Violence against women and girls is not inevitable. We believe that a different world is possible; a world where women and girls live equally alongside men, free from harassment and violence.
What is violence against women and girls?
‘Violence against women and girls’ is violence which is directed at women and girls because they are women and girls. It includes sexual violence, domestic violence, stalking and harassment, FGM (female genital mutilation), forced marriage and so-called ‘honour-based violence’, trafficking and prostitution, and abuse of women and girls in online spaces.
All these forms of abuse are committed disproportionately against women and girls, and the perpetrators are usually men. Violence against women and girls occurs in every society around the world. Women’s further inequality as a result of wealth and social class, sexuality or gender identity, ethnicity, disability, mental health, and age, makes them more likely to experience violence and less likely to access justice and support.
The prevalence of violence against women and girls
Rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, harassment and many of the other forms of abuse are extremely common – probably affecting between a quarter and a third of all women during their lifetime.
- In 2016 there were 2 million female victims of domestic violence.
- 2 women every week are killed by a current or ex-partner and other close relative.
- Only 15% of serious sexual offences and 21% of partner abuse incidents are reported to the police.
- BME women suffer disproportionately from violence, and face multiple barriers to reporting (including heightened forms of shame, stigma, cultural and religious constraints, racism, immigration insecurities and lack of awareness of their rights).
- More than 100,000 women and girls in the UK are at risk of and living with the consequences of female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so called ‘honour-based’ violence.
- Inquiries into child sexual abuse repeatedly reveal failures at every level of the State to prevent or protect girls from abuse.
- Girls in schools in the UK are experiencing high levels of sexual violence and harassment, as alarmingly evidenced by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Select Committee.
- Legal aid has shrunk and abused women are often unable to obtain legal advice and representation which has meant that some women find themselves face to face with their perpetrators in courts.
Men and especially boys are also sometimes victims of some of these forms of abuse, and it is important that support is available for them and that this abuse is challenged. But it is wrong to claim that because men and boys sometimes experience violence as well, its causes and consequences have nothing to do with gender.
The impact of violence against women and girls
Violence against women and girls is part of what is stopping women achieving equality. The widespread experience of violence limits women’s freedom and choices, and forces them to make calculations about what is and is not safe for them to do.
Women in abusive relationships have spoken about their own sense of self diminishing, as well as losing work and money and control over their children. Women who suffer sexual violence in childhood and as adults are often traumatised and can have serious long-term mental health problems as well as sometimes being less able to trust others.
All women live with some level of knowledge about what could happen to us, and what we need to tell our daughters about ‘staying safe’.
It is survivors of abuse who have led women’s organising and campaigning for better law and support for other women.
Violence against women and girls is persistent
All societies have ‘social norms’ around gender – rules or codes which are deeply held, profound cultural ideas about what men and women are, what their roles and behaviour should be, and what they do and do not deserve.
These ‘rules’ are an essential part of what makes some men feel entitled to commit violence against women (she’s my wife/girlfriend and I can; that kind of woman deserves this) and to feel confident that they will get away with it (I know other people agree with me about women like her), and they ensure that others in the community ignore, minimise or even excuse violence, especially by tending to scrutinise women’s behaviour much more than men’s.
So, violence against women and girls is deeply related to women’s inequality.
What EVAW Coalition and our members are doing to end violence against women and girls
The women who have named and challenged and organised support services and resistance to men’s violence against women believe it is not inevitable and that we can prevent it.
The EVAW Coalition’s members set up our Coalition in 2005 to campaign for changes in government policy, at the national and local level, to bring together action on the different forms of abuse and to try to prevent it as well as responding after it has happened.
We have a vision of change across all parts of government and our public services, as well as in popular culture and debate, which would help build a society that truly rejects violence against women and girls. The key to this is the commitment to specific and concrete efforts to prevent violence against women and girls.