Women’s responses to the mass murder at UCSB perpetrated by Elliot Rodger

We’re collating all the responses written by women to Elliott Rogder’s brutal murder of two women and four men in Ilsa Vista on Friday. The response from men and the media to Rodger’s clear hatred of women is state we are over-reacting and being ridiculous. This is gas lighting on a systemic level.

 

Elliot Rodger’s California shooting spree: further proof that misogyny kills by Jessica Valenti

Elliot Rodger And Men Who Hate Women at The Belle Jar

We need to talk about systemic male violence not the “work of a madman” at My Elegant Gathering of White Snows

What Elliot Rodger Said About Women Reveals Why We Need to Stamp Out Misogyny by Elizabeth Plank

Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism by Laurie Penney

Violent and wrong: Elliot Rodger’s crime should not taint my child at Grace Under Pressure

Misogyny Is Poison, And You’re Drinking It at Jess ZimmermanIronic points of light.

The Pick-Up Artist Community’s Predictable, Horrible Response to a Mass Murder by Amanda Hess

Joining the dots: From fairy tales to Elliot Rodger by Glosswitch

Elliot Rodger and illusions of nuance by Glosswitch

THE UNDERACHIEVING GRADUATE ON… THE WEEK’S EVENTS on The UGGO

Femicide, Misogyny and Elliot Rodger at End Online Misogyny

Femicide, Misogyny and Elliot Rodger Part 2 at End Online Misogyny

Please add links to any blogs you have written or read in the comments!

“You’re not like a rape victim” by @Herbeatittude

(Cross-posted with permission from Herbs & Hags)

“You’re not like a rape victim”

That’s what someone years ago said to me, when I pulled him up on some shit he was talking about rape. I can’t remember the exact stuff he was saying, but it was the usual stuff I expect, about how rape victims ask for it and how rapists can’t help it. I pointed out that for all he knew, I might be a rape victim, so what the hell did he think he was doing saying things like that about rape?

And that’s when he said it. That I wasn’t like a rape victim. Which made it clear, that he had a certain idea of what rape victims were like. An idea which didn’t fit with me and what I was like. Which is a bit misleading, because I was a rape victim, though of course I didn’t tell him that.

So what is a rape victim like?

When I first thought about this, I found myself at a bit of a loss. I’ve thought loads about rape over the years, about rape myths, consent, victim-blaming – you know, all the stuff you usually engage with.  But for some reason, I hadn’t thought about that image of the rape victim.  I hadn’t been able to face that.  So I asked around because it seemed easier to get other people to tell me how I would have been categorised all these years, than to try and imagine it myself.

What people came up with, imagine your surprise, is that as with so many other images of women, the Madonna / Whore dichotomy is present for rape victims/ survivors as much as it is for all women

So first to the Madonna Rape Victim:

She is preferably a virgin or if not, pregnant or married, who has never done anything exciting or interesting or likely to cause any eyebrow-raising. She’s possibly a bit naieve, not very streetwise or assertive and too trusting. She must not have been drunk or wearing anything revealing at the time of the rape (or at any other time). She will not have known or been personally acquainted in any way, with her rapist prior to the rape.

Afterwards, she is required to be broken by the rape; afraid to go out, untrusting of men, timid, scared and has gone off sex forever. She can never enjoy sex again unless it is with a pre-existing boyfriend or husband. If her personality is outspoken, vocal or assertive, she will be deemed not to have been a rape victim, so she had better be unassertive and shy.

Now for the Whore rape victim:


She will have been drunk at the time of rape, or on drugs or at least have had one alcoholic drink. She would have been wearing a short skirt, low cut top or other sexualised item of clothing. She was not a virgin at the time of the rape and she may well have either been single or had lots of boyfriends (by which I mean more than 3) in the past. She knew her rapist or had exchanged social niceties with him before the rape and she gets more whore-points if she had either kissed him or flirted with him. She gets whore-points full-house if she had consensual sex with him on any other occasion before the rape. The fact that she was raped, proves that she wasn’t very careful, prudent or sensible.

Afterwards, if she has lots of lovers and treats sex casually, this will be seen as evidence that she wasn’t really raped.  Because someone who likes sex so much, or doesn’t think it’s that important, can’t have been raped, right?

When I was raped, I wasn’t a virgin; I’d had one lover, though sex was still quite new to me. I’d had an alcoholic drink, though I wasn’t drunk. Afterwards, I went out with my rapist and later still, I had a series of casual, “no strings” relationships (which were much less usual in those days than they are now – the term “fuck-buddy” hadn’t been invented) and one night stands

All this clearly put me in the Whore rape victim box, rather than the Madonna one. And here’s the thing: most rape victims get put in the Whore rape victim box, because it’s actually quite hard to make it into the Madonna one. Even in the small percentage of cases where women are the victims of the classic stranger in the bushes/ dark alley scenario, that’s not enough to get you into the Madonna box; you have to meet the dress, personality and behaviour criteria as well as the stranger rape criteria. 

Being in the Whore rape victim box, means that either you weren’t really raped and you are making a big fat fuss about nothing, or that you maybe were raped a bit, but you probably asked for it, deserved it or at least didn’t do enough to avoid it. Since most rape victims belong in this box and deep down, we know that that is how we will be categorised, it is no wonder that we’re not keen on reporting rape or even telling the people in our lives on whom we should be able to rely on for support, about our experiences of rape.

We know that they will instantly see us with different eyes; we will be cut off from normal women, who haven’t been raped and even if we get put in the Madonna box, we’re still “othered” as rape victims, people who weren’t able to keep themselves safe from predators – at the kindest, incompetent or foolish. That’s the best estimate of our character, that we can hope for. But for most of us, that’s too high a bar; we’ll be judged as feckless tarts who would inevitably end up getting raped sometime.

Because rape is not something a man chooses to do to someone; it‘s a natural phenomenon, like the rain or wind; sensible people will take umbrellas out with them and those who don‘t, will get rained on. Rape is presented as something women can avoid, like the rain, but those who don‘t, are a special breed of women apart from all others; something about them meant that nature picked them out to be raped; it wasn‘t something about the rapist that caused them to be raped, it was something about them.

When that man told me that I wasn‘t like a rape victim, that shut me up about being raped for nearly a quarter of a century. He didn‘t know it, but he was telling me that if I spoke up about having been raped, I would be declaring myself different from all other women. I didn’t analyse it at the time, but at a gut level I knew that to be a rape victim, meant to be either the Madonna or the Whore type and I knew I didn’t fit into the Madonna box.

So I shut up for twenty-five years. That’s what the othering of rape victims does to us – it silences us.

And now I’m no longer silent.  Not like a rape victim, then.

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]

 

 

#BringBackOurGirls

(Written by Zaimal Azad for A Room of our Own)

On 14th April 2014, more than 200 Nigerian girls were kidnapped from their school in the middle of the night. Almost three weeks later, they are still missing, no proper information has been provided to their families by the government and no real attempts have been made at searching for them. In fact, even the number of girls abducted remains under dispute – low estimates are 150, the highest figure is around 270. We don’t know their names, their ages. They are nameless, faceless missing black girls – and in this racist, patriarchal world, who cares about black girls?

It is only now, almost THREE weeks later, that the world is starting to wake up to this. The same media which played news stories about a missing plane on repeat for weeks is only now starting to talk about these missing girls who are still alive and could be saved. We need to talk about these girls and we need to stand with them and their families. Every single one of them had a life, dreams and ambitions. Please don’t let them become statistics like all other girls around the world who are trafficked, killed and abused.

#BringBackOurGirls protests and vigils are being organised all around the world in solidarity with the girls and their families. Happening next week:

6th May – Manchester

7th May – Nottingham and potentially Liverpool

Please try organise a vigil for the same day/week in your city/town – coordinated demonstrations could work really well in sending out a strong message. The WEAR RED campaign is also encouraging people to wear red on 7th May and send pictures with messages of support to be forwarded to the girls’ families. Details here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/WEAR-RED-Education-for-all-women-girls/443515869084916?notif_t=page_new_likes

 

 

These images were taken at the demonstration at the Nigerian embassy in London Saturday May 3 protesting the kidnap, rape and trafficking of 276 young women in Nigeria.

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Teenage Mothers, Domestic Violence and Shame by @God_loves_women

(Written for A Room of our Own: A Feminist/ Womanist Network by @God_loves_women)

I have a confession to make. I have been totally prejudiced against teenage mums. As a young person myself I imagined they were seeking a council flat, had no aspirations and were lazy and from families who had obviously not cared about them. The usually smoked, abandoning their children wherever possible to go out clubbing. They didn’t know how to discipline their children, were incompetent and slept with lots of different men.

All of them except me of course. I was 17 when I found out I was pregnant and had my daughter when I was 18 years old. I refused to go to any “young mum” groups, because I wasn’t like “them”. Of those least likely to get pregnant or even have sex before marriage I ranked probably highest in my school year. I’d met the father at a friend’s party; he was dangerously charming and within six months he had gained total control of me, including his convincing me not to use contraception. Having a Catholic secondary education (contraception is evil) and a Daily Mail reading mother (contraception gives you cancer) contributed to the ease with which I accepted his view that “it’s not real without a risk”.

I married him within months of giving birth. Growing up as a strongly committed Christian left me feeling marriage was the only way forward. Plus the need to not be “one of those teen mums” left me feeling I must get married. At least then I could pull the “marriage card” (or ring as it’s usually known), “See, world! I’m not like the others, I’m married.”

My ex-husband destroyed me; sexual and emotional abuse left barely able to function, constant undermining of my parenting and ongoing sexually relationships with other people. We were both 19 when his abuse of teenage girls led to him being put on the sex offenders register for five years. Yet I couldn’t leave him. Alongside the reality of trauma bonding and his devaluing of me to the point I knew I was worthless; there was a deeply held fear of becoming “one of those teenage mums”. I needed to stay with him otherwise I would be failure; because fundamentally that’s clearly what I thought all those other teenage mothers were.

At 21 I escaped when my son was born three months premature after my ex-husband assaulted me. My son’s birth and subsequent hospital treatment led to me and my daughter living in a hospital over an hour from our home town. This forced separation and my son’s ongoing treatment left me knowing I must speak out, so I reported him to the Police and legal proceedings began.

Many of the doctors and nurses who cared for my son would ask, “Are you on your own?” “Where is the father?” I couldn’t only say, “Yes, I’m on my own. I’m no longer with his father.” I always had to quantify it with, “His father is a registered sex offender.” I had a premature child who frequently almost died, I had a traumatised toddler and we lived in a hospital an hour from anyone we knew and yet I desperately didn’t want anyone thinking I was one of those teenage mums.

I’m now 29, my children are 11 and 8.  They are amazing, intelligent, creative and kind people (I know I’m biased, but still…).  I married my now husband (the good one) over six years ago.  The journey I have walked, sometimes crawled and sometimes been dragged through has and continues to be full of wonder, the mundane, of brokenness and beauty.  Through much counselling, prayer and many miracles I am still standing.  I am now proud to say I was a teenage mother.  I relish the opportunity to stand with all those who I once othered, to challenge anyone who tries to talk about those teenage mothers.  I was wrong.

I stayed with an abuser for four years in part because of the messages I received.  I was conditioned by the media, society and comments from adults I knew to think that those teenage mums were less than fully human.  Media outlets, writers, politicians, schools, musicians, business leaders, each and every person, has a responsibility to consider the consequences of how our prejudices may impact others.  Because there is no those, there are only us.

 

God loves women: A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn’t realise this (@God_loves_women)

Being in the sex game: who gets to define rape? by @Herbeatittude

Cross-posted from Herbs&Hags: Meanderings of a Hag

First Published August 31. 2012

 

Now that the first flurry about George Galloway’s depressing remarks about rape is over, I’ve had some time to think about it.  I know, I’m a bit slow like that.  But I have been on holiday, so that’s my main excuse.

That video really is more triggering and upsetting than hearing the reports of what he says.  There’s something about an aggressive man actually sitting there jabbing his finger at you while telling you that once you’ve agreed to go to bed with a man, once you’ve consented to sex with him once, you then lose all right to decide what happens to your body from that moment on, which is far more unpleasant than just reading about it.

And that of course, is what George Galloway and everyone who agrees with him, is saying.  I have no idea whether some of these lefty-boys are simply being disingenuous and pretending to believe that consensual sex is the same as rape, or whether they do in fact genuinely believe this and are on the same side as rapists in this debate.  The idea that once you are “in the sex game” with a man, anything can happen, you’ve lost your right to have any bodily integrity, is an incredibly frightening, intimidating idea and makes sex a really unattractive prospect.  At least with George Galloway and those who agree with him.

Because let’s look at what he’s saying.  If a man has the right to insert his penis into you while you’re sleeping, because you were happy for him to do that earlier on while you were awake, then what else does he have the right to do?  Insert his penis into your mouth?  Into your anus?  Tie you up so that you can’t go to the loo when you need to and when this may be deeply distressing and scary for you?  I don’t ask this question frivolously; we live in a culture saturated with porn and many young men get much of their sex education from it.  Sexual practices which George Galloway may consider unreasonable to do to a sleeping woman with whom one is not well acquainted, may be considered part of a normal sexual repertoire for the porn generation of men.  

This is the problem isn’t it.  If you argue that once women have had consensual sex with a man, they have morally and legally given up their right to bodily integrity, then any practice which any individual man decides is OK, can be done to them whether they are asleep or not and be defined as consensual by George Galloway, other lefty-boy rape apologists, the courts, the police, the man himself and everyone except people who believe that women are really human beings and don’t give up their right to have some say over what happens to them when they consent once to sex with a man.

It’s only in the area of sexual conduct, that men like Galloway and the other rape apologists, believe that consent once given, is given unconditionally and forever.  I’m reminded of Hugh Grant’s complaint at the Leveson enquiry, where he made the point that the press feel that if you give one interview to a magazine, that’s it, you are now fair game for every paparazzo in town to hound you because you’ve given away your privacy:

“It is also very important to remember that when a person DOES do an interview with a paper or magazine they are doing it by consent. It’s a form of barter. The paper gets what it hopes will be a boost in sales, and the person gets what he hopes will be some helpful noise about his forthcoming project. It is like bartering 12 eggs for a bale of hay. Or like me selling you a pint of milk for 50p. When the deal is done, it’s done. You wouldn’t then say, “You sold me your milk, you slut. I’m now entitled to help myself to your milk for ever afterwards”.

I wonder if Hugh Grant would apply that argument to sex. Possibly, possibly not, I know nothing about his views on women’s autonomy (except that he once thought he had the right to insert his penis into a woman who would only endure him doing so, because he gave her money to allow it). Most men seem to understand that when you engage in any other activity with someone, you have the right to set boundaries about it.  If you agree to go to dinner with someone, that isn’t an agreement for them to force-feed you cake until you vomit;  if you agree to babysit their child for an evening, that doesn’t mean they can go away for the whole weekend leaving you to it; if you buy a red diesel 1000cc renault from them, they don’t have the right to deliver a silver petrol 1800cc volkswagen – after all, you’ve agreed to buy a car, you’re already in the car-buying game.  Only when it comes to sex, do men like George Galloway argue that when women agree to sex, they have no right to stipulate the terms under which they will have that sex.  Once they’ve said yes, the yes is unconditional it seems.  

Which makes me wonder if they believe the same of men.  I suspect they do actually, when it comes to gay men, because men who believe that women who agree to sex with a man, have lost their right to decide how and when they have that sex, are usually homophobes as well as misogynists.  They’re as undisturbed by the idea of a gay man being raped by a partner with whom they had previously consented to sex, as they are by a woman being raped after having had consensual sex with her rapist; moreover, they don’t even recognise it as rape, because in their minds, a woman or man who has chosen to have sex with a man, can no longer be raped by that man, because for a certain period of time (I’m not sure how long, any rape apologists out there who believe in this model of sex, do let me know), that man has an absolute right to use the body he’s with as a wank sock (rather than treating the owner of the body as a human being) and not have that called rape, because he gets to define what rape is.

And of course, rapists define rape, the same way alcoholics still in denial define alcoholism: the old joke is that the definition of an alcoholic, is someone who drinks more than you do.  For rapists and their apologists, the definition of a rapist, is someone who uses a bit more force than you, or is less well acquainted with his victim than you are with your’s, or employs a sexual practice you wouldn’t at least without first discussing it.  Alcoholics tell themselves that they aren’t really alcoholics, because they don’t drink 2 bottles of wine in one sitting, like that woman last night did, or that they always have at least one day a week where they don’t drink, or that they never have a drink before six o’clock, or whatever the practice they can point to is, that proves that although someone else who drinks and acts and speaks about alcohol the way they do is an alcoholic, they aren’t.  Rapists and their apologists do very much the same sort of thing. The difference being that as a society, we don’t let the alcoholics define what alcoholism is, but we’re still letting rapists get away with defining what rape is.  If we weren’t, it just wouldn’t be possible for an elected representative, to sit there and tell women in no uncertain terms that once they have consented to sex with a man, they are in the sex game and he can do what he wants with them.

