Violence Against Women Is EVERYONE'S Issue

Every week in the UK, two women die from violence. One in three girls' first sexual encounter is rape. Each day, women live in fear of becoming the next victim. Every day, women's suffering is silenced. Every day, atrocities against women are committed yet, despite being the ones on the receiving end of sexual, physical and psychological abuse, the whole thing is still seen as a 'women's issue.'
Violence against women and girls is just as much a men's issue as it is a women's issue. It is arguably even more of a men's issue, in fact. Women should not be held responsible for the pain they have been caused unnecessarily. Women should not be blamed for heinous crimes which they did not commit. Women should not be the ones walking around, hanging their heads in shame because they were abused. Women should not have their lives ruined by violence when the ones who inflicted it upon them are living freely and enjoying successful lives.

By forcing the blame of women's abuse onto women themselves, we are perpetuating the idea that it was their fault and that they are the ones who need to learn. By calling gender violence solely a 'women's issue,' men are given an excuse not to listen. They are allowed to ignore women's suffering and they are allowed to ignore the reprehensible actions that their male friends, colleagues and relatives carry out. Calling gender violence a 'women's issue' is part of the problem, a problem which will never be solved until we take 100% of responsibility for solving it OFF of women.
Why should women be the ones campaigning online, protesting in the streets, giving speeches, signing petitions and expressing their anger over gender violence? Why should women be the ones who have to bring about a change? Sure, women should be involved and have a say, but the duty should not lie only on their shoulders. They should not have to work tirelessly to shape a better world for themselves to live in when they are not the ones making it unsafe. Women should not have to fear for the lives of their daughters and granddaughters but should be able to live comfortably, knowing that men are changing their behaviour to ensure gender violence is no longer an issue.

Another part of the problem lies deeply in the fact that, even though women are speaking up and campaigning for change, no one is listening. Because this has been viewed as a women's issue for so long, it's as if it is just expected of women to get angry about it. Because abuse against women is so common, it's almost as if it has been normalised. Well, I don't want to live in a society where despicable things like rape, sexual harassment, the emotional and mental abuse of women are normal parts of everyday life. I want to live in a world free of these things where women can walk the streets without being catcalled. I want to live in a world free of non-consensual touching. I want to live in a world where women can wear what they want without having to worry about getting drugged then violently raped. I want to live in a world where women do not have to pretend like their relationships are great but then get beaten by their partners behind closed doors. I want to live in a world where women and their bodies are valued and respected to the point where we do not need to have conversations like this.

But, until then, I shall continue the conversation and encourage others to join in. People seem to be uncomfortable with the idea of women discussing their experiences with violence. They don't like women admitting they were raped or abused or assaulted or in some way traumatised by the hands of a man. But I am glad that these conversations cause discomfort because, if it's uncomfortable for you to listen to, imagine how it must have felt to actually live through it. Uncomfortable issues need to be discussed because, otherwise, nothing will be solved.

"So many people are saying they've been raped these days OH MY GOD," well, perhaps that's because people are being raped every single day and I'm glad that their suffering is annoying you and I'm glad that we're getting to a point where women don't care. They don't care if you've already heard the same story of abuse 100 times or if you just want them to "shut up and be pretty." Women are fighting back and have had enough of "just having to get on with it."

To see women open up about such painful experiences empowers me, not just as woman myself but as a human being who believes in the strength of others and who feeds off their positivity to make myself tougher. I couldn't tell you how many women have come forward recently to share their stories and, whilst they are horrible to listen to and whilst I would rather not bare witness to such horrific things, I truly admire their bravery in coming forwards, even if ‘admire’ seems totally the wrong word, as I shouldn’t find inspiration in their horrific ordeals. To know that women are finding the strength within themselves and as as result of other women's strength to name and shame their abusers is empowering to say the least. To know that women who grew up in a different era are now using their voices to shout their experiences from the rooftops because how they were treated is no longer accepted is uplifting. I understand why people do not come forward with tales of abuse. I understand why women remain silent about their runnings with violence when the world, far too often, dismisses everything they say. But how women are dealing with gender violence in 2017 has caused a great shift and opened up a long overdue dialogue which I believe will continue as a consequence of their tenacity.

