Don’t run alone – useful advice for women or a continuation of victim blaming?

by Jade Secker

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Image from #ThisGirlCan 

How many people run in the UK? Whether as a means of stress relief, to get fit or as part of a running club; the numbers are in their millions. Especially with the warmer weather on the way and the London Marathon sprinkling inspiration across the nation. Furthermore, with thanks to campaigns such as “This Girl Can”, a record number of women are now putting on their trainers and heading for the outdoors. This is great news; not only for the nations physical health but exercise is also known to reduce stress and anxiety and so could have a positive impact on mental health too.

REACTIONS ARE DISTURBING

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Imagery from the #JogOn campaign

However, disturbingly, I recently came across the #JogOn campaign released by Avon and Somerset Police Force urging women to only run in pairs or groups to help prevent sexual abuse and threatening behaviour from men. This goes hand in hand with other statements from police forces advising women to not wear headphones whilst out walking or running, again, to avoid becoming the prey of sexual predators lurking in society.

 

FUELLING A VICTIM BLAMING CULTURE

Now whilst this may be seen by many as simple advice to try and tackle a growing issue, for me it is fuelling a victim blaming culture that puts the responsibility on women to change very normal behaviours and avoids the real problem.

Jessica Eaton, a campaigner against sexual violence commented saying,

“Headphones don’t rape women, nor do skirts, or dark streets, or clubs, or alcohol, or parties, or sleepovers, or school uniforms. Name the perpetrators. Name the problem. We can’t help if we can’t even name it.”

And I could not agree more.

IT IS CATEGORICALLY WRONG

How many reports of sexual assault do we see where the article will comment on what a woman was wearing or where she was walking alone when an attack took place. Why does this matter? Wording like this adds to a belief that ‘she was asking for it,’ and this is categorically wrong. It is not illegal to walk alone, wear headphones, or wear a short skirt. However, it IS illegal to physically assault, harass or rape someone.

WE NEED TO REJECT THE NOTION

crime scene do not cross signage

As a society we need to stop putting the onus on women to change their behaviour – behaviours that we all exhibit and should be free to, without having to worry whether we may or may not get attacked.  Instead we need to turn our attention to the crimes taking place on a daily basis and reject any notion of this being acceptable behaviour.

LET’S STOP PRETENDING

Unfortunately, we do live in a scary world and so there is a level of personal care and safety that everyone should undertake; this I understand. However, if we stand any sort of chance to tackling the breadth of these crimes, we need to see a major shift in focus and stop turning a blind eye to what is truly going on.

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Let’s stop suggesting changes women need to make to prevent attacks happening to them and shift our attention to putting firmer laws and punishments into place to stop attacks happening in the first place; fundamentally, this is much closer to the core of the problem and the only thing that will ever make violent individuals accountable for their actions.

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Jade Secker is the senior community fundraiser at The Haven Wolverhampton. You can connect with Jade Secker on LinkedIn hereThe Haven Wolverhampton is a charity that supporting women and dependent children who are vulnerable to domestic violence, homelessness and abuse. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, or visit there website here.

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Inclusion in the charity sector: why do we need it?

by Siobhan Corria

I didn’t think twice when I saw a shout out for contributors to ‘Great Charity Speakers’. When founder, Mandy Johnson suggested I write about inclusion and the charity sector, I jumped at the chance. Firstly, a bit of background as to who I am and why I am involved in championing equality, diversity and inclusive (EDI) practice in the charity sector.

A BIT ABOUT ME

I have been the Head of Inclusion for Action for Children for five years. Before taking up this post, I was a local councillor in Cardiff. Prior to that I did a degree in Criminal Justice and Policing, worked as a Case Manager in Youth Justice and a Social Worker for looked after children before entering politics (during which time I was Scrutiny Chair for Children’s Services and education and Cabinet Member for Children’s Services). My interests lie in social justice, inequality and social inclusion.

I have seen women struggle, I have seen that struggle made worse by working within some of the oppressive structures that exist within society.

It was during my two and a half years in politics that I experienced what it was like not to fit a stereotype, to experience a subtle culture of sexism and to not fit in. When I was appointed as Head of Inclusion for Action for Children, I couldn’t quite believe it. I could combine championing diversity and (indirectly) improving outcomes for children, young people and families by supporting colleagues to fully be themselves.

There are not many posts like mine within the charity sector and I don’t think there are any UK wide inclusion posts that are based outside of London. I am based in Cardiff. Diversity tick box #1.

WHY DOES THE CHARITY SECTOR NEED INCLUSION EXPERTS?

We are the charity sector. Surely our values and principles are sound, and we can sleep tight at night. Well, the sector may think its values and principles are sound, but what about its behaviour?

The sector can sleep tight at night because it doesn’t reflect on its behaviour.

It doesn’t have time to reflect, because it doesn’t factor in reflection as a key activity in ensuring excellent services, successful campaigning and lobbying are inclusive and representative of our diverse communities.

THE SECTOR IS COMPLACENT

Managing a diverse, creative, imaginative and innovative team is more demanding because breaking up the status quo is much more difficult than maintaining it. Sometimes, when individuals in the charity sector get where they want and/or need to be, they deviate from disrupting how things stand. Jobs like mine are the conscience in a comfortable sector.

WHY IS EQUALITY, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION ESSENTIAL WITHIN THE THIRD SECTOR?

Winning contracts, increasing supporters and recruiting and retaining the most talented staff are requirements across the sector, so why is inclusion so important?

An inclusive and diverse working environment is crucial within service delivery so that staff and volunteers feel inspired and supported to develop new ideas and concepts.

When working operationally, it can feel that the emphasis is on meeting key performance indicators, so imaginative, innovative and radical concepts from a diverse mix of employees must be encouraged.

FIVE REASONS WHY INCLUSION IS IMPORTANT

I believe there are five key points that needs to be considered when thinking about the importance of inclusion and improving outcomes for children and young people:

  1. The staff and volunteer complement need to reflect the backgrounds of the children, young people and parents who access the service. This will immediately assist in building trust between the service users and the practitioners.
  2. Practitioners who are supported to be themselves within the workplace will feel more motivated, supported and encouraged to develop creative interventions.
  3. Ensuring and championing the participation of children, young people and parents will create a relationship of confidence and help to ensure interventions meet the needs of individuals and groups within a service.
  4. Staff engagement within the sector must be meaningful and based on wanting to develop pioneering ways of working during the continued period of diminishing budgets. The practitioners on the ground not only know the work and how to make it effective and efficient, but they want to be involved in policy development and new ways of working.
  5. It’s not enough for practitioners who work in service delivery to say they understand equality, diversity and inclusion. Annual objective setting must include specific inclusion objectives, particularly with regards to raising awareness of equality issues within the organisation.

The structural inequality that exists throughout all organisations and society must be regularly highlighted and challenged by those who entered the sector with a passion for improving outcomes.

Siobhan Corria is Head of Inclusion at Action for Children. She is featured on the list of Great Charity Speakers. You can reach her directly via LinkedIn and Twitter.