Ending violence against women starts in the workplace

Today marks the International Day To End Violence Against Women, and the beginning of sixteen days of activism to end gender-based violence.

Recent high-profile cases, such as that of Sarah Everard, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry, have brought home to many the stark reality that women still face on a daily basis. So too has the increased reports of drinks spiking taking place in nightclubs.

In the U.K., three women a week are killed as a result of domestic violence. During lockdown, between April and June 2020, there was a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline when compared to the first three months of that year.

We all have a key role to play in ending violence against women and girls.

A culture change is needed at every level of society, and this begins in the workplace.

One of the most disturbing revelations around the killing of Sarah Everard was that many of the murderer’s managers and co-workers were aware of his misogynistic attitudes, yet chose to do nothing.

Often in cases of abuse or sexual harassment in the workplace, multiple red flags have been presented by the perpetrator but colleagues and friends have chosen to look the other way or minimise their importance.

A workplace is something the vast majority of us inhabit, and this presents us with a unique opportunity to challenge misogyny in our society.

Employers should have a zero-tolerance attitude towards sexism and sexual harassment. This should not be minimised or written off, but should be challenged and robust policies that all employees are aware of should be in place.

This is where men in particular should step up.

In our workplaces, if we witness sexual harassment or sexism, men should challenge it or report it.

When men look the other way, it allows sexist culture to continue and grow. When men dismiss inappropriate behaviours as just banter, it signals to the perpetrator that it is ok. When men choose to ignore the actions of their friends or colleagues that they know to be wrong, it misses potential red flags.

Employers should have structures in place for those who experience or witness sexism or sexual harassment to report this in a way that is confidential, dealt with sensitively and investigated thoroughly.

No woman should be made to feel fearful ever – when walking home, when in a nightclub, when at work or when on public transportation. Full stop. The burden should not be left to women to make this change. Men need to step up, and use their workplaces to create real change.

Find out more about how Community supports women workers here.

If you are a member of Community and need help or advice, please contact us at help@community-tu.org or on 0800 389 6332.

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