 

HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag: I have no fixed subject matter for my blog, it tends to be whatever grabs me, but for some reason lots that has grabbed me has been about rape or other male violence. It’s all with a feminist slant though. [@Herbeatittude]

Rape as Genocide: Understanding Sexual Vulnerability, Abuse, and Rape in the Holocaust by @LK_Pennington

This is a conference paper I wrote in 2006. Since I wrote this paper, more research into rape and the sexual exploitation and violence perpetrated against women and children has been undertaken. Women Under Siege is an excellent source of information as is the book Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women during the Holocaust. My own research in feminist theory has changed my understanding of sexual violence and genocide.

 

In the light of the stories of sexual vulnerability, abuse and rape that are a part of the larger narratives of genocide in Darfur, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, it is almost becoming a truism to suggest that sexual violence is an intrinsic feature of genocide. In the realms of Holocaust history and studies, however, it is still a subject that has not attracted a great deal of attention. Certainly, scholars who are working on the ambit of female experience, such as Myrna Goldenberg and Joan Ringelheim, have always acknowledged the existence of these stories in Holocaust testimonies, but they have focused on the specific sexual vulnerability of women due to pregnancy, motherhood, and amenorrhea and so mention only small numbers of testimonies of women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted or raped, or even having witnessed these. Furthermore, they have also tended not to look at male testimonies concerning the sexual vulnerability, abuse or rape of female prisoners and even fewer have looked at stories of male sexual vulnerability, abuse or rape.[1]

My own (feminist) readings of the testimonies of witnesses Lucille Eichengreen, Sarah Magyar Isaacson, Thaddeus Stabholz, Weislaw Kieler and Fania Fénelon[2], however, led me to believe that there were more stories of sexual violence than have been acknowledged. Furthermore, if one accepts that sexual violence is not only a common part of genocide but can also be a genocidal act, then it is one that needs to be explored within the context of the Holocaust and the murder of Soviet POWs, the Sinti and the Roma, the mentally ill and differently-abled, and the exploitation of ‘Slavic’ slave-labour during the course of Nazi Germany. This includes not only the sexual violence perpetrated by the German SS, the Wehrmacht, and other Aryan administrators, but also that of the Soviet mass rapes of women at the end of the war and during liberation, as well as the sexual violence by all other militaries, Allied or Axis, and that perpetrated by ‘victims’ of Nazism against other victims of Nazism.

In fact, stories of sexual violence are more common than early feminist Holocaust scholarship has previously acknowledged, which is not to say that it was widespread, although this is likely, but simply that there are more stories than first recognized. There has also been an expansion in the number of stories of sexual violence in testimonies, partly due to new feminist research into rape, pornography, prostitution, and sexual trafficking,[3] which casts some testimonies in a new light, partly also due to the fact that the number of Holocaust testimonies published has increased exponentially since the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. These new testimonies include more stories of sexual violence and interpret more events as having a sexual component rather than simply an act of violence of humiliation.

But while the increase in the numbers of stories of sexual violence is partly simply because witnesses now understand and write about specific events in this manner it is also because current feminist reading of testimonies includes a greater knowledge and awareness of sexual violence and reading my/contemporary definitions of sexual assault against the definitions given by witnesses is also essential to my thesis. Furthermore, it is the tension between my reading and what is written/not written that makes this a fascinating area of exploration. It also acknowledges, as Anna Hardman has previously noted, “the difficult interpretative questions as to the relationship between actuality and representation.”[4]

I believe, therefore, that the most significant reason for the expansion in the number of stories are the evolving definitions of the terms rape, sexual abuse, prostitution, humiliation, and choice by scholars, witnesses, and readers of these stories. There are numerous stories now interpreted as sexual violence. These include but are not limited to forced sterilizations of Mischlinge Jews, the Roma and the Sinti and the ‘asocials’, (that is the undesirable elements of society); forced abortions due to race; refused abortions due to race; forced pregnancies; viewing the abuse of others; forced stripping and performance; forced ‘prostitution’; brothels in the concentration camps; and the fear of rape. As a feminist, I feel that these stories needed to be placed in the centre of Holocaust studies along with the stories of abuse, humiliation, torture, starvation, deportation, murder and mass murder, ghettos and gas chambers.

What I consider to be the one of the more common forms of sexual violence during the Holocaust is what Myrna Goldenberg has termed ‘sex for survival.’[5]That is to say, stories of women, men, and children being exploited sexually in exchange for food, clothing, accommodation, work permits in the ghettos, or ‘good’ jobs in the slave-labour and concentration camps. Stories of ‘sex for survival’ exist in diaries written during the war and post-war biographies and oral testimonies.[6]

One such story may be found in one of the most well-known Holocaust testimonies: Fania Fénelon’s published testimony Playing for Time, also published as The Musicians of Auschwitz. Fénelon’s text is one of the most [in]famous memoirs of women written about Auschwitz-Birkenau and, more specifically, about the women’s orchestra in that camp. Fénelon was arrested as a member of the French resistance but was also half-Jewish. She spent nine months in the transit camp of Drancy, where she was tortured, before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1944. She remained in Birkenau until November 1944 when the Jewish members of the orchestra were deported to Bergen-Belsen, where they were eventually liberated in April 1945. Upon arrival in Birkenau, a member of the orchestra recognized Fénelon as a cabaret singer and her ability to sing Madame Butterfly placed her in the privileged orchestra protecting Fénelon from the severe abuse and torture of the ‘normal jobs’ in the main camp.

Before discussing in depth the stories of ‘sex for survival’ in Fénelon’s testimony one must acknowledge the controversy surrounding it and the subsequent Arthur Miller play and film adaptations based on the text, particularly in relation to the issue of lesbianism and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and her testimony Inherit the Truth 1939-1945: The Documented Experiences of a Survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen.[7] The debate is worth mentioning because of its discussion of identity, the use of survivor interpretations of the behaviours of others, the labels they attribute to other inmates, and the differences in the types of witness testimony, (literary texts, memoirs, poems). Succinctly, the debate concerns Fénelon’s description of the other members of the female orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the boundary between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, particularly of the characters ‘Marta’ and ‘Clara’. Fénelon devotes a section of the text to the relationships between the other prisoners in the privileged orchestra which includes a reference to a lesbian relationship. One of the women involved in the lesbian relationship was a cello player. Lasker-Wallfisch has been very clear that she was the only cello player in the orchestra and that she was not involved in any lesbian relationship and that Fénelon was well aware of this.[8]

There are a number of stories of ‘sex for survival’ in Fénelon’s text but the ones I want to discuss centre around Fénelon’s relationship with the character ‘Clara’ who she meets on the train to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I am engaged in a ‘literal’ reading of the text here in order to demonstrate some of the difficulties inherent in [re]-reading and [re]-writing representations of memory and identity. The problematic status of this particular text is does not lessen its value as a document, rather it is another instance of the problematic use of memory and representation to write a ‘history’ of  the Holocaust. The character of Clara is described as “a girl about twenty with a ravishing head set upon an enormous, deformed body”[9]; a body deformed in the transit camp by starvation, a well-brought up girl who was engaged to a boy she loved. Clara is apparently still a virgin; we do not know about Fénelon. The two young women become friends during the journey and pledge to help one another in the camps.

Fénelon and Clara’s first encounter with the concept of ‘sex for survival’ happened quite quickly after arrival in Auschwitz:

A soldier was walking next to Clara. He had a totally unremarkable face, something between animal and mineral. Suddenly he addressed her in French, in a voice as devoid of expression as he was himself: “I’ll get you coffee if you’ll let me make love to you.[10]

The two girls ignore him and the subject is not brought up again. But the soldier’s statement, so early after arrival, after several days trapped in a cattle car, is a lesson about Birkenau. As Fénelon comments:

Coffee? Either a woman wasn’t worth much around here, or else coffee was priceless. She said nothing and he let it drop.[11]

We do not know if either girl has some prior experience with this in Drancy; both were there for an extended period. It is quite likely that they did but this is assumption rather than factual knowledge. The other, more experienced, girls in the orchestra are quick to point out how cheap a woman’s body, and, by extension, a man’s and a child’s, were in the camps. Jenny, another girl is the orchestra tells them: “All you need to do is find yourself a man; here sausage replaces flowers.”[12]

We can interpret this as a story of prostitution but, while, there is a tremendous amount of feminist research into the coercive aspects of ‘prostitution’ in ‘normal’ society, exchanging sex for food in the midst of a centre for genocide changes and questions the terms we use to define the activity. Not all women who were given the option to engage in sexual activities in exchange for food ‘chose’ to do so, but, some did. Obviously, the term ‘choice’ is also questionable. The terms prostitution, sexual vulnerability, and sexual slavery are debated in feminist scholarship, but once we are within a situation where the intent to commit genocide is evident, trading sex for food, moves outside of common definitions of prostitution. Yet, the term ‘sex for survival’ also seems insufficient to describe the situations that many people found themselves during the Holocaust; indeed, the terms we use to describe these stories seem almost irrelevant in their inability to demonstrate depth of meaning.

Clara, quite quickly, makes the ‘decision’ that food is so important that sex can be traded for it. Furthermore, according to Fénelon, she hoards the food for herself and she is not particular in who the partner is. Several of the other girls have ‘lovers’ whom they sleep with for food, some even sleep with the SS but Fénelon does not describe these other women in the same manner that she describes Clara or her ‘choice’. In fact, Fénelon is extremely dismissive of it, claiming Clara was more interested in food than remaining ‘female.’ Thus it is unclear whether Fénelon is disgusted with Clara because of the sexual act, claiming Clara had lost her ‘womanly dignity’, or that she is disgusted with Clara because Clara is actually transgressing sex or gender boundaries, by refusing to engage in communal survival and share the extra food received. As Fénelon says:

Clara had changed quickly, very quickly. A month after our arrival in the music block, one evening at six o’clock, she’d said to me … I won’t share with anyone anymore.” The next day, at dinnertime, I opened her box by mistake and saw a pot of jam. Clara rushed at me. “Leave that; I told you to keep your hands off it.”

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. All our boxes look alike. I certainly wouldn’t touch that nobly earned jam of yours!”

There were tears of rage in her eyes, perhaps a last glimmer of a former morality, a remnant of dignity. The donor was probably a kapo from the men’s camp. Only the kapos, the blockowas, all Poles, Slovaks, or Germans, could come to our block.

Had she been a virgin? It was possible, it wouldn’t have been a decisive factor. Besides, the risk of pregnancy for internees was virtually nonexistent.

I felt sorry for Clara when I saw her twitching her large behind, … She had been an innocent young girl who loved her boyfriend and who still nourished childlike dreams. Living in a sheltered milieu she was innocent of life, like the adorable and naïve Big Irene, who remained so, while Clara changed so quickly and so totally. She had become frighteningly selfish; she would do anything to get food. In the middle of all these painfully thin girls, her obesity was a wonder, a most effective lure for men, who paid court to her in butter and sugar.[13]

But what is ‘womanly dignity’ inside a concentration camp? Can we not interpret part of Clara’s behaviour as an attempt for semblance of human contact or even love?  It is easier to interpret it in this fashion when Clara is engaged in relations with other male prisoners in privileged positions, but it is more difficult to do so when the boyfriend is a particularly brutal (German) kapo who, apparently, voluntarily worked as an executioner for the S.S. guards in the camp, apparently for pleasure rather than requirement. Fénelon posits Clara’s relationships against her own relationships with Leon, her ‘lover’ from Drancy who volunteered for the transport to Auschwitz in order to be with Fénelon.[14] Clara’s ‘boyfriends’ gave her food in exchange for sex, Leon gave Fénelon poetry and letters for, apparently, nothing. Love exists but Clara does not know what it is and is confused.

What is particularly interesting is Fénelon’s construction of Clara’s changing identity, and the way in which she contrasts her transformation from a good virginal girl to a prostitute with her understanding of the behaviour of ‘real’ prostitutes in France. While Fénelon defends the behaviour of French prostitutes who engaged in sexual acts with German soldiers to gather information for the French Resistance in terms of heroism, Clara’s attempt to survive through sex is viewed with disgust, a contrast that is highlighted in Fénelon’s description of Clara’s outrage at her participation in cabarets where German officers were the major clientele:

“I couldn’t have heard you sing,” said Clara rather primly. “We’d stopped going out at night. We didn’t mix with the Germans, and no one went to nightclubs except Germans and collaborators.”

I fell silent, slightly ashamed; it had been very good business. How would Clara have judged the proprietress of Melody’s, who looked like a madam – indeed, perhaps she was – but who protected us? How she would have despised those tarts that hung from the necks of German officers and gave us papers, photographs, and information.[15]

But, why is Clara’s transformation into a ‘prostitute’ to save her own life so negative? Partly, it is because Clara does behave increasingly violently towards the others. Certainly, when Clara is given the job as a kapo, (an inmate barracks supervisor), Fénelon claims she behaves with ruthless and vicious violence, beating the block inmates sadistically for various rule infractions. But this did not happen until after the girls were transferred to Bergen-Belsen; Clara’s ‘prostitution’ occurred in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.[16]

This story of ‘sex for survival’ is not uncommon. What is different is the way in which it is contrasted with ‘good’ stories of using sex for resistance. But how is resistance different from survival? Obviously Clara’s brutal behaviour as a kapo in Bergen-Belsen is part of the story and can partly explain Fénelon’s construction of Clara, but we do need to separate Clara’s behaviour in Bergen-Belsen from that in Birkenau to understand how Clara’s ‘choice’ was choiceless and thus to recognise her experience as one of sexual assault. More generally I think this story reveals the complexity of sexual vulnerability, abuse and rape in the Holocaust in that at a certain point Fénelon forgets Clara’s identity as ‘victim’ and recasts her as a ‘perpetrator’ and in so doing, makes the sexual exploitation of Clara a footnote to the dehumanising effects of their situation. In order to rehumanise her (and many other victims of the Holocaust) we must therefore acknowledge and recognise the way in which sexual vulnerability is accentuated by and essential to genocide.

 

 



[1] This is not a criticism of their research but an acknowledgment of the research required. See Myrna Goldenberg, “Different Horrors, Same Hell: Women Remembering the Holocaust”, in Roger Gottlieb (ed.), Thinking the Unthinkable: Meanings of the Holocaust, (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), pp.150-166; Joan Ringelheim, “Women and the Holocaust: A Reconsideration of Research”, inSigns: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 10, no. 4, (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1984-1985), pp. 741-761. Other examples of this sort of scholarship include Judith Tydor Baumel, Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust, (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1998). Renate Bridenthal et al., (eds.)When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984); Anna Hardman, Women and Holocaust, (U.K: Holocaust Educational Trust Papers, 1999–2000); Marlene E. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986); Sara R. Horowitz, “Memory and Testimony of Women Survivors of Nazi Genocide” in Judith R. Baskin (ed.), Women of the Word: Jewish Women and Jewish Writing, (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1994), pp.258-282.

[2] Lucille Eichengreen with Harriet Hyman Chamberlain, From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust, (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1994); Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, translated from the French by Judith Landry, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997, 1976); Judith Magyar Isaacson,Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Illinois  Press, 1991); Wieslaw Kielar, Anus Mundi: Five Years in Auschwitz, translated from the German by Susanne Flatauer, (London: Penguin Books, 1982 [1972]); Thaddeus Stabholz, Seven Hells, translated from the Polish by Jacques Grunblatt & Hilda R. Grunblatt, (New York: Holocaust Library, 1990)

[3] Much of this research has grown in relation to the wars in the former Yugoslavia. See: Beverly Allen, Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia (Minnesota: The University of Minnesota Press, 1986); Alexandra Stiglmayer, Mass Rape: The War against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bison Books, 1984); Anne Llewellyn Barstow, War’s Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution, and Other Crimes against Women (Ohio: The Cleveland Press, 2000).

[4] Anna Hardman, Women and Holocaust, (U.K: Holocaust Educational Trust Papers, 1999–2000), p. [check notes]

[5] Myrna Goldenberg, “Rape and the Holocaust”, paper presented at Legacies of the Holocaust: Women and the Holocaust Conference, (Krakow, Poland: May 2005)

[6] Mary Berg, Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary, (New York: LB Fischer, 1945); Trudi Birger with Jeffrey M. Green, A Daughter’s Gift of Love: A Holocaust Memoir, (The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, 1992); Lucille Eichengreen with Harriet Hyman Chamberlain, From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust, (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1994); Hedi Fried, The Road to Auschwitz: Fragments of a Life, edited and translated from the Swedish by Michael Meyer, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990); Gisella Perl, I was a Doctor in Auschwitz, (New Hampshire: Ayer Co., 1992, 1948).

