Trigger warning – this post discusses statistics and incidents of men’s violence against women.
This morning I read the tragic news that the body of Karen Buckley, a Glasgow student, has been found (as it happens, not far from where I live – I’ll be going past the spot on my way to Glasgow this evening).
I cannot even begin to imagine how awful this must be for her parents (who I gather came here from Ireland once they heard their daughter was missing), and her wider family and friends. Ms Buckley is another young woman who was simply enjoying herself at a nightclub before she went missing, who will now never again have the chance to smile at someone taking her photo by a loch, as she does in the photo here.
Her murder is not a solitary episode. Men’s violence against women is of a magnitude that if the newspapers actually reported it, it would, I am sure, elicit such outrage that action would be taken. Some statistics for Scotland, which only has a population of 5.3 million (UK and global figures also available, all referenced):
- A domestic violence incident is recorded every 10 minutes in Scotland with 53,681 incidents reported in 2008-9.
- In 2011-12 Crimes of rape increased by 13% to 1,274.
- There were over 7000 reports of sexual offences in 2011-12.
- 26% of Scots surveyed in 2007 thought that a woman bore some responsibility for being raped if she wore revealing clothing.
- The number of reported domestic violence incidents steadily increase each year.
- In 2011-12, 81% of recorded domestic abuse incidents were violence against a woman committed by a man.
- 1 in 3 teenage girls in a relationship, suffer an unwanted sexual act.
- At least 1 in 5 women in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
- In a 2005 study of young people’s attitudes, 1 in 5 young men believe that women often ’provoke violence’.
Did you read those bullet points in detail and let them sink in? Or did you gloss over them because you already know that violence against women and girls ‘happens a lot’? I wouldn’t blame you if you did that – I know that I do it at times. But try reading those bullet points again, this time as if men were on the receiving end of women’s violence, as my italics show. Ask yourself if our male-dominated press would not be outraged at this and demand change:
- Every 10 minutes a man is attacked in a domestic violence incident in Scotland with 53,681 incidents reported in 2008-9.
- In 2011-12 Crimes of men being raped increased by 13% to 1,274.
- There were over 7000 reports of sexual offences against men in 2011-12.
- 26% of Scots surveyed in 2007 thought that a man bore some responsibility for being raped if he wore revealing clothing.
- The number of reported domestic violence incidents against men steadily increase each year.
- In 2011-12, 81% of recorded domestic abuse incidents were violence against a man committed by a woman.
- 1 in 3 teenage boys in a relationship, suffer an unwanted sexual act.
- At least 1 in 5 men in Scotland will experience domestic violence in their lifetime.
- In a 2005 study of young people’s attitudes, 1 in 5 young women believe that men often ’provoke violence’.
These figures alone show men’s violence against women to be an epidemic, out of control. Violence against women (or indeed anyone) is never justified: I don’t care how short her skirt is or even if she walks naked down the street, a woman is never responsible if a man chooses to attack her. Let’s be absolutely clear about this: men make active choices in perpetrating violence against women. Every man who acts violently against a woman could also choose to leave her alone.
One of the hardest parts of my job as a university lecturer is when a woman emails or comes to see me to explain she cannot submit her essay on time or take her exam etc., because her bastard boyfriend has attacked her, or she has been sexually assaulted in a pub, or raped on her way home etc. – understandably there’s no way she can focus on her academic work at that time. It seems to me that this happens at least once or twice every year to someone in our programme. I can’t do much to help these women beyond directing them to support services and offering essay extensions and so on, but for days afterwards I am consumed by rage at myself and my fellow men, too many of whom seem to view half the population as appropriate targets.
Of course, university environments are part of wider society, and are not necessarily safe for women, as the infamous Stirling University hockey team incident from 2013 shows. A racist Stirling University football team incident earlier this year elicited a comment from one of the women involved in exposing the hockey team episode. She notes that she and others were nearly expelled by the Principal, Gerry McCormac, which is in itself an indictment of male-dominant institutional culture:
To be absolutely clear about this: I am certainly not picking on Stirling University in particular – these things happen at other institutions all the time too (e.g. see here and here). The point is that these attitudes from (too many) men towards women permeate society at all levels: this morning, a friend retweeted this:
Today also marks Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project’s third anniversary, an occasion I view with mixed feelings:
Sexism is everywhere in our society, and there is a connection between sexist banter and some men engaging in unspeakable acts of violence against women, including rape and murder.
So what to do? We as men can self-loathe and rage against those of our half of the species who perpetrate acts of violence against women and girls, but that is not enough. But: don’t not be angry – use that anger more positively. For example, you can start by calling out incidents of sexism each and every time, such as:
- someone talking about ‘mankind’ when they mean ‘humanity’;
- telling jokes that rely on sexism (yes, even ‘women can’t park a car’ isn’t funny – if humour relies on sexism to be funny it actually isn’t that funny);
- commenting on women’s appearance when they wouldn’t comment on a man’s appearance (it happens all the time with politicians: compare comments about Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) and Ruth Davidson (Conservative), with those about Jim Murphy (Labour) and Willie Rennie (Liberal Democrat));
- excusing sexual violence for famous people like Ched Evans; or excusing rape allegations against Julian Assange (David Allen Green notes ‘there is nothing which… means the due process of a current rape and sexual assault investigation should be delayed any further or abandoned’);
- and so on…
This is all part of the wider problem of men’s violence against women and girls. If your friends get sick of you calling them out on it, they’ll either change their behaviour, or you might find they are not friends you really want anyway. If you want help with this kind of thing (don’t underestimate it – it’s not easy swimming against the tide!), have a look at the White Ribbon Scotland campaign, committed to working with men to stop violence against women:
There are White Ribbon Campaigns elsewhere too (eg for rest of UK, but avoid the mischief-makers at whiteribbon.org, who try to pretend they are arguing for the same thing when they’re not!). I signed the White Ribbon Scotland pledge ‘never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women’ early on in their campaign, and would encourage all men to do so. Also, they do excellent workshops and other activities to help prevent violence against women; as they put it: ‘Most men do not commit violence against women. But all men have a role in ending it.’ (And yes, they also comment on women’s violence against men.)
More generally, I’d encourage financial support to your White Ribbon Campaign, as well as to organisations like Women’s Aid (who help women who have been attacked) – either on a national level, or look for your local group, e.g. mine is Stirling and District Women’s Aid.
Rest in peace, Karen Buckley. Even in that simple photograph, your smile touched me.