Why #SREnow? – a campaign from EVAW and Everyday Sexism

The Everyday Sexism Project and the End Violence Against Women Coalition are asking for Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) to be made compulsory in all schools in England, primary and secondary, state and private. We are asking for SRE to include informationhttp://www.aroomofourown.org/ on sexual consent, healthy relationships, online pornography, gender stereotypes and LGBT rights and relationships. We believe it is essential that SRE is delivered as part of a ‘whole-school’ approach, supported by teacher training; improved school leadership; a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment and bullying in schools and a comprehensive review of current statutory guidance on child protection and safeguarding.


Read more Why #SREnow? – a campaign from EVAW and Everyday Sexism

Party Lines – on Women’s Equality Party by @strifejournal

Cross-posted from: Strife Journal
Originally published: 16.02.16

With elections coming up in May this year, Holly Dustin gives us a briefing on what the Women’s Equality Party is all about.

Without a doubt, the British political landscape has shifted significantly since I was trudging through a Politics degree at the University of Nottingham 25 years ago. It was, in some ways, a simpler time for those of us interested in who has power and what they do with it. Margaret Thatcher was still in office (until 1990), and you were either for her or against her. Nelson Mandela was still in prison on Robben Island and the Cold War dominated geo-politics. You voted in elections and in between time you could make your voice heard by going on a demo or wearing a t-shirt (I did both). There were no smartphones, no epetitions, no Facebook likes, and definitely no lobbying your MP on twitter.

There were few women in Parliament then and Thatcher, known for ‘pulling the ladder up behind her’, only ever promoted one woman, Baroness Young, to her Cabinet in all eleven years of her premiership. The Politics Department at Nottingham was an all-male affair too (my memory is of a micro-Cold War between the Thatcher supporting majority and Marxist minority). Politics (capital P) was black and white, and did not appear to include feminism.

Twenty five years later we can say for sure that British politics is less blokey, though still too white and male with only 29% of MPs being women and less than 7% of MPs being from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, and there is a new wave of feminist activism both in Parliament and outside it. Furthermore, British politics is fragmenting; the three-party system is breaking up with the collapse of the Lib Dems in Parliament and the rise of Nationalists around the UK. and smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Greens, gaining electoral support even if first-past-the-post means that support doesn’t translate into seats.
Read more Party Lines – on Women’s Equality Party by @strifejournal

Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen

Cross-posted from: Women's Views on the News
Originally published: 30.03.16

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Commit to maintaining London’s pioneering Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy.

 

 

Women’s groups in London published a ‘manifesto for ending violence against women and girls in the capital,’ recently and sent open letters to Mayoral candidates highlighting the endemic levels of domestic and sexual violence in London, and asking them to make specific commitments on ending female genital mutilation (FGM), on prostitution, on ensuring support services are maintained, and the effective policing of these crimes.

A new ‘mayorwatch’ website, which will track all relevant mayoral and Assembly candidates’ pledges has also been launched.

The manifesto and open letters precede an ‘ending violence against women and girls hustings’ in central London on 12 April, with Sian Berry, Green Party;  Yvette Cooper MP for Labour; Stephen Greenhalgh for the Conservatives; Annabel Mullin for the Lib Dems; and Sophie Walker, standing for the Women’s Equality Party, on the panel.
Read more Manifesto on VAWG for London mayor candidates by @newsaboutwomen

Finding Our Voices by @EstellaMz

Cross-posted from: Uncultured Sisterhood
Originally published: 17.06.14

In becoming forcibly and essentially aware of my mortality, and of what I wished and wanted for my life, however short it might be, priorities and omissions become strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.

Audre Lorde

I’ve been pushing the urge to blog to the back of my mind.

It was inevitable for a couple of reasons.

The first is finding myself in a state of permanent rage over the multitude of injustices which girls and women in Uganda on the continent and globally, have faced historically and still suffer on a daily basis. Hardly a day goes by, not even an hour, without a report: man rapes woman, wife beaten, man kills woman, girl raped by father, soldiers rape women, and so on.

In the era of widely touted Millennium Development Goals, Uganda is in the lead or close to the top when it comes to incidence of child marriagesexual abuse of childrenteenage pregnancy, sexual harassment and assault (rape is hardly reported; on record is mostly that by LRA insurgents during the war in northern Uganda), intimate partner violencematernal mortality, and deaths from complications arising from unsafe abortions. The horrors are endless to the point that many have become desensitized to the real suffering, in real time, of real people.

