April 19, 2024

Laura Bates on how to participate in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Today (25 November) is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, marking the start of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence: an international campaign calling for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls VAWG.

Gender-based violence is currently at a crisis point, affecting an estimated more than 1 in 3 women worldwide. The most recent global estimates suggest that a woman or girl is killed by someone in her own family every 11 minutes. While the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly exacerbated the problem, a UN campaign notes that “there is … more evidence than ever before that VAWG is preventable. ”

SARSAS, a specialist service for people affected by sexual violence across Bristol, BANES, Somerset, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, has partnered with author and activist Laura Bates to launch the #16DaysChallenge. This campaign is encouraging people to think of one change that would make a difference in the fight against VAWG rather than relying on victim-blaming advice that holds women responsible for their own safety.

GLAMOUR spoke to Laura Bates to learn more about the campaign, how people can get involved, and why it’s up to the policy-makers to take notice.

GLAMOUR: Hi Laura! Thanks so much for finding the time to speak with us today. What is the #16DaysChallenge, and how can people get involved?

Laura Bates: The idea is to shift our societal focus on ideas around solving sexual violence, which too often focuses on victims and telling them what to do or not to do. Every woman I think will relate to don’t wear a short skirt in case you’re asking for it, don’t wear heels in case you need to run, cover your drink in a club, go to the bathroom in groups, text each other when you get home safely, walk home with your keys between your fingers, and a million other things that we expect women to do on a day-to-day basis.

And it’s not just societal; it’s coming from official spaces as well. It’s things like the Police Crime Commissioner saying that Sarah Everard shouldn’t have submitted to Wayne Couzens and that women need to be more “streetwise. ” It’s a male leader of a city council after Bobbi-Anne McLeod’s murder saying that we shouldn’t be putting ourselves in compromising positions.

«It’s about putting the focus where it belongs, onto actionable solutions that don’t involve blaming victims. »

And it’s maddening because it means that we’re never focusing on the real source of the problem, which is male violence, and the real nature of the problem, which is structural. These aren’t isolated incidents. Very sadly, we know that women and girls all over the world experience sexual violence at different times of day in different dress, including covered from head to toe, in different places at different ages. And there is no single thing they have in common that women can magically avoid, because the only thing they have in common is coming into contact with a perpetrator who’s made a choice to commit an act of abuse.

So, we need to focus partly on men and male perpetrators and male violence and recognising that for what it is, but also on structural solutions in education, in politics, and the failings in the police, if we’re going to move forward. And the 16 Days Challenge is all about that. It’s about putting the focus where it belongs, onto actionable solutions that don’t involve blaming victims.

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