Originally published: 23.01.18
Emily Maitlis recently spoke of her distress and frustration at the Criminal Justice System response to over 20 years of being stalked and I was asked to discuss the issue on BBC Radio 4’s PM Show.
Emily Maitlis recently spoke of her distress and frustration at the Criminal Justice System response to over 20 years of being stalked and I was asked to discuss the issue on BBC Radio 4’s PM Show.
That’s the reality millions of women across America face every day. In fact, 50% of all homeless women report that their homelessness stemmed from acts of domestic violence so severe their only options were to stay and die or leave and face homelessness.
Homelessness stemming from domestic violence is not discussed as frequently as it should be, but it’s one of the most pressing women’s issues of our time, as resources for fleeing women are scarce and access to medical care and food are constantly dwindling.
Read more DOMESTIC ABUSE’S TIES TO HOMELESSNESS IS A SERIOUS WOMEN’S ISSUE – @KATEHARVESTON #XISAFEMINISTISSUE
Jemima (her real name withheld by request) is a 19 year old university student living in Melbourne. At age 10 she saw pornography for the first time. Her life began to unravel, culminating in sexual assault by a group of teen boys when she was 14 and leading to severe mental health problems. I got chatting to Jemima at the recent Justice Conference in Melbourne. Within a few minutes her story poured out and she agreed to allow me to record her experience. Articulate and insightful, Jemima helps us see the way porn exposure so young shaped her view of herself, what she was good for, how she should behave and to understand the long-lasting ramifications nine years later.
Read more ‘I learnt to act like porn stars so boys would like me’ – Jemima tells MTR how her life changed when exposed to porn at 10, by @meltankardreist
When The Handmaid’s Tale first became available on SBS On Demand, I binged-watched it. I am now watching it on live TV, an episode a week and taking notes with the idea of writing a series of blogs, identifying the underlying themes that occur throughout the series.
I have recently seen Episode 8, “The Jezebels” and it is about a brothel.
This is no dystopian scene. This happens here and now, in every part of the globe, where women’s bodies are bought and sold – for men’s use and abuse – through pornography and prostitution. I felt compelled to write about this episode in particular because it is so relevant and current –it is what is happening in our world, today.
Read more “Jezebels” The Handmaid’s Tale, at Mairi Voice
Sparked by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein as an alleged serial sex offender, a mass confessional has taken place recently via social media, in which women everywhere have held up their hands and said, me too: the things that Weinstein did to those women have happened to me too. I hope to goodness it was cathartic and useful for the women who took the brave and exposing step of outing their private pain to the world, and I hope to goodness there were as many women reading who felt less alone, less ashamed as a result. But the outpouring is slowing and I, for one, am relieved. A collective boil has perhaps now been lanced, although I still cannot see through the pus.
The pus gathers in the responses, which can be divided into three broad categories. First is blanket denial, whereby men and their cheerleaders deny that sexual abuse on such a massive scale exists at all. Women are fanciful, lying, exaggerating for effect. There is a bandwagon onto which women are joyfully leaping in an attempt to malign men and revel in their perceived victimhood. Second, we have the more modern form of denial which concedes that yes, sexual abuse is a common problem, although not a gendered one. There are simply some people that abuse other people and all abuse is equally bad. The inconvenient and statistical truth that 98% of all sexual crime is committed by men, and that the overwhelming majority of their victims are female, can be pasted over with obfuscation and the politics of individualism. In other words, if we focus in carefully enough on all the tiny pictures, the big picture will begin to fade into the background and eventually disappear altogether. In the face of this manipulative myopia I can find myself longing for the first, more traditional trope. It is, at least, straightforward. Lastly, we have the outraged hyperbole. The shock! The fury! Whoever could have imagined such horrifying evil existed in the world?!
The category of “hate crime” is now widely recognized, both legally and in the culture at large. To many activists fighting racism and homophobia, this recognition is welcome; but what value does it have for feminists dealing with violence against women and children? Is “hate crime” a useful concept, or is it ultimately divisive and unhelpful? Liz Kelly weighs up the arguments.
These reflections are prompted by my involvement in an EU study  which considered whether it was feasible to harmonise European national legislation on violence against women (VAW), violence against children (VAC) and sexual orientation violence (SOV). Since I was responsible for the section on SOV, I had to engage with the now-common framing of it as a “hate crime”. This is a concept I have had misgivings about for some time , and my unease was reinforced by my experience of working on the EU study.
