December 10, 2018
From the international day of Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls to Human Rights Day – we have 16 Days to shine a light on Women’s Inequality
It is no coincidence that the 16 Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls end on 10th December – Human Rights Day. Women and girls’ rights are human rights and women’s equality is equality – plain and simple.
This year’s Bromley & Croydon Women’s Aid #BCWA16Days campaign has focussed on abuse and the world of work. Abuse and violence experienced by women and girls impacts on the world of work in many ways, but abuse also prevents women from entering the world of work in the first place.
Economic abuse is one of the most common tools a perpetrator uses to exert control over a woman to ensure that she is economically dependent on him. This often forms a pattern of coercive control together with threats, intimidation, mental and emotional abuse, increasing isolation and dependence on the perpetrator.
Many of the women who approach us for help have been unable to work. We have seen women who had jobs at the start of their relationships, but lost them as the abuse progressed. For example, women are frequently kept awake through the night by the perpetrator, made late for work and experience mental health issues as well as injuries and increased sickness absences.
One survivor told us that she was made redundant from work in a retail food business, as she would often turn up with bruises on her face, which her employer deemed too unsavoury for his customers. She felt unable to disclose the nature of the bruises and left without challenging the unfair dismissal.
Another woman had been employed by a local authority in London for over 30 years; she suffered over 20 years of abuse by her late husband. She thought she was ‘lucky’ to have a generous sick leave at the time as she suffered repeat absences from work, many of them for several months due to depression and injuries caused by the abuse.
Not once was she asked what caused her depression and throughout the 20-year period, the abuse was never disclosed to her employer. She added that the constant belittling, emotional and mental abuse she experience led her to have very low self esteem and no confidence in her own ability and never put herself forward for promotions at work. She started her job with the local authority aged 24, now aged 55 and with her abuser being dead 7 years she has only just begun to talk openly about her domestic abuse
These cases do not occur in isolation. They are part of a pattern of abuse suffered by women as both a symptom and consequence of women’s inequality. 1 in 4 women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime and 2 women in England and Wales are killed by a current of former intimate partner every week. A UN report from last week highlights that an average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day. In addition, Almost a quarter (24%) of survivors feel suicidal as a direct consequence of the abuse experienced.
These statistics have not changed since I first worked in the domestic abuse sector ten years ago. We should be outraged at these numbers, but instead domestic abuse is often seen as inevitable, random and unconnected. This shows that more, much more, needs to be done to raise awareness around domestic abuse and help the women experiencing it. Many women don’t report abuse, and are still being failed by professionals who lack sufficient knowledge to help women effectively.
Families and friends remain unaware of the abuse suffered as they are unable to spot the signs and employers haven’t got the processes and procedures in place to assist employees experiencing abuse. Recent domestic homicide reviews have shown that increased awareness of domestic abuse and coercive control is needed. Get in contact with us if you want to learn more about our training provision.
Domestic abuse is not inevitable and together we can ensure that women and girls can live lives in freedom and safety – enjoying their basic human rights.
Donate to BCWA Christmas Appeal to support survivors.
Take a look at BCWA 16 days campaign #BCWA16Days