Jeremy Kyle; Lets Make An Excuse For Domestic Abuse

I’m going to need to put another disclaimer here, aren’t I? I’m really not one of those people who watches Jeremy Kyle on a regular basis. In fact, I believe one of the last episodes I watched involved Jeremy Kyle effectively telling a woman that if she refrained from winding her husband up, he probably wouldn’t hit her.

Yeah, I’m not kidding… Sorry.

So, after seeing a thread on Mumsnet about Mr Misogynist’s usual anti-woman stance, and the crappy, unreliable lie-detector I decided to hunt down the episode in question. It was, in fact, one specific interview I was looking for; in which Jeremy Kyle threatened to drag a young woman off the stage. (I kid you not. If you wish to watch the misogynist in action, the episode in question is available on ITV player; dated 28/05/2012, shown at 9:25 am. If you’re allergic to arsewipes, I wouldn’t recommend it…)

Intriguingly enough, it seems that two of the women who appeared on today’s show were being emotionally abused by their respective partners. The first was a woman who had been accused, by her current partner, of sleeping with his brother. She recounted some of the emotional and verbal abuse her partner had inflicted on her. In fact, her partner had gone as far as claiming that their son wasn’t his; a common occurrence in both abusive relationships and on the Jeremy Kyle Show. Needless to say, the test results proved the child in question did belong to emotionally abusive arsewipe. Mr Misogyny sent the couple off stage, warning the arsewipe to “respect her”. Oooh, that’s really going to work. Y’know what? I’d rather have seen him say “We’re not doing the DNA tests, you’re an emotionally abusive arsehole; here’s the number for Respect, and I’m giving your partner the number for Women’s Aid” (Which, in case you need it, is 0808 2000 247) But as always, the underlying issue of abuse on the Jeremy Kyle Show gets swept under the carpet, and we’re left focusing on any wrongdoing that the woman in question may have committed.

Anyway, we move on to the next couple. Katrina, who has a look about her… One I recognised… It’s the look of someone who is terrified, of something. Or someone. Before she entered the stage, her fiance, Johnny, had told the audience about how he hadn’t been with Katrina long (a matter of months), yet they were already engaged, and already trying for a baby. Katrina admitted to cheating on her partner (kissing and sexual contact) just before the questions for the polygraph. Yeah, the deciding factor on whether Katrina cheated any further relied on a polygraph. A test, which research has concluded (from several studies) is around 60% accurate. For every 10 results on the Jeremy Kyle show, 4 will be wrong. And as I watched Katrina’s protests that she hadn’t cheated, I believed her. There was a 40% chance she was telling the truth. But something else stuck in my mind. It was the fact Katrina had owned up to cheating before the test. Why would she continue to lie? As Johnny stormed off, Mr Misogyny threatened to drag Katrina. That’s right; on national TV, the male host of a TV show threatened a woman. And not a gasp was uttered.

Following this, we saw Johnny put his foot through a door. Typical abuser tactic. If they can’t hit out at their intended victim, they choose another, more socially acceptable target. A pseudo-telling off from Mr Misogyny, and it’s back to calling Katrina a liar. Because, Jeremy Kyle’s job is, essentially, hating women. And doesn’t he do it well?

16 Days Of Action On Violence Against Women: A Bloghop

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Dear Chris “Breezy” Brown; You Don’t “OWN” Women…

Once upon a time (or maybe a couple of weeks ago) I said I didn’t pay much attention to Mr Brown’s antics. I swear, I wasn’t lying. But it’s kinda hard not to notice when he’s acting like an entitled arsewipe… So, it came as little surprise to hear of Chris Brown almost getting into a fight over a group of women in a nightclub.

Chris Brown’s famous temper flared up again before the Billboard Music Awards when he angrily confronted a stranger over a group of girls in a top Vegas club.

According to witnesses, Brown spent more than two hours Saturday night at Haze at Aria charming a group of young women and buying multiple bottles of Champagne.

But one witness said, “Brown got visibly upset when the girls moved on to the next table. Brown approached the guys in the group [at the next table] and started getting visibly agitated. Brown stood up, and looked like he was about to start a fight when club security stopped him.”

(There’s more on the story here: http://www.nypost.com/p/pagesix/brown_turns_testy_in_vegas_p61QKFFhxElyFFVAkFufXL)

Yeah. I’m not kidding. I’m really not.

I’ve actually secretly prayed that Brown may nip his arsewipery in the bud, take a nice long look in the mirror, read a copy of Lundy Green’s “Why Does He Do That”, and, for the sake of womankind, move to an uninhabited island. But after 3 years, I’ve lost all hope of that happening.

