Tag Archives: ending violence against women and girls

Wera Hobhouse: We need to do more to tackle violence against women and girls

This week, Lib Dem Women and Equalities Spokesperson Wera Hobhouse spoke in a parliamentary debate on preventing violence against women and girls. She spoke about the need for age appropriate sex education to help tackle sexual harassment in schools, the need for local authorities to be given sufficient funding to help victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse, the failure of the criminal justice system in this area and the need to make misogyny a hate crime.

She said:

It is a real pleasure and privilege to speak in this debate. We have talked about this issue many times, and I could not agree more with the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper) that the time for talking should be over and we need to see a lot more action.

I want to praise the organisations in Bath that are working on tackling violence against women and girls: the Southside project, which supports families affected by domestic violence and abuse; Somerset and Avon Rape and Sexual Abuse Support, or SARSAS, a specialist support service for women and girls who have experienced any form of sexual violence at any point in their lives; and Voices, a survivor-led charity supporting those living with and beyond domestic abuse to recover from their trauma, which redoubled its efforts during the pandemic to make sure that no one was forgotten. I was delighted to recognise Voices with the first Best of Bath award last year.

But we should not leave it to charities to tackle violence against women and girls. We must do a lot more not only to support survivors but to prevent the terrible violence from occurring in the first place. We absolutely need to improve police training so that victims and survivors are properly supported. Many crimes do not even enter the criminal justice system. Over 600,000 women are sexually assaulted each year, but only one in six of those assaults is reported to the police. We must give women and girls the reassurance that their concerns are taken seriously whenever they report crimes of assault or domestic abuse.

I would like to add something to the motion before us today. Supporting victims of violence and sexual abuse begins at a local level. The Government must support local authorities to perform this vital task by giving them the duty and funding to provide accommodation for survivors of abuse. Our criminal justice system is failing women. It takes an incredible amount of bravery to not only report sexual abuse but then to relive that trauma in the courts. To add insult to injury, 1.6% of reported rapes lead to a charge. I need to repeat that: 1.6% of reported rapes lead to a charge. We are letting survivors down; it is shocking. We absolutely need better training and more resources for prosecutors and judges to punish perpetrators and deliver the justice that victims and survivors so desperately need.

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Beatrice Wishart challenges media on reporting violence against women and girls

Thursday was White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. At Holyrood MSPs paused for a minutes silence to remember those women murdered by men over this past year.

Later there was a debate on ways to eradicate men’s violence against women. Beatrice Wishart, our MSP for Shetland, who has a long record of helping women who have suffered domestic abuse made a brilliant speech in which she called for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms. She drew attention to the way the media reports violence against women, often victim shaming and she talked particularly about how they talk about this awful practice of “spiking”, drugging someone’s drink in order to assault them.

You can watch her speech here. The text is below:

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a trustee of Shetland Women’s Aid.

I, too, pay tribute to Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and other services and individuals across Scotland for the good work that they do, not just on international day for the elimination of violence against women, but every day. It is worth saying again that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 days of activism campaign. It has been 30 years, and, each year, the debate exchanges statistics that are unacceptable and horrific, as Pam Duncan-Glancy stated.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in three women worldwide will, in their lifetime, be subjected to

“either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, and we know that Covid has impacted on women’s equality progress across the globe.

Earlier this year, Jess Phillips MP, the UK shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, read out the names of the 118 women who had been killed in the preceding year and in whose case a man had been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. It took her a little over four minutes and the list did not include the names of the women referenced in the motion, who were tragically killed after March this year.

The number of domestic abuse incidents reported by Police Scotland has risen for the fourth year in a row, with one in four women in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is a plague that not only affects women but impacts whole households. Children are tragically caught in it, too. It was seeing the lifelong impact of domestic abuse on children and the financial abuse of women that drew me into my voluntary trustee role.

I know that all speakers in the debate are striving to ensure that women and girls across the globe and closer to home can live their lives free from fear. Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously called for—and we do so again—the establishment of the new commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government. Along with providing increased training for those who work in education and on the front line in public authorities, we can work together to build better public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women and take action to eradicate it.

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