[7] Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, Inherit the Truth 1939-1945: The Documented Experiences of a Survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen, (London: Giles de la Mare Pub., 1996)

[8] For an excellent discussion of this debate see Anna Hardman, Women and the Holocaust, (U.K.: Holocaust Educational Trust Research Papers, 1999 – 2000), pp. 20-27.

[9] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.12

[10] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.18

[11] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.18

[12] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.66: Jenny to Clara

[13] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.105-106

[14] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p. 15

[15] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p. 15

[16] This post facto reconstruction of Clara may of course speak volumes about the nature of memory and memoir.

 

My Elegant Gathering of White Snows: a blog about male violence against women, celebrity culture and cultural femicide. [@LeStewpot] [FB: My Elegant Gathering of White Snows]

 

See also:

What about the Women? The existence of brothels in Nazi Concentration Camps  by @LeStewpot

Men Who Commit Domestic Violence Should Not be Allowed Custody or Access of their Children by @LK_Pennington

(Cross-posted with permission from My Elegant Gathering of White Snows)

Men who commit domestic violence against their partner, or their children, should not be allowed to have access or custodial rights over those children.

Heresy, I know but I do not believe that a man who is violent to their partner can be trusted to be a good father to their children. After all, not abusing the mother of your children isn’t exactly a high standard of parenting.

A man who abuses the mother of his [step]-children is not a good father.

It doesn’t matter if he never directly physically or sexually assaults the children; the fact that a man abuses his partner negates his ability to be a good father. Forcing a child to live with a man who abused their mother is psychological child abuse and we are all complicit in a culture which is psychologically abusing children.

Men who commit domestic violence should have no legal rights to their children. They should be legally required to pay maintenance to support their children as the failure to pay maintenance is child abuse.

Men who refuse to pay child maintenance are not good fathers.

Children are not possessions. They do not ‘belong’ to their parents. What are we teaching our children if we allow them to live with men who emotionally, physically or sexually abuse their mothers?

What are we teaching our children about women’s bodily autonomy?

What are we teaching our daughters about their value? What are we teaching our sons: that being violent is the only way to be a man?

Children are entitled to live in safety surrounded by people who love them.

Children do not deserve fathers who are “good enough” when “good enough” ignores the history of male violence.

(Cross-posted with permission from My Elegant Gathering of White Snows)

My Elegant Gathering of White Snows: a blog about male violence against women, celebrity culture and cultural femicide. [@LeStewpot] [FB: My Elegant Gathering of White Snows]

Rape in Marriage: Part Two by @CathElliott

Cross-posted with permission from Too Much to say for Myself

Even though it’s been a couple of years since I’ve covered the subject of marital rape on this blog, it still seems to be the subject that brings most people here.

According to my annual report from WordPress.com for instance, this 2009 post – “Your husband has a right to expect regular sex” – was the most popular post in 2012, which makes that the third year in a row it’s achieved the number one spot.

TMTSFM Annual Review

As you can see, this 2011 post – More on husbands and their ‘entitlement’ to sex – wasn’t that far behind, coming in in fifth place last year.

In the post Rape and marriage, which I published in September 2011, I was so baffled by the popularity of these posts that I looked into some of the search terms that had brought people here, and I was pretty shocked by what I found. So when I got my annual report thing through from WordPress this time and saw how these old articles were managing to maintain their popularity, I decided to do the same again.

At the risk of repeating myself, I’m going to repeat exactly what I said in that earlier post:

“Now obviously some of those searches could be just general queries around the issue of marital rape and so on, and some could be from the same person typing in different phrases to try and find as much information as they can – I’m by no means trying to make any kind of claims around this being some sort of scientifically accurate peer reviewed study or anything. But equally I surely can’t be the only one to look at that list and think “Christ, it’s not just young people who need sex and relationship education in this country.“?

Without any further ado, here’s the most recent list:

  • rape in marriage (2nd most popular search term in last 12 months)
  • husband wants too much sex
  • sex with sleeping wife
  • marital rape
  • guilted into sex
  • rights of a husband
  • husband rights
  • marriage rape
  • can i rape my wife
  • husband wants sex too often
  • husband pressuring me to have sex
  • husband entitled to sex
  • husband wants sex too much
  • husband’s right to sex
  • can your husband rape you
  • wife forced to have sex
  • i want to rape my wife (12 searches)
  • husband expects sex
  • husband pressures me for sex
  • husband forced sex
  • sex with my sleeping wife
  • sex feels like rape
  • sexual coercion in marriage
  • are you supposed to have sex with husband when he’s a jerk often
  • forced sex by husband
  • sex with husband feels like rape
  • forcing wife to have sex
  • demanding sex from wife
  • forced sex wife
  • how to force your wife to have sex
  • are men entitled to sex
  • husband’s right to have sex
  • what is rape in marriage
  • pressure to have sex in marriage
  • sexual rights of husband
  • husband expects too much sex
  • wife sex duties
  • guilted into having sex
  • husband feels entitled to sex
  • does a husband have a right to sex
  • husband pressuring me for sex
  • husbands who demand sex
  • husband thinks he is entitled to sex
  • husband forces sex
  • raped by my husband
  • sexual pressure in marriage
  • husband pressuring for sex
  • unwanted sex with husband
  • marriage sexual duty
  • forced wife to have sex
  • husband force sex
  • is my husband entitled to have sex with me
  • feel pressured to have sex with husband
  • forcing your wife to have sex
  • husband guilts me into sex
  • is it right to force sex on your wife
  • forced sex with husband
  • can you be raped by your husband
  • husband forcing wife to have sex
  • what constitutes rape in marriage
  • my husband rapes me
  • husband demands sex
  • forcing wife into sex
  • why does sex with my husband feel like rape
  • husband pressure to have sex
  • what constitutes marital rape
  • don’t deny your husband sex
  • can i force my wife to have sex
  • husband right to sex
  • is it possible to rape your wife
  • husband forces wife to have sex
  • i feel guilty saying no to sex with husband
  • sex with unwilling partner
  • is a wife supposed to have sex with her husband
  • guilted into sex by husband
  • husbands who keep pestering for sex
  • sex is a duty to your husband
  • should i force my wife to have sex
  • ive gone off sex and my husband is pressuring me
  • husband forces wife to sex another
  • forcing a wife to have sex
  • why do i like to rape my wife
  • my husband has sex with me when i am sleeping
  • wife keeps saying no to sex so i feel like raping her
  • should i demand sex from my wife
  • my husband feels he has the right to force sex on me
  • women should not have the right to refuse sex
  • can you force your wife to have sex
  • husband thinks sex should be provided on demand regardless of how i feel
  • is forcing wife to have sex rape
  • does a husband have a right to expect sex from his wife?
  • can i refuse to have sex with my husband
  • i feel used for sex by my husband
  • what do you call sex with sleeping partner?
  • husband forced me to sleep with his friend
  • my husband throws a fit when we don’t have sex
  • husband rapes me
  • is it ok to rape your wife in America
  • being pressured into having sex with your husband
  • sexual duties in marriage
  • husband rape sleep
  • should a wife always submit to her husband’s sexual move
  • husband entered me without consent
  • sex with him makes me feel like im being raped
  • sex whenever he wants

Now first off I should probably point out that these are by no means the only search terms that people have googled prior to ending up here. But by the same token, by way of illustrating how often these types of searches are going on, here’s a snapshot from my blog’s behind-the-scenes dashboard of terms that have got people here today:

Snapshot

I’m also aware that I’ve got quite a global readership, so there’s a possibility that some of those looking for information on this subject aren’t necessarily living in countries where the laws are as clear cut as ours.

Those things aside though, I’ll also point out that by the time I’d finished copying and pasting every single search engine term relating to rape and marriage that had led people to this site in the last 12 months, I was faced with a list that was over 4 pages long. I’ve actually cut the list down, so now it only contains search terms that have been used multiple times: I’ve taken out all the one-off searches.

All of this leads me to conclude only one thing – there really is a massive problem going on here.

I know from working in a Rape Crisis centre that marital rape, or indeed rape in any close relationship, is far more prevalent than most people realise. It doesn’t seem to matter how many times those of us working in the field say to the media “the vast majority of rapes are carried out by men known to the victim” the image most people have of a rapist is still of some random predatory stranger jumping out of the bushes.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) even states in the introduction to its policy on prosecuting rape cases:

“We are aware that there is a general perception that most rapes are committed by a single man against a woman unknown to him. In fact, the majority of rape victims are women and most know their rapist.”

And yet still there seems to be this mass delusion that because we now have laws against rape in marriage – albeit marital rape has only been criminalised in England since 1991 – the problem has gone away. Well quite clearly it hasn’t.

In fact not only has it not gone away, but people are logging on to the Internet in their droves to try and find information about it. Victims are trying to work out whether what they’re experiencing is lawful and, as you can see from the list, men are busy doing research into whether or not it’s something they can actually get away with.

Meanwhile the CPS, the police, the government and so on wonder why it is that in crime survey after crime survey the numbers of women reporting having been raped or having experienced some form of sexual violence is way way higher than the numbers of women who actually report their perpetrator to the police or engage in any way with the criminal justice system.

It seems it’s not just rape myths and the fear of having to go through a court case that are putting women off reporting, it’s that in far too many cases while women feel that what they’ve experienced was wrong, they don’t realise or aren’t aware that they have any right to do anything about it. People are still living with this idea that once they’re married they lose all rights to bodily autonomy; that the ‘marriage contract’ includes a clause to the effect that whatever the husband wants the husband gets.

I don’t know about you, but I can see a new rape awareness campaign coming on. Not one that tells women not to get into unlicensed taxis or not to drink ‘too much’, but one that spells out exactly what’s what: that rape is rape is rape, no matter what the relationship, no matter what the marital status, and no matter what bullshit nonsense people have heard about ‘wifely duties’ or ‘a ‘husband’s rights’.

The Rape Crisis National Freephone Helpline is open from 12-2.30pm & 7-9.30pm every day of the year: you can call them on 0808 802 9999

 

Too Much to say for myself: Blogging about feminism, politics, and anything else that takes my fancy [@CathElliott]

 

See the following on consent:

 

Rape in Marriage by @CathElliott

Cross-posted with permission from Too Much to say for Myself

TRIGGER WARNING

I’ve covered the subject of marital rape a number of times on this blog, which probably goes some way to explaining why I get so many hits from people searching for information on it. These posts for instance remain some of my most popular, and they continue to attract hits:

“Your husband has a right to expect regular sex”

More on husbands and their ‘entitlement’ to sex

Male reader writes an essay

But even I was taken aback recently by the number of searches about marriage, coercion and rape that are landing people here, and by the actual search terms people are inputting.

By ‘I was taken aback‘, what I really mean of course is that ‘I found it completely and utterly fucking depressing‘.

Here are just a selection of search terms that have led people to this blog over the last 30 days:

‘how do i initiate sex when she is sleeping’

‘forced wife to have sex with me’

‘are spouses entitled to sex benefits’

‘is it ok to demand sex from your wife’

‘can i sue my wife for breach of wifely duties’

‘sex as a right of the husband’

‘should wife give husband sex when asked’

‘pressured to have sex with husband’

‘why does sex with my husband feel like rape’

‘how it feels to be raped by your husband’

‘if husband has sex with you after you said no is it a rape’

‘husband pressuring me to have sex’

‘sex out of duty’

‘should husband expect sex from wife’

‘can a wife withhold sex legally’

‘wives duty to sexually service her husband’

‘my husband pressured me to have sex even after i say no’

‘can he penetrate while i’m sleeping’

‘when your husband says he has rights to you sexually’

‘is it my husbands marital rights to have sex with me’

Now obviously some of those searches could be just general queries around the issue of marital rape and so on, and some could be from the same person typing in different phrases to try and find as much information as they can – I’m by no means trying to make any kind of claims around this being some  sort of scientifically accurate peer reviewed study or anything. But equally I surely can’t be the only one to look at that list and think “Christ, it’s not just young people who need sex and relationship education in this country.“?

In a lot of ways I’m glad that those searches have got people here: I hope my writing has provided some of the answers they’re looking for. But just in case there’s still any doubt, let me reiterate the legal position:

The marital rape exemption was done away with in this country in 1992. So husbands do not have a “right” to have sex with their wives, and wives are not under any “obligation” or “duty” to sexually service their husbands. And yes, if your husband has sex with you even after you’ve said no, that is rape.

And from Rights of Women:

“A number of terms are used in relation to rape that appear to differentiate between different types of rape depending on who the defendant is and what relationship he has (if any) with the complainant. For example, reference may be made to marital rape, acquaintance rape, date rape or stranger rape. None of these phrases have any legal meaning as it is not relevant what relationship, if any, a defendant has or had to a complainant. Nor is it relevant if the act complained of occurred within a relationship. If the defendant intentionally penetrates with his penis the vagina, anus or mouth of the complainant without her consent where he does not reasonably believe in her consent the defendant has committed rape, regardless of the circumstances in which the incident occurred.“

As for whoever it was who typed this into a search engine and ended up here:

can’t stop stalking her

Unfortunately WordPress doesn’t provide me with details of who you are……

The Rape Crisis National Freephone Helpline is open from 12-2.30pm & 7-9.30pm every day of the year: you can call them on 0808 802 9999

 

Too Much to say for myself: Blogging about feminism, politics, and anything else that takes my fancy [@CathElliott]

 

See the following on consent:

 

@BrianMcFadden, and The Mistake Of Thinking Victims Are “Just As Bad” by @FrothyDragon

Cross-Posted with permission from Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone

First published in 2012

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 11.12.07

This isn’t my usual  takedown of male upholders of the patriarchy. It’s one that’s filled with facepalming and irony. I mean, it was just the other day I wrote about the importance of supporting women who are in abusive relationships, trying to leave abusive relationships, or fresh out of abusive relationships. See, the “Women who make excuses and stay” may have hit me harder than usual. I suspect, from McFadden’s subsequent tweet, he tweeted out of a mixture of anger and misunderstanding. I mean, to the outsider, you wonder why women stay, why women make excuses. There’s no end of reasons. All of which are down to the abuser. So, in a simple, easy to read list, here we go. (If you think of any more, add them in the comments)

  1. Blame: It’s common for the blame to be misappropriated onto the victim of abuse. As mentioned in my above linked post, it’s not uncommon for people to ask the abuser what they may have done to upset the abuser. It’s simple. The abuser doesn’t act out of anger, he acts out of a desire to control his victim. However, the abuser knows that it makes him appear (slightly more) favourable if he can blame the victim. After all, acting out abuse for a desire for control comes across as pretty shitty. (Understatement). But if he’s struck his victim, and laid it on “dinner being ruined”, “talking to your (male) friend”, “answering back”, he tells the victim (and anyone that asks) what she should have done differently. The victim then begins to believe if she walks on eggshells, and avoids the “triggers”, things will change. Things don’t change. The abuser just finds different excuses.
  2. Denial: I can’t speak for every victim/survivor of abuse, but I suspect I can speak for a large number. The first time your abuser hits you, it doesn’t seem real. You don’t understand where it came from. After all, he’s been Prince Charming, right? Wants you all for himself, has told you he couldn’t live without you… You don’t realise he’s been doing all the things that make up abuse all along, so you convince yourself it was a “one off”, while he’s telling you it won’t happen again.
  3. Lack Of Support: Last year, on average, 230 women were turned away from the refuge system due to a lack of space. Often, housing women trying to escape abuse can mean placing them in refuges miles away from any support network. But even before then, there’s the problem of trying to call Women’s Aid. I was lucky that I was never fully restricted to the house, except for when Dom hid my keys. But in the refuge system, I met women who had been denied access to a phone, unable to phone the National Domestic Violence Helpline, or even the police. Even those who had been able to phone had had to sneak out of the house to do it in private (I’d used “going to Tesco”  as an excuse the day before I left Dom). But even then, you can’t always get through first time. The lack of refuge spaces saw women placed in Bed and Breakfast’s, with no real support, or sometimes unable to reach help at all.
  4. Lack Of Finances: I had, like many other women, every penny controlled by Dom. As a barmaid, earning around £900 a month, Dom would ensure I had £200 to get through the month with; through this, I had to pay bills, buy food, buy electric… The rest, Dom would keep for himself, and spend on beer, vodka, anything he wanted. Before I knew of the refuge system, I believed I couldn’t afford to leave. After all, I was always broke, struggling to make ends meet. It never occurred to me I could survive, financially, outside of abuse. Even for those who do not face financial abuse know they’ll face being the sole payee for everything, and wonder how they’ll make ends meet.
  5. Children: We have this preoccupation with two parent families. How many times have you heard the phrase “Stay together for the kids?” Blink 182 even have a song of the same name, right? We’re told children function best in two parent families, and we get told that children, especially boys, need a male influence in their lives. All of this builds up to a troubling sense for any mother planning to leave an abusive relationship. Society has already told her that lone parents are failing their children. Add to that, abusers often use children to target the mothers, the abuser’s victim. A common tactic is for the abuser to threaten the victim with custody; a tactic I remember from Dom, who regularly told me that, should I leave, he’d make sure I never saw our son again. Other abusers will try and turn the children against the mother, meaning that should the mother attempt to leave, the children will voice dissent at the idea of leaving with the mother. For a lot of victims, leaving the abuser means they have to face the possibility of losing their children.
  6. Fear: Long before I left Dom, I was aware of the fact that leaving, or attempting to leave, Dom would be dangerous. He’d admitted once, that, after she’d left him, he’d put a brick through his ex wife’s window. And sadly, I was already no stranger to his death threats; within the first ten months of our relationship, he’d threatened to stab me twice; he’d tried to kill his best friend for offering me comfort after another of Dom’s assaults, and told me that if I ever tried to leave him, he’d hunt me down and kill me. Women don’t leave abuse because they’re scared of the consequences if they get caught trying to leave. They’re scared of the consequences if they do leave. Hell, four years on, I still think I’ve seen Dom in the streets, and that’s enough to scare the hell out of me. We know leaving our abuser is the most dangerous time in our relationship. That’s why we look for the right time to leave.