Here’s the thing. Men, you don’t “own” women. We’re not your possessions. Unfortunately, the patriarchy tells men everywhere that if a woman so much as breathes in the same bar as you, you have to buy her a drink. If she declines, keep pressing the fucking issue, even if she’s shown no interest whatsoever. So, just out of manners, social conditioning, fear that she’ll never get rid of you otherwise, she accepts. And I’ve seen it time and time before; I spent long enough working in bars and clubs to see this in action; men everywhere have come to the conclusion that every time they buy a woman a drink, they’ll have her in bed by the end of the night. Isn’t rape culture great, eh? You think I’m exaggerating, right? Bad news; the bar staff of your local pub usually hear what you’re saying about the opposite sex; usually, if you’re talking about women, it’s not too pretty. But it doesn’t matter if you buy a woman one drink, or spend the whole evening buying her drinks. You don’t own her. Nor does she owe you a kiss, a seedy grope, nor does she have to come back to yours; y’know… she doesn’t have to repay you in kind for the drinks you buy her. If you think she does, then, really… you’re a bit of an entitled arse. And yes, that still applies if you’re Chris Brown. Got it? Good.

Now, who wants a drink?

Insomniac Blues… *Trigger Warning*

I logged off Facebook earlier than usual tonight; He noticed how early I was saying “goodnight”… pointed out it was barely half twelve. Definitely not like me to go that early. But for some reason, I had the same two words, ringing round in my ears… “stop shaking. Stop shaking. Stop shaking.”

Yep, nice handy flashback to deal with. I don’t get visual flashbacks where the first guy is concerned. Just those words. I vaguely remember him passed out on the couch shortly beforehand. But somehow, over the years, his face, his hair… everything’s been replaced with Dom. 

I noticed something strange about my thought processes whilst I’m triggered earlier. If any other rape survivor approaches me, I have no problem knowing where to place the blame. I will gladly sit up all night helping a survivor where possible. But it’s when the flashbacks strike me. I find myself fighting to think of ways I could have got out of each situation. Why is it I can give people the kindness and support they need, but when it comes to myself, so often, all I can show is a great big dose of hatred? 

Dear Cheryl Cole; The Music Industry Already Forgave Chris Brown.

I don’t usually post two blog posts this close together. But this evening, I caught sight of something that disturbed me. Cheryl Cole is calling for people to forgive Chris Brown with regards to his 2009 assault on R n B singer, Rihanna. http://www.nme.com/news/cheryl-cole/63872?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=twitter-cherylchrisbrown

Now, with regards to Chris Brown, I tend not to seek out stories about him. I choose not to. Around the same time I left my abuser, tales were surfacing about his assault on Rihanna. None of them painted Brown in a particularly favourable light. The naive young version of myself made the mistake of believing that was the end of Brown’s music career. After all, who would be daft enough to endorse the actions of an abuser? 

Well, it seems the answer to that question is; The music industry. 2012 has already proven that the music industry has forgiven Chris Brown. 3 years after Brown assaulted Rihanna, he was back at the Grammy Awards, with Ken Elrich claiming that the Grammy’s were the real victim of what happened that evening in 2009. Rihanna got hit, the Grammys claimed that they were the victim. Seems legit. 

The problem is, we never hold men fully accountable for their actions. Domestic violence is painted, much in the same way rape is; something the survivor is partly responsible for. “Was he drunk?” “Was he on drugs?” “Were you flirting with someone else? Had you burnt dinner? Were you breathing?” If there’s an excuse for domestic violence, the domestic violence apologists will apply it to the survivor. 

As far as I’m aware, Chris Brown has never taken full responsibility for what he inflicted on Rihanna. He’s never spoken out against the abuse his supporters have inflicted on her.  Perhaps, when Brown proves he’s a reformed man, and takes some bloody responsibility for his actions; when we stop blaming domestic abuse survivors for their abusers actions, I may consider “forgiving” him. But that’s only a might. It is no-one else’s place to tell society when they should and shouldn’t forgive an abuser. Nor am I going to tell anyone else when they should or shouldn’t forgive an abuser. But if the rest of us wish to retain our anger at the ugly side of the patriarchy that Chris Brown represents; the side that has women speaking out in his defence, even worshipping his actions; then leave us to it. Please. 

Beauty and the Beast: Now You Can Get Your Disney Misogyny In 3D *Spoiler Heavy*

So yesterday, after being let down by the babysitter and Mini Dragon missing nursery as a result, I ended up being dragged along to see Beauty and the Beast 3D. That’s right, you can now get your annual dose of misogyny in 3 fucking D. How awesome is that, eh?

Now, the very few of my readers that know me in real life know that, deep down, I love my fairy tales. Be it the Disney remakes, the Giambattista Basile collections, the Hans Anderson… yeah… You get the point. But what I love most about them is tearing them apart and analysing everything about them. References to the Devil in Rumplestiltskin? Check. References to rape in early versions of Sleeping Beauty? Check. A possible historical reference to Snow White…. yeah, you’re right. We need another blog post for these.

Anyway. Beauty and the Beast. I first got dragged along to the cinema aged 7, as part of a family outing to see the cinema. I’ll admit, being a naive seven year old, I loved the film; I still do to an extent. I’m just not too keen on the predicament the writers put Belle in… “Do I choose abusive arsewipe number one? Or abusive arsewipe number two?”

