‘WHAT happened to your knee?” asked an adult in my primary school class as my knee was scraped and filled with wee stones.

“Brian pushed me in the playground,” I answered. “Oh, he must fancy you, boys do that when they want girls’ attention,” they said. I was around age seven, and that sounded stupid and unfair to me that he wouldn’t get in trouble as “boys will be boys”.

I took it in and of course –unknown to me at that time – I was beginning my conditioning to accept that the repressed emotions of men and boys would be expressed by them physically, and that pain might be a by-product of that.

This messaging was re-emphasised when the TV programmes I watched as a young girl had very sexist messaging – for example, women in hyper-sexualised outfits being chased by what I thought was a creepy man in The Benny Hill Show.

Boys and men chase us when they want to touch us was a clear message of the time – particularly sinister when overlaid with the laughter of so many. What if she didn’t like it, would they think she was a spoilsport if she asked him to stop?

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I don’t specifically blame that person (or TV) for what came in front of me, but it contributed to it for sure, as did the whole of society’s attitudes. Particularly for learning social cues and the lack of understanding of flirtation; for the years of walking on eggshells; for being unsure if the ever-increasing grip around my wrist was a man asking for emotional support or releasing frustration.

I kept quiet over many years and faced much more than a gripped wrist, often without a peep from me. I spoke up once to somebody and was asked “how did the fight start?” – that narrative shut me down instantly.

I spent many years in an invisible prison, the mental grip being much stronger than any physical one.

My experience means that the 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign is incredibly poignant and important to me. On day one, I joined a march in Aberdeen organised by the Aberdeen Women’s Alliance, which was part of the campaign to “reclaim the night” to make streets and public areas safer for women.

We lit big torches and marched together along the streets as a band of women, united in our call to be safe from harm. It should be our right. We lit a candle to Jill Barclay, an Aberdeen woman murdered recently on our north-east streets – the reality of such a brutal act being so close to home shook us to the core.

From the brutality of the murder of a woman walking alone at night to the grip of a wrist in our own homes, we demand safety.

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Not all men commit violence against women and girls, but all men have a part to play in ending it.

It’s a whole societal issue which everyone has taken part in cultivating, and everyone must help to rectify it. But the onus must be on men. As frustrating as it is, part of the centuries-old conditioning on all our parts has meant that men will listen to men more attentively and be more inclined to take them seriously.

The patriarchy – a system designed to hold men in powerful positions, while using the mostly free labour of women to serve their needs – has tainted our views.

This inherent culture of seeing women as something to use, as weaker or subordinate, has helped create a culture where femininity is seen as subservient and any traits associated with it deemed weak.

How patriarchy views femininity contributes to a toxic male culture which then encourages men and boys to repress feelings and express themselves in forms of violence. This of course also spills over into the mistreatment of our LGBT community. Gay men have been long-time allies of women and there is a good reason. Gender and sexuality must be controlled by the patriarchal system or the system fails. Good, I say, fine by me – and I will do all I can to dismantle it.

I refute any attempt by anyone to tag the LGBT community as any main character in this global war of femicide. To deflect onto another group the actions of toxic, violent predatory men who are the main culprits in femicide is to take the focus off the real issue and could potentially lead to more harm, not to mention make me raise my eyebrows as to why the need to deflect.

This Thursday is International Human Rights Day, the final day of 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence.

Can I ask all men to reaffirm a commitment, to take on the responsibility of changing our culture, to call out sexist tropes, to focus on the behaviour of those other men around you? To make it so socially unacceptable to put down women that it would deem you a social pariah?

When your friend confides in you he’s lifted his hand to a female partner, don’t soothe his ego by accepting his excuses – bruise his ego with harsh truths. Call it out.

Don’t be that guy. But what’s just as important is don’t allow your male friends and family to be those guys either.

Scottish Women’s Aid are organising an online vigil at 7pm on Thursday to remember all women and children who have died because of domestic abuse.

Please tag @scotwomensaid and use the hashtags #DomesticAbuse #ForThemAll. Please also share the Scottish Women’s Aid 24/7 helpline number, 0800 027 1234.

I will be thinking of all those women, trapped in their homes, unable to escape their invisible prisons. Please look out for them – sometimes they are waiting for the question, or the hand to hold onto. Men, please take the mantle of responsibility to end femicide, we need your allyship.