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Journalist and actor Rhik Samadder talks to White Ribbon UK about masculinity

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Rhik Samadder, Guardian columnist, actor and author, is a man who feels very strongly about opening up discussions on masculinity, mental health and body image.

When was the first time you realised you didn’t fit in with today’s ‘male’ culture?

I went to an all boy’s school– and it wasn’t until they introduced girls that I realised there were people I could relate to far more easily. It dawned on me that male culture was needlessly competitive, insensitive and diminished by the constant threat of violence. I think I was 9.

What do you think toxic masculinity means and what are effects on equality of women?

It’s men who know they will never be held accountable running rampant, their aggression unchecked by respect for others. It’s behaviour that exploits the unaccountable, grey areas of the law and codes of behaviour. Most men let women carry the water when it comes to social progress. Toxic men try to tip the bucket.

Who do you think are doing a good job at being positive male role-models?

Gary Lineker, Eddie Izzard, Frank Ocean, Terry Crews. He has many detractors, but I think Russell Brand is an interestingly conscious person.


Why is it important to challenge traditional male cultures and behaviours?

Men have been in power too long. Selfishness, complacency and aggression are not synonymous with masculinity, as they are often presented. We need to nurture different aspects of the masculine. All cultures should be challenged, so we know which values are unnecessary and which to reaffirm.


Was there a moment in your life that changed the way you behave around women?

Not one moment, but many times in my twenties I observed how infrequently women could relax. They were always a target, always being stared at, which I was guilty of, or fending off approaches. Always polite, lest they provoke violence against themselves. And I realized how exhausting it looked, just to be themselves.


Rhik Samadder (actor and Guardian columnist) talks more about his thoughts on masculinity and mental health in his new memoir, I Never Said I Loved You published by Headline.

Five Ways to Combat Sexual Harassment, Groping and Assault at Gigs

Words: Dr. Rosemary Lucy Hill, University of Huddersfield.

Recently there has been increasing attention paid to sexual harassment, groping and assault at gigs, with groups like White Ribbon and Safe Gigs for Women running campaigns to highlight the issue. At the Universities of Huddersfield and Leeds we have seen the problem, and what can be done to prevent and respond to it. We have found that sexual harassment, groping and assault is being committed at gigs across a range of music genres, mostly by men. It causes grave harm to victim-survivors, mostly women, and puts them in immediate danger. It results in feelings of shock, fear, humiliation, violation, anger and powerlessness which can last for many years. It significantly reduces pleasure in the music, and can result in a withdrawal from music participation altogether.

Groping, harassment and assault must not be considered hazards of live music participation. Something can be done. It is everyone’s responsibility to take action.

Venues and promoters play a vital role in creating safer, healthier gigs. We recommend five things  that venue managers and promoters can do to help prevent sexual harassment, groping and assault, and respond well to incidents when they do occur:

5 things venue managers and promoters can do

  1. Acknowledge there is a problem. Groping, sexual harassment and assault is not often reported, but it is happening at gigs and it needs to be taken seriously. Groping is sexual assault and it is illegal.

  2. Get specialist staff training. Most people are not experts in dealing with sexual violence. Specialist training is available from Good Night Out and this can increase staff awareness of the myths around sexual violence. It can also help to generate women’s trust in venues and promoters.   

  3. Devise and implement clear policies. A well-publicised policy devoted to preventing and responding to sexual harassment, groping and assault should state what is expected of everyone coming to the venue and what will happen if they deviate from expectations.

  4. Set up clear procedures. Accessible written procedures for what to do when an incident occurs should be victim-led. Poor responses to sexual violence compound feelings of humiliation and violation. Clear procedures empower staff to know what to do in a crisis and to support victim/survivors well.

  5. Work towards culture change. Avoid working with other organisations that are unwilling to acknowledge the problem and do something about it. Book bands who are known for speaking out against sexual violence, and avoid bands with histories of sexual violence or misogynistic lyrics. Aim for mixed gender bills and actively support of women and LGBTQ musicians.

