Lets talk about rape (again) and being one of ‘only 9%’.

Cross-posted from: Helen Blogs
Originally published: 14.03.14

Last year when I blogged/wrote as ‘fragmentz’ I wrote several blogs titled ‘lets talk about rape …’ – not something I planned on writing much about again really, but here I am and I am able to talk more openly offline and more confident to write online as me, Helen.

7 years ago my life which I was already battling changed for the worse. It was a sunny day, where one moment made time freeze. One afternoon on the corner of a street where a building site was boarded up (with broken down boards). One second I was walking down a street I’d walked down many times and a few minutes later I ran into the high street, collapsing while some passers by called the emergency services. You always think – well I did – that you know what you would do in that situation. But I didn’t do what I thought I would. And that was it, in those brief moments life changed. Forever. Never ever to be the same again. How can it be?
Read more Lets talk about rape (again) and being one of ‘only 9%’.

Why talking about male violence matters by @SarahDitum

(Cross-posted from Sarah Ditum’s Paperhous)

November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which is also the international day of tediously explaining why violence against women needs to be discussed as a category. November 25 is the day when you will be reminded that two thirds of homicide victims in England and Wales are male, and that (according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales) men are twice as likely as women to have been victims of violence. November 25 is the day of being reminded that women commit violence too. Last year, I was at an End Violence Against Women event in Bristol where a man had bought a ticket solely so he could stand up in the middle of the discussion and shout, “What about Joanna Dennehy?” (Dennehy became the first woman subject to a whole life tariff in February this year, when she was convicted of the murders of three men). What about Joanna Dennehy, then? After all, it’s true that women are also implicated in violence:

Yes, women are violent too. But the traffic of violence is overwhelmingly from men, and disproportionately to women. As a class, men are the bearers of violence. As a class, women are its victims. And this is why feminists talk about male violence: not for lack of concern about the violence perpetrated by women, but because as a demographic phenomenon, violence is masculine. For this reason, we can draw connections between the patterns of violence and other areas of male domination. What about the fact that women are more likely to live in poverty than men? The fact that the UK has a pay gap of 19.7% in favour of men? The fact that women make up just 23% of MPs? What about the fact that purchasers of sex are exclusively men – is that relevant here? All of these inequalities exist in an environment shaped by that traffic of violence: from men, to women. All of them must be addressed in the acknowledgement of that context, if they are to be addressed at all.
Read more Why talking about male violence matters by @SarahDitum

I Believe Her by Outspoken Redhead

Cross-posted from: Outspoken Redhead
Originally published: 04.02.14
So, here we go again.  An older, famous, successful man is accused of child abuse.  By his adopted daughter.  An investigation takes place, but there is no ‘proof’.  Of course there isn’t.  There never is.  That’s the trouble with seven year olds.  If they were properly abused, they’d secretly film it, take a semen swab or call the police immediately.  But no, they keep quiet and then years later blab about being abused.  They’re so “me, me, me”.

The Did he, Didn’t He furore over Dylan Farrow’s repeated claim that she was abused is no more than a We Love Woody Allen/We Hate Woody Allen, We Believe Women/We Think Women Lie To Attack Men tribal warfare.  None of us will ever really know.  But here’s what I do know:
Writing about being sexually assaulted at a young age while playing with toy trains or any other toys, risks being shamed publicly.  Of being forever seen as the girl who was ‘interfered with’, at best an object of pity, at worse, someone asking for it.  There are so many ways of wreaking revenge – who would choose one that also shames you too?


Read more I Believe Her by Outspoken Redhead

5 REASONS SHAMING SURVIVORS INTO REPORTING RAPE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE by @sianfergs

Cross-posted from: Sian Ferguson
Originally published: 02.03.15

(Trigger Warning: Discussion of rape and rape culture)

A great number of people believe that reporting rape is the best way to fight rape culture.

And I understand why many people would think that way. The logic goes that if more survivors reported rape, more rapists would be convicted, and therefore be prevented from raping in the future.

Right?

Well, no.

It’s actually not that simple.

While I fully support the decision of survivors who choose to report their rape, we have to challenge the dangerous idea that survivors have a responsibility to report their rape.

Anti-rape campaigns often pressure survivors to speak out about their experiences. Some anti-rape campaigns insinuate that a victim’s silence is their complicity with rape culture.

