She Was Not Yours to Take: Why Money Doesn’t Buy Ched Evans a Conscience

“Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire, called conscience.” George Washington

Conscience: The inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct and motives, impelling one toward right actions – the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls and inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.

I was not surprised to learn that Ched Evans case has been referred to the Court of Appeal by the CCRC, despite originally being refused appeal twice in the months after being convicted of rape at Caernarfon Crown Court in April 2012.

I wasn’t surprised because what Ched Evans has access to is money – a very great deal of it, care of his future Father-in-Law Karl Massey. He is also a pampered young man with an inexhaustible ability to play the victim. Like many spoiled and pampered young men with too little discipline, and access to too much money (and the power that provides), he is someone who, thanks to Massey, can afford to buy expensive legal muscle and flex it to the fullest possible extent.

Leaving aside (for the moment) any discussion about consent within a legal context in this case, (and the appeal must be allowed to run its course) what we know about Evans behaviour that night is this:

  • Somewhere around 4am on the night of the rape, Clayton McDonald sent Evans a text to tell him “I’ve got a bird.”
  • After receiving the text, Evans and two friends went to the Premier Inn where McDonald and the victim were.
  • Evans approached the reception desk and obtained a room key after lying that he had booked the room for a friend who no longer needed it.
  • Evans friends stayed outside the hotel, looked through the bedroom window and filmed part of what happened.
  • Evans entered the room. I will not describe what occurred but at the time of writing this, Evans remains a convicted rapist.
  • Evans left the hotel via the emergency exit.

When Evans made his public statement  – following the remorseless hounding of his victim by supporters he tried to distance himself from – he framed this behaviour as infidelity. And yet nothing about his behaviour that night suggests that this was a man who believed himself to be conducting an ‘affair’, and whether it was behaviour that reflected a reasonable belief in consent will now, once again, be a matter for the Court of Appeal.

But his actions that night – and since – suggests a man who is happy to indulge in behaviour which at best can only be described as sleazy. Consider: at no time has Evans ever, in any way – either explicitly or implicitly – addressed the presence of his two friends that night who filmed either McDonald and/or Evans and the victim. There is no suggestion that she was ever made aware of that at the time, far less given the opportunity to agree to it.

Further: Evans has not at any time stated that his belief that he had consent was based on any form of communication – verbally or otherwise – from the victim. Therefore is the only communication, on which Evans bases his claim, the text sent to him by McDonald? A text from your mate that says ‘he’s got a bird’ is not consent from the victim.  Is it unreasonable to infer then that Evans believed that his friend had procured a woman for him, and that’s this was what he understand the text to mean?

And moreover: Despite claiming to be ‘sorry’ for the appalling impact of the events, and the brutal hunting of his victim, he has apparently done nothing to change the horrific way in which his ‘campaign’ website has determinedly sought to criminalise and undermine a young woman who has been robbed of her identity, her life and her family – and her dignity and peace of mind.

So far, the privilege Evans had as a footballer and the access to wealth and influence that obtained has bought Evans many things.  It has so far failed to by him a conscience.

 ****

Amendment:

“…Evans has not at any time stated that his belief that he had consent was based on any form of communication – verbally or otherwise – from the victim.”

I had spent more time on the ‘front sheet’ copy of the appeal transcript than on the full copy: Evans does, in fact, claim verbal consent from his victim, at the time of him entering the hotel room. And the timing of this is important because this raises further questions, which are deeply troubling.

There is still no indication that the victim gave consent to McDonald to send the text that brought Evans to that hotel room. So at the point at which Evans entered that hotel room, the victim was in the most vulnerable possible position: she is very likely incapacitated (and one jury and 2 appeal courts have decided that she was incapable of giving consent due to intoxication) – and she is in a room, naked, with 2 physically strong men. Even if she hadn’t been incapacitated through drink, she was in an immensely vulnerable position and I would consider it highly questionable that she would have had “..the freedom and capacity..” to make the choice to say no with any certainty of her safety.

