia Project, Leyla works to end female genital mutilation and help women and girls recover. Natalie Collins is the founder of the DAY Programme and the Own My Life course. She works equipping practitioners to help women regain ownership of their lives after abuse and to enable young people to recognise and prevent abusive behaviour. All three of us will be contributing to the RSA Friday Conversation about male violence and women’s rights and recovery. Come along to learn more about the issues and how you can be part of bringing change!
Date: Friday 29th November
Time: 12pm – 3.05pm
Location: Rawthmells Coffeehouse, RSA