Human-beings. Girls. Women.
Read more Finding Our Voices by @EstellaMz

Remember my name at Truth about Domestic Violence

(Cross-posted from Truth about Domestic Violence)

“REMEMBER MY NAME”

When you remember my walk upon this earth

Look not into my steps with pity.

When you taste the tears of my journey

Notice how they fill my foot prints

Not my spirit

For that remains with me.

My story must be told

Must remain in conscious memory

So my daughters won’t cry my tears

Or follow my tortured legacy.

Lovin’ is a tricky thing

If it doesn’t come from a healthy place,

If Lovin’ Doesn’t FIRST practice on self it will act like a stray bullet not caring what it hits

You may say:

Maybe I should’ve loved him a little less

Maybe I should’ve loved me a little more,

Maybe I should’ve not believed he’d never hit me again.

All those maybes will not bring me back– not right his wrong.

My life was not his to take.

As your eyes glance my name

Understand once I breathed

Walked

Loved

just like you.

I wish for all who glance my name

To know love turned fear – kept me there

Loved twisted to fear,

Kept me in a chokehold

Cut off my air

Blurred my vision I couldn’t see how to break free.

I shoulda told my family

I shoulda told my friends

I shoulda got that CPO

Before the police let him go

But all those shoulda’s can’t bring me back when I lied so well

To cover the shame

To hide the signs.

If my death had to show what love isn’t

If my death had to show that love shouldn’t hurt

If my death had to make sure another woman told a friend instead of holding it in

If my death reminds you how beautiful, how worthy you really are

If my death reminds you to honor all you are daily

Then remember my name

Shout it from the center of your soul

Wake me in my grave

Let ME know

My LIVING was not in vain.

By Kimberly A. Collins

 

Truth about Domestic Violence: my own personal experience with DV and also about general issues in relation to Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Rape, exposing the truth in just how severely victims are let down, in particular by poor policing and in the family courts.

#WhyIStayed – Why leaving domestic abuse is never easy at Truth about Domestic Violence

 

(cross-posted from The Truth about Domestic Violence)whyistayed-resize

With Crown Court fast approaching, I am acutely aware of the uncomfortable questions I am going to have to answer soon. I am acutely aware of how I am going to be forced to justify my actions in front of a whole court room full of strangers, and how my movements and actions, conduct and more importantly inactions, are going to be scrutinised, as a jury deliberates over whether my Ex-partner is to be found guilty of seven counts of rape, or not. In the aftermath of the Janay Rice/Palmer assault, which was captured on CCTV and caused her now-husband an indefinite ban from future American Football games, Domestic Violence has been a topic in the media, with many asking “Why did she stay”, and why on earth did she go on to marry him, the day after he was indicted on a third degree aggravated assault charge against her.
Many people struggle to understand why anyone would stay in a violent and abusive relationship, and often come to the secondary conclusion, that the “abuse” can’t have been that bad, if the victim chose to stay, instead of running a mile. I know that, in a few months, I am going to have to answer that question, as I will give testimony of how I was systematically abused, assaulted and raped for years.

Before I was a victim of Domestic Violence, I might have been on the other side of that scenario, I might have sworn blind, I’d never let a man lay a finger on me, and that I’d leave the instant that he did. I would have said I’m a strong woman, asserted that I would never succumb to a man, let alone let him victimise and abuse me! Fast forward seven years, and, well …Ignorance is bliss… as they say. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and knowing what I know now, I’m aware of just how ignorant and damaging such claims are.

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Ask any victim of Domestic Abuse, and they will tell you just how hard leaving, and staying separated, is. One must remember, that abusers aren’t behaving the way ‘normal’ people do- , sometimes because they are clinically disordered, sometimes because their narcissistic, or psychopathic tendencies or personalities won’t allow them to, sometimes and perhaps mostly, simply because they don’t want to. Abusers, generally speaking, aren’t individuals who simply accept the end of a relationship. Quite often they have ‘worked hard’ at establishing control over their victim, and the end of a relationship would mean to lose control, and that is, quite simply, not an acceptable concept to them. So when people say, “Why didn’t she leave?”, they categorically fail to acknowledge the fact, that a lot of victims simply can’t. Domestic abuse often starts, or escalates, only after the relationship is established and some form of commitment has been entered. In many cases, the abuse starts with the couple’s first pregnancy or child, after some form of financial commitment was made (mortgage, car finance, large credit, etc.), or the victim is economically, financially, or emotionally dependent on the abuser. Outsiders often also fail to realise that simply ending the relationship, does not mean that the interactions or contact with the abuser ends. In many cases, victims are stalked, harassed, coerced, manipulated, threatened, or further victimised and assaulted, until returning to the abuser simply seems like the lesser evil. If the couple has children, the nightmare rarely ends for the victim, and her children, as the abuser frequently (ab)uses the children as pawn in his scheme to further inflict pain on his victim, and maintain as much control over her life as possible.

