TW: Gender-based violence
Despite it being only one month into the new year, 2022 has unfortunately seen many vicious attacks being perpetrated by men against women in Ireland. This topic is an ugly one, but a society of gender-based violence is the reality for us women, and has been since the beginning of time. With violence against women on the rise in Ireland in the last couple of weeks, we need to be discussing this phenomenon in order to fight against it.
The brutal murder of Ashling Murphy in Co. Offaly just a few weeks ago caused an uproar all across the globe. Vigils were held in her memory all across the island, as well as internationally, in London, Edinburgh, New York, Dubai and Brisbane. One of her cousins offered a hope that Ashling’s murder would “mark the beginning of an end to violence against women.” However, this has not been the case.
Just a few weeks following Ashling Murphy’s murder, a man in his 30s was arrested in relation to an attack reported by a 16-year-old girl in Co. Cork. The attack took place at approximately 1:20 pm.
Again, around that same week, what is being called a “manhunt,” was being carried out regarding the attack of a 17-year-old girl in Kilkenny. While out on a walk, a man approached her with a sharp object and grabbed her. This attack took place at noon.
This list of violent assaults that men have perpetrated against women in just a short space of time (1-2 weeks) is not an exhaustive one. Many women in Ireland have unfortunately found themselves victims of assault at the hands of their male counterparts in these last few weeks.
Despite violent attacks being brought about by men, we as women are constantly told to alter our actions in order to avoid these attacks. I’m sure like myself, many of you have been told at least once in our lives to not walk alone at night. However, is this advice really effective? Does it prevent women from being attacked?
Evidently, this advice is neither effective, nor preventative. The attacks that have occurred in Ireland over the last couple of weeks involve the male perpetrators attacking women in, “broad daylight.” The first occurred at 1:20pm, the second at 4pm and the third at 12pm. The idea that women shouldn’t walk alone at night, along with the long list of unsolicited protective measures (such as locking our car doors, holding your keys between our fingers, not wearing our earphones, being aware of our surrounding, etc) advised to us has proved in many cases, such as the above, to be ineffective in preventing attacks against women. In a 2016 UK Poll revealed that 57% of women have been harassed in their lifetime, and 70% of those women have taken steps to prevent being harassed. This highlights that avoiding certain areas, altering what we wear, etc is, in the majority of cases, unhelpful. As well as that, even if we do choose to wear certain clothes or go out alone at night, go to a club with our friends, this does not mean that we are deserving of any sort of attack or harassment.
The reality is that the onus of ending the pandemic that is gender based violence can no longer be placed on us. So, it is time for society to stop forcing us to restrict ourselves in order to avoid being attacked. It must now be the responsibility of men to end gender-based violence. ActionAid UK’s Deputy Director of International Development Policy and Practice, Lee Margaret Webster shares that,
we must see measures which address the deep-rooted misogynistic attitudes and structures that cause violence against women and girls. There must also be a focus on creating stronger justice systems where reports of violence are taken seriously, and survivors are supported.
- Call out poor behaviour: be that a sexist joke, or witnessing someone trying to spike a woman’s drink at a bar.
- Create an interruption: pretending that the woman being harassed is an old friend, asking if they are ok, anything to create a distraction.
- Get help: call the police, security, bar staff, etc.
- Do not victim blame: instead of placing emphasis on what women wear, what time they go home at night, what routes they take, place emphasis on the fact that men are not entitled to treat women this way.
We live in communities with men, love them, partner with them. We should not have to protect ourselves from them at the same time.