EVAW Coalition Bulletin, August 2012 – including our alternative Summer reading list!

August 16, 2012

The trouble with ‘troubled families’

In July the government’s “troubled families tsar” Louise Casey published a 68pp report which included in-depth life histories of 16 “chaotic families”. The report does not claim to be representative of the controversially cited 120,000 “troubled families” in England and makes no formal recommendations. It does however seem to offer justification for an approach to working with families which is already set out on the DCLG websiteand is currently being piloted in six local authority areas.

EVAW was struck early on by media reports that claimed high levels of child sexual abuse in the families interviewed, and then when reading the report was very disappointed to find that it takes a very ungendered approach to what amounts to a catalogue of abuse and violence against women and girls. This ungendered analysis no doubt leads to the lack of attention to VAWG in the “troubled families” programme. You can read EVAW’s comments in full here which centre on the lack of training in VAWG for frontline professionals who will come across historical or current abuse and not know how to respond; the use of a “whole family approach” which does not address abuse; the critical context of cuts to specialist women’s services which are often the best able to provide support to women and girls surviving violence.

EVAW Chair Professor Liz Kelly was invited onto BBC Woman’s Hour to debate our concerns with Louise Casey who said she wanted to take EVAW’s concerns into account and asked Liz to meet with her soon.

Are we learning the lessons about so-called “honour-based” violence?

In early August there was news of the conviction for murder in 2003 of Shafilea Ahmed’s parents after a very high profile trial. There ensued the discussions about whether such violence should have the term “honour” associated with it at, and about whether different public services should have picked up on the warning signs.

EVAW member Dr Aisha Gill, criminologist and expert in this field, commented that Shafilea’s death was preventable, while our Board member and Director of Southall Black Sisters Hanana Siddiqui discussed the issues on BBC Woman’s Hour. EVAW also commented and referred to the work of our member Imkaan which published an in-depth report on harmful practices last November and found that child protection professionals are not routinely using procedures to protect girls at risk of so-called honour based violence and forced marriage. Imkaan recommends that frontline workers including teachers, social workers and police officers are trained and made more confident in taking appropriate action. There must also be sustainable funding for ethnic minority women’s organisations who have a wealth of expertise in dealing with these issues. Political leadership on these issues is needed if we are to achieve these potentially life-saving changes.

Mass lobby of Parliament, 24 October

EVAW members and supporters will be among the thousands landing on Westminster on the 24 October to ‘speak truth to power’ and demand action on fundamental matters of women’s equality.

UK Feminista are organising themass lobby of parliament at which constituents will meet 100s of MPs and lay out the facts and the action needed to tackle violence against women, access to justice, economic equality and women’s representation in politics and beyond. EVAW supporters will tell their MPs that we must start in our schools if we are going to end and prevent violence against women and girls. Young people have a right to age appropriate sex and relationships education which discusses consent and healthy relationships, something they are not currently guaranteed to receive.

After the Summer break EVAW will be watching out for –

Child sexual exploitation – EVAW is anticipating the publication of the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into ‘localised child grooming’, and the launch of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation.

EVAW has made a written submission to the Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry which was set up in response to the Rochdale sexual exploitation cases. Our members have considerable expertise on this issue, which is a form of child sexual abuse – overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against girls and women. We have told the Committee that it is essential to approach this issue from a gendered perspective and in a coordinated way as part of the Home Office-led strategy on violence against women and girls. There is clear evidence about girls in local authority care and how best to prevent them being sexually exploited which agencies should implement.

We hope both of these inquiries will lead to debate on appropriate policy responses and concerted political leadership on these urgent issues.

Need something for the beach? Here’s EVAW’s alternative Summer reading list…

You may be familiar with the Summer reading list put together for MPs every year by Conservative MP Keith Simpson. This year’s list was a classic of the form, a huge set of what historian Niall Ferguson recently referred to as “warnography” titles, with a couple of lighter novels by women thrown in at the end, the authors both introduced as a significant man’s wife.

If none of those grab your fancy why not try one of the following – all recommended as favourites, life-changers and truly insightful by EVAW supporters.


