On the back of the tragic death of Caroline flack, It reminds me again how women are treated when it comes to the media and the criminal justice system. Caroline was vilified in the media for her actions more that some of her Male counter parts have been in the past. This is not unusual. I cannot judge and I was not involved. I am making no excuses for anyone, as assault and domestic violence is never to be accepted.
However, a trial by media and trial based on who you are, your gender and social standing continues to be an issue primarily for women.
I could bore you all with the facts and figures on this subject but I will give you a brief outline of why this happens all the time to women who struggle in areas not unlike Caroline.
In recent years the number of women in prison or on remand has been noted to have increased. This information had been gathered by a government report commissioned in 2011 ( lead by a woman! )
Women’s offending and the drivers behind it differ from men for the most part. In many cases they are related to their own experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty, social exclusion and drug and alcohol misuse. It can be seen that women’s offending behaviour and their experience of domestic (physical and emotional) abuse, coercive control and sexual abuse continue to drive their offending behaviour. Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than the ones they are being prosecuted for.
While many of the convicted woman are parents, there is still a strong element of misogyny and they are frowned upon in the media etc for committing such crimes instead of being a ‘focused parent’. When remanding these women without considering the reasons why they are committing these offenses they pull them away from their families and possible help and support.
I understand that this is not true of all woman who commit crimes and people have to be responsible for their actions. The law has to function to protect but we also have to look at looking after and protecting one another. There are changes being made. Services and groups have been developed to support woman and the issues that bring them to the point of offending. Some of which I have worked for.
I feel for so many who struggle to break the cycle and to find someone who will help or even just listen. They are scared to come forward for fear of being judged and making their situation worse. This stereotyping and fear of being judged is what stops women seeking help. In the same respects the stereotypes and old ideas of masculinity are what stop men from seeking help for issues such as their mental health.
I know its hard to see past the actions of those who commit these crimes. It is something that I have had to struggle with through out my career but the stereotypes and boxes the media and various institutions want to put us in are not helpful and drives us to put each other down and not lift each other up.
I am hoping with a more positive outlook with the likes of the empowered woman project we can focus on our strengths, how resilient we as women can be.
We all make unwise decisions and we never know what’s around the corner. I want to believe that people can change and their characters are not set in stone. As so many of the messages I have read since Caroline’s passing have said if you can do anything nowadays, just think of others and be kind.
Lesley @ TEWP x