Protesters gather in Cheltenham for silent protest to raise awareness of ‘femicide’


Protesters gathered in Cheltenham this afternoon for International Women’s Day.

A silent protest took place outside Marks & Spencer in the town centre to raise awareness of domestic violence against women, in particular “femcide” (female homicide).

Protesters marched into the centre wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the names of women across the UK who were victims of homicide and who, the protesters say, history has forgotten.

Protesters Maddie Dennis and Annie White
Protesters Maddie Dennis and Annie White

Last month it was reported by the Office for National Statistics that the number of female homicide victims had risen by 10 per cent in the past year.

Today’s protest was initiated by University of Gloucestershire students Annie White and Maisie Dennis, who study Criminology at the university and explained why it was important to highlight the issue today.

“We just want to give a name to these people, give them a face and a personality,” said Annie. “Because sometimes they can just be lost in the statistics, which is the sad thing.”

“It’s important that they’re named,” said Maisie. “They’re not just a number – they’re people and they had lives.”

Joining the young protesters was Dr Jane Monckton Smith, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at University of Gloucestershire and a pioneer of the eight stages of domestic abuse.

She says that homicides against women are often born from abusive relationships and that signs of a victim of domestic abuse can be spotted early on, which can in turn prevent another tragedy.

She said: “The main reason we want to protest today is to bring awareness to the amount of homicides against women and to bring awareness to people that we can stop them.

“The more people know about how these homicides happen the more of a chance we have of stopping them.

“International Women’s Day is really important for this, because 82 per cent of homicide victims will be women, so it’s really relevant.”

She added that by raising awareness, the protest will have an affect on police attitudes to cases of female homicide: “When the police recognise that these aren’t crimes of passion, that they are predictable and we can see that they’re going to happen.

“When sudden, unexpected deaths are discovered by police we want them to call it a crime scene straight away so that they can get the evidence they need.”

Also amongst the protesters is Sue Haile, who works with victims of domestic abuse and often their bereaved families.

She references cases such as Katie Wilding, who died in 2015 after being involved in an abusive relationship, as examples of the tragic ends that abusive relationships can come to.

Sue says the “eight stages” referenced by Dr Monckton-Smith are a pattern she sees on a regular basis in her work: “I look back at all the cases of domestic abuse that I have observed and been involved in and ninety-nine per cent fit the eight stages.

“The more we get that out to people, the more it will help everybody – not just the agencies dealing with victims but the victims themselves.

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“They’ll recognise it earlier and will allow police to intervene earlier.”

She adds that when campaigning on these issues, she is often confronted by people asking her why their protests are not highlighting domestic violence against men as well.

“I think everywhere we go, we get that question,” she said. “The fact is that ninety per cent of victims of domestic abuse are women.

“Yes, men do get abused, but it is generally in same-sex relationships.

“Yes, there are violent women, that is true – but it is mostly men who are violent.”

The group held up placards to drive home their point to the Sunday afternoon crowds, with one reading the statistic “114 women murdered in 2019. It’s a societal issue, not a home issue.”

Jane added that the protest was using International Women’s Day to highlight an aspect of the criminal justice system that needs to change its ways.

“We’re lucky that coercive control is criminalised in the UK, but we need police to be so aware of signs of domestic abuse and coercive control that it has an effect in the courts as well,” she said.

Domestic violence or abuse can happen to anyone – find out how and where to get help.

Advice from the NHS says that If you are at risk of domestic abuse or violence you can:

The Survivor’s Handbook from the charity Women’s Aid is free, and provides information for women on a wide range of issues, such as housing, money, helping your children, and your legal rights.

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Men can also email info@mensadviceline.org.uk, which can refer men to local places that can help, such as health services and voluntary organisations.

For forced marriage and “honour” crimes, contact Karma Nirvana (0800 5999 247) or The Forced Marriage Unit (020 7008 0151).

Galop provides support to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people experiencing domestic violence.

Anyone who needs confidential help with their own abusive behaviour can contact Respect on their free helpline on 0808 802 4040.

“We cannot just walk away and say ‘oh, they were just having an argument.’

“When we realise the true extent of domestic abuse, it can go up on the political agenda it might give it more status and more resources.

“What we want to change is for people to be held accountable for violence against women.”





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