A 16-day campaign to counter violence against women has been launched by Lewisham councillors and volunteer groups.
The initiative, which started on November 25, is part of White Ribbon Week, a global movement aiming to stop male violence against women and girls.The campaign has set up information stalls in both Lewisham Shopping Centre and Catford Town Centre.
In a bid to oppose gender-based violence, council staff and community members have also urged men to sign a pledge supporting behaviour change. Councillor Janet Daby, Cabinet Member for Community Safety, said: “As a society, we have made great strides in tackling violence against women, but there is still much work to do. In Lewisham, we are working hard to promote the message that abusive behaviour is totally unacceptable.”
Although Lewisham is the ‘safest’ borough for women in east London, with the least number of offences against women this year, police statistics still show that there were 1,451 cases of assault with injury along with 469 sexual offences reported.
In total, Lewisham recorded 6,492 cases of violence while Croydon recorded the highest number of cases with 7,653. Croydon has the largest population among our four boroughs. Tower Hamlets and Hackney, which have lower population than Lewisham, recorded 7,168 and 6,596 respectively.
Kim Ward, Vice Chair of Lewisham Vote Violence against Women and Girls, said: “We are promoting awareness of domestic violence and try to get many young boys to sign a pledge that they would not commit or condone any violence against women and girls.”
Chief Executive of White Ribbon Campaign in UK David Bartlett said about 25,000 men have signed the pledge for “never to commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.”
Police statistics show 52.6 per cent of violence victims and 88.8 per cent of rape victims in England and Wales from mid-2013 to 2014 were female. Women and girls aged 16 to 24 are the greatest vulnerable victims, whilst the least exposed to violence are women aged above 65.
After assisting six abused women with their recoveries in the borough this year, Ward has found that sexual violence is usually perpetrated by gangs, while domestic abuses are often a result of poverty.
Aside from domestic and financial difficulties, women are also struggling with mental health problems after being exposed to violence. Ward encourages more women to speak up, as there are still many unreported cases due to stigma. She said: “Some women feel ashamed and they do not come to our services.”
“Let [women] know and get them to understand the impact of domestic violence, especially if they’ve got children. They are showing the children what a relationship looks like, and they do not want their child growing and thinking that is okay to hit a woman.”