Before I elaborate, I should make clear that I am not denying the existence of misogyny—woman-hating—or more generally of crimes motivated by hate. That both are real was underlined for me in summer 2010, when I spent some time with a close friend who had just attended the first gay pride march in Split, Croatia. 200 marchers were confronted by thousands of men chanting “kill, kill” and “you should all be dead”. Rather, what I want to argue is that there are problems with “hate crime” as an overarching concept. Neither hate nor misogyny provides an adequate explanation or theoretical framework for understanding all violence against women, especially when we examine the intersections with race/ethnicity, age, disability and sexuality. And the evidence suggests that while categorizing them as “hate crimes” has increased the recognition given to certain types of crimes, it has not delivered much in terms of justice and redress.
Read more The Trouble with “Hate”, by Liz Kelly at @strifejournal
There is a growing need to revisit our conceptual frameworks for understanding men’s violence against women and girls. Recent high-profile cases have raised public awareness of the extent of sexual violence; by using digital media, feminist activists have highlighted the everyday nature of men’s intrusive behaviour. The diverse voices that give feminism as a political movement its complexity and reflexivity have undoubtedly been amplified. But the internet has also changed the way we create, take in and distribute information; often we end up speaking over rather than to one another.
Read more Situating agency, by Dr Fiona Vera-Gray for @strifejournal
When a rageaholic is the nation’s Prince Charming, young girls learn abuse is part of the fairy tale. Josh Murray, an emotional abuser, won 2014’s The Bachelorette when Andi Dorfman accepted his proposal. But several months later they ended their engagement. She’s since written a book called It’s Not Okay: Turning Heartbreak Into Happily Never After. In it, she details Josh’s verbal abuse, calling it “the most volatile and fucked up relationship of my life.” At one point she was concerned enough for her safety to tell her friend Nikki Ferrell that if she turned up dead, Josh did it. Andi says she was “trapped in a relationship that made her feel utterly worthless and dismally defeated.” Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Here’s the Full Transcript Of Angela Davis’s Women’s March Speech via @ElleMagazine
“At a challenging moment in our history, let us remind ourselves that we the hundreds of thousands, the millions of women, trans-people, men and youth who are here at the Women’s March, we represent the powerful forces of change that are determined to prevent the dying cultures of racism, hetero-patriarchy from rising again.
“We recognize that we are collective agents of history and that history cannot be deleted like web pages. We know that we gather this afternoon on indigenous land and we follow the lead of the first peoples who despite massive genocidal violence have never relinquished the struggle for land, water, culture, their people. We especially salute today the Standing Rock Sioux.
“The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country’s history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history.” …
“Friends, sisters and brothers, all of you who are before me today and in 370 marches in every state in this country and on six continents and those who will be communing with us in one at 1 [p.m.] in a silent minute for equality in offices, in kitchens, in factories, in prisons, all over the world. I thank each of you, and I especially want to thank the hardworking visionary organizers of this women-led, inclusive march, one of whom managed to give birth while she was organizing this march. Who else can say that?
Thank you for understanding that sometimes we must put our bodies where our beliefs are. Sometimes pressing send is not enough. And this also unifies us with the many in this world who do not have computers or electricity or literacy, but do have the same hopes and the same dreams.
I think that because I and my beloved co-chairs, the Golden oldies right?–Harry Belafonte, Dolores Huerta, LaDonna Harris–all these great people, we may be the oldest marchers here today, so I’ve been thinking about the uses of a long life, and one of them is you remember when things were worse. …
Dear Alan Carr,
You can harp on about how the Justin Lee Collins who assaulted his partner wasn’t the Justin that you knew, but the truth of the matter is that he was.
See, this is the kind of talk that silences abuse victims. Talking about how it was a “toxic” relationship. Minimising the abuse. It’s telling victims that their experiences of an abuser aren’t accurate, because yours are different.
Content note: this post contains examples of offensive slur-terms.
Last week, the British edition of Glamour magazine published a column in which Juno Dawson used the term ‘TERF’ to describe feminists (the example she named was Germaine Greer) who ‘steadfastly believe that me—and other trans women—are not women’. When some readers complained about the use of derogatory language, a spokeswoman for the magazine replied on Twitter that TERF is not derogatory:
Trans-exclusionary radical feminist is a description, and not a misogynistic slur.