Support

Support is available to help venues and promoters take positive steps:

White Ribbon UK Safer Music and Venues works with festivals, events and music venues to raise awareness of the need for safeguarding in this sector, and encourages organisations through a comprehensive action plan, to develop policies and practices that prevent violence against women and girls.

Good Night Out is a community interest company that delivers training to licensed premises on how to tackle and prevent harassment of women and LGBTQ+ people on nights out. They work with venues to develop policies and provide accreditation.

5 things music lovers can do

For men in the audience, in bands or working in the music industry, you too have a role to play.

  1. Take the White Ribbon pledge to never commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.

  2. Talk to your friends and acquaintances about why groping women at gigs is not okay.

  3. If you think a woman is being sexually harassed or assaulted, ask her if she needs help, if it is safe to do so, or tell venue staff. Do not stand idly by.

  4. Ask venues and promoters what their sexual harassment policy is.

  5. Print out and give venue managers and promoters a copy of our booklet Five ways to combat sexual harassment, groping and assault at gigs: A guide for venues and promoters:

If we want a thriving live music scene for all then we all need to take action to make them safer and happier.

You can read more about the research project, including viewing the full guidelines and report, here.


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Rosemary Lucy Hill is a Senior Lecturer in Media Studies in the School of Music, Humanities and Media at University of Huddersfield. She is the author of Gender, Metal and the Media: Women Fans and the Gendered Experience of Music (Palgrave). She researches gender, popular music and big data, and is currently investigating sexual violence at live music events. 


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#WR19 Conference "Violence Against Women: It's Everyone's Issue"

This year’s White Ribbon UK Conference in London was fully attended by a diverse mix of delegates - from individual ambassadors and champions, survivors of abuse and safeguarding volunteers, to local authority and emergency services representatives.

Our speakers included Luke Hart of CoCo Awareness, who gave a fascinating insight into the mechanics and workings of a narcissist. Documentary filmmaker, Leslie Lee gave an intriguing awareness of abusive behaviour of the workplace bully, and Rosemary Hill and Stephen Burrell gave academic viewpoints on violence at gigs and festivals, and engaging men and boys. SNP MP Gavin Newlands was on hand to give an update on things from Westminster, and Bradley O’Donoghue spoke about educating and facilitating change in young people - a very important part of the process of ending male violence against women.

Delegates attending #WR19 Conference at Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, London

Delegates attending #WR19 Conference at Amnesty International Human Rights Action Centre, London

All our delegates were engaged and active in offering viewpoints, asking questions and giving feedback. There was significant opportunities for networking due to the mix of people there. In feedback, many said the conference had helped them to change their perspective and strategy on tackling men’s violence against women - both in their personal and professional lives.

One of the most notable things delegates stated they will do as a result of the conference, is work to engage more with young people.

Other actions delegates said they will take after the conference included:

  • Wear a white ribbon

  • Work to increase the number of Ambassadors and Champions within their own organisation

  • Assessing risk assessments with regards to coercive control based on Luke Hart's findings

  • Speak to activity clubs across their county about the importance of the White Ribbon message, and to local events organisers about having a White Ribbon stand at their next event

  • Contact local organisations to arrange fundraisers for White Ribbon UK

  • Deliver a CPD session for their organisation to cascade learning and raise awareness

  • Speak to local events organisers about having a White Ribbon stand at their next event

  • Advocate more for education about gender-based violence in schools and universities

These are all great ideas, and we look forward to working with our ambassadors, champions and accredited organisations on making them a reality.

Our keynote speaker Luke Hart summed up the necessity to change the way men see themselves before we can hope to end violent behaviour:

Luke Hart of CoCo Awareness

Luke Hart of CoCo Awareness

“Masculinity makes men miserable. Men don't talk about it…we need to address masculinity and develop men's humanity instead”.

