In 2013, Sasha marsden, a 16-year-old student, went to a Blackpool hotel for what she thought was an interview for a part-time cleaning job. The man she met, David Minto, 23, had lured her there under false pretenses. He then sexually assaulted her and stabbed her 58 times. Sasha could only be identified by DNA taken from her toothbrush. Minto was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but for Sasha’s family, their pain has no time limit.
Gemma Aitchison, Sasha’s sister, created YES Matters UK in response to the murder. “I wanted to know why this happened to Sasha and what I could do about it,” he explains. Part of what your organization does is talk to young people about consent, body image, pornography, and the influence of the media. “What I know now is that as long as women are treated as objects and not as people, we will continue to be disposable.”
This wednesday is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which will see the start of 16 days of activism against gender violence worldwide. That same day he also sees the publication in the UK of a pioneering report, Census of femicides, which, for the first time in Britain, looks at the gruesome killings of women and girls, aged 14 to 100, by men over a 10-year period, 2009-2018. The census defines “femicide” as “the fatal violence of men against women” and reveals that, on average, a woman is murdered every three days, a shocking statistic that has not changed over the decade. This despite increased public awareness, further investigation, changes in the law, and better training for the police. “Patterns of male violence are persistent and enduring,” the report states.
The scandalous lack of progress in reducing femicide in the UK is partly due to the fact that each murder is treated by various agencies as “an isolated incident” and “is not of general public concern”. As a result, the report says, information received from the police through, for example, Freedom of Information requests, may be “scant, inaccurate or incomplete”; Coroners’ reports often do not refer to a history of male violence, while official documents such as Independent Office of Police Conduct reports and domestic homicide reviews are difficult to access, all of which, along with coverage of the media, are incorporated into the census database. .
“To solve a problem, you need to be able to tell what it is,” says Karen Ingala Smith, CEO of Nia, a charity against domestic and sexual violence. She and Clarissa O’Callaghan, a former attorney and now restaurateur, posted the first census of femicides, a 2009-15 six-year review, in 2016. Three annual reports have since been followed up with the help of a small team of part-time investigators and the pro bono support of Freshfields Bruckhouse Deringer, an international law firm, and Deloitte consultants.
Now, with a decade of deaths to remember, the census draws some damning conclusions about patterns of abuse and violence, and what could have been … or should have been – detected by the authorities.
Of the 1,425 victims, almost half were killed by “a sharp instrument”, sometimes with additional brutal violence (classified as “excessive killing”). “The most common form of femicide is stabbing,” says Ingala Smith. “However, most knife crime strategies focus on teens and gang crime. Strangulation was the second method. Non-fatal strangulation is often part of a pattern of abuse that is not sufficiently recognized and investigated. Ingala Smith and O’Callaghan support the campaign for the Center for Women’s Justice to add an amendment to the domestic abuse bill, which will become law next year, to include a new non-fatal strangulation offense.
62% of the deceased women (888) were killed by a current or former partner, the majority in their own homes. Four in 10 of these women were preparing to leave or had already separated, a crucial period and a missed opportunity for the police and others on the front lines, such as GPs and mental health advocates, to avoid a murder. “‘Home is where the heart is’ is a bitter lie to many women,” says the report.
A history of abuse was evident in at least 611 cases (59%), including coercive control, stalking, harassment, and physical, financial, and emotional abuse. One third of the women had reported their abuse to the police. They still died.
The census of femicides originally came about thanks to Kirsty Treloar, a 20-year-old nursery nurse, who had asked for help. The police had referred her to Nia, Ingala Smith’s organization. On January 2, 2012, Treloar She was stabbed 29 times by her abusive boyfriend, Myles Williams, 19. “I Googled Kirsty because they told us very little about her death,” explains Ingala Smith. “That’s when I saw the shocking number of death reports that year.”
Eight women were murdered in the first three days of 2012. Ingala Smith created a website, Counting Dead Women (CDW), now replicated around the world. While CDW records all murders, the census team investigates and includes only cases where “it can be legally said: a man has killed this woman.”
