Berlin – It’s that time again on Thursday: November 25th, the International Day against Violence against Women. As every year, there is great outrage and horror. Politicians seriously refer to the figures from the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) on intimate partner violence, which were published on Tuesday, and promise improvement. And then, just a few days later, the topic is tucked away at the bottom of the drawer. The women are completely forgotten. You become a number in statistics again. And rape and femicides continue to be titled as tragedies and dramas on the panorama pages of the newspapers.
Gender-based violence increases every year in Germany – domestic violence, sexual violence, digital violence. In the partnership alone, violence in 2020 increased again by a good five percent compared to the previous year, according to the BKA. 80.5 percent of the victims are female. 79.1 percent of the suspects are men.
Violence against women has intensified in the pandemic
The pandemic only intensified the violence, especially in the area of domestic violence. No wonder: in the corona lockdown, the women were virtually locked in with the perpetrators. This is also shown by the numerous calls that came in on the help line. Violence protection clinics also report that there were particularly serious medical cases in the lockdown, with seriously injured, sometimes life-threatening women.
How can it be that a woman who leaves her partner must fear she will be killed? How can it be that men still believe that they own a woman? And how can it be that women still cannot feel safe when they are out and about on their own?
The violence doesn’t even begin with a punch. Threats, stalking, insults, catcalling, i.e. sexually suggestive shouting, talking, whistling – all these are forms of violence that are embedded in social and structural power relations that disadvantage women. Violence against women is ultimately an expression of a power imbalance between the sexes.
Violence against women is not a problem for women
And how do we as a society react to this? We focus on those affected. Girls and women have to learn early on how to prepare for everyday life: keys in their fingers, pepper spray, cell phone in hand. And the hand sign with the folded thumb has also established itself as a cry for help for women affected by violence.
Public campaigns on domestic and sexual violence are also primarily aimed at those affected. And yes, that’s all important and right. You have to inform about offers of help, which unfortunately fall far short. In recent years, for example, many affected women and children could not be admitted to women’s shelters due to the lack of space; nationwide there are still 15,000 places missing – a sign of poverty.
With the constant focus on those affected, however, the narrative seems to prevail that violence against women is also a problem for women. But that’s not it! The fact is that men are mostly responsible for gender-based violence. But these are rarely addressed in awareness-raising campaigns. Even if women experience violence in partnerships, they are advised to seek therapy in family courts while not a single word is said about male violence, reports Berlin lawyer Asha Hedayati on Twitter. How can that be? It says: “Women, protect yourselves! Look for help, let yourself be treated! ”But we would have to say:“ Men – finally take responsibility, attend anti-violence training courses, don’t be a damn perpetrator! ”
More work with perpetrators, more conflict counseling for men
We urgently need more conflict counseling, more work with perpetrators and more campaigns that target men. The Scottish Police, for example, provided a positive example this year. With their campaign “Don’t be that guy”, translated: “Don’t be that guy”, the police are explicitly targeting men. The campaign will be featured on a homepage as well as on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Workshops for men and boys are also offered to help them deal critically with their own behavior.
We need campaigns and projects like this in Germany too. Perhaps men should finally take this International Day Against Violence against Women as an opportunity to reflect for themselves. Some already do. But the figures from the BKA speak for themselves, why it is not enough.