I cried this morning when I read Eva Wiseman’s “Up Front” editorial. Last year in the UK more than 1.4 million domestic violence assaults against women were recorded. Add to this the 126 women killed by men in 2012, the 143 in 2013 and the 150 in 2014 and the facts are utterly shocking. The world is a terrifying, dangerous place, and the most frightening thing of all is that a woman is frequently saturated in fear within the confines of her own home, her supposed place of sanctuary. Women are dying and the figures are increasing. Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men was initiated by Karen Ingala Smith who in 2012 undertook a heart-breaking but poignant project that achieved two fundamental things; in displaying online a photographic image of each of the women murdered by men in one year (2012) she captured a snapshot of the victims as people rather than police statistics and secondly, and importantly, she was making an monumental point. By collating all the victims of femicide in one place she forced people to see the sheer scale of violence against women in the country as a whole. Whilst its very existence is unpalatable, starkly, the Femicide Census is essential. Recording a list of women “murdered by men”, as Eva starkly writes, “for being women because killing women is the endgame of inequality” is the evidence we need to begin to understand patterns of violence and ultimately campaign for awareness and change. Domestic violence is endemic in our society. Two of the main characters in my novel, Sadie and Elizabeth, are victims of abuse and whilst the narrative is fiction their story is an all too familiar one for many women. Living with the constant fear of violence, as well as the actuality of violence when it comes, is crippling. Heartbreakingly, it drives some women to consider suicide and tragically 10 women every week see this as the only route to freedom. Yes, you did read this correctly. Every single week, 10 women in the UK die by suicide attributed to domestic violence. In many respects this figure is more horrifying than the Femicide Census in both its expansiveness and its sheer starkness. For some, living with violence is so unbearable death is the only way out. Death. Can you even begin to imagine how overwhelming the terror must be to make that choice? I really hope you can’t. I hope that domestic violence isn’t something you live with or have lived with. Fortunately, for many women the terror of domestic violence is completely beyond their understanding, but for some women, ten in every single week, escape, by the only means they see as achievable, is the reality. Suicide is their only friend. The Femicide Census has created an essential public platform and Women’s Aid continue to campaign for an end to violence against women but we all need to play our part in creating awareness, educating men into accepting without question that women aren’t objects to be abused without recourse, that violence, either mentally or physically isn’t just unacceptable, it is criminal and against the law.
So far in 2015, ten women, like you or me, or your mother, your sister or your daughter, have been murdered. Their names are engrained in the Femicide Census. You can see their image, and the stark story of their tragic, unacceptable death, here.
As women we need to understand that violence against us isn’t acceptable. Abuse isn’t normal, or right, or to be tolerated. We all have a voice and we should find a way to use it to ensure that this figure doesn’t increase. Women shouldn’t have to live their daily lives in fear of their life. No-one deserves to become a photograph and a census statistic nor should any woman have to believe that suicide is their only form of escape.