Fear is a Liar by Blues in a Tea Cup

(Cross-posted from Blues in a Tea Cup)

It’s not every day you find out you’re dead. A quiet, family evening at my brother’s house. We’re sorting out an Indian takeaway. Negotiating portions of rice. Extra poppadoms. Anyone want to share a naan? Don’t suppose there’s any mango chutney, is there? I notice a missed call on my mobile. Gary doesn’t phone often. When he does, it’s usually about Charlie. I don’t think I’m going to like the voicemail he’s left. Please call Mike as soon as you get this. I was right. I don’t like it.

Mike’s the Community Police Officer. He sounds surprised to hear my voice.

You’re OK then?

I’m fine.

Only Charlie told me you were dead.

Dead?

He said you died last week. Of a heart attack.

Not that I noticed …

I hear disbelief. Then anger.

But he was sobbing his heart out. How can anyone lie like that?

It doesn’t seem a good time to tell him how rich I’d be if I had a fiver for every convincing lie Charlie’s told me. With tears. Snot. Anguish of the soul. The whole nine yards.

Maybe Reeva Steenkamp was less surprised by her demise than I was by mine. After all, she’d already told her lover she was scared of him. Only a few days before he shot her. Through the locked door of the toilet. At three in the morning. Four times. Just to make sure. She’d known he had a gun. A previous girlfriend once hid it because of his insane rages.

If Charlie’d ever had access to a firearm my death might have been more than a figment of his imagination. Over 70% of domestic violence murders happen after the victim has left the relationshipI left Charlie five times. He’s one reason why I’ve followed the media circus surrounding Reeva’s killer with such interest. There’s a photo that stands out for me from all those Oscar-winning performances in the witness box. The man’s in tears. Again. A single drip hanging from the end of his nose. Puts me in mind of Charlie whenever I see it. He could have won awards for acting too.

Reeva’s killer. Charlie. Nigella Lawson’s exRosemary Gill’s murderer. They think they’re the victims somehow. If Reeva had behaved the way he wanted her to, everything would have been fine. It was all her fault. Charlie’s predecessor spelled that one out for me. Loudly. And often. The average abuser is utterly convinced of his own rightness. When the solids hit the fan it’s only reasonable for him to lie his way out of trouble. After all, he’s intelligent enough to know the truth might not garner much sympathy. I didn’t like what she did / said / the way she looked at someone. I threatened her. Smothered her. Shot her. Throttled her. Beat her to death. I couldn’t help it. Not going to go down well in a court of law. I thought she was a burglar. Much better. No matter how implausible. Tears are just the icing on the cake. It can’t be hard to squeeze out a few if you’re staring life imprisonment in the face. Poor me. Look what she did to me.

I once knew a man who’d been bullied in school. He was fifteen when it dawned on him he didn’t have to take this any more. He punched the bully. Knocked him out cold. Or so he told me. A light bulb moment. He’d never been bullied since. Instead he’d gone through life fists up. Always first to throw a metaphorical punch. Never letting anyone get close enough to hurt him. But he’d never stopped seeing himself as a victim. A frightened child. And a frightened child who’s six foot and eighteen stone is someone you don’t want to mess with.

Fear tells horrible lies. It told Reeva Steenkamp she’d be safe behind the locked door of the bathroom. It told her killer that Reeva wasn’t to be trusted. He had to subjugate her. And if she died in the process? Collateral damage. That’s what they call it in Gaza isn’t it? Once fear’s in the driving seat, empathy goes out of the window. Compassion. Humanity. We revert to blind animal instinct. Fight or flight. Not a good way to conduct intimate partnerships. Interactions with neighbours. International negotiations. Fear’s a liar. Fear’s a killer.

A couple of paragraphs back I snuck in the words I left Charlie five times. Five times. Stands to reason I’ve been interested in the hashtag trending on Twitter this week #WhyIStayed. Anyone who’s been abused will recognise the rollercoaster. The decision to stay, or to return to an abuser, is rooted in fear. It also flows from an optimism just as insane as the fear. I refused to believe there was nothing to Charlie but the monster. I knew there was more. I’d seen the good. I didn’t want to believe the evil would win the day. I don’t think he did either.

