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The Pyramid of Violence: an Introduction

In the latest episode of our podcast, we discuss the Pyramid of Violence and how it can be used as a tool to understand ways in which violence against women and girls (VAWG) is made possible.

Before we get to the pyramid though it is important to understand why we need a tool like this in the first place. VAWG is an international issue that exists across cultural boundaries and affects women* of all ages. In the UK 86% of young women have experienced sexual harassment in a public place (UNWomenUK) and, women experienced over twice the amount of domestic violence that men did (8.1% of women, 4% of men) (ONS). Men are largely the perpetrators of this violence, and also victims, although to a lesser extent than women. Hopefully, these statistics illustrate the issue and allow you to empathise with women and ask how this can happen and ultimately what can be done to address it.

Violence takes many shapes, and whilst our minds may jump to the most extreme forms of violence, there are many smaller and more incongruous forms that underpin those more serious examples. Our behaviours and attitudes are one such example which may seem extremely tenuously connected, but when understood in a wider context it's possible to recognise how they are connected to overt forms of violence.

Illustration by Ashley Fairbanks. Two people have speech bubbles – one is saying “It was just a joke! Why do you care?”. The other is saying “Sexual violence exists in a pyramid. Your joke contributes to a culture of violence!” Between them is a pyramid illustrating a spectrum of behaviours that uphold a culture of violence.

When we look at the pyramid alongside the data it becomes clear that everyday behaviours, assumptions and roles contribute to a system which allows violence to happen. What is not made explicit in the pyramid is that gender roles and stereotypes go hand in hand with the objectification of women and dehumanise them in the eyes of perpetrators.

There are many solutions to this problem, but the most important thing on that list is addressing your own behaviour and interrogating your beliefs and assumptions about the roles that men and women play in society. It can be easier to have this conversation with a friend or someone you trust to help you reflect on these assumptions. Then it is time to look outwards and think about how we can help others to understand these issues and change our institutions and governments to do better.

Listen to our latest episode for an introduction to feminism and a wider discussion of the pyramid of violence. (release mid-December!)

*In this post we refer to women and girls as the statistics we are using refer to those demographics, however, this kind of violence also affects people assigned female at birth and non-binary folks.


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