People As Things – The Excuses We Are Still Making For the Patriarchy And Why They Wont End Rape Culture.

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“There’s no greys, only white that’s got grubby. I’m surprised you don’t know that. And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.”

“It’s a lot more complicated than that – “

“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”

Exchange between Granny Weatherwax and  the Quite Reverend Oates, Carpe Jugulum, by Terry Pratchett

I love the Discworld series of books- I have done for years and if I had to pick a favourite character, it would be probably be Granny Weatherwax. Sometimes I muse that if any character were most like the author Terry Pratchett, I would like to think it was Granny. She’s not at all cuddly or conventionally lovable, but she’s tough and smart and has a far bigger heart than probably most of her community realise. And whilst she has carefully cultivated a reputation that keeps people respectful (and slightly nervous of her), she’s a true servant to them.  She heals, cares for, and watches carefully over Lancre, the true extent of what she does so often hidden behind peoples assumptions and wild imaginations. She’s practical, doesn’t suffer fools at all (let alone gladly) – and she knows and understands people. And whilst she would probably have little time for my faith (The Omnian religion in the Discworld series is a mirror of the Christian church in it’s medieval fire-and-brimstone-and-now-trying-to-be-more-liberal-Anglican form), I have a sneaky respect for her ‘headology’.

And Granny Weatherwax  is bang on the money about sin – it starts when you treat people as things.

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The fight to dismantle rape culture is a fight to dismantle the patriarchal power structures which, on the one hand, men created so that men had the power and privilege to shape, grow and rule over much of society – and when they abuse that power, to coddle, excuse, justify and rationalise that abuse in whatever form it has taken. When a man has beaten his partner or wife, raped, molested or abused a woman or child, we are as a society very able (and very well trained) in providing those excuses so that, often, even the man who has abused rarely has to lift a finger to provide them himself. It’s a Pavlovian response.

A woman is killed and the man has been ‘driven’ to it by something she supposedly said or did; a child is molested and abused, but that child had ‘presented as sexually mature’, or wore the wrong clothes, or hung out with the wrong people, or had a ‘record of bad behaviour’. A woman is raped, but she had been out drinking so energy and times is expended arguing about consent because of that somehow means it was ‘too hard’ for the man to know if consent had been given.

The victim becomes both recipient of the violence, the rape, the killing – and the person responsible for it. The man does not need to take responsibility – occasionally, rarely, he might see the inside of a prison but mostly society hands him some rationalisation and offers hope for him to rebuild his life, often with sentiments along the lines of ‘he’s not usually that kind of man’.

The excuses we give the abusers and murderers, the rapists, and the molesters are legion. But the truth is, they made a choice. They chose to rape, molest, kill, abuse, take advantage of, and inflict trauma. They chose it over any number of other choices that could have been made at that time: society has afforded them power – and that is how they have chosen to use that power in that moment. When people are merely things to the person with the power, it is a too-easy choice to abuse that power. And with every rape, every murder of another and trans and cis woman, a choice has been made.

Anything – anything at all – other than a full frontal recognition of rape, abuse and violence against women and children as the choice of the rapist, is simply another excuse that he can use. I have said this before: and I am about to say it again – rape (and sexualised violence and abuse) are abuses of power. They are choices, made by the men who perpetrate them. They are choices made as conscious decisions.

Yes, it is a terrifying truth and one I had to face too, and I recognise the desire which we as women have trained into us: to provide the understanding about why it happened, specifically why the man who raped and abused us, did it. Patriarchy demands that we as women provide the ‘understanding’ because that is part of the toxic nature of our relationship with misogyny. It is part of that Pavlovian response drilled in to us – men do stuff and its our ‘job’ as women to ‘understand’ why they do that stuff. And every time we say, in anyway shape or form, men rape because they have a penis, we do so because we have been conditioned to understand and excuse men’s behaviour.

But we don’t have to understand anymore; it is not our responsibility as women to understand the choices men make, because down that pathway excuses and justifications await.  We have to fight the conditioning that says we are supposed to ‘understand’. Yes, when the man has used his penis to rape with, it is a hard truth: but genitals have absolutely nothing at all to do with the choice to rape. Penises don’t make the choice to rape. MEN do. Penises don’t have brains – MEN DO.