That’s right. Belle pretty much turns down one abuser, Gaston. And ends up with another. But, you know, we can excuse The Beast’s abusive behaviour because for the majority of the film, he’s not actually human. This…. isn’t really selling the story too well, is it?

Anyway. We’ll start at the beginning of this sorry story. Act 1, scene 1. Or the prologue. Whatever you want to call it. Soon-To-Be Beast is acting a misogynistic arsewipe, refusing to provide an old woman shelter from a storm. But of course, once he finds out she’s a “beautiful enchantress”, he changes his tune. And probably not because she’s an enchantress, either… Pay attention to the other verb. Anyway, seeing as women are eternally evil, and what not, she decides to turn the prince into a beastly beast, and all of his servants, seeing as women are evil, are also punished for the Beast’s areswipery. Cos women are evil like that.

Fast forward a couple of years (I assume), and we wind up in a province in France. It’s a little town. Or a quiet village. It seems Belle hasn’t made up her mind which, yet. And it’s full of “little people”. Well, aside from Gaston, who’s roughly the size of a barge. Anyway, Belle, it seems, is supposed to be a free thinker.  Emphasized by the fact that, aside from the book keeper, she seems to be the only person in the village who reads. Anyway. Gaston Le Barge has taken to pursuing Belle, who because she’s an intellect looks at him like a piece of dirt on her shoe. But, being good looking, abusive and dim, Gaston appears oblivious to this, pursuing her all over the town. “I’ll fooking well marry Belle, whether she wants it or not!”, he quotes at one point in the film. I may have got the wording slightly wrong. To say Gaston becomes obsessed with the idea of fucking… sorry, I mean… marrying Belle would be an understatement. I mean, what’s not to love about the guy who tries to blackmail you into marrying him? “You’ll marry me, or your father, who, just because he’s intelligent, is obviously insane will be sectioned.” What a catch, eh?

Luckily, Belle ends up with a lovely monstrosity of a man, who doesn’t imprison her father… Oh, wait… At least the relationship’s a bit more promising after that. I mean, rather than leaving her locked in a tower, he decides to leave her locked in a bedroom instead, and pretty much tells her she can never see her father again. We then see Beast dictate when Belle can and can’t eat, where she can and can’t go, and eventually, an explosive display of temper which sees Belle flee the castle. But, you know, after she nearly gets eaten by wolves, she tames the beast, and all is well, right?

Well, not quite… With Gaston Le Barge, as he shall be known in this household for the rest of eternity, Belle knew she’d be getting a consistent level of abuse to some degree… With the Beastly Beast, Belle would be entering what is known as the Cycle of Abuse.

Through imprisoning Belle’s father, it could be possible to describe this action as coercion; by doing this, the Beast eventually manages to lure Belle to the castle (although the film doesn’t show this as outwardly intended), thus, from the offset, Belle and Beast’s relationship is firmly in the “Tension Building” phase. However, the Beast’s progression into the “Explosion” phase is not linear. Leading up to the confrontation which sees Belle flee the castle in terror, we see the Beast toe the line between the two, with the explosion being the near assault, the smashing of objects in the forbidden part of the castle. After the Beast rescues Belle, we see the reconciliation of the two characters, in what’s known as the “Honeymoon period”; characterised by the “blame game” that takes place between Belle and the Beast whilst she tends his wounds, his decision to present her with the library, the overt romance, and the Beast’s final decision to allow Belle to return to rescue her father. Whereas the praise of the Beast, for allowing Belle to return to her father, is not uncommon, it is the only logical action for him to take, should he wish to “keep her”. The finale of the film is not actually a conclusion to the abuse, but instead a continuation of the abuse cycle; for the abuser to deploy “Prince Charming” tactics as a reward for desirable behaviour from his victim is not uncommon; it leaves the victim believing the abuse is over, and that her former abuser is now a changed man. This is rarely the case.

Whereas the Beast, whilst being “The Bad Guy” version of himself is supposed to be grotesquely ugly, Belle’s virtuous manner is, as per normal for Disney, is portrayed through “beauty” stereotypes. We’re sold a slender, petite heroine, with dainty movements and a beautiful singing voice. Admission to the Disney Princess academy relies on the female protagonist meeting these criteria. Belle, we’re told, doesn’t need to change herself. She just needs to change him, so he too can become beautiful like herself, and join the ranks of the Disney Princes. We’re sold the heroines who are apparently perfect, albeit oppressed, and their perfection is rewarded with  two things; beauty, and becoming a Princess. As a side note, I’m now wondering why Kida, the female protagonist of Atlantis, despite being a princess in the tale, never qualified as a “Disney Princess”.  Rumours have circulated that this is down to the fact she lacks a signature song. So, the defining characteristic of being  virtuous enough to be a Disney Princess is the ability to sing? Crikey.

