The brutal murder of Sarah Everard came to symbolise a broader issue about the threats that women regularly face from men, and how unsafe they feel when going about their daily lives. The PMA’s client services director, Austin Ambrose, believes it is the responsibility of us all to continue to highlight the issues surrounding the abuse of women and girls, and keep it at the forefront of the news agenda
Whilst those who know me well would probably describe me as somewhat opinionated, it is rare that I feel so animated, desperately saddened and motivated to the point that I feel compelled to put my thoughts into writing.
But following the horrific murder of Sarah Everard – plus the shocking number of killings even since then – and growing evidence of the continuing abuse of women, we must all confront and challenge male violence, misogyny, and the environment we have allowed to continue and ferment in which these atrocities flourish.
It is ourselves, and every aspect of our attitudes and our society, that we must address – from the casual ignoring of derogatory comment toward women and girls, to the actual embodiment of psychological and physical violence that permeates our society at sickening levels.
Our media seem to downplay violence towards women; they trivialise, or sometimes even dismiss, sexist and misogynistic attitudes and acts. Our tabloids objectify women through both imagery and the written word, and through our continuing tacit consent, and lack of action, this all continues unchallenged.
While the conversation regarding violence towards women gained momentum following the Sarah Everard case, it has not been as high profile in recent weeks and we must work hard to highlight issues that have not gone away.
Women daily are being subjected to coercive and intimidating behaviour by their partners. I know of women who aren’t allowed their own bank accounts, can’t come and go freely without accusation of inappropriate behaviour, and live in constant fear of displeasing the men in their lives. I have personally known a number of women who have suffered domestic violence, rape, having their independence and confidence crushed repeatedly and being constantly undermined to the point where they question their own sanity.
More than equals
We, as men, need to self-examine and hold ourselves to account. We need to appreciate the women in our lives, and our wider society, and treat them as, in most cases, more than equals. We need to stop the objectification of women and treat it with the contempt it deserves, calling it out whenever we encounter it and addressing the circumstances that allow it to exist.
Having grown up with my mother in the absence of my father my surroundings were predominately populated by women, and I consider myself privileged by this. My mother, and most of her friends, were highly educated, strong-minded, successful in every way one might describe success, and didn’t rely on men to validate them. Some had suffered the intimidation and violence mentioned earlier, but had evolved and seen it for what it was.
As a result of growing up in this environment I became respectful of the opposite sex and have never felt threatened by women who are bigger and better than me in any way. This, I feel, is where the root of the problem lies with most men who disrespect women.
Many men are insecure and egocentric which is where, I believe, many of the fundamental problems with the male psyche and subsequent attitudes and behaviour toward women stem from. It is us men who must challenge ourselves; we must address the drivers deep within us that are devoid of morality, decency and humanity. We must effect change in ourselves and, in turn, effect the necessary changes in our society. We cannot allow the climate, attitudes and behaviours that culminated in recent losses of life to perpetuate any longer.
We have seen successful prosecutions for rape fall to an all-time low – and they were pitiful before this. We are seeing horrific levels of domestic violence exacerbated by recent lockdowns. We witness, daily, the verbal abuse of women all around us and it is time for us to stop our inactivity, our procrastination and to be a power for good.
Please, please join me in speaking out and making a difference – from this moment on – so that every person in our society has the opportunity to live their lives to the full without fear, intimidation or violence.