Kirsty Strickland: There's a big UK terrorism threat that nobody wants to name

Feminist campaigner Kirsty Strickland says the terror threat against women should be set permanently to 'severe'

IN the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity we usually hear the same sentiments expressed by leaders.

We will not live in fear. These violent cowards cannot be allowed to affect our way of life.

Social media responds in solidarity and recognition of the loss of life. A sea of flags replace our usual profile pictures. Sorrow is expressed through the #prayfor hashtag. We ask what lessons can be learned. How could this have been prevented? Politicians quickly announce a crackdown of some sort and a minute’s silence is observed.

I’d argue that Britain is in the grip of a crisis, of terror that impacts our way of life and causes us to modify our behaviour.

Terrorism is something we are told to be afraid of, to be on 'high-alert' to and play our part in eradicating. Walk into any train station or airport and it won’t be long before you hear "please report any unattended baggage to airport staff" or "unattended luggage may be removed or destroyed by security services".

The threat level to the UK from international terrorism is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC). Since 2014, that threat has been set at 'severe', meaning an attack on the UK is 'highly likely'.

We are on alert, regardless of the small statistical likelihood of any of us being killed as a result of international terrorism. This threat that we are told is imminent and deadly paves the way for sweeping legislation, the stigmatisation of refugees and immigrants, and the dangerous rhetoric of Nigel Farage.

I’d argue that Britain is in the grip of a crisis, of terror that impacts our way of life and causes us to modify our behaviour. Us; women.

Each year in the UK up to three million women experience violence. This manifests itself in instances of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and murder. The direct cost to our economy for domestic violence alone is £40bn per year.

Each year in the UK up to three million women experience violence. This manifests itself in instances of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence and murder.

Violence, from one characterised group to another – men on women – is terror. The unrelenting, increasing, ever more normalised stories of women being hurt at the hands of men has desensitised us as a society to the extent of the problem.

It has always been this way, so we don’t call it out for what it is.

Pick up a newspaper on any given day, and you will see terror seeping from the pages. A woman set on fire. A woman kicked so hard in the stomach that she lost her baby. A woman and her children murdered. A girl raped at school. A baby raped. Woman raped. Woman raped. Woman raped.

Too often we read these headlines as individual, unrelated acts of violence and cruelty. When we put them together the picture becomes far more horrifying. Women may not have an alert system like the governement uses for terrorism, but if we did the threat level would be permanently set to 'severe'.

As a woman you are likely to face violence in your lifetime. One in four women have been raped. Two women a week are killed by a partner or ex-partner. Sexual assault in our schools and universities has risen in recent years. This is terror - but we dare not speak its name.

The unrelenting, increasing, ever more normalised stories of women being hurt at the hands of men has desensitised us as a society to the extent of the problem.

Women and girls don’t have the option to not let this terror affect our way of lives. It has, and it does, whether we are aware of it or not. 

We modify our behaviour in reaction to imminent threat. We weigh up the risks when walking alone at night and tell our friends to text us when they are in safely. We take care with our clothes, and the signals we give out to men who might accidentally rape us if we get it wrong.

If our government treated violence against women as terrorism, as a real and imminent threat to our way of lives, we would see a far different approach taken. 

When David Cameron was prime minister he frequently condemned Jeremy Corbyn for his opposition to Trident. To a chorus of "shame" from his backbenchers he would lambast Corbyn for "putting our country at risk". He’d point to the "real dangers" facing our country from Isis and ask how he could possibly be so reckless with our safety.

Indeed.

Pick up a newspaper on any given day, and you will see terror seeping from the pages. A woman set on fire. A woman kicked so hard in the stomach that she lost her baby. A woman and her children murdered. A girl raped at school. A baby raped. Woman raped. Woman raped. Woman raped.

This same government recognises no such threat to women. In the face of increasing demand, it has cut funds to refuges and shelters to the point where many women and children are being turned away. 

It looks a lot like they are wilfully ignoring the statistical evidence that shows that women are at far greater risk from men they know, than international terrorists.

We’ve heard so many news reports, parliamentary questions and statements from the former PM on how to tackle the propaganda spouted by Isis. The government has urged schools and parents to keep a close eye on children that they think may be groomed by this violent terrorist organisation.

But what of the dangers of pornography, which men and boys are consuming in rising frequency and at younger ages? Instantly available and accepted images and videos of women being choked, beaten, gagged and held down to be penetrated. 
Alongside the media misrepresentation of women as passive sexual objects, this filters into public consciousness and acts as propaganda. Yet we see no similar outrage.

While overall crime rates have fallen in recent years, violence against women is increasing. At what point do we admit that we are in the midst of a crisis? Do we even have an agreed number of women hurt at the hands of men before we recognise it as the most prominent threat to public safety?

Women and girls don’t have the option to not let this terror affect our way of lives. It has, and it does, whether we are aware of it or not. 

We wilfully ignore that women are frequently the victims of violence and bear the burden of that in our everyday lives. We must reframe the debate; and get angry about its mischaracterisation thus far. 

We cannot allow the male-dominated media to keep telling us it is our fault - that if we drank less, nagged less and didn’t lead men on then we wouldn’t be killed or maimed in such breathtaking numbers. 

We can’t keep tip toing around the force of aggression that we face, nor be scared to name it for what it is.

Throughout human history women have had to fight for the rights that we take for granted today. Nothing was given by waiting for men to recognise our humanity. Without the suffragettes and their civil disobedience, how long would it have taken for women to be 'given' equal footing to participate in democracy?

We modify our behaviour in reaction to imminent threat. We weigh up the risks when walking alone at night. We take care with our clothes, and the signals we give out to men who might accidentally rape us if we get it wrong.

We have come a long way in some respects – but dead women can’t vote. A female prime minister doesn’t mean that we have reached equality or are even close to doing so.

Change won’t be achieved until women get angry enough – together – to name the biggest threat in our lives and on our opportunities.

Male violence is a war on women.

Picture courtesy of European Parliament

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Comments

oldscot

Mon, 12/12/2016 - 19:15

Thanks for the wake up call Kristy

Amelie Bataille

Sat, 12/17/2016 - 15:49

Not sure why author is peddling inaccurate stats for DV. It seems these DV myths are accepted as fact within Scottish media. Peer reviewed studies might help here. http://honest-ribbon.org/domestic-violence-law/refuting-40-years-of-lies...

Amelie Bataille

Sat, 12/17/2016 - 16:21

from : http://domesticviolenceresearch.org/pdf/Overviewof%20Findings.Dec.7.pdf

The present review represents a comprehensive summary of the current state of knowledge regarding physical IPV perpetration among heterosexual men and women in English-speaking, industrialized nations. With similar rates of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women, gendered explanations of IPV do not adequately account for our findings. Of note, however, results of the current review pertain only to the presence or absence, and not the severity or context, of perpetration. Thus, rather than perpetuating the debate regarding the comparability of physical IPV perpetrated by men and women, findings should be used to support the development and implementation of interventions that acknowledge the use of violence by women in intimate relationships but also recognize how participants’ treatment needs may differ. Intervention strategies that are both gender-inclusive and gender-sensitive may have the greatest potential for reducing IPV.

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