Saturday, 22 April 2017

Pay up. It's election time.

I am always asking for cash for feminist causes these days. Cash for women so that women can be helped after men have hurt them. "Please donate to Rape Crisis"..... "Please donate to women's refuges" ...... "Please help me to help women".

Feminist women asking for cash is like a broken record. Scratched and slashed and being carved up with a broken needle if we want to extend the imagery. Working for women is hard because getting those with power, mainly men, to care about the damage their sex has done to our sex is just standing up for attack and often ridicule. They won't just give us the money. We have to get it for ourselves. Feminist women have been doing this for a very long time. Governments have been neglecting their responsibility to tackle male violence against women in a meaningful and properly resourced way for a very long time. They continue to do so at both local and national level. Hand-wringing rhetoric and vote-winning promises are not refuge beds and sanitary towels.

I feel no embarrassment in asking people to give me cash for women. I am heavily criticised online for doing so. I ignore those criticisms. A man this week said of my attempts to raise £50,000 for Wearside Women In Need... "she's only doing it because she has egg on her face over the Ched Evans acquittal and she is selective over who she rides for!"

Well yes. Yes I am selective. I want to raise money for women. Just women. Because the funding for women's refuges has been slashed by 17% under this government. The cuts in funding for Rape Crisis centres sees half of them threatened with closure. (N.B. Ched who?)

The brutal bulk of government cuts has hit women and children hard. The loss of refuges, rape crisis centres, domestic violence provision, Sure Start centres, cuts to legal aid to help them access justice after domestic violence, tax credits, bedroom tax, benefit cap, DLA cuts, reforms to the child support agency, on and on go the policy moves that hurt women and children financially.

On just one day, at just one refuge, 95 women and 72 children were turned away according to Women's Aid Survey 2016.

Politicians salivate like hungry dogs over the meaty bones of Politics. They love Westminster and the buzz of the power. They feed to bursting from the shmoozing and boozing and fundraising lunching and the thrill of knocking on doors with a campaign team and talking to the press and the election counts and the drug-style euphoria of catching the whiff of a rosette is dizzying.

So here it is. The Election. Their hearts are beating fast. Their columns are whizzing out. Their campaign teams are stuffing inboxes as we speak. Twitter exploded last Wednesday. The frenzy is upon us.

Me? I feel sick.

Here is the spend from the general election in 2015 for all parties.</strong>

Unsolicited Material to Electors ............................£15,182,584.62



Overheads and General Administration.................£2,048,782.86

Rallies and Other Events.......................................£2,512,589.83

Market Research and Canvassing..........................£7,646,660.90


Manifesto or Referendum Material........................£318,880.76

Campaign Broadcasts...........................................£896,010.11

That is a grand total of £37,560,039.27

Wearside Women in Need provide 4 refuges. They save women's lives. They face losing all of those refuges. This refuge provision in Sunderland currently costs £560,000 a year and it looks like whatever domestic violence provision may remain will be severely hacked at and left bleeding. Just like the women who will be turned away. We genuinely fear for the futures and the lives of abused women in Sunderland.

Last Wednesday Katie Russell of Rape Crisis England and Wales revealed that a fund linking to the show Broadchurch aimed at raising money for victims of sexual violence had raised a mere tenner. £10. That has now started to climb. Thank goodness. But she talks of the apathy of the public for supporting rape victims because of persistent myths that are believed about victims. I raised £27,000 for rape victims earlier this year and received death threats online as a result. It is not an easy gig asking for money for women who have been raped. I applaud everyone who asks and everyone who gives.

Between 1st July and 30th September 2016 the Conservative Party received £2,861,788 in political donations. The largest donor was Michael Davis, a powerful businessman, who donated £269,000. Michael Davis was knighted in 2015 in the Queen's honours. He had at that point donated £1.47 million to the tory Party. He was closely followed by Alexander Fraser who gave £260,000. Labour receives donations from Trade unions. This is done mainly by the collective donation of individual member subs by unions. It isn't quite the same as dipping into your one dinner jacket pocket for a quarter of a million pounds.

When women, and men, donate to the Ride For Murdered Women that I'm undertaking for women's refuges, they give what they can. They give £5 that would have fed their kids. They have to wait until payday they tell me. They are saving up. One friend has said he will donate at the end of all my rides. I have 92 rides to do. I wish it was less. I've completed 21 and a total of 500.8 miles. I'm totally exhausted. I do it mainly to point out that figure. That women are dying at the hands of men they love or have loved, and they are dying every year.

Today I rode for Jodie Betteridge. Her ex partner stabbed her to death. He stabbed her 132 times. 30 times in the head and 45 times in the torso included in that. He stabbed her minutes after murdering his current partner Lynne Freeman. He stabbed her on her front lawn in front of her children. One of the children was running around the garden screaming, covered in his mother's blood. His attack was so frenzied that he only stopped when his knife blade broke off. Such was the ferocity of his hatred for the women in his life. 

Women are dying right now. Their bodies are not between your election headlines yet. Behind a closed door in this country a woman is being told she is stupid. A hand is closing around her throat and she doesn't know if it will stop before she chokes. She has been torn from the connections with all who have loved her. She has been made to feel that everything that is happening to her is her fault. She has been beaten, burned, stabbed and strangled. She lives. She hides it. She waits and she hopes. She dreams that one day she will not suffer this. She wonders why the man she loves hates her so. She wishes someone would help. Oh....we should help. The man putting his hand in his pocket for a silver service lunch and a dance with Theresa May should help. He really should.

Westminster should hang its head in shame as it feels the giddy thrill of election fever. Each and every donor currently reaching for a cheque book, should look at what is happening to women in this country and point the power of that pen in a different direction. Point it at women. Help women save other women. Let the political parties pay for their own damn lunches.

Here is the link to the fund if you feel you want to donate. …

JH x