White Ribbon Day: Violence against women is 'bigger than people appreciate'

ITV News Meridian reporter Heather Edwards speaks to the Police and Crime Commissioner's for Surrey and Hampshire & Isle of Wight about violence against women

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, who has herself been a victim of drink spiking, says violence against women is "bigger than a lot of people appreciate".

Lisa Townsend believes that part of the problem is that "we don't know exactly how big a problem it is" but "the fact that we're talking about it and looking into it is really important".

Despite this she says she's "optimistic for the future" as there is a "generation of women growing up now who will not stand for it".

Her comments come on White Ribbon Day (November 25), which is the largest global initiative to end male violence against women, by putting men and boys at the heart of the movement to act.

The charity White Ribbon UK is asking all men to wear a white ribbon and to make the promise to never commit, excuse or remain silent about men’s violence against women.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

What is White Ribbon Day?

  • It is an annual event that marks the United Nation’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

  • White Ribbon Day signals the first of 16 days of activism, where people in their communities, organisations and workplaces, to come together, and say ‘no’ to violence against women.

Nicci King from charity Yellow Door said: "White Ribbon Day is a day for men and boys to stand up against violence against women and girls.

"It's a really important day in the calendar for us because it's an opportunity for us to come out into the community and raise more awareness and to let people know that there is help available."

  • Nicci King, Yellow Door charity

The issue of violence against women was further highlighted following the abduction, rape and murder of Sarah Everard by a serving Metropolitan Police officer.

A cocktail of anger and grief saw thousands take to the streets and social media to share their daily experiences of harassment, fear and threat. In response, organisations like Reclaim These Streets were born.

  • Caitlin McCullough, Reclaim the Night

Caitlin McCullough, from Reclaim the Night, a London Feminist Network which organises an annual women’s march against rape and all forms of male violence against women, said: "I think it's really important to create a space for people to come together and talk about the very real issue of sexual violence and the way that it's affecting us, particularly affecting women and other marginalised genders.

"It's a space for people to come together and feel safe for one night in the streets that they otherwise often don't feel safe in, and an opportunity to hear from organisations like Survivors Network and campaign groups about how we can think about a radical new future where sexual violence doesn't exist."

As part of White Ribbon Day, nearly 130 pairs of shoes were placed in the Guildhall Square in Southampton to represent the number of women who were killed by men between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021. Most of them were killed by someone they knew.

Nearly 130 pairs of shoes were placed in Southampton's Guildhall Square to represent women who have been killed by men in the past year Credit: ITV News Meridian

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight said: "In Hampshire and the Isle of Wight we have upwards of 35,000 reports of domestic violence.

"This is why the White Ribbon campaign is so important especially this year when we're encouraging men to join the campaign.

"Why is it happening? I think a breakdown in societal issues, mental health issues, lack of funding in mental health, drug and alcohol problems, so working on the prevention, especially for me as a Police and Crime Commissioner is really important."

Police forces and local authorities across England and Wales, are to receive a share of £23.5 million to make public spaces safer for all through projects to help women and girls feel safer on our streets as part of the government’s Safer Streets Fund. 

Local authorities across the South East are to receive the following funding:

  • Hampshire Police & Crime Commissioner - £648,755.06

  • Kent Police & Crime Commissioner - £741,548.00

  • Surrey Police & Crime Commissioner - £174,772.49

  • Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner -£976,781.80

  • Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner - £939,940.00

  • Dorset Council - £379,766.00

  • Swindon Borough Council £550,000.00

  • Essex Police & Crime Commissioner - £550,000.00

Thanks to a share of money from the Safer Streets Fund, Oxford will be implementing nightclub safe zones around Park End Street, Hythe Bridge Street and around Cornmarket.

It will include safer walking routes with more CCTV, and outdoor phone charging stations, which will be installed early next year.

These women in Oxford told us what will make them feel safer.

In 2019, 88 serious sexual offences were committed in Oxford, mostly against women and often when leaving nightclubs and travelling home alone.

The Government is expected to start calling on police forces, to treat violence against women as seriously as terrorism.