I was going to write a big long piece today about it being the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. I was going to write about what an important day this is, and about how we marched again on Saturday night to Reclaim the Night and called for an end to violence against women and girls. I was going to write about how the blogger Noble Savage had been sexually assaulted during the march, and about the candlelit vigil tonight in Trafalgar Square that’s been called in remembrance of all women who have been murdered and affected by male violence. And I was going to write about the government’s new strategy, announced today, on ending violence against women:  Together We Can End Violence against Women and Girls

And then my daughter rang me, and told me about how she’d been physically assaulted last night. My daughter rang me and told me about the man who suddenly came from nowhere while she was busy working away in a public library: about the man who grabbed her by the throat, headbutted her, flung her on the floor, and chased after her once she’d managed to struggle free. She told me about how he’d chased her and tried to get behind the library counter where she’d run to for safety, and about how other library staff had had to restrain him. This man. This man she’s never met before. This man she doesn’t even know.

And while she was telling me all this I know I made all the right noises and said all the right things. I know that my voice didn’t catch in my throat the way it has been doing ever since. I know that I checked with her, again and again, that she was really as all right as she said she was. And I told her I was so so glad she hadn’t been seriously hurt. And I told her of course I understood now why she hadn’t phoned last night to wish her dad a happy birthday. And I told her that I loved her.

And then I put the phone down.

And then I cried.

Because do you know what? It wasn’t meant to be like this.

We were supposed to build a better world for our daughters. A safer world. A nicer world. For fuck’s sake we were supposed to change the world, so that when our daughters stepped out into it they wouldn’t have to be afraid. They wouldn’t have to know the fear that so many of us have known.

We were supposed to stop the rape and the murders and the sexual assaults and the physical assaults and the forced marriages and the sexual exploitation and the domestic violence and the FGM and the so-called honour crimes. We were supposed to make it right for all the women and girls who came after us.

On days like these, it really does come home to me, literally, just how badly we’ve failed.

On days like these, all I can say is, I’m sorry.

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