My rapist made a choice. He was not at the whim of ‘uncontrollable’ desires. He didn’t do it because he couldn’t control his penis. He did it because he made a choice. And that’s HIS responsibility to bear not mine.

And not yours either.

I don’t say this for my sake, or to anger people. I know how unpopular my opinion is.  But there are women who are victims of rape and abuse –  Trans women and trans women of colour – who are the victims of the patriarchy, misogyny, transphobia and racism that abuses, rapes and kills them. Their voices are ignored and their right to healing safe spaces made harder because we think in the very terms that patriarchy trains us to think. (And that includes refusing to see or accept them as women). And it means that not only is the fight to end rape and the culture which perpetuates it made harder, but that some women are shut out by other women.

I want gendered violence to end: women and children are dying because of it and I want life in all its fullness for all women. But until we accept that saying men rape because they have a penis is handing men who rape just another excuses, not only we will continue to fail in any efforts to stop rape: we will let down, abandon and isolate whole groups of women and perpetuate victim blaming in to the bargain.

Sin starts when you treat people as things. We have to stop treating people as things.

 

 

 

 

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Are You Really Talking About Rehabilitation For Ched Evans?

 

This post discusses rape, rape culture and the behaviour of a convicted rapist as part of a conversation about rehabilitation. It is important to take care of yourself and so please be aware that some of this post may be triggering. Whilst joining our voices with other victims is important, sometimes the best thing we can do is step back put self first. Never be ashamed to do that. And, as always – I believe you.

 

In the conversation around convicted rapist Ched Evans, and around whether or not he should be allowed to play professional football again, one theme crops up with predictable regularity: that Ched Evans should be allowed to play ‘if we believe in rehabilitation’.

There are three elements to the premise of this narrative. First, that in Evans case there is an assumption that rehabilitation is a return to the same life as was being lived previously – that rehabilitation is somehow analogous to playing professional football. Second, that to oppose his return to the professional game is to be ‘opposed’ to rehabilitation. And third, and most crucially perhaps, that we as a society share a commonly held concept of what rehabilitation looks like, and that those who question the notion that Evans return to football is the best response in this case are ‘rocking the boat’; trouble makers if you will, who don’t like what the community have decided and are making things difficult for everybody else.

So let us start with that last point – that as a society we have a shared understanding of what rehabilitation means. Because it is very apparent to me that we don’t.

This was highlighted again during the brief flurry of interest over the possibility of Evans being signed to Maltese football club Hibernians FC (which in any event Evans is unable to do due to the terms of his license, as confirmed by the Ministry of Justice). Owen Bonnici, Malta’s Minister of Justice, was very clear what his understanding of rehabilitation meant in this case:

What is rehabilitation? In the simplest terms, it is the re-introduction and integration back in to society of someone who has been convicted of a crime and who has served some sort of custodial sentence; that the person concerned does not re-offend, and is able to lead a healthy and productive life.

I think it is important that we first acknowledge this definition is of rehabilitation in the simplest terms; that it is baseline from which we start. I note this because it seems to be treated as the high watermark – that this is all we should expect from Evans and no more. I have a problem with that: rehabilitation is important, far too important, to be treated in such a shoddy fashion. Because in this particular case – and on the basis that every case should be treated individually – there is something else we need to know, something else we need reassurance of:

That Ched Evans will not go out and rape again.

Recidivism: We know that around 1 in 7 rapes or sexual assaults will be committed by someone who has previously offended – and bear in mind that these figures are based on reported cases which have secured a conviction. That’s approximately 400 cases of rape over three years committed by an offender who has been freed after serving approximately half of his sentence. When we also take in to account both the low reporting rates, and low conviction rates, those numbers are the mere tip of the iceberg.

So we need to be sure that Evans not only understands why he was convicted, but that he has shown at least some progress in his understanding of – for example – what consent from someone with whom he wants to have sex looks like. We need to be certain that he recognises why he did not have consent from his victim that evening, and therefore why he was judged to be a rapist. We need to know that he understands why the filming of his victim fell well outside the boundaries of consent, and he has never addressed the issue of persuading his bother and friend to film his victim. (And that’s leaving aside the questions around his behaviour prior to his entering the hotel that evening).