So, just to recap: At the time of writing this, Ched Evans remains a convicted rapist.

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Between A Rock and a Hard Place 2: The Gendered Language of God – Speaking Into The Silenced Pain

Henry_Ossawa_Tanneran_Annunciation

“Or what woman having ten silver coins, is she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15: 8-10

God as Mother: She is revealed as such throughout both the Old and New Testament – Her Mother’s love is nurturing and guiding and She is tender in her ministrations as She feeds and comforts Her children. But Her love is not quiet or submissive; indeed it is a love that is roused to ferocious anger in defence of her children, and is as powerfully protective as Mother as it is as Father.

God is She and She is mighty, and she has laboured mightily indeed.

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So often, the mark of the abused is silence – silenced imposed, by the abuser; by a society structured to support the abuser, and by the secretive manner in which abuse is perpetrated. Silence is also internalized: when the abuser is the one with the power, the hope of being heard – of being believed – is as fragile as flame in the path of a tornado, and it is easy for the abuser to manipulate that.

Society enables those who abuse, not simply in upholding the patriarchal, colonial, binary structures which controls human beings and denies them autonomy and voice if they do not conform to the norms imposed. There is a powerful undercurrent of arrogance too: we mock cultures and religions that demand of victims that they produce witnesses to their abuse, because we know very well that it is the secret nature of abuse which protects the perpetrators – yet we too quickly dismiss those who speak up, claiming the word of the victim is not evidence enough.

We paint a picture of abusers as cartoon-like monsters, unable (or unwilling) to comprehend that they are ordinary people living otherwise ordinary lives: when these ordinary people are revealed, rationalisations and justifications then abound. Cloak upon cloak is layered over the abuser, silence upon silence is heaped upon the abused. The innocent become the accused, and myth takes the place of truth.

The Church, with its dominant structural patriarchy and language, repeatedly makes the same mistakes: the focus on the abuser and the lazy theologies fall prey to ‘we are all sinners’, giving rise to a culture that blames the victims because the abuser ‘couldn’t control’ themselves; over and over again, the abuse is minimised (or worse, swept under the carpet) as reputations are prioritised before the victims.

Justice, which should roll down like a river, is stoppered at its source, and the communities of those who are already the most vulnerable and marginalized are silenced by the deafness of those who have not ears to listen; their wounds are left untended and their tears left unheeded.

*********

Make no mistake – the inability of the Church to confront the systemic culture that leads to this debilitating and ever decreasing spiral will not, in and of itself, be solved simply by confronting the reality that God is revealed as Mother as well as Father. Culture and attitudes do not change over night.

But changing the language we use – the language of prayer, the liturgical language that dominates the rhythms of the daily life of the Church – will help to create a space in which both the silenced can speak and be heard, and the reflection and prayer can start to move and evolve thoughts and – by consequence – actions.

The voices of straight white men dominate in the Church – a Church which fails to recognise abuse, fails to stop it, fails to protect the abused – but succeeds in protecting the abuser.  But God is not only a straight white man.

God is the terrified child being abused, whose abuse is photographed for the gratification of others; God is the black transgender woman who was murdered for being black and transgender; God is the woman who shakes when you touch her, because her husband or father beat her all the time; God is that gender fluid, bi-sexual person who asks you to respect their pronouns, and are weary to the bone of the endless mocking they get for being themselves. God is the girl with the ‘troubled’ past who wasn’t believed when she said that ‘nice’ man was abusing her, whose past was measured against that ‘nice’ man and found her wanting.

We need a church where a victim can speak up and the church will say ‘I believe you’. We need a faith to which creates a space that will provide the abused and oppressed with the liberation and redemption promised to them. We need a church that remembers that Christ condemned those who abuse children. We need a church that remembers its calling is not to protect the powerful, but the weak.

We need a revolution.

Our Mother in Heaven

Hallowed be your name…..