But let’s look at some of the reasons why shaming people into reporting their rape is counter-productive.
Read more 5 REASONS SHAMING SURVIVORS INTO REPORTING RAPE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE by @sianfergs

Re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.

Cross-posted from: Mairi Voice
Originally published: 28.04.15

ANROWS Public Lecture with Professor Liz Kelly CBE

On Friday 13 February 2015 Professor Liz Kelly CBE delivered a lecture in Adelaide on re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.

I had the great privilege of attending this lecture by Liz Kelly earlier this year and I would highly recommend listening to this lecture.
She talks of her early work and research “Surviving Sexual Violence” (I would recommend the book too.)

 

surviving sexual violence

Read more Re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.

20 reasons why Coles and Woolworths should #BinZooMag by @meltankardreist

Cross-posted from: Melinda Tankard Reist
Originally published: 17.06.15

Zoo Weekly has a long history of exploiting and objectifying women for the enjoyment of male readers. During this time, supermarket chains Coles and Woolworths have quietly profited from the sale of this unrestricted magazine in stores around the country. There are a lot of reasons why Coles and Woolworths should rethink the sale of Zoo Weekly, but we’ve narrowed it down to just 20, in no particular order.

1) Zoo invited readers to send in photos of their girlfriends’ breasts to ‘win a boob job

2) Zoo posted this image on their Facebook page and asked young fans which half they preferred- and why.
Read more 20 reasons why Coles and Woolworths should #BinZooMag by @meltankardreist

Locking up drunk young men by @Herbeatittude

cross-posted from Herbs & Hags

orig. pub. 1.15

I want to address one of the common arguments used to cast doubt on Ched Evans’ conviction for rape.  It was made by Julia Hartley-Brewer on Question Time on Thursday, the link is here: Julia HB helping make the world safer for rapists about 30 minutes in. The gist of it is that lots of people get drunk every weekend, hook up and have drunk sex and if we defined all of those incidents as rape and prosecuted them as such, then we’d have to lock up an awful lot of young men.

Well yes, we would.

Except that people who think Ched Evans is guilty, don’t want to define all those incidents as rape, just the ones which actually are rape. And there are an awful lot of them.

We all know drunken hook up culture exists, many people go out regularly and end up in bed with people they wouldn’t have if they’d been sober. Yes alcohol affected their decisions, but contrary to subliminal public opinion, women aren’t stupid and malicious and they know the difference between drunk sex that they’re embarrassed about the next day and non-consensual sex. If they do have confusion, they are socialised to doubt the validity of their own responses and to give men the benefit of the doubt, so they keep their feelings to themselves.

A small number of drunken hook-ups events will not be consensual drunken sex, they will be rape and/ or sexual assault. A small number of determined predators use alcohol and hook up culture as the cover they need to commit rape and get away with it and not even have it called rape. They know that if they can hook up with a woman who has been drinking heavily, there is absolutely no chance of them being even accused of rape, let alone prosecuted and then convicted. There are men who go out regularly “looking for a bird” with the express intention of having sex with her (as they would describe it) whether or not she would choose that.  These men are very careful to ensure that they choose the right sort of victim: either drunk and incapable when they first meet her so that they can quickly lead her away to where they’ve decided they’re going to rape her, or they spend a bit more time setting their victims up: chatting them up in clubs, dancing, flirting and then leaving the club with them so that if by some mischance their victim does go to the police, they can point to the evidence that she was drunk and happy in their company before the rape and the police won’t investigate further. These men tell themselves that it was a shag with a drunk slag because rape is done by monsters in dark alleys, not men like them.

We know this happens regularly.  When it happens, most women don’t go to the police because like the rapists themselves and like their apologists, they don’t define what happened to them as rape.  Rape is something that happens to other women, “real victims”. What happened to them was a drunken shag. OK, they didn’t want it to happen to them, OK they didn’t realise what was happening at the time, OK they vaguely remember passing out, or asking for a drink or asking what’s happening or where am I or where are my knickers or even saying no (that talisman of rape apologists everywhere, if there’s no NO there’s no rape in their minds), but it can’t be rape because they were drunk and they can’t quite remember if they gave the wrong signals.

So they don’t report, they just live with the consequences of the rape for years.

