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Guest blog: If the government is serious about preventing abuse, this is what they need to do

(6 Posts)
JessMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 28-May-13 12:40:28

The government has promised to tackle violence against women; but in a week that has seen the publication of a report from the Deputy Children's Commissioner on the influence of violent pornography on children, and Nick Ross's 'rape is not rape' comments - it seems there is still a long way to go.

Here Holly Dustin of the End Violence Against Women Coalition offers a 5 point plan to end sexual, domestic and other abuse for good - and urges women to write to the Prime Minister and ask him to take urgent action.

Tell us what you think here on the thread - and if you blog on this issue, don't forget to post your URL.

"Predictably, Nick Ross' offensive comments in a Daily Mail article (an edited extract from his new book) suggesting that women may provoke rape kept the small EVAW team busy with media interviews on a sunny bank holiday weekend. Mumsnetters have not been slow to have their feelings heard either.

The worry, of course, is that these comments can't just be dismissed as silly buffoonery from someone with a book to sell, but reinforce the messages that women routinely hear; that it is our responsibility to prevent violence and if we are assaulted we should have been more careful about how much we drank, what we wore or how hard we tried to prevent it. Similarly, men who commit sexual assault will get the message that they weren't entirely to blame or might have been provoked, and that some rapes are less serious than others (inevitably the majority of rapes ie where the parties are known to one another).

Nick Ross' comments were, in fact, quite timely as they came just days after the End Violence Against Women Coalition had published an expert report, Deeds or Words?, assessing the government's promise to prevent abuse before it happens, including by taking action to tackle these kinds of prejudicial attitudes in order to change a culture which condones and tolerates abuse. We all know that work with young people as they are growing and learning is critical and there is good work going on here, such as the ThisisABUSE campaign targeting sexual and domestic violence in teen relationships. Also very welcome is the leadership shown in some parts of government, particular from Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, who has spoken out strongly about the 'watershed moment' we're in for understanding abuse following Savile and other high profile abuse cases.

Overall, however it's not a good picture; there is far too little joined up working across government meaning that the promise to prevent abuse is virtually meaningless in some parts of government. There is abundant evidence to show that girls and young women are targeted for particular types of abuse (sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation and so on) so the 'hands off' approach to this issue by the Department for Education (the key department with responsibility for children's welfare) is particularly worrying. We were baffled as to why the Department had shut its expert group at the height of the Rochdale sexual exploitation scandal, and had failed to tell schools about the ThisisABUSE campaign. Our experts scored the governments' work against a set of criteria and gave it a paltry 24/100.

A report earlier this year found that parents, teachers and other professionals too often dismissed or minimised sexually harmful behaviour by boys when they could have intervened to stop their progression to sexual offending. More recently an Ofsted report found that poor quality Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in over a third of schools leaves children vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behaviours and sexual exploitation. Like Mumsnetters, we believe that SRE is essential in order to talk to young people about issues like sexual consent and respectful relationships. Our poll, published at the same time as Deeds or Words? found that 86% of people want compulsory SRE in secondary schools in order to tackle abuse and it was heartening that the Labour party made a commitment on this last year, soon after we launched our Schools Safe 4 Girls campaign. There is now a chorus of voices, including parents, teachers and young people themselves, saying that compulsory SRE is essential so why isn't the Government listening?

We can prevent abuse - but we need our political leaders to be aspirational and to make the promise of a world safe for women and girls a reality. Promises to prevent sexual, domestic and other violence against women are, of course, a first step, but it doesn't feel as though our politicians have quite grasped the urgency of the situation, or thought through what it truly means to do this. So here's a simple 5 point plan on preventing violence against women and girls to get the ball rolling:

1. We know that drink-driving campaigns have changed attitudes and behaviours over the last few decades so lets make a similar investment in long-term public campaigns to change abusive attitudes and behaviours towards women and girls.

2. Make SRE compulsory as part of a 'whole-school approach' to tackling violence against women and girls which would include ongoing teacher training so that teachers are equipped and confident to identify and respond to the signs of abuse

3. Tackle misogynistic messages through the media and social media that condone abuse. Banning the possession of 'rape porn' would be a first step.

4. Work with the women's sector to run community programmes to tackle abuse - there are some fantastic international examples such as Bell Bajao in India and Know Your Power in the United States.

5. Ensure long term resourcing of specialist women's services in the community to ensure that all women and girls experiencing abuse, either now or in the past, have access to support, whether or not they chose to report to the police.

We know that MNers care deeply about the abuse of women and girls,spearheading the campaigning for a cultural change in our attitudes to rape with the WeBelieveYou campaign. We would love Mumsnetters support on this so if you have a few minutes to write to the Prime Minister to ask him to take urgent action to prevent abuse, that would really add weight to our campaigning. Template letter is here.

How many more times can we express our outrage at the Nick Ross type of comments, or respond to reports or cases showing that abuse is a big problem in our society?"

quoteunquote Tue 28-May-13 15:26:49

How many more times can we express our outrage at the Nick Ross type of comments, or respond to reports or cases showing that abuse is a big problem in our society?"

As many times a necessary.

Tedious and boring , but we seem do be dealing with people who are particularly and deliberately stupid.

FaithLehane Tue 28-May-13 15:31:56

I've downloaded the template letter and will print it out and post it.

I read Nick Ross' comments in the Mail and was appalled by them, but unfortunately not surprised. sad I'm hearing these types of comments more and more lately and it angers and depresses me.

Leithlurker Tue 28-May-13 18:06:08

Why does not MN invite Nick Ross to come in and do a web chat so he can make his case with out the get out of saying that his words were misinterpreted? He may have reasonable cause for saying that as we all know that editors and especially Daily Mail editors are looking for things that create controversy and are not beyond editing things to make them appear other than they were intended.

BTW I am not defending Nick I would however like to hear his views from him not a third party.

Wishiwasanheiress Tue 28-May-13 20:41:24

I'd just like to rip his answers to shreds. Agree get him on. smile

ElectricSheep Wed 29-May-13 02:29:44

Crikey what an ill-educated, ill-argued load of guff that article is.

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