by Eve Lewis
Last week, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – the latest film in the Harry Potter franchise – was released in cinemas with an expected $250 million box office grossing for that weekend alone. In the same week, two women statistically fell victim to domestic homicide in the UK, and a further 23,000 women experienced some form of domestic abuse by a partner or family member. Somehow though, GQ magazine was still able to run their November issue with a cover of the Fantastic Beasts star Johnny Depp, and an interview in which his domestic abuse allegations constructed him as a romanticised “outlaw.”
Time and time again we can see this pattern; actors with allegations of abuse against them (and actors who have even admitted to assaulting women, such as Louis CK) continue to work within their industry unhindered. For them, the abuse that they have committed (allegedly or in actuality) becomes the punchline to a joke, or a talking point in an interview; it does not become their entire public persona or fix the way in which they are viewed on the whole. Moreover, we only have to look back a month to the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh as Supreme Court Justice to see that men continuing with their careers and lives following accusations of being violent towards women is not just limited to Hollywood. In fact many victims of sexual assult are students, 1 in 3 female students are recorded to be victims. A new online disclosure form run by Cardiff University which has seen 101 students report incidents since October 2017, a significant proportion were cases of abuse within relationships, the others consisted of 30 cases of rape and 40 sexual assaults.
For these men the consequences of abuse are not real. The unfortunate result of public figures such as these continuing on as if nothing happened is that domestic abuse continues to rise because abusers are taught that they have nothing to fear. In fact, domestic violence in London increased threefold in the past year alone, and it is now predicted that one quarter of all women in the UK will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetimes.
However, with the rise of violence against women, we have also seen the emergence of incredible organisations attempting to combat this epidemic. Although the sheer number of these organisations is a sobering reminder of their necessity, the fact that so many people care about the wellbeing of women who have experienced abuse is heartening and should provide us with hope. One such organisation is sTandTall – an amazing charity which aims to help women and girls who have experienced abuse get back on their feet and achieve their full potential.
Over the past two months, I have been lucky enough to help sTandTall with their mission to build a directory of abuse and bullying resources, and to speak to dozens of people from UK charities who are passionate about eradicating violence against women and girls. Going through many websites for services and charities to add to the directory, it has become apparent to me that the first step in combatting domestic abuse is education – education on what different forms domestic abuse can take, how to spot it, and then on what to do and who to turn to if you find yourself or someone you know in an abusive situation.
So I encourage everyone reading this to educate yourselves. Go to standtall.org and give it a browse; look at the websites of the different charities on the directory and do some research; maybe even consider volunteering for one of them. Domestic abuse is no longer an issue we can remain ignorant of or silent on. It is an issue which permeates every part of our society, and one which requires us to take action.