Arguments about whether TERF is a neutral descriptive term or a derogatory slur have been rumbling on ever since. They raise a question which linguists and philosophers have found quite tricky to answer (and which they haven’t reached a consensus on): what makes a word a slur?
Before I consider that general question, let’s take a closer look at the meaning and history of TERF. As the Glamour spokeswoman said, it’s an abbreviated form of the phrase ‘Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist’; more specifically it’s an acronym, constructed from the initial letters of the words that make up the phrase. Some people have suggested this means it can’t be a slur. I find that argument puzzling, since numerous terms which everyone agrees are slurs are abbreviated forms (examples include ‘Paki’, ‘Jap’, ‘paedo’ and ‘tranny’). But in any case, there’s a question about the status of TERF as an acronym. Clearly it started out as one, but is it still behaving like one now?
Read more What makes a word a slur?
I’m beginning to think that men shouldn’t be allowed to have an opinion on the sex trade, let alone be in charge of deciding the legislation around it. In the last few weeks we have found out that Keith Vaz is a punter, that the Lib Dems are happy with the idea of prostitution being on the careers curriculum at school, and that Jeremy Corbyn just doesn’t care that much:
“Most important the figure of the witch…in this volume is placed at the center-stage, as the embodiment of a world of female subjects that capitalism had to destroy; the heretic, the healer, the disobedient wife, the woman who dared to live alone, the obeha woman who poisoned the master’s food and inspired the slaves to revolt.” (p.1)
I have just finished reading this fascinating and excellent work.
I am avid enthusiast of the need for the reclaiming of women’s history and the necessity to document and learn about women’s past roles in our history. So it was with excitement that I came across this important work.
Federici gave me an interesting perspective on women’s history as she claims that it is not just about reclaiming women’s hidden history but understanding how women are often at the centre of historical events but their role has been diminished by historical accounts.
Read more Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici – a review at Mairi Voice
How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?
By Marie Hume, Dr. Elspeth McInnes, Kathryn Rendell, and Betty Green (Women Everywhere Advocating Violence Elimination Inc.)
It is well established that a significant percentage of homeless people in Australia are women and children escaping male violence. According to Homelessness Australia, just over two in every five of the estimated homeless population are women. More women than men seek assistance from the homeless service system each year. Two-thirds of the children who accompanied an adult to a homeless service last year were in the care of a woman, usually their mother, escaping domestic violence. Domestic violence is the most often cited reason given by women presenting to specialist homelessness services for seeking assistance.
The majority of people turned away from specialist homelessness services are women and their children. One in two people who request immediate accommodation are turned away each night due to high demand and under-resourcing.
Read more How is a lack of feminist analysis within domestic violence and contemporary services contributing to a reproduction of women’s and children’s homelessness and continued risk of domestic violence victimisation?
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
It’s not been a great few weeks to be a woman. Against the backdrop of recent allegations of sexual misconduct in politics and a thoroughly sexist Oscars ceremony, Twitter was all a flutter last night as it discovered t-shirts being sold through Amazon with the slogan ‘Keep Calm and Rape Her’. The t-shirts, supplied by company Solid Gold Bomb, contain slogans that are supposedly generated by a computer algorithm with no human input and therefore no human to take responsibility for them. Realizing that there was massive outcry the company said:
“We have been informed of the fact that we were selling an offensive T-shirt primarily in the UK. This has been immediately deleted as it was and had been automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against 100s of thousands of dictionary words.”
So far so good. Twitter then looked closer at Amazon and found t-shirts with the slogan ‘Statistically 9 out of 10 people enjoy gang rape’ supplied by seller CharGrilled.
Even funnier right? Amazon were quick to remove both rape t-shirts and most people thought that was the end of the story. However, they are still selling t-shirts that have the slogans “Keep Calm and Cut Her’ and “Keep Calm and Knife Her’ and a whole host more, again supplied by Solid Gold Bomb.
Is this just random algorithm or something more sinister? If it was random surely you would expect to see all the same verbs applied on the “Keep Calm and … him’ t-shirts, right?
No, because there are no “Keep Calm and …. Him’ t-shirts. This particular joke is reserved for women. Why is that? This must have been a decision made when a human being was programming the algorithm in the first place. Why is ‘Keep Calm and Knife Her’ a funny t-shirt while “Keep Calm and Knife Him’ is not?