We don’t stay because we’re “just as bad.” We stay because a number of factors coerce us into staying with our abuser. Factors our abuser carefully puts in place.

Frothy Dragon and the Patriarchal Stone I Got 99 Problems, And The Fact You’re Still Calling Me A Bitch Is One [@FrothyDragon]

Domestic Violence victims still need to be perfect to be deemed real victims by @HerBeatittude

Cross-Posted with permission from HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag

So the discovery that Nigella Lawson may not a perfect victim and therefore not a victim at all, has at last been made.  Allison Pearson in the Telegraph today (although one wonders why it wasn’t in the Mail, what with it being very Daily Mailish an’ all) declares gravely that:

“if the Grillo sisters turn out to be telling the truth… then Charles Saatchi may turn out to be the victim of an injustice”.

What injustice can this be?  Allison doesn’t say.  She only implies it. I presume she means the injustice of being thought to be an abusive man, because his wife is not the perfect victim and therefore he couldn’t have been an abuser, could he?  Here’s the link to the article: Victim Blaming piece by Allison Pearson

That I think, is the confused thinking behind this vicious piece of victim-blaming.  You would think, wouldn’t you, that an educated woman with a column in a broadsheet, would have better critical thinking skills than this, but when it comes to male violence against women, many people’s critical thinking skills go missing completely.  Suddenly they’re straight back into the Madonna/ Whore dichotomy where if a woman doesn’t fit the Madonna stereotype then she must be the Whore and as such, can be justly blamed for whichever bit of male violence has come her way.

Pearson repeats the allegations from the Grillo trial, that Saatchi considered his wife “an habitual criminal”, which is a bit of a PR gaffe from Saatchi – imagine, another one from this advertising genius – given that a substantial group in the population when they hear that term, instantly picture Norman Stanley Fletcher from Porridge and think Nigella must be rather genial and fun.  At the same time, the image of Saatchi’s Mr McKay to Nigella’s Fletch has a terribly unfortunate cultural resonance for Strangler Saatchi, because we all enjoyed watching Fletch get the better of McKay week after week. No wonder twitter echoes to the cry of “we’d all be on narcotics if we were married to Saatchi!”

But Pearson may not have watched Porridge. “What if this villain of the piece was actually trying to save his destructive wife from herself?” she asks plaintively.  By strangling her?  Is that how you save someone from themself?

“What if Saatchi lamely excusing the fight outside Scott’s as “a playful tiff” was not trying to protect his own reputation, but Nigella’s? Physical violence is never excusable, but what if a frustrated Charles was shaking his wife and saying: “Wake up, woman! Look what you’re doing to yourself and our family”?  she goes on.

This is such classic victim-blaming that I hardly need to critique it, but oh well, I’ve started now, so: the “Physical violence is never excusable, but” excuse, followed by the excuse, means that actually, you believe that physical violence is sometimes excusable.  If you actually believed that physical violence is never excusable, you wouldn’t propose that shaking someone and strangling them, was an excusable desperate attempt to get someone to “wake up”.

“What if that tweak on her nose was not aggressive and patronising, as we all supposed, but a dig at her cocaine habit?” Well, I know men are supposed to be bad at multi-tasking, but I’ve never bought that stereotype, so I’d just like to point out that it’s possible to have been both.

“What if Nigella’s tears, as she fled the restaurant, were not of fear, but guilt?”  What if they were?  Does that excuse Strangler Saatchi’s violence?  People with critical thinking skills who are not prepared to defend domestic violence for any excuse, would say no.  People who think that they are not in favour of Domestic Violence but when confronted with a real taste of it are, leave the question hanging in the air with the implication that yes, indeed, it does excuse his violence.  No real victim of DV is supposed to have any guilt, about anything at all – like the Immaculate Conception, she’s got to be spotless.  In other words, she’s got to be either a child or someone who has never done anything wrong in her life ever.

Which leaves adult women in the position of never being allowed to be real victims of DV, because none of us is guiltless. None of us would ever be the perfect victim.  All of us have done things in our lives which could be held to be either illegal, immoral or fattening and so if a man decides to attack us, the very fact that we have done those things will absolve our attacker from guilt.  Which is really, really good news for men who go in for domestic violence. In order for a man to be held guilty of domestic violence, his female victim has to be guiltless of anything else.  If she isn’t, then it’s OK for him to strangle her.  That’s the message Allison Pearson in the Telegraph is sending us today.

Possible domestic violence going on? Nothing for the Cleveland police to bother about by @HerBeatittude

Cross-Posted with Permission from HerbsandHags: Meanderings of a Hag

So the horrifying story of the Cleveland kidnaps are beginning to come to light and the wearying, oh so predictable scenario of how it was possible for 3 men to keep prisoner and abuse 3 women and a child for over a decade with no-one noticing, is also coming to light.

The Cleveland police have been criticised for not taking seriously phone calls from neighbours who noticed young women in the garden on dog-leashes and phoned to report. It seems that putting a woman on a dog leash and walking her round the garden is not worthy of police attention.

On one level, the people who are into BDSM and tell the rest of us we’re boring vanillas because we’re not, have a point; if people are going about their lawful business engaging in consensual abusive behaviour, then it isn’t the business of the police.

What is disturbing however, is that the default mode of the police was to accept that whatever was happening, must be consensual and therefore not worthy of further investigation.

Is it really too much to ask that the cultural mainstreaming of the eroticisation of violence against women, should not be accepted by the police as being the default mode of relationships between men and women and therefore not worthy of even the most box-ticking of questions in case there is a crime going on?

Should the default not be for the people who are supposed to enforce law and order, to assume something untoward in this scenario unless they are told by the potential victim (in a safe space, away from the potential abuser) that it’s all consensual and everything is OK so they can put their clipboards away and go on back to their police station?

It occurred to me while reading about this crime, that one of the reasons to resist the mainstreaming of BDSM (among others) is that if it is so mainstream that the police assume that every report of violence against women is simply kink spilling out of the bedroom into the garden, then the world becomes a more unsafe place for women than it already is – and it’s already dangerous enough for us. This isn’t a post urging everyone to give up kink immediately if that’s what they’re into; just pointing out that it’s one more source of danger for women if we accept it as normal and assume abuse is consensual when we see it.

That’s apart from the fact that the police received other calls which indicated that there may be some domestic violence going on in that house and ignored them because DV is simply so normal.

When it comes down to it, the three kidnapped women remained captives for so long, because of the cultural acceptance and support of male violence. Neighbours would have been more curious, police would have taken calls seriously, Amanda, Gina and Michelle would have been free a long time ago, if we didn’t accept male violence against women as being normal enough for the police not to need to even check it out.

 

 

50 Shades is Emotional Abuse by @50shadesabuse

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

I’m going to begin this blog with a personal note. All too often, when people hear about the@50shadesabuse Twitter campaign, they suggest that we just don’t understand BDSM and that we’re equating “kink” with abuse. That’s not the case and never has been.

When I (Emma) first read 50 Shades of Grey – because yes, contrary to the other common accusation we receive, I have read the book – I found it massively triggering. Not because of the BDSM. Christian Grey reminded me of my own abusive ex. It wasn’t the physical aspects of the story that immediately jumped out at me, but the way that Christian emotionally abuses Ana. I recognised it because I have experienced it. Nobody can tell me that there is not emotional abuse present in this book, because to do so is to deny my experience. I know what emotional abuse feels like. I know how to recognise it. And it IS an almost constant presence within this so-called “romance” novel.

Emotional abuse is difficult to define. Something so subtle, yet so capable of utterly destroying a person is hard to put into words. However, most experts will agree that emotional abuse can involve:

• Name-calling, accusing, threatening or blaming.

• Emotional manipulation

• Adopting a deliberately patronising, judgemental “I know best” attitude, which belittles the person being abused and is designed to make them question themselves.

• Being overly critical or controlling.

• Invalidating the abused person’s experiences, by denying what really happened (e.g. the abuser may say “I never said that; you’re lying” when confronted about a hurtful comment), thus leaving the abused person feeling confused and frustrated.

• Withholding – this can refer to withholding affection, sex, praise or even verbal communication (“the silent treatment”).

• Making unrealistic or unfair demands on the abused person.

• Denying or refusing to listen to a viewpoint other than the abuser’s own.

• Minimizing the abused person’s feelings. This may take the form of telling the abused person “you’re just oversensitive,” or “you’re exaggerating.” This is, again, designed to make the person being abused question themselves.

• Trivialising the abused person’s feelings or experiences.

• Spurning or rejecting the abused person.

• Isolating the abused person from their friends or family.

• Relying on the abused person to fulfil the emotional needs of the abuser, whilst not offering them any emotional fulfilment themselves in return.

• Eroding a person’s sense of self to the point where they only see themselves as having worth because of their relationship with their abuser.

• Flying into a rage over trivial things and causing fear.

Emotional abuse is so complex, that this is really only a small list of some of the many, many traits it can encompass. So how does this fit into Fifty Shades?

Christian Grey displays signs of being an emotional abuser from very early on in the story. His behaviour when Ana interviews him is cold and patronising. He is aware from the outset that he is in a much more powerful position than the naive Ana and he uses this to make her feel uncomfortable.

By chapter 3, he is managing to engineer situations in order to isolate Ana from her friends. He suggests a date with her and when Ana hesitates, he arranges one of his entourage to take everyone home, bar Ana, leaving her little choice but to stay and agree to have coffee with him. This action might seem trivial and innocent in isolation, but it’s important to remember that emotional abuse is, like all forms of abuse, about control. In this instance, Grey is controlling the situation entirely – something that he will continue to do throughout the series, regardless of whether Ana likes it or not.

By the time they go on their date, Christian is behaving in a troubling way. He makes comments such as “you should find me intimidating” and tells her that she blushes a lot – a remark which he knows will make Ana question herself. It’s all done to keep himself in control and it’s not romantic behaviour. He explains that he doesn’t want her to use his first name. This immediately puts Ana on a lower footing than him. From their very first date, Christian is ensuring that the balance of power between them is unequal and tipped in his favour. This sets a dangerous tone for their entire relationship. Equality is an important aspect of any healthy relationship. There is no equality between Ana and Christian.

Shortly after their date, when Ana narrowly avoids being knocked over by a bike, Christian looks into her eyes and tells her that he’s “bad” for her and that she should stay away from him. This kind of warning is calculated to ensure that she does no such thing and is supposed to make her question herself, as well as to provide a convenient later excuse for his abusive behaviour and her decision to stay. It’s a classic case of “well, he told me he was trouble and I stuck around anyway, so I’m to blame…” There’s nothing sexy or passionate about these “warnings,” given by abusers. They’re nothing short of emotional manipulation.

Ana also clearly suffers from low self-esteem. Christian can see this (it’s obvious to the reader, so there’s no reason to assume it’s not obvious to Christian) and he uses it to manipulate Ana’s emotions throughout the trilogy, telling her how wonderful she is one minute and making subtle comments that make her question herself the next (such as pointing out her habit of blushing).

I’m going to add another personal note at this point. A lot of Fifty Shades fans have told me that I can’t judge Christian on how he behaves in a relationship, because he had an abusive childhood and doesn’t know how to show love, or to receive it. Excuse my language, here. BULLSHIT. My own abusive ex used the same excuse and it is NOT acceptable. You can experience the most tragic upbringing in the history of the world and still know how to treat other people with care and respect. To abuse another person is a choice. To be manipulative, unfeeling and obsessed with control is aCHOICE. Yes, it might be a choice that comes from your personal experience, born out of a need for self-preservation, but it is a choice. And if you make that choice to be abusive, controlling and manipulative, you lose the right to “blame” anything but yourself. End of rant.

In chapter 4, Ana gets drunk at a nightclub and Christian tracks her mobile phone in order to turn up unannounced and “rescue” her, taking her back to his hotel when Ana is no fit state to consent. We’ve discussed how utterly wrong this is in an earlier blog, so I want to focus on Ana’s reaction to these events. When realising that he stalked her in order to turn up and “rescue” her, she thinks to herself: “How is that possible? Is it legal? …Somehow, because it’s him, I don’t mind.”

It’s those words – “because it’s HIM” – that worry me. When you’re in a position where you can rationalise that someone’s behaviour is abusive (or at least worrying), there is nobody in the world so amazing that you should stay with them anyway. Please, if you’re reading this and you recognise that line of thought, speak out and find someone to help you.

In chapter 5, Christian reiterates his warning that Ana should “steer clear” of him. This time, he adds that he’s finding it impossible to keep away from her, subtly toying with her emotions once again and ensuring that Ana remains both flattered and intrigued enough to keep coming back for more.

Even Christian’s ridiculous “non-disclosure agreement” could be seen as potentially abusive, given Ana’s complete lack of experience. By originally insisting that she tells nobody about her sexual encounter with him, Christian is isolating Ana from friends or family members who may have been able to give her advice. We later see that this leads to Ana feeling confused and alone; hardly the most romantic of emotions. Christian also insists that a sexual, BDSM relationship is the only kind of relationship they’ll have. This is a way of pushing Ana away and given that she is a character whose heart is worn on her sleeve, meaning that Christian is well-aware that she wants more than just a sexual relationship, this is also evidence that by pursuing his own desires, Christian is totally ignoring Ana’s own emotional needs. His angry reaction to the news that Ana is a virgin is just further evidence of this. He is minimising her needs and invalidating her feelings in favour of his own and they’re not even in a relationship yet. A warning sign that worse is to come, if ever there was one.

In chapter 9, we begin to see examples of Christian’s drastic mood swings. Ana thinks to herself: “I want to call after him, but his sudden aloofness has left me paralyzed. What happened to the generous, relaxed, smiling man who was making love to me not half an hour ago?

These changes of mood are often a symptom of abusive relationships and again, there’s frequently an underlying issue of control. In this situation, Christian thinks Ana is going to call one of her male friends and he is furious because he views her as his possession and is not willing to “share.” In fact, Ana wants to call a female friend, but rather than wait to find this out, Christian storms out and gives Ana the silent treatment because he feels he’s not in control anymore. He withholds any further emotional intimacy as “punishment” for what he views as Ana’s wrongdoing. This leaves Ana confused and frustrated. It’s a cold, manipulative way to behave. I’ve tried so hard to see why women find Christian Grey sexy or lovable, but when you’ve been with a man who does this stuff to you and makes you swing violently from being overjoyed to feeling totally dejected (as Ana does so often in this series), you know that the reality isn’t in the slightest bit exciting or romantic. It’s horrendous. And so is this book. End of second rant.

Ana’s emotional needs are further pushed aside in the wording of Christian’s ludicrous, non-legal “sex contract.” A clause states that he can “dismiss” her from “service at any time and for any reason.” However, should Ana wish to leave, the contract states that whilst she may “request her release,” it’s up to Christian as to whether he grants it. No. Just no. Nobody gets to dictate whether you can leave a relationship, regardless of what terms and conditions you’ve put on it. The second Ana wants to leave, that’s her right and she can go – Christian should have no say in the matter. Again, he’s paying absolutely no heed to her emotional wellbeing and he’s even saying as much in writing.

By chapter 13, Christian and Ana are finally discussing their “contract” in detail. However, when Ana asks questions (important questions, given her inexperience), Christian refers to her as having“issues.” This is trivialising her emotional response and also minimising – by suggesting that Ana has “issues” about the whole idea of BDSM, he is again putting himself in the position of power. He knows about that world and has plenty of experience. By brushing aside Ana’s genuine concerns, he is – not for the first time – showing a total lack of concern for her emotional wellbeing and proving himself to be manipulative and abusive.

