An Second Open Letter to Ched Evans – If You Are Innocent Then You Will Take Down Your Website.

Dear Ched Evans

The Mail on Sunday today carries an interview with the father of the woman you raped today, and it is heart breaking to read.

He talks about the terrible toll being exacted on your victim: about how your fans incessantly hunt her down, how she has had to move house 5 times in 3 years, change her identity repeatedly, endure Christmas without her family and friends and cope with what he refers to as trial by website’.

Ched Evans is able to lead a normal life. He has never apologised to my daughter. Instead, his website proclaims his innocence and draws attention to my daughter every day that it remains posted on the net. I think it should be taken down.’ (Emphasis mine).

I have said it before, and now I am going to make a direct request: your website feeds your ‘fans’ and supporters and acts to aid and abet them in their hounding and harassment of the woman you raped. Protesting your innocence is one thing – allowing your victim to be treated in such a shoddy and disgusting manner is quite another.

I understand from the article in the Mail on Sunday today that your victims father wrote to Attorney General about the footage on your ‘campaign’ website, which is being investigated at the moment. There is clearly, and now unarguably, a direct correlation between this disgusting harassment of your rape victim by your fans, and that website. Like packs of wild dogs they feed off it as they would a carcass, then unleash themselves on that  poor girl, rabid in their conviction of what they perceive to be her ‘criminality’.

The psychological and emotional trauma on her must be unbearable, and it has to stop – now.

If you truly believe you are innocent then you would not need such ‘support’ because you would recognise that these bully boy ‘fans’ are in fact making you look more guilty by the day. And nobody who was truly innocent would want that type of support.

If you truly believe you are innocent then you would recognise that the decent, honourable and just thing would be to take down that website, to ask that wealthy Father-in-Law of yours to do that immediately and then, at the very least, issue an apology to that young woman for the unjust bullying and harassment she has had to endure.

If you truly believe you are innocent, you would do those things without hesitation.

Take down that website Mr Evans. It is the right thing to do.

Sincerely

Ali Wilkin

 

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The Suffering Servant… Isaiah 53

I woke up to the news this morning that yet another young black boy has been gunned down. I weep and pray for Antonio Martin’s family, for the agony of their loss. There is no reason to this death; like Renisha McBride and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice, children are dying because their skin is black and their humanity discarded and disregarded because of this.

I am drawn back to Isaiah 53 this morning, particularly to verses 1-3

Who has believed what we have heard?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
    he was despised, and we held him of no account.

God made flesh, as a helpless, dependant child – coming in to the world to be despised and rejected. Antonio Martin left dying on the ground, helpless and rejected, despised and exploited.

Black children are dying because they are whom we seek to erase: with guns, with words, with thoughts, with violent, vile deeds.

A black child lies dead, his mother weeps. He has been killed by the racism which people want to pretend no longer exists.

Rest in Peace, Antonio Martin, and Rise in Power.

God forgive us.

God forgive us.

God be with us.

Emmanuel.

Emmanuel.

Emmanuel.

#IBelieveHer – In Defence of Radical Belief pt 2: Why @SpikedOnline Is No Champion of Free Speech

Brendan O'Neill - saving the world for straight white men one article at a time.
Brendan O’Neill – saving the world for straight white men one article at a time.

 

All of the articles linked to require a trigger warning and content note for mentions of rape, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and racism. I have used ‘do not link’ for most of them.

And so we come to Spiked Online, edited by Brendan O’Neill, whose journalistic outpourings can also be found in the Telegraph and The Australian.  He’s a ‘libertarian’, which means that he has no interest at all in liberty for anyone except white heterosexual men. 

It doesn’t really do to read too much (if anything) over at Spiked – the need to stand under a shower afterwards and scrub yourself raw isn’t one I choose to indulge that often, and generally Spiked sits in its own corner of the internet, attracting similarly like minded folk as they complain endlessly about how their rights to be pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes are always being attacked. And since we live in a democracy, even pseudo-intellectual straight white male arseholes need somewhere to go and let off steam without bothering anyone too much.

So I usually ignore the BS but O’Neill has set himself as the great champion of free speech: it is with a total lack of surprise that I find that this not to be true.

It probably doesn’t help matters very much that O’Neill clearly has an issue with women (who should just shut up) and homosexuals, (who he thinks are big old meanies). Not surprisingly he’s pretty transphobic  and is prickly on the subject of racism too: he thinks that talking about racism is a Very Bad Thing That Will Make It All Worse.  His libertarian views are, therefore, rooted in making sure that everyone stays white, male and straight and where people are unable to comply with this, he is simply trying to make sure that if they insist on being women, queer and black that they do so as quietly as possible and without making too much fuss about it.

Brendan O’Neill is a patriarchal monolith, and so it is no surprise that his understanding of free speech is shallow: he also has something of an obsession with mobs despite the fact that he couldn’t identify a mob if one were coming at him with flaming torches and pitchforks – which is what, in his latest missive, he imagines women campaigning against rape to be. He also imagines that they wear white sheets, gather at Klan-type rallies and are responsible for general fear-mongering and man-lynching.

