#IBelieveHer : When the Going Gets Tough, We Will Stand Together.

By a twist of fate, this week will see both the sentencing of Adam Johnson and the appeal hearing for Ched Evans. So it’s going to be a tough week. It’s always a tough week if you are a victim or survivor of course – some item in the news, some deliberately cruel attack or comment on social media, some careless stupid remark from someone you know: the salt that inflames the wounds that are never quite healed.

But this week will be particularly tough. For the young women who were raped, abused and then maligned publically by Evans, Johnson and their ‘supporters’, this will not be a week that ‘draws a line under it all’. At best it will be another step they must take after too many other steps before it. At worst it will be another occasion which will afford their abusers and rapists, and their well paid legal teams, opportunity to malign and smear them. The woman raped by Ched Evans has already had to relieve her nightmare in preparation for this further appeal – after 5 years of being tried by public mob, of being moved repeatedly to try and protect her. The girl abused by Adam Johnson is no doubt aware of the disgusting things being said by his fans and supporters: I fear what may yet come for her. Whatever sentence Johnson is handed, the mob will be no more inclined to compassion for her than they were for Evans victim.

So my first thoughts and prayers are with them tonight, and what they will endure this week. To them I repeat: I believe you. I send you all my love. We all do – everyone of us who did or did not report send all our best hopes and whatever strength we have to spare.

And it will be a hard week for all victims and survivors, on or off social media. The victim blaming, the shaming, the brutal cruelty that people spew because they think that rape or abuse is about sex, and don’t understand or don’t care that its about power, and the exercise of that power through humiliation and brutality.

I send my love to you too: I believe you. And that means that whatever you have to do to get through this week, to cope when the wounds are inflamed or made raw by the salt society rubs in with abandon – do not apologise for it. Don’t justify it, don’t explain it. You owe nobody that.  You don’t have to engage, you don’t have to speak. And should you choose silence I will stand with you in your silence.

And if you want or need to shout from the rooftops at the vicious cruelty and injustice of it all, or scream in rage at maelstrom of sharp and stinging voices whose words carry salt – I will raise my voice and shout and scream with you.

Whatever the outcome of those legal proceedings this week, we who walk through the battle scarred land that is rape culture know only too well what we must each to do survive it. And however you need to negotiate that terrain, we will carry each other. In love, and hope and faith.

I believe you.

 

sozo-heart

Advertisements

On @RichardDawkins – The Religion of Logic As Used To Erase Victims Experience

Richard Dawkins believes that the severity of individual cases of rape and abuse can be gradated, and he doesn’t like people to point out to him that there are many reasons why he is wrong about that. He has clearly been mulling on this for some time, because this morning he took to twitter with this:

X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of X, go away and don’t come back until you’ve learned how to think logically.

Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think.

Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that’s an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.

Whether X or Y is worse is a matter of opinion. But it is a matter of LOGIC that to express that opinion doesn’t mean you approve of either. @RichardDawkins 29.07.2014

 Dawkins would, I know, like us to believe that he is not a rape apologist. And in his fervour to apply logic to absolutely everything, he has created an equation which – he thinks – proves that not only is he right, but that those of us who state that his position is one of ignorance (to put it mildly) are emoting not debating.  

It is clear that he does not understand what sexual violence is –  he reproduces common myth and misconception immediately, working as he does from the false premise that rape and abuse have any gradation of severity at all. His formulae (which I am sure he feels is terribly logical), in fact is not;  in not accounting for the most important factor – the effect of the sexual violence on the victim – he erases the voice, knowledge and experience of the victim, thereby excusing one or other form of rape and abuse.   Which is exactly what his supposed fevered logic purports to disavow.

Logic is an important tool which humans use, as we navigate through our lives, trying to figure out the world in which we live and our place in it. But it is not more than that – used incorrectly it is, at best, a blunt object that mangles, obfuscates and erases (as in this case).

Rape and abuse are not logical – those of us who have suffered at its claws, or who work in support and advocacy of those who are, do not learn to navigate the violent landscape in the wake of an attack with logic, because logic is useless to us in those circumstances.  We understand and know better than Dawkins the facts and realities, because he chooses to remain ignorant of our knowledge; he does not value it because it does not fit in to any ‘logical’ box.