And this is apparently OK because he said, she said, presumption of innocence.

When feminists argue that we should not allow these predators to get away with this, we’re accused of wanting to lock up innocent young men who were merely doing what is normal in hook-up culture and even that we want to stop empowered young women going out and getting their jollies on a Saturday night with fun no-strings sex with randoms.

We don’t want to do either of those things. We want to ensure that if women do go out looking for sex with randoms, they get sex. Not rape.

So what do we do about it?

Well firstly, we change our attitudes to men’s entitlement to sex  I feel so depressed having to say this, because it should be self evident but here goes: nobody is ever entitled to sex. Ever. Even if they are drunk and horny and even if they have a penis instead of a vagina. Even if they have invested their whole Saturday evening chatting someone up, even if earlier on in the evening it looked like he or she might be up for it.

Secondly we change our attitudes to the ownership and purpose of women’s bodies. Our bodies belong to ourselves and if men want sexual access to them, then they should make damned sure that the woman concerned consents to that and actively wants it. Nobody has the right to put any part of their body in any part of any other person’s body without that person actively consenting to that. Even if that body is a woman’s one. Because women’s bodies were not put on earth for men’s use. If what happened to Ched Evans’ victim had happened to a (heterosexual) man, nobody would be in any doubt that it was rape, because we don’t have the unconscious assumption that men’s bodies are there to be used by other men, while women’s bodies are.

Thirdly we change the way we think about sex. It is not something someone does to someone else, it is something people do with each other.  If you are going to have sex with someone, the assumption has to be that they will be actively, consciously be participating in that unless you have a prior agreement re role play etc. And if one person is not participating in it or showing enjoyment of it, then it should stop.

This is an outrageous concept to many people. The prioritisation of women’s bodily integrity over men’s boners, is political correctness gorn mad. The idea that every shag should be a wanted shag, is considered idealistic, unrealistic and positively man-hating, because society has a deeply misogynistic view of sex.. Apparently there’s nothing wrong with a man having sex with a woman who isn’t actively participating and not wanting it and if you think there is, you hate men. I still struggle to get my head around the mental contortions required to hold this point of view.

Anyway all this is long term, we can’t do it overnight, but in the meantime we can refrain from promoting rape myths and if we’re going to opine publically on rape, we should at least do the reading. Feminists have been working on it for decades and it has been ignored, so we keep having to point out to people in the public eye why their assumptions about men, women and sex and therefore about rape, are wrong,.Wider society simply doesn’t want to address the question of male entitlement to women. It is more horrified by the idea of locking up men for using hook-up culture to get away with rape, than it is about them raping women. That’s what’s wrong with the kneejerk view that we can’t lock up thousands of young men. We’d rather they carried on raping.

 

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

Leftist men are not born to lead radical struggles [A response to John Pilger and the sex hierarchy trivialisers] at Liberation is Life

Cross-posted from: Liberation is life.
Originally published: 26.03.13

(cross-posted from Liberation is Life)

A piece I recently wrote touching on some problematic responses to female oppression and feminism on the political Left, the recent discussions about an alleged ‘crisis of masculinity’ and the importance of a solid materialist analysis of female oppression.

Previously published at The Left Side of FeminismThe North Star, Information Clearing House and ZNet.

Ginny Brown

What do women hit by the latest austerity and misogynist attacks need? Not another reminder by men that feminists are white with middle-class politics, as John Pilger’s recent piece seemed to imply. Nor do women need being set up as aloof, proletariat-dividing essentialists who think men are inherently violent.

We don’t need a chip-on-the-shoulderish, misplaced complaint that ‘there is a war on ordinary people and feminists are needed at the front’, as Pilger’s response went to the recent media commentary – ranging from misogynist violence, to greater male suicidality and criminality, to derision of TV dads – about a ‘crisis of masculinity‘. Any generals worth their salt see the entire terrain of war and don’t dismiss half of it as either privileged or nonexistent. Nor do they reduce specific attacks – waged on half ‘their own side’ and participated in by others ‘on their side’ – to the general conditions experienced by all soldiers. …

 

You can read the full post here.

