TW: This may be a hard read but it’s essential to continue the discussion about male violence against women and girls.
Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman
The names of five of the women killed in the last 18 months.
Five high profile murders.
Five women’s lives taken by men, some of them in broad daylight.
In the past few years, around 140 women a year are killed by men who they know – partners, ex-partners, workmates, uncles, fathers, brothers and others, like Sarah, Bibaa, Nicole, Sabina and Ashling are killed by strangers.
Whenever women are killed publicly there is talk of a ‘turning point’ when we need to (re)open the debate about misogyny and violence against women and girls (VAWG and MVAWG) and actually tackle the issue bravely and with open eyes and ears.
Often there are hashtags, vigils which some men attend in solidarity and high-profile campaigns – which some men respond to with ‘not all men’ to deflect blame rather than open communications – and then it often goes quiet. Until the next widely-publicised public murder of a women, by another man.
There have been some notable campaigns around the issue -a powerful campaign in Scotland asks men to make sure they #DontBeThatGuy and calls on friends to help other friends to be more honest with themselves, less entitled and less-sexist in word and deed…based on the Australian drink-drive campaign ‘mates don’t let mates drive drunk’ – a favourite of my friend and bystander-training expert Graham Goulden’s
The Mayor of Manchester’s office launched a campaign in late 2021 about harassing women on the streets which was again largely well-received called #IsThisOK which again seeks to make men think about cat-calling and making women feel uncomfortable when they are exercising in public.
Is it enough?
Well, it’s a start, but I think we need to do more. Unfortunately it’s another difficult job for schools to tackle in my opinion – and in the opinion of the DfE who launched their guidance on delivering PSHE and RSE on sexual abuse and harassment in schools in September 2021. School is a safe place to discuss these difficult topics, supporting, caring and with back-up support for students and staff.
This is a tough and emotive subject to talk about in your school.
Where do you start?
How do you ensure it’s not an “attack on boys”?
How do you introduce the subject?
I’ve got a couple of ways I can help you:
Since 2014 I’ve been delivering talks and workshops on domestic abuse and violence which are powerful and commemorate the life of my sister Sarah Gosling who was killed by her partner after meeting him on social media. I share Sarah’s story and then talk about the statistics around domestic abuse and coercive control, the gendered nature of the crime and the rise in online misogyny. We also debate what we all could do to confront sexism and misogyny and respect one another more.
You can read about it here
Secondly, I’ve developed Empathy Lightbulbs, a slightly gentler way of introducing the concepts of sexism and misogyny, demeaning and disrespectful language, consent and abuse amongst people. Working with Sarah’s story as a start point we run through some headlines and some music which demeans people and highlight the road to making outcasts and victims which starts with language. We then discuss what masculinity means and what a more helpful masculinity may look like and finally we start discussions around building a charter of respectful conduct.
Here’s the Empathy Lightbulbs page including links to other blogs I’ve written about it:
If you’d like a no-obligation chat about either of these offers – both face-to-face and virtual delivery, please let me know…let’s start the turning point in your school.
Because it’s time isn’t it?
It really is.