By Maheen Behrana
Candid Orange and This Violence is Not a Tragedy are collaborating on a series of articles discussing violence against women, from the UK and across the globe. we cannot end this violence until we understand it.
Last year, the independent blog This Violence is not a Tragedy was set up by Maheen Behrana to explore the issue of violence against women and attempt to dismantle the myths surrounding it. Currently a solo project, she produces both articles and visual content to challenge the myths surrounding violence against women, exploring the reasons why it is embedded in society and offering practical support to survivors. Maheen, the voice behind TVINAT, writes about her inspiration for the blog.
In 2018, Raneem Oudeh and her mother Khaola Saleem were stabbed and killed outside their home by Oudeh’s ex-partner, Janbaz Tarin. A few weeks prior to the murder, Oudeh had found out that Tarin had a wife and children in Afghanistan that she had been, up till that point, unaware of. On discovering this, Oudeh had ended her relationship with Tarin, who then commenced a campaign of stalking and harassment – something known to the police prior to the double murder.
This incident was yet another example of how a man’s feelings of entitlement and desire to control the women in his life led to fatal violence. And yet, the investigating Chief Superintendent, Bas Javid, characterised the crime thus: ‘Tragedies like this are incredibly rare’.
In 2018, Raneem Oudeh and Khaola Saleem were just two of the 166 UK women who died at the hands of men. Such killings of women are categorically not rare, and the violence that underlies them is all too common. When Javid referred to Oudeh and Saleem’s murder as a ‘tragedy’, he framed the incident in a very peculiar way – a ‘tragedy’ implies that what happened was inevitable and that there was no human power that could have stopped it.
It was this comment above all others which galvanised me to set up This Violence is not a Tragedy.
Beyond the inspiration
While Bas Javid’s words certainly inspired the name This Violence is not a Tragedy, the project itself is borne of longstanding frustration regarding the way we discuss, learn about and legislate around violence against women. From how we report instances of femicide to how (poorly) we have educated our young people on the subject of unhealthy relationships, our understandings of violence against women are sadly lacking.
Consider some of the language used in news reports describing women killed by their partners. When Lance Hart killed his wife and daughter in 2016, Max Pemberton, writing for the Daily Mail, described it as a ‘twisted act of love’ – a desperate impulse borne of Hart’s fear that his wife would leave him.
And when 17 year old Ellie Gould was killed by her ex-boyfriend Thomas Griffiths, who stabbed her in her own home with a kitchen knife, Birmingham Live led with the headline:
Dumped boyfriend Thomas Griffiths jailed for stabbing schoolgirl Ellie Gould to death after she ended relationship
The implication from this is that somehow, Ellie’s choice to break up with Thomas was what caused her death. The article elsewhere describes Thomas as “jilted” and constantly suggests that Thomas only acted as he did because he was spurred on by being dumped. But this then frames the idea of femicide as a proportional response to a break-up, which it obviously is not. What Thomas did was unreasonable and entitled beyond measure. His attitude towards Ellie turned her into an object, him not being able to cope with not having her in his possession.
Women are not objects – and their right to do as they please and be beholden to no-one should never be brought into question. But reporting like this, and like Max Pemberton’s, implies that when women are killed it is an understandable response to the ‘upset’ they have caused to men. It never is, and when we see such killings in this light we embed misconceptions in society that hold violence against women to not be solely the fault of the men who perpetrate it.
The idea that women bring attacks upon themselves is one of the biggest stumbling blocks we face as a society when it comes to understanding and ultimately dealing with violence against women. This Violence is not a Tragedy aims to show that it is only ever the perpetrators – and the systems that wrongly absolve them or blame victims – who are at fault in cases of such violence.
TVINAT and Candid Orange
This Violence is not a Tragedy seeks to help open up conversations around violence against women, so that we develop a wider understanding of this violence that sees it not simply as a series of isolated incidents but as something that exists on a continuum of misogyny and dwells in patterns of behaviour.
So, This Violence is not a Tragedy is collaborating with Candid Orange to help broach the conversations around this subject that are so desperately needed. We’ll be working on a series of articles over the next few weeks which aim to highlight the misconceptions surrounding violence against women. We hope to challenge these by encouraging conversation – we think there’s no better way to do it.