At first, it was aggressive texts. Then he took money from my wallet so I couldn’t go out with my friends. And then he knocked me unconscious and left me concussed for three days.
At first, it was aggressive texts. Then he took money from my wallet so I couldn’t go out with my friends. And then he knocked me unconscious and left me concussed for three days. I was in an abusive relationship for two years between 2009 and 2011. It was only after my ex-partner strangled me in a nightclub that the relationship ended for good. I left that night, I moved house and I never saw him again.
Survivors of domestic violence face a daunting journey, even after their abusive relationships end. I was terrified I tried to report what happened to me but only encountered barriers. I tried to tell the police and I was let down. I tried to tell my university what happened and was let down again.
When I ran for election in 2014 I was terrified it would give my ex-partner an opportunity to make contact. ‘I have witnessed and felt the casual and the often violent misogyny women experience and that still goes unchallenged’
Sadly my story is not unique: one in four women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. But more happily, I will not let my past determine my future. My experience has not silenced my voice, but informed me about what needs to change.
My experience of politics and my motivation for becoming a politician has been informed by my experience of being a woman. I have witnessed and felt the casual and the often violent misogyny women experience and that still goes unchallenged in many walks of life.
That’s why today in my conference speech I’m calling for violence against women that is clearly motivated by their gender to be recognised as a hate crime. From domestic abuse to rape, groping to stalking and harassment, it’s clear that women suffer abuse because of their gender. Because to tackle a problem, you first have to acknowledge that it exists.
Misogyny is brushed under the carpet in the UK Hate crime is already broken down into five strands – race, religion, sexual orientation, disability and transgender. But when the Green Party requested data from the Home Office on the gender of hate crime victims we were told that it simply didn’t exist. It’s a powerful symbol of the way misogyny is treated in this country: brushed under the carpet and ignored. ‘So many stay silent because society does not take misogynist violence seriously’ Reclassifying misogyny as a hate crime isn’t an overly ambitious point on an abstract wishlist. In two counties of England it’s happening already – with great success. Police in Nottingham started recording misogyny as a hate crime in 2016. In the first two months, an incident was reported to police every three days.
Earlier this year North Yorkshire police followed suit and announced a crackdown on misogyny. Progress is being made, except where it matters most – within the leadership of this country. An estimated 4.3 million women in the UK have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives since the age of 16. So many women have suffered at the hands of a friend, colleague, or stranger. But so many stay silent because society does not take misogynist violence seriously.
I want to reclaim a dark time in my life We must do better than this. When I first told my story earlier this year, the reaction spoke volumes about the pressure women feel to keep quiet. I was contacted by friends, acquaintances and strangers who had suffered in an abusive relationship the same as I did, or worse – were still suffering. They had many things in common, but most of all they felt alone and voiceless. My decision to tell my story meant I could reclaim a dark time in my life and bring it into the light. And I’m going to keep telling my story to reinforce that behind the dreadful statistics are real people with real stories. The Green Party is on a mission to lift the shadow of patriarchy from British politics. I want every one – of any sexuality, gender, and race – to come with us on that mission. We will all emerge more powerful and united because of it.