Your over heated (dare I suggest religious) fervour for logic Mr Dawkins is useless: you do not understand the subject on which you speak.  Let those who know, speak. Let those who don’t, shut up and listen.

*****

UPDATE:  Richard Dawkins has produced this ‘non-apology-apology-whilst-still-trying-to-maintain-the-moral-highground’.  This man’s arrogance knows no bounds.

Apparently us thinking feeling people unleashed a ‘tsunami of hate’. I taste man tears…

@Leadership_Jnl, #TakeDownThatPost & What You Need to Do so the Apology Means Something

If you’ve been on twitter and seen the hashtag #TakeDownThatPost (started by Tamara Rice) but don’t know the story behind it, then here is a brief summary about what happened:

Earlier this week Leadership Journal (part of Christianity Today) published a piece by a convicted rapist where he was allowed, over several pages, to tell ‘his side’ of the story of what ‘happened to him’ whilst he was a youth pastor. It was stomach churning, vile, triggering stuff. It spoke about his grooming, abuse and rape of a young girl in terms of relationship, mutual consent and ‘their’ mutual temptation. It was, in short, vile.

As I understand it, Leadership Journal felt that this was a ‘cautionary tale’ and therefore important to publish it. (Because of Satan, or something. Yeah. I know).

The backlash was incredible and over the course of the rest of the week, twitter activists – via #TakeDownThatPost – and bloggers voiced their considerable and justifiable hurt, anger and remorse and such an idiotic decision, and the even worse attempts to justify the unjustifiable.  (Links to many of those blogs, which so eloquently and often bravely called out Leadership Journal and Christianity Today can be found at the bottom of this piece. I urge you to read them).

On Friday (the 13th, ironically enough) Leadership Journal then edited the piece and added an editorial that started with the a re-iteration of the reasons for publishing (churches get sued for this stuff you know. Icky, huh?), as well as disclaimer that ‘of course we understand that this was abuse and not mutual’ and ‘he really is sorry about all this’. I am paraphrasing with definite bias because it will give you some idea about the reaction that this decision then generated.  Which was instant and furious. Via twitter, blogs and the Leadership Journal facebook page, people left them and Christianity Today in no doubt at all about where we all stood.

And then late last night the post was removed, and the following apology was printed:

A note from the editors of Leadership Journal:

We should not have published this post, and we deeply regret the decision to do so.

The post, told from the perspective of a sex offender, withheld from readers until the very end a crucial piece of information: that the sexual misconduct being described involved a minor under the youth pastor’s care. Among other failings, this post used language that implied consent and mutuality when in fact there can be no quesiton that in situations of such disproportionate power there is no such thing as consent or mutuality.

The post, intended to dissuade future perpetrators, dwelt at length on the losses this criminal sin caused the author, while displaying little or no empathic engagement with the far greater losses caused to the victim of the crime and the wider community around the author. The post adopted a tone that was not appropriate given its failure to document complete repentance and restoration.

There is no way to remove the piece altogether from the Internet, and we do not want to make it seem that we are trying to make it disappear. That is not journalistically honest. The fact that we published it; its deficiencies; and the way its deficiencies illuminate our own lack of insight and foresight, is a matter of record at The Internet Archive (https://web.archive.org/web/20140613190102/http://christianitytoday.com/le/2014/june-online-only/my-easy-trip-from-youth-minister-to-felon.html).

Any advertising revenues derived from hits to this post will be donated to Christian organizations that work with survivors of sexual abuse. We will be working to regain our readers’ trust and to give greater voice to victims of abuse.

We apologize unreservedly for the hurt we clearly have caused.

/signed/

Marshall Shelley, editor, Leadership Journal

Harold B. Smith, president and CEO, Christianity Today International

(It is interesting to note the president of CT co-signed this as they had spent all week telling everyone that this was nothing to do with them – but that’s a side issue).

The sense of relief as we wake up to this news this morning is being felt widely across the internet.  And there are many to thank for this achievement – as Emily Maynard said:

Peace tonight to Twitter activists, listeners, thinkers, writers, survivors & prophets. You are my leaders. Let’s keep showing a better way. @emelina

So I have some first thoughts on what both Christianity Today and Leadership Journal need to do now if their apology (which is a decent one, I will give them credit for that) is to mean anything. As Jesus said, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no: actions have to back up words.

