Systemic Violence is Secondary Abuse

Julie Ann Richards
2 min readJan 3, 2022

By the end of New Year’s Day 2022 France was already counting 3 dead women murdered by their husbands and ex-partner.

On the same day France took over the six month presidency of the European Union announcing an “ambitious” programme for Europe. Three priority areas were outlined: the introduction of minimum wages, regulation of digital giants like Facebook and the creation of a carbon tax on products imported into Europe.

In his address President Emmanuel Macron mentions progress in the equality between men and women but is given little prominence or urgency in an address that was littered with macho language — “master of its destiny”, “sovereign”, “powerful” and the manly motto “recovery, power, belonging”.

How can progress be made on equality between men and women when many of the root causes are Government policies and programmes that permit and commit secondary domestic abuse through its social and justice systems? What needs to recover? Who has the power? Belonging to what or whom?

French women protesting against sexual violence
© ABC News — Walt Disney

Responding to these latest femicides, Lena Ben Ahmed, of #NousToutes feminist collective concludes, “these femicides are not isolated cases. They’re not the occasional news story. They are systematic violence. The whole system colludes in these murders because it banalises and minimises sexist and sexual violence.”

We know our social and justice system fails women and children, the data is publicly available from Governments across the world, the United Nations and organisations that tackle violence against women. The data tells the same story in every single country — systemic failure in safeguarding women and girls from male violence.

In France in 2020, there were 100 femicides and the police were called out 400,000 times regarding incidents of domestic abuse and 80% of all complaints made to the courts were filed without further action.

In the UK Counting Dead Women recorded 139 women killed by a man or a man was the prime suspect. In the year ending March 2021 the charging rate for domestic abuse decreased by 3% despite an increase of 6% of domestic abuse crimes recorded.

Despite global awareness raising campaigns such as the recent 16 Days of Action, wider news reporting and collaborations with unusal suspects such hair dressers, supermarkets and taxi drivers trained to detect signs of domestic abuse, women are made further vulnerable by the very social structures put in place to protect and prevent harm.

The responsibilty for male violence needs to shift to men, who need to hold themselves and social and justice systems accountable, eradicate complicity in perpetuating deep rooted misogyny and collaborate with women to create a fair society so that women can recover, so women have equal power and truly belonging to replace this byword that is by men for men.



Julie Ann Richards

Radical Feminist, Mam, Cymraes, heart always rules head, Trustee — Fair Treatment of Women in Wales, domestic abuse survivor — views are my own