Violence against women: ‘cultural change’ needed as women experience abuse ‘in every area of their lives’

Hundreds of women took part in a survey asking about what made them feel unsafe

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A stark warning has been issued that women are experiencing harassment and abuse in “every area of their lives” and “cultural change” is needed to make progress.

It comes as responses to an innovative survey included avoiding walking down one of Scotland’s busiest city centre streets over safety fears and a lack of lighting creating no-go areas.

Hundreds of women gave their views in the survey, which was carried out by Wise Women Glasgow along with other organisations, on what makes them feel unsafe.

The survey, which started in December ended on Tuesday (1 March) and saw the use of a heatmap so women could pinpoint which areas of the city they felt unsafe as well as highlighting concerning behaviour.

And plans are underway to carry out another study - this time of men to ask them about incidents where they have seen women being harassed and what they did about it.

Wise Women have carried out a survey into what makes women in Glasgow feel unsafe.Wise Women have carried out a survey into what makes women in Glasgow feel unsafe.
Wise Women have carried out a survey into what makes women in Glasgow feel unsafe.

How many women took part in the survey?

More than 400 contributions from women were received, with those taking part able to access the survey online or through an app.

The survey which was launched on International Human Rights Day on 10 December, in partnership with Glasgow Girls Club, Commonplace and Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership.

Strategic manager for Wise Women Glasgow, Dawn Fyfe said she saw other similar projects which had been carried out in England and thought it would be a good way to do an updated survey which would also embrace young women.

She said: “I was really keen for an app because if you see a poster the chances are at that point you are not experiencing harassment and abuse.

“Taking down the details could have been difficult, it was just so women could download the app if they ever needed it and so they could share it with friends.

“The project itself has moved from being about statistics and information from women at the point of challenges to a project that’s much bigger now.”

Dawn said they were now looking at how to influence decision making and strategic working groups, as well as looking at if there were groups or communities, for example schools where more needed to be done.

She said: “It’s exciting and people are committed to it because I think there has been a shift in attitude and also during the pandemic the voluntary sector was engaged more in strategic working we can take advantage of that.”

Once the statistics from the survey are back Wise Women plans to look at carrying out focus groups.

The survey has been carried out using a heatmap.The survey has been carried out using a heatmap.
The survey has been carried out using a heatmap.

What sort of responses has the survey received?

One of the concerns raised was about a lack of lighting in certain places, although other issues have also been brought up.

Dawn said: “What we have noticed we have got a specific part on the map that is about lighting and we are getting a lot of comments back on that.

“There’s a definite issue with lighting. There’s an issue with no go areas due to lighting. The challenge is, and we’ve been in discussion with Glasgow City Council about this, you can light things up as much as you want and women might feel a bit better.

“One of the women was speaking about lighting up bus stops as it’s scary standing there and it’s dark. Individually it’s an issue, however we are aware if you light up one area men might move to another area. We are very very aware that lighting isn’t the only issue and that there’s a cultural change needed. We are in talks with how to move that forward.”

The survey has received hundreds of responses.The survey has received hundreds of responses.
The survey has received hundreds of responses.

Although some women might avoid walking down quiet lanes and stick to busy streets, Dawn highlighted how one of the responses showed how some women feel unsafe in busier areas.

She said: “Some of the interesting things some of the information that kind of contradicts that one of the women was talking about how she walks down the lanes on a Saturday night when it’s busy rather than Sauchiehall Street as it’s too dangerous.

“Our expectation was that women would think the lanes were dangerous, but actually because the amount of harassment she’s got on the street she’s going in alternative directions. So I think information like that is going to be really interesting to think about how we move this forward.”

When will the men’s survey take place?

The initial findings of the survey will be released at an event on International Women’s Day event on 8 March. After a final report into the findings there are plans to run a men’s survey over a three-month period.

Dawn said: “We’re looking at rolling out a survey for men to identify where they see women being harassed and abused and for them to tell us what they had done about it and, if they couldn’t do anything about it, why not and what was the outcome.

“We recognise there’s challenges for men as well but if we seriously want to change the culture what we are keen to do is shift the discussion. So that it’s connected, men will see it as being connected but we are also saying to them something has to be done here.”

Once all the information is back the group will look at how to take things forward and will have discussions with other sectors.

Dawn said: “There’s so many priorities because it’s not just a public safety issue, women are experiencing harassment and abuse in every areas of their lives but it’s thinking at how we strategically look at that and it’s got to be about cultural change.

“The thing for us is we totally recognise it is not women’s responsibility - male violence isn’t women’s responsibility.

We are not saying women should be adjusting their lifestyles, we are not saying they should be changing their journeys. What we are saying is tell us what’s going on and until men are  held accountable and desist from harassment and abuse Glasgow City Council is open to having that discussion about how we make it safer for women.”

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