One evening in the kitchen. Roast lamb. Charlie was always a good cook. We worked well together. Pans clattered as I rooted through the cupboard. I finally found what I wanted. Stood up. Charlie wasn’t there. My stomach knotted. If you’ve ever lived with a hardcore abuser you’ll know about The Silence. I found him in the bedroom. Tears pouring down his face. Instead of the usual rebuff, he looked up. Helpless.

I can’t trust you.

Of course you can.

No. You don’t understand. It’s me. I can’t trust you.

He was right. No matter how hard I loved him. No matter how much he wanted to. He couldn’t do it. He wasn’t capable of trust. Fear’s a thief too.

I wish I could paint a fairytale ending. The moment of truth that set us free. We walked off into the sunset hand in hand … We didn’t of course. I cooked the lamb. He refused to eat it. The rest was messy. Because where domestic abuse is concerned, happy ever after is just another lie.

All the names in this piece have been changed or omitted, except those of the victims of domestic abuse. I see no reason why our abusers should steal the limelight as well as our lives.

Fear is a Liar

Blues in a tea cup: Currently blogging as part of a charity fundraiser forOne25 Charity supporting street sex workers in Bristol. I’ve given up ‘not being a writer’ for 125 days as a sponsored challenge. I plan to continue writing and blogging well beyond the challenge. Themes variable. I’m a lifelong feminist, but I’ve never toed any particular line. I’m an older woman. My writing inevitably reflects this. Domestic abuse and dysfunctional relationships are recurrent themes because of my personal history.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Inequality has a female face by @NatashaCody

(cross-posted from Un Tywysoges: I’m not a Princess, I don’t need saving….)

As it’s Blog Action Day today, I felt it fitting to launch my new blog. And in honour of the same, my first post tries to pull together my thoughts on the subject of Inequality.

I suspect that when the team at Blog Action Day decided upon this year’s theme of inequality, they were talking about the growing gap between the very rich and the very poor (see Lagarde here). But for me, inequality takes many forms and can be thought of in many different ways. What I find most concerning however, is that one particular demographic suffers inequality more than any other; women.

Whilst the situation of women varies from nation to nation, here in the UK there is still much to be done before English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh women can be truly claim to be equal to their male counterparts;

In work

The Gender Pay Gap in the UK is 15.7%, having increased 0.9% from 2012[1].

Only 18% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the UK are majority women-led[2].

If you’re looking for female role models at FTSE 100 companies, you won’t have to look hard but you will still have to look – women make up only 23% of FTSE 100 boardroom posts[3].

In politics

There are 32 million women in the UK. That’s 51% of the population (a majority). But there are only 147 female MPs (23%).

In Wales, where we have 50:50 representation at a European Level, the Welsh Government and local authorities are lagging behind…

  • 42% of AMs;
  • 27% of the Welsh Government Cabinet;
  • 17% of Welsh MPS
  • 9% of Council Leaders, and 27% of Councillors are women[4].

In society

Between 2012 to 2013 around 1.2 million women suffered domestic abuse and over 330,000 women were sexually assaulted in the UK.

One in four women will be affected by domestic abuse in their lifetimes.Two women a week are killed by their partner or ex-partner in England & Wales. 54% of rapes in the UK are committed by a woman’s current or former partner73% of domestic abuse is carried out by men against women[5].

Almost a third of girls experience unwanted sexual touching in UK schools1 in 3 teenage girls have experienced sexual violencefrom a boyfriend. 1 in 3 young women experience sexual bullying in school on a daily basis[6].

37% of female University students have faced unwelcome sexual advancesFemale students in full-time education are at higher risk of sexual violence than the general female population[7].

These statistics paint a bleak picture of equality in Wales, and in the UK. As children, girls play with increasingly gendered toys, and as they grow, are presented with gendered career paths. They are inundated with media messages which crow about how the perfect woman looks like X, weighs Y, works at Z, and enjoys sex like a porn star. We’reobjectified and commodified.

Inequality takes many forms, but they all have a female face.

