Exclusive: Women’s safety funding ‘doesn’t scratch the surface’ of male violence

Only three dealt directly with male violence and some risked causing more harm to women in marginalized communities, an expert said.

Andrea Simon, director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAWC), said it was “disappointing to see the vast majority of funding for safer streets going to measures that don’t even begin to scratch the surface of transformation necessary to address the scale and persistence of this problem”.

She added that the problem with focusing on measures to increase the “personal safety of women” is that it “essentially means that we continue to task women with protecting us – through drink spiking kits, packs security and advice that wrongly places the onus on us to change our behavior and limit our freedoms to end male violence against us.

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Data seen by The Big Issue also revealed that police and crime commissioners in Northumbria, Northamptonshire, Thames Valley, Southampton, Sussex and North Wales have received funding to install police officers in the night economy, despite widespread backlash against the idea of ​​the secret police. in nightclubs last year, especially because Everard was killed by an officer on duty.

On top of that, data shows that black people in England and Wales are five times more likely than white people to have force used against them by the police, while a report released earlier this year by the Independent Office of Police Conduct revealed multiple incidents of sexist, racist, homophobic and ableist behavior within the Metropolitan Police.

EVAWC’s Simon said the placement of secret police officers in nightclubs was inappropriate given these circumstances.

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“It is clear that any measure to increase surveillance and police presence in our communities will cause more harm and violence to black, minority and migrant women as well as many other marginalized people in society,” Simon said. .

Out of 82 bids submitted for the fund, 22 were accepted. The majority went to Police and Crime Commissioners (10) and Councils (10), although the Nelson Trust and the University of Exeter were also successful bidders.

A total of three offerings included programs involving direct intervention to train or educate perpetrators on acceptable behaviors, while four included education programs for schools on positive relationships and acceptable behaviors.

Separately released documents from the Sussex Police and Crime panel show, for example, that part of the funding was spent on healthy relationship training for children aged 12-13 in the area.

These sessions aimed to “identify what healthy relationships look like, understand coercive and controlling behaviors, and challenge toxic masculinity and misogyny,” the document states.

Jane Butler, CEO of Rape Crisis, said she welcomes funding for interventions aimed at addressing unhealthy attitudes and behaviors.

“Many police and crime commissioners have worked with specialist victim organizations like rape crisis centers to develop campaigns that meet the needs of the local community, whether it’s training site staff on sexual harassment, bystander education and training, frontline police training or outreach. . It is encouraging to see much of this work funded here,” she said.

She added, however, that a strategic and joint approach that focuses on “abusive men” as the root cause of violence against women was missing from the funding cycle.

“We can’t just rely on the work that deals with abuse cases once they’ve happened. We know that to truly end male violence, we must challenge the harmful attitudes and beliefs that underpin it; projects and campaigns that target perpetrator behavior are therefore essential,” she said.

“It is encouraging to see this identified in some of the projects funded by the Home Office and to see that some PCCs are undertaking this work, but for this to be effective we need to see a strategic and coordinated approach.”

MP Jess Phillips, shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, also welcomed some of the interventions, but said tougher action was needed to tackle violence against women and girls.

“Any government action to address violence against women and girls is welcome, but there is still much to be done,” she told The Big Issue. “Labour has been calling for a register of serial domestic abusers for years, but the government has opposed it at every turn.

“It’s a policy that would save lives, and it’s a shame ministers don’t just listen to it and present it.” Women and girls need more than drivers and piecemeal steps.

Several other offers referred to “communication campaigns” or “awareness” campaigns around behaviors without giving further details.

Four offerings included training or education sessions aimed at women, while four included security apps, three included security packs or “toolkits” for women, and two included anti-pointing kits for women. women.

Eight bids also received funding for ‘safe spaces’ for women in the night economy.

The need for more education about men’s behavior towards women has been highlighted in recent weeks by the reality show Love Island, which has sparked complaints about the behavior of male contestants.

Charity Women’s Aid contacted ITV after observing dozens of complaints from viewers online about coercive and controlling behavior by men.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘The vast majority of projects funded by the Women’s Night Safety Fund involve tackling the behavior of abusers.

“Our cross-government strategy to combat violence against women and girls targets this behavior, such as the ‘Enough’ communications campaign, which focuses on targeting perpetrators and changing harmful misogynistic attitudes, piloting the ‘StreetSafe tool that allows the public to anonymously report areas where they feel unsafe and strengthens action against perpetrators through policing, crime, sentencing and courts’.

Mara R. Wilmoth