Violence against women and girls is a public health issue that requires attention. Every year the number of women that face abuse keeps skyrocketing, necessitating immediate intervention. Violence is a problem affecting women in the UK and their children (Garcia-Moreno & Watts, 2011). Sadly, the problem has existed since the dawn of time. Since it has been there for years, it was perceived as normal and part of life, reflected in the media and real life. We have all watched cartoons where the caveman drags his woman by her hair behind him. It is a clear indication that it is something that men subjected women to in the past to date. Historically, women were not protected from acts of violence by their men and especially if they married an abuser. In the first three-quarter of the 20th-century, women were perceived as meek and subservient to their partners (Sen & Kelly, 2017). Men owned them, and they had a social right to keep them under control. However, towards the end of the century, the situation began to change as feminism became popular.
The feminist movement’s role was to protect women from violence and, fight for their rights, end their oppression and equality for women. Over the years, laws have been enacted to protect women against violence and abuse. However, it is sad that violence against women in the UK keeps increasing. Apart from feminism, it is the essence of human rights, whose main agenda is to protect human dignity. According to the human rights framework, there are guidelines on what every individual should do to achieve, keep and protect their dignity (Aldridge, 2020). The framework obliges the state to ensure that the rights are indeed protected. Violence against women is a contradiction as it violates these rights. The human rights framework is committed to eradicating discrimination against women and is also aware that violence is the cause of gender discrimination.
Any government that claims to protect human rights must seriously take the issue of eliminating violence against women. The United Kingdom government has taken the burden of upholding and applying international law to eradicate discrimination against women. However, despite the efforts by the state to address the issue of violence against women, the government has failed to address the issue fully. The UK government has implemented and sponsored several initiatives that address violence against women since the last CEDAW report (Sen & Kelly, 2017). Nonetheless, many concerns remain unaddressed. There is a mismatch in the government’s approach to violence against women, as evidenced by a missing action plan. Work takes place in an ungendered framework. The NGO sector has since been forced to campaign for gender equality to be included to work. The government has failed to address violence against women as a human rights issue that affects all aspects of their livers. The Equalities office and the previous Equal Opportunities Commission have not been vibrant on policy debates that address violence against women.
Violence Against Women
Violence against women is a primary factor that undermines the ability of a woman to take part fully and equally as a citizen of the country. As such, violence against women and girls (VAWG) is a general term that is defined as violating the rights of women through acts such as rape, sexual harassment, trafficking of women, forced marriages, domestic violence, child abuse, domestic homicide and female genital mutilation (Millar et al., 2021). The United Nations defines VAWG as any violence that leads to psychological, physical and sexual harm to women. Other forms of abuse include depriving women of liberty and any act of coercion or threat. Acts of violence prevent women from leading normal lives as they undermine their physical, financial, emotional and psychological well-being. It is very unlikely that a woman who has faced violence will thrive in any facet of her life. While the UK government has increased the priority given to violence issues, the UK girl child and women are still an endangered gender. Sadly, such important issues are not given the weight they deserve. Should the government and all concerned authorities take up the issue and accord it the seriousness it deserves, then they would discover its impact on society.
Usually, a woman is a being that gives birth to other beings. Women spend the most time with their young children as opposed to men. They breastfeed and take care of the young babies. As primary caregivers, women are generally overwhelmed with caring for their children. Nevertheless, it is too much to expect a broken woman to take good care of another being (Chen, 2020). As a result of what they have gone through, women who have been abused will always give their kids what they were served. Violence gives rise to resentment, bitterness, substance abuse and mental health issues. Research supports that abusers are highly likely to have been abused (Grierson, 2021). Hence, they end up abusing their children, who are so innocent and unaware of what their mothers have gone through. The cycle of abuse hence goes on. It is the right time that the UK government takes the issue seriously if the country is to raise a sober generation.
Violence against women is a serious concern that has ruined the UK girl child, especially if the woman has suffered multiple forms of violence from childhood rape, whether by one perpetrator or a series of them. The impact of violence affects not only their physical health but psychological and mental health (Bongiorno et al., 2019). Violence against women has not been accorded the seriousness it deserves. Issues about women are rarely recognized and addressed. There is also minimal progress in addressing the vulnerabilities of women and girls. As a result of all these challenges, so many women abuse drugs and require mental health services.
