Film ID:
YFA 1328



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This is a documentary on campaigns against violence against women with a focus on West Yorkshire.  The documentary was made by Vera Media Production as part of the Yorkshire Media Consortium project.  The film uses the Conference on Responses to Male Violence against Women and Children in Leeds in 2000 as a fulcrum to explore issues around violence against women, tracing campaigns back to the early 1970s, and bringing the situation up-to-date in 2000.  The film mainly takes the form of interviews with leading activists in this area, including a senior woman police officer.

Title – Never Give Up - Against Violence against Women in West Yorkshire (2001)

The film begins with a police officer attending to a woman in her home.  She is holding a child who has been physically abused, while a man is led away in handcuffs with blood-stained hands.  The film switches to Leeds Town Hall in November 2000 where there is a ‘Conference on Responses to Male Violence against Women and Children’.  After applause for one of the presenters, Anne Haynes of Cornwall Domestic Violence Forum Probation Service Delegate, explains that she is there to take back good practice, to influence the local health service and police, and to take back issues concerning women’s safety.

The conference is being addressed by Councillor Alison Lowe, the Chair of Leeds Inter-Agency Project Steering Group, followed by Dr Susanna Lawrence OBE, Chair of Leeds Health Authority.  Alison Lowe gives out some national statistics on violence against women.  The Det. Chief Superintendent Max McLean of West Yorkshire Police addresses the conference, followed by Dr Susanna Lawrence again, and they give more horrifying statistics.  Then Jill Page, Trustee of Leeds Inter-Agency Project, addresses the conference, citing the example of past suffragettes from Leeds to conclude that women themselves have to struggle for the changes they seek.

Away from the conference, Al Garthwaite, Director of Vera Media, explains that when she arrived in Leeds in 1973, in common with the rest of the country, it had no rape crisis centres or refugees, and that she joined a women’s liberation group to campaign for these.  Professor Jalna Hanmer explains that when she moved north in 1977, she helped set up Airedale Women’s Aid in Keighley.  Hanmer shows a photograph of campaigners from the time.  Catherine Mitchell, another Director of Vera Media, recounts that when she was a teenager it was typical for battered women to be kept hidden.  Al Garthwaite states that the early refugees were of bad quality.  This account is reinforced by Sue Hall of Leeds Women’s Aid 1974-76, now acting Manager of Leeds Women’s Aid 2000, showing newspaper articles of the time. She states that it was a long time before police referred women to the refugees, and the police response depended on the individual officer.  Sergeant Jane McGill MBE of West Yorkshire Police, recounts being trained by male instructors about domestic disputes, who informed their police students that domestic disputes had nothing to do with the police, so that they should simply calm things down and come away as quickly as possible.

Sandra McNeil, a feminist activist, states that they campaigned around the gender discrepancy in sentencing.  Al Garthwaite recounts a debate she had with a female Conservative councillor on Radio Leeds, who claimed that “nice women didn’t get raped”, and that feminists had to combat the general view that the woman was to blame.  A photograph from the 1970s shows a banner for ‘Women against Violence against Women’ heading a demonstration.

Professor Marianne Hester of the International Centre for the Study of Violence and Abuse at the University of Sunderland addresses the conference, recounting aspects of the campaign against violence against women in Leeds, with stills of pamphlets and leaflets, and a photo of a demonstration showing a placard to ‘Support Nita Greening’.  Al Garthwaite explains that Nita Greening was charged with murder for strangling her husband with a telephone cord, which she claimed was in self-defence.  In the end she got a suspended sentence after being found guilty of manslaughter.  She goes on to talk about the Reclaim the Night marches on 12th November, 1977 in 12 major cities, giving details of those held in Leeds, showing photographs of the event.  A much more recent Reclaim the Night march is shown.

