This week, as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence, Plymouth will remember those women who were victims of femicide in 2021 as organisations come together united in demanding an end to violence against women and children.
Since the pandemic began 45 per cent of women reported that they or a woman they know, has experienced a form of violence against women and girls. 7 in 10 women said they think that verbal or physical abuse by a partner has become more common and 6 in 10 felt that sexual harassment in public spaces has worsened.
As part of their commitment to supporting women and girls Trevi, Plymouth City Council, the NSPCC, Devon & Cornwall Police, First Light, M.A.N Culture Plymouth, Ahimsa, Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services and the Plymouth NHS Trust have come together to raise awareness of the importance of 16 Days of Activism and how communities can play a part, whilst remembering the 144 women who were murdered in the UK in 2021 where a man was the principal suspect as reported in the Femicide Census led by Karen Inga Smith.
16 Days of Activism is an international campaign originally launched by the Center for Women's Global Leadership, to raise awareness of, and prevent violence against women and girls.
An estimated 132,300 women and girls currently live in Plymouth, with 107,600 being over 16. Therefore, around 36,000 Plymouth women are likely to have been subjected to at least one form of harassment in the last year (based on the ONS estimate of one in three women).
In the twelve months to May 2021 there were nearly 3000 cases of stalking or harassment crimes in the city, an 25 per cent increase on the previous year, with 68 per cent of those victims being female. Domestic abuse reports increased to nearly 5,000 cases and crime statistics for sexual offences rose by 4.1 per cent to end Jan 2021.
Plymouth's Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Commission's survey, which was taken in March this year, reported that 89 per cent thought violence against women and girls was a problem in the city with 60 per cent saying it is more of a problem now than five years ago.
Councillor Rebecca Smith, chair of the city’s Violence Against Women and Girls Commission, said: “Our multi-agency Commission published a report in May which clearly sets out recommendations that will help us to demand an end to violence against women and children, and work is underway to implement these. We know that there is a huge amount of groundwork that must be done in order to deliver the long-lasting results and cultural change that will make a difference and eliminate violence. This is a long-term project, and a challenge that cannot be solved by individuals or by one organisation, so we’re committed to working closely with all our partners and supporting initiatives like the 16 Days of Activism. Everyone in Plymouth has a role to play and together we can start to make real changes, making our city safer for women and girls.”
Locally the partners will focus on engaging communities both publicly and professionally, advocating an adequate shift in practice to end violence against women and girls. They are particularly focused on engaging men and aim to shift societal attitudes, systems and behaviours around masculinity that help to perpetuate gender inequality and therefore men’s violence against women.
Award winning women’s charity, Trevi, are leading this year’s campaign. The theme ‘UNITE’ aims to bring together communities, women’s rights organisations, organisations working with men and boys, human rights defenders, schools, universities, private sector, sports clubs and associations and individuals to become activists for the prevention of violence against women and call for a world free from VAWG.
Hannah Shead, Trevi CEO said: "In uniting partners across the city we can bring together different services, really start to have conversations about these issues and come together as a community to say we will not tolerate a society where women and girls are at risk or harm and abuse.
"We must also remember that violence against women and girls doesn’t just happen on the streets, it can happen in their own homes. We must focus on how we can affect a cultural and societal change; this starts, in our case, with education in schools, having conversations in workplaces and calling out sexism and misogyny."
With the campaign spanning across a diverse range of services in Plymouth, there are a number of activities planned during the 16 days to raise awareness of how communities and individual can support or get help. These include a range of online and in-person events for both professionals and the general public.
Sanctuary Supported Living’s Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services will be hosting awareness days in numerous supermarkets across the city and Plymouth NHS Trust will be holding a three-day awareness event at Derriford Hospital.
The Local Service Manager of Plymouth Domestic Abuse Services said: "In support of this tremendously important campaign to end violence against women and girls, we’ll be raising awareness and offering practical, non-judgemental advice to all victims. For anyone in need of support, please stop by. You are not alone."
Both the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance and Ahimsa will be hosting online seminars for professionals and the NSPCC will be launching a series of films which show a cross generational perspective in the prevention of violence against women and girls.
Shelley Shaw, NSPCC Development & Impact Manager said :"16 Days of Activism is really important as it provides a focus to start conversations about healthy relationships and how we all have a role in promoting these. We want people in Plymouth to know they are supported to take action to help a family member, friend or community member who is experiencing domestic abuse or sexual violence; this includes people who are worried about their own unhealthy behaviours."
A key focus of the campaign this year is also to engage men and boys on a larger scale, meeting them where they gather, to open a conversation about male culture and its impact. Andy from M.A.N Culture Plymouth who will launch during the campaign said: "It is time for Men to start stepping up and get involved in this issue. We have to be an integral part in helping bring about an end to the disproportionate fear that Women and Girls have in the city and start reflecting on how our actions contribute to this.
"It is no longer an option to sit back in the shadows. This is not an issue for Women and Girls to fight alone. We need to support the women in our lives, recognise our actions and use our position in society to make this a safer place to be…. for all. Quite simply we need to get in the game!"
Ultimately the Plymouth partners are committed to drive the cultural change needed to challenge violence against women and girls in the city. Their individual specialities and strengths come together to better support women and girls who have been affected by male violence and abuse and to create safe spaces for women.
They are all united in wanting to make Plymouth a city free from violence against women and girls and to be a place where all communities can take an active role in making it safe for everyone.
If you would like to know how you can take an active role in supporting the campaign and on-going work of the partners in Plymouth, or if you, or someone you know needs support then please visit Trevi's website or find details of the support on offer here.