You also don’t see t-shirts being the phrase ‘Keep Calm and lynch them’ or ‘Keep Calm and gas them’. Why not? Surely if the random word generating story is true we should see all these options? Imagine the public reaction to those items of clothing. We’d be utterly shocked and appalled and demand they were taken down. The reason they are not up there in the first place is because the people making choices about what words to combine know that, they know that racism and anti-Semitism are not funny and not acceptable. They do not know that sexism and rape culture are not funny.
This is the problem. As some one put it on twitter “Hate crime is only funny when it’s about women”. We still live in a culture where slogans like this can be sold on the assumption that no one will bat an eye. This is rape culture. This is patriarchy.
It’s good news that Amazon are taking action to remove these items. The clothing companies needs to have a word with themselves and investigate what culture they have that allows these ‘jokes’ to slip through. The press also needs to look closer at what passes for excuses. The algorithm story alone doesn’t stack up. Will this be the new excuse, in place of “It’s just banter!” when horrendous sexist and misogynistic comments are made in public? How come, since the eating of the apple, it’s never men’s fault.
It’ll come as no surprise to anyone, but one particular AFTA has been tweeting about how FGM is “cissexist”.
They’ve then joked about it.
Yep, in a conversation where they’ve minimised the fact that FGM is about violence inflicted on girls and women they’ve decided it’s funny that people are upset.
They want FGM to be called “clitoral amputation”, which is
a) not accurate
b) minimises that the mutilation happens because the victims are female
By arguing for the removal of the word “female” they are arguing for the erasure of the reason behind FGM.
Also “clitoral amputation” suggests a medical procedure, and let’s not kid ourselves, FGM isn’t medical it’s torture. It is performed mostly without anaesthetic and by people with no medical training. It is not performed for any medical reasons, it is performed because women are seen as needing to be controlled.
FGM isn’t about the clitorus. And anyone who thinks it is has closed their eyes to the real horror of it.
FGM is about punishing girls preemptively just for the fact they will grow up to be women.
FGM is about keeping women under the control of men.
FGM is about causing harm to girls and women just because they are seen as lesser than men.
You cannot stop calling it FGM. You cannot remove sex from the equation.
Anyone who places their discomfort with terms that reference biological sex above the serious harm of children is a narcissistic and misogynistic individual. And should maybe be forced to listen to the screams of the girls undergoing this procedure, and then think about why it’s not just about body parts.
Bella Solanum: “I’m a gender critical feminist who thinks we would all be a lot better off in a world were we could be full people rather than fit into limiting gender boxes.”
Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 2′ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again.
RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE.
I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two.
Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES.
‘yep, you read the title right. rape. thats what this blog is about. if it is something that just reading the word or thinking about it makes you flinch, for whatever reason, i understand if your unable to read the following post.
I just felt it fair to warn you right at the very beginning so you can make the informed decision as to whether to read on or not. I really do not wish to upset anyone, and whilst writing this blog, and rereading it for the umpteenth time I have considered and re considered whether to actually publish/post this, however I came to the conclusion that I would not be being true to myself and this blog if I didn’t.
so, on we go …
when I logged into my computer this morning, like every morning, the first thing I do is to check out the BBC News website, just to glance over, to check out whats going on in and around the world. One of the headlines I saw was
‘ Rapist attacked woman twice in 12 weeks in south London’. I then clicked to read the story which you can find here …
i dont know about any one else, but as I read this, and the story, all i could do was think of the woman. the victim. the person who was raped. the survivor. and even as i am writing this, right now, i am thinking of her, and sending her my silent thoughts and prayers, that she may somehow learn to live through her ordeal and somehow come to a place of peace.
throughout today, my mind kept returning to this story, and to the woman involved. thinking about what a horrific and life changing moment it is for it to happen once, but to happen twice?
then, this evening, i was watching tv, and law and order UK came on. never seen it before, but nothing else was on that i liked the look of. the story line was complex, i don’t deny that, and please dont think i am trying to make light of any of the other issues the episode this evening used, however, towards the end, rape was one that was bought in. the woman, already in prison for other offences (all fictitious) was then in court accused of murder, of someone who was raping her. there was a scene, which was almost tearjerking where the barrister trying to help her sat with her in her cell and talked to her about what some would see as the human aspect of being raped.
the aspect of not having a choice. of not being in the wrong. of not asking for it to happen. for losing a part of something that is yours. something that you hold dear, that is yours, that gets taken away. it nearly made me cry.
i thought and thought about blogging on this topic, decided not to, then decided to, and went round in circles.
as i was deciding i looked up the definition of rape online. and found a dictionary which says this :
noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
1.the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2.any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
4.an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5.Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.
point 3. is Statutory rape. this would appear mostly in US law and is the act of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. I would like to point out, that that is something i am not writing about at present.