When Kicking A Football Is More Important Than the Life of Girls: on @SunderlandAFC and Adam Johnson

Sunderland AFC
Sunderland AFC

On Saturday, footballer Adam Johnson will likely take to the football pitch with his Premier League team mates for their match against Stoke City. And this would not be unusual, except that Johnson has been charged with 3 counts of sexual activity with a minor and with 1 charge of grooming a minor.

It is impossible to comprehend the level of disrespect to the young girl – the child – Johnson is charged with abusing that this entails, but the message that Sunderland AFC are sending is clear: the word of a child holds no value and even less worth. Johnson is good at kicking a ball, and the trauma a girl might experience matters less than whether Johnson can put a ball in the back of the net, or help it to get there. Winning matters more than a girls life.

You would think that it could not be possible that in the 21st Century, a professional football club would consider that a young girl’s life would matter less than a game of football, and you might think such an accusation were harsh – after all they suspended him after his initial arrest in March, but when the did so they were facing two difficult matches and potentially a relegation battle.

Of course keeping Johnson playing matters more than a young girl. There seems little doubt that how the coming trial and Johnson’s continued public presence might impact on the alleged victim hasn’t even crossed the minds of Ellis Short and the management of Sunderland AFC.  But there is the wider issue.

The grooming of children and young girls for abuse is a terrifying reality for far too many, day in and day out: whether it be the young girls who – with their families – were disbelieved for years in Rochdale, or the gang of men recently found guilty of the most sickening grooming of young families and abuse of babies and small children,(CN), we hold the lives of children and young girls in little or no esteem. Victims of abuse up and down the country tomorrow will, as Johnson walks out on the pitch tomorrow, be told in no uncertain terms that nobody really, truly cares and that the privilege of a young white sportsman to ply his trade matters more than they do.

It is arguable whether this is less a problem within organised sport specifically than it is in society generally. But as the whistle blows at 15:00 tomorrow afternoon, it is certain that neither Johnson, Sunderland AFC or the fans will even be thinking about anything beyond whether or not a goal is scored.

There is a petition. Please consider signing it.

 

‘The Last Shall Be First’: Call Out Culture, Faith and Feminism

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I have been thinking, a lot, about ‘call out culture’ recently: as a Christian and a feminist, there is a tension that exists between challenging the entrenched norms that perpetuate oppression, and practising the grace and forgiveness I am called to. Criticism and self-reflection are vital tools when your conversation and activism is focussed on aspects of patriarchal and kyriarchal structures of hierarchy and power.  Often it means discussing complex and painful issues, and whilst challenging the entrenched myths and norms [both interior to, and exterior of the self] which perpetuate oppressions, how do we do that without falling to self-righteous finger pointing, or failing to speak up when justice demands it?

Critiques of call out culture can be nuanced, and reflective of the context in which our lives are lived – Flavia Dzodan’s essay on the subject for Tiger Beatdown 4 years ago remains one of the best on the issue: it is thought provoking, placing the era of blogging and social media in the context of the emergence of ‘reality show’ programming, examining the performativity of call outs and asking serious questions about what motivates people collectively and individually. (And if you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend that you do).

On the other end of the spectrum was the infamous Michelle Goldberg piece, which itself became a focus of ‘calling out’: it’s juxtaposition of ‘toxicity’ with black women and women of colour was indicative, not only of how white feminism can use words like ‘intersectional’ without a comprehensive understanding of the necessity of de-colonializing self, but how accurate Dzodan’s earlier piece had been. When call out’s are about performance in an era of Big Brother TV, magical intent and calcified liberal social politics, we act and react in the context of the cis-white-hetro-normative systems, losing sight of how other people are being subsumed in a society which forces us to clamber over one another in an un-winnable race to survive.