He has only ever referred to what happened that night as a single act of infidelity. In other words, he does not judge what he did to be a crime of violence against a woman: he asks us only to frame it as an act of betrayal against his now fiancée.

We therefore do not know if he is being rehabilitated in that sense.  We don’t know this because he refuses to accept that there was no consent – he refuses to understand, or worse is unable to understand, why there was no consent. He insists that what happened was consensual. In short, he has shown no grasp of the issue of consent and as a result, we have no reassurance that he has, or is being, rehabilitated of his crime.

On this basis then, there is no evidence of – or reason to suppose – that any rehabilitation is occurring. How, then, might Evans be re-integrated in to society if we have no reassurance that recidivism will not occur in this case?

Reintegration. In theory at least, making sure that someone who has served a custodial sentence is able to acquire gainful employment is beneficial to society. And yet unemployment rates are high for ex-offenders, and as the campaign Ban the Box points out, the financial cost of that to society, especially given how positively it reduces re-offending rates, is high. But in Evans case, does that automatically mean re-joining the ranks of professional football? We know that football is not Evans only option – he learned new skills in prison, and could be gainfully re-employed with the assistance of his Father in Law.

However, reintegration is about more than just finding gainful employment: there is a wider issue of responsibility to the community. In the immediate aftermath of the initial guilty verdict, in the intervening years between Evans entering custodial custody and his release on license last October – Evans own family, fans and supporters have all engaged in the extreme bullying and doxxing of his victim resulting in 5 changes of identity and address. There are very serious concerns about the use of the campaign website for Evans – set up and paid for by Evans future Father in Law. As Jane Fae noted extensively last October, (and I strongly recommend those articles to you) the website has become ‘the principle vehicle’ for the bullying of the victim by Evans campaign. The concern about the effect of this website is serious – the victims father is waiting for the Attorney General to investigate material which contributes to what he calls ‘trial by website’: that it feeds a belief amongst supporters of Evans that his victim has potentially committed crimes even though she has engaged in no criminal behaviour.

I have noted Evans silence in respect of the bullying of his victim previously. Whilst the investigation by the Attorney General is ongoing, I will make no further comment about it.

In such a context, then, on what basis do we understand Evans to be ‘reintegrating’ back in to society?

What then is the basis for the assertion that Evans is ‘being’ rehabilitated? What evidence is there that, given the all of the above factors, returning to professional football would be the appropriate manner by which any rehabilitation could be continued or completed? Because if all of the above factors are to be considered acceptable, where does that leave our understanding of rehabilitation as a society?

And if all of the above factors are to ignored – do we even have any reassurance that our society is able to offer rehabilitation to those who want it?

 

 

Of course those who support Evans return to professional football because this alone somehow evidences rehabilitation, will also tell you that none of the issues raised above count because Evans maintains his innocence and ‘has a right to do so’.

In which case, why are they even talking about rehabilitation when they don’t believe it is required?

 

 

 

An Open Letter to Ched Evans about your ‘Supporters’.

Dear Ched Evans:

It has been another week on social media of women being threatened with rape; another week of not being able to challenge the rape culture, of not being able to speak freely, without being verbally abused.  Supposed Sheffield United (TW) fans continue to use vile words to undermine any woman who dares speak out against rape.

Two weeks ago, the father of your victim had to speak out because your video plea to be allowed to ‘get on with your life’ and play football, along with the continued harassment of his daughter via social media which led to requiring to take on yet another identity, is having a devastating emotional impact on her. He is frightened for her, worried that she won’t get through this.

But still your supporters come at her.

We know (how could we not) that you claim to be innocent, that you claim that your victim consented – although you certainly never asked her if she wanted to have sex, or of she wanted to be filmed, and she was certainly in no position to answer the question even if you had.  Yet despite all your claims of innocence, you have stood silently by whilst your supporters have engaged in abusive, threatening behaviour, against your victim and a raft of women who have exercised their own right to free speech and dared to challenge such behaviour.

Even if you genuinely believe you are innocent, that is no longer the point: you have your family, a support group, solicitors, lawyers, private detectives and a future father-in-law bankrolling a campaign that has its own website.