Guest article: Domestic Abuse Bill Fails to Protect Most Vulnerable

Written by: Pia Subramaniam (UK’s Immigration Advice Service).

Domestic violence and abusive relationships are prevalent all over the world. Five women are killed by their abusers every hour while one woman dies within the four walls of her home every three days in the UK alone. There has been a shocking increase in sexual harassment, forced marriage and human trafficking as of late, too.

However, on January 21, 2019, the UK Government released its draft Domestic Abuse Bill which gave campaigners and human rights activists new hope for better protection for our women, girls – and men – enduring domestic abuse. The draft offers to extend and change existing policies that have heavily doubted and overlooked victims in the past. It contains a new statutory definition of domestic violence that includes non-physical, emotional, and financial abuse as well as a new Domestic Abuse Commissioner, extended protection orders, victim-centred considerations, and finally, the prohibition of cross-examinations of victims by their abusers in family courts.

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As much as the bill has made positive changes and contributions, the coalition Step Up Migrant Women (SUMW) has pointed out that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME), refugee and migrant victims are more or less excluded from these new reforms and protection. Migrant women, as well as women of colour are mostly affected by domestic abuse and face additional barriers as a result, yet they receive less support from the UK government. One of the reasons for this is because these survivors often require more financial, as well as intensive and/or specialist support due to the type violence they face. With their insecure immigration status, migrants have no access to public funding nor social housing. When they do find a way to escape the misery, fleeing their UK Sponsor’s home potentially jeopardises their legal residency and the terms of entry into the country. This is because migrants on a Married Partner Visa must be accommodated for and financially supported by their British partner. Survivors on a UK Spouse Visa therefore fear to speak with the authorities as they worry the Home Office might threaten them with deportation – which the police have been reported to practice. In a 2015-2016 statement, 27 out of 45 victims who reported their abuse were sent to immigration enforcement by local police forces. According to Amnesty International UK, the Government feels victims “may best be served by returning to their country of origin”. However, this will never be an option for refugee women as they claimed asylum in the UK due to persecution and life-threatening living conditions in their home country.

Several victims of domestic violence feel trapped and keep the abuse they face a secret. For some migrants, domestic abuse is often seen as a taboo subject in wider parts of the world – simply returning them to their country of origin actually puts the victim in harms way as families may blame the victim or turned to ‘honour-based violence’ to shame them. And, more often than not, many are even unable to identify their relationship as abusive or fear the authorities won’t care about their case. There is a plethora of reasons why migrant women sweep their hardships and abuse under the rug, but large proportions of migrants stay quiet due to inadequate or unconfident English language abilities, and even fear of prejudice and racism by police forces. Some even seek a Spouse Visa extension to strengthen their immigration claim as they would be eligible for Indefinite Leave to Remain – and their freedom – after five years continuous residency with their spouse. The overarching result is women are putting up with life-threatening violence while hoping for a secure, independent and happy life in the distant future.

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A solution for a faster achievement of their justice and freedom is to seek a Spouse Visa curtailment and inform the Home Office of this decision as soon as possible. This way, migrant victims of abuse can still achieve Leave status after a divorce and their legal residency in the UK would not be at risk. After this crucial step, they can apply for the Destitute Domestic Violence (DDV) Concession in which survivors may receive financial support and housing for up to three months, providing they can submit evidence of their financially destitute situation and of the abuse they faced. Unfortunately, these escape routes are barely known to many migrants, which serves the best interests of the abusive offender.

A worrying event that is approaching in the near future are the drastic changes and reforms of EU immigration laws after the UK’s departure from the European Union. The new reforms may most likely lead to less support and protection for European victims. At the moment, if EU nationals are unable to provide the necessary documents and therefore fail to achieve Settled Status before 2020, they may fall through the cracks of the system. In years to come, victims of abuse may be confronted with harsh and stricter immigration rules or even punishment if found to be residing in the UK unlawfully.

