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A woman laying down a wreath of flowers following the murder of Sarah Everard
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Students sceptical there will be change in predatory behaviour
by Ellie Daglish, 11/04/21

Cw: misogyny and sexual assault

It’s been a terrific Women’s History Month so far right? Sorry, I meant horrific. Last week we saw Meghan Markle speaking out about her battles with mental health, for a daytime TV presenter to call her a liar about it the very next day. The devastating case of Sarah Everard going missing whilst walking home from a friend’s house, only to be found dead, allegedly killed by a member of the police force. 

Shocking statistics followed this news story: 97% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 have been sexually assaulted. If that wasn’t bad enough, I’ve seen and continue to see men on social media claiming they don’t believe this. Saturday saw a vigil held for Sarah Everard in London where police officers arrested many of the women there for breaking COVID-19 regulations. Oh, and everyone had a really great Mother’s Day on Sunday. 

It seems like women are constantly under attack. While the events of this past week have been especially horrendous, these kinds of attacks happen with alarming regularity. So, what is being done to combat this problem? The Student surveyed several students and faculty and asked them about possible solutions.

One approach that the Welsh government has taken is to introduce a new school curriculum to be rolled out in 2022, which will include a special focus on “Healthy Relationships.” Understanding consent and respect is also part of this topic. In our survey we asked participants whether they thought this was a good idea and if it should be rolled out throughout the rest of the UK as well. 

Everyone responded ‘Yes,’ with varying degrees of certainty as to just how effective this would be but agreed that education on this topic and others like it was a good first step. Especially if carried out early on in a child’s school life. A handful of responses also suggested more inclusive education surrounding sex. 

Not just the biological function of sex but an in-depth discussion about the emotional side of sex for all sexualities. Interestingly, one answer also mentioned how, in their school, the girls had specifically been told how to avoid domestic violence, but they have no memory of the boys being told that it was wrong to commit domestic violence.  

Baroness Jenny Jones, a Green Party member, suggested the less than popular 6pm curfew for men. Whilst she wasn’t entirely serious about the idea and has officially stated that it isn’t a Green Party policy, Jones, when speaking to Sky News said, “The fact that nobody makes a fuss when, for example, the police suggest women stay home, but when I suggest it, men are up in arms.” Jones also added, “If this has sparked intense scrutiny, I’m really happy.” This statement certainly has sparked conversations around the double standards set for women and men, and our survey certainly reflects that.

The Student asked whether people agreed with the 6pm curfew. ‘No’ was the majority answer, with some responses adding their lack of faith in the police to enforce it, as well as worrying that it would only reflect blame on women for infringing male freedom. 

Many agreed that it would cause more trouble than good, as well as pointing out that these crimes are committed at all times of the day. Also, that the type of men who would follow this rule probably aren’t the ones we should worry about. The undertone to many of these responses did point to how unfair it is that women’s freedom is restricted for their own safety, when they’re the ones at risk.

Another question asked was whether or not misogyny should become a hate crime. Misogyny, as defined by the OED, is the “hatred or dislike of, or prejudice against women,” and a hate crime is a crime, “that is motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation, or other grounds.” Interestingly, answers to this question weren’t as clear cut. Whilst more people said ‘yes’ than ‘no,’ there were lots of conditions people were concerned about, such as it being difficult to enforce. 

One response said that because “the justice system already fails to prosecute crimes that fall under the category of violence women, adding more crimes to the list doesn’t feel like a solution.” Others also expressed problems with this kind of “legal grey area.” Finally, one person said ‘no’ because the government shouldn’t get to decide what level of “nastiness” is legal and what isn’t.

When asked if they think men will change their attitudes towards women in light of current events, 60.5% said ‘no.’ When asked who they think is responsible for changing the behaviours and attitudes surrounding violence against women, 71.8% said ‘Society in General,’ 17.9% said ‘Men,’ and 10.3% said ‘The Government.’ No one said ‘Women’ or ‘Parents’ were responsible. 

This survey, if nothing else, shows that the most popular and agreed upon solution to the problem of violence against women would be education. By introducing the discussion about consent and respect early on in children’s education, hopefully the next generation will have a better understanding and awareness of how to treat women with kindness and respect.  

Image: Tim Dennell via Flickr