 

[1] http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/latest/press-releases/gap-in-pay-between-women-and-men-widens-after-years-of-slow-steady-progress/

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/small-business-survey-2012-businesses-led-by-women-and-ethnic-minorities

[3] http://www.boardsforum.co.uk/boardwatch.html

[4]http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/publication_pdf/wrw_2014_english.pdf

[5] http://www.welshwomensaid.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=55

[6] http://ukfeminista.org.uk/take-action/generation-f/statistics/

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/oct/11/campus-nightmare-female-students-rise-sexual-harassment

 

Un Tywysoges: I’m not a Princess, I don’t need saving….: a good mix of political commentary (Welsh), and scribbles about the other passions in my life; namely, travelling, reading, really good food, and learning Welsh. I’m a prolific Tweeter, for me sins – @NatashaCody

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

Cross-posted from: Glosswitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOT JUST HORROR IN “AUNTY’S” HOUSE by @anewselfwritten

(Cross-posted from A New Self Written)

Dave Lee Travis, stalwart of BBC youth and popular viewing in the 70’s and 80’s, was sentenced on 26 September, after being found guilty of sexual assault. He was given a three month suspended sentence for assaulting a researcher on one of his shows. It’s hard to imagine that what she has suffered or been through since then has in any way been ‘suspended’ apart from her belief in the criminal justice system perhaps…

But Dave Lee Travis is just the most recent example of a string of now shamed BBC entertainers: most famously Jimmy Savile, as well as Rolf Harris and Stuart Hall. Understandably much of the focus in the media has been on the role of the BBC. It sits in our collective psyche as an important institution; beloved “Aunty” – an honorary family member – has essentially let down a generation. It has wittingly or unwittingly sanctioned crimes to take place against vulnerable people. And it has made a generation of viewers reconsider the nature of those programmes and celebrities that alongside schooling and friends made up the weft and warp of their childhoods.

But think about it – isn’t it time we, as a society, widened our focus when we consider and respond to child abuse? Any perpetrator of this crime needs to be brought to justice. Yet one of the most enduring institutions of all – the family – is overlooked in this welcome exposure of abuse in our different institutions.

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner recently launched its important inquiry into child sexual abuse in a family environment. You’re unlikely to have heard about this unless you follow these issues relatively closely or you’re an early riser. It received scant coverage on Radio 4 at around 5.35 am on Thursday 3 July then it sank with very little trace. This is an important inquiry that needs everyone’s attention, not just from professionals and people with a statutory role or function… But without the celebrity status to give it a profile or the whiffs of political scandal that are following the Home Secretary’s attempts to launch an inquiry into this issue, nobody will find it important or interesting.

But as a society we really need to. If Top of the Pops, Jim’ll Fix It, and It’s a Knockout were a favourite part of your childhood and teens you’ll know the feeling of shock, disgust and often disbelief that these people did these things. Those feelings can give everyone a window into an aspect of how it can feel to live with the knowledge and memories of abuse by a member of your family. Somebody you loved and trusted isn’t what they seemed, and there’s very little of what you may actually have held dear that hasn’t been contaminated by what went on behind closed doors.

Just as more abuse “scandals” continue to emerge and shock us further, so those realising and confronting that they were abused have to come to terms frequent revelations and reminders. What happened to many many individuals at the hands of “Aunty” needs to be fully investigated. And what has happened to probably hundreds of thousands of children at the hands of uncle, father, brother, grandfather, family friend, parent, cousin also needs to be investigated.

Childhood is a series of formative experiences, memories and routines. When you realise you’ve been abused it’s not just your memories of tea-time TV routines that are turned on their heads.

This is what the routine felt like to me.

ROUTINE ABUSE

Between the ages of five and eleven
Week days after half past three
Saturday Sunday twenty-four seven
Holidays? Let’s wait and see

Upstairs meant the serious business
Downstairs it happened more casually
Get to the kitchen – safety and happiness
Outdoors, uncharted territory

The rules are relatively easy to learn
I picked them up at five years old
You’re called, you go, it happens – a pattern
Now broken by having told

 

A New Self WrittenA New Self Written A brand new blog aiming to explore the power of poetry, public policy, feminism, current affairs, art. Interested in putting views out into the blogosphere and stirring the virtual pot now and then. TWITTER @anewselfwritten

Not All Men v Yes All Women by Not the News in Brief

(Cross-posted from Not the News in Brief)

Warning: the content of this blog might be triggering or upsetting for some people.