LT clearly have no understanding about the issues of sexual abuse, rape, rape culture and how their understandings of scripture and theology are woefully inadequate. They need to take serious prayerful time to truly grasp how they made the mistake that  they made, not just in the thought process that led to the decision to publish, but the reasons (the honest reasons) why they then tried to edit the piece and why they tried to persuade people that the anonymous rapist was genuinely repentant, where he clearly was not – and as they do so they need that process to be made public.

They need to be honest with themselves – and us – about their need to educate themselves about what abuse and rape are. They need to listen to the victims and those who specialise in helping them.

And they need to continue to be transparent throughout that process.

They need to give space and voice to victims and those who support them, and space and voice to those who are working so hard to counter the culture in the Christian church that gives space to predators to abuse – and who then receive such cheap and worthless forgiveness.

Most fundamentally of all, they need to understand that the victim of the rapist they gave a platform to (and all those who have endured the abuse metered out but a trusted pastor) was re-traumatized by what they did, and they need to prayerfully consider what they can do to make recompense for that.

Samantha Field 

Elizabeth Ester

Suzannah Paul

Libby Ann

Tamara Rice

Dianna Anderson

Emily Yoffe (@YoffeEmily): ‘It’s the perpertrator’s fault…except not.” (TW)

So today Emily Yoffe of Slate,(@YoffeEmily)  in the wake of Maryville and Stubenville and just in time for the new college terms, published a piece entitled “College Women. Stop Getting Drunk”.

Actually the headline sums up exactly the tone of the article, and it is one long classic rape myth trotted out, one after the other to prove Ms Yoffe’s central thesis: that the increase in young women binge drinking has created ‘a prey rich environment’.

Every trope is regurgitated: how often college women are assaulted, how drink is the ‘common denominator’ in all these assaults, how women out drinking are prey to predatory men  – and who she actually describes as ‘lions in a prey-rich environment’, an appalling illustration whereby the man is just behaving according to masculine stereotype, and women are at once both powerless prey and would also be able to control the ‘predatory behaviour’ if they were sober. If they don’t drink, the situation will be under control, of course… Drunk women, she says, ‘render themselves defenceless’.

Despite the disclaimer that ‘it’s the perpetrator’s fault’, Ms Yoffe is also particularly concerned that the bad and wicked feminism (which apparently gives women license to go out and behave in such un-lady like ways). It giving young women a ‘distorted message’: She quotes Anne Coughlin –   professor at the University of Virginia School of Law – who claims that women are being ‘infantilised’.

Beyond the shocking level of victim blaming – where everyone except the rapist bears the burden of responsibility for their actions – there is an irresponsible degree of conflating the problem of binge drinking and substance abuse and addiction with the insidious level of assault and rape that so plagues college and university campuses both in the US and the UK.

Worse is yet to come, as the level of disbelief she has for the victim is revealed – which is both nauseating and beyond irresponsible. It would seem that if you wrote to ‘Dear Prudence’ about being assaulted, she may not believe you.

“But when you are dealing with intoxication and sex, there are the built-in complications of incomplete memories and differing interpretations of intent and consent. To establish if a driver is too drunk to be behind the wheel, all it takes is a quick test to see if his or her blood alcohol exceeds the legal limit. There isn’t such clarity when it comes to alcohol and sex.”

My biggest concern (even given the above) is the 3 victims of rape she interviews – it seems incredibly clear that having picked up on the ‘common denominator’ of drink, this is where the focus of the interviews has been and I am genuinely concerned at the possible manipulation of these victims for the sake of a point about alcohol consumption amongst young people that Ms Yoffe clearly feels she needs to make.

I worry that these young women have been manipulated to prove Ms Yoffe’s central thesis; I am angry that Ms Yoffe continues to try and push a message that claims to be responsible yet places both the burden of responsibility on the victim and so loudly proclaims the age-old socialized message of ‘boys will be boys’; and I am horrified that she does this from the platform she has been given, with all the privilege she has.