We’re fed the idea that Belle gets her happy ending, and all is well in the land of evil women and misunderstood abusers. But in the real world, this doesn’t happen. The abuse doesn’t end with the honeymoon period, it continues, gradually circling back round to the explosion. But the real danger with this tale is that Disney, in selling this tale to a young market, are idolising abuse with the message to young girls, the predominant audience for the Disney Princess market, being “If you’re really good, you can change an abuser; after all, he only does it because he loves you.” Surely it’s time Disney stopped marketing abuse as love, and started telling our children what healthy relationships look like?

16 Days Of Action On Violence Against Women: A Bloghop

#IBelieveHer Rape Crisis Q & A Session

I’ve just held a Q & A session with Katie Russell, a spokesperson for Rape Crisis. Here is the conversation. I will be posting all links on the I Believe Her page later today.  Feel free to circulate this blog post. Thank you to Katie for your time, and some very informative responses.

Frothy:  How long has Rape Crisis been running, and what support can it offer rape survivors?

Katie Russell: Rape Crisis (England and Wales), in its current incarnation as a registered charity and national umbrella body supporting and representing a network of member Rape Crisis Centres across the country, has only been going around 6 years…but our movement has been active for around 35. We currently have 49 autonomous member Centres, the first of which was established in 1976. Each Centre offers a range of different services, based on the needs they’ve identified in their area as well as, unfortunately, the level of resource they do or don’t have, but core Rape Crisis services include: telephone helplines; face-to-face emotional support & counselling; advocacy; training and awareness-raising work, including in schools. Rape Crisis services are run by women for women and girls. They are confidential, independent and free at the point of access. Any woman or girl approaching a RCC can expect to be believed, respected, not judged, and not pressured into any course of action she’s not happy with…Rape Crisis services are survivor-led.
Women and girls whose lives have been affected by sexual violence of any kind at any time can find out about the services available nearest to them by visiting our website at www.rapecrisis.org.uk   We also run a National Helpline, which is open every day of the year from 12 – 2.30pm and from 7 – 9.30pm. The number is 0808 802 9999.

Frothy: Thank you.

On average, how many calls would you say Rape Crisis deals with in an average month? What would you say the benefits of talking to Rape Crisis following a rape are?

Katie Russell: Because each of our Rape Crisis Centres is autonomous, I don’t have access to their individual stats and don’t have the National Helpline call numbers to hand either right now. I’ll try and find out the latter at least while we’re still online. I know that the National Helpline is extremely busy and worries about callers not being able to get through during our opening hours, even though we have multiple lines and staff. We’d like to extend the National Helpline opening hours but unfortunately this service has never been funded so we don’t currently have the capacity.
[11:18:04] Katie Russell: Every woman or girl’s experience of rape or any act of sexual violence is unique and different survivors benefit from or appreciate different services at different times, we know…which is why many women and girls might not call or seek our services straight after an attack and also why we try to offer a range of ways to get in touch and a range of support services to ensure we’re accessible and meeting women’s needs. Nonetheless, we warmly encourage any woman or girl who’s been through this to get in touch, even if they don’t feel they can tell anyone else in their life right now, because our services are confidential and safe and we have decades of experience of talking to and supporting sexual violence survivors… we get so much positive feedback, from helpline callers telling us simply that it was good to have someone to talk to and the call has calmed them down, helped them sleep, helped them feel less alone etc…right through to some women who tell us that the support of Rape Crisis literally saved their lives. Am I writing too much?! Or the right kind of thing?

Frothy: No, you’re fine. Sorry, was letting you finish. The bit about no funding was a complete shock.

Katie Russell: Be as honest as you like – I’m happy to take instruction.

Frothy: You’re absolutely fine.
OK, one from one of the admin of the I Believe Her page:
Do rape crisis know how many cases of women being prosecuted for falsely alleging rape there are (and what percentage of rape cases that would be?)

Katie Russell: More info about the funding situation and how people can donate, if they want: http://www.mumsnet.com/campaigns/we-believe-you-campaign-rape-crisis-helpline