One Saturday morning in 2007 I was contentedly sitting at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the newspaper, when I came across an article which spoiled my day. It was so shocking that it made me feel sick and it made me want to cry. The story was about a fourteen year old girl who had been gang-raped and sexually assaulted by several different boys in various locations around a council estate in Hackney. During the assault she was dragged between locations while more boys were invited by phone to come and join the party, and some passers-by ignored her plight. I was so upset by the story that I can remember exactly where I was sitting when I read it, down to the details of how the light from the window fell across the table where I was sitting. Some people have memories of where they were when they heard of President Kennedy’s death, or the destruction of the twin towers, but mine are of a teenage gang-rape.

This may well be because I am a woman, and can identify with a girl’s feelings, and maybe this is more difficult for men to do. I have been reminded of it in the last couple of weeks because two stories in the news have frustrated me with their lack of understanding of the effect of male violence on women. The first story was the mass shooting by Elliot Rodgersin Santa Barbara. In this case, despite the gunman’s own words in his manifesto, the mainstream media failed to attribute any misogyny to the crime, and when some feminists began to point this out they were quickly shot down by male apologists crying ‘not all men’, as though they were being personally attacked by the simple telling of a truth. It was seen as a bit aggressive to say that Rodgers didn’t like women: the official line was that he committed his crime because he didn’t like *people*. The second story was of a video produced by men’s rights group Mankind Initiative which went viral, attracting millions of You Tube views. The video sought to show that men suffer from intimate partner violence just as women do, and it ends with the statistic that 40% of domestic violence victims are male. Again, in the debates following, it was deemed to be almost rude to suggest that the statistic was flawed, as though in doing so you showed you didn’t care about male victims.

What the hashtag ‘notallmen’ and the 40% statistic are trying to do is to show us that women are violent too, and that men are victims too, and while that may be true in some cases, violence is undeniably gendered. It seems that we cannot accept that fact. It is a little  previous to start a ‘me too’ bandwagon before the initial fact has even been acknowledged. Surely you have to *know* the rules before you can begin to challenge them? I have read so many posts this week purporting to have some previously unrecognised statistics to hand, which all prove that women can be just as violent as men, and don’t need special treatment such as refuges and the like, which just make men feel discriminated against. I am not persuaded by these statistics, and to back up my opinion in an entirely non-scientific way I have made a list of some of the news items which have been in the media in the years since that horrific gang rape I started with. This is what I remember, in an order which is only vaguely chronological:

