As a loving member of the Feminist society, on Thursday 25th November I attended Southampton’s response to the national White Ribbon day in the form of a march throughout the city; the experience was both unifying and gratifying.
It is a sobering thought to know that one in four women experience violence in their relationships with men, and that shockingly 40-45% of all murders of women are committed by their male partner – that is one or two a week.
Knowing people personally affected by domestic violence this march felt like a call of duty. It seems to me that this remains one of the most under acknowledged and invisible pandemics of our lifetime. If the figures of gang violence or terrorism were replaced by those of domestic violence, everybody would be crying out. However this is not inevitable. We can put a stop to it. It is not a new issue. It is not an exclusive issue. It happens every day and affects everybody; regardless of race, sex, age, class or location.
Very few people would argue that domestic violence was acceptable, and yet worryingly it seems to get forgotten – this is still a major issue, the second most violent crime in the UK in fact, yet the terror that many people live in day to day at the hands of the people that are supposed to love them is often swept to one side. It needs to be remembered that this fear still needs to be fought, it still needs to be recognised, and we still need to march against it.
Thursday Evening was cold, no, it was freezing, and dark, and yet we were greeted with such a warmth of appreciation when we arrived at Holy Rood church, where both men and women gathered in the church courtyard to fight something terrible. There was something beautiful in the moment, being caught up with hundreds of people all there for the same desperate cause.
Long blue glow sticks and banners were handed out and they illumined the area like candles, the ethereal beauty overcame the small, slightly ruined church as the people started to sing. A drumming band played and set the rhythm of defiance, allowing the frozen feet of marchers to warm up with some casual dancing.
Before everyone got started walking there were some encouraging words from the chair of Southampton’s domestic Violence Forum. Having been to the London demolition marches this walk had a notably different feel, obviously, but this is not a criticism. It was sombre in its darkness; we were not walking to oppose some new regime about to be put in place. We were walking to show that in no way was violence ever acceptable. We were walking for every young girl who is made to fear her own home. For every man or women who is beaten and abused by their partner. For everyone who couldn’t leave and for everyone that did. We walked to show that there was a way out, that there were people who would always care and always help.
I wondered how much this walk would help, whether it would wake up anyone to the screaming, frantic terror which is abuse in one’s own home. However I will forever argue it is a human right to feel safe, to have a place called home and not to live in fear, so I walked on, and I will walk on until this is possible.
An elderly group of women start singing as they walked through the city streets, wanting to ‘live on safe streets now’. Who doesn’t? The reality of this is hard. The economy’s state is depressive to say the least and Hampshire is facing harsh cuts. A twenty five per cent cut in the police force budget alone means that specialist units which tackle with domestic violence, investigate rape and ensure child protection will be initially reduced to three working hubs with the possibility of future merging to save money.
The fact that 1,400 jobs will be axed is more than worrying, it threatens pure instability. However personally I think that a realistic position sometimes needs to be taken, being in over £900 billion debt needs to be taken into account. Resulting horrifyingly in a third of all local authorities having no specialist teams to help victims of domestic violence, with this in mind I thank the charities that help these lost men and women ever so much more.
The walk took in many focal points of the city centre, and included an artist’s installation of trees covered in white ribbons which swayed in the nights wind. It ended with Starbucks providing refreshment and the Southampton Ukulele Jam band soothing the night.
The march was beautiful, the marshals, the bands and everyone who helped out and organised the event volunteered to do something amazing and that feeling of compassion was astounding. It was not loud and it was not violent, nobody screamed or shouted, it was just simple. A solid mark of hope.
The band played songs such as John Lennon’s Imagine and The Zuton’s Valerie and everyone danced. It felt good to do something, anything, to just try and stop something you hate. The crowd was loving and the cause was just. I applaud anybody who stands up for something they believe in, does something a little different and hopes for change.