It has been a distressing couple of months for the families of women murdered as a result of male violence.

In Kilmarnock there was the heinous and senseless murder of Emma Robertson and her daughter Nicole Anderson.

In Dundee days later yet another woman was murdered by a man known to her and only this weekend we hear of the bodies of a woman and her 2 year old daughter being found in the Dundee area whilst a man has been charged with their murder.

We are told these are isolated incidents – yet male violence against women is a huge problem in Scotland and the UK.

We know the vast majority of men are decent human beings who are appalled by these senseless murders, but we also know, sadly, that male violence against women is not a problem confined to isolated incidents.

It’s been a serious issue for a number of years. So much so the UN has declared violence against women and girls to be “a global pandemic”.

We know that it’s an issue locally too, and despite a number of positive initiatives to minimise it, we still have a problem in West Dunbartonshire.

Thankfully we also have two excellent Women’s Aid projects in West Dunbartonshire who provide an invaluable service to women and children who are subject to, or fleeing from, domestic abuse.

Referrals for women’s aid services have increased during the Covid-19 lockdown by 140 per cent – a staggering figure and one which should concern us all.

As an administration we have sought to support services for women and children in West Dunbartonshire by increasing funding at our budget setting process each year since our election in 2017.

Despite the additional demands on our finances due to the pandemic, we are able to make a one-off payment of £20,000 for this coming year to both our area’s Women’s Aid projects in recognition of their excellent work and the increased demand there has been on their service this past year.

The council’s SNP administration remains committed to tackling male violence against women and children – but we can only truly achieve progress if people in the wider community do their bit too.

That is why I am reaching out to every resident in West Dunbartonshire to ask this: where you see derogatory or dehumanising remarks and behaviours, about or to women, challenge them.

Where we see coercive and controlling behaviours, I am asking you to challenge them.

Sometimes we can say or behave in ways that aren’t intended to cause harm but invariably do.

And we may need others to help us realise the effect of remarks or behaviours.

We all saw the effects and benefits of our communities coming together in a time of crisis to support each other this past year.

Although domestic violence is a hidden crisis, it is nonetheless a crisis.

But if we all challenged one person in our lives, we could really make a difference.

Please dare to challenge.