We Were The Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, novel about a middle America family which is destroyed by the rape of their daughter

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a prime example of the feminist science fiction genre (!), referring to Chaucer and about a post-apocalyptic world where women are reduced to breeding machines

The Colour Purple by Alice Walker, needs little introduction, the story of a young woman growing up in 1930s America and her response to a racist and sexually violent society

The Woman Who Walked into Doorsby Roddy Doyle, story of a woman’s response to domestic violence, recommended by several EVAW supporters!

Their Eyes Were Watching GodbyZora Neale Hurston, probably the highest profile feminist novel of the Harlem Renaissance, tells the story of an African-American woman’s rejection of what is expected of her

Angela Carter’s Book of Fairy Tales by Angela Carter, if you really just need to dip in and out of something, this is a beautiful illustrated compendium of Angela’s collected folklore tales about adult women from around the world; some are chilling, some are laugh out loud…

Nervous Conditionsby Tsitsi Dangarembga, has been described as the greatest Zimbabwean novel, written when Dangarembga was only 25, tells the story of a young girl’s desperation to get an education in the context of huge social change in post colonial Zimbabwe

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen, about a woman who escapes her abusive husband only to be tracked down by him again later

Non-fiction, including biographies/memoirs:

Circle of Light by Kiranjit Ahluwalia & Rahila Gupta, compelling story of a woman imprisoned for murder of her violent husband and the campaign to release her

I know why the caged bird sings by Maya Angelou, first of six volumes of ‘literary memoir’ by African-American Angelou about racism, rape and empowerment

Why be happy when you could be normal? by Jeanette Winterson, short and un-put-downable!

Misogynies by Joan Smith, now 20 years old but still very relevant and one of the best introductions to the way misogyny permeates our culture and is intimately related to violence against women and girls

Aftermath by Susan Brison, an amazing personal account by a philosophy professor of her own experience of rape and how it changed her philosophical approach to the self

Serial Survivors by Jan Jordan, based on interviews with 17 women raped by the same man, documents their different responses and how they managed the court case.

Coercive Controlby Evan Stark, a detailed study, including case histories, showing that domestic abuse is not ‘incidents’ of crime, but a pattern of control that suffuses the whole relationship

A Woman in Berlin, Anonymous, the diary of a journalist written during the occupation of Berlin by the Russian army in 1945, how women manage rape in war

Fiona’s Story by Irene Ivison, a mother tells the story of her own daughter’s grooming into prostitution and its outcome

In the Company of Men: Male dominance and Sexual Harassment by James Gruber and Phoebe Morgan, interesting new work on sexual harassment in the workplace

When Father Kills Mother by Jean Harris-Hendricks, Dora Black and Tony Kaplan (either edition), in-depth look at the combined effects of bereavement and trauma on children

Feminism is for Everybody by bell hooks, a classic, makes the point neatly and accessibly

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine, a damning critique of contemporary theories of innate brain gender, impressively based on 100s of scientific studies

Pornland: How porn has hijacked our sexuality by Gail dines, controversial examination of the economics of the pornography market and its effects

The Hidden Face of Eve: Women in the Arab World by Nawal el Sadaawi, a classic account of the oppression of women in Arab countries by doctor el Sadaawi who has attracted the ire of successive Egyptian governments

Prostitution, Harm and Gender Inequalityby Maddy Coy, new book by leading academic who has contributed much to EVAW’s policy reports

And finally – in the spirit of Keith Simpson’s list this one will also end with a suggestion of a light read by someone associated with greater feminist writers:

The origin of the family, private property and the state by Friedrich Engels, who already recognised prostitution as rooted in inequality in 1844!

Thanks to Aisha Gill, Sarah Jackson, Dorett Jones, Heather Harvey, Liz Kelly, Maddy Coy & Sumanta Roy

If you would like to support our campaigning for a safer world for women and girls so that we can put pressure on government to take action you can make a donation. Every penny helps so many thanks!

We are very grateful for the support of all our donors and funders, including Comic Relief, Trust for London and Amnesty International UK.

Follow us on Twitter @EVAWhd
For more information about EVAW go to

If you no longer wish to receive this bulletin, please email
sarah.green@evaw.org.uk with ‘unsubscribe’ in the subject line.
Sarah Green
Campaigns Manager, End Violence Against Women Coalition
T: 07984 717 817

I work Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays

Follow us on twitter @EVAWhd


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