Frothy: Thank you. Will forward that on to the page later
Katie Russell: I couldn’t tell you the total numbers – it can be tricky to collate these kinds of stats sometimes because different police forces often record and publish data in different ways – but it’s certainly something we’re concerned about and, anecdotally at least, we feel there’s been a rise in such prosecutions in recent years. Similarly worrying, was the case of the woman in Powys who was convicted of falsely retracting her rape claim and whose appeal was recently unsuccessful. What we do know is that, despite disproportionate media coverage that, we believe, gives the general public the distorted impression that false allegations of rape are common, in fact, false reporting of rape is absolutely no different from false reporting rates for other crimes – that is, about 6%. Only around 10% of women and girls using Rape Crisis services have reported to the police and the recent Mumsnet survey of 1,600 women came up with a similar figure – only c. 15% of respondents who’d been raped or sexually assaulted had reported to the police. And, although there is some evidence that reporting rates are gradually increasing, what we know is not increasing is the rape conviction rate, which is still just 6%.One of the big reasons for the conviction rate being so low is what we call ‘attrition’…that is, women dropping out of the criminal justice system after reporting…women have lots and lots of reasons for dropping out and a retraction certainly does not necessarily mean that the original allegation was false. One of the major issues is that it takes so long for cases to reach court – 18 months is about average and over two years is not unheard of. Another thing women tell us is that they felt they weren’t kept informed or supported enough through the process, especially when there were these long periods of waiting.This is why a lot of Rape Crisis Centres have Independent Sexual Violence Advisors (ISVAs) or other types of advocacy service in place – to support women practically, including through the CJS, but unfortunately not all of our member Centres have the capacity or funding for that. Again anecdotally, I believe women supported by an ISVA are less likely to drop out of the CJS but don’t have stats at my fingertips. I’m trying to get those helpline figures for you right now too. I’m sure you will have heard all about this at the time, but this is a link to the story of the Powys woman from back in March for interest: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-east-wales-17354441

Frothy: Thank you.

Another one from admin; what do you think changing the hate crimes statutes to include women would do to rape convictions? Would it have a positive effect or make it more difficult to prosecute?

Katie Russell: As far as I’m concerned personally, most rape is a ‘hate crime’ as are other forms of violence against women – misogynistic hate crime on the basis of gender. I don’t know enough about the hate crimes statutes in their current form to know whether changing them to include women would do anything to help rape conviction rates though. I have a suspicion that not enough people, including those who make up juries, appreciate that rape is about power, control, hate and violence and not sex, and similarly I don’t think many people understand it as a form of violence against women, which is in itself a cause and a consequence of gender inequality. And pre-emptively, I should say that, of course, Rape Crisis recognises that men and boys are also raped and subjected to sexual abuse and those crimes are just as horrendous and their survivors just as deserving of specialist support. We just provide gender-specific services, women only services within a women-only safe space, because that is what women and girls tell us that they want and we’re proud to do so. Some of our member Centres also provide services to male survivors, just within a different space or at different times, and any male survivor who contacts any Rape Crisis Centre can expect to be listened to, believed, and then signposted to specific services for them. I digress…going back to what might improve rape conviction rates. We feel that education and awareness-raising, to dispel some of the damaging, victim-blaming myths and ignorance that surrounds sexual violence is the only way to create an environment in which those who’ve been raped or sexually assaulted feel safe and confident to come forward and access the support and justice they deserve. Similarly, juries are made up of the general public and they need a clearer understanding of the issues and realities long before they get to the courtroom. The Rape Crisis movement strives continually to do this educational, awareness-raising and campaigning work, in a range of settings and with a whole host of means, but resources are always a limitation so we’d be delighted to have this work funded and supported by central Government, as it has been in Scotland, for example.
http://www.thisisnotaninvitationtorapeme.co.uk/
 http://www.notever.co.uk/

Frothy: The Scottish campaigns were absolutely brilliant. We’ve had a question from another Facebook page, “No means no”, who are asking: If Rape Crisis were given the enough money and the power and creative control to do what ever they wanted, how would rape crisis tackle the epidemic of rape?

Katie Russell: What a great question! I think we’d create a wide-ranging, wide-reaching campaign, similar to the ones linked to above, crucially focussing on the behaviour and responsibility of perpetrators, and dispelling the pervasive myths that a) women routinely or often lie about rape b) that there are any excuses or mitigations for an act of rape/ SV (e.g. men can’t control themselves when they’ve been turned on, they get confused by misleading signals etc…and other such pathetic arguments that are generally pretty insulting to men) and c) that women can be help partly responsible because of how much they drink, what they say, do or wear etc. We already have links to this We Can campaign, in South Asia, and we’d love to be able to roll something similar out here: getting all people, regardless of gender, to join together to pledge to do their part to end violence against women, recognising that it degrades us all and damages society.
http://www.wecanendvaw.org/
We’d do a lot more work in schools and with young people in a diverse range of settings too, looking at consent, what it means, healthy relationships, respect and empathy etc.

Frothy: I hadn’t heard of the We Can campaign before now, so thank you for the link.

Lisa asked: Why do so many rape survivors find it hard to report a rape? And do you believe that some police forces still believe it isn’t rape unless a “no” is expressed?

