#IBelieveHer: And No Menz, I DON’T Believe You’ve Been “Falsely Accused”…

Today, I was “accused” by a male acquaintance of “always taking the women’s side” when it came to discussions of male violence against women. Inside, I cheered. Outwardly, my face showed no expression, as I knew what was coming. Mentally, a gameshow host was shouting in the back of my mind – “Bring on the rape apologia!” I hate it when these voices are right…

“I’m going to tell you something, and I’ve only ever told four people before you… You can’t tell anyone. But there was this girl who falsely accused me of rape. In the end, I had to go to the police to stop her, cos I was getting death threats from people she’d told…”

I can keep secrets. In fact, you’d be amazed at the secrets I keep. But this is one secret I refuse to shut up about, for the sole reason that I do not believe him. When men tell us they were falsely accused of rape, they expect to be believed immediately. Because men are our narrators in society, and we’re expected to believe them. God forbid we know of our unreliable narrators. God forbid we know they lie.

What my narrator didn’t know was I study everything. I absorb things that other people let fly under the radar. All five of his ex girlfriend’s were, in his words, “psycho bitches.” But of course, this was a “false allegation.” He told me to “shut up”, earlier in the conversation. But of course, this was a “false allegation.” He’d emotionally manipulated his last girlfriend. But of course, this was a “false allegation”. He’d once commented how Mini-Dragon liked to be the centre of my attention, with a hint of jealousy tinging his voice.

I didn’t accuse him flat out of lying. Part of me wishes I had. Instead, I pointed out false allegations counted for less than 3% of all reports of rape, and that men were statistically more likely to be raped than falsely accused of rape. I could see his eyebrow arch. He knew he wasn’t believed. We scare men by not believing their bullshit, and choosing to believe the women around us instead. I don’t think I needed to tell him I didn’t believe him. But a big part of me wishes I had…

But for the next man who decides to tell me he was “falsely accused”, all I have to say is, I don’t believe you, and the odds aren’t ever in your favour, this time…

#IBelieveHer; What #Steubenville Has Reminded Us About Rape Culture

“I would truly like to apologize. No pictures should have been sent out, let alone been taken.”

The words of Trent Mays, his supposed apology for raping 16 year old Jane Doe. The words that prove a tweet I sent last night wasn’t clutching at straws. In a fit  of fury over an offline conversation, I tweeted last night about the lengths people go to in order to defend a man’s right to rape; we saw it through Ched Evans’ support last year, through the Mike Tyson tours, which saw those supporting the tours claim Tyson had been set up. And now, we hear it from the mouth of the rapist himself… His remorse isn’t linked to the fact he raped Jane Doe. For one simple reason. We keep telling men they have a right to rape.

“But rape’s illegal!,” I hear some of you cry. You must be new, here… We lie to our women, we tell them rape is a criminal offence. Yet we see sympathy aligned with the men who rape women. 5,000 likes for a page in support of rapist Ched Evans, a grand total of 0 days in jail for rapist Roman Polanski, and a report on the rarity of false accusations twisted into an article about how men suffer from false accusations by BBC. I could go on, but fear I’d be here all night, just listing cases where rape has not only been minimised, but legalised too. Trent Mays didn’t apologise for raping Jane Doe, because he felt it was his right.

“But he was jailed!,” you argue. You really are new to these parts. Seriously. I’ll get you a map.  Figures from Rape Crisis and the British Crime Survey puts unreported rapes at 90%. In other words, men who rape have a 90% of their victim not going to the police. Why’s that, you ask? Take a look at the Saville cover up, the naming and bullying of the survivor in the Evans case, the rape myths women have forced down their throats at every time. As soon as we’re old enough to walk, we’re warned against “stranger danger”, yet it’s not strangers we need to fear, it’s the men sleeping in our beds, who think rape is their right.

And what really burns, is how ingrained rape culture is. We accuse the survivors of lying, despite knowing the rate for false accusations is low – 2%. We accuse the survivors of lying, choosing to believe the accused by default, on the basis of their sex. We try to blame survivors, by referring to their clothing, how much they drunk, whether they flirted with their rapist. We talk about rape, discussing it in terms of “sex”, when it’s not. It’s men’s violence against women, using penetration. To the survivors of rape, it feels nothing like sex. To those who campaign against rape, it looks nothing like sex. But we compare it to sex to discredit the survivors, and make excuses for the men who rape them. When we compare rape to sex, we try to imply confusion in the rapists mind. Yet they know they’re committing violence at the time. They know it’s rape, and we have to stop giving them a defence.

But with Steubenville, as in the Ched Evans case, it hasn’t ended with the verdict. The abuse continues, as the media empathises with the rapists, forgetting of the survivor. The first article I saw regarding the Steubenville verdict hosted a photo of Richmond crying into his mother’s shoulder – a move which aims at garnering sympathy for the rapists. The survivors pain is not as important as that of the men who raped her. If it was, the media wouldn’t sympathise with their “ruined futures”. They made the choice to ruin their futures when they made the choice to rape. And further more, social media allows the further abuse of the survivor – PublicShaming.Tumblr.Com has collected a sample of the worst of social media’s response to Steubenville.

Isn’t it time we stopped pretending rape has already been outlawed, and truly remove men’s right to rape?

#HerNameWasReevaSteenkamp; This is a Story Of Male Violence – Let’s Remember The Victim

This morning, a South African friend broke the news of Reeva Steenkamp’s death. At the time, an idea was floating around Facebook that her killer, Oscar Pistorious, had mistaken Reeva for a burglar. The two were in a relationship, and over the past few hours, details of the abuse Reeva endured at Pistorious’ hands have begun to surface. After posting a link to my own facebook profile, a friend informed me that Pistourious had shot Reeva four times. It was becoming clear that this was no accident.