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The #WhyIstayed hashtag, which surfaced after the Palmer/Rice media coverage, really hit home, because I realise that as I walk into court as some point in the near future, I will have a group of jurors wondering the exact same thing. Those twelve people will be told the extent of my “allegations” against my Ex-partner, and father of my child, and they will wonder, why I resumed a relationship after having been in court once before, why I remained in a relationship with a man who has injured me to the point of needing Emergency Treatment, and why, after having been brutally raped, I carried on the relationship for another 15 months or so, only for it to happen, over and over again. I realise that for some, the reasoning behind me staying is simply too abstract, that my personal views on what was acceptable and what was not, what I considered safe and what I didn’t may seem skewed and arbitrary at best, and downright unbelievable, pathetic, weak and dumb at worst. Unless one really takes the time, however, to empathetically and critically look into the psychological dynamics and profiles of both perpetrators and victims, most probably will never really understand why anyone would stay.

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I had to attend A&E late at night because he’d thrown a wooden brick in my face injuring my eye ( temporary loss of sight, permanent change in vision and shape of my pupil ) and giving me concussion. He harassed, called and text all the way to the hospital, whilst I was waiting, being examined and on the way home. He repeatedly reminded me that my child was with him and to ‘ not do anything stupid ‘ , and I was exhausted and weak from being sick from concussion. The medical treatment took several weeks and I had no support and no where to go. #WhyIStayed

I tried to leave – and he abused and beat me all day. He smashed my head against the wall repeatedly – He broke my phone and sim, disconnected the landline, locked the doors and hid the key. He choked me with a belt that night and raped me, then told me if I tried to leave again he’d kill our child and me . I had no support & nowhere to go. #WhyIStayed

Truth about Domestic Violence: my own personal experience with DV and also about general issues in relation to Domestic Violence and Intimate Partner Rape, exposing the truth in just how severely victims are let down, in particular by poor policing and in the family courts.

#DeadWomenWalking: A March to Raise Awareness of Fatal Domestic Violence

This is a peaceful creative ‘Murder March’ created by Claire Moore to represent the women mudered in the UK by partners, ex-partners, family members i.e. domestic violence murders. Since the election in 2010 there have been more than 400 domestic violence murders.

This #DeadWomenWalking walk to Downing Street is to raise awareness of the women behind the statistics of domestic violence murders. To take place on Sunday 23rd November 2014 to coincide with International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women that week.

One in three women experience domestic violence in the UK.

Women are not alone in experiencing domestic violence but we are the majority of victims – and when we are it rarely makes headline news Why? Because it is commonplace! When it is covered by the media it’s usually towards the back of the paper and the story is often about our killer, his previous achievements, struggles – we are often forgotten or blamed – seen as wife of…. Far too frequently we discover that women had asked for help, the killers were known to the police and had a history of domestic violence. The inevitable statement is released and we are told ‘lessons will be learned’ I have worked to raise awareness of domestic violence for over 19years and I have heard this said too many times!  I want those lessons to be learned NOW – for women to be listened to and believed because domestic violence murders are preventable – awareness and understanding is key along with properly funded specialist support services.

There is a Go Fund Me to raise money to cover insurance costs, printing t-shirts etc.

I hope you will support the event and help remember these women – who should be alive today.

Not all men by Kiss Me and Be Quiet

(Cross-posted from Kiss Me and Be Quiet)

Well it’s been quite the week for victim-blaming hasn’t it? Another week of people loudly proclaiming that sex offenders and abusers are not actually at fault for what they do, oh no. It’s the person who’s been attacked, abused or violated of course.