Back at the conference, Jill Page relates the story of the Peter Sutcliffe murders, which started in 1975, showing photographs of the victims.  She states that the last victim, Jacqueline Hill, number 13, was killed 5 years later in Headingley.   This produced a major campaign, asking questions about police response to women victims of violence.  Sandra McNeil recounts the general male bravado of the time.  Catherine Mitchell states that she was 18 and just started at the University of Leeds when Jacqueline Hill, another student at the University, was murdered in November.  As a result, female students were warned not to go out at night.  This caused a protest that argues that it is men who should have a curfew.  Al Garthwaite then explains how Nightlink came about.

Ruth Bundey, a solicitor, recounts that a victim of Peter Sutcliffe who wasn’t killed was refused compensation for the attack because she was a prostitute, and thereby provoked the attack.  This in turn provoked a protest, of which a photograph is shown, followed by film of the Reclaim the Night march in Leeds, in the wake of the killing of Jacqueline Hill.  Al Garthwaite recounts that a group broke off from the march and entered a cinema where the film Dressed to Kill was being shown, and threw paint at the screen.  Sandra McNeil states that the film glorifies killing women.  There is also film of an anti-pornography demonstration against a newsagent which sold “vile magazines and horrible videos”.  Sergeant Jane McGill states that the women in this campaign were regarded as on the fringe with no credibility.

Ruth Bundey recounts an ‘art’ exhibition at Leeds Polytechnic being attacked by women protesters who saw it as just pornography.   Sandra McNeil relates the story of Julia Stead, who was killed by a man who lived with her, Keith Ward.  Julia Stead had complained many times to the police about him, but was ignored.  The story is taken up by Jalna Hanmer and Jane McGill, explaining that out of this case there was a Report that led to changes in policing.

Nan Sloane, Regional Director of Yorkshire and Humber labour Party tells of the setting up of a Women’s Committee by Leeds Council.  Jane McGill explains how this led to changes in police policy.  Jill Page and Alison Lowe explain how Leeds Inter-Agency Project was set up and what it does.  Sergeant Nicola Heppenstall of West Yorkshire Police gives some account of recent changes to police practice.  Jalna Hanmer talks about the large 1996 International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Women’s Citizenship in Brighton.  One of the ideas to come out of this was the kerb crawlers’ education programme.

Naseem Shah, of the Campaign to free Zoora Shah, talks about the case and of the gender discrepancy in sentencing.  Sandra McNeil explains that the group Justice for Women campaigns over this issue, and has had some success.  She is also a member of Campaign to End Rape, stating that this remains a big issue, with many things wrong with how women and child victims of rape are treated.  The conference delegates listen to some public information broadcasts which have been made highlighting the issues of violence and rape.  Alison Lowe explains that this campaign, Zero Tolerance, also had leaflets and posters.  Catherine Mitchell follows this up by saying that the campaign was also taken to schools.  Det. Chief Superintendent Max McLean is again shown at the conference giving a speech, while Sue Hall gives an update on Leeds Women’s Aid.

Dr Susanna Lawrence tells the conference that the British Medical Journal has now published a pamphlet on domestic violence, recognising that this a health issue.  Al Garthwaite states that it is wrong to see this as an issue of the past, and that it can be linked in with issues of race and disability.  Other contributors state that progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go, especially in tackling men’s behaviour.  The film ends with Professor Marianne Hester giving the conference an example of a woman who was saved from her suicidal thoughts by the support she recieved from those helping women victims of violence.

Dedicated to all the women who’ve worked long and hard for many years against male violence against women.  This film features only a few.  There are many thousands more.

If this film raises issues for you, contact The Samaritans, who will refer you to your nearest Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis or other helpline.

Thanks to:
Leeds City Council, Leeds Inter-Agency Project, Leeds Town Hall, Oulton Hall Hotel
Archive material: Feminist Archive North, Yorkshire Evening Post, Yorkshire television
Music: I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor (Fekaris/Perrin 1978) ©Spectrum Music
Research Sharon Hooper
Camera Jan Wells
Editor Martin Belderson
Directed and Produced by Al Garthwaite, Catherine Mitchell
Never Give Up is part of the A4 Contemporary Video Collection
A Vera Media Production
© 2000 Vera Media