  • Steve Wright murders five women in Ipswich, in the events reported as the Ipswich Prostitute murders.
  • John Warboys, known as the Black Cab Rapist, is convicted of 12 rapes, with possibly hundreds more undetected.
  • Joseph Fritzl is sentenced to life imprisonment for keeping his daughter Elizabeth in adungeon for 24 years, raping her and fathering seven children by her.
  • A man in Essex is dubbed the Essex Fritzl after being convicted of enslaving his daughter, raping her and fathering two children with her.
  • Historic cases of sex abuse come to light in children’s homes in Jersey, North Wales and other locations.
  • Child sex abuse scandals are investigated in the Catholic Church
  • Tia Sharp, aged 12, is sexually abused and murdered by her stepfather Stuart Hazell.
  • The Jimmy Savile enquiry finds possibly hundreds of cases of sexual abuse against children and young girls, in care homes, hospitals and at the BBC.
  • Operation Yewtree, in the wake of the Savile scandal, names many more celebrity sex offenders including Dave Lee Travis, Stuart Hall, Max Clifford and Rolf Harris.
  • Reports from the African Republic of Congo describe how rape is being used systematically as a weapon of war.
  • In North Wales five year old April Jones is murdered by Mark Bridger.
  • American journalist Lara Logan is gang-raped during the Egyptian uprising in Tahrir Square, alongside reports of sexual assault against women joining men in the Arab Spring protests.
  • Suicide of soldier Anne-Marie Ellement after an alleged rape and bullying, at the same time as sexual assault in the army is being highlighted as a problem.
  • Dominique Strauss-Kahn has to resign as head of the International Monetary Fund because of rape allegations, then further allegations of aggressive sexual conduct towards female co-workers and of pimping.
  • In Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford, grooming gangs are found to have been sexually exploiting teenage girls from care homes. Similar enquiries are going on in other cities and towns in the UK.
  • Joanna Yeates, a landscape architect, is murdered in Bristol by Vincent Tabak.
  • In Italy Silvio Berlusconi is charged with paying for sex with an underage prostitute.
  • Raoul Moat shoots his former girlfriend and kills her new boyfriend before going on the run and finally being killed in a stand-off with police.
  • In Pakistan 15 year old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai is shot in the head by the Taliban for the crime of believing girls should have an education.
  •  Catherine Gowing, a vet who lived in North Wales, is murdered by Clive Sharp.
  • In Steubenville, Ohio, two footballers are found guilty of raping a girl who they dragged round, filming her abuse.
  • Frances Andrade, a victim of historic sex abuse by her music teacher, Michael Brewer, commits suicide as a result of the cross-examination she suffered at his trial.
  • An 11 year old girl is raped in a park in broad daylight on her way home from school.
  • A number of women begin proceedings against the police over sexual relationships they had been ‘tricked’ into by undercover officers infiltrating groups of political activists.
  • Teacher Jeremy Forrest is found guilty of abduction after running off to France with a 15 year old pupil.
  • Anni Dewani is murdered on her honeymoon in South Africa, her husband Shrien is suspected of organising a contract killing.
  • Lostprophets singer Ian Watkins is jailed for child rape.
  • In Cleveland three young women escape from the house of Ariel Castro where they had been kept in captivity and repeatedly raped for years.
  • In California Jaycee Dugard, who was kidnapped at the age of 11, is found 18 years later, with two children fathered by her kidnapper, Phillip Garrido.
  • Sheffield united footballer Ched Evans is jailed for raping a 19 year old woman in a hotel room.
  • Oscar Pistorius goes on trial accused of murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
  • In India a student is gang-raped on a Delhi bus and dies from her injuries.
  • Serial killer Levi Bellfield is found guilty of the murder of Milly Dowler.
  • Savita Halappanavar dies after being refused an abortion at a hospital in Ireland.
  • More than 200 schoolgirls are abducted from a school in Nigeria by Islamist group Boko Haram, who then threaten to sell them.
  • Nigella Lawson is photographed in a public place being assaulted by her husband, Charles Saatchi.
  • Two teenage girls in Pakistan are gang-raped and hung from a tree.
  • Elliot Rodgers goes on a shooting spree in Santa Barbara.

Alongside these ‘famous’ cases (and my memory is not perfect so the list is not comprehensive) there have been countless other rapes and murders, alongside news reports on FGM, femicide in India and China, sex trafficking, forced marriage, online child abuse, increasingly violent pornography and so-called ‘honour’ killings. Sometimes the evening news has seemed to be entirely full of hatred and violence towards women and girls. The sheer scale of it and the variations world-wide of this kind of abuse is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

There have been crimes in this period which don’t target women and girls of course.Anders Breivik killed 77 people in Norway after writing a manifesto of neo-Nazi beliefs, which were acknowledged to be the reason for his crime. Soldier Lee Rigby was hacked to death on a London street because of extreme, radicalised, religious beliefs, endlessly examined by the mainstream media. And in Tottenham Mark Duggan was killed by the police in an incident which not only caused riots but also, quite rightly, a degree of hand-wringing about race relations. Then there were the true ‘isolated incidents’ – the murder in the Alps and the shooting spree by Derrick Bird in Cumbria for example. But nowhere do we find the targeting of men *because they are men* except for the one example of Joanne Dennehy who killed three men in 2013. Aside from racist or homophobic attacks, men are hurt and killed by other men of course, but often this happens in incidents where men fight eachother, eg in gangs, or pub brawls, not just because they happen to be walking home alone down a dark street.

