Sunday 10th December, 2023
Violence Against Women affects all of us, a YouGov poll* found that 80% of all women in the UK had experienced sexual harassment, but for women aged 18-24 that figure rises to 97%- nearly all of us! That’s before we even contemplate all the other forms of violence against women.
So, it doesn’t matter who you are, what the circumstances of your life or even what you do for a living, if you are female, you have no immunity from male violence.
Mandy is director for gender justice for the Anglican Communion, ten years ago she was busy co-founding Restored a charity that supports churches to respond well to Domestic Abuse, walking home from work one night, she experienced something that served to demonstrate how important her job is:
It was winter and I was walking home from work in the dark. It was about 6pm and lots of traffic about on the roads. I was listening to music on my phone but not loudly as I am always aware of being alert. I came to the traffic lights opposite my house and pressed the button and waited for the lights to change. A man sped towards me on his bike, I naturally stepped back thinking he was heading for the pavement to avoid the lights changing. Instead he stopped right in front of me, jumped off his bike and started shouting at me very close to my face. I was really confused. I took out my headphones and asked what was wrong. He screamed at me about being a ‘fucking bitch’ and then went to grab my throat. I backed off and used my hands in a calming motion. He kept coming for me and shouting. By this time people at the bus stop opposite where alert and one woman (the men stayed where they were) came towards me opposite the crossing and asked if I was OK. I was too focussed on the man in front of me to answer as he kept coming for me. In the end I walked into the traffic in the road and a car stopped and people came out and started shouting at him. It was only then he laughed in my face, jumped on his bike and rode away.
The whole experience left me shaken. Not only the random stranger going for my throat but also how long it took for people watching to take action. I reported it to the police but he was never found.
This was 10 years ago when I had established Restored. It was an awful reminder of the need for people to interrupt violence and take action.
It can be scary to get involved if we see someone behaving in a violent or aggressive ways, but there are ways we can interrupt violence that minimise risk. There are lots of Active Bystander training Programmes that teach people how to do this, for example this one from Press Red. Perhaps it’s something you could book for your church or other organisation?