Victim-blaming is a big thing when women are attacked. It always has been. Court cases (if it even gets that far) filled with questions about whether the victim was drinking, wearing make-up, wearing a short skirt, is a virgin etc. This isn’t news. The fact that women who are completely covered up, or that men get attacked too doesn’t seem to change this narrative. Logic doesn’t apply here, it’s all about ensuring women understand the do’s and don’t’s of “acceptable” behaviour.

This week, the victim-blaming got louder for a moment, when half of twitter couldn’t stop screaming about Jennifer Lawrence. That she shouldn’t take photographs of herself that she isn’t prepared for the whole world to see. That it was a publicity stunt. That it would help her on the casting couch. That she is sexy, so she should ‘own it’. That it was worth it. Because apparently when you are famous, you are no longer allowed to have boundaries, be private or give consent. Because apparently when you are ‘hot’ then your distress is secondary to other people’s voyeurism.

And then there were the responses to the people who wrote about this. When people pointed out this was abuse, or that you wouldn’t blame someone for online banking and yet we do for storing photos online, when people said ‘stop’, or painted the picture in the wider context of misogyny or the patriarchy and of men trying to silence women.

‘Not. All. Men’ came the immediate reply.

‘Not. All. Men’ yelped the men who considered themselves to be decent citizens.

‘Fuck you. Not all men’ shouted some adding extra abuse in a heartbeat.

 

Not all men, we are repeatedly told, while being sold nail varnish that can stop us being raped.

Not all men, we are told, while being sold hairy leggings to stop us being raped.

Not all men, we are told while being given rape alarms for when we need to walk somewhere alone in the dark.

Not all men, we are told, while being advised not to wear short skirts. Or get drunk. Or kiss anyone without wanting to sleep with them.

Not all men, we are told, while being told that our mere presence in a bar, on the street, on a train, in a car park, could trigger any one of the bad men to lose control. And it will be our fault.

Not all men, we are told, while being told that the mere vision of us on our own private cameras could cause one of the bad men to go to extreme lengths to get those photos and can’t help but share them. And it will be our fault.

And it may be a surprise to realise that in spite of this, we actually know that it’s not all men. We are aware that we can walk down the street without every male we walk past abusing us. That we can take a chance and try and meet a man on a date and see if we like each other. That we can go to work and have male colleagues with whom we might have a good conversation. but I don’t know a woman who hasn’t at some point been verbally or physically abused by a man. I don’t go out with my friends without us texting each other at the end of the night to let each other know we’re home safe. The majority of my friends will wince if told to ‘cheer up love’ by a random man in case he turns nasty. And here’s the thing – we don’t know if you are the nice guy, or the man who can’t control himself. We don’t know if you’re the guy to stay near in case something happens, or you’re the guy who will make something happen.

So if your first reaction to learning how widespread verbal and physical abuse of women is, is ‘not all men!’, instead of ‘holy crap I had no idea!’ then you either need to challenge your response, or rethink your status as a nice guy, because screaming, or even calmly stating ‘not all men’ isn’t helping to change the reality that women get attacked, and then get blamed for it.

 

Kiss Me and Be Quiet: “Be plain in dress, and sober in your diet; In short my deary, kiss me and be quiet.” A satirical summary of Lord Lyttelton’s Advice to women, written by Lady May Wortley Montagu in the 1700s. Not enough has changed since then. I am a feminist, parent to two small children, and I have lived with chronic back pain for nearly two years, and counting. These are 3 topics that occupy a lot of my thinking. I’ll share some of those thoughts with you here.

Reeva Steenkamp and Oscar Pistorius: Not a question of fact, but perspective by @glosswitch

(Cross-posted with permission from Glosswitch)

When women are killed, we remain just as dead as any man in similar circumstances. It cannot be argued that we have not really died, that the bullet that went through our skull didn’t really hurt us. Our death is an objective truth. It’s just the years leading up to it – all those experiences, thoughts and feelings – that can never quite be verified. For how does one know whether a life has validity unless it was lived by a man?

A man’s story belongs to him. He is more than “just the women”. As Judge Thokozile Masipa said of Oscar Pistorius, not guilty of murder despite firing four shots through a locked bathroom door, “the accused is the only person who can say what his state of mind was at the time he fired the shots that killed the deceased”. His experiences are inviolable. And as for those of the deceased? Alas, she has but one experience: that of being dead, and before then, her experience was that of being the other half; the complement, the accessory, the essential blonde girlfriend in the Blade Runner Story. Oscar Pistorius Charged With The Murder Of Model Lover. What experiences would a model lover have, anyway? None, were it not for the man who magics her into existence. Look! There she is, on his arm! How clever of him to find one like that!

