In our first instalment of our interview, Zero Tolerance Project Officer Charlotte Gage sits down with Guardian Columnist and Everyday Sexism Founder Laura Bates to discuss Bristol’s new initiative to tackle gender-based violence and how best we should be tackling violence both in Bristol, but nationally too.
ZT: What do you think about Zero Tolerance as a city-wide initiative?
LB: It is a fantastic idea, linking up existing initiatives can be really powerful. I love the idea of approaching things on different levels at the same time – calling on individuals, businesses, local authorities together is a powerful way to create change.
ZT: What do you think a zero tolerance city could look like?
LB: A zero tolerance city should be about safety with people able to access public spaces without fear. This not just about women, but about the many different intersections in inequality – often, people can face multiple inequalities including race, sexual identity, disability who may not have the coping mechanisms that for many become part of everyday life. I also would want to see a reduction in the micro-aggression reflected a higher level – for example, it would be great to see shifts in diversity of representation, within the treatment of women in the workplace. This initiative could have huge ripple effects!
ZT: Why is addressing gender based violence important to you?
LB: Having run the Everyday Sexism Project, I have collected and read thousands of experiences – whether that is the schoolgirl for putting her hand up less because boys in class tell her to get back into the kitchen, or whether it is a woman who cannot use certain streets because she feels unsafe, whether it is someone who is sacked for being pregnant, or whether someone is a victim of domestic violence – these personal stores gives you a drive to want to change things.
ZT: A lot of people think that “domestic violence” is a private matter. What are your thoughts on this?
LB: It is vital that we start talking about it not being a problem behind closed doors. It isn’t ‘domestic’ – gender based violence is everybody’s business, it is a human rights issue and we all have a responsibility to play a part. It is easy for people to use those kinds of arguments to try and step back from the problem, the reality is that nobody can do everything, but everybody can do something. Step up and look at what that role can be!
ZT: If you were Prime Minister, what top three things would you change to address gender based violence?
LB: My first priority would be to make sex and relationships education compulsory, specifically to address online pornography, gender stereotypes, healthy relationships and sexual consent. I find it flabbergasting that in 2015, this isn’t the case. In a society where 85,000 women are raped in England and Wales every year, 400,000 are assaulted yet we are not taking action at a level where we can can reach everybody with age appropriate messages. I find this absolutely astounding!
My second priority would be to give training to the police and the judiciary on victim blaming. In the most recent British Attitudes Survey, over one third of the public think that a woman in partially, if not fully to blame for being raped if she flirted beforehand with her attacker, and over ¼ think she is responsibility (at least partially) if she has been drinking. Then when 26% of assaults are recorded as no crimes, this highlights the problem of victim blaming amongst judges and the police.
My third priority would be to look at recent legislation that has been wrongly changed under the last government. For example, tribunal fees and third party harassment. Tribunal fees are now £1200 upfront costs, and this change has seen the number of cases plummet by 80%. These fees provide a barrier to justice.
Stay tuned for the second part of this interview … published during 16 Days of Activism