A special vigil will be held in Liverpool on November 25, to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls.
The vigil, which is being organised by Liverpool Domestic Abuse Service (LDAS) in association with Amadudu and Kuumba Imani, aims to honour the memory of local women and girls who have lost their lives to male violence.
And the vigil comes at a particularly poignant time. Since the COVID-19 outbreak in March last year, data and reports suggest that violence against women and girls across the UK has intensified and is now being referred to as the shadow pandemic.
The deaths of Sarah Everard and Sabina Nessa raised public consciousness around violence against women and girls and exposed deep-rooted and systemic failures at the hands of those entrusted to protect.
Sadly, these were not rare events. Three women are murdered every week in this country and since the death of Sarah Everard in March, it is reported that 83 more women have been murdered in circumstances where the perpetrator is a man.
In February this year, figures from Merseyside Police revealed that nearly 20,000 more cases of domestic abuse had been reported since the start of the pandemic. There were five domestic homicides recorded in the Liverpool City Region in 2020, and a further three deaths ruled as suicide associated with domestic abuse.
The city’s front line services have been left under unsurmountable pressure. In the last 12months, LDAS have been contacted by more than 2,500 women and girls – an increase on the previous year of 39%. Director of policy and research for LDAS, Caroline Grant, says she predicts those figures will be greatly exceeded by the end of the year.
Caroline says: “It has been obvious to us for some time now that the role gender plays in domestic abuse has been systematically eroded within local policy. We have seen the damage first-hand in delivering gender neutral responses, both for funding and policy and the affect it has had on the women we help.
“VAWG keeps disappearing off the agenda and we’re seeing women become invisible, even in death. This was clearly evidenced in February this year when we lost three local women to male violence in one weekend. This atrocity was met with silence from all our local leaders.
“LDAS, advocates for women in life and unfortunately now in death, called for acknowledgement of this loss and asked to see meaningful change.
“We were encouraged to see a response from some of our leaders and welcome the latest moves from new officials to develop meaningful VAWG strategies as a collaboration.
“However, it is shameful we have had to fight for abused women to be seen in life and in death. We hope that those who loved those women can take some small comfort from the fact that we saw them in life, we remember them in death and that each year we will honour their memory.”
Last month, The Women’s Organisation wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister calling for direct action to protect women and girls from violence and abuse.
In it, chief executive Maggie O’Carroll, said: “Violence against women and girls is a deep-rooted societal issue and in real terms, what we require is a culture change. An awful lot of work must be done to fundamentally change misogynistic attitude and improve education around healthy relationships and sexual consent.
“Enough platitudes. It is time for real reform. Root and branch action is required at multiple levels, along with genuine and intensive investment in wholesale culture change, education, housing refuge and VAWG service.
“Let us not need to resort to using another face, another rape or another death of a woman or girl to talk about and take action around prevention.”
Remembering Liverpool’s Lost Women vigil will take place on Thursday, November 25 at Derby Square. Mayor Joanne Anderson, PCC Emily Spurrell, Paula Barker MP, Kim Johnson MP, Maggie O’Carrol CEO of the Women’s Organisation and Reclaim the Night will all be speaking out in support.
There will also be music from Jennifer John and the Sense of Sound Choir, readings from poet Natalie Denny and words from the families of some of the women we have lost.