 

Liberation is LifeRenewing a feminism that’s scientific and fighting (marxist) rather than individualist/consumerist. That opposes neoliberal reasoning-via-identity arguments along the lines of ‘I identify as feminist/marxist/radical and therefore my position is feminist/marxist/radical and I have no need to justify it’. This leads only to sectarianism – to the abandonment of solidarity with women who ‘identify’ differently – and to the dumbing-down of feminism.

Women in prison: the cycle of violence

(Cross-posted from Women’s Views on the News)

The system is – still – failing the most vulnerable, and trapping half of women into reoffending. By Dawn Foster.

Most women in prison in Britain have experienced sexual or domestic violence, yet the system fails to address their needs and further victimises them. For some, it is the end of the road.

Over half of women in prison have experienced domestic violence, 53% have experienced childhood abuse, and more than a third have been the victim of sexual abuse. But with the prison system geared towards the fact 95% of prisoners are men, and 81% of women are imprisoned for non-violent offences, the system is failing the most vulnerable, and trapping half of women into reoffending.

In July 2013, the Justice Committee delivered its opinion on the governments probation reforms and pointed out one damning oversight: the changes to the justice system had been designed purely with men in mind and women in prison had been ‘ignored’.

Helen Grant MP, Secretary of State for Justice, Women and Equalities, acknowledged that women offenders are a “highly vulnerable group” who often commit crime because of their vulnerability, for example, as a result of domestic violence, sexual abuse and mental health problems, and because of earlier failures to protect and support them, and that they are more likely to be primary carers when sentenced.

Across Britain, 3,959 women are currently in prison, compared to 81,905 men.

Making up only 5% of the detained population at any one time, women’s needs in prison, and their rehabilitation and life chances on release are routinely treated as an afterthought.

Responding to a Ministry of Justice green paper on women’s experience of prison, a survey conducted by charity Women In Prison found former inmates listed a lack of police response to domestic violence incidents, and dismissal of sexual exploitation as major barriers to women’s rehabilitation.

Though most women are in prison for non-violent offences on short sentences, the small provision of women only provision means that whereas men’s prisons have various categories and group offenders together in terms of severity of crime and sentence length, women end up in the same facilities that are barely suitable for differing needs.

For women who give birth in prison, the choice over whether or not to have their baby with them is an important one: many women choose to have their baby looked after by family or social services, but equally removing the right to bond with a child due to financial constraints is particularly cruel.

Pregnancy in prison is often dangerous for a variety of reasons: many women are drug users when they enter, violence is an issue from other prisoners and guards, and access to medical care is limited.

In 2008, Johann Lamont came under fire after it was revealed prisoners in some institutions in Scotland were still double-cuffed during labour, a practice that has mostly been stopped in England and Wales.

While pregnancy and birth rates are recorded in prison, miscarriage rates are not: this is mainly due to Public Health England not collecting any statistics on miscarriages across the country. It does, however, mean we know little about how many women in prison miscarry, or the conditions that cause them to do so.

A 2012 report into conditions in New Hall prison, Wakefield, also raised concerns about unnecessary force used against women prisoners by guards stating ’there had been no justification for the use of force and there was a lack of managerial scrutiny relating to the issue’.

The report also admitted women ‘were routinely placed in strip clothing when they were being relocated to the special cell and too many had their clothes cut off when forcibly searched’. Even in prison, the women at New Hall found it impossible to escape male violence and harassment: ‘Women sometimes travelled with male prisoners and some complained that they had been harassed’, the report states, adding that the mother and baby unit was ‘supervised by a lone male member of staff, which was inappropriate.’

The social toll on women is also harder than for men.

Women are on average held 62 miles away from their home, as there are fewer prisons in total, which adds further logistical difficulties to visiting arrangements. In Wales currently, there are no women’s prisons, so any Welsh female prisoners are detained in England, several hours away.

Barnardos point out that for the 200,000 children in the United Kingdom with a parent in prison, the social and psychological effects are devastating: they are twice as likely to experience mental health problems, and three times as likely to be involved in offending activity as other children their age.

Prisoners families tend to be financially, as well as socially excluded, so the prohibitive cost in visiting women in prison lessens the chance and rate with which women receive visitors. The average monthly cost of retaining face to face contact with a prisoner was estimated at £6,200 over a 6 month period, the average women’s sentence. For many, this outlay is completely out of reach, which in turn has a knock on effect for prisoners’ chances of rehabilitation: regular visits and contact with families in prison reduces re-offending rates by up to 39%.

