Today the council, police and local voluntary sector stood together on the steps of Hackney Town Hall to show solidarity with ending violence against women and girls – on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and the start of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence.
This issue is very visceral and personal for most people – with one in four women experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime, and the shocking statistic that, in the UK, 97 per cent of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed, with a further 96 per cent not reporting those situations because of the belief that it would not change anything.
Abuse and violence against women and girls is a huge issue in our society – it has been brought into sharp focus in recent months with the shocking killings of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa – but these issues have always been there, and the fact is that around every three days a woman is murdered, with men doing the killings nine out of 10 times.
It has got to stop. Be it on the streets or in the home, women deserve to be safe.
That is why in Hackney we take a zero-tolerance approach to violence against women and girls. We are taking action, and understand that words and platitudes will not create the fundamental change we need.
Our own Domestic Abuse and Intervention Service is at the forefront of innovative practice, offering an intensive and holistic service and working closely with partner agencies and women’s charities to help break the cycle of abuse. We are also one of the few councils in the country to work directly with perpetrators of violence to get them to change and stop their abusive behaviours. We are here as a council to support victims and help them get justice and be safe – while reminding perpetrators that domestic abuse is a serious crime that risks them going to prison, losing their jobs, homes and family.
The council has also been granted White Ribbon accreditation, with a commitment to engaging with men and boys more widely to help end violence against women.
For public spaces harassment and abuse, we have created a tool for women and girls across the borough to identify areas of concern and suggest mitigating measures that we can put in place to help make our streets safer. This could be better lighting, installing CCTV or even having our anti-social behaviour team patrol an area at certain times.
We are also working with our night-time economy venues to help train staff to support the safety of women as well as working with the police on increased patrols in areas like Shoreditch.
All women and girls should be able to live without fear of abuse, harassment or intimidation. We want our residents to come together over the next 16 days of activism, and pledge their support for ending gender-based violence in Hackney. It will take us working as a community to do this, but violence against women and girls, can and must be prevented!
Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas is Hackney’s cabinet member for community safety.