#16Days: @BrianMcFadden, and The Mistake Of Thinking Victims Are “Just As Bad”.

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

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

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

16 Days Of Activism Against Violence Against Women: A Bloghop

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#IBelieveHer: Max Cllifford, Alan Sugar and Believing Survivors Of Sexual Violence

I have just lost what little respect I had left for Alan Sugar.

This evening, Max Clifford, known misogynist and seller of “kiss and tell” stories was arrested for sex offences. As of yet, it remains to be seen if he has been, or is to be, charged.

But I know one thing. A small minority of all allegations of sexual offences are false. Official sources vary, but place these between 2% and 8%. People propagating the myth that these false allegations are a common occurrence silences victims. It’s even more harmful when it’s a myth propagated by well known members of the public.

I can guarantee, there will be survivors of sexual assault and rape following Alan Sugar. Up until this evening, I was one of them. There will be survivors who have reported, and seen their cases result in a conviction. There will be survivors who reported, and didn’t see their case end in a conviction. And there will be people who didn’t report. But for a lot of these survivors, if not all, there is that fear you won’t be believed. Seeing this bullshit from a public figure reminds you of that fear.

It’s how Saville and Smith escaped prosecution. It’s why our prosecution and conviction rates for rape are in need of improvement. And it’s why so many survivors never report.

I stand in solidarity with the survivor(s) who have brought claims against Max Clifford. And I believe them.

 

#16Days: Why Supporting Women In Leaving #DomesticAbuse Is Vital

I noticed an irony the other day. I don’t remember the exact date I returned to Dom, following his court case. But, given that it was a matter of days before my birthday (very early December), it would have been during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence. The irony of this only struck me recently; As my family were convincing me to give my relationship with Dom another go – to put things right-, feminists would have been campaigning to help raise awareness of domestic abuse.

My family, when I phoned to tell them that Dom had headbutted me whilst I was holding our ten month old son, were a little less sympathetic than they should have been. A few weeks after the attack, I found myself being subjected to an hour long lecture from my mother, about how I’d “isolated” Dom, by choosing to breastfeed and co-sleep. I’d denied him intimacy. Dom’s right to sex was, in my parent’s eyes, more important than parenting in a way which worked for myself and my son. I was told that, by pressing charges I was over-reacting. At this point, I’d yet to tell anyone of the extent of abuse Dom had put me through.

I spent the next week with my family, where the attachment parenting I practised was pulled apart. The first night I arrived at my sister-in-laws, I was told my son would not be sleeping in my bed, he’d be sleeping in a cot, and by hell, he would scream it out if he had to. “You’re making a rod for your own back,” they argued. I spent that first evening crying almost as much as Mini-Dragon did. The next few days, I found everything I did pulled apart. At no point did any of my family stop to ask how I was feeling, at no point did they ask if it was the first time Dom had assaulted me. Instead, they told me where I’d “gone wrong”, how I’d “pushed Dom out”. At one point, I found myself arguing with my brother, who proceeded to tell me “I’m not surprised Dom hit you.” Those words, four years on, still ring in my ears. I ended up returning to Dom, believing I was just as in the wrong as he was. I’ve always been slightly stubborn, and I found the refuge I was staying at were not allowed to tell us not to return; they could advise us, but they couldn’t tell us what to do, or what not to do. At no point was I told, by anyone, “Don’t go back.” The people making the most noise in my life were the one’s telling me where I’d gone wrong, not that Dom’s actions were inexcusable.

The moment you begin to focus on the woman’s actions leading up to her partner assaulting her, that’s the moment you stop supporting her. The moment you tell her to give him another try is the moment you stop supporting her. When you leave an abusive relationship, you often leave with a whole load of internalised misogyny. I’d spent four years being mocked, punched, woken at 2am, being yelled at, seeing my possessions sold, having cold water thrown at me, having knives waved in my face; I didn’t need to have my own actions critiqued, none of which contributed to the violence. I needed Dom’s violence towards me condemned. I needed to know that, should I leave Dom permanently, I’d have the unwavering support of my family. I didn’t.

When you question a woman’s actions in the lead up to the abuse, you’re quietly telling her that if she changed, the abuse would stop. It doesn’t. From returning to Dom, to the day I left, I became a Stepford wife. I didn’t argue, I became obedient as sin; If I could have read his mind, I would. After all, I was told this was partly my own fault. I changed, and I waited for Dom to do the same. He didn’t. But when we fail to support women leaving violence, we lie to them. We tell them the men will change, provided they do. We tell them the abuse was caused by their actions, without considering the truth. We excuse men’s violence. All because we send out the wrong message to women.

Let’s redefine the message we send women who look to escape abuse. Under no circumstances should her actions be mentioned. After all, the fault of the abuse lies solely with the abuser. We’d do well to remember that.

16 Days Of Action On Violence Against Women: A Bloghop