We must continue to support women on their journeys to liberation and as they continue to speak out. We must stand in solidarity with them and thank them for their courage. We must remind them how brave it is for them to take on giants and that the world has their backs, not the backs of the monsters who have scarred them. We must not let the reputations of women who have been abused be tarnished, nor must we let adjectives like 'abused' be used to describe them. Women should not be defined by the things which have been done to them, especially as the men who did them are not defined by those actions. Women put themselves at risk every day just by living in a world which really fricking hates women. Therefore, by speaking out about something so painful and tabboo, they are putting the target on their forehead even more. We need to allow women to tell their stories without fear of judgement. We need to take care of women who say they have been abused and respond correctly with phrases like "How can I help?" and "Are you okay?" not "What were you wearing?" or "Were you drunk?"

Furthermore, we must stand by all women, regardless of age, skin colour, nationality, religion, sexuality, whether they are cis or trans, and regardless of physical appearance. Feminism is intersectional, meaning those who claim to be feminists ought to offer a helping hand to any woman who has been mistreated, not just the famous ones, not just the white, rich, skinny, pretty ones. ALL women are worthy of a full life and no case of sexual assualt, physical, mental or emotional abuse is 'better' or 'more important' than the other.

It is paramount that we listen to women. In a society which ignores and doesn't believe them as it is, we must elevate women's voices to ensure no one can brush their experiences under the rug. We must defend women and trust them when they tell us that they are hurting. Not believing women's stories of violence does not solve the issue. The issue cannot be solved by simply pretending it doesn't exist. Women are being beaten, battered, raped, abused and hurt 24/7 and this will not go away if we refuse to acknowledge the reality of it. It may not be nice to imagine these things happening, but they are happening and they could be happening right under your nose to someone you love.

The only way to end violence against women is to create unity, offer education and raise awareness.
By acting as one and refusing to view other members of society as inferior/superior, we can end violence. By educating people on the realities of living in abusive relationships, what they can do to help and who the perpetrators are, we can end violence. By making people aware of how frequently this is going on, we can end violence. People must be exposed to the stories of victims because it seems many only seem to care when it is happening to someone they know.

There is no need for violence against women which stems from a patriarchal society which views women as nothing more than second class citizens, or rather, sexual objects. Men need to do better. Men need to stop abusing women and their power over them. Men need to get clued up on the ramifications of their actions and words. Men need to call out other men when they make degrading comments about women. Men need to recognise when they are in the wrong. Men need to stop shaming women for their own abuse and know stop telling her that it was her fault. Men need to learn that no means no. Men need to learn how to control their emotions and how to hold back. Men need to contribute towards making a safer society for all and stop ignoring gender violence. Men ought to realise that this issue is not going away, that they will not be let off anymore and that women won't be silenced.

It is time to denounce all sexual predators and abusers of women.Whether they are in the public eye, like Harvey Weinstein, or just people you sit and drink coffee with in the office each morning before work. It is time to end this culture of violence against women. Parents must teach their sons about compassion and respect and teach their daughters that it's okay to have a voice and to fight back.

Women are the future. Young girls are the future. They are our future world leaders, doctors, teachers, scientist, musicians, artists...we must do all that we can to protect them and shape a BETTER world for them to raise their children in. Women and girls are precious and valuable.

Up to 70% of women worldwide have experienced sexual or physical violence. In recent months, we have seen a global outrage at the scale of this issue. Long may this outrage continue. The time has come to draw a line to end violence against women and girls.

For those who have been brave enough to share their stories and for those who don't feel as though they can. For those who have escaped abusive relationships and for those who live in them every day still. For those who are scarred by what was done to them and for those who have managed to move on. For those who live in fear and for those who are victims of any form of violence - you matter.

Love, Emily

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