Later in that same chapter, Ana shows the reader that she is not ready for a BDSM relationship and that she is already keenly aware that being with Christian is unlikely to satisfy her emotionally.

“What if…in three months’ time, he says no, he’s had enough of trying to mould me into something I’m not? How will I feel? I’ll have emotionally invested three months, doing things that I’m not sure I want to do. And if he says no, agreement over, how could I cope with that level of rejection?”

Ana can already tell that Christian could potentially damage her emotionally, yet she doesn’t allow her own instincts to stop her from pursuing him. This is entirely down to the way that Christian has manipulated her up until this point. From engineering an unequal balance of power, to withholding affection and even communication in order to get his way, Christian hasn’t wooed Ana into wanting to be with him. He has coerced her. This isn’t romantic. It’s a startlingly accurate depiction of how abusers often get their victims to fall for them. The push-pull tactic of being lovely one minute and leaving the person wondering what the heck they did wrong the next, combined with sexual manipulation for added measure has led to Ana completely ignoring her own needs. Why? Because Christian doesn’t want her to consider them; he sure as hell doesn’t consider them, after all.

And just for added evidence of Christian being an abusive scum-bucket, Ana has the above thought whilst on the way home from a dinner date with him, after which she has asked him for some space to think. Does Christian respect this request? Of course not. When Ana reaches her apartment after a short drive home, Christian has already sent her a manipulative email, pressuring her to agree to his demands. Way to pile on the emotional abuse, Christian…

One of Christians “limits” is that he doesn’t want to be touched. Whenever Ana tries to stroke his arms, or nuzzle into his chest, he tells her to stop. We later find out that this is due to the abuse he suffered as a child. In a healthy relationship, Christian might have waited for things to develop between he and Ana, before opening up to her about this and explaining why he might sometimes flinch at physical contact. However, as we’ve established (several times over), this relationship is about as healthy as a long-dead corpse. The fact that Christian refuses to explain his dislike of being touched only serves to hurt and frustrate Ana. His insistence that she doesn’t make any attempt at contact therefore comes across as withholding physical affection without reason. When Christian finally begins to open up about his past, he does so in a manner that still keeps Ana guessing on some levels. He also begins to play upon his abusive childhood, using it as an excuse for his behaviour (“I’m fifty shades of fucked up”), knowing full-well that Ana will therefore do the same. It’s worth reiterating the whole THERE IS NEVER AN EXCUSE FOR ABUSE thing at this point, because it’s fifty shades of rubbish to suggest that there can be.

Of course, because EL James wants us to believe that this relationship is the most wonderful, passionate love that has ever existed, Ana does exactly what Christian wants. She begins to excuse his behaviour on the basis of his past and starts telling herself that she can “fix” him if she only tries hard enough. At this point in an abusive relationship, the abuser can pretty much consider himself to have carte blanche when it comes to how he behaves, because his victim will blame herself if she dislikes the way he treats her. Ana follows this pattern to the letter. Whenever she feels that Christian has let her down, or that she can’t deal with his behaviour, she becomes angry with herself for not being able to cope better. Poor Christian can’t help it, after all. Except he can and I apologise if I sound incredibly angry in this particular blog, but as I mentioned at the start, the emotional abuse and constant manipulation was the aspect that really triggered me when I read this excuse for a novel, because by this point in the story, EL James is pretty much writing the worst experience of my life as a love story. And then she went on record as saying that people who see abuse in the books are “doing a disservice” to abuse victims. Oh hi, EL. Don’t mind me, whilst I point out the hideous emotional manipulation in your love story. I just really enjoy doing a disservice to myself.

Anyway, in chapter 16 Ana tries to explain to Christian that she doesn’t really want him to hit her. Her first experience of spanking has left her confused, ashamed and deeply upset. Christian responds by completely and utterly ignoring her feelings and tells her: “I enjoy punishing you.” Again, he’s overriding her emotional needs in order to satisfy his desires. This is the man that women all over the world think is some kind of romantic ideal. Which kind of makes me want to leap from something high. Because he has come round to stay the night with her, Ana is manipulated into thinking that he cares and rather than this confrontation being the end of this imbalanced, damaging relationship, it’s sadly just a continuation of it. Once again, Christian has managed to mess with Ana’s head so that she ignores her gut instinct.

In the following chapter, however, Ana decides to email Christian to explain her confused views on BDSM. She refers to him spanking her as having been “assaulted” and says she felt ashamed by her own arousal. She is trying to have a serious discussion with him. Christian, however, responds by being patronising: “So you felt demeaned, abused and assaulted – how very Tess Durbeyfield of you.”This attitude shows no concern for what Ana is saying whatsoever. He goes on to suggest that because Ana suggested the spanking in the first place (having wanted to see what she was getting herself into), the way she feels is entirely her own fault. He tells her to “deal with” the negative emotions that she’s feeling, because “that’s what a submissive would do.” He’s making unrealistic demands of a woman clearly not prepared for his lifestyle and he’s also trivialising her feelings once again, because his sexual needs are the only thing that matter to him. SWOON.

By chapter 20, Ana is displaying further signs that Christian’s protracted emotional abuse has truly taken effect. When Kate tells Ana that she deliberately riled Christian, so that Ana could see what he’s really like, Ana internally screams: “I KNOW WHAT HE’S REALLY LIKE – YOU DON’T!” It’s a very common trait in abusive relationships for the abused person to believe that they and only they really know the abuser. Often, the abuser tells them that that is the case. Making the abused person feel this way is a manipulative tool, designed to keep the person in the relationship. It makes them feel as though they must be pretty special to have gotten closer to the abuser than anyone else in the world. It falsely encourages them to believe that the abuser must really care and makes them feel protective of the abuser, so that they actively defend the negative behaviour, rather than run as a result of it. Again, I know this from experience. I don’t take Ana’s insistence that only she can ever understand or love Christian as evidence of their beautiful relationship. I see it as a woman whose sense of self has been eroded to the point that she sees her only worth as being reflected through her relationship with the abusive man she has fallen for. And that is exactly what Christian wants.

In the same chapter, Ana decides to voice her feelings for the man she loves. When Christian asks if she wants him to fuck her, she replies “No – I want you to make love to me.” Christian, being the emotionally abusive control freak that he is, shuns her because she hasn’t wanted the same kind of sex as he likes. He throws a t-shirt at her and tells her to go to bed. He’s withholding sex/affection because she has admitted that she wants something tender from him. And Ana, having been manipulated so thoroughly by this “wonderful” man, blames herself entirely for his rejection, cursing herself for trying to rush him into intimacy he’s not yet ready for. It’s NOT Ana’s fault and she is well within her rights to want some affection from the man she has literally bent over backwards to please so far, but Christian’s systematic abuse of her means that she will never blame him for the way he makes her feel. Of course, they do end up having sex, but it is, as always, on Christian’s terms.

In chapter 22, Ana and Christian have an email conversation in which Christian subtly blames Ana for any emotional distress she has been feeling (she has had to go to see her mother, as she needs space from Christian). He tells her that she’s not communicative enough, she doesn’t speak honestly enough to him etc… At no point does he take any responsibility for his own behaviour, or acknowledge that he might have contributed to her need to get away for a while. The next day, having promised her that he’ll give her the distance she needs, Christian turns up at the bar in which Ana is enjoying drinks with her mother. He has stalked her across hundreds of miles when Ana has asked him to give her some space. This is a calculated move on Christian’s part; he’s not there because he cares. He’s there because he needs to be in control of Ana at all times. Ana reacts by wondering if he’s there because he’s angry with her. HE has tracked down her mother’s home, booked a room in the hotel above the bar at which he knows they drink and arrived unannounced in spite of being asked to give Ana some space, yet SHE is concerned that she might have done something wrong. If this isn’t a perfect example of how an abused person is manipulated into a constant state of self-blame, I don’t know what is.

As they argue over “Mrs Robinson” (the woman who committed statutory rape against Christian when he was 15), Ana points out that Christian gets insanely jealous over her friendship with Jose (whom she has never had a sexual relationship with), but becomes angry if she questions his friendship with the woman who introduced him to BDSM. Christian tells her “I do as I wish, Anastasia,” thus neatly trivialising Ana’s feelings for the ninety millionth time. Because hey, he can do as he pleases. And Ana can do as he pleases, too. That sounds like a healthy, balanced relationship to me!

After they return to Christian’s hotel room, Ana tells him “we should talk.” Christian simply says “later”and proceeds to have sex with her. Again, ignoring her emotional needs in favour of his own desires. Someone please tell me what women see in this pitiful excuse for a man, because I can’t even pretend to know what it is.

Ana then manages to finally get Christian to open up a little more about his childhood and they begin to talk about their own relationship. Ana confesses that she’s unhappy with the BDSM aspect and tells him that it’s making her feel as though she’s tied up in knots. To which Christian laughs and says“I like you tied up in knots.” I’m getting so tired of pointing out the ways in which Christian trivialises Ana’s feelings over and over again, but this is the best-selling book of all time and people seem to be so wrapped up in how wonderful and sexy the story is (it’s not) that they’re not seeing what is utterly blatant. Christian manipulates Ana. He blames her for feeling confused or depressed about their relationship, when she only feels that way because he constantly overlooks her feelings, coerces her into doing things she doesn’t want to do and withholds affection at will. He is so emotionally abusive that it’s not as though we even have to dig to look for it. It’s just there, laid bare on every page. Each time Christian does something that seems genuinely nice, there’s a total change in his personality and he undoes it all by being horrible again – usually because Ana has done something terrible, like exercise free choice. Either that, or it quickly becomes obvious that he only did a nice thing in order to manipulate Ana into staying with him, or doing something that she might otherwise refuse. Why aren’t more people seeing this as abuse? I don’t believe that I can only see it because I’ve been with a man that treated me as appallingly as Christian treats Ana. It’s glaringly obvious. I can only assume that the hype around this book and the peer pressure that comes from knowing that so many people think it’s amazing is either genuinely blinding people to what’s there in black and white, or encouraging them to pretend they can’t see it, rather than accept an uncomfortable truth.

Christian Grey is an abuser. Over the course of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we have shown evidence from the text that proves as much. He systematically erodes Ana’s sense of self from the moment he meets her. He confuses her and manipulates her. He does not respect her personal boundaries and he overrides her emotional needs in favour of his own sexual desires. He does not take “no” for an answer. He controls and stalks Ana, then blames her for any negative emotion that she might be feeling as a result. He cannot control his own temper and uses BDSM as a cover to inflict genuine pain and punishment on her, which he has not gained permission for. He bruises her. He has mood swings that actively scare her. And the best bit? The message in this unhealthy trilogy is that not only can Christian not help his behaviour due to his tragic childhood, but that the love of the right woman can “fix” an abusive man. Neither of these appalling messages are true. Both are incredibly dangerous.

As I said earlier; abuse is a choice. There is no excuse for abusive behaviour, regardless of what happened in a person’s past. And as for the right woman magically “fixing” abuse through love? That’s what keeps people in abusive relationships. That’s what leads to women dying. Because they believe that the man they love will change if they can only try harder to make it work. The fact is, you can never fix an abuser. They have to recognise their own behaviour and want to change. Instances in which that happens are, sadly, incredibly rare. You can try and try to meet the expectations of your abusive partner, but you will never get it right. They will always move the goalposts. There is no “perfect way to love” that will make everything better again. It terrifies me that this message is being given to women and girls all over the world, when the truth is so horribly different.

Christian Grey is nothing to aspire to. He is cold, manipulative, controlling and self-centred.

This is the man that we’re being sold as a romantic ideal. There’s nothing romantic about abuse. Fifty Shades is not a love story. And in real life, relationships like Ana’s and Christian’s do not have happy endings.

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

Financial Abuse in 50 Shades by @50shadesabuse

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

Financial abuse is perhaps an overlooked form of abuse for many people. It can incorporate:

• Obtaining funds or property without consent.

• Obtaining bank details without consent.

• Use of money for purposes other than those intended by the person being abused.

• Persuading or tricking a person out of money.

• Unduly pressuring someone to sell property or possessions.

• Pressuring someone to sign a legal document they do not fully understand.

• Forcing someone to change their marital status or legal name.

• Denying a person access to joint funds.

At first glance, it may seem as though this is the one form of abuse that Christian Grey does not subject Ana Steele to in the Fifty Shades trilogy. However, the truth is – if you excuse the pun – not so black and white.

Although Christian Grey is portrayed as being an extremely generous partner to Ana, constantly bombarding her with gifts, it could be argued that doing so is his way of “buying” her agreement to his demands. Ana is a student at the start of the first book and she is bowled over by Christian’s wealth. He uses this to his advantage.

Before Ana can begin a BDSM relationship with Christian, he insists that she signs a contract. Whilst he does eventually admit that this contract is not legally binding (although not until halfway through the first book), Christian applies almost constant pressure to Ana, in the hope of persuading her to sign. He tells her to “hurry up” and sign the contract, even though it’s very clear that Ana is confused by what he wants from her and isn’t certain about whether she’s ready for that kind of relationship. For several chapters, Ana does not know that the contract isn’t enforceable by law, meaning that Christian is unfairly “pressuring someone to sign a legal document they do not fully understand,” as in Ana’s eyes, the contract is, at first at least, legally binding.

However, Christian’s financial abuse of Ana really begins when he starts insisting that she sells her old VW Beetle, because he doesn’t approve of it. In spite of Ana telling him over and over that she loves her car and doesn’t want a new one, Christian constantly refuses to listen. He allows his wealth to grant him power over her and in chapter 15, he presents her with a new car and makes it horribly obvious that it’s not the sweet gesture of a boyfriend who cares, but a sign that he can and will overrule her decisions and “buy” her as when he sees fit:

“You are mine and if I want to buy you a fucking car, I’ll buy you a fucking car.”

Not only does Christian override Ana’s wishes, insisting that she sells her own possession, but he organises the sale rather than allowing her to do it herself. This is a totally unacceptable way to treat your partner and Christian only gets away with it, because he knows that he can use his wealth against Ana. He deposits the money from the sale into Ana’s account, but Ana has never given him her bank details; this is just another example of Christian’s lack of respect for boundaries and a gross invasion of Ana’s privacy and financial security.

Much later, in book 3, Christian ticks off another symptom of financial abuse from our checklist, when he applies pressure on Ana, forcing her to agree to take his name. He is furious when Ana suggests that she’d like to keep “Steele,” insisting that she instead change her surname to “Grey.” He even goes so far as to refer to her as an “asset” that “needs rebranding.” He admits that the reason he wants her to take his name is because he wants “everyone to know that you’re mine.” This isn’t about unity, it’s about possession. When Ana caves in to his pressure, he even gloats: “Mission accomplished.”

Even when they are married – and although he claims to be doing everything for her benefit – Christian often keeps Ana out of financial decisions. When he arranges for their architect to come over to discuss the plans for their new home, he does so without Ana’s knowledge, leading her to wonder “why does he make these decisions without telling me?” They have a massively unequal partnership, because Christian is completely in control of their finances and can still use his wealth to keep a hold on Ana. Ana has no free agency, because Christian is always pulling the strings where money is concerned; she wants to keep her car, but he forces her to accept a new one. She doesn’t want him involved in her financial affairs, but he accesses her bank details without consent and deposits a large sum in there anyway. This is a violation of her rights and wishes, however “nice” the gesture is portrayed to be. It’s just another example of an abusive man who wields his power over his victim in order to ensure he always gets his way.

Christian’s use of his financial power to control others does not only extend to his wife. In chapter 8 of the final book in the trilogy, we also learn that he is paying for the education of Taylor’s daughter (Taylor being one of Christian’s security guys, for those of you lucky enough never to have read this rubbish). But Christian isn’t doing this for reasons of loyalty or concern that his employee’s child should have the best start in life. He tells Ana that by paying for Taylor’s daughter’s schooling, “it means he won’t quit.” He also enrols Leila – the former sub who wanted to kill Ana – at art school and pays for her medical treatment, rather than inform the police about what she did. None of this is done for Ana’s protection, but for Christian’s own benefit and is just another example of him using his financial power to control everyone around him.

