Together, we’ve put a spotlight on all forms of violence against women
Wednesday 11th April 2018
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of Women’s Aid, reflects on being one of the activists paired with actors on the red carpet at the 2018 Olivier Awards and how the show is far from over for the Time’s Up movement…
Domestic abuse often happens behind closed doors and time and again victims of violence and abuse, whether it is on the streets, at home or at work, are silenced. It is rare for the issue of ending violence against women to take centre-stage. It was therefore a real privilege to accompany the Best Actress winner Laura Donnelly to the Olivier Awards on Sunday night as part of the Time’s Up movement to bring this issue into the spotlight.
Campaigns are nothing new at awards ceremonies. Actors often use their platforms to invoke passion for a cause, from refugees to environmentalism. But inviting activists to pair with actors on the red carpet as part of the Time’s Up movement is a new departure; it shifted the conversation from ‘what are you wearing’ to ‘why are you here’. As Laura Donnelly said to me on the night, theatre is all about holding up a mirror to society, which is why she and other actors have decided to expose the harassment and abuse that is not just happening in the entertainment industry but across our society.
From workplace sexual harassment through to domestic abuse, what the Time’s Up movement has revealed is the beating heart of misogyny, alive and well. It is shocking to hear about actors whose work we admire revealing that they have experienced abuse in their industry. Sadly, it wasn’t unexpected. Through my work at Women’s Aid, I know only too well how widespread violence against women is, and how power can be used by men to control, terrify and undermine women.
Sexual harassment in the workplace does not happen in a cultural vacuum. Violence against women happens every day to women on the street, at work and even in their own homes. There’s a clear link between the ‘everyday sexism’ women put up with on a daily basis and the sexual harassment, assault and domestic abuse that women overwhelmingly experience.
A culture that promotes everyday sexism and normalises women’s inequality is a culture that enables abuse, allowing violence against women to thrive without challenge. The situations described were all different, but abuse of power was the common theme.
For far too long, survivors of abuse and violence have been silenced. Enough is enough. By recognising the abuse of power and publicly challenging it, we’ve made a big step forward in tackling the gender inequality and injustice that are its root causes.
I want to thank Laura Donnelly and all of the other actors who used their awards ceremony to put a spotlight on the issue of violence against women. It was also an honour to share the stage with other activists who are doing extraordinary work to end violence against women as well as so many women of colour; for once, none of us were a token. In the words of the Best Actor in a Musical winner Giles Terera diversity is “not a box-ticking exercise, it is the best way to tell the story”.
We know that women standing in solidarity and campaigning together is the first step towards ending violence against women and girls, and that men are crucial allies too. Time’s Up is built on the foundations of decades of graft and struggle by activists. By connecting the entertainment industry with frontline services, together we can make a real difference to the lives of survivors. Never forgetting the discrimination and denial of rights that is the daily experience of black and minority ethnic women and other marginalised groups. That’s why it is important for all of us to speak up – together.
We may have closed the curtains on this year’s awards season but the show is far from over for the Time’s Up movement. Together, we’ve put a spotlight on all forms of violence against women, now is the time for collective action to put an end to this abuse. By supporting Time’s Up and donating to the Justice and Equality Fund, you can join us in calling time’s up on domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women and girls. Together, we can let survivors know that their voices matter and that they will be listened to, believed and supported. Together, we can create a world where everyone can live free from fear, free from abuse.