REWIND: #NotAllMen fails to understand the role we play in holding abusive men to account
Why are so few men engaging in the issue of violence against women?
I wrote this three days after Sarah Everard’s body was found and on the day of her vigil, two years on it is as relevant ever. Amidst the rise of misogyny influencers and exposure of police abuse, men’s role in tackling male violence has never been more urgent.
DAVID CHALLEN13 March 2021 • The Telegraph
‘She was just walking home’, this was the comment repeated in disbelief by women this week following the disappearance of Sarah Everard, whose body was found yesterday following the arrest of a police officer on suspicion of her kidnap and murder.
Walking through Clapham, south London at 9pm on 3 March, Sarah’s journey home was one any woman would hope to be part of the normal routine. Instead her life was taken; a terrifying reminder of the shadow men’s violence casts over the daily lives of women.
Many had planned to attend Sarah’s vigil on Clapham Common this evening, near to where she was last alive. However organisers have now cancelled the event after talks with the Metropolitan Police broke down. Instead the event has been replaced with a doorstep vigil at 9.30pm this evening.
Tonight I am standing with many across the country, not just as an ally to the women I know and the women I don’t who’ve experienced threats of male violence but as a man whose role and responsibility is now facing the question we’ve long failed to answer: what are men doing to stop men’s violence against women?
As a man I am born with the privilege not to experience the weight of worry and decision-making women live with throughout their lives. The care and thought into navigating safe routes home at night, crossing the street multiple times to check they’re not being followed, walking down deserted streets, paths or parks alone, day or night. The call by Metropolitan Police for women to stay home amid Sarah’s disappearance this week was for many women a final straw and exacerbation to the continued restrictions on women’s freedom due to male violence. For myself as a man, a victim and witness of domestic abuse who campaigns against men’s violence I understood an ounce of women’s anger in that moment; having to stay indoors and live in fear, meanwhile men’s freedoms go unrestricted.
Sarah’s vigil tonight most importantly is to honor the memory of who she was and what she meant to her family who in their own words was a “wonderful daughter and sister” who was, “kind and thoughtful, caring and dependable. She always put others first and had the most amazing sense of humour.” This is the woman whose life was taken: Her name was Sarah Everard.
Women have long been fighting against a society that subjugates them to be silent and disposable. Every three days a woman was killed throughout the last decade by a man, so regular and constant are the rates women are being killed it has become an accepted part of society, reported in the media with little action and urgency to tackle. Society now seemingly desensitised that another beloved mother, sister or daughter have been killed by men.
When the news emerged on Wednesday that the police found the remains of a body in connection with Sarah’s disappearance, thousands of women shared their stories on social media of being stalked, harassed and assaulted. These were voices of women needing to be heard by men, borne of the frustration and anger that male violence is consistently left for women to solve.
So silent are male voices on this issue that when I chose to speak publicly about the coercive control my mother, Sally Challen, suffered whilst campaigning to free her in 2019 I couldn’t find many men to look to. Walking into countless domestic abuse conferences to share our story I found myself struck by the lack of men in the room and organisations there to engage men on these issues. Instead I was welcomed by the incredible women working to stop men’s violence who expressed their gratitude and surprise to me that a man was speaking out on this issue. That I was being thanked for speaking openly about male violence felt at the time like an embarrassing failure by men to engage on tackling this epidemic.
Violence against women has surged in the last year reaffirming that male violence is a global pandemic needing urgent action. During lockdown as many as three women a week were recorded as being killed, and calls for support have pushed women’s specialist services to breaking point. Official figures show 93 percent of killers convicted of murder and manslaughter between March 2018 and March 2020 were men. The prevalent nature that male violence is the cause of these crimes however is often rebuked by men who feel targeted for crimes they’ve not committed.
Calls to men to help act and address misogyny when they see it saw the hashtag #NotAllMen trending this week, a suggestion that not all men should be held responsible for women feeling unsafe. Attitudes like this silence women’s experiences, failing to recognise the impact men can have in holding to account actions of abusive men and dismantling the beliefs they hold.
There are however significant numbers of men who are supportive of women but whose silent support amounts to no support at all when it comes to tackling men’s violence against women. Action from men is needed, from confronting men who hold misogynistic beliefs in their social or work circles to actively supporting campaigns to stop injustices against women in the criminal justice system and the workplace. Scatterings of men stood by me in 2019 outside the Royal Courts of Justice during my mother’s appeal, men supporting our fight recognise the coercive control she suffered. Those men were a part of our landmark win that day, along with the crowds of women who together created huge awareness of coercive control. More campaigns seeking to create real change need men supporting and actively engaging.
Men who are not engaged on male violence can start a conversation right now with the women closest to them, to talk about their experiences of male violence. Today young women grow up experiencing public and sexual harassment from men. This week, a survey for UN Women UK found that almost all young women in the UK – 97 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds – have been sexually harassed. Almost every woman has a story of an encounter of physical assault or verbal abuse but men are failing to listen and engage. Men can again act right now and support calls for misogyny to be a hate crime,
Systemic change is overwhelmingly needed to engage men in tackling male violence as women continue to be killed in epidemic numbers. Education best paves the future to ensure change happens by engaging young men to start discussions on healthy relationships early on in their lives and crucially challenging men on their view on women and their roles within society.
However women’s lives cannot wait for this change, men who are able to act must engage and do so now.
Do you agree/disagree? Why? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!
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Sorry if I'm off subject here but just to be aware: This woman, Evan Urquhart is truly an extreme misogynist. She has no conception of the toll femicide, rape and dv have on women. She publishes lies and unfounded hate propaganda, in Slate as a columnist for example, about women like the Wi Spa incident was a hoax thus protecting serial sexual offenders.