In fact, what i am really focussing on, as i write this blog, is the act of rape against a woman, which essentially is having sexual intercourse without her consent.
there are lots of ways this occurs, such as stranger rape, so a random attack, maybe in the street?
it could be marital rape, so within a marriage this act occurs.
it could be date rape, where drugs are used, so persons are not aware.
it could be something that happens within many boundaries.
I’d also like to highlight that rape among men happens too, there are men who are raped. its not as highlighted as woman, and maybe not so common, however that does not mean it is not a real thing happening out there.
if you want to find out more about the definitions, or what constitutes rape, or within what circumstances it can happen, do google. You can find a whole world of information out there, that might educate you, that might shock you, that might make you want to pray for people involved in this.
months ago, i wrote a blog about depression, and it was after i watched a programme about the illness in the sporting profession, and how rife it is. I wrote something on the lines of how indiscriminate depression is, as an illness, how it can find and attack all kinds and every kinds of people.
this afternoon, that was my exact thought about rape.
rape can affect anyone, and everyone, god forbid, but if could even be you, your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your best friend, your neighbour, your mum, your dad. who knows? it could be anyone.
as mentioned above it could be, and often is within the constraints of a marriage, but when it comes to random attacks by strangers, as well as the victim being anyone, it could also occur anywhere.
on the bus you travel home on, on the street you walk down to get to the shop, the shopping mall you buy your clothes in. it could be the train station you wait at everyday. maybe it could be at the festival you go to every year, and camp out with friends at while listening to great music ? (i was shocked to read several reports over the summer of rape occurring at a UK based music festival)
it could be outside or inside a place you feel the most safe. a hospital maybe, a church, who knows …. it could be anywhere.
i dont say the above as scare tactics. thats the last thing i would want to do to. i don’t know the statistics, but one thing that is clear is although it can happen to anyone, and anywhere, it doesn’t. the amount of people who are attacked and raped are in minority to those who are not. so pleased do not walk away from this blog being afraid of all the above places. thats not the intention (but obviously good personal awareness and safety is always wise) .
what i have been thinking about all evening, tonight, is about the victims of such attacks. the victim of a rape. how they are left feeling, how their lives are so changed by something that maybe only took a few minutes to happen. how one minute, life was ok, and you were walking to the bus to go and see someone, and the next your in a heap on a floor in the middle of an empty street, sobbing as they run away from you. one minute you had your phone in your hand, texting a friend to say how long you would be and the next minute someone is running towards you to help you up off the ground, and to call an ambulance, or the police.
how one minute life was pretty clear and defined, and the next in all the haze and commotion, you realise that your life has changed forever. because nothing will ever be the same again. ever.
the thing about rape, is that physically one may be able to recover quite quickly. depending on the nature of the attack. for others it may take longer. maybe physical bruising and pain takes longer to disappear and fade. but eventually they do fade, as do all physcial signs of what happens. and what your are left with is what is in your head. what is left are the memories, the thoughts, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the scin crawling moments where all you want to do is scrub your skin over and over until it bleeds or you feel clean again.
thing is, for many victims, and i dont speak for them all, in fact, maybe i dont speak for any other than one, but i guess for many, and i know for one, that actually, for them, to ever feel clean again, is the biggest of tasks.
its hard to explain that kind of thinking to someone who may not have the empathy or understanding. and thats ok, because not everyone will or does. its a big complex area. however, something kicks into your head. all you want is cleanliness, but whether you actually every achieve that again, who knows.
because the way you see it, the only way you can see it, is that something you had absolutely no choice over happens, took over, and that some of you was taken away.
you spend weeks and months trying to wipe it away, erase it but you cant. you spend days sitting in silence, with tears rolling down wishing you had done something different. wishing perhaps you hadnt walked down that same road you walked down every day. or thinking perhaps it was your fault because you dared to leave the house and walk the street you live on. you analyse what you could have done differently. what you did that made it your fault. you come up with one hundred reasons why it was your fault, even though every single one of those is wrong, and not true.
