Women are subjected to violence again and again and again and it is almost exclusively at the hands of men.

In a week where we've celebrated women, there have been far too many stories about women suffering because of the actions of men. In today's blog, Bekah reflects on these stories and shares some ideas about how men can be part of the solution.

As the news continues to cover the story of the disappearance of Sarah Everard, it is becoming increasingly unlikely that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a story that connects with our deepest fears; we can’t begin to imagine what she has been through - or her family. We don’t even know how to pray for them, our words simply aren’t enough.

Dame Cressida Dick has reminded us that actually, this kind of crime is incredibly rare. Most women don’t get abducted walking home from a friend’s home. And she’s right. But most of us would be scared to walk home at night just in case. We wouldn’t want our daughters to do it. And it’s not unreasonable that we feel like that.

In fact, it’s entirely reasonable.

You see, it’s not just about the big stories - the stranger rapes, kidnaps and murders that happen so rarely, it’s about the day in, day out, micro (and not so micro) aggressions that happen all too often to women. The smaller violences that put fear in our hearts that one day it will be more.

Two reports have been released this week that highlight the very real dangers faced by women. UN Women UK conducted a survey that found that 80% of women of all ages, rising to 97% of women aged 16-24, say they have been sexually harassed in a public space.

That means almost all of the women you know have been sexually harassed and most of them have never told anyone or thought it wasn’t ‘serious enough’ to report. Not even when that harassment included groping, being followed or coerced into performing a sexual act. No wonder women are afraid.

The World Health Organisation released a study showing that one in four women and girls around the world have been physically or sexually assaulted by a husband or male partner. The reality is, you don’t have to leave your home to be at risk.

No wonder women are afraid.

Women are subjected to violence again and again and again and it is almost exclusively at the hands of men.

I don’t say that lightly - I know that saying it offends some men. Last night, #NotAllMen was trending higher on Twitter than #SarahEverard. I know that not all men abuse women, I know. But at this moment, as women mourn another sister who has been lost to a man who valued her life less than his own, it is not OK to focus on men’s feelings rather than her. It’s just not OK.

This isn’t about an isolated tragedy, as terrible as it is and as much as we feel for Sarah and her family. We need to recognise, the awful extent of the reality of violence against women and we need to do something about it. We need to acknowledge that there is a real inequality that perpetuates violence against women in all spheres. We must confess where, as the Church, we have been part of the problem, where we have not truly valued and honoured women, and choose instead to speak up and do something, to become part of the solution. To create a different world for our sons and daughters.

Becoming part of the solution

This morning I woke to a different trend on twitter: #TooManyMen and lots of my wonderful male friends asking the question - what can we do to make this better? It’s filled me with hope that there can be change. Instead of responding to the tragedy of Sarah Everard’s abduction by making women responsible for their safety, saying: ‘never walk home alone; speak to someone on the phone whilst you walk, don’t drink, don’t wear heels or carry your keys between your fingers’, some men are asking the question, ‘What can we do to make women feel safer?’

Thank you.

Thank you for asking, thank you for caring. Thank you for valuing women’s safety. Please encourage your friends to do the same.

The truth is, it’s not just about helping individuals to feel safe - we need women to BE safe. There’s a bigger conversation to be had about systems and structures and whole belief systems that mean women continue to feel afraid - but the practicalities of helping women feel safe whilst they’re walking are a good place to start.

Plan International Australia have created a campaign called Walk Like a Woman with 7 tips for men’s behaviour in public. Tips that would make women feel safer:

1. Keep your distance

When walking behind a girl or woman at night, remember that the closer you are, the more threatening you seem. So make sure to leave a good amount of distance between yourself and her.

2. Don’t run up from behind

Having someone run up behind you at night can give anyone a fright, but for a girl or woman it can be terrifying. Next time you’re out for an evening jog and see a woman walking ahead… cross the road or make sure to leave a good amount of space while passing.

3. Don't stare

If you’re by yourself, being stared at is intimidating and unsettling. Taking out your phone and focusing on something else can go a long way to showing you’re not a threat. Look out the window to focus on something else, or call a friend to have a chat

4. Keep comments to yourself

What you might see as just a bit of fun, or even flattering, is actually harassment and can be terrifying to lone women and girls

5. Keep your mates in line

You may not harass women, but if you stay quiet while your mates do then you’re part of the problem

6. Be an active bystander

If you notice a woman is uncomfortable with someone’s behaviour, show your support by being an active bystander. It can be as simple as standing between a woman and her harasser to block their line of sight. Ask her if she is OK, and back up anyone else who is intervening

7. Share the walk

Keep the conversation going by sharing these tips, and helping girls and women not just feel safer, but actually be safer at night.

First Man Standing

If violence against women is to end, we need men to help challenge the attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate it – in themselves, and in other men.

That's why we, as Restored, launched the First Man Standing campaign. We have over 1500 members to date, committed to standing up and speaking out about violence against women – be it in their families, churches or workplaces. It’s not all men, but we do need more men to stand up and make a difference wherever they are.

If you’re interested in exploring what you can do to make a difference, our First Man Standing Bible studies are a great place to start.


By Bekah Legg