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Everyday Victim Blaming – a new campaign

30 May

Reviewing media coverage of violence against women and children, we’ve found an overt victim blaming tone in many of the news reports.  Men are described as being unable to ‘help it’.  They are ‘driven to it’.  They kill their children (and sometimes themselves) and it is a ‘tragic isolated incident’.  They murder their children and it is because of a ‘difficult divorce’.  They rape children because she was ‘drunk’ or ‘out at 4am’ and so ‘asking for it’.  They rape girls who are so drunk that they cannot stand up, yet these men claim sex is consensual.  There are so many excuses that we’ve read recently – none of them considering that the abuser has choices.  All the choices are around women (and children) behaving differently in order to avoid being abused.

The media reports cases of violence against women and children with an almost wilful avoidance of the actual reasons for these acts.  Power, control, women and children being considered ‘possessions’ of men, and avoidance of personal responsibility all contribute to a societal structure that colludes with abusers and facilitates a safe space in which they can operate.

A clear example of this has been the Oxford Gang case.  The victims were cross-examined by a number of barristers (which is to be expected in a fair trial, of course) with repeated accusations of lying or consenting to the rape, sexual assaults and violence.  As we have seen, some of the girls were too young to consent under law and were effectively purchased by their abusers.  Dr Aisha Gill writes an excellent critical analysis of this situation.

Almost immediately after the completion of this trial, we heard of the tragic murder of two children in France by their father, a man who should have protected them from violence.  Julian Stevenson, a British man who has lived in France for approximately 10 years, killed his children on his first unsupervised access visit following a divorce.  His access to the children previously had been in the presence of either his ex-wife, or a social worker due to his violent behaviour.  The prosecutor’s office has released a statement confirming that Stevenson has admitted killing the children, but would ‘not discuss his motive’.  Media reports about this case have been littered with excuses and apparent explanations, including using the issue of child contact being ‘insufficient for his needs’.

In the UK at least, child contact orders under the Children Act 1989 should consider the welfare needs of the child as paramount.  This should mean that the courts consider the emotional and physical safety of the child(ren) when making a decision for a contact order.  If we assume that the law is adhered to and that contact with a non-resident parent is set up in order to meet the needs of the child, being at risk of violence or in this case, murder, is certainly not about the needs of the child(ren).

The combination of these cases, in addition to the almost constant victim blaming in the media, prompted us to set up this campaign.  We regularly discuss issues around child protection, violence against women and children and domestic abuse with other women.  This campaign is about changing the culture and language around violence against women and children.  We aim to challenge the view that men cannot help being violence and abusive towards women and children.  We want to challenge the view that women should attempt to ‘avoid’ abuse in order to not become a victim of it.

We are utterly frustrated.  We know other women and men who feel powerless and voiceless against mainstream media and we are aiming to change that.  We believe that the only people responsible for violence and abuse are violent abusers.  We do not believe that victims are in any way responsible for the choices that are made by those who abuse them.  Societal change is not easy, but it happens.  With persistence and dogged determination, we can succeed.

You can help by submitting your experiences, thoughts or views about victim blaming via our website www.everydayvictimblaming.com.  We will accept submissions that are personal, if you’ve written a critical analysis on gendered violence, written about media coverage of rape, abuse, sexual exploitation or if you just want to have your voice heard.  Submissions can be anonymous and we will soon be able to signpost to organisations offering support around these issues via our website.

Wish us luck!

Follow us on twitter @EVB_Now

Make garment factories in Bangladesh safe

13 May

Bangladesh building collapseHundreds of garment workers were killed and injured when an 8 story building housing five textile factories collapsed on 24 April.

Large structural cracks appeared in the Rana Plaza the day before and an evacuation order was given. The building and factory owners ignored the warning and insisted work continue hours before the building collapsed.

This, the worst ever industrial accident in Bangladesh, comes only months after more than one hundred garment workers died in two factory fires.

Working for a minimum wage of US$38 per month, less than one percent of garment workers in Bangladesh are represented by a union. The Labour Law leaves workers unable to join a union and fight for safe workplaces, improved working conditions and better wages.

IndustriALL Global Union and IndustriALL Bangladesh Council is calling on the government to take urgent action to guarantee freedom of association and improve building and fire safety and the minimum wage for the more than 3 million garment workers in Bangladesh.

Send your message supporting these demands to the Bangladesh Prime Minister and Minister for Labour and Employment today. You can help by clicking here.

Our Welfare State

28 Mar

Today, Unite the union has launched a new website to tell the truth about our welfare state, attacking the key myths that have been used to promote cuts in welfare. #OurWelfareWorks

Society’s safety net has been much-maligned by the Coalition government. ‘Open many newspapers or listen to some politicians speak and you’d think that the only people who received benefits were cheating the system or living a luxury lifestyle. This just isn’t the reality,’ and the campaign sets out a few home truths about benefits:

  • A tiny 3% of the welfare spending goes on benefits to unemployed people, but 42% is spent on the elderly and 21% spent on working families.
  • If you were in a couple with two kids and lost your job (like the 100′s of people from Jessops) you would receive £111.45 a week in Job Seekers Allowance, out of this you’d have to pay for food, heating, water, clothes, travel etc…
  • A single person just laid off, from somewhere like HMV, will only have £71 a week to live on.
  • People talk a lot about welfare fraud, but 0.7% of the welfare budget is claimed fraudulently……but at the same time, up to 24% (£11.77bn) of benefits go unclaimed.
  • Experts also reckon that the gap between what the government thinks it should receive in tax, versus what it actually gets (the Tax Gap) could be as high as £120 billion.


The launch of the site coincides with the start of a new, hard-hitting advertising campaign attacking government welfare cuts, using two digital ad vans. Supplemented by national online advertising, the billboards will tour London and starkly contrast cuts to welfare and tax credits which will leave an estimated 11.5 million households worse off from 1 April, made even worse by the government’s insulting £100,000 tax give away to millionaires.

Attacking those who rely on welfare, and using divisive language like ‘strivers and skivers’ serves only to pit people against each other, and wear away the reasons that the welfare state was established in the first place. ‘Generosity, mutual support and cooperation’ were the watch words of the post-war era, leading to a determination to build a better society for all. This community spirit led to the creation of the NHS and our welfare state. The current government is not only implementing devastating cuts across all public services, but is attacking long-accepted arguments that society should care for its vulnerable, and those who may have fallen upon tough times.

Of course there are things that can be improved upon, and of course there are people who take advantage, albeit a tiny number. But this is the case for a number of institutions in society that can be exploited but we all agree must exist – a classic example being the law against rape and sexual assault. There are a tiny number of people who might make false accusations of rape or sexual assault, but nobody argues that this therefore means we should abolish the laws against these crimes.

It is great to see that someone is finally making the arguments for the welfare system. If you agree that #ourwelfareworks, please share this campaign with everyone you know. It’s time we started sticking up for a decent and caring society.

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