The term ‘slow violence’ was coined by the environmentalist and scholar, Rob Nixon, to describe the “attritional violence that is typically not viewed as violence at all”: the harms and damages that play out over year or decades; the harms in which the perpetrators may not be obvious, but their impact tangible; the harms which are enacted not only by fists or weapons, but by structures – of government or some other institution – , embedded within hegemonic systems.
Nixon’s definition provides an expansive conceptualisation of what constitutes violence, refuting claims that there is such a thing as “invisible violence” by asking “invisible to whom?”
While Nixon was speaking of slow violence in relation to the environment, it is clear that slow violence in relation to gender is an ever-present product of a society dominated by patriarchal systems of governance and structural inequality: systems in which one has to make visible its harms every time they must explain, for example, why formal equality under the law does not translate to equality in practice.
While this slow violence is always present, we could not have predicted when we began formulating, researching, and planning the story on the front page of this issue that it would be published in the wake of a week in which tragic cases of “fast violence” – those instances of physical and direct sexual and gender-based violence – have dominated the news cycle.
The dissapearance, and subsequently confirmed murder, of Sarah Everard as she walked through some of the capital’s most populated, brightly-lit, and busiest areas, filled a nation with alarm and sadness, yet, unfortunately, for many, not with shock. The Guardian article, published on the 10th of this month, situated the Everard case within a context in which “almost all young women in the UK have been sexually harassed”, highlighting the endemic nature of both slow and fast violences in relation to gender within the UK.
In the wake of Everard’s disappearance, Labour MP and shadow minister for domestic violence, Jess Phillips, during a Commons’ debate on International Women’s day (11th March), silenced parliament as she took the opportunity to read out the names of women killed in the UK where a man has been charged or convicted, stating: “Killed women are not vanishingly rare, killed women are common”. Her statement came just two days after the WHO and UN partners, in the largest study yet of the prevalence of violence against women, found that one in four women and girls around the world have been physically or sexually assaulted by a husband or male partner.
And, on the 15th March, the world watched as tens of thousands marched in Australia’s March 4 Justice to protest against the sexual abuse and harrassment of women in the country, spurred by a recent wave of allegations of sexual assault centred around Australia’s Parliament.
The events of this week occur eight months after the founding of the St Andrews Survivors Instagram page, whose posts contained the anonymous accounts of students who have experienced instances of SGBV, and the subsequent international media attention that it garnered.
The aim of The Saint’s investigation is to provide accountability to the best of its ability as an independent, student-run newspaper: to highlight the changes that have been made and the promises that were kept, as well as the work that still needs to be done. While we know our investigation is not exhaustive, we hope that we have managed to achieve the goal that we set out to.
Much of the progress highlighted within the investigation has been the result of the tireless work of students, and student representatives, determined to implement change on campus both within the student body and University institution. In this issue’s Sports section, this work is once again featured as our Sports Editor, Sam Mitchison, discusses the importance of the recently held event “How Saints Speak: Sports and Athletics” held by Got Consent and the Feminist Society in conversation with University sports team, which aimed to open the diologue about the culture of consent in sport whilst “holding ourselves accountable for behaviors on campus and how we can create change”.
In the midst of this work towards progress and justice, and as we approach spring break, it is important to remember the words of Audre Lorde, the self described “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” who dedicated her life to confronting the injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. She reminds us not only of the importance, but the power, of taking the time to heal as both an individual and a collective as she writes: “caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare”.