Everything is being promised in this shouty, eventful election hustings.

Everything so far, but a commitment to tackling the growing menace of everyday violence towards women and girls.

 It IS a growing menace and the means to counter it are falling behind

Why not commit to rolling out nationwide the new Winchester Community Safety Partnership initiative detailed in last week’s Chronicle? Its Violence Against Women and Girls prevention strategy works with local organisations, universities and schools, plus the night-time economy, to increase safety, awareness and prevention. This was announced in the week a man was jailed for extremely threatening behaviour to a Southampton woman MP.

For the first time in my career as a university lecturer, I have female students writing dissertations on the wider problem, because they were assaulted in their early teens. I have given an extension for an essay to a student recovering months on, from a violent sexual assault. From her boyfriend at the time…

Students from the UK, used to living in cities, describe the fear of moving around at night in London, running from building to building if alone. One master’s student had her drink spiked at a busy pub, last year. She has no recollection of three hours, of withdrawing cash or why the hospital found ketamine in her system. 

Why does violence against women and girls still not get taken seriously enough?

We’ve had a hundred years plus of female suffrage which eventually ushered in extensive laws on equality. But, statistically, an accusation of rape was more likely to result in conviction in the Victorian era than today!

Obviously, one part of the answer rests with an attitude among certain men wielding power and influence which goes back further in time. To the Stone Age. A metropolitan town councillor recently tweeted (without any evidence) that the victim of a sexual assault in a park was probably a sex worker. The founder of a major UK Hedge Fund has been accused of numerous assaults and harassment of women.

Even if reprimanded or convicted, many have the connections and the money to overturn a verdict. Cue the monster Harvey Weinstein. Or women are not believed. For example, the repeated accusations of domestic violence made by the ex-girlfriend of rapper P-Diddy aka Puff Daddy. Until recent video footage came to light…

However, these despicable behaviours are not restricted by age or class. Social media is a great leveller and efficient muck spreader. Research has shown that 98 per cent of deep fake social media is made up of pornography, and 98 per cent of that depicts women and girls. This combination of rising volume, its increasingly violent forms, and widening availability, has more potential to debase how a new generation views the opposite sex.

Even seemingly innocent use of computer technology can hold some surprises. Take the online gaming industry. A survey of 4,000 British gamers in 2023 discovered that 49 per cent of female gamers had endured sexist abuse while gaming. This rose to 75 per cent among young women aged 18 to 24.

Another growing worry is the evidence of misogyny (the irrational hatred of women and girls) within extremist groups in and outside the UK and increasingly inter-connected. They use the internet to spread their negative views of women and of feminism more generally and to convert other young men to their wider cause.

Recently the Taliban in Afghanistan – the world’s worst place to be a woman or a girl –  struck up a ‘bromance’ with Andrew Tate. Never mind, Tate was charged with human trafficking, rape and setting up a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. Or that he created  ‘War Rooms’ to teach young men how to groom.

Research going back to 2022 has concluded that men who support misogynistic attitudes are over four times more likely to support violent extremism.

If women and girls are not safe, then no one is safe either.