A week ago, on 6 March 2021, Rape Crisis England & Wales joined the annual Million Women Rise gathering online - the 14th of these powerful demonstrations against male violence, led by Black women for all women and girls. Two days later, the world celebrated International Women's Day.
In the week that has followed, the news and social media have been filled with stories of heart-breaking and enraging racism, sexism, misogyny, victim-blaming, and violence against women and girls, including the devastating news of Sarah Everard's murder.
This week has shone a light on the prevalence of violence against women and girls, and for many sparked or rekindled feelings of sorrow, righteous anger, solidarity and activism.
On behalf of Rape Crisis England & Wales, Katie Russell says:
"We extend our sincere condolences to and stand in solidarity with the friends and family of Sarah Everard, of Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman, of all the women killed by male violence whose names Jess Phillips MP read out in the House of Commons yesterday, of all the women and girls stolen by male violence whose names we may never know, including those lost to suicide.
Violence against women and girls is a global pandemic that long pre-exists COVID. In this country alone, it severely and negatively impacts millions of lives, relationships, communities, and society as a whole, and it is deadly.
It encompasses a wide range of different forms of violence and abuse, including sexual abuse, rape, assault, sexual harassment, stalking, female genital mutilation, domestic abuse, murder and more. The vast majority of it is never reported to the police. When it is reported to the police, it rarely leads to criminal justice being served. Specialist support services to help women cope and recover after these experiences are under-resourced. Women experiencing multiple and intersecting discrimination and inequalities, for example because of their race, sexuality or disability, face even greater barriers to accessing justice and support.
We have been taking to the streets to protest victim-blaming and inaction in the face of the pandemic of violence against women and girls for nearly 45 years, since the first UK Reclaim the Night march in Leeds in 1977. Women and girls have been speaking out about it for much longer than that. The #MeToo movement is just one recent example. No one can claim they did not know.
The time for radical action is long overdue. We must come together as a society to end the narrative that tells women they are responsible for preventing male violence, and instead, tell perpetrators and potential perpetrators that we will not tolerate violence against women and girls any longer.
If you have experienced sexual violence or abuse or any form of violence against women and girls, please know that it was not your fault. It was not the result of something you did or didn't do. It was the result of a choice the perpetrator(s) made. You're not to blame, the shame is not yours and you are not alone. We hear you, we see you, we believe you, and we stand with you. ”
In recognition of the widespread sharing of experiences on social media in response to the devastating developments in the Sarah Everard case, the government has today (12 March 2021) reopened its nationwide Call for Evidence on tackling violence against women and girls for two weeks.