Reeva Steenkamp — model lover, deceased, whatever – confessed to fearing the man who would eventually kill her. It’s almost as though she had an inner life and words of her own, not that these matter. According to Judge Masipa, “normal relationships are dynamic and unpredictable sometimes”. Whatever Steenkamp felt came and went; it is not being felt any more. Meanwhile a man can rewrite the past. Oscar Pistorius did. Even so, the assumption that just because he was untruthful, he must therefore be guilty of murder “must be guided against”. Of course. There is, beneath the fog, some rock solid truth that no one on the outside may question. We simply cannot know.

When women feel anger and dismay at verdicts such as those delivered today, we are told not to generalise. We must stick to the facts. We must also be reasonable. Here are some things that are facts, not generalisations (whether or not they are reasonable is another matter):

You can piece together a story from this, if you want to. You can identify a pattern. Nonetheless, whatever you do you will be dealing with lives which don’t carry the same weight as the lives of men. They simply don’t make the same impression. As women we are used to being talked over, corrected and ignored. Even if we die a thousand deaths each one will be separated out and filed away neatly. A woman’s death becomes a detail in the life story of the man who kills her; god forbid that we group the many deaths together and see a different story, that of a culture which tolerates and excuses male violence again and again.

#Ibelieveher matters, not because women never lie, but because our stories are always seen as provisional and in need of external verification. If something happens to us and a man cannot confirm it, has it really happened at all? How can anyone be sure? The stories of women form a backdrop to the lives of men. When they become obtrusive or inconvenient, they can be discarded. It’s not rape if areasonable person would have believed consent was given. It’s not murder if areasonable person would have felt under threat. Men, of course, are reasonable; women, less so. When we hide in toilets, behind locked doors, when we profess to feeling scared – well, who knows what that means? Every word, feeling and memory is left hanging in the air, waiting to see if a man will walk past and give it shape. And if he doesn’t? Well, we might as well not exist.

Emma Humphreys Prize for Women/ Organisations working in the field of VAW

(Cross-posted from Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize)

Emma Humphreys was a writer, campaigner and survivor of male violence who fought an historic struggle to overturn a murder conviction in 1995, supported by Justice for Women and other feminist campaigners. The annual prize of £1,000 is awarded to an individual woman who has, through writing or campaigning, raised awareness of violence against women and children. Alongside the individual prize, the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize judges choose the recipient of a group award, established to recognise the unsung work done by many women’s groups and organisations. This award marks the outstanding contribution of women’s organisations who work in this embattled area and whose creativity and resourcefulness have resulted in developments that combat the prevalence of male violence. Starting in 2009, a prize is also awarded every two years to an international women’s group. The awards aim to provide recognition for work against violence and to bring it to the attention of a wider public.

Criteria to consider in nominating a woman for the individual prize

  • The individual woman should be someone who, through writing or campaigning, has sought to raise awareness of violence against women and children
  • While she may have done this work as part of her paid employment, the judges will give priority to those nominees whose campaigning or writing has clearly extended outside of the paid work environment, or been conducted on a voluntary basis
  • Nominators should ensure that the supporting statement focuses on the achievements of the individual woman herself rather than describing the achievements of the project/organisation she works for
  • Judges will give due consideration to the issue around which the individual woman has been working, and may prioritise a nomination that they deem to highlight a pressing political imperative for feminist campaigning in the present
  • In completing the supporting statement, nominators should attempt to point out the particular and unique aspects of the work which is commended in the nomination; it is not necessary to provide a full biography
  • Nominators should be confident that, should their nominee be awarded the prize, she would be willing to participate in some related media interviews or events, in discussion with the organisers of the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize

Criteria to consider in nominating a women’s group or organisation for the group award

  • The group or organisation should have done important work in raising awareness of violence against women and children, and have sought to bring about change
  • It would be helpful if the nominator could draw attention to any particular obstacles the group has encountered
  • The nominator should try to give examples of any initiatives which best exemplify the resourcefulness of the group or organisation in carrying forward work which seeks to combat violence against women and children
  • It would be helpful if the nominator could indicate, where possible, how effective certain strategies or developments adopted by the group have been in combating the prevalence of such violence
  • The nominator should give a brief explanation of the funding status of the group, and how the award might be used to help assist the group in future.