Frances Vigay, organiser of Saturday’s Women’s Solidarity Walk writes for PSN on why she has called the protest.
I’d like to welcome people to join us for a walk this Saturday 5th July at Hilsea Lines, in solidarity with the two women who have been attacked in the last couple of weeks in Portsmouth. The walk is also to inspire solidarity for all the women who are affected by the impact of violence and the threat of violence which I believe is most of us. Apart from these two latest attacks, in the last few weeks there was also an indecent assault on a 23 yr old woman in the city centre on a Monday afternoon (23rd June) and a woman in her 50s reported being assaulted by a man on Tuesday 24th June about 10.45pm.
The stabbing of a woman walking her dog at Hilsea Lines on a Sunday morning, particularly touched me when I read about it as this is a place I regularly walk alone with my dog. The police have warned women to be alert. It reminded me of how I am always partially alert. However relaxed I am feeling I never quite completely throw off that awareness in the back of my mind, that I am a woman walking alone and that in a society where abuse or violence from men is common, that makes me appear vulnerable (whether I am consciously feeling it or not).
When we hear of attacks on women it is not only hugely damaging to the lives of the women directly affected but increases the fear and restrictions of women generally. Some of the comments written after Hampshire Constabulary reported on the attacks were:
“I as a young mum feel too frightened to leave the house with my little one”
“I’ve got to go out today but all I’m going to be worried about is being approached”
“I wouldn’t be out on my own”
“I now feel really unsafe”
I have also heard comments which imply women shouldn’t be walking in isolated places like that.
My feeling is that we should never collude with any suggestion that the problem of male violence can be solved by adapting women’s behaviour, clothing, choice of walking location, or anything else. The famous quote from a Police Representative in Toronto, 2011, that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized”, which inspired the ‘slut’ walk is a good example of how blame is so misplaced in cultures which are deeply entrenched in sexism.
I also feel that we need to find ways to build solidarity and support networks broadly in our communities, to empower and strengthen women in the face of events which have the effect of increasing fear and a sense of isolation.
This is why I wanted to organise this walk. To walk together where this attack took place to show unconditional support for these women who were attacked and to also demonstrate our support for each other and our total support for the principle that women should feel able to walk where we want, alone or not, without fear of attack or abuse, and ideally, without even that little voice in the back of our minds saying ‘I am a woman, which means I am not safe’.
An EU report in March on violence against women reported that 64% of women in the study avoid places or situations for fear of being physically or sexually assaulted. This is not acceptable.
A few weeks ago, 5000 people marched in Glasgow against violence against women after a number of rapes and attacks on women in the city. This was an immensely powerful demonstration of support for local women and has important repercussions on the re-education of society that violence against women is not to be expected, assumed or tolerated in any way.
We’ll meet at 11am at the end of Peronne Road and walk Eastwards towards the railway bridge before returning. All are welcome who wish to support. Please join us! Our Facebook event is here