Two open women’s prisons, Askham Grange in Yorkshire and East Sutton Park in Kent, are earmarked for closure by the Ministry of Justice, and the Holloway prison mother and baby unit is facing closure due to ‘under-occupancy’.

The Ministry of Justice claimed the decision to close the open prisons was in order to allow women to relocate closer to their homes resulting in ‘small average reduction in distance’ between women and their families.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform countered that this was spin – shrinking the number of women’s prisons meant more women would be moved further away from their homes, because there are even fewer prisons that can accommodate them.

The open prisons were also successfully integrating incarcerated women back into communities: open women’s prisons are a rarity despite the non-violent nature of most women’s crimes, and the women in the two open prisons are now being moved to higher security prisons with fewer social rehabilitation facilties.

Similarly, the closure of the Holloway mother and baby unit forces pregnant prisoners to choose between relocating to one of the remaining prisons with a mother and baby unit, in Cheshire or the Welsh Borders, or separating from their baby at birth and staying closer to their family.

Aside from the financial burden of travelling and maintaining contact, women often find themselves more isolated than male prisoners for social reasons. The stigma associated with female offending is far higher than for men, and women entering prison often find their family support networks melt away, whereas male offenders have families rally around them, and visit regularly.

Part of this is also to do with the nature of the crimes women are interned for: of prisoners surveyed by the Ministry of Justice in 2012, 68% of women said they had been using drugs at the time the offence was committed, and 48% said the crime they’d been convicted of had been carried out to support the drug use of somebody else, compared to only a fifth of male prisoners. Half of women who injected class A drugs on admission to prison reported being initiated into doing so by their partner.

With 50% of women in prison reporting domestic violence and a third experiencing sexual abuse before conviction, coercion through violence and control is a major factor in the crimes women are imprisoned for.

As one ex-inmate succinctly put it in a Women in Prison report ‘Men use women to commit crimes and women are usually the victims’. The Chief Inspector of HM Prisons added in a 2004 report that this figure could be far higher as interviews revealed ‘women did not class some considerably violent acts as abuse’.

The far higher rate of drugs related offences amongst the female prison population has raised concern for decades on the role of detainment in rehabilitation.

Drug use in prison is still rife, so the impetus and opportunity for women to ‘get clean’ is low, and the environment isn’t conducive to any improvement in mental health. Female prisoners reported far higher rates of depression, self harm, attempted suicide and trauma symptoms, and analysis found high levels of childhood sexual abuse and violence.

Most drugs related offences such as shoplifting and non-violent theft, could be treated with community sentences and drug rehabilitation for far less fiscal cost for all involved.

The Corston report unequivocally stated ‘prison is an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with many women offenders who do not pose a significant risk of harm to public safety’. The chances of re-offending with community sentences is considerably lower, and risk of homelessness.

Of particular concern is the policing and criminalisation of sexually exploited young women and girls.

The Howard League for Penal Reform raised concerns that rather than identifying victims of abuse and exploitation, the police were arresting and prosecuting women, and girls over the age of criminal responsibility. Despite inquiries proving the rise in sexual exploitation in many UK cities, fewer than 400 people were charged with abuse of a child through sexual exploitation.

The Department of Health and the Home Office released a joint report in 2000, Safeguarding Children Involved in Prostitution, which recommended in the first instance that children are not prosecuted for soliciting or loitering for the purposes of prostitution. A 2009 report, Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation notes that a child over the age of ten can be prosecuted for various prostitution related offences.

The Howard League are concerned that for many women and girls, police attitudes towards vulnerable people and a refusal to acknowledge coercion means that exploited individuals end up in prison, rather than having their abusers properly investigated and sentenced.

The benefits of moving away from carceral penalties for women’s crimes are unequivocal: re-offending rates are drastically decreased, rehabilitation is improved and social stigma reduced, and options that don’t involve detention are far, far cheaper both in the short term and the long run.

Women are unnecessarily detained, when domestic violence and rape services, and drug rehabilitation services could stop offending at an early stage. Cutting these services, and failing to address police dismissal of violence against women means more women are pushed into prison, and failed.

‘In our view there is general agreement that the majority of women offenders pose little risk to public safety and that imprisonment is frequently an ineffective response’, the report concludes.

