'Epidemic' of violence against women
By Gemma Raw
Two recent reports have highlighted the need for urgent action to tackle widespread physical and sexual violence against women and girls. In April a VictimFocus report, 'I thought it was just part of life', revealed that a staggering 99.7% of women surveyed had been repeatedly subjected to violence, including assaults, harassment and rape. Now a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS) has reinforced the case for a radical shift in how authorities in England and Wales deal with crimes that disproportionately affect female victims, calling for urgent action to tackle a 'crime epidemic' against women and girls.
The need for change has been endorsed by social care professionals, as well as organisations which represent and support those working in social care jobs. Rebekah Pierre, British Association of Social Workers (BASW) England Professional Officer, wrote on the BASW website, " As social workers, we must do better, not only to protect our female-majority workforce, but also to champion the rights of the women and girls we support."
The 30-page VictimFocus report found that of 22,419 women living in the UK, all were subjected to at least 37 acts of violence each in their lives since birth, with acts of violence defined as one or more of the following: physical assault, physical abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, forced pregnancy or termination, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, rape threats, death threats and digital sexual crimes.
"The data we have seen so far has been devastating," said Dr Jessica Taylor, who co-authored the report along with Jaimi Shrive. "The study will certainly change the way we look at violence against women and girls forever."
Recommendations in the report include challenging and changing current social care systems, resources, practice tools and assessments which assume that victims are targeted due to vulnerabilities, specific characteristics or risk, and ensuring that all social care staff are trained to identify and respond to disclosures, suspicions or reports of violence against women and girls.
Following on from its review, the HMICFRS has recommended that transformation of the whole system is needed, including an 'immediate and unequivocable' commitment from the government, police, criminal justice system and public sector to prioritise the response to violence against women and girls, supported by sufficient funding and mandated responsibilities.
“Offending against women and girls is deep-rooted and pervasive in our society," commented Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary Zoë Billingham. "Urgent action is needed to uproot and address this and police cannot solve this alone. There must be a seamless approach to preventing and tackling violence against women and girls across the whole system, including education, local authorities, health, social care and those from across the criminal justice system – with all agencies working together."