Day 1. Rachel, 14

Saturday 25th November, 2023

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women and the first of #16days of activism to end gender based violence.

For each of the 16 days I will be giving a voice to women and girls from the U.K. to tell their story about how gender based violence has impacted their lives. The purpose of this is twofold; firstly, sharing our stories and using our voice is empowering and I feel privileged to be able to facilitate this. Secondly, there is seemingly a notion that violence against women is not much of an issue in the U.K. at least not something that affects the day to day life of women and girls here. I hope that by telling the everyday stories of ordinary women in the U.K. I can give men a flavour of just how much our lives revolve around our safety in a whole number of often imperceivable ways.

These stories are mainly gathered from my own friends and acquaintances. I put a shout out on my personal page for examples of either direct male violence or a fear of it that impacted the way a woman went about her daily business. I also shared the post on a couple of female only facebook pages, but not pages aimed at victims and survivors. These stories are gathered from a regular selection of ordinary women. I was expecting stories about cat-calling, inappropriate touching, street harassment- those small insidious day to day things that are just brushed aside as “men being men.” I did get those stories, but even I was shocked at the number of stories shared with me of far more severe forms of violence, ranging from domestic abuse to child sexual exploitation. Remember, these are from amongst my friend group, and many of them are stories never told before. Over the next 16 days you will read the ordinary experiences of ordinary women and I hope, you will agree with me, that these experiences should not be “ordinary.”

Today I’m going to share one of those seemingly “nothing” stories, one of those little stupid everyday things that has just become “normal.” Rachel• is 14, her mother told me she was recently followed down a corridor at school by a boy shouting Andrew Tate quotes at her. Rachel’s mum tells me that Rachel felt a little angry about it, but mostly was nonplussed because it happens on such a regular basis, there were no school staff around to witness the incident.

Research shows that by the time Rachel and her peers reach 17, 25% of them will have experienced physical violence in a dating relationship, and 72% of them will have experienced emotional violence.** It’s well established and understood that misogynistic attitudes and beliefs are one of the main contributing factors to this kind of dating abuse, and other forms of gender based violence that women experience throughout their lifetime, so it’s worrying to see the influence that career misogynists like Andrew Tate are having on teenage boys.

Over the next 16 days as you read harrowing accounts of violence perpetrated against women, cast your mind back to the teenage boy following a girl down a corridor in school shouting misogynistic insults and ask yourself, is he going to be one of these perpetrators in a few years time? What can we, as a society do to “nip it in the bud” now?

•Not her real name
**- source