It feels like a dam has burst in the past week. For so many women, issues of sexual harassment, violence and misogyny that we’ve buried or just accepted as part of ‘getting on’ with our life as women have come pouring out, in response to the horrible abduction and murder of Sarah Everard in Clapham.
This is close to home for me – I lived just off Clapham Common for nine years and experienced two incidents of being attacked there – and more importantly for Little Village, which was founded nearby, and is a community where many of our volunteers, staff and families we support come from.
There’s a spectrum of harassment, abuse and violence that women face at the hands of men, starting with harassment – experienced by nearly all young women, according to research published last week. What we see too often at Little Village is women faced with the consequences of the extreme end of this, fleeing domestic abuse taking place in their home – the place they should be safest. We support several mothers each week who have suffered abuse at the hands of their partners or family members. Quite often women escape in just the clothes they are wearing and need to start from scratch with clothes, nappies, toys and buggies for their children.
We’ve spoken to some of the women we’ve supported in these circumstances this week and – like so many of us – they too are keen to share their experiences, even if they have to do it anonymously. One of them, who escaped five years of domestic abuse told us:
“When I heard about Sarah Everard it was like a trigger point, I was just so sorry she didn’t make it. And I thought, that could have been me – I knew how bad my situation was. It’s just so sad that a woman has to die before people start listening.”
And people do need to listen because things are getting worse. Little Village has received over 600 referrals from professionals like social workers and midwives where domestic violence was cited as a reason for support – a rise of over 10% on the previous year.
Everyone agrees that none of this is acceptable, and yet it continues. My only hope is that the last week will lead to action from the Government (there are encouraging signs that misogyny will now be recorded as a hate crime), and a shift in attitudes and behaviours.
Sadly, we have a long way to go. Our work at Little Village is only a sticking plaster unless we also use the evidence and stories we gather to tackle the system that brings families to our door. Mostly, that is the causes and consequences of poverty. But we will not shy away from highlighting that women need our help for other reasons too. Women created Little Village, and they form the majority of the people who make it the success it is today, and who need our support.
We stand in solidarity with all women who have borne the brunt of male violence and misogyny and will work towards a future where all women and girls can walk down the street without fear, and where mothers can look after their children at home without living in fear of their lives.
– Sophie Livingstone, CEO of Little Village