The effect on ordinary women of all this world violence is that it helps us to know our place: it disempowers us. It is assumed by some men that western women must feel lucky that we are not living under some oppressive foreign regime, and indeed should be grateful for the freedoms we have. It can actually have the opposite effect: we know from these world examples that our position is tenuous, hard-fought and liable to change. It engenders insecurity: we don’t take our rights for granted, we know that what can be given can be taken away. I imagine that gay people are not ‘empowered’ much when they see that their sexual preferences might get them executed in a different country or culture. It’s a reminder of your position in the pecking order, and in the case of women, those reminders happen on a daily basis. In the crimes listed above, which have been a backdrop to my life over the past few years, the common factor is the violent control of women, their sexuality and their reproductive capacity. It’s about sex, but more than that it’s about power. In the case of domestic violence I am sure that the fact that there is ‘worse out there’ is a huge factor in keeping women in abusive relationships. In a world where the overwhelming majority of rapists and murderers are men, better to stick with the one you’re with rather than risk something worse. Men can and do use the appalling abuse by other men to boost their own sense of superiority – an especially popular pasttime when those other men are of a different cultural background to themselves, such as the Asian grooming gangs (but not the white British ones, which get overlooked). This is an aspect of gendered violence which is simply not there in men’s experience: however much a man may believe that all women are bitches, there are simply not the examples out there to back him up. For women there are all too many.

When men’s rights groups try to suggest a parity between the genders when it comes to violence they are completely and comprehensively missing the point. Violence against women and girls affects all of us because it is so normal, it is endemic and it happens everywhere, in all parts of the world, in all races, religions and social classes. Poor people do it, rich people do it, famous people do it, people in positions of power and influence do it, the people next door do it. When I say people I mean *men* of course, but I really don’t want to upset all those great men out there who don’t do it. However, when you look at the cost to society of male violence (98% of sexual offences are by men), and the cost to the tax-payer of all that policing (90% of homicides are by men), all those prisons (95% of inmates are male) and all those A&E departments, it is absolutely astonishing that certain groups of men would begrudge women a little bit of money to ourselves for some rape crisis centres or some domestic violence refuges, WITHOUT HAVING TO THINK ABOUT THE MEN.

If things were really so equal between men and women regarding violence against eachother, then I’m surprised there is not more outcry about the unfairness of having a predominantly male prison population. Are female offenders just getting away with it in vast numbers? Why aren’t there more female mugshots on Crimewatch? It’s either really really unfair or it’s just reflecting reality… In order to be truly equal women need some special treatment to level the playing field: we need protection and recovery from male violence, however much it costs, and it should not be just down to women’s groups to pick up the pieces. Men need to get in on the act too, particularly those in power, through proper policies, education and funding, and above all through a real recognition of the problem, without which there can be no proper solution.

Yes, all women are affected by male violence, and no, not all men are doing enough about it.

 

Not the News in Briefs: I blog mainly about the subject of Page 3 and the NoMore Page 3 Campaign. This might change once the campaign has been won. Although, maybe not…

Not all men by Kiss Me and Be Quiet

(Cross-posted from Kiss Me and Be Quiet)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Motherhood is not for every woman by @LK_Pennington

Cross-posted from: Louise Pennington
Originally published: 22.06.14

Every single time I read this statement, I twitch. Because I do know what the author, in this case Melanie Holmes, means  but it’s inevitably from a place of privilege. I certainly agree with this statement:

Motherhood is not for every woman. And we shouldn’t assume that it is. It is unjust to view females’ lives through the lens of motherhood. Instead, we should view females through a wide‑angle lens.

Not all women want to be mothers, many become mothers by accident and some want to become mothers but are denied that through infertility or life. Not all mothers are “great” (however you want to define that) but most mothers are “good enough” – a statement which is as patronising as it can be true. Most mothers are doing their best whilst living in a culture which devalues and, frequently, hates women.

The problem I have with the “motherhood is not for every woman” rhetoric is encapsulated in Holmes’s concluding sentences:

When we speak about motherhood, let’s be realistic. No one can have it all. Some don’t want it all. And it doesn’t make them selfish, dysfunctional, or “less than.”

The problem is the phrase “have it all” is absolutely limited to  white, well-educated middle class women who are not disabled and nor do their children have disabilities who live in house free from domestic violence in an area where street violence is minimal and the schools and childcare are excellent. Many women living on this planet are working extreme hours living in absolute poverty with no access to education, healthcare or, in many cases, clean water. There is a vast chasm between white, ‘western’ women who have ‘it all’ (however you define that) and the reality of the lives of most women who become or want to become mothers.