and then, because a few years before, the only way you knew how to deal with life was to cut your body, you decide that right now, its the only way again. so you find the knifes, and razors and start to carve your body up.
you also decide that maybe alcohol will change whats happen. so you drink. and drink.
and pretty damn soon, the physical scars are gone, and your left with an emotional mental heap with thoughts going round you can deal with , and cant process, and figure out.
perhaps it is the most life changing thing you will experience? maybe it is one of the most life changing experiences, because maybe, you were abused as a child anyway, and bullied as a teenager, and beaten by your siblings, and so, as an adult when this happens, maybe you shrug it off and think, well, i deserve it anyway.
maybe not. maybe you would deal with it different. maybe you have?
somehow though, you have to keep going, keep breathing, taking each day as they come, day by day, and week by week and very quickly those days and weeks turn into months and years.
and although the pains and non visible scars dont go away, are not forgotten about, maybe you discover a way of living, that means you can move on. maybe you can learn to be at peace with yourself? and dare i say it, the person who committed this crime against you?
i dont know. maybe.
being raped tears a soul apart. being raped can break a person. being raped
rises up such a huge amount of emotions. rage. anger. pain. humiliation. embarrassment. silence.
often there is silence. a huge silence because you dont know what to say or how to say it. a huge silence because people around you dont know what to say. or how to say it.
and i guess, the reason i personally am writing this blog, is to be part of a process that is breaking the ‘silence’.
i mentioned i was writing this blog to a few a people today, i got a couple of positive reactions, and a couple of ‘oooh do you think thats a good idea’ responses.
i am aware, that some of this blog has gone into ramble mode, and i have to confess i am not too sure what my main objective of it was, as i started to write, other than to raise the topic, type it, write about it, and bring it into the blogosphere (i am sure others have done this too, so it isnt just me). i wanted to be part of the group of people breaking silence on the topic. i want people to talk about it. so it is not something others feel they have to be silent about. i want it talked about in our churches too. because right now, how churches meet the needs of survivors of abuse, and rape has alot to be desired for, if you ask me, though i acknowledge there are some good places.
i think i wanted to say out loud to whoever is reading this, that if you are a victim of rape it is not your fault. you didn’t ask for it. you didn’t want that happen. sex was not designed to be something that was taken away from you. it wasnt back then in jesus day, and it isnt now.
i have run out of writing steam, although i have more to say on this topic.
but please, if you feel you have something to say on this, please feel free to respond.
i shall be back to write about this again.
also, if this has stirred anything and you want to talk to someone, in the UK the Samaritans run a 24 hour service where you can call and find someone on the other end of the line : UK 08457 90 90 90′
Helen Blogs: christian, feminist, rape survivor & survivors advocate, Jaffa cake lover. writer about
#faith, #mentalhealth, #chroniclife & #violenceagainstwomen. @helen_a15
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom” – Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1850
Are we all born with scarlet letters, unseen until someone or something makes them visible? Like unlucky lottery scratch cards, a letter rubbed raw, eczematous, infectious: one for every woman who dares to speak out against rape and sexual assault. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fictional character, Hester Prynne donned a red letter “A” for adultery, a signal of her deviant sexuality, a public warning, a badge of shame. Today, society has become that puritanical scarlet letterfor every woman, every victim, everyone who tries to take back the power and make a try for justice.
Victim blaming is the scarlet letter used by rape culture to marginalise women. It is as much an elaborate cross-stitch of (un)reasoned words as a flaming mark left by a phallocentric branding iron. In an article examining the problematic attitudes toward rape in Ireland, Amnesty International state that, in relation to low conviction rates for sex crimes, “It is clear. . . .that public attitudes to victims of rape are a significant part of the problem, and something the UN too said needed to be addressed. Rape, as with other forms of ‘gender-based violence’ against women, is directed at a woman because she is a woman. The underlying cause, according to the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, is the historical and ongoing discrimination against women by men. Also, these attitudes necessarily dictate how victims are treated subsequently.” As Hawthorne says of Hester’s scarlet letter, “It [the scarlet letter] had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.” Isolation, social exile, mockery, threats, even violence are some of what can face rape and sexual assault survivors who speak out against their attackers.
