As a I write this morning, I feel a sense of rage. A fury even. And as a mum of girls, at a bit of a loss.
I have watched in horror over the last weeks as yet more women have tragically lost their lives at the hands of violent men. Some not even talked about in the media. Some potentially not even investigated, just considered to be purposefully missing.
I am staggered at how many men hurt, abuse and murder women.
However, today, my fury is at the response from the institutions we live within who still think it is okay to blame the victim.
To tell any family that their murdered daughter/ wife/ sister should have been more streetwise is unthinkable.
Phillip Allot, a Police Commissioner this week said, “Women, first of all, need to be streetwise about when they can be arrested and when they can’t be arrested. She [Sarah] should never have been arrested and submitted to that. Perhaps women need to consider in terms of the legal process, to just learn a bit about that legal process.’
Women should try to stop a bus, or they should ring 999 to verify that they are being legally challenged. It is again our own responsibility to keep ourselves safe, this time from the police.
We teach our girls so many different steps they need to take to keep themselves safe. Never wear headphones, don’t come home alone, text me when you are leaving, have your keys in your hand.
I didn’t ever think I would have to teach them how to act if they were arrested by a rogue police officer. We should now add to our list of steps to keep yourself safe, flag down a passing bus, check the legitimacy of the arrest by calling 999, ask for a female officer.
I appreciate, I am writing this from a position of white privilege. I haven’t had to teach my girls how to act in a stop and search situation. I haven’t had to teach my girls how to not get shot by a police officer. I can’t even begin to imagine the fear BAME families deal with everyday.
But I am angry that I have to teach them how to protect themselves from men. At 11, my daughter has already experienced hassle from local boys on bikes. How should she handle that? How should I handle that?
I was taught that you had to respect your elders, be polite, not challenge authority. To be a ‘nice, well-behaved girl.’ I teach my kids to stay out of trouble, to be respectful to adults, don’t talk back, don’t interrupt, mind your manners, say please and thank you.
How do they then safely challenge the teenage boy who has decided to throw things at them on the way home from school? How many times will they have to laugh off an offensive sexual comment from a man in the street for fear of making them angry? How do I, as a parent, protect my girls from that without taking away their independence?
And worse still is that I know, as women, if the worst happens, they will be blamed. She either brought it on herself or didn’t act the right way to make it stop. She made him angry. She walked home the short way. She wore a short skirt. She’d had too much to drink. ‘She should never have submitted to that,’ Philip Allot, a Police Commissioner says. This man is a leader, in an institution meant to keep us safe. To be the person you turn to when you feel afraid. It makes me shudder.
The idea of openly challenging a police officer who is arresting you sits so far away from the way girls are expected to behave. What is assertively and ‘street-wisely’ checking the legitimacy of your arrest compared to the additional crime of resisting arrest? Which may get you killed if you are black or trans…
Let’s stop talking about the things women should do. Let’s stop blaming the victim.