Portsmouth White Ribbon launches 16 days against violence as cuts threaten frontline
The White Ribbon campaign based in Portsmouth (southern England) launched its 16 days of activism on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, with a stunning performance of the Shelley Silas play, ‘I am Emma Humphreys’ at the city’s iconic Spinnaker Tower.
Performed by a cast of four actors, it starred former Midsomer Murders star, Kirsty Dillon.
Talking to the local authority, Kirsty Dillon said that it was “a privilege and an honour” to be involved in the campaign. She described Emma as “a remarkable survivor of domestic abuse, whose life journey changed the law.”
The play relates the story of Emma Humphreys, which you can read about in another of today’s WVoN stories.
Following the performance, which inspired not a few tears in the audience, was a panel discussion featuring Justice for Women founder and Emma’s lawyer, Harriet Wistrich.
Members of the audience expressed considerable disappointment that no local councillors had attended the launch, although all 42 local councillors were invited.
Considering the high incidence of domestic violence in Portsmouth, and the high profile national reputation enjoyed by its local services in domestic and sexual violence, it’s surprising that more political support was not forthcoming at the launch, although councillors and the local authority Chief Executive attended other, more high profile events.
The city’s White Ribbon campaign is chaired by domestic violence survivor Kirsty Mellor, who works ceaselessly in the city against domestic violence, alongside other individual campaigners and groups including the city’s Early Intervention Project, the Solent Feminist Network and the local authority’s Hidden Sexual Violence team.
Last year saw Portsmouth’s very first Reclaim the Night March since the march was revived by London Feminist Network founder Finn Mackay in 2004.
Over 200 women attended in 2009, and this year saw the number more than double as over 550 women and men marched through the city.
Support on the streets was widespread, visible and loud, with spectators leaning out of windows, tooting car horns and raising their fists in support of the marchers.
Marchers wore green t-shirts that read “I pledge not to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women” and were led by local drumming group Batala.
Earlier that day, a small group of supporters gathered to see the city become an official White Ribbon City at a presentation including the leader of Portsmouth City Council, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who congratulated Chair Kirsty Mellor and the White Ribbon Group on all their hard work on the city’s behalf.
Unfortunately, Cllr Vernon-Jackson could make no assurances that Portsmouth’s Early Intervention Project (EIP) or the Hidden Sexual Violence team would not be severely affected by the impact of the coalition cuts.
Cuts to either team will have a severe repercussion on the frontline services currently working with survivors and sufferers of domestic violence, profoundly reducing the support available to women experiencing violence.
This is just one of the ways in which the coalition cuts will disproportionately affect women up and down the country. Any impact on the EIP or Hidden Violence teams in Portsmouth could effectively reverse some of the groundbreaking work carried out in Portsmouth in recent years.
The EIP service was celebrated with high praise from former UK Attorney General Baroness Scotland earlier this year at a local conference on domestic violence, where she commended the high level of partnership, including police, health professionals, and schools, for example, set up in the city in recent years in response to domestic violence.
There are 190 reports of domestic violence involving children in Portsmouth every month – and these are just the number that include children.
The White Ribbon Campaign will continue throughout the 16 days, with exhibitions about domestic violence on display at various venues all over the city, including work created by refuge children and the Cookie Crew, a local group of children aged 8-12 years who have witnessed or experienced domestic or sexual abuse.
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