red heels

Action to combat violence against women

As in most years, the European Commission has adopted a theme for 2017 – a year of focused actions to combat violence against women. The statistics are frightening and unacceptable:
Among women aged 15 and above:

  • 1 in 3 women has experienced sexual violence, physical violence, or both;
  • 1 in 3 has experienced psychologically abusive behaviour by an intimate partner;
  • 1 in 5 has experienced stalking;
  • Over 1 in 2 (55%) have experienced sexual harassment;
  • for women in top management and professional occupations 3 out of every 4 women have experienced sexual harassment; 1 in 20 has been raped.

This week the week of International Women’s Day, many stakeholders in NGOs and in politics have joined forces to try and accelerate actions to combat violence against women and I am among those who have signed a call for greater attention to this scandalous situation by our political leadership. But it is easy to sign such a call. What inspires me even more is what I am learning about our members work with women who experience violence at the hand of a partner or colleague. In Hungary I have learned of a project which not only provides refuge for women and children escaping violence but also trains the local police on how to handle legally and sensitively cases of domestic abuse. I know of similar projects in other countries, giving safe space to victims of violence, supporting their navigation of the criminal justice system and helping them rebuild their lives or campaigning for legislative change including the ratification of the Istanbul Convention – Action against violence against women and domestic violence. Such projects, services and advocacy need supporting, they need funds to keep them open, to recruit staff, to provide for the needs of those they serve, to use our voice. We hope to see more commitment from decision makers at all levels to ensure such services are sustainable and accessible. However, addressing violence against women needs more than services. It needs changes of culture. It must not be hidden; it must not be seen as ‘normal’ or between families or partners.  It must be taken seriously by the legal authorities, and appropriate laws must be put in place and applied. We must also move away from understandings of power than bring violence into the lives of both the victim and the perpetrator and seek new understandings of power that focus on nurture and love. Diaconia is about service, but that is a holistic understanding – addressing the cause and the effect. I am proud that Diaconal organisations across Europe are addressing the causes and effects of violence against women – let’s hope that by International Women’s Day 2018 those statistics will have changed for the better.

Have a good weekend,