Katie Russell: There’s no doubt that the way rape and other sexual crimes are approached and handled by the police, Crown Prosecution Service and other professionals has greatly improved over the last 10 years or so. Training and policy are better and the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is much more comprehensive. But there is undoubtedly an enormous way still to go and we all know full well that policy / legislation and even training alone aren’t enough to change ingrained attitudes and practices overnight. We still hear horror stories from women and girls who’ve reported to the police and, at some point during the process, been made to feel like a criminal herself, or like a weakling or fool for not ‘fighting back’ or saying no more firmly, and/or had someone try to persuade her to drop her case ‘for her own good’. I think there are myriad reasons survivors find it hard to report. One thing to remembers is that c. 85% of women who are raped know the perpetrator prior to the attack.. he’s often a neighbour, colleague, friend, acquaintance or, potentially even more problematically, a family member, partner or ex-partner, and in the latter cases perhaps also the father of her children… in those situations there is often a complex interplay of guilt, emotional pressure or manipulation from the perp and/or other mutual ‘friends’, relatives etc., fear of not being believed, shame, self-blame etc, many of which we know of course also play a part in why a woman might not report even if her rapist was a stranger, because society, and the media, tell us, for example, that if we were walking home alone after dark, if we’d drunk alcohol or taken drugs, if we’d failed to get a licensed taxi (or had got in a licensed taxi), if we’d flirted, danced sexily, had sex with anyone before, let alone multiple people, sold sex etc etc…we’re partly to blame for what has happened to us. Which of course is plain not true but is nonetheless very hard to ignore and resist. Interestingly, more of the women from the Mumsnet survey who didn’t report said they felt the media was more unsympathetic towards rape victims than the police. Judges, public figures and even Government ministers expressing ignorance or misinterpretation of the law by implying there are different ‘levels’ of rape, or failing to recognise that having sex with someone too intoxicated to consent is rape, or that the responsibility to prove consent was given is with the rapist, not the other way round etc., doesn’t help… (ranty end to my last answer!)

Frothy: The Mumsnet survey results were very interesting to read, indeed. One thing that struck me was the one in ten women reported in the survey that they’d been raped. However, in the survey published by The Havens in 2010 (I’m not sure if you managed to read the link I sent you) 23% of women reported being made to have sex when they didn’t want it. Do you think there is a large proportion of rape survivors who aren’t identifying what happened to them as rape?

Katie Russell: More like a quarter of the Mumsnet respondents did report having been raped and/or sexually assaulted or abused in some other way though so, yes, I think it could be possible that some women are reluctant to categorise their experience as rape, and again that could be for a range of reasons, including self-blame, and thinking like ‘well, I suppose I only said once that I didn’t want to have sex and I eventually gave in so it’s not really rape etc.’…which is why that education around consent is so important. Again, as well, I think it’s very hard to name or recognise someone you’ve loved or trusted as a rapist, so we try to rationalise and find other explanations. It doesn’t help too when mainstream media celebrates sexually promiscuous men and seems to so easily forgive male public figures violent and abusive behaviour but judge women so harshly…like the woman for whom you set up your FB page.

Frothy: Intriguingly, Joey Barton received unanimous condemnation for assaulting Teves in a recent match. Why do you think people are less willing to condemn a man convicted of rape?

Katie Russell: As I say, thanks to disproportionate media reporting, there seems to be a widespread belief that women routinely or often lie about rape, either because they regret a consensual sexual encounter in hindsight, or in the case of high-profile and wealthy people, like footballers, that they are ‘gold-diggers’ and somehow think they can make money out of the situation. It’s complete and utter nonsense but the tabloid press is full of stories about women ‘crying rape’ and ‘ruining poor innocent men’s lives’. If there was even a basic understanding of how harrowing and traumatic rape is, and how revictimising reporting to the police and going through the long and arduous criminal justice process generally is, I’m sure more people would appreciate what a ridiculous notion it is that a woman would put herself through that because she was frightened her boyfriend might find out she’d cheated or something… All too often the first reaction to a woman who says she’s been raped is to presume she’s lying – to what other victims of crime do we so frequently do that? It could be argued that it’s because rape is less visible, that other violent crimes are more often witnessed, but I suspect good ol’ fashioned misogyny has something to do with it.

Frothy: Indeed. Do you think the “false rape accusation” myth is the most difficult to challenge? Or are there others which are more difficult to challenge?

Katie Russell: Hmmm, it’s hard to pick one… I think some rape myths are more subtle and insidious than they used to be…
Whereas rape apologists’ arguments might once have been cruder and more overt, odious things like ‘well, she was dressed like a slut, she must’ve wanted it’ etc., I think rape cases so often hinge around consent now and the defense is often that the rapist believed the sex was consensual, so we get people talking about ‘misunderstandings’ and ‘miscommunication’ to excuse the rapist’s behaviour, and along with that suggestions that ‘if she’d only been a bit clearer about not wanting it’ etc… Which goes back to the education point and working with boys and girls at a good early age around respect, consent and healthy relationships e.g. why would you want to have sex with someone if you weren’t absolutely sure they wanted to have sex with you?

Frothy: That leads rather well onto the next question I have, from another admin : “If you could reword the law on sexual violence and rape, how would you define it? I’m thinking here of jurisdictions which have removed rape from the legal definition but instead work on categories of sexual violence.”