#IBelieveHer is his latest target in his quest to prove how dreadful women are; after one of Spiked journalists  made last months dismal offering on Ched Evans (“he should be allowed to rehabilitate! but without rehabilitating! because he claims he’s innocent!” – a truly Gordian knot of thinking which is dumb in a faintly irritating way), O’Neill is clearly frustrated that we women are not taking on board the message that we are a ‘mob’ who should be thoroughly ashamed of ourselves. He has therefore decided to monster us in the most trigger-happy manner he can: by making women who choose radical, victim centred belief analogous to the KKK.

Let that sink in for a moment.  O’Neill is saying that women who protest against rape, who choose to believe the victim when statistically speaking they are probably telling the truth, and who want some sensitivity shown to the victim should they decide to report, are to men what racists are to black people.

(Historical note: the KKK raped – and encouraged the raping of – black women with the same ferociousness with which they lynched black men. So for O’Neill to use this premise is pretty disgusting and appallingly a-historical).

It should be immediately obvious – to anyone with firing synapses – that O’Neill doesn’t understand the structural nature of oppression, and at best couldn’t care less about the widespread nature of rape, abuse or domestic and intimate partner violence. Heaven forefend that liberation from oppressive structural rape culture should mean that he has to show them some consideration!

In O’Neill’s world, challenging the rape myths which shame victims and stop them from coming forward is not a free speech issue – but those who try and change that culture are threatening free speech: it is the vengeance of the dreadful harridans who are out to deny freedom to men everywhere! Trying to get justice for rape victims and speaking out about the low conviction rates isn’t free speech: it is mob rule, the tool of horrible harpies who want men’s heads on a spike as a warning to all! We’re making them out to be rape apologists, and their feelings are hurt!

Or something.

Free speech does not extend, in O’Neill’s world, to the women and children who are abused or on the receiving end of domestic violence, but can’t speak out because society shames them, and sends them implicit and explicit messages that it is all their own fault. Free speech does not extend to black people speaking out against racism, to people who want to express their gender identity, to people who simply want to choose to marry, or who want to not be raped.

In O’Neill’s world, freedom and liberty are not for those people at all.

Brendan O’Neill and Spiked are not qualified to champion free speech because they do not believe in free speech. #IBelieveHer does not threaten free speech and any argument that it does is implicitly based on a desire to protect male privilege.

 

 

 

 

The Problem Is Not With #IBelieveHer: In Defence Of Radical Belief

The Enliven Project - The Saddest Graph You'll See All Day
The Enliven Project – The Saddest Graph You’ll See All Day

In the past few days, there have been some articles which question how valid and valuable the response of #IBelieveHer is when victims of rape and abuse speak up: and whilst we must think seriously and reflectively about our approach to the all too common problem of rape and abuse, there is a difference between reflective analysis and reflexive reaction.

In Sarah Ditum’s article in New Statesman the reflexive reaction focussed on issues around a recent Rolling Stone article, and the actor Shia LaBeouf, who recently disclosed about the attack he suffered during a performance piece in Los Angeles earlier this year.

I don’t entirely disagree with Sarah Ditum in Sabrina Rubin Erdley’s article: the poor standard of journalism in this case does not negate the validity of a victim’s disclosure; we know well enough that the shock and trauma to both the mind a body of someone who has been raped or abused mean that tropes about the ‘perfect victim’ are myths which are damaging and dangerous.

And yet having illustrated this, Sarah Ditum then resorts to using these very tropes to dismiss LaBeouf’s own disclosure (TW):

“..it is very hard to know what LaBeouf is asking us to believe. Rape, generally understood as forcible penetration with a penis or other object (not least under English law), could not have taken place in this instance, and LaBeouf does not specify what did happen[emphasis mine]

When we say on the one hand that the myths and tropes about how a victim reacts to rape are wrong, that there is not ‘perfect’ victim, and when we know that makes it harder for victims to come forward (never mind be believed), we cannot then shift the goal posts and say those tropes are suddenly acceptable simply because a victim does not fit our understanding of who the victim is. Here is the weakness of white western feminist theory to rape: Ditum see’s power imbalance strictly in terms of gender binary, and fails to grasp the nuance in this entirely individual situation, where LaBeouf’s power as a man is temporarily surrendered because he had voluntarily renounced it for the sake of the performance he was committed to.

That very lack of nuance in Ditum’s analysis is the reason why black and coloured women, cis and transgender, find it even harder to be believed, despite being more likely to be the victims of rape than white cis-gendered women.

Power is not binary: such general understandings of rape do not help us to dismantle the very power structures against with Ditum rails. What she refers to as ‘excessive belief’ is in fact radical belief: rape culture is supported by patriarchy, but patriarchy is not just a blanket subordination of women as a class, however easy it is to generalise is that way.

