Whilst the total number of reported rapes in the North is 525 over the last 12 months, it is expected that the real figures are much higher, as only a tiny fraction of rapes are actually reported. Latest figures indicate that domestic violence is also on the rise, against a backdrop of increasing pressures put on families and personal relationships due to job losses and cuts in public services.
In the UK, 25% of shelters and safe houses are threatened with closure due to loss of funding. Lack of social housing means that some women and children end up staying in shelters for years, occupying desperately needed places. In the South there were over 3,000 occasions last year when women and children seeking refuge against domestic violence could not be accommodated.
Cuts to child benefits and credits, lack of affordable childcare, unemployment and low pay are also contributing factors, leaving women and their children financially dependent on the abuser. 70% of women who reported being victim of domestic violence cited economic independence as the reason they did not leave.
Rape, domestic violence and sexual harassment, are symptoms of a deeply unequal class-based society that leads some men to think that they can control women, including sexually. This is reinforced by women’s material inequality and lower status in society. Sexism needs to be challenged and education about the myths and facts of rape and decent support for victims of rape and domestic violence should be provided at all levels. At the same time, we need to fight against all cuts to our public services. The process of common struggle between men and women in struggle will see millions of people questioning the brutal, sexist and exploitative capitalist society in which we live and looking for a socialist alternative.