When, in the latter stages of book 3, there is a frankly ludicrous plot in which Ana has to withdraw five million dollars from the bank, we discover that Christian has five check books, but “only one is the names of C Grey and Mrs A Grey.” Ana tells the reader that she has roughly $54,000 in her account. Her husband, however has billions. The difference here is staggering; why is Christian telling Ana that everything that is his is also hers, when clearly that’s not true? If it was, they’d surely have some form of joint account and Ana would have access to his wealth, rather than having to rely on the times when he wants to buy her a gift, or deposit a small (in comparison) sum into her account; usually to make up for having abused her. Ana also reveals that she has no idea how much money is in any of Christian’s accounts and that although he has a safe in his office, the combination is kept in a locked filing cabinet, to which she doesn’t have a key. Why, when Christian insists that what’s his is hers and that he wants Ana to get used to the finer things in life, is he keeping the vast majority of his fortune from her? Because, as we’ve reiterated in this blog, his financial power is just another tool he uses to keep Ana under his control and to prevent her from truly living her own life.

Christian’s wealth is seen as something admirable in Fifty Shades of Grey. However, in actuality, the way he uses it to control others and buy their forgiveness or acceptance of his demands is not admirable in the slightest. It’s abusive.

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

50 Shades – Sexual Abuse by @50shadesabuse

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

So far during Domestic Violence Awareness month, we’ve looked at the evidence of psychological and physical abuse in the popular trilogy, 50 Shades of Grey. Today, we’re going to examine sexual abuse within the series.

We commonly think of sexual abuse as meaning rape, or sexual contact without consent. However, the term “sexual abuse” can also refer to:

• Unwanted rough or violent behaviour during sex

• Refusing to use condoms or restricting/controlling a woman’s birth control methods.

• Sexual contact with someone too drunk/drugged to give coherent consent.

• Using threats to encourage someone into sexual encounters they may not want to have.

• Pressuring someone to perform acts they are uncomfortable with.

• Using sexual insults against a person.

With this in mind, let’s examine the evidence of sexual abuse in 50 Shades.

When Ana Steele meets Christian Grey, she is a virgin. Not only is she inexperienced when it comes to having sex with another person, she goes as far as to inform the reader that she has never so much as masturbated. She is entirely naive about the highly sexual kind of relationship that Christian is keen to have with her. When Christian discovers her virginity, he acts as though it is an annoyance, which he must quickly remove from her, in order to continue with his sexual plans. This shows a total lack of respect for his partner. Christian is not patient or genuinely tender towards his innocent girlfriend, but acts as though having to “make love” to her is an inconvenience, given that he’d rather indulge in his own sexual preferences.

Before they have even taken their relationship to this level, however, Christian displays signs of abusive, worrying behaviour. In chapter four, when Ana goes out dancing with her college friends, to celebrate the end of their exams, she drunkenly calls Christian from the toilets. He can tell she’s been drinking and phones her back to say he’s “coming to get” her. Ana has not, it’s important to point out, given him her exact location. Indeed, when he asks her during their first phone conversation where she is, Ana refuses to tell him. She says NO. However, Christian tracks her mobile phone in order to discover where she is. This is controlling and dangerous behaviour on his part. It’s not romantic to stalk someone into being with you and to have this behaviour written in a way that suggests to the reader that we should view it as passionate is enormously troubling.

The first real incident of sexual abuse within the book, however, comes from Jose rather than Christian. When Ana leaves the club to get some fresh air, Jose makes a move on her. Ana makes it clear that she’s not interested. Jose does not immediately give up; instead, he pressurises her and – bang on cue – Christian has to arrive to “rescue” her.

By the time Christian appears on the scene, Ana has already been sick as a result of drinking to excess. She is in no fit state to give – or withhold – consent to anything. Christian takes Ana to the dance floor, but shortly afterwards, she loses consciousness. Christian then takes her back to his hotel. To clarify: This is a woman that he currently is not in a relationship with. She is unconscious and therefore unable to give her consent to being taken anywhere other than her own home. To take her back to an unfamiliar place is irresponsible at best. Dangerous at worst. A decent man would have helped Kate (Ana’s best friend and flatmate) to get Ana back home, rather than taking her away from those she knows when she’s in no fit state to argue. Although no sexual activity takes place, Christian’s decision to remove Ana from those around her and to undress her and put her in bed cannot truly be seen as “romantic.” Upon waking the following morning, Ana is so confused by her surroundings and by her state of undress, that she feels compelled to ask Christian whether he had sex with her. THIS IS NOT A ROMANTIC QUESTION TO HAVE TO ASK.

Christian goes on to tell her she “wouldn’t be able to sit down for a week” if she was his, simply because she chose to get drunk with her friends. He also victim-blames her, when mentioning Jose’s sexual assault. And yet Ana refers to him as “a white knight, in shining, dazzling armour.” There is nothing brave or charming about taking a comatose person back to your bed without their consent, having stalked them in order to find out where they are in the first place, but EL James chooses to casually ignore that fact, in her crusade to make her fantasy the fantasy of every other woman in the world. Sadly, it’s a dangerous fantasy and one which should never be held up as an ideal.

Although by the time they have their next date, Ana is describing herself as ready for sex and seems excited by the thought, Christian bulldozes her with paperwork before anything can happen. He then takes her to his “playroom,” at which point it begins to become obvious that Ana is overwhelmed by what she is seeing. She thinks to herself “I know I’m going to say yes and part of me doesn’t want to.” A good Dominant (a good boyfriend full stop) would be able to recognise that his extremely naive prospective partner is not certain about the lifestyle she’s being asked to enter. However, rather than truly discuss Ana’s concerns, Christian plays on the fact that he is aware of Ana’s obvious feelings for him. When she asks what she would get out of a BDSM arrangement between the two of them, he replies: “me.” He knows that Ana wants more from him (her behaviour makes it abundantly clear) and is aware that offering himself to her in this way will make her more likely to agree to his demands. He is emotionally manipulating her in order to gain sexual gratification for himself. However, it is at this point that Ana reveals that she is a virgin. Christian’s response is not considerate of her feelings in any way.

“He closes his eyes and looks to be counting to ten. When he opens them again, he’s angry, glaring at me.”

This may not be an expressed sexual insult, as mentioned in the list of sexually abusive behaviours at the top of this blog, but his anger is clearly intended to intimidate Ana, who has done nothing wrong besides admit to not having had sex before.

He then suggests that he takes her virginity. Rather than show any concern for her feelings, or make allowances for nerves that Ana may be feeling, he refers to having sex with her as “a means to an end.” He also piles on the pressure, using phrases such as “I know you want me.”

For Ana, a woman who until recently had never even held hands with a man, having sex with someone for the first time is a big deal. Christian doesn’t show any kind of patience or consideration for this. Instead, he simply continues to pressurise her, telling her how much he wants her, until she consents. When he does take her to bed, he tells her he’s going to fuck her “hard” – again, not showing any consideration for it being Ana’s first time – and Ana describes a “pinching sensation…as he rips through my virginity.” Far from being aroused by this scene, I personally found it uncomfortable; Christian, who has a wealth of sexual experience, choosing to have sex with a virgin whose hymen is still intact, is one thing. That he feels the need to take her virginity roughly, possibly causing some degree of pain in the process is another. Again, Christian Grey only cares about his own sexual gratification, regardless of what the text might say to the contrary. Indeed, he tells her during their second sexual encounter (moments after the first): “I want you sore, baby.”

Once Ana’s pesky virginity is out of the way, Christian swiftly moves on (throughout the next few chapters of book 1) to applying more pressure to her in order to gain her agreement to his sexual demands. “The sooner I have your submission the better,” he tells her in chapter 10.

In the same chapter, we hear about “Mrs Robinson,” or Christian’s former Dominant, Elena. Elena seduced Christian when he was 15 years old, yet this isn’t referred to as what it clearly is: Statutory rape. Christian is described as having “fond” memories of his time with Elena and is still in contact with her, but it’s worth pointing out here and now that to have a sexual relationship with someone under the age of consent is against the law. Later, this damaging “relationship” with Elena is used as a form of excuse for Christian’s own abusive behaviour. Therefore it’s worth reiterating again that there is no excuse for abuse. We can feel sympathy for Christian’s past, without needing to use it as an excuse for his present.

A few chapters later, when Ana decides to email Christian that it was “nice knowing” him, having been unsure of the BDSM aspect of their proposed relationship, Christian reacts by turning up unannounced at her apartment. He tells her that he’s there to remind her just how nice it is to know him, meaning that he intends to have sex with her. They have sex, which appears to be consensual, however afterwards, Christian finally admits that he came round because he was angry and didn’t find her “it was nice knowing you” joke funny. The implication behind his words is that he would have come round and demanded sex regardless of her consent. It also makes it blindingly obvious that Christian is trying to pressure Ana into agreeing to try BDSM, by coercing her through sex he knows she already enjoys. When he has her in a highly aroused state, Christian knows he can manipulate Ana into agreeing to his desires. This is NOT ROMANTIC. Indeed, Ana describes herself as feeling like “a receptacle. An empty vessel to be filled at his whim.” Ask yourself honestly; is that how you want to feel after sex? Used?!

Christian shows yet another sign that he doesn’t respect Ana’s freedom to consent, when they go to dinner to discuss their relationship in chapter 13. When Ana suggests that they eat in the main dining area, in order to be on “neutral ground” where he cannot distract her with sexual advances, he responds by asking: “Do you think that would stop me?” Again, he is not only suggesting that he’d go ahead with sexual contact despite Ana’s lack of express consent, but he is also applying more and more pressure in order to gain her agreement to his BDSM “contract.” Remember the “pressuring someone to perform acts they are uncomfortable with?” line from the list of sexually abusive acts? Just thought it worth mentioning… And of course, Christian ignores Ana’s wishes, taking her to a private dining room in spite of her request to remain in public. Once there, he begins ramping up the pressure, telling her how much he wants to undress her. Ana even refers to his use of sexual manipulation as “his most potent weapon.” He tells her “I know you want me,” which only serves to manipulate her further. Again, I have to ask, which part of this is supposed to be romantic? The total ignoring of his partner’s wishes, the gaining of consent through coercion or something I’ve missed?!

Ana decides to leave the restaurant, as she is unable to think clearly (can’t think why). Christian threatens her with: “I could make you stay.” This is clearly meant to be sexually exciting, but combined with Christian’s previous abusive behaviour, it just sounds menacing. When Ana says no, Christian kisses her passionately and, feeling her aroused reaction, he asks again if he can persuade her to stay. He’s not listening to her needs – he only cares about his own. Throughout this scene, Christian continues to try to get Ana to stay the night with him, from subtle emotional manipulation (making her cry at the thought she may never see him again) to telling her that her car is unsafe to drive home. All he wants is to have his physical desires met, regardless of what Ana is actually telling him. She’s saying no. He’s desperately trying to convince her to change her answer to “yes.” This is not romance.

By the time we reach chapter 14, Christian is demanding that Ana makes her mind up regarding BDSM. He takes her into the men’s locker room at her college and locks the door behind them, telling her that she has until tomorrow to reach a decision. This kind of behaviour is threatening and he is once again paying no heed to his partner’s concerns or desires. Yet this is the man women are claiming they wish they could meet in real life… I find that terrifying. Shortly afterwards, in a room full of people, including her stepfather, Christian manipulates Ana again, telling her how good a BDSM relationship would be. He’s pressurising her yet again and this time it works. Ana says yes.

In the following chapter, Ana and Christian discuss their “hard limits.” Ana says that she isn’t interested in either fisting or anal sex. Christian tells her: “I’ll agree to the fisting, but I’d really like to claim your ass.” Essentially, he’s telling her – AGAIN – that he’s overriding her desires, or lack thereof. Ana doesn’t want anal sex, but Christian does, so eventually, they’ll be having anal sex, because his desires are far more important to him than hers will ever be. Again, I’m compelled to refer you back to “pressuring someone to perform acts they are uncomfortable with.”

It’s also worth noting that during this conversation – an important discussion about the limits Ana feels comfortable with when it comes to BDSM – Christian is plying her with alcohol. By the time they move on to talking about safe words and hand signals, Ana is clearly drunk. Christian asks her: “Would you like another drink? It’s making you brave…” This is a conversation that is important within a healthy BDSM relationship and it needs to be taken seriously. Christian is intentionally getting Ana drunk so that she’ll consent to whatever he wants. This is coercive consent. This is sexual abuse.

Christian then shows Ana that he has bought her a car and she is reluctant to accept his gift. As a result, he becomes angry and demands that they go in and have sex. Ana tells him “you scare me when you’re angry,” but Christian does not respond to this (quite an important admission on Ana’s part) and instead focuses on seducing her. After he has had his way, Christian will not allow Ana to touch him, leaving her once again feeling confused and unhappy. This is not a positive sexual relationship between two equal partners.

In a particularly unpleasant exchange, Christian first tells Ana he hates condoms and orders her to sort out some other form of birth control (you might want to check that list of sexually abusive acts again), then admits to having gotten Ana drunk on purpose so that she wouldn’t “over-think everything.” That renders the sex they’ve just had as sex gained through coercive consent. Ooh, romantic!

The following day, after Christian has spanked Ana for the first time and she is trying to explain her confused feelings about it, he once again shows total disregard for her concerns, asking: “If that is how you feel, do you think you could just try and embrace these feelings, deal with them for me? That’s what a submissive would do.” Ana is telling him that she felt guilty and uncomfortable. Christian is telling her to “deal with it.” WHY ARE WOMEN WANTING THIS MAN?! DO WE ALL HATE OURSELVES THAT MUCH?! Given that Ana is, at this point, saying she’s not sure she wants to be smacked during sex, we can look back up to that list, to the “unwanted rough or violent behaviour during sex” part. If Ana says no and Christian does it anyway, it’s abuse. Here, she’s saying she’s not sure she wants it and Christian is pretty much letting her know that she needs to accept it happening for him.

In chapter 19, Christian moves on to caring even less about his partner’s wants. During a family dinner, knowing that Ana is not wearing underwear, Christian runs his hand up her leg and attempts to touch her sexually. Ana is not comfortable at this and bats his hand away, squeezing her thighs shut. Christian then “punishes” Ana for denying him what he sees as his. This is not healthy. Ana has the right to say no to his sexual advances at any time. We ALL have the right to say no to anyone. Writing a subsequent sex scene in which we are supposed to be aroused by Christian telling Ana that saying no to him was “hot” does not undo the damage. Christian was angry because Ana said no. He wanted to have sexual contact regardless of her desires. I don’t even have to refer you to the checklist. That’s just wrong. He then tells her that the sex they have will be for him, not for her and that he will punish her if she has an orgasm. Orgasm denial can be a part of BDSM relationships, but Ana has never agreed to this.  In non BDSM relationships, orgasm denial is recognised by abuse counsellors as a form of sexual abuse. So Christian scores another sexual abuse point. Yay.

In the final chapter of the book, we come across a scene I’ve mentioned in these blogs already, in which Christian hits Ana with a belt to show her “how bad it can be (it being BDSM).” Ana’s reaction – tensing, crying, heavy breathing etc – would all let Christian know that she is not enjoying what he’s doing to her, yet he continues anyway. Although Ana has agreed to the scene, she is clearly not happy within it and Christian should have stopped and checked if she was okay, regardless of whether she used her safe word. His inability to consider her needs just shows him as he is – abusive.

I’ve only looked at the first book for this blog, yet I’ve found several examples of Christian displaying signs of sexual abuse. From plying Ana with alcohol, or using manipulation to gain coercive consent, to completely ignoring her desires and threatening sexual activity with no consent at all, Christian Grey is a sexual predator and not a romantic hero. Holding him up as such sets a dangerous precedent and is yet another reason why what happens in 50 Shades should never be seen as any kind of romantic ideal. The relationship portrayed within its pages is abusive.

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

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50 Shades – Physical Abuse by @50shadesabuse

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

As Domestic Violence Awareness month continues, we at @50shadesabuse have been examining the many different forms of abuse evident in the popular “romantic” series, Fifty Shades of Grey. Today, we look at physical abuse.

This kind of abuse occurs when a person uses physical force against another, in order to cause pain, injury or emotional distress. This can include, but is not limited to, hitting with hands, striking with an object, kicking, biting, pinching, pulling hair, scalding/burning, sleep deprivation, placing the person under physical stress against their will, strangling or cutting.

For obvious reasons, there is an immediate problem when discussing physical abuse in Fifty Shades. Christian Grey’s enjoyment of a BDSM lifestyle means that we expect there to be physical acts involved. Within a safe, mutually respectful relationship, BDSM does not equate to non-consensual physical abuse and the subtext within the Fifty Shades trilogy, that BDSM is some kind of sickness that Ana needs to cure Christian of, is an insult to the many people who enjoy this lifestyle.

However, Christian’s version of BDSM is warped at best, downright dangerous at worst. Many within the BDSM community have spoken out against EL James’ portrayal, labelling it “inaccurate,” as well as “offensive,” whilst expressing concerns for those who may attempt an unsafe version of BDSM as a result of reading the trilogy.