We cannot ignore the structural racism that exists around much of this conversation: black and women of colour – both trans and cis gendered – have faced appalling reactions from white feminists, recalling the days when Francis E Willard and other white suffragettes put white women’s votes above the lynching of black people, and the White British press tried to smear Ida B Wells.

What, then, are we ‘calling out’? Just sexism? Or are we asking not only others to look at their words and behaviour, but ourselves as well? As Dzodan’s piece challenges us – for whose benefit do we make these call out’s?

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I have been meditating on this in the context of how Jesus spoke about the last and the first – or those at the ‘bottom’ of the social heap, and those at the ‘top’ of it. In Matthew 20: 10 – 16 NRSV :

‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you.  Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 

Jesus topsy turvy kingdom has always profoundly spoken to me in my own calling of standing for and with the most marginalised : how God upends human systems of power and privilege, and puts the very least (in the eyes of the world) at the very top.

In the context of the work of feminism, I wondered, what might that look like?

Feminism has, through it’s many evolutions and theories, sought to challenge and dismantle the patriarchal and kyriarchal structures which diminish and oppress women in the many and varied ways which it exerts it’s oppression and rabid authority.  Feminism, whether driven by intellectual theory or grass roots activism, is built on ‘calling out’ the harmful and violent expressions of patriarchy. It might be street harassment, rape and intimate partner violence or equal pay; it might be purity culture, victim blaming, or challenging an on line article or news story.

Whatever it is, feminism is born of the need to ‘call out’ patriarchy: to challenge it, stand up to it, and to demand it relinquish its grip on society.

There are subtle ways in which patriarchy exerts itself, and how it does so has changed over time: this was brought in to stark relief to me recently during a conversation with a friend whom I have known for some years. It came up that – for her – the word ‘queer’ has incredibly negative connotations, but not because she is homophobic, quite the opposite. Having watched a close family member have to cope with what used to be called ‘queer bashing’, having loved and supported them unconditionally, her understanding of that word is within an abusive context.

Now, for myself and many others who identify as queer, the reclaiming that has occurred of that word is positive and life giving: but not for my friend. That word brings threats of danger and abuse to the family member she loves dearly. Two or three decades ago, being LGBT and hearing that word called out would have frozen you with fear down to your very marrow. (Actually, sometimes I am not sure that has changed so very much).

When she raised this with me, my first reaction could have been even more damaging – I could have simply told her not to be silly, that the word meant something positive now: but that would have been to erase her experience and that of her much loved gay family member who endured such horrible abuse.

In one simple sense, this is what it all comes down to: recognising the experience of another human being, acknowledging their own story and their own hurt and respecting that. Had I overlaid my own experience of that word on to her, I would have hurt her tremendously – but by stepping back, by hearing her without pre-conceptions, by simply saying ‘sorry’ for using that word (whatever my intention) our conversation (which could have been hurtful to both of us) was instead encouraging and uplifting for us both.

And we knew each other much better.

Suppose for a moment, that you are cis gender and a transgender woman is trying to explain to you why she feels erased by other women – what should your first reaction be, as a human being? To listen to her – or to ask her to put her own feelings aside and prioritise your feelings?

Perhaps you are white, and a black person or person of colour is trying to explain why something you did not acknowledge as racist or appropriative, is exactly that – what should your first reaction be, as a human being?

Perhaps you are straight, and a person who is gay or bi-sexual is trying to explain something about their experience of the world which you do not understand – what should your first reaction be, as a human being?

You might be a man, wondering if women are spending too much time complaining about how they are treated – but when so many are treated with violence, verbally, physically and emotionally, should that be your first reaction as a human being?

Now suppose you are a Christian too.

Is your first reaction to prioritise your idea’s and theology – or to put the last first, and the first last?

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.

 

 

 

 

Some Truths are Facts, And Some Facts are True. But The Earth Is Not Flat And Wishing Won’t Make It So.

Now, just curve it round a little this way...
Now, just curve it round a little this way…

Some truths are facts, certain as far as anything can be, supportable by empirical, statistical and observational evidence. Gravity, for example – the presence of oxygen and the process of osmosis. These are facts, which are true, and would be factually true with or without anyone believing it.