Year after another, the prevalence of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual harassment have increased for women of ages 16 to 59 years in England. According to some data recorded by police officers in 2020 on crime, 46% of female homicide victims were murdered during domestic violence (Bongiorno et al., 2019). A survey on abuse indicated that women in the UK begin experiencing abuse at a young age. It was estimated that about 5.4 million women aged 18 to 74 years were abused before the age of 16. Among other types of abuse, emotional abuse was the most common, with a higher percentage of women reporting to have experienced it before 16 years.
Looking at the figure below, it is clear that violence against women is indeed on the rise, as shown by the line representing any domestic abuse.
Among other types of abuse, emotional abuse was the most common, with a higher percentage of women reporting to have experienced it before 16 years. From figure 2 below, it is evident that the percentage of women who have witnessed abuse is high at 12%, which shares the same percentage as sexual abuse and emotional abuse (Office for National Statistics, 2021).
According to police recorded data on crime between 2020 to 2021, March from 36 police forces revealed that 82% of sexual offences are often cases involving female victims (Miller et al., 2021). On the other hand, about 81% of sex activities are usually with girls below the age of 16 years. Sexual offences cases in recent years are three times more, raising the alarm about the safety of women.
How the Police Tackle Violence In The UK
While the epidemic of violence against women requires bold and swift action, it is unfortunate that the police in the UK remain unbothered. It is sad how the authorities in England handle crimes that affect women disproportionately. While Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) cited that the police alone cannot solve the problem, they have contributed to an increase by ignoring victims and not bringing to justice the perpetrators of violence (Grierson, 2021). Several recent violence cases against women and girls have raised the alarm about the inaction of the police force. An example of high-profile cases include the murder of Nicole Smallman and her sister Bibaa Henry murdered in north-West London in 2020. Other cases include the murder of Sarah Everard and Julia James. The latter was a police support staff who was murdered while walking her dog. On the other hand, Sarah was raped and murdered by police officers in 2022. This, together with photos of police brutality against women at Sarah’s vigil, is a reminder that police officers do not protect women.
Another high-profile case was the murder of Gaia. According to a group that was fighting for her justice and all survivors, they realize that out of 2,058 cases of sexual offences reported to the Dorset Police, only 46 led to criminal charges between 2019 and 2020. From 2015 to 2019, only 13 law enforcement officers and staff members were arrested for serious crimes like rape. Most of those arrested had been released with no charges (Pope-Weidemann, 2021). In 2020, a police officer strangled a nurse to death. Another one was sacked for assaulting a colleague sexually, while another was charged with gross misconduct concerning Sarah’s murder investigation. An epidemic of violence against women exists in Britain, and law enforcement officers are at the centre. It is a fact that no organization unwilling to bring the perpetrators to justice within its rank can be trusted to handle abuse effectively.
Women in the UK are living with the hard fact of the inaction of police officers regarding violence. Violence happens at home, in public spaces and in places of work. Women no longer feel safe in the streets, at work or at home. Going through assault and violence can be very traumatizing to the victims. Nonetheless, what is more traumatizing is trusting the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice, and they do not. In one crime survey, about 1 in every 25 women were rape victims or assaulted through penetration before they turned 16. However, due to the blame and inaction of the police and other people they entrust, 46% of the women mentioned being embarrassed and not speaking about it (Office for National Statistics, 2021). A proportion of 48% of the women said they did not think anyone would believe them. That is a very sad fact because not speaking about it places a heavy burden on their shoulders, leading to stress and depression.
Research shows that the perpetrators often blame female victims of sexual abuse. Rape victims are blamed for dressing explicitly, hence tempting the male perpetrator. Not only are they blamed for being raped but also for other forms of violence. For instance, husbands will allege that their wives pushed them to fight. According to Bongiorno et al. (2019), a higher percentage of men, compared to women, blame women for being victims of violence, a habit that limits the perpetrator’s culpability. Like Gaia, many victims of abuse do not get the support they need, affecting their mental health due to disappointments. Gaia, for instance, was raped when she was 17. She reported the matter to the police and ensured her abuser was brought to justice. However, despite her bravery, the police paid little attention to her case. Surprisingly, Connor Hayes, the perpetrator, had been reported accused several times and is therefore known as a sex offender (Pope-Weidemann, 2021). The Dorset police department was aware of his other underage victims, yet they still dropped Gaia’s case against him.