It’s much easier to be a mother when you have money, healthcare, and sanitation. It is much easier to mother your children when they do not have profound disabilities in a culture with very little support for your child and basic access to education for your children, whilst guaranteed by law in the UK, rarely exists. It assumes that you have access to every single specialist that your child needs to support them. It ignores women who have disabilities themselves, who are most likely to be living in poverty. It ignores women living in poverty working 3 jobs to pay the rent whilst their child’s father refuses to pay child maintenance. It ignores the women who are experiencing domestic violence and are desperately trying to protect their children from a violent father and a social structure which blames the mother rather than holding the father responsible for his violence. It ignores women living in conflict zones: from gang-ridden areas of major cities to war zones across the world. Being a mother in an area where violence is the norm is incredibly difficult.

We’ve got to ensure that the “motherhood isn’t for everyone” and “motherhood isn’t the most difficult job in the world” rhetoric don’t end up silencing or erasing women for whom motherhood is indeed like being a soldier – esp when you live in a conflict zone from Iraq to any area where gang violence is endemic.

Motherhood would be easy if we didn’t live in a capitalist-patriarchy. It would be easy if male violence weren’t a real threat that all women live with. It would be easy if access to clean water were actually considered a basic human right and not a commodity to be sold. It would be easy if our government actually invested in our children with well-funded schools, libraries, parks, and healthcare instead of spending £3 billion year on nuclear submarines. It would be easy if mothering our children were valued.

The capitalist-patriarchy harms us all but it disproportionately affects Women of Colour, women with disabilities, and women living in poverty. Not all women want to be mothers, not all women can be mothers and not all women should be mothers. But, we need to recognise that mothering is made harder than it should be because of the culture in which we live.

We need to be realistic about the context in which we live.

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)

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]

Deeply Romantic: Hemingway, domestic violence and romance by @LK_Pennington

paris wife1

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

This month I received one of the free copies of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife via the Mumsnet Book of the Month Book Club. I’ve enjoyed most of the books I’ve received free copies of with the notable exception of Aimee Bender’s The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cakewhich bored me senseless and I gave it up after 50 pages. The Paris Wife, though, made me rage incandescently.

It started with the comment on the front from Sarah Blake who wrote The Postmistress : “As much about life and how we try to catch it as it is about love even as it vanishes …”. My first instinct was to bang my head off my desk. This is a book about Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage; the Ernest Hemingway who isn’t precisely renown for his respect for women. I’ve not read Sarah Blake’s The Postmistress so I don’t know if this book represents her understanding of love but it sure as hell doesn’t meet mine.

The back cover is worse. It bears the quote “Deeply Romantic” from the Times Literary Supplement which is a publication I generally avoid because of, well, Rupert Murdoch. The less said about that man, the better. But, back to the point: “Deeply Romantic.” This is the story of an psychologically abusive man who belittles and isolates his wife Hadley at every opportunity whilst they live in Paris and then, in a grand gesture of romance, tries to get her to live in menage-a-trois with his mistress; one of Hadley’s only “friends.”

There is nothing ‘romantic’ about this relationship. Hadley is a lonely and isolated young woman who enters into a relationship with the first man she really manages to meet whilst living in a fairly suffocating family situation with a dying mother. Hadley may be several years older than Ernest but this isn’t a relationship of equals. She gives up everything for him and he tries to destroy her.Ernest used Hadley because he could but he had an escape route and she didn’t. This isn’t romance. It’s psychological abuse and it is utterly misogynistic to pretend otherwise.

Ernest had sex with another woman in the same bed as Hadley. It doesn’t matter that this other woman becomes his second wife Pauline or that she instigated the encounter. The point is this is a self-destructive man destroying the women around him and burning through friendship after friendship with his narcissism.

This isn’t romantic behaviour. It’s soul-destroying.Whilst this is a fictional account and we can not know what happened during Hadley and Ernest’s marriage for certain, it is utterly irresponsible to peddle this kind of victim-blaming misogyny as “romance.” If this were advertised simply as a fictional/biographical account of their marriage, then it would be an incredible book because it is beautifully written and McLain has some lovely descriptions of the loneliness within marriage and the feelings of isolation from everything but it’s peddled as a “romance”.