Accepting that women offend because they are the victims of violence, and have already been failed by state support networks when they reach the courts, means we must treat women’s offending differently, if there is any chance of ending the cycle of violence these women are trapped within.

 

Women’s Views on the News (WVoN): is a women’s news, opinions and current affairs site, and our management team, writers and editors all work on a voluntary basis. Our aim is to redress the gender imbalance in global news reporting by telling the stories that the mainstream press ignores, while at the same time encouraging more feminist writers to become news reporters and editors. If you interested in volunteering for us as an editor or writer please contact: volunteers@womensviewsonnews.org

Let’s Talk about Rape (Pt 1) by @helen_a15

(Content Note)

(cross-posted from Helen Blogs)

Both this blog, and the ‘lets talk about rape … Part 2′ were written some time ago, but were both popular blogs at the time. However when ‘Fragmentz’ ceased to exist, so did the blogs. I had been asked a few times recently to repost them and declined, however having read tonight about Judy Finnegans comments today on a chat show regarding the rape footballer Ched Evans is convicted of, and serving time in prison for it felt relevant to put them online again.

RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE IS RAPE.

I’d like to challenge her, and anyone else who thinks its OK to categorise rape to come and live the life of a survivor, even for just a day or two.

Also to the people who tell me rape culture does not exist -YES IT DOES.

 

‘yep, you read the title right. rape. thats what this blog is about. if it is something that just reading the word or thinking about it makes you flinch, for whatever reason, i understand if your unable to read the following post.

I just felt it fair to warn you right at the very beginning so you can make the informed decision as to whether to read on or not. I really do not wish to upset anyone, and whilst writing this blog, and rereading it for the umpteenth time I have considered and re considered whether to actually publish/post this, however I came to the conclusion that I would not be being true to myself and this blog if I didn’t.

so, on we go …

.
.
.

when I logged into my computer this morning, like every morning, the first thing I do is to check out the BBC News website, just to glance over, to check out whats going on in and around the world. One of the headlines I saw was
‘ Rapist attacked woman twice in 12 weeks in south London’. I then clicked to read the story which you can find here …

i dont know about any one else, but as I read this, and the story, all i could do was think of the woman. the victim. the person who was raped. the survivor. and even as i am writing this, right now, i am thinking of her, and sending her my silent thoughts and prayers, that she may somehow learn to live through her ordeal and somehow come to a place of peace.

throughout today, my mind kept returning to this story, and to the woman involved. thinking about what a horrific and life changing moment it is for it to happen once, but to happen twice?

then, this evening, i was watching tv, and law and order UK came on. never seen it before, but nothing else was on that i liked the look of. the story line was complex, i don’t deny that, and please dont think i am trying to make light of any of the other issues the episode this evening used, however, towards the end, rape was one that was bought in. the woman, already in prison for other offences (all fictitious) was then in court accused of murder, of someone who was raping her. there was a scene, which was almost tearjerking where the barrister trying to help her sat with her in her cell and talked to her about what some would see as the human aspect of being raped.

the aspect of not having a choice. of not being in the wrong. of not asking for it to happen. for losing a part of something that is yours. something that you hold dear, that is yours, that gets taken away. it nearly made me cry.

i thought and thought about blogging on this topic, decided not to, then decided to, and went round in circles.
as i was deciding i looked up the definition of rape online. and found a dictionary which says this :

noun, verb, raped, rap·ing.
–noun
1.the unlawful compelling of a woman through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.
2.any act of sexual intercourse that is forced upon a person.
3.statutory rape.
4.an act of plunder, violent seizure, or abuse; despoliation; violation: the rape of the countryside.
5.Archaic . the act of seizing and carrying off by force.

point 3. is Statutory rape. this would appear mostly in US law and is the act of sexual intercourse with a person under the age of consent. I would like to point out, that that is something i am not writing about at present.

In fact, what i am really focussing on, as i write this blog, is the act of rape against a woman, which essentially is having sexual intercourse without her consent.
there are lots of ways this occurs, such as stranger rape, so a random attack, maybe in the street?
it could be marital rape, so within a marriage this act occurs.
it could be date rape, where drugs are used, so persons are not aware.
it could be something that happens within many boundaries.

