PHA’s Positive Bystander Session with Solace Women’s Aid

The events of the Sarah Everard case in March sparked a national outcry over the issue of violence against women. Debate has raged in the political sphere, the media and the general population for weeks, but all in all, the consensus is clear – to tackle violence against women, we need meaningful and structural change.

It cannot be the case that the culture of harassment, abuse and violence against women only comes under the media spotlight when such tragic events occur. Action is needed across every echelon of society – not only through forward legislation, thorough reviews and policies which directly address gender-based violence, but through a greater awareness of these issues amongst the general population and an understanding of the role we all play in tackling them.

With this in mind, we reached out to our charity partner Solace Women’s Aid, to request a training session on the issue of violence against women, with specific advice on how staff members can be a positive bystander. The idea was we would all come away with safety tools and tips, ideas around promoting societal change and a true understanding of how this will create a safer environment for everyone.

The session was delivered by two Solace trainers via webinar and split into three sections:

  • Changing and challenging societal norms
  • Women and serious harm
  • Promoting a better and safety society for all

The first sections provided an in-depth analysis of why gender-based violence is still a huge problem in modern-day society and insight into the stark reality of the situation. We examined the ongoing prevalence of gender inequality in the UK and looked at how a systemic disparity between genders creates a breeding ground for gender-based violence. Whether it’s women experiencing coercive control in their relationships, girls being harassed on the street or severe cases such as that of Sarah Everard, these crimes are all driven by a culture of gender inequality.

Following this, we moved onto the practical part of the session, where our trainers offered tips and advice on what both women and men can do to help women feel safe. We examined the role we all play in challenging misogyny and deciphered what it means to be a positive bystander – meaning how to recognise situations where someone is at risk and how and when to take action in a way which is safe for everyone involved.

The conclusion of the session, was that gender-based violence is not going to end overnight. In the short term, it’s important these issues are made a political and policing priority, but for lasting change, the root of the cause must also be tackled.

It may sound too simplistic, but much of this really comes down to education. Public awareness of these issues must be improved so that ultimately, each and every one of us can do our bit to understand the origins of violence against women and attack it at its source. Through this, we can change the tide and create a safer world for us all to live in.

Solace Women’s Aid provides support to end violence against women and girls and is PHA’s first charity of the year.

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