I am at a conference on domestic violence today, entitled Stand up to Domestic Abuse, listening to story after story of violent men murdering women they had professed to love. Men who slayed their victims because they had the audacity to attempt to leave them. I hear the dreadful tale told by Luke Hart, whose mother Claire and sister Charlotte were shot dead by his controlling, narcissistic father.
The conference room was deathly silent when a 15-year-old girl spoke about her mother being murdered by her violent husband. The woman that organised this conference, the redoubtable Rachel Williams, was shot by her ex-husband after enduring 18 years of abuse at his hands. Later that day he took his own life. Rachel survived, but weeks later their son, unable to deal with the trauma, killed himself.
Yesterday, the failure of the state to prosecute rapists was all over the news, and today it is the increase in the number of deaths due to male violence. Whilst we are all rightly horrified at the deaths of young people on our streets due to knife crime, we seem to almost take for granted the number of women who are murdered, often with knives, at the hands of men known to them.
Who is doing the raping? Men. Who is murdering their intimate partner? Overwhelmingly men. If we can’t tell this simple truth we are part of the problem. This week we learned that the much anticipated ‘Domestic Abuse Bill’ was one of the pieces of legislation that was lost when parliament was prorogued. The champion of the DV Bill was Theresa May, who this week bestowed a Knighthood on convicted woman beater Geoffrey Boycott.
Karen Ingala Smith, a feminist campaigner whose runs a project which documents the deaths of women at the hands of men, has recorded the names of over a thousand UK women killed by men since she began in 2012.
For Ingala Smith, male dominated law and policy makers have no real interest in ending men’s violence against women. ‘It’s not a vote winner and it’s not a quick fix issue,’ she says. ‘It’s a deep social problem with structural and cultural roots, and it’s reinforced by policing, the law and the media, by sex-role stereotypes and by allowing women to be treated as objects and commodities.’
For as long as records on domestic homicide have been collated, a minimum of two women per week have been killed by their former or current male partners in the UK. The figures released this week show an increase on that – we are now looking at one dead woman every three days. Let that sink in.
But what about the men? There are some women who are violent. Women do it too. Not all men, yada, yada. If I hear this apologist BS one more time I will scream. People say that men are killed by intimate partners too. But typically 80 per cent of victims of domestic homicides are women killed by men. When men are killed about half are killed by their male partners. Of those that are killed by their female partners, a significant number are killed by the women that they (the man) have been terrorising for years. If we look at domestic violence killings, and ignore the pattern of men’s violence against women, we will always be missing the point.
The reason so many women and girls are killed, raped, controlled, abused, pimped, sexually harassed, and beaten by men is because we live under patriarchy. Boys are afforded privilege at birth because they are born with a penis. There is nothing inherent, or inevitable, or natural about male violence, in the same way that girls are not born to be subservient or victims. This state of affairs exists because men – yes all men, benefit from those that wield the knives, fists and guns over us. It gives them power, and serves to keep us in our place. If you want to end violence against women, there is one simple solution. Stop men from perpetrating it, and impose serious sanctions, rather than excuses or rewards, when they do.