Of course some people will argue that the facts are different and provide other evidence – often terribly dubious in their origin and spun, nay twisted, like so much hot glass or woven sugar on a cake – in to something which looks like a fact, but isn’t.

Flat Earth believers, for example. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they believe that the earth is flat. Does it impact on the lives of the people we love and care about that they believe this? No, not really. It doesn’t stop them being kind to their neighbours (at least I would hope not), or paying their taxes. It’s a foolish myth, but not a dangerous one. It doesn’t perpetuate oppression to believe it, or make the lives of vulnerable people more difficult to share such a belief with others. They believe it to be true, and believe the evidence to be factual.

But some truths are not facts.

Some truths are personal – they might be an individuals lived experience of something that many others have not shared; a personal realisation or awakening, a message decoded through a dream which leads to a better understanding. These are not less true by being only personally true to one or a few people. Something does not have to be universally true to be valid. Much of human experience is like this: there are common themes and threads, and yet also distinctive incidents. Grief, for example. Most people have the experience of losing a friend or loved one, but every person experiences grief differently and may find that every experience of grief is different than before.

Some truths are real then, but not true for you – or me.

I am a Christian – this a personal truth, a fact about me, and an act of faith and hope. My personal truths inform me about the existence of God, facts inform me about the existence of Jesus. Faith teaches me that Jesus was the Divine Incarnate. I will share this belief, appropriately within the given conversation, and I will share this belief in how I behave – after all, I believe that God created us all in Her image and so, even when it might be hard to, I will try and find some way to reflect that.  No, I am not terribly holy: I am human and imperfect so sometimes I will lose patience, or feel less than charitable, or find that the kindest thing to do for myself is to walk away. And yes, I swear – sometimes a lot, especially if I shut my thumb in a car door, like I did last year.

And sometimes the most faithful and true thing I can do is not walk away but speak up: because sometimes a fact is a fact that is true – sometimes the Earth is not flat now matter how much you believe it to be.

Rape myths are ideas which are not based in empirical, statistical evidence. Rape myths are not based on facts. A myth is defined in the following manner:

An ancient story or set of stories. A commonly believed – but false – idea. A popular belief that is not true.

Rape myths fall under this descriptor: despite the statistical evidence which clearly shows that deliberate false claims of rape are in the tiny minority of cases, there are some who truly believe most claims are false. Despite the clear statistical and empirical evidence that the majority of those raped and abused are the victims of people known to them, there are still those who only believe it is real rape if the rapist is a stranger who drags his victims down a darkened alley. And whilst so much evidence proves otherwise, there are those who believe that rape is only violent if the rapist threatens his victim with a knife.

In other words, some people are like those who believe in a Flat Earth – they believe these things to be true, and some who believe it passionately will even have ‘evidence’ which looks factual, but is neither fact, or truth. And it doesn’t mean that those people can’t be kind to their dogs, or nice to their elderly neighbours, and you can’t make laws for the weird things that people think.

But we do have to consider how those beliefs impact on the most vulnerable group of people, in the context of what they think and believe: the rape victims. The ones who almost never see justice in the courts; the ones who probably will never report because they are terrified of never being believed; those whose voices are silenced by fear and the pervasive myths which, despite being wrong, heap further scars on already scarred and wounded hearts.

For those who bear that cross, for those who carry that burden, for those who are imprisoned in the fear that such harmful, dangerous and toxic myths perpetuate, voices must be raised and must be heard. Because one day, those who believe in those rape myths will be like those who believe in a Flat Earth: a harmless minority, with odd ideas that the rest of us don’t understand, but who will, by their diminishing, become harmless.

And that might not be a fact, yet – and it is certainly an article of faith. But it will be true, one day, because the earth is not flat and it never has been.

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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

 

#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.

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…

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