This trope is dangerous because it reinforces a cultural trope about “artistic” men which blames their victims for not being “understanding.” Roman Polanski has benefited quite well from this trope which has allowed him to take no responsibility for his very serious crime of child rape. And, get a standing ovation for his Oscar which was, frankly, one of the most appalling scenes of mass victim-blaming ever.

If Hadley were my friend, I would be phoning Women’s Aid on her behalf. The trope of abuse as romance is destructive and violent. It starts when we tell little girls that the boy in their class who pulls their hair and calls them smelly “loves” them. We teach our daughters that men don’t know how to communicate love effectively so have to resort to crass bullying and violence.

Good men don’t need to have their egos stroked daily nor do they get upset if you have friends.

Good men don’t treat their wives as appendages to be discarded when they get “old” or have the temerity to give birth and change the shape of their body.

Don’t get me wrong. I did enjoy this book. It is beautifully written and McLean’s descriptions of their marriage are equally sad and moving but this isn’t romance. It isn’t love.

It also isn’t actually about Hadley; mostly Hadley serves as a tool for defining Ernest. Depressingly, the book is really all about him. Hadley is just there, in the background, serving no purpose except as “sweet little wife” to big, important author. It would have been more interesting if it had been about Hadley. We spend far too much time celebrating “Great Men” and not enough time simply acknowledging women. The thing which would improve this book is to have advertised it as ” The Real Woman’s Guide to Spotting an Emotionally Abusive Fuckwit,” then Hadley wouldn’t be insignificant in her own story.

As long as we keep peddling these relationships as “romantic,” we will continue to institutionalise Intimate Partner Violence as normal. The Paris Wife might be representative of Hadley and Ernest’s marriage but it most certainly should NOT be representative of marriage. It’s the same crap that Gabriel Garcia Marquez tries to pass off as romance in Love in the Time of Cholera in which a selfish narcissist has a tantrum because the woman he “loves” marries another man. His response to this offence is to sexually violate a number of women including a teenage girl for whom he was a legal guardian. That is child rape. Not romance.

I call this The Norman Mailer Rule. If you meet a man who says Mailer or Marquez are romantic, don’t date them. Life is too short and love too precious to waste on these relationships.

 

These are the signs of Intimate Partner Violence as outlined by Women’s Aid:

• Destructive criticism and verbal abuse: shouting/mocking/accusing/name calling/verbally threatening

• Pressure tactics: sulking, threatening to withhold money, disconnect the telephone, take the car away, commit suicide, take the children away, report you to welfare agencies unless you comply with his demands regarding bringing up the children, lying to your friends and family about you, telling you that you have no choice in any decisions.

• Disrespect: persistently putting you down in front of other people, not listening or responding when you talk, interrupting your telephone calls, taking money from your purse without asking, refusing to help with childcare or housework.

• Breaking trust: lying to you, withholding information from you, being jealous, having other relationships, breaking promises and shared agreements.

• Isolation: monitoring or blocking your telephone calls, telling you where you can and cannot go, preventing you from seeing friends and relatives.

• Harassment: following you, checking up on you, opening your mail, repeatedly checking to see who has telephoned you, embarrassing you in public.

• Threats: making angry gestures, using physical size to intimidate, shouting you down, destroying your possessions, breaking things, punching walls, wielding a knife or a gun, threatening to kill or harm you and the children.

• Sexual violence: using force, threats or intimidation to make you perform sexual acts, having sex with you when you don’t want to have sex, any degrading treatment based on your sexual orientation.

• Physical violence: punching, slapping, hitting, biting, pinching, kicking, pulling hair out, pushing, shoving, burning, strangling

• Denial: saying the abuse doesn’t happen, saying you caused the abusive behaviour, being publicly gentle and patient, crying and begging for forgiveness, saying it will never happen again.

 

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]

 

 

More articles on Mumsnet:

“It’s only 9 months to save a life” by @Herbeatitude 

Feminism and Motherhood: On Choice, Criticism and Self-Confidence by @LynnCSchreiber

Right, Listen up everybody by @TheSamDavis

The Signs of Controlling Behaviour: Red Flags and How to Spot them by @LynnCSchreiber

How Mumsnet put some fire in my belly and why I hope my boys embrace feminism by @mummytolittlee

@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.

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]