Britain is facing an epidemic of violence against women and girls | Women’s Rights

I don’t remember the day in November four years ago-the day my cousin Gaia’s body was found was less than a mile from where she disappeared.

The document stated that she died of hypothermia, but Gaia, like countless others, became a victim of an epidemic of violence against women and girls. This epidemic is spreading at a terrible rate in the UK, and the government lacks insight and political will. To stop it.

In November 2017, Dorset County Police launched a missing persons investigation to find Gaia. But by then they had already let her down.

In 2015, Gaia, who was only 17 years old, told us that she had been raped and that she wanted to call the police. We are a close family and my cousins ​​are like sisters to me, so I was interviewed by the police together with her to support her. I also contacted our local rape crisis center to make sure she can get counseling and publicity support.

Gaia did his best to bring the man who abused her to justice and prevent other women and girls from becoming his victims. But despite her bravery, the police decided not to pursue the case.

When Gaia accused him of rape, the “accused perpetrator” Connor Hayes was already a well-known sex offender. The Dorset Police already knew of his other victims, mainly minors. But they decided to abandon Gaia’s case. Hayes was eventually found guilty for other crimes, but he only served one year in prison before going to jail. Released Repeat Offender.

The police’s failure to prosecute Gaia is a key factor in her health challenges, disappearance and death. The Rape Crisis Center, National Health Service or NHS and Social Services also failed to support Gaia and help her deal with this injustice. And, in the four years since we lost Gaia, things haven’t changed much—in fact, things have gotten worse.

Today, women and girls in Britain have no reason to believe that the police will take the necessary measures to ensure our safety and hold those who hurt us accountable. Even for the most serious sexual crimes, the national conviction rate is less than 3%, and if the victim is a black or minority woman, it is more likely. In this case, why would anyone trust the police?

But the police are only part of the problem. The entire British society is suffering from misogyny, and this deliberate ignorance is contributing to the prevalence of violence against women and girls in our country. In fact, the British public seems to be very confused about what abuse is and what is consent. For example, one-third of men who responded to YouGov’s 2018 survey on sexual consent attitudes stated that if a woman flirts on a date, she is usually not raped, even if she does not consent to sex. 21% of female respondents agreed with this view. Since the state has failed to educate such a large social group on the basic knowledge of consent, when sexual abuse appears before us, it cannot even be recognized. Is it then that the British police seem unable and unwilling to protect women and girls?

It can be said that the British police and judicial system have never been on the side of sexual assault survivors.However, in recent years, due to the toxic combination of austerity and growing misogyny, they are totally opposed to them-they have elevated the survivors of disbelief from art to actual policy

In March of this year, Sarah Everard was raped and murdered by a policeman in London, and the police’s extreme brutality against women during the night vigil in Clapham reminds us horribly Most people already know: the police do not protect us.

Sarah’s murder has brought national attention to police misogyny and violence in London and other urban centers, but this is not just a “urban” issue. The police force is attacking women and girls in every corner of the country.

Take the Dorset Police Department as an example. According to the data obtained by our organization, Gaia’s Justice, This was initiated within a few days of my cousin’s death to fight for justice for her and all survivors. Of the 2,058 sexual crimes recorded by the Dorset Police between 2019 and 2020, only 46 resulted in criminal Allegations.

Between 2015 and 2019, 13 Dorset police officers or staff were arrested for serious crimes including rape, but most were released without any charges or disciplinary actions. Since 2020, a Dorset police officer strangled a local nurse to death, another was dismissed for sexually assaulting a colleague, and another was convicted of abusing his power to “conduct sexual activity with the public”. Another Dorset County official is currently facing serious allegations of misconduct in connection with the Sarah Everard investigation.

Today, the undeniable fact is that violence against women and girls is prevalent in the UK, and the police are at the center of it. Any organization that is unwilling to hold the perpetrators accountable cannot expect to effectively solve the problem of abuse in society.

That’s why Justice Gaia joined 20 other women’s organizations earlier this year to call on the Secretary of the Interior Pritty Patel to conduct a meaningful and extensive investigation into misogyny within the police-she did not even respond to this call.

Earlier this week, a radio reporter asked me what it feels like to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Gaia’s death as the situation of women and girls is getting worse. She wanted to know how I kept hoping that one day Gaia and other victims of sexual violence would find justice.

The truth is, I am not always hopeful. Sometimes I just lie down and cry. I mention this because I know that I am not the only person. It is important to admit that no one can be strong all the time.

But for three reasons, I did stand up and continue fighting.

First of all, I know Gaia will do this. She inspires me every day to try and be brave like her.

Secondly, I know that none of us has the privilege to watch this struggle from a distance. If we are no longer safe on the street, at home, in the office, or even behind the police car, it means that we have no choice but to fight. This is a fight for our lives.

The last reason is historical perspective. There is no doubt that we are going through difficult times. But the women’s movement for justice and equality is a chain that can be traced back many generations. Countless women before us have experienced worse moments than this, which made us where we are today. We should thank those who follow us to keep the chain intact. We have the historical responsibility to continue fighting.

Survivors and frontline service providers speak loudly and clearly about what we need to win this battle: evidence-based reform of the rape justice system and fearless equality analysis to assess how systemic racism and other forms of discrimination can stop Access to justice and rehabilitation of survivors; independent investigation of perpetrators and mistakes in the police force; a large-scale public awareness campaign on consent; independent review of judicial practices that reinjured survivors; and provision of professional support services Continuous financial support.

These are the cornerstones of building safer communities and a future where all survivors are respected, protected and listened to. In order to win that future, we must all fight for it.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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