12 Practical Things You Can Do to Help End Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG)
VAWG is such a huge issue that it can be hard to know where to begin to challenge it. One individual fighting against a whole system can seem overwhelming, but we promise that it’s easier once you just get started! We’ve put together a list of 12 things that you can do on a day-to-day basis which will have a big impact.
1. Educate yourself. Read up on the issue, be aware of it, and try to stay informed. Organisations such as the White Ribbon Campaign run an annual week-long awareness campaign but exist throughout the whole year, and their website offers a good starting point for information. Understand how broader issues of sexism and male privilege create the environment in which VAWG happens.
2. Assess yourself. Have you ever committed violence against a woman or girl? Have you ever felt tempted to? These are very hard questions to ask ourselves, but if we want to make changes to the world then we have to begin as individuals. The good news is that there are resources specifically designed to help you as a perpetrator or potential perpetrator, if this is something that you are concerned may be an issue for you.
Respect runs a range of programmes, including a free confidential phoneline.
The Everyman Project offers a specialised counselling programme and many other organisations offer local services and support.
3. Assess your sexism in other ways. Do you support gender roles or gender assumptions?
These contribute both directly and indirectly to VAWG. Learn to recognise these attitudes, and challenge them in yourself – if you are ever feeling defensive, this is usually a good indication!
4. Challenge your own perceptions of VAWG. A lot of us make assumptions or buy into stereotypes around these issues, but the reality is that VAWG can affect anyone: any race, any class, any socio-economic status, any job, any ethnicity, any nationality and any sexuality. If you catch yourself making assumptions about VAWG, ask yourself why you made that assumption – had you recently read a newspaper article about a case that fit your stereotype? Does that stereotype tend to be more commonly portrayed in movies? Then remind yourself that anyone can be affected by VAWG.
5. Notice how VAWG is portrayed and discussed in society. Do news stories support the victim, or excuse the perpetrator? Think about what impact that might have. Think about how you yourself discuss it, and how your friends mention it. Look at your choice of words, and how you refer to women in general. Dehumanising or degrading terms contribute to VAWG.
6. Watch out for any jokes that mention VAWG. We are not going to tell you that you can never make jokes about VAWG, but there are two very important points to bear in mind if you do.
Firstly, who is around? We know that VAWG is so common – if you are speaking to a group of women, chances are at least one of them has experienced it. How do you think your joke is going to affect them?
Secondly, what makes your joke funny? Make sure your joke could never be interpreted as mocking or undermining the victim, but instead is at the expensive of the perpetrator or the system.
7. Be brave and speak out. This is hard to do at first, but it does get easier! If you notice someone is making stereotypes about VAWG, or is joking about victims of violence, say something! Try to speak calmly and reasonably, and explain to them why their words are not just offensive but potentially very harmful.
8. Act! It is all too easy for us to look the other way and pretend it’s “not my business”, but VAWG hurts everyone. If you think someone is a victim of VAWG, sit down with them and quietly voice your concerns, offering your support. Depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to alert authorities immediately or to intervene. If you don’t feel able to act on your own, talk to a counsellor or speak to the Respect hotline to talk through the specifics of your situation and how best to handle it.
9. Remember that it can be hard to tell from the outside who may be a victim or perpetrator of abuse. Make sure the people in your life know that you will be supportive if they ever need to turn to you about VAWG.
10. Refuse to support or fund sexism and attitudes that promote VAWG. VAWG does not occur in a vacuum, so think about what the attitudes are in our society that allow for it to happen,and where those attitudes come from. Do not pay for movies, websites, magazines or other products that degrade, objectify, dehumanise or abuse women.
11. Get involved. Contribute to organisations ending VAWG in whatever way you can. Thinkabout donating time or money. Participate in events and protests – even just attending is animportant way to begin to make a difference.
12. Be an example. Always think about who else may be watching you when you act – or when you don’t act. When you stay silent about abuse, you are signalling to others “this is not our problem” and that can be taken as a tacit acceptance. When you speak up, you are signalling to others that this is an important issue, and they should speak up too. Think about how many women have experienced VAWG, and how they are affected by your choice to speak up or not. When you speak up, you are telling them “I care, and I support you”, and that is a powerful statement against violence.