For a start, it is paramount in a BDSM relationship for the partners to command equal respect and to have their safety considered and their individual needs met. Ground rules must be set and adhered to. Safe-words are used for the protection of both parties. Although Christian provides Ana with a “contract” and pre-loads the laptop he buys for her with information on his lifestyle, he does not adequately prepare her for the world he expects her to enter. When Ana hesitates about becoming involved in a BDSM relationship, he actively persuades her to reconsider, gaining coercive consent through sex, rather than taking time to listen to her concerns. He does not listen to her at any point, thinking only of his own desires. When Ana tells him that she doesn’t want anal sex, he tells her they’ll try it anyway. This selfishness would be damaging in any relationship, but in a BDSM situation, it can cross the line into dangerousness. Christian is not respecting Ana’s limits.

From their earliest encounters, in spite of her insistence that she enjoys her time in Christian’s “Red Room of Pain,” Ana contradicts herself. Throughout the trilogy, she makes references to being afraid that Christian might “beat” her if she steps out of line. Her internal monologue makes several mentions of wanting to bring Christian “into the light” and somehow rid him of his “need” to physically punish her. After their first foray into spanking, although Ana is aroused whilst she is with Christian, as soon as he leaves, she feels guilty, embarrassed and upset at what has happened to her. She tells the reader:

“Have I strayed so far from who I am? …What Am I doing? The irony is, I can’t even sit down and enjoy a good cry. I’ll have to stand.”

Later in the same chapter (chapter 16, book 1), Ana weeps: “He actually hit me.” When Christian returns to her apartment, Ana goes so far as to inform the reader: “I don’t want him to beat me.”

Indeed, the poor writing in the Fifty Shades series means that Ana constantly yo-yos from being excited at the thought of physical admonishment for her misdemeanours, to being genuinely frightened and wanting to avoid punishment. Whilst this may be accidental on EL James’ part, the fear of physical repercussions to trivial “crimes” is a common theme in physically abusive relationships and does little to detract from the fact that Christian Grey is an abuser himself. A caring, responsible Dom would be aware enough to pick up on subtle signs that his partner is not enjoying their play as much as he is. Christian, regardless of whether or not he can tell that Ana is happy, makes no effort to show restraint and continues to take their BDSM relationship forward. He also makes frequent threats of physical punishment (“I will hit you and it will hurt”), in spite of knowing that his partner is inexperienced and has shown some reluctance. Again, this not only shows a bad Dom, but an abusive man. Instead of showing any consideration for his partner’s obvious distress, he tells her (again in chapter 16, book 1): “I want you to behave a certain way and if you don’t, I shall punish you and you will learn to behave the way I desire.” In a mutual BDSM relationship, this would be fine, but Ana is quite blatantly expressing enormous concern about entering into that lifestyle and so Christian’s words come across as threatening and cruel.

Despite Ana’s doubts about the BDSM aspect of their relationship, Christian does not back down from his desire to pursue it anyway. When Ana bites her lip, or rolls her eyes, or commits any other trivial offence, he reminds her that his “palm is twitching.” This means he wants to spank her and the reader is supposed to view this as erotic. However, within the confounds of this relationship – in which one protagonist has expressed large doubts about being physically punished – this is no such thing. Instead, it becomes the threat of the abusive partner, using words and the prospect of pain to ensure he retains complete control at all times.

As a result of Christian’s emotional manipulation of Ana (which we will explore in greater depth in another blog), she begins to shrug off her own physical and emotional responses. Remember the mention of “scalding” in the list of physically abusive acts? In chapter 25 of book 1, Christian encourages Ana to shower with him and we have the following exchange:

“‘Ow,’ I squeal. The water is practically scalding. Christian grins down at me as the water cascades over him.

‘It’s only a little hot water.’”

It may seem trivial, but even something as simple as this, shows that Christian is not considering Ana’s physical responses. Although Ana goes on to say that actually, the temperature is “heavenly,” it appears that her response comes from Christian’s words, rather than her actual physical senses.

As their relationship progresses, so does the BDSM – again, not with Ana’s complete consent. At the end of book 1, we finally see Christian’s unsuitability as a Dom, as well as Ana’s unsuitability as a submissive.

Ana questions Christian as to whether she is able to say “no” to his “punishment.” Christian tells her that if she does, he will “have to find a way to persuade” her to allow him to physically admonish her. Ana then tries to jokily run away from Christian and when he remarks that it seems as though she really doesn’t want him to catch her, she confesses “I don’t. That’s the point. I feel the same way about punishment as you do about touching.”

Christian has told Ana that he does not like to be touched. He went as far as to describe it as one of his hard limits. Here, Ana is clearly telling her partner that she DOES NOT WANT TO BE PHYSICALLY PUNISHED. She uses phrases such as “I worry you’ll hurt me” and “I do it for you… You need it. I don’t,” to describe her feelings about BDSM. She is making her feelings known and a good Dom – a good boyfriend – would listen. However, Christian then uses emotional manipulation – playing on his tortured past – in order to get Ana to change her mind.

Ana tells Christian to show her “how bad it can get.” Christian fetches a belt and makes it blatant to Ana that he is going to hurt her as punishment for threatening to leave. To reiterate: In a safe, consensual BDSM relationship, this would be an enjoyable experience for both partners. This relationship is not safe or consensual. As a result, Ana cries and is in very obvious distress. She is too upset to use her safe-word. Christian does not stop hitting her with the belt until they have counted six blows, in spite of her distress. Ana then leaves him, saying she can’t take his lifestyle. It should have been incredibly obvious to Christian, in spite of Ana’s later protestations in book 2 that she missed his “kinky fuckery” when the couple reunite, that her reaction to being hit proved that she did not want that kind of relationship. Instead, he pursues his own desires, telling her that he “wants” to hurt her. This massive power imbalance has nothing to do with BDSM. Christian’s selfishness and his total disregard for Ana’s feelings are not the actions of a Dom. They are the actions of an abuser.

In book 3, Christian demonstrates possibly the most worrying display of physical abuse in the trilogy. After Ana sunbathes topless on their honeymoon, Christian physically drags her from the beach, in an action designed to humiliate his wife. Ana begs him: “Please don’t be mad at me,” but Christian informs her that it’s “too late.”

They ride a jet ski together, but rather than relax and enjoy herself, Ana is displaying classic signs of an abused wife, internally asking: “Please forgive me?” as they ride, in spite of having done nothing wrong. Upon arriving back at the boat they’re honeymooning on, Christian tells Ana he wants to punish her. Ana asks him not to hurt her and he acts as though the suggestion offends him, telling her he would never do such a thing. He then proceeds to have sex with her, using handcuffs which he deliberately puts on too tightly around her wrists and ankles, leaving “deep, red welts.” He also gives her love-bites all over her chest (remember “biting” as a form of physical abuse?), causing bruises to her breasts, which he tells her will ensure she doesn’t sunbathe topless ever again. Ana has never, ever consented to having her body marked in any way, yet Christian does this in order to ram home the point that she belongs to him and that her sunbathing had to be punished. The act of marking her body was entirely non-consensual (Ana is horrified when she sees the marks). This is NOT BDSM.This is physical abuse.

Ana is even too afraid of physical repercussions to admonish her husband properly for his abusive behaviour. She remarks:

“Can’t he see what he’s done? …I want to shout at him, but I refrain – I don’t want to push him too far. Heaven knows what he’d do.”

Even when Ana is standing, with her body covered in welts and bruises (in spite of Christian promising her that he wasn’t going to hurt her and acting offended by the suggestion that he might), she does not feel able to adequately express her feelings because she is afraid of what he might do in response.

IN WHAT WAY IS THIS ROMANTIC?

As a lousy cherry on the cake of abuse that is this awful trilogy, Christian then manipulates Ana emotionally by reminding her of his terrible childhood and how hurt he was to see her sunbathing topless and Ana asks him for forgiveness.

This is not a book about BDSM. In a safe, consensual BDSM relationship, a sub would have previously agreed to having his or her body marked. Ana has never agreed to this and indeed, in the same chapter, Christian tells her that she’s his wife, not his sub. Yet he shows a total lack of respect for her by deliberately marking her body against her will, in order to show that he owns her and she must obey him.

There is nothing sexy or erotic about this relationship. Christian Grey is an abuser, using his physical strength and power against a naive young girl who he manipulates into being too afraid to share her real feelings.

BDSM does not equate to non-consensual physical abuse. But 50 Shades does NOT equate to BDSM. 50 Shades is abuse.

(Cross-posted with permission from @50shadesabuse)

50 Shades – Psychological Abuse by @50shadesabuse

(Cross-Posted with permission from 50 Shades is Abuse)

The UK definition of “Domestic Violence” covers: “Any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.”

As part of Domestic Violence Awareness month, @50shadesabuse will tackle each of those forms of abuse – psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional – and provide evidence of it being displayed in the popular 50 Shades of Grey series. In this blog, we look at psychological abuse.

Psychological abuse refers to a person subjecting another to behaviour that intends to cause emotional or psychological injury. This form of abuse may result in anxiety, depression or Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder. Abusers often play upon an imbalance of power within a relationship. As psychological abuse is intended to seep into the victim’s brain, causing them to doubt themselves and their own worth, the person experiencing the abuse often blames themselves for it and does not label what is happening to them as any kind of mistreatment, imagining instead that they have brought it upon themselves through their own behaviour and they must change in order to fix the situation.

From very early on in the 50 Shades trilogy, we see Christian Grey using classic psychological abuse against Ana. It could be argued that even the wording of Christian’s “contract” for their D/s relationship is designed to cause Ana to question her own wants, needs and even her own intelligence. Ana is thrown in at the deep end, with no knowledge of the kind of world Christian expects her to enter and she is handed a faux-legal document, which she is expected to sign. Christian applies emotional pressure on her to sign the contract, without giving her adequate time to consider her response. Ana thinks: “My head is buzzing. How can I possibly agree to all this?” In a healthy relationship, her partner would realise that she should not be pressured into agreeing to something that is possibly not right for her. Unfortunately, the relationship portrayed in 50 Shades is unhealthy and when Ana jokes that “it has been nice knowing” Christian in an email, hinting that she’s not sure she’s ready for the kind of relationship he wants, he responds by turning up unannounced at her apartment, ready to cajole her into agreement through sex. He is showing no consideration for her needs or her concerns, thus subtly giving her the psychological message that only his desires are important. This sets the whole tone for their relationship.

In their early dates, Christian controls where and when they meet; again subtly letting Ana know that she is secondary to his whims, causing her to question herself. When she asks, in chapter 13 of book 1, whether she can drive to their date, Christian responds by insisting that she is picked up. She thinks to herself: “Doesn’t he understand that I may need to make a quick get-away? …I need a means of escape.” Clearly, even this early on in their relationship, Ana is harbouring concerns about her partner. This is evidence that Christian’s behaviour is beginning to take its toll on Ana’s psyche. She is becoming anxious and nervous at a point in their relationship where she should be feeling excited about their dates. In the same chapter, when Ana suggests that they eat somewhere public, in the hope of talking, rather than being distracted by Christian’s amorous advances, he replies: “Do you think that would stop me?” Ana refers to this as a “warning,” albeit a “sensual” one. Again, this is designed to let Ana know that he is in control, not her. Another psychological blow from this supposed romantic “hero.”

Christian also toys with Ana’s emotions by promising her one thing and delivering something else entirely. He tells her “we’ll take this slow,” yet his actions prove that he has no intention of doing so. This leads Ana to admit to being confused about the state of their relationship and she refers frequently to the power imbalance between them. Again, Ana’s internal monologue is filled with anxious questions and self-blame, when in fact the cause of this is not anything she has done, but Christian’s deliberate psychological tormenting of her.

In order to explain away his behaviour, Christian tells Ana that he is “fifty shades of fucked up” (chapter 16, book 1). Again, this sets a tone for their entire relationship, as it puts Ana in the position of nurse to Christian’s emotional wounds; a job she is not qualified for and which puts far too much pressure on her. However, these are not issues that trouble the abusive Christian. Although we are supposed to feel sympathy for Christian due to his harsh childhood, the message the book gives is that what he experienced is an excuse for his behaviour towards Ana. Sadly, it is worryingly common for abusers to explain away their behaviour by citing abuse or distress in their own past. There is never an excuse – abuse is always a choice and it is deeply concerning to see a best-selling novel perpetuate the dangerous trope that a person cannot help their behaviour in the present, if they were abused in the past. This is one of Christian’s most consistent and dangerous psychological tools. He is aware that if he continues to tell Ana that he is “messed up” and not to blame for his actions, Ana will continue to try to “fix” him and won’t want to abandon him, the way he tells her that his mother did. It’s a subtle form of emotional manipulation, designed to ensure that Ana stays with him and never blames him for his persistently abusive behaviour.

As their relationship progresses, Christian uses the word “mine” to describe Ana. This would be sweet, if done in a mutual, romantic manner (perhaps), but he is possessive, jealous and controlling. He tells Ana in chapter 19 of the first book that she was “denying me what’s mine” when she refused to allow him to touch her sexually at the dinner table, whilst in the company of his family. Such a decision was entirely her right, but her choice to exercise that right causes Christian to angrily suggest that she belongs to him and he tells her that he wants her “frustrated” as punishment. Christian uses the word “mine” so frequently throughout the trilogy, that, inevitably, Ana begins to use it to describe herself. Seeing herself as “his,” she gains self-worth. This is Christian’s intention; to take a woman who sees him as too good for her and to plant the thought in her head that her only real worth is from being in a relationship with him. This means that Ana won’t leave him, in spite of his treatment of her – why would she? She is nothing if not “his.” The psychological use of the word “mine” also ensures that Ana is too afraid to freely see her friends and family without seeking permission from Christian first. She cannot make her own decisions anymore, because she belongs to Christian, not herself. When she goes out without asking him, she describes herself as having to sneak out of the house. This does not show romance or passion. It shows fear on a deep, psychological level.

Christian’s insistence on controlling every aspect of their relationship – from where (and what) they eat, to what topics of conversation are acceptable – ensure that Ana is kept in a constant state of confusion, never entirely being able to judge what Christian may say or do next. Her anxious state of mind is testament to the psychological mind games that the supposed “hero” has been playing on her. In chapter 19 of book 1, when Christian begins to speak intensely about their relationship, rather than being pleased or excited, Ana does not know how to “correctly” respond, musing: “What do I say? Because I think I love you and you just see me as a toy…Because I’m too frightened to show you any affection in case you flinch or tell me off, or worse – beat me?”

Again, we see use of fear. Christian has moulded Ana’s responses so much with his psychological tricks, that she is now afraid of admitting to her true feelings, or behaving in a way that is natural to her, in case he reacts badly.

Ana is, we are told, a bright and intelligent young woman. Christian should be encouraging these traits, yet there are several points within the trilogy where he is seen to talk down to her, or mock her for her lack of worldly experience. Again, this is a psychological trick, in order to ensure that Ana continues to think that he’s too good for her and that she should feel grateful for his “love” and attention. Christian even goes so far as to buy her place of work and have her promoted. When Ana discovers that her promotion was bought, rather than earned, she feels belittled and angry and understandably begins to question her own intelligence and skills, thus furthering the anxiety she already feels.

In book two (chapter 5), Ana expresses that she wants to “run, fast and far away. I have an overwhelming urge to cry.” Again, this level of anxiety, this constant state of uncertainty within a relationship is deeply worrying and further evidence that 50 shades should not be held up as any kind of romantic ideal. Psychological abuse, as mentioned earlier, refers to behaviour that is intended to cause anxiety, depression or mental injury. Ana is, in this quote, expressing exactly these feelings as a result of Christian’s behaviour towards her. He has taken her to a hairdressing salon, run by an ex, to which he has taken all of his other exes. Ana is intimidated and hurt by this. His behaviour has made her feel minimised and as though she is just another of his subs and although Christian is described as “having the grace to look contrite,” he later dismisses her in order to take a phone call and then tells her she is going back to his apartment, even if he has to “drag you by your hair.” Again, Christian is showing little concern for Ana’s welfare and she is left confused, hurt and silenced. As always, Ana explains away her feelings, citing Christian’s terrible childhood as well as her own inexperience – a very typical response from someone who has been psychologically conditioned not to blame her abuser for his own actions.

As things become more serious between the couple and they look towards building their own mansion together, Ana shows very clear signs that she still harbours doubts and insecurities. She wants to discuss the problems they have within their relationship, but every time she tries, Christian distracts her with sex – psychologically reaffirming the idea that Ana has just one role in life: To satisfy him and to allow him to give her any self worth. This is evidenced in chapter 18 of book two, when Ana muses: “I slightly resent how easily I fall under his spell. I know now that we won’t be spending the evening talking through all our issues and recent events… But how can I resist him?” Christian is using the sexual chemistry between the pair to distract Ana from the complications in their relationship. Since she has no prior sexual experience, Ana is unused to being so desired, or to fulfilling a man’s needs. As a result, this becomes more important to her than it otherwise might and Christian uses this to his advantage, rather than nurturing a warm, caring relationship with more to it than lust. Yet another sign that Christian Grey is playing a psychological game with his young partner, rather than treating her with any real respect. He even uses sex games as a way to ensure that Ana agrees to his proposal of marriage, asking her whilst in bed: “What can I do to make you say yes?”

