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Violence Against Women and Girls: Feminist Activism and Resistance


This chapter considers the various ways in which feminist principles and influences have shaped victim-oriented legislative and service provision developments and changes. The chapter traces the history of activism against violence against women (VAW), which has been informed by and helped shape a feminist victimology. The authors go on to analyse how feminist principles have influenced the activism and how the activism has shaped policy and service provision for victim/survivors of VAW. The chapter considers the challenges posed by the contemporary landscape of neoliberalism and austerity economics and what issues this presents for feminist activist victimology around VAW in the future. The authors contend that despite rising levels of VAW and diminishing resources for service delivery and prevention in both the United Kingdom and beyond, new forms of feminist activism are extending the scope of gender politics towards an anti-capitalist and anti-austerity critique.

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-42288-2_2
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  1. 1.

    There are several terms to describe violence against women. More recently ‘gender-based violence’ has been used to refer to the wide range of behaviours, directed not only at women but also LGBT+ people. However, for the purposes of this chapter, which examines the history of feminist victimology and activism, we use the term violence against women.

  2. 2.

    Tarana Burke, an African-American civil rights activist, initiated the phrase ‘Me Too’ in 2007 when she developed Just Be Inc, an organisation to support victims and survivors of sexual harassment and assault. In 2017, it was later popularised on Twitter by American actor, Alyssa Milano.

  3. 3.

    The Femicide Census builds on the ‘Counting Dead Women’ campaign by Karen Ingala-Smith, which attempts to fill the gap in official data about femicides. It recommends that national data collection about homicide ‘reflects the gendered nature of these crimes, by collecting comparative data on the sex and age of the perpetrator and victim, on their relationship, on any previous convictions relating to abuse or violence’ (Brennan 2017: 27).

  4. 4.

    However, Walby et al. (2015) highlight a significant flaw in its methodology—the ‘capping’ of high-frequency victimisation, which under-counts intimate partner victimisation.

  5. 5.

    We refer to the ‘movement against men’s violence’ and ‘the VAW movement’ to refer to the people and organisations involved in challenging men’s violence against women. While there is no formal, centralised movement to which people can sign up, at different times and in different locations, these groupings have been more—or less—organised, have involved coalitions across national boundaries and with various state, voluntary sector and independent actors, as well as with other movements (such as the women’s liberation movement), and have included victim/survivors, their advocates, activists, scholars, practitioners, politicians and policy-makers.

  6. 6.

    The National Women’s Aid Federation (NWAF) began in 1974 but without the Chiswick refuge, which, represented by Erin Pizzey, wished ‘to maintain central control, power publicity and exclusive access to funds donated by the public’ while the NWAF wished ‘to form a democratic, egalitarian organization (Dobash and Dobash 1992: 33).

  7. 7.

    For example, it was not until 1989 that Scottish law, and 1991 that English law classified marital rape as a crime; men’s lethal violence to their partners has long been treated more leniently than women’s lethal violence in self-defence, partly because in law women’s behaviour (such as ‘nagging’) was accepted as provocation while men’s (such as violence) was not (see Burton 2008).

  8. 8.

    For further consideration of this debate about women-only spaces and trans people’s access, see, for example, Browne (2009), Lewis et al. (2015), and Roestone Collective (2014).


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Correspondence to Clare Wiper .

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Wiper, C., Lewis, R. (2020). Violence Against Women and Girls: Feminist Activism and Resistance. In: Tapley, J., Davies, P. (eds) Victimology. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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