 

Dear Jerry Hayes, The REAL Uncomfortable Truth About Rape and Why you should apologise…

Dear Jerry Hayes

My twitter time line exploded on Thursday night. As did I, in an almost-literal re-creation of Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning of Life’: not from eating too much food though – but from hearing too much un-varnished rape apologism. The reason for the twitter storm is because you said something really awful, denied that you said it, ignored some very public facts and have now gone on to blog about rape, claiming that your view is an ‘uncomfortable truth.

So I am going to deal with what was said, why it has upset lots of people, and why you really do need to apologize for it.

First your opening remarks, in response to the question about whether accused people should be anonymous:

I’ve been prosecuting and defending rape’s and serious sexual offenses for over thirty years. The fact is I am firmly of the view that if you are accused of a sexual offense, particularly with rape, particularly with children, you should be anonymous until after that trial. Because the stigma is just, well, it’s worse than murder. I have seen people who have been acquitted – perhaps when I’ve defended them – erm, hah-hah little plug…

(Yes. That’s right. In the middle of a discussion on the subject of rape and child abuse, you plugged your services and made a joke about it. Sensitive, much?) But moving on…

…the stigma sticks with them for life, everyone says ‘Oh, there’s no smoke without fire’.. and there’s, I know, a movement a people who say ‘Well it stop’s women from coming forward’ – it doesn’t stop women from coming forward, we’ve gone a long long long way from all the old idea’s about rape and they are treated very very well…

And at this point I have to stop for a moment. Partly because if I try to explain to you about the stigma of being abused and raped I will end up getting a bit emotional and I want to deal with facts as much as possible.

So here’s what what happened, and what was actually said, (and if you want to check me, be my guest: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01sffvs/Question_Time_09_05_2013/   and it starts at around the 42 minute mark) –

A member of the audience decided to take to task the notion that it is ‘easier’ for a woman to come forward to speak about rape, and that it is really hard to prosecute someone for rape. You cut her off mid-sentence to say that ‘it is honestly not the case’, but the audience member pressed her point by quoting the statistic that there were 95,000 reported  (important to emphasise that word) rapes which were prosecuted last year – and barely 900 convictions, and how does that show that it’s easier for women to come forward. That’s right Jerry: that figure she quoted you was based on those rape allegations which were brought to trial.

Those figures don’t just come from Rape Crisis, but are backed up by the CPS’s own figures. The 2011 CPS report on VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) showed a 38% rise from 2006/7 to 2010-11 in prosecutions of rape and domestic violence cases: up from 68,930 (of reported incidents) to 95, 257 (of reported incidents). If you don’t believe either the audience member, or me, or Rape Crisis then at least believe the CPS.

In your blog post you say:

I have been accused of saying that rape victims are liars. Not only did I not say or suggest this, I certainly don’t think it.

What you said (and again, pop along to BBC iPlayer and watch it again if you must) was this:

You can’t say there were 95,000 rapes because clearly they weren’t raped because the person wasn’t prosecuted.

Yes Jerry, that is exactly the same thing as calling rape victims liars.

To say such a stupid, crass, pig ignorant thing like ‘clearly they weren’t raped because the person wasn’t prosecuted’ is to demonstrate quite spectacularly not only an appalling ignorance of the facts, but is a quite spectacular example of the old idea’s about rape which you claimed just a few minutes before we come such ‘a long long way’ from.

Further, it is perpetuating the very same myths about false rape,  that the report issued by Keir Starmer and the CPS in March, are trying to dismantle. That report (which Stella Creasy tweeted out to you and you so casually dismissed) makes the very necessary point that not getting a conviction for rape is absolutely not because the victim was not raped. That report makes it clear that false rape allegations make up just 0.02% of all reported rapes.

Your blog post (which requires a trigger warning for rape victims so loud it would be heard from Mars) only makes what you said worse. Victims characters cannot be trashed?? Try telling that to Ched Evan’s victim (as just one random example).

So yes, of course you should apologize.

If you want to blog about the ‘uncomfortable truth’ about rape, I suggest you find out what the uncomfortable truth is first.

But if you want to insist you have nothing to apologize for, in the face of your own words and the overwhelming evidence, at least refrain from throwing words like ‘defamatory’ around on twitter to those who sought to call you out for the wrong you did.

Yours (most) sincerely

@aliwilkin