An accusation is worth a thousand brandings
Hester says to her daughter, “Hold thy peace, dear little Pearl! We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest.” What Hester was talking about is sexuality. Not much has changed for women since Hawthorne’s 19th century exploration of 17th century womanhood in Puritan America. We are not supposed to talk about rape, sexual assault, sexuality, or gender-based violence. An accusation is worth a thousand brandings leaving the victim mottled and worn by the collective prejudice of a society that is stunted by patriarchy, shackled to a medieval chauvinism, and hog-tied to ignorance.
Education, Justice, Support
There has been a surge of posts, articles and commentary about rape culture and victim blaming since the Steubenville rape case became global news. Many bloggers have compiled lists of why victim blaming happens, how it happens, and how to put a stop to it. Quite simply, we need to educate, improve our justice systems, and provide more support for victims of rape and sexual assault. As long as statistics like the ones below exist, we have an impossible task ahead of us. These figures are also the glaring reasons why education, justice and support are essential, yet lacking.
“Violence against women is not a private matter – it is everyone’s business. We too must challenge negative attitudes to women, and resist images and information channels that reinforce discriminatory attitudes and perpetuate violence against women” – Amnesty International.
Americas Studies: This blog, Américas Studies is the product of an Irish feminist researcher in transatlantic dialogue with the Américas. It is grounded in my current experience as a doctoral candidate with posts about literature, film, feminism, and issues related to academia.
originally published July 29. 2014
These are just a few of the horrendous Tweets posted by Dawkins today:
This morning Richard Dawkins took to Twitter to announce the idea that there are varying levels of sexual assault (a view that he has never kept quiet) and one which unsurprisingly caused a ruckus on the social media site. To put briefly, in a discussion about syllogism, Dawkins suggested the enduring rape myth that there are varying degrees of rape, and he was wrong to do so. Based on the misconception that ‘date rape’, or rape by a partner, is less violent and therefore less important than rape by a stranger, Richard Dawkins excellently showcases misogyny in all its glory. Not only is this completely untrue, (let’s look at the facts) anybody who choses to utilise sexual violence as an acceptable example of syllogism clearly undermines those who have gone through the pain of being assaulted, showing complete disregard for survivors.
Dawkins ‘logic’ does not need to be based on such an unnecessarily horrific (and inappropriate) analogy. Rape is rape and all rape is violent. If we look at the lowest statistics recorded by the MOJ and ONS (and reported by Sian Norris in today’s Independent Online), every single one of the 1,100 rapes that occur weekly in the UK is a violent crime. And regardless of whether or not you know the perpetrator (even though evidence by Kelly suggests that 89 percent of rape victims know their attacker), the violence still stands. So rape is rape, but Dawkins choses to ‘rank’ sexual violence in terms of severity, and brushes off doing so by suggesting that regardless he is not “endorsing” the lesser of two evils. In fact, I have no issue with catagorising things in terms of severity, but like most women, I have a huge issue with claiming that rape can be categorised dependent on the situation. Richard Dawkins may not be “endorsing” date rape but by suggesting that date rape should be taken less seriously, he is most certainly adding to the difficultly that survivors face when reporting or speaking out about their experiences.
As ‘stranger rape’ is more likely to be reported by the media, it creates the false impression that these assaults are ‘more serious’, and therefore ‘more newsworthy’. The rapes that fit the narrative of what society is told constitutes rape. The rapes where the perpetrator hides in a dark alley way, knife in tow. And the rapes that all too familiarly distance society from the fact that most rapists are actually “husbands, boyfriends, fathers, brothers, colleagues and friends”(as Norris puts it). The very fact that Dawkins alludes to varying levels of sexual assault only heightens the culture of victim shaming, and encourages the questioning of the victims behaviour (what was she wearing? Did she go home with him? Didn’t she like him?) We shift the focus away from the perpetrator and examine the behaviour of the victim instead. This is never ok. The fault of the rape lies with the rapist and never with the victim regardless. This negative portrayal of the victim not only heavily supports the enduring rape myth, but also has a huge impact on women’s access to justice, which is heartbreaking. Considering the ideology that partner rape is ‘less serious’, in a society where only 15 percent of rapes are reported, 89 percent of sexual assaults are committed by an acquaintance, and men like Dawkins encourage such harmful misconceptions, is it any wonder that so many rapes go unreported?
The Feminist Writer: Soprano. Music Student and feminist. University of Bristol. Identify yourself as a feminist today and you’re automatically assumed to be a man-hating, whinny liberal; we need to challenge this perception. Feminism is misunderstood and it seems important to fight against these misconceptions. @amymarieaustin