What does your victim have? She had to be taken away from her family, her friends, her home town: she can no longer live under her own name: your campaign seems determined to grind her further down, perhaps in the hopes that she will break completely.

You want to get on with your life, you say, but you seem to want to do that at the expense of your victim. All that abuse, all that harassment from your fans: well, when you have such well oiled, well funded campaign machine, your silence about what your fans do makes you look like a bully – the worst kind of bully: the one that is behind the scenes getting other people to do his dirty work for him.

And every bully should be told to stop. Especially the ones pulling strings behind the scenes, especially the ones who stay silent whilst others do the bullying on his behalf.

In the context of what has – and is being done – to you victim, your pleas to be rehabilitated ring hollow; the site of your sorrowful face as you plead for another chance acts only to belittle the woman you raped and continue to victimise, through your campaign and your fans. Yes, a petition was launched against you: but what did you expect? That people would simply keep quiet in the face of all of that, and turn the other way whilst you continued on without a seeming care for any of that?

Whatever the outcome of your latest appeal, and whether or not Sheffield United decide to re-sign you: stop this.  Remember that your sentence is not yet done.

If you are serious about rehabilitation, about making amends, about taking responsibility and earning another chance – close the website, or ask those who fund it and run it to do so. Tell your supporters and fans to leave the victim alone. Tell your fans to stop threatening women just because they don’t like what we say.

If you have any shred of decency in you: put an end to it, now.

Sincerely,

ali

Update 21/12/2014: Hartlepool United’s new manager – Ronnie Moore – has expressed interest in signing Ched Evans, thereby unleashing fresh headlines and speculation which will undoubtedly cause further pain to the woman Ched Evans raped.  This is, simply, cruelty, justified by those who – like Moore – care only about the goals Evans might score, than any pain caused to his victim (and indeed, many rape victims who find these discussions, headlines and speculations immensely distressing).

So I posting this open letter again, and I would like to thank everyone who has shared this previously. Sometimes the only option is to stand up to the bully.

 

Dear William Hague: about that ‘Gender Justice’ T-Shirt… An Open Letter to @WilliamJHague

Dear Mr Hague

I was watching Channel 4 News the other night as I was eating my tea, and I was interested to see the coverage of your recent visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda with Angelia Jolie, part your commitment to make tackling war zone rape a G8 priority.

You know the figures better than I, I am sure. The 400,000 women and girls raped in Rwanda; the 200,000 in the Congo, 50,000 in Bosnia and 64,000 in Sierra Leone. On their own these figures fail to convey the horror, trauma, devastation and brutality of war zone rape or the generations of women for whom life is made a shattered, fragmented nightmare.

You’ve pledged money to this, which is brilliant, because money talks so I can be pretty confident that you are taking this seriously. That money, I know, will help those on the ground – including those who are doing what they can to help these women piece together their shattered lives.

I think it was when I saw you wearing the ‘Gender Justice’ t-shirt that I wondered if you might consider applying that same commitment to gender justice right here in the UK. 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).  It is, of course, a positive thing that the CPS are taking more of these cases seriously: in a culture where victims of rape and sexual assaults are so often blamed, the further CPS report on the rarity of false rape accusations I hope will go some way (as Keir Starmer said) to dispel the ‘damaging myths and stereotypes’ that make reporting rape so difficult for victims in this country.

Services here in the UK which support women and girls who have endured rape and domestic violence have, however, come under serious threat recently. Between 2010 and 2012, 31% of local government funding to VAWG services was cut – and when taken in the context of the overall local authority budget cuts of 27%, that’s staggering.  Womens Aid report turning away 230 women in 2011 due to lack of resources, and there is every indication that this number will increase.

Those few figures on their own do nothing to convey the reality on the ground for the women and girls affected: who, when at their most vulnerable, are left without the proper professional support they need to begin to heal from rape and violence.

It is impossible to convey to you what it feels like to be raped: to be so utterly invaded, to be abused in a way that so strips you of your value and identity. It is hard to describe what it is like to feel so isolated, and so ashamed. So I am not sure I can convey how important it is to have that help, and those services, there.

Gender justice is needed everywhere. It is needed here in the UK too.

Thank you for taking the time to read this Mr Hague.

Yours sincerely

Ali.