I’d also like to highlight that rape among men happens too, there are men who are raped. its not as highlighted as woman, and maybe not so common, however that does not mean it is not a real thing happening out there.

if you want to find out more about the definitions, or what constitutes rape, or within what circumstances it can happen, do google. You can find a whole world of information out there, that might educate you, that might shock you, that might make you want to pray for people involved in this.

months ago, i wrote a blog about depression, and it was after i watched a programme about the illness in the sporting profession, and how rife it is. I wrote something on the lines of how indiscriminate depression is, as an illness, how it can find and attack all kinds and every kinds of people.

this afternoon, that was my exact thought about rape.

rape can affect anyone, and everyone, god forbid, but if could even be you, your wife, your husband, your daughter, your son, your best friend, your neighbour, your mum, your dad. who knows? it could be anyone.

as mentioned above it could be, and often is within the constraints of a marriage, but when it comes to random attacks by strangers, as well as the victim being anyone, it could also occur anywhere.

on the bus you travel home on, on the street you walk down to get to the shop, the shopping mall you buy your clothes in. it could be the train station you wait at everyday. maybe it could be at the festival you go to every year, and camp out with friends at while listening to great music ? (i was shocked to read several reports over the summer of rape occurring at a UK based music festival)

it could be outside or inside a place you feel the most safe. a hospital maybe, a church, who knows …. it could be anywhere.

i dont say the above as scare tactics. thats the last thing i would want to do to. i don’t know the statistics, but one thing that is clear is although it can happen to anyone, and anywhere, it doesn’t. the amount of people who are attacked and raped are in minority to those who are not. so pleased do not walk away from this blog being afraid of all the above places. thats not the intention (but obviously good personal awareness and safety is always wise) .

what i have been thinking about all evening, tonight, is about the victims of such attacks. the victim of a rape. how they are left feeling, how their lives are so changed by something that maybe only took a few minutes to happen. how one minute, life was ok, and you were walking to the bus to go and see someone, and the next your in a heap on a floor in the middle of an empty street, sobbing as they run away from you. one minute you had your phone in your hand, texting a friend to say how long you would be and the next minute someone is running towards you to help you up off the ground, and to call an ambulance, or the police.
how one minute life was pretty clear and defined, and the next in all the haze and commotion, you realise that your life has changed forever. because nothing will ever be the same again. ever.

the thing about rape, is that physically one may be able to recover quite quickly. depending on the nature of the attack. for others it may take longer. maybe physical bruising and pain takes longer to disappear and fade. but eventually they do fade, as do all physcial signs of what happens. and what your are left with is what is in your head. what is left are the memories, the thoughts, the flashbacks, the nightmares, the scin crawling moments where all you want to do is scrub your skin over and over until it bleeds or you feel clean again.

thing is, for many victims, and i dont speak for them all, in fact, maybe i dont speak for any other than one, but i guess for many, and i know for one, that actually, for them, to ever feel clean again, is the biggest of tasks.

its hard to explain that kind of thinking to someone who may not have the empathy or understanding. and thats ok, because not everyone will or does. its a big complex area. however, something kicks into your head. all you want is cleanliness, but whether you actually every achieve that again, who knows.

because the way you see it, the only way you can see it, is that something you had absolutely no choice over happens, took over, and that some of you was taken away.

you spend weeks and months trying to wipe it away, erase it but you cant. you spend days sitting in silence, with tears rolling down wishing you had done something different. wishing perhaps you hadnt walked down that same road you walked down every day. or thinking perhaps it was your fault because you dared to leave the house and walk the street you live on. you analyse what you could have done differently. what you did that made it your fault. you come up with one hundred reasons why it was your fault, even though every single one of those is wrong, and not true.

and then, because a few years before, the only way you knew how to deal with life was to cut your body, you decide that right now, its the only way again. so you find the knifes, and razors and start to carve your body up.
you also decide that maybe alcohol will change whats happen. so you drink. and drink.

and pretty damn soon, the physical scars are gone, and your left with an emotional mental heap with thoughts going round you can deal with , and cant process, and figure out.

perhaps it is the most life changing thing you will experience? maybe it is one of the most life changing experiences, because maybe, you were abused as a child anyway, and bullied as a teenager, and beaten by your siblings, and so, as an adult when this happens, maybe you shrug it off and think, well, i deserve it anyway.