“It can’t be the case that we are the only ones collecting data like this,” says Ingala Smith. “But we are. From the beginning, it was essential to include all the circumstances in which men kill women, not just femicides of husbands, partners and relatives.” O’Callaghan adds: “The state does not protect women, does not implement policies, does not accept recommendations. You can spend time on training, but if, in the field, you do not implement available tools, including court orders, non-abuse orders and bail conditions, you are not saving life of women, and that is a human rights problem. “
During the decade, sexual motivation killed 57 women (4%). A perpetrator raped and killed a 50-year-old woman in their first encounter. He had internal wounds and bite marks. Thirty-two murdered women had been involved in the sex industry. 16% of the victims were born outside the UK, but ethnicity was recorded by police in only one fifth of the cases. The provisions of the draft law on domestic abuse exclude migrant women. “If services are not aware of the reality that violence against women occurs from all origins, they are less likely to identify people at risk,” the census notes.
Ingala Smith and O’Callaghan say the state’s response is also dangerously gender blind. Globally, while homicide numbers are declining, femicide is on the rise. “We have a bill on domestic abuse, not a bill to end violence against women and girls,” says Ingala Smith. “That minimizes the sex differences. Men who kill do so in a context of endemic sex discrimination in a society that normalizes male predatory behavior from an early age and is too eager to blame the victims.
The census indicates that the United Kingdom remains one of the few countries in Europe that has not ratified the Istanbul Convention, which is based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). “It recognizes that men’s violence against women and girls will not be eradicated without fundamentally addressing sexual inequality and the beliefs, attitudes and institutions that underpin it,” the census notes.
Eleven women were killed by their grandchildren. “If you focus only on intimate partner violence, you are missing a whole spectrum of violence that can also be generational,” says the report. “Hidden homicides” are excluded from the census. In one case, for example, it was decided that a woman had stabbed herself, although a witness said otherwise. “There should be more professional curiosity when a sudden death occurs in the context of domestic abuse,” says criminologist Dr. Jane Monckton Smith in the report.
The subtitle for the femicide census is “If I’m not here on Friday, I could be dead.” These are the words of Judith Nibbs, mother of five, who was beheaded by her husband of 30 years, Dempsey Nibbs. The report is dedicated to her memory and to every femicide victim during the decade, every name on the list. “People say, ‘Only a few women die a week,'” says Gemma Aitchison. “But a few women have passed a week since I was born, and I am 34 years old. It is a great systemic problem. The census says these women are important. “
The census of femicides concludes with a series of recommendations, including comprehensive collection of sex-disaggregated data, ratification of the Istanbul Convention, and better funding. Domestic abuse costs society more than £ 66 billion a year. A report from last year calculated that £ 393 million per year it is necessary to provide security and support, but funding is a fraction of that. In the confinement, femicide has increased.
“If this government is truly committed to ending male violence against women, it needs the support of all parties for a long-term, women-centered approach that recognizes that sexual inequality is intrinsic to a patriarchal society,” she says. Ingala Smith. “It could start if the state institutions did their job correctly.”
The census is a single point of reference for accountability. However, its future is in doubt. “We depend on donations and pro bono support,” says Ingala Smith. “I wish we could say that we will be here for the next 10 years, but we cannot. If we don’t do this job, who else will? “
2019 Femicide Victims (main image, at the top of this feature):
Top row, left to right: Aliny Mendes, 39; Sarah Henshaw, 40; Rosie Darbyshire, 27; Charlotte Huggins, 33; Jodie Chesney, 17; Leanne Unsworth, 40 years old.
Second row, left to right: Sarah Fuller, 35; Amy Parsons, 35; Asma Begum, 31 years old; Elize Stevens, 50 years old; Laureline García-Bertaux, 34 years old; Antoinette Donnegan, 52 years old.
Third row, left to right: Lucy Rushton, 30; Kelly Fauvrelle, 26; Dorothy Woolmer, 89; Bethany Fields, 21; Megan Newton, 18 years old; Ellie Gould, 17 years old.
Fourth row, from left to right: Suvekshya Burathoki, 32 years old; Julia Rawson, 42 years old; Diane Dyer, 61 years old; Kayleigh Hanks, 29 years old; Keeley Bunker, 20 years old; Joanne Hamer, 48 years old.
Bottom row, left to right: Sarah Hassall, 38; Nicola Stevenson, 39; Angela Tarver, 86; Leah Fray, 27; Mihrican Mustafa, 38; Sammy-Lee Lodwig, 22 years old.
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