Katie Russell: I actually think the Sexual Offences Act 2003 is quite well-worded and good and clear on definitions of consent but, as mentioned, has sadly not always been properly applied, even by judges at sentencing and so on… I think what this question is particularly referring to though, is the idea of getting rid of the term ‘rape’ because of the stigma i.e. juries are reluctant to convict of rape because it seems so ‘harsh’ to label someone a rapist and therefore using different categories and definitions might improve conviction rates. We would not be in favour of that though, because justice for survivors isn’t just about seeing the perpetrator go to jail. Often it’s about being believed, respected, vindicated and having your experiences ‘validated’… I’m not convinced that every woman would prefer to see her rapist convicted of some watered down offence than tried and found not guilty of rape, in fact… If anything, my own personal definition of rape might be a little wider than the statutory one, to encompass penetration with body parts and objects other than the penis (the latter is currently separately categorised as ‘sexual assault by penetration’). I completely understand and appreciate that such measure would be well-intentioned to improve conviction rates, but I’d rather see more widespread education and awareness-raising around the current law than avoidance of the word ‘rape’. I hope I’ve understood the question properly?

Frothy: I think you have, yes.

Dittany has asked “What can women do to support Rape Crisis? Can you tell us a bit about what volunteering might involve, and the sort of training volunteers receive.”

Katie Russell: Brilliant, yes.

Each Rape Crisis Centre is different and use volunteers to greater or lesser degrees so you need to go to our website to get the contact details for your local one and contact them directly. But many have a range of volunteering roles available, from admin and fundraising, to providing specialist listening and support over a telephone helpline, sometimes face to face, and occasionally via text and e-mail as well, depending on the services they offer. All our member Rape Crisis Centres are working towards our National Service Standards, which means they strive for best practice in terms of policy, procedure, service provision and training. If you were going to be working directly with service users, over the helpline, for example, you would receive full training, there would be an induction period, and there will be support systems in place, including ‘peer support’ from your fellow volunteers. Anyone is welcome to fundraise for us in any way and at any time that they like. There’s the Mumsnet campaign to raise money for our national helpline, which I’ve sent you the link to already, and we have a JustGiving page at: http://www.justgiving.com/rapecrisisengland-wales

Frothy: That sounds brilliant. Thank you.

Catriona asked: “How many areas in the country do not have any rape crisis cover?”

Katie Russell: Provision is certainly still a bit patchy, although we’ve just received Ministry of Justice funding to support the development of 4 more of our ‘new and emerging’ Centres in Leeds, Suffolk, Northumberland and Southend over the next three years. ‘How many areas’ is difficult, because it depends how you define an area but we only currently have one member Centre in Wales, which is a big gap, and none in Lancashire.

Frothy: Crikey, so quite a gap in some areas. I’m also aware there’s none in my local county, something which surprised me when I first discovered it.
Katie Russell: Yes, because Rape Crisis Centres received no central Government funding until really very recently, provision has historically really just been down to which areas have had groups of grassroots activists with the energy and time to start something and the good fortune and knowledge / connections to gain local support and funding. As a result, we’re really concerned about the current Government drive towards ‘localism’ in terms of funding, because we think it could adversely affect many of our Centres. See our full statement here: http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/news_show.php?id=73

Frothy: Lucy asked: do the government currently have any plans to educate young people/people about rape and sexual assault? If not are you planning to lobby for it?

Katie Russell: The Government has been running a campaign since last Autumn (I think) called This is Abuse, which is aimed at young people and tackles issues around healthy relationships etc. We think it’s been quite powerful and effective and has included TV ads etc., although more can obviously always be done. As part of the campaign, they ran an advert a couple of months ago specifically looking at consent, which is very hard-hitting and actually drew some complaints, as I understand it, because it could be deemed traumatic for some survivors. So it should carry a trigger-warning really but it does send a strong message, which we support.
 http://thisisabuse.direct.gov.uk/

Frothy: The This Is Abuse campaign has been quite a strong one in terms of getting people talking about it. Like you say though, it lacks the trigger warning which I did find problematic.

OK, Claire asked : “should juries in rape trials be screened for belief in rape myths, on grounds that they would prejudice a fair trial?”

Katie Russell: This is an interesting proposal but I’m not sure how effective / practical it would be to implement, just because rape myths are so prevalent and ingrained and many of those who uphold and believe the myths would so vehemently oppose it! More important, long-term and practical, I think, is to have more Government-funded, wide-reaching campaigns and education initiatives as discussed, and perhaps to make more use of tools already available such as judicial instruction. Some judges would need to be better educated about both myths and the law in order for the latter to work properly though unfortunately.

Frothy: Thank you. Last question. How do you feel the Ched Evans case has impacted rape survivors contacting you so far?