As I headed over to twitter this evening, I was disappointed to see Pistorious’ name trending, alongside jokes. This is the last time I’ll use his name in this post.

See, Reeva Steenkamp should be the name on everyone’s lips. But her name was missing from the trending topics. Hell, I saw tweets referencing her death that failed to even mention the fact a woman had been killed by male violence, let alone Reeva’s name. She’s been dead less than 24 hours, and the patriarchy is already erasing her. Fancy that, eh… This would be the same patriarchy which failed to mention Andrea Johnson by name when reporting how her husband had murdered her before killing himself. The same patriarchy which sees women silenced, and ignored when they try to speak out against men’s violence against women. The same patriarchy which sees the murder of the prostituted class ignored, and women blamed for their own murders. Women are not allowed to live a life free of blame; the patriarchy won’t allow it.

We’ve heard how Reeva was an FHM model. The fact she was a law graduate was ignored. The fact she spoke out against violence against women has been ignored. Even in her death, Reeva has been objectified. Googling “Reeva Steenkamp” in the news section of Google relays, at present, 2,350 results. Images added to the search engine database, following her death, included an FHM cover, as well as various photos of Reeva in a bikini. Googling her killer’s name leaves us with 201,000 news results, although I’m unable to determine how many of these were added today. All I can say for certain is that I got 27 pages in to the results, and gave up.

We do not need to know Reeva was a model to feel saddened by her death. But objectifying her following her death remains a huge kick to the teeth. We need to remember her name, and we need to keep Reeva’s name at the forefront of our minds. It is time we stopped glorifying men who kill women, no matter how unintentionally we do so. Our conversation should not erase the victims of men’s violence against women, but instead, they should become the forefront of our discussion. We cannot end violence against women when the women killed by male violence are forgotten.

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. And we must not forget that.

*Edit: Google is now displaying more results for Reeva in the news. The stats above were what I found at 23:01 on 14/2/2013

#IBelieveHer: In Which The Daily Mail Forgets They’re Talking About A Nine Year Old Rape Survivor…

There are certain elements that I feel should be missing from a report on a survivor of child rape. Sadly, today, I was alerted to an article in the Daily Mail which contained all of these things;

  • DNA tests are being carried to determine who real father is – amid claims it is either her boyfriend, 15, or even her stepfather

Romanticising abuse. Not something you’d associate the Daily Mail with, right? I hope you can hear the sarcasm dripping out of your computers right now, because the Mail has become, to me, synonymous with misogyny, victim blaming, and romanticising abuse.

See, a 15 year old, who is having sex with a nine year old, is not her “boyfriend”. He is a rapist. But calling him her boyfriend romanticises the abuse, puts them on an equal footing and momentarily takes the lens off the issue at hand; Here is a nine year old girl who has been raped, and as a result, fell pregnant. Calling her rapist “her boyfriend” puts them, momentarily in the readers mind, on an equal footing.

The Mail continues, mentioning a report in a local newspaper which states that Dafne* could have been raped multiple times over several times, “but claimed it was never violent.” Rape IS violence, regardless of whether additional violence is used. To claim a rape was never violent minimises the experience of the survivor, and in Dafne’s case, ignores the fact that after the violence of rape, this girl had to go through the additional violence of an underage pregnancy and an underage childbirth.

Dafne has since been sterilised, showing yet again how she’s been failed by Mexican authorities. A nine year old girl, who has been raped and made to carry that fetus to term does not need sterilising. She needs protecting. And when it comes to the British Press, it serves no one well to talk of child rapists as “the boyfriend” of the survivor of child rape.

Her Name Was Jyoti Singh Pandey. And #WeWillNotForget #RIPJyoti

The father of the victim of the Dehli Gang Rape has spoken out, naming his daughter as Jyoti Singh Pandey.

Jyoti Singh Pandey. Remember that name. Because it will be on my lips, and at my fingertips, for the rest of my life.

We cannot forget the horrific assault that was carried out on Jyoti. Because when we do, we forget the harsh reality that faces so many women. But worse still, we forget Jyoti. We forget how she fought up until her dying days, and how she united so many women in her suffering.

If we forget her name, we forget that India saw 572 rapes reported in 2011, and 635 reported by the time Jyoti was raped. If we forget her name, we forget that she was not the first woman to be raped. Nor, despite all our fighting against male violence, will she be the last.

I do not have Jyoti’s words. Male violence killed her. Jyoti’s mother is unable to speak through grief. I am left solely with her father’s noble words.

Doctors did their best to save her. She spoke a few times but mostly through gestures. She had a feeding pipe in her mouth making it difficult for her to speak. But she did write on some paper that she wanted to live, she wanted to survive and stay with us. But it was fate that had the last say in the end.

We want the world to know her real name. My daughter didn’t do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter.

Jyoti’s family have asked that her image is not released. But we know of Jyoti’s hopes, and aspirations. She had just completed a course in physiotherapy, and had undertaken an internship, hoping to become a doctor.

A petition has sprung up, asking the President of India to address the rape issue in the country. You can sign the petition here.

Her name was Jyoti Singh Pandey. And we will not forget her. We cannot afford to.

(Video: Jimmy Eat World – Hear You Me. Dedicated to Jyoti Singh Pandey. May angels lead you in)

#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

#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.