While the draft Domestic Abuse Bill does mark a monumental change and progress in its support for victims of domestic violence, equality and justice for all women remains in the distant future. The UK government has massively reduced Legal Aid and closed refuges and crisis support teams all across the country which all serves as damning evidence that the current rights and protection for women and girls are not even close to sufficient.

The new bill is indeed a positive step forward, but human rights activists and campaigners continue to strive and fight for reforms, further funding to local refuges and advanced specialist support. A reexamination and consideration of the misery and life-threatening violence migrants face is desperately required in order to protect the lives of our most vulnerable, as we are all citizens of this planet and need to help one another.

Pia Subramaniam is a content writer and correspondent for the UK’s Immigration Advice Service. IAS is an organisation of leading immigration solicitors, providing free legal advice to victims of domestic abuse and human trafficking across the country. |@IASimmigration




If you would like to write content for White Ribbon UK please e-mail us.

Rape survivor tells Prime Minister she must fund support services

On behalf of the EVAW Coalition, we have been asked to pass on this very important message regarding the necessity for rape counselling support for survivors, and ask all our followers to sign the petition for change:

 Today (8 March, International Women’s Day) 25-year-old Fern Champion, who was raped in 2016, has launched a petition, and written to the Prime Minister asking her to ensure there is always specialist rape counselling support available for everyone who seeks it.

 Fern, who has waived her anonymity to put her name and face to the petition, was raped repeatedly one night by a stranger while she was travelling overseas. The attacker was never caught, but when Fern returned home to the UK and sought counselling, she was told her local Rape Crisis Centre’s waiting list was closed due to a funding shortfall.

 Fern tried repeatedly to get counselling over the next eight months at several centres but always found they were full and unable to help. Her mental health seriously deteriorated and she faced a potential crisis, but was unexpectedly, and unusually, offered support by her private sector employer.

After I've Gone - Competition

After I’ve Gone by Linda Green is available on  Amazon .

After I’ve Gone by Linda Green is available on Amazon.

Author Linda Green has very kindly donated a signed copy of her book, “After I’ve Gone” to White Ribbon UK. The book is set partly in Mytholmroyd (where White Ribbon UK offices are based), and tells the story of Jess, who was subjected to domestic violence by her boyfriend.

If you would like to be in with a chance to win a signed copy of the book, click the link below, register your details and answer the competition question.

Please note:

  • Your data will not be used for anything other than to contact you if you win. We will not pass your information onto any third parties, or contact you for any other reason.

  • Closing date for the competition is May 15th 2019.

  • The winner will be announced at the White Ribbon Conference 2019 on 5th June.

“After I’ve Gone” is available on Amazon, and part of the royalties from sales of the book will be donated to White Ribbon UK.

David Tennant speaks on behalf of White Ribbon UK ambassador

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David Tennant (actor, Broadchurch, Doctor Who) spoke at Care International’s March4Women last weekend in London.

Wearing a white ribbon, Tennant read out a testimony from White Ribbon ambassador, John Clough.

John started the Justice for Jane campaign after his daughter was murdered by her ex-partner.

John’s words are heartfelt, moving, but above all motivate us as a campaign to do more in our work against violence towards women:

Since Jane’s death, I have actively campaigned for change in the Criminal Justice System…

Together we have continued to be a voice for victims. For victims like my daughter, Jane. My daughter had so much love to give. Not just to us as her family, and her own child, my granddaughter. But to someone who would treat her with respect, and allow her to shine in her own right.

Every girl, every woman deserves that respect.

(Excerpt from John Clough’s testimonial, read by David Tennant at March4Women 2019)

John says he embraces the values that White Ribbon UK holds - to end all violence against women, once and for all. And shares the belief that men and boys must join this critical conversation, and be a vital part of the solution.

As ambassadors for ending the violence, and indeed as men, we must hear these words as a call to action. To no longer allow violence against women to be seen as a ‘women’s issue’. This is everyone’s issue and if we are to have any hope of creating a safer world for women, we must do this together; and with conviction.