Once Ana has agreed to the marriage, the psychological abuse does not stop. In the first chapter of the third book in the series, Ana admits that she and Christian have rowed over whether or not she’ll agree to “obey” him as part of her marriage vows. Although the argument is unseen and Ana tells the reader that she won it and didn’t use the word in her vows, the point is moot, given that Ana still does everything Christian tells her to and demonstrates fear when she exercises free will. The psychological effect of Christian’s controlling nature from the outset has led to Ana frequently questioning her own decisions; wondering whether things she chooses to say or do will make her husband angry with her. She is self-censoring due to the anxiety that Christian has caused her. There is nothing romantic, or sexy about that.

Christian also once again refers to Ana as “mine” on their wedding day. During their honeymoon, in a supposedly tender, sexy scene, he kisses various body parts, saying “mine” to each one. This may seem passionate or romantic to some, but is in fact a subtle reminder to his new wife that she is his property, to do with as he sees fit. Ana is already psychologically conditioned to believe that her only real worth is as his partner, yet Christian feels the need to ram the point home as often as possible. Another symptom of this possessiveness, is that Ana begins to alter her own thinking and “parrots” Christian when referring to him. She begins using the word “mine,” as she has heard him do so many times. In chapter 8 of book three, she thinks: “He’s mine. Annoying – infuriating, even – but mine.” Thanks to Christian’s manipulation, she no longer sees his negative traits and instead simply repeats his own patterns of ownership. This need for “ownership” comes to light most startlingly, when Christian notices that Ana has not changed her surname at work; he berates her for not showing the world that she belongs to him. This is incredibly unhealthy and shows a complete lack of respect for Ana as a separate human being.

As the final book in the trilogy continues, so does Christian’s excessive control over Ana. His manipulation of her is such that whilst he is away on business, Ana feels she must ask his permission to go out for a drink with her best friend. She tells him:

“I’ve only seen her a few times since you and I met. Please. She’s my best friend.”

Ana is effectively reduced to begging her husband for his permission to go out for drinks with her friend. Christian attempts to emotionally manipulate Ana by saying his concern is for her safety, when in fact, it’s a barely concealed attempt to maintain control over his wife, even when he’s in a different state. After an argument, Ana tells him that she’s going to stay in and her internal monologue tells the reader: “I feel guilty for worrying him.” This is just one of several examples of Ana taking responsibility for Christian’s negative behaviour and is another classic sign of abuse within a relationship. Christian has succeeded in making his wife believe that she is to blame for all of their troubles and that she is also responsible for fixing them.

This message is rammed home further when Ana announces that she is pregnant. She ponders giving Christian the news whilst their security are on hand, showing that she still has a deep-rooted fear of how her husband might react to her. She is concerned that she may need protection from him. She even considers telling him about the pregnancy during sex, as that is her most important value in Christian’s eyes and subsequently in her own.

Ana is right to be worried. Christian is the father of her child; he is responsible for having gotten her pregnant. However, when he discovers her condition, Christian reacts violently, screaming that she is “stupid.” This is another buzz word, designed to make Ana question herself and her decisions. On a deeper level, once the storm has passed, psychological abuse such as this makes a victim feel that they should be grateful for their abuser staying with them, when they are so undeserving. This is an emotion which Ana conveys frequently throughout the trilogy and is not a healthy attitude to have in a relationship.

When Ana cries after Christian’s violent outburst, he screams at her: “Don’t turn on the waterworks,” thus implying that her emotional response is somehow not real or valid. Again, this is a device used in psychological abuse – the abuser may mock or question their victim’s honest response to his/her cruelty. As is so often the case in these situations, Ana apologises, in spite of the situation not being solely her fault and in spite of Christian’s hurtful reaction being entirely his responsibility.

Christian goes on to show signs of jealousy towards his unborn child, ensuring that his psychologically damaged wife feels it’s her duty to make him feel better, despite the nastiness he has displayed towards her. Again, he plays upon his own tragic childhood as an excuse for his abusive present.

The marriage that Ana and Christian have is an abusive one. To suggest that there could be a “happy ever after,” is a dangerous lie and the introduction of children into this toxic relationship would, in reality, be potentially catastrophic.

Christian Grey is an abuser, psychologically belittling his wife, leaving her fearful, anxious and feeling as though she must somehow “cure” her husband of demons she cannot begin to understand. To idealise a man like this is to ignore the reality for women across the world, abused and manipulated by the men they fell in love with.

50 Shades is not romance. 50 Shades is abuse.

(Cross-Posted with permission from 50 Shades is Abuse)

Nigella, blame culture and why society turns a blind eye to Domestic Abuse by @rachelhorman

(Cross-Posted with permission from Rachel Horman)

The recent pictures that undoubtedly appear to show Nigella Lawson being physically assaulted by her husband in public are shocking and outrageous.  What is even more outrageous is the fact that no-one intervened.  Had she had her handbag stolen you can rest assured that many of the on-lookers would have gone to her aid to prevent it happening and pursued the thief.  Had she been assaulted by a passer by; again someone would have helped.

So why then do people treat domestic abuse differently? I believe that it is society’s dismissive attitude towards domestic violence, even when committed in public, that allows it to infect our communities and that this same attitude is translated into poor police investigations and inadequate sentencing. The answer? Blame.

Society points its judgemental finger at victims of domestic abuse, apportioning blame with the victim.  A similar attitude is also often present in cases of rape.  ‘She must have done something to deserve it?  Why doesn’t she leave him?  She must like it.’

We don’t do this with other crimes.  We don’t blame people for flaunting their phones, jewellery or handbags in public and say that they were asking for it when they are stolen.  We treat the offence as a crime, concentrate on bringing the offender to justice and rarely give a second thought to what kind of person the victim is.

Even with photographs showing Charles Saatchi clearly gripping Nigella Lawson by the throat several times, pulling her nose and her looking frightened and tearful many commentators and members of the public are still not able to describe what happened as a crime so it is hardly surprising that no-one saw fit to intervene.

Several newspapers described it as ‘an alleged attack’ which in the face of the evidence of the photographs suggests that they believe that domestic violence isn’t an attack or a crime but “just a domestic.”  A journalist on Radio 2 claimed that he wouldn’t class it as a crime and said that it was wrong to intervene in such circumstances as ‘you don’t know the background or what has happened before.’

In my view this translates as – domestic abuse is acceptable and she may have deserved it.

Another commented that Saatchi could have ‘been checking her throat for cancer’! I’m unclear as to why the commentator felt that checking for cancer may also require Saatchi to drag her nose and argue in an aggressive manner but I may be missing something.

The most ridiculous explanation however came from Saatchi himself who described it as ‘a playful tiff’.  To anyone working in domestic abuse this denial and minimisation is very common and a known risk factor in assessing risk from the perpetrator.  If Saatchi is prepared to do that in public then I do wonder what on earth he does when he’s actually angry and behind closed doors.  Domestic abuse incidents are rarely one-offs.

This episode should raise public awareness of the fact that domestic abuse is not just confined to council estates.  It permeates every section of society.  In my experience I have found that it tends to be middle class women who are the least likely to report it to the police or other agencies due to feelings of shame and heavier financial consequences (albeit temporary) if they separate.  I have acted for the wives of all kinds of professionals – doctors, lawyers, magistrates, accountants, police and even clergy, many of the victims being professional women in their own right.

If a woman with independent wealth, power and intelligence can be a victim then we all can.  Domestic abuse is the most insidious of all crimes and women often don’t realise that they are experiencing it until its too late and their confidence is battered, they feel frightened and intimidated and don’t feel able to get out of it.

It is then the victim rather than the perpetrator who is once again judged and blamed by society.  If I had a pound for every time someone asked me ‘why don’t they leave?’ I would have retired and made a large donation to Women’s Aid.  Instead of asking why doesn’t she leave, we should be asking – why is he violent to her? Why is he being aggressive? Why isn’t he being prosecuted? Why hasn’t he received a proportionate sentence from the courts?

Until blame is removed from victims and laid firmly at the door of perpetrators society will continue to turn a blind eye to domestic abuse even if the victim is Nigella Lawson.

 

(Cross-Posted with permission from Rachel Horman)

Rachel HormanFeminist legal blog by family legal aid lawyer of the year Rachel Horman. Mainly domestic abuse /forced marriage and violence against women. Sometimes ranty but always right…..

The Power of Silence in Enabling Domestic Violence by @CratesNRibbons

(Cross-Posted with permission from Crates&Ribbons)

Society has long known the power of words. In 1838, Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword”, a phrase that has proven its own point by marching its triumphant way down the generations. Books and speeches have been immortalised as turning points in history, ideas that have taken root and changed the world. And as the power of words has been celebrated, the power of silencing has emerged as a crucial tool of the patriarchy, a way of keeping women underfoot. This is why old texts like the bible contain the following lines – “Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted unto them to speak” (1 Corinthians 14:34), and “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence” (1 Timothy 2:12). It is why many cultures around the world require women to be demure and soft-spoken, speaking infrequently, and why, even in what we think of as the progressive West, outspoken women are regularly labelled ‘shrill’ or ‘hysterical’. It is a pattern cut from the same cloth, a way of ensuring that women’s views are kept hidden away, that we are kept compliant in the face of a system that has always been stacked against us.

Of course, it isn’t only women’s words that are erased. Any man bold enough to speak out against the patriarchial order is mocked for it, called a ‘gender traitor’ or ‘pussywhipped’, sometimes even leading to social exclusion. Given the immense social pressure to go along to get along, it is no wonder many choose to stay silent, no matter how much they may disagree with the rape joke that has just been told, or how much they dislike seeing their friend sexually harass a passing woman. And in this way, by meting out punishment to its critics, the status quo maintains itself.

And when it comes to domestic violence, the silence can be deafening. There is an overwhelming tendency in society to see it as a personal problem between two people, something they should sort out for themselves, and that it isn’t our place to judge the relationships of others. Our judgment centers around the woman in the relationship—we wonder why she doesn’t leave, speculate on her individual character, all the while viewing it as her problem to bear, rather than as a crime plain and simple, committed by the perpetrator. But here’s the key thing. Whenever we portray domestic violence as somehow less bad than random violence against a stranger, we’re furthering the idea that being in a relationship automatically gives a man the right to a woman’s body, and that being with him is tantamount to consenting to be hurt in that way. I feel this is really important, so I’ll say it again: Whenever we think that a woman who just doesn’t leave is responsible for what a man does to her, and that he is less culpable than if he had beaten a stranger, we’re implying that being in a relationship with him is akin to giving consent for whatever he might do to her. In other words, we’re equating a relationship with ownership, and decide that what goes on within it is nothing to do with us.

We need to break this silence, and decry domestic violence as an epidemic that is everybody’s problem. In the aftermath of the Cleveland kidnapping horror, it has emerged that warning signs aplenty were ignored—Castro’s long record of violence against women, neighbours’ calls to police treated lightly, and not followed up on. Could it be that, given that these incidents were taking place in a house, it was seen as ‘just’ domestic violence by the police? A personal relationship problem, and not a ‘real’ crime?

If you follow my blog or regularly read feminist writings, you’ll be familiar with the fact that 1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Yet despite this staggering statistic, it is still largely marginalized as a ‘women’s problem’, and virtual silence in the mainstream about it as a pressing social issue. Male celebrities (especially white male celebrities) who have committed domestic violence, like Charlie Sheen, John Lennon, Mel Gibson, and Gary Oldman, have been subject to a ripple of condemnation, before the curtain of silence fell again. And while many brave survivors have spoken out about it, the onus cannot be placed solely on them. Every single one of us has a part to play in breaking the silence that has served to protect perpetrators for so long.

domesticviolenceuk.org

So what does ‘breaking the silence’ entail, exactly? Well, we could start by firmly disagreeing whenever someone makes a joke about violence against women. We could write to our MPs, asking them to make tackling DV a priority, and to increase funding for women’s shelters and other support services. We could volunteer at said services. We could contact companies selling products that promote or trivialize domestic violence and let them know how abhorrent we find it. We could air our views online, take to Twitter, write a blog, post on Facebook. We could challenge those who make excuses for violent men, and publicly refute those who mock or blame the victims. And we (especially the men amongst us) need to be far more vocal in challenging other men, and ask what it is about male culture that continually churns out men who abuse and control women.

None of this is easy. But if we keep turning a blind eye to the rampant problem of domestic violence in society, and insist on seeing it as isolated cases of relationships gone sour, if we excuse celebrity men for their actions and stigmatize the victim instead of the perpetrator, then the culture of male violence against women will continue to flourish in the silence of our complicity.

———-

* If you know a friend or family member who is experiencing domestic violence, please see this guide from Women’s Aid on what you can do to support them.

 

 

Crates&Ribbons:  A feminist analysis of society [@CratesNRibbons]

 

33 Women in 111 Days by @sianushka

Cross-Posted with permission from Sian & Crooked Rib

First Published in 2012

It’s been a year since I wrote my letter to our political leaders regarding the cuts to domestic violence support services, and just under a year since I received my (sole) reply from Theresa May. Since then, despite May assuring me that councils were being asked not to see this area as an ‘easy cut’, along with a vague reference to investing in ‘people’, everything that we predicted would happen to the sector and the women it supports, has happened.

In particular, refuges are closing down or losing their funding. Women’s Aid are reporting that refuges are turning away 230 women a day (http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/care/charities-have-to-turn-away-women-seeking-refuge/6520815.article), often with advice to sleep in occupy camps or A&E departments, or even in bus stations. Of course, many of these women, having found the courage and strength to leave a violent home, often with children in tow, will be forced to go back. They might not have anywhere else to go.

The warning from the domestic violence support sector was stark. Make these cuts, they said, and more women will die. And they have, devastatingly, been proven right.

According to Nia Central, between 1st Jan 2012 and 20th April 2012, 33 women and girls have been murdered as a result of gender-based violence. The suspects are their husbands, their boyfriends, their exes or male family members. That’s 33 women in 111 days. That’s one woman or girl (as some of the victims are under-18) every 3.3 days (https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=362416127128605&id=251422554894630).

There is little to say in the face of such horror, such damning evidence. Other than that this is a war against women. As a comparison, less UK military personnel have died in Afghanistan (15) than women have died as a result of gender-based violence in the same time period.

The government cuts are leading to the destruction of a support system that was – despite always being underfunded and overstretched – helping 1000s of women every day escape violent homes (and men too – Gemini for example provides refuge places for men). The closure of refuges has resulted in hundreds of women being told every day that there is no-where for them to go to escape violent homes. And this lack of support, this lack of escape route, is resulting in a higher rate of domestic abuse deaths – a figure that some evidence suggested was decreasing (from 2 a week to 1.5).

A report published last month found that funding from local authorities to organisations supporting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse had fallen from £7.8 million in 2010/11 to £5.4 million in the current financial year (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/mar/03/refuge-chief-warns-charity-close). This is in spite of official reports that there were 400,000 domestic violence incidents reported last year and the police receive a domestic abuse related phone call every minute.  Some local authorities have made funding cuts to this sector of nearly 50% (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-12402776). Despite Theresa May’s promise to me last year, councils are seeing domestic abuse support services as an easy cut. Victims and survivors of domestic violence are being silenced and they are being forgotten. And with the continued closure of refuges, women are being offered the impossible choice of staying in a violent home and risking being killed, or leaving and sleeping rough with their children. This is not a choice at all.

When I write about domestic abuse murders, I am often questioned on my statistics. People who don’t believe the numbers, who think they are ‘too high to be true’. On the flipside, I’ve (unbelievably) had people comment that 104 murdered women a year doesn’t seem ‘very much’. I now feel that the government and local authorities have joined those online ‘trolls’ who don’t see the terrifying domestic violence figures as ‘very much’. Because, really, how many women have to die, before they say enough is enough? Before they stop these cuts? Before they see that closing refuges, cutting domestic violence support services is leading to the deaths of more and more women every week?

33 in 111 days?

Mr Cameron. Mr Clegg. Mr Osborne. Ms May.Ms Featherstone.  Enough is enough.
I will be sending a copy of this blogpost to above names.

Admin: The Counting Dead Women campaign is recording the names of female victims of fatal male violence. There is a petition demanding the government create a fit-for-purpose record of fatal male violence.

Sian and Crooked Rib I‘m a bristol based blogger who writes stories, talks about feminism and politics and generally muses on happenings. [@sianushka]