Katie Russell: Our services are obviously completely confidential but we can say that we have been contacted by a number of women concerned for their own safety and anonymity since the naming of Ched Evans’ victim on Twitter and elsewhere and the awful abuse she’s received. We have a very real concern that the prospect of this repeat vicitimisation, this ‘trial by Twitter’ will put some survivors off from coming forward, either to report to the police or, more importantly, to seek the support they might want. We are really pleased that North Wales police and the CPS seem to have taken this case really seriously though and we’re hopeful that the message is getting out there that naming, even reTweeting, a rape victim is a criminal offence and that you can and will be prosecuted if you do it. We don’t want this to become a precedent.

Frothy: The response from North Wales Police and the CPS has been excellent so far.

That’s the end of my questions. If there’s anything else you’d like to add, feel free. Thank you so much for your time today.

Again, thank you to Katie for her time with the Q & A. It’s been much appreciated.

I Believe Her, and it’s finally given me the strength to speak up. Trigger warning.

The past year has been a weird one; the past month, weirder still. But it’s the events of a combination of the two which have lead to this blog post.

Earlier this month, I posted the link to the Biting Beaver rapist checklist on the I Believe Her page. It was this checklist that, just under a year ago, made me come to the realisation that I was a rape survivor. September 11th’s 10th anniversary memorials made me realise I was a rape survivor twice over.

I was 16 the first time I was raped. September 12th, 2001. My parents were on holiday with their best friends, and as a result, I was staying with their friends older daughter. When the planes hit the twin towers on September 11th, I feared that my parents, due home on the 15th, may end up stranded. I also wondered if this meant that William, my mum’s friend’s eldest son, would end up stranded at work, as he worked offshore. For him, getting home meant a short flight. He was due home on the 12th. I was in my first week of college, and returned from college the next day to find him sat there. At 25, he was a long term crush of mine. We sat up and talked most of the evening. As I went to the room I was staying in, he followed me. I can’t remember how I felt about that. I really can’t. I’ve tried, over the past six months since I began remembering things, but it doesn’t happen. We sat up, watching some film, starring David Duchovny, and I vaguely remember him groping me. Everything from there remains blocked out, apart from two key moments. Laying beneath him, as he told me to stop shaking. And shortly after, as he told me to be quiet. I don’t know if I’d tried to protest, or what. I can’t remember what I’d said, how I’d sounded. But he didn’t stop. When he finally finished with me, he quite simply asked “Was that your first time?” It was.

Over the next three years, I slowly went off the rails. I dropped out of my first college course, but thanks to an extremely over-bearing mentor on the subsequent college course, pushed through til the end of the course with the grades required to get into university. I found myself smoking weed, something I’d previously been firmly against, stealing from family. I found myself spiralling deeper into depression, and unable to explain why.

I met my next rapist, Dom, in December after leaving home, and starting at uni. However, it wasn’t until February the following year we started dating. To start with, he seemed lovely. But somewhere within the early months of the relationship, he changed. The first glimsp came a few weeks into the relationship when I returned home to find him drunk, and quickly accusing me of cheating on him. This accusation had apparently transpired from his two year old son apparently finding my purse, and the condom I still had in there; one I’d had since before I met him. I struggled to connect the dots, failing to understand how he’d come to the conclusion I was cheating on him. He quickly became more and more possessive; I found myself confronted one afternoon for not knowing he was meeting me from my lecture – I’d arrived home to find an empty house, and twenty minutes later, he arrived, accusing me of lying to him. He started turning up at my workplace, and it was noted on more than one occasion, he was making customers extremely uncomfortable. By August that year, he’d threatened to kill me, holding a knife inches from my throat after I’d admitted I wasn’t sure what to make of one of his friends.

I don’t remember when Dom first physically assaulted me. Nor do I remember when he first raped me. Over the past seven years, the four years I was with him has rolled into one continuous nightmare. I remember things being thrown at walls a long time before the hits, the kicks and the throttles came. And I definitely don’t remember when the first rape came. But I remember incidents that first put the fear of saying “no” into me. The first came around October that first year, when he pinned me on the floor, despite the fact I started to panic, trying to wrestle him off me. To me, this wasn’t a game. The more fear I showed, it seemed the harder he pinned me, telling me to “lighten up”. I don’t remember how long it took, but I eventually lashed out. At some point over the next six months, he worked out he could use fear to coerce me into having sex with him. It took me a long time to realise that if I was having sex with him to save myself from being locked out of the flat naked, or to “prove I wasn’t having an affair”, or to ensure he wouldn’t assault me… I was still being raped. “It’s not consent if you make me afraid to say no.” I never remember who originally said that. 

Shortly before the end of the relationship, I gave birth to my only son. He’s truly the apple of my eye, as the old cliché goes. But I can’t remember the night he was conceived; was it one of the times I was too afraid to say no? Regardless, I can’t hold him accountable for his father’s actions; nor can I hold myself accountable. My son is as much a victim of his father’s actions as I am. But, like his mother, he’s strong. He may find all of this out one day. I’ll be honest, I hope to high heaven he doesn’t; but if that day ever comes, we’ll survive. It’s what this family is built on.