Like Gaia, many women in the UK have lost faith in the police. They do not trust that the police will take the required steps to protect them or hold those who hurt them liable. The United Kingdom conviction rate is at 3%, and the situation is even worse when the women in question are Blacks or from minority groups (Mannell et al., 2021). Nonetheless, while police officers are one of the main reasons why the rate of violence against women is skyrocketing, British society is liable. The ignorance of the whole community is adding fuel to the whole issue. The UK society seems confused about what constitutes abuse and consent. A third of the respondents in a survey conducted in 2018 by YouGov regarding sexual consent said that when a woman flirted when on a date, it would not be considered rape even though she did not agree to the sex.
Effects and Consequences
Violence against women has a long-lasting impact that affects their physical, emotional and psychological impact. Among the women who were victims of rape from the age of 16 years, 63% of them reported mental and emotional challenges. A proportion of 10% of the women in the survey indicated that they tried to commit suicide. One domestic abuse survivor said that they experienced abuse for over 15 years. As a result, the victim experienced emotional torture and difficulties with new relationships. Victims of sexual abuse often experience difficulties, especially when in a new relationship, because they trust no one (World Health Organization, 2021). They often struggle with intimacy when with their partners. She suffered anxiety, forcing her to be on medication for a long.
Another victim talked about how abuse lowered their self-esteem. Victims of sexual abuse and battery often feel unworthy. On most occasions, physical abuse by intimate partners is accompanied by verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is intended to make the woman feel unworthy. Other effects of abuse include victims being in a constant state of panic (Millar et al., 2021). Feelings of unworthiness often make them suicidal. They aim to end their lives and end their suffering. Victims and survivors of rape often suffer from mental and emotional problems. Others stop going out too much because they are not comfortable around people. If they have not opened up to anyone, they feel ashamed and suspect someone knows what happened to them. The situation is even worse if the woman becomes pregnant. Carrying a pregnancy to full-term can be a difficult time. However, it is more complicated if the pregnancy results from rape. Women who get pregnant from rape can suffer from depression and withdrawal symptoms.
Women who have experienced harassment do not feel safe, especially when it is dark. While some impact is short-term, abuse can have a long-lasting impact. A study survey revealed that 57% of women who had been abused below 16 years were highly likely to suffer abuse later in life (Office for National Statistics, 2021). It is not only women who have experienced abuse who suffer, but the kids who have witnessed violence. The impact of violence on kids can be very traumatizing. Young girls who watch their parents fight; often feel anxious and unsafe. The aftermath affects their future relationships. They might be attracted to men who abuse them when they become mature women. Unfortunately, they are highly likely to stay in abusive marriages because they are used to such environments.
Sometimes, women undergo violence while pregnant, which can severely impact the mother and child. Women who are raped are 1.5 times more likely to contract sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV. Pregnant women are likely to secure an abortion because of the emotional burden of carrying an unplanned pregnancy from rape (Office for National Statistics, 2021). Other victims who suffer abuse such as battery from their partners can have a miscarriage, low weight for their babies or stillbirth. Abuses of any form lead to depression or even sleep difficulties. In a study conducted in 2013, the women who have been abused struggle with drinking and substance abuse.
Violence against women is a public health issue that has received much attention. Women in the UK are going through a difficult time as their rights have been violated for a long time. It is sad that while the government has laid down strategies to deal with violence, many gaps still exist. The rates of violence against women keep increasing daily, which raises the question of who will save the British girl child. The UK government and society need to do something to save women. The responsibility to stop violence is on every member of society. However, change starts from the top and includes the government, the NGOs and the police agencies. The men, too, are an important party in stopping violence. They need to change their perception of women and respect their rights as women and as human beings.
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