#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?

#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)

#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.

 

#WikiLeaks, #Assange and the Hero Worship Of A Man Accused Of Rape.

It’s Sunday teatime, and so far today, Mini-Dragon and I have sat through Evita, and Robin Hood on Channel 5. The latter has left me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach.

See, halfway through Robin Hood, over your fish fingers and chips isn’t really the time you wish to see a man who’s been accused of rape (and done everything to avoid answering to the accusations) appear on the Ecuadorian Embassy’s balcony in a scene which reminds you, somewhat, of that infamous balcony scene from Evita. Y’know, the one which asserted her place as the hero of the film.

Unfortunately, Mini-Dragon had seen both clips. He’d asked about Evita, and was assured that she was a good person, especially by the time we got to “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Unfortunately, four year olds don’t miss much. Amid his disappointment over the adverts and news programme interrupting Robin Hood, he noted the number of people at the embassy when Assange came on screen. And made a comparison. During their brief touch on Assange’s speech, Channel 5 failed to even mention the rape that Assange has been accused of. To a four year old, this guy looked like a male Eva Peron. To people who have been living under a  rock for the past two years, this man was a hero, speaking out for freedom of speech. The fact he’s facing extradition to answer questioning with regards to four seperate charges of rape and sexual violence was omitted.

At that moment, amidst the crowds, amidst the viewers, and amidst the silence, Assange was a hero. To a lot of Assange supporters, he still is. We’ve seen the hero worship of rapists before; in Ched Evans, in Mike Tyson. People will point out Assange hasn’t been convicted yet. But this is because he’s avoided questioning. The truth is, as of present, we have a man who is avoiding rape charges, because he refuses to return to Sweden for questioning. Some people will argue until they’re blue in the face that the charges against Assange are a conspiracy, with the aim of hauling him to America. I’m not buying it. I don’t think any feminist or feminist ally worth their gold is buying it.

The truth remains. As of yet, Assange has avoided four rape charges. Had he avoided these charges because Sweden had chosen not to charge him after he complied with their investigation, then I’d understand the omission of the charges from news reports, and I’d possibly forgive the hero worship he receives. But until the outcome of the questions that remain unanswered by Assange, the matter that there are four complaints of rape and sexual violence against him is one that is too important to miss; It’s one the media shouldn’t forget, and it’s one very strong reason why we shouldn’t be worshipping Assange. A rapist is no hero.

#IBelieveHer: Reddit, The Guardian, And How Society Really Treats Rapists. *Trigger Warning*

A couple of days ago, Reddit ran a conversation, asking rapists about their perspective of assaults they’d carried out. Following Megan Carpentier’s article on The Guardian’s infamous Comment Is Free, detailing the conversation, I found myself heading over to Reddit to read the thread myself. Between Reddit and The Guardian, an interesting perspective emerged. On Reddit, rapists were forgiven, excused, and told they were now “great” guys. On The Guardian, the CiF saw an attack on feminism, the definition of rape and comments asserting that those rapes didn’t happen. Even when men admit to rape, there’s still people in the corner, claiming that it’s a false claim.

I felt nervous about the idea of a forum giving a voice to rapists. Seeing as so many rape survivors end up silenced, I personally think that the one narrative that doesn’t deserve a public airing is the unedited voice of the rapist. As a user of Reddit said: “Giving a voice to shitheads who don’t even feel any remorse about what they did isn’t a good thing.”  And he’s right. A lot of these rapists, telling their stories, didn’t show any remorse, tried to blame the survivor, and tried to claim that they were as much victims of their crimes as the women they’d raped had been.

But for the rapists who aired their stories, a more interesting narrative unfolded in the responses. We began to see how far some men would go to excuse rape. Memorably, AntiDamage tried to argue that pressuring a woman into sex wasn’t rape. It is.

Coercion is a concept I feel that many people overlook. Whereas the rape apologists claim that feminists try to widen the definition of rape, I’d argue that rape apologists try to narrow the definition. To me, rape is simply defined as a man penetrating another person who does not wish to be penetrated, with his penis. Simple, leaves no questions. If your partner doesn’t want sex, it’s not your place to try and change her mind. If you pressurise her into sex she doesn’t want, that is still rape.

One thing that struck me through the stories where men had claimed they’d stopped just short of raping a woman is how many  of them had claimed it was seeing something in her face, usually fear, that made them stop. But there lies the problem. Were these men so removed from the woman they wanted sex with – the woman they believed wanted sex with them- that at no point they chose to look at her face? It highlights our culture that objectifies women – the person you’re having sex with no longer matters enough for little gestures, such as looking at your partner. Women are becoming products from a standard factory line in too many men’s eyes, designed to be in a constant state of consent. It’s why the “she didn’t say no” line of defence is so dangerous. Women are not autonomous, and consent is not a guaranteed right. Assuming a woman wants sex with you is a dangerous viewpoint – If you don’t want to be a rapist, assume a woman doesn’t want sex with you, until she proves otherwise.

But the most important thing Reddit proved last week was simple, and a message feminists have been trying to get across for ages. The men, relaying their stories of how they’d raped women, were telling stories of how they’d raped acquaintances, whilst in a domestic setting. Reddit proved what we’ve been saying all along – Rapists aren’t lurking down every alleyway; they’re not deranged psychopaths. They’re the friends who we trust, the boyfriends, family acquaintances. For all the “Not My Nigel” arguments that women throw about in defence of their partners, the men of Reddit have proven that, yes… It really is our Nigels who pose the threat.