maybe.

maybe not. maybe you would deal with it different. maybe you have?

somehow though, you have to keep going, keep breathing, taking each day as they come, day by day, and week by week and very quickly those days and weeks turn into months and years.

and although the pains and non visible scars dont go away, are not forgotten about, maybe you discover a way of living, that means you can move on. maybe you can learn to be at peace with yourself? and dare i say it, the person who committed this crime against you?

i dont know. maybe.

being raped tears a soul apart. being raped can break a person. being raped
rises up such a huge amount of emotions. rage. anger. pain. humiliation. embarrassment. silence.

often there is silence. a huge silence because you dont know what to say or how to say it. a huge silence because people around you dont know what to say. or how to say it.

and i guess, the reason i personally am writing this blog, is to be part of a process that is breaking the ‘silence’.

i mentioned i was writing this blog to a few a people today, i got a couple of positive reactions, and a couple of ‘oooh do you think thats a good idea’ responses.

i am aware, that some of this blog has gone into ramble mode, and i have to confess i am not too sure what my main objective of it was, as i started to write, other than to raise the topic, type it, write about it, and bring it into the blogosphere (i am sure others have done this too, so it isnt just me). i wanted to be part of the group of people breaking silence on the topic. i want people to talk about it. so it is not something others feel they have to be silent about. i want it talked about in our churches too. because right now, how churches meet the needs of survivors of abuse, and rape has alot to be desired for, if you ask me, though i acknowledge there are some good places.

i think i wanted to say out loud to whoever is reading this, that if you are a victim of rape it is not your fault. you didn’t ask for it. you didn’t want that happen. sex was not designed to be something that was taken away from you. it wasnt back then in jesus day, and it isnt now.

i have run out of writing steam, although i have more to say on this topic.
but please, if you feel you have something to say on this, please feel free to respond.

i shall be back to write about this again.

also, if this has stirred anything and you want to talk to someone, in the UK the Samaritans run a 24 hour service where you can call and find someone on the other end of the line : UK 08457 90 90 90′

 

Helen Blogs: christian, feminist, rape survivor & survivors advocate, Jaffa cake lover. writer about #faith, #mentalhealth, #chroniclife & #violenceagainstwomen.  @helen_a15

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

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.

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)

See the following on consent:

 

What do I blame myself for?, by @carregonnen (content note)

Cross-posted from: Carregonnen
Originally published: 18.08.13

Cross-posted with permission from Carregonnen

content note for child sexual abuse

My father abused me and, as far as I know two of my friends, one when we were 8 and another when we were 10. He may have abused other friends but the reason I know about these two friends is that I was there when the abuse was happening. It took me many years to stop blaming myself for this. Especially D when we were eight because it was me that suggested we go into bed with my father. I have no idea why I did this and I suspect the reasons are complex and tangled. The other friend G told me what my father had done to her the first time and then I saw them together many times after that. Her father was posted to Gibraltar very soon after she told another friend’s parents what my father had done to her. Nothing else was done other than that – nothing. I have no idea whether anything was said to my father – whether he was even reprimanded for what he had done. All I know is life went on and the violence increased in our house. The sexual, physical and emotional abuse of my mother and me and the physical and emotional abuse of my two little brothers.
Read more What do I blame myself for?, by @carregonnen (content note)

The Signs of Controlling Behaviour – Red Flags and How to Spot Them, by @JumpMag

Cross-posted from: Salt & Caramel

If we were able to teach young people to recognise the signs of controlling behaviour, the ‘red flags’, would we be able to protect them from abusive relationships?

If we were to teach children in schools how to spot a controlling person, would be help save them from misery and self-doubt?

If we talk openly with friends about the ‘red flags’ would they recognise their own relationships and find the strength to walk away?

I hope so.

For this reason, I am writing two blog posts today. One for adults, here on this blog, and one for pre-teens on Jump! Mag for Girls. When writing for pre-teens, I am very concious of the fact that not all parents will have had The Talk with their young girls, and some of our readers are just seven or eight years old. For this reason, sex is a taboo topic on Jump! Mag, but I believe that the foundation for healthy relationship building is laid before children hit puberty.
Read more The Signs of Controlling Behaviour – Red Flags and How to Spot Them, by @JumpMag