Domestic violence is not an equal-opportunities issue. Women are overwhelmingly murdered by male ex-partners & families.
2 women are murdered every week in the UK by a partner or ex-partner.
Every time I hear that particular figure, I think about the women I love. My sisters, my glorious nieces, my friends, my colleagues. Because those two women, that were murdered this week? They were daughters, mothers, sisters and colleagues. They were. Now they are dead.
2 women, every single week.
104 women a year, who just aren’t here anymore. 104 funerals. 104 headstones in graveyards.
Countless tears shed by the people who love those women.
I’m leading with that figure because I want it to be front and centre of your thinking for the next 1000 words or so. If you find your mind wandering down the NAMALT track, or playing on the whataboutery swing just say that very simple number to yourself: 2 women are murdered, every week, by a partner or ex partner: and this is the tip of the domestic violence iceberg.
As with every article in this series I’ve tried hard to stick to facts that have been verified and come from a reputable original source. I’m doing the cause of women no favours if I make claims that are not true. That’s been very challenging for this piece: I mean, don’t get me wrong, I HAVE domestic violence figures. Like the one about the 2 women a week being murdered. Or about the fact that 73% of domestic homicide victims are female. That 97% of women killed in domestic homicides are killed by men.
73% of domestic homicide victims are female.
97% of women killed in domestic homicides are murdered by men.
I can also tell you that if you scratch the surface of the much touted ‘equivalence’ of men and women perpetrating domestic violence, they are best lazy reporting and at worst wilfully misleading. Those figures include all the things. Of course, ANY violence is unacceptable whether that is a push, a retaliatory blow or something more serious.
When you strip it back to serious, harmful and on-going domestic violence?
90% of that is perpetrated by men.
I’m not making this up – there are citations at the bottom of the page.
The figures don’t tell you everything.
We KNOW about the women who are murdered. We know, to an extent, about the women who report domestic abuse, although on average they are assaulted 35 times before they report it. We can count them. The stats for domestic violence give us an indication of the size of the problem: by looking at them we can see that all over the country, every day there are women who are subject to some form of abuse. We can conclude that this is wrong.
But that doesn’t explain why these women might need female only spaces protected. That hangs on how they feel.
It hangs on walking in the shoes of a woman who is frightened all the time. Who has no sense of security, because she is suffering abuse in her home. Because the domestic violence for her is ongoing, hidden behind closed doors and a shameful secret.
She has no refuge.
The man abusing her might be her partner or husband. It might be her father or another male relative. She will think the abuse is her fault, especially if it is sustained over a long period of time and she will feel guilty about the harm being caused to her children, if she has them.
She may spend time in extreme discomfort and pain, if the abuse is physical or sexual. She may be trying to hide visible bruising, because she will certainly feel ashamed. She may have no independence, if the abuse is financial. Her abuser may well have worked to isolate her from friends and family, so she will feel lonely and as though she is not worthy of their support.
She will try to put on a brave face, wear her smile like a mask. She will have no self-esteem: she will have been told time and again that she is a piece of shit. A waste of air. That she’d be better off dead.
And she will believe that this is true.
What women in abusive situations need is a way to get out.
This often means they will need support: we don’t want to put anything in the way of that, right? We want to reassure traumatised women that they can receive therapeutic and practical support in a safe environment. A safe environment where there will be no men, without the woman’s specific prior consent.
Women who express preferences about the therapists and counsellors they work with say that sex is the most important characteristic they consider. Of those who express a preference, the majority prefer female therapists. When women have experienced domestic violence, we need to listen to them when they tell us what they need. 97% of women think that women should have the choice to access female only support if they have been victims of sexual assault.
Female only means no men.
Therapy doesn’t work if the client spends their time hyper-vigilant and scared. The needs of men to feel included do not trump the needs of women who have already been traumatised.
The exceptional Freedom Programme, who offer support to women in the UK, know that the women who use their service will sometimes watch the building prior to signing up. They aren’t watching for monsters: they are watching for men. They want to be sure that there will be no men in the space where they access support. If there are male workers, Freedom pre-warn women, so they can choose not to come.
If we cannot exclude men from spaces like this, women will not access the support they need.
This means some of them will not leave the abusive situations they are in.
Am I suggesting we prioritise women over men? Yes, unashamedly I am.
Am I being exclusionary? Absolutely. I would rather deal with a thousand offended men than one desperate, terrified woman who couldn’t access the services she needed.
0808 2000 247 – Freephone 24 hr National Domestic Violence Helpline
Run in partnership between Women’s Aid & Refuge
- Refuge: domestic violence facts
- The Women’s Resource Centre Policy Team – Why Women Only?
- NCBI: Women’s Preference of Therapist Based on Sex of Therapist and Presenting Problem
- NCJRS: Violence Against Women Volume:8 Issue:11
The Freedom Programme is free to attend, or £10 for the online course.
Montages of UK women whose partners killed them, from Women Can See by Karen Ingala Smith.