Racism, transphobia, homophobia, ableism, trans-misogyny, along side misogyny and sexism – all contribute towards ways in which humans group together and oppress other groups, and all these things act to support the rape culture.  Radical, victim-centred belief should not be the end of the that discussion, but #IBelieveHer is better understood at the start of that conversation when we don’t misunderstand the need for it. Labelling it as ‘excessive’ simply allows those who are least likely to believed to remain least likely to believed, to dismiss those already struggling to survive. Labelling it as ‘excessive’ means only ever partially dismantling rape culture for the sake of a tiny, white, cis gender minority.

I will continue to believe anyone at all who has the courage to stand up and say ‘I was raped’ because I want to see an end to rape culture. Radical belief is not the problem.

Patriarchy is.

 

 

#IBelieveHer: The Radical and Transformative Beauty of a Simple Statement

This post discusses rape, abuse and violence against women (cis, black, transgender) and children. I reference my own experiences as well as material which some people may find triggering, so please take care of yourself. If you have never disclosed, either by choice or by circumstance, then know that I believe you.  

One such misplaced belief is that false allegations of rape and domestic violence are rife. – Keir Starmer, March 2013

In March 2013 the CPS released a report which laid bare the reality about so called false rape and domestic violence accusations. It is a report that should be read carefully, and not simply because the figures make strikingly clear how rare false reporting is.

Previous studies had also shown the rarity of false reporting, but the CPS report mattered because it illuminated something which gets lost in the less than nuanced conversations demanded by those who want our attention on the infrequent occasions when someone reports something which didn’t happen, rather than on the all too numerous women and children who are beaten, raped and killed week in and week out – most often by men they know.

What it highlighted was the vulnerability of those who accuse – it illustrates that there is neither any maliciousness, nor vindictiveness, (as some men would have us believe (TW/CN) ): only powerless people in difficult situations who may, nevertheless, find themselves on the receiving end of an unreasonable and disproportionate prosecutorial system. Whatever else is said or written about Eleanor de Freitas in the wake of her death, both her family and the investigating detectives are certain that the prosecution which pre-empted her suicide was utterly wrong, and her fragile mental health made her vulnerable in ways too many failed to comprehend.

For black women, transgender women and transgender women who are black and of colour, the situation becomes more complex. Racism and transphobia as well misogyny and sexism, mean they are pushed still further outside of our anyway unwelcoming society: their bodies – labelled unacceptable by their skin colour and/or their gender presentation – find a society not only unwilling to believe them, but willing (even eager) to discard them altogether. Ce-Ce MacDonald, Marissa Alexander and Janay Rice are women at the appalling tip of a violent iceberg. Their humanity is not simply ignored: it is not recognised at all.

It is a paradox that creates a shameful isolation – women are raped, abused and beaten daily and yet any of us, either by instinct or experience, know that if we speak up the first reaction from too many people will be disbelief and primarily a concern for the accused; concern for the ‘stigma’ of living with a ‘false’ accusation. The first instinct of society is not to believe the woman or child. Ask any of the children – or their parents – who tried to report what was going on in Rotherham, what labels were laid on the girls, what disbelief was endured before any truth finally came to light. The hand wringing which followed will be repeated again because no lesson is being learned of any value.

The truth is this: that even thought there are endless studies, and reams of statistics, which show that women and children are telling the truth, that ‘false reporting’ is not all common and even more rarely done out of maliciousness, society prefers instead to be concerned for the powerful, and not the powerless.

Women are, therefore, not only untrustworthy in societies eyes: we must also bear the blame for the physical and sexual violence endured. Constantly the message is writ large: if we did not exist, neither would these issues. We are told every day: rape exists because we do.

Against this backdrop of disbelief and victim blaming must come liberation and rebellion, and transformation from one state to another – from the web like trap of being both the blamed and the un-believed, making a simple statement such as #IBelieveHer and #IBelieveYou can be a truly radical act.

I know this: twenty or more years after I was raped by a man who made sure I would be treated with suspicion and disbelief if I were ever to speak up, those words were like oil on my turbulent heart. After nearly of two years of sexual violence, of gaslighting, of rape – hearing those words years later opened up a pathway to real healing. Sure, I’d had counselling: I had learned to ‘live’ with what had happened. I had recovered enough to move forward. But I had no access to a community where I could feel safe when talking about it.

Because that’s the difference: whilst those words are not a panacea, those words mean that there is a community of people – even in this disbelieving and victim blaming society – where I can say: I was raped; and there will be no finger pointing, no shaming, no dubious questioning from people unwilling to confront the ugly truths of life.

Everyone who has ever been abused and raped needs this: until we no longer require radical acts to provide community and safety; until we live in a world where the vulnerable are believed and supported; until we understand that the stigma of being raped and not being believed is far more damaging than being accused; until we raise our sons not to rape, not to demand or feel entitled to demand, and to recognise the humanity of all women; until racism, sexism, transphobia and misogyny dies – until then, first, last and always:

I believe you.