abuse, advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, strenght, Uncategorized

Being Victim and Being Brave

Yesterday, I opened Roxane Gay’s new edited collection, Not That Bad: Dispatches From Rape Culture, a selection of stories of abuse, harassment, trauma and surviving. I knew, given my history with rape and it’s structures, it would be no easy read.

The first three stories (introduction included) were visceral, troubling and unnerving. The fourth cut me to the quick:

“Sometimes people tell me that something bad happened to me, but I am brave and strong. I don’t want to be told that I am brave or strong. I am not right just because he was wrong. I don’t want to be made noble.
I want someone willing to watch me thrash and crumple because that, too, is the truth, and it needs a witness. “He broke me,” I say to a friend. “You’re not broken,” she whispers back. I turn my palms up, wishing I could show her the pieces.”

– “& the Truth is, I Have No Story,” Claire Schwartz

I cannot speak for how hard these words hit me: they collaborated with a truth inside me, a bothersome narrative which I find others reaffirming for me once they hear I was raped/assaulted.

It is the same mantra which they will tell countless others:

“You’re a survivor/Brave/Strong/Better/[Input inspirational comment here]”

And I do understand the impulse and the kindness which drives them to tell me and others these words. I also rail against them, because they erase the messy truth of the event, the negate the reality of rape and that to become a survivor in any way, one is first a victim.

That’s a denigrated word nowadays: victim. It’s frowned upon to see a someone, post-rape, as a victim:

“You’re a survivor”

But to be a survivor at all, one first needs to be a victim. Sometimes, after rape/harassment/assault, you need to be broken. You get to be torn apart and take the time necessary to re-piece parts of yourself together, however haphazardly. I needed time – a lot of it – to repair and recollect. I look back on that time, full of self-pity, loathing and anger, and know I was not the image of a survivor; I also know that I needed that time to find recovery and locate self-care in myself.

I recall one day at feminist event, one of my peers told us her story, told us her rape, I sympathized, felt an instinctual bond, a desire to protect. Another attendee interrupted her:

“Can I let you know, you are not a victim, you are a survivor”

I remember thinking: What is wrong with being a victim. Why is it so negated? So hated a term? Why do others feel the need to remove that identity from us?

Is it their own fear? Their own unwillingness to see the unjust realities of the world? An uneasiness over how easily rape can happen? Or is does it fall back on the old moniker: ‘everything happens for a reason’ so of course, you survived this and became better?

I cannot tell, I do not know the reason behind these platitudes; I do know their is nothing wrong with being a victim.

One cannot become a survivor without having first been a victim, and there is nothing wrong with that truth.

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feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, Ireland, misogyny, personal, politics, pro-choice, race, racism, rape, sexism, strenght, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Post-March Hope

There will be less political antagonism in this post than a sense of positivity and hope (I hope…).

The post-Women’s March euphoria is upon us, and I haven’t truly come down from that high. In the face of overwhelming intolerance and hate, and the knowledge of four (possibly though hopefully not more than four) years of threats and risky policy cuts, the Women’s March proved that when they go low, we go high.

Despite the sense of anger and fear which wrought it’s insemination following the Trump victory, the women and allies in Ireland took to the streets with a sense of courage, determination and hope in what they could achieve via resistance and solidarity.

For this gathering the political overtures of what could and is occurring across the pond largely mirrored the concerns facing the Irish constituency: a Trump government threatens to ban and limit abortion access to the same circumstances which Irish women suffer and which ignites the Repeal the Eight movement; Trump and co’s misogynistic and racist practices mimic much of the vitriol which grows in this post-Brexit atmosphere; Trump has been accused by no less than a dozen women of sexual assault and harassment, in 2015 approximately 16,375 incidents of domestic violence were disclosed (Women’s Aid, Ireland) how many more victims still suffer in silence is a testament to the fear which men like Donald Trump instill.

In the face of these facts and fears, the women and allies of Ireland gathered peacefully and hopefully, chanting slogans and bearing placards both hilarious and quieting. We cheered the sponsors and speakers of the event with gusto, we welcomed the challenge gravely and bravely, we sang as one that those sisters and allies in the USA and worldwide who needed our support could certainly rely and lean on us in the future.

Nasty women, bad hombres and the next generation of children who deserve better stood united in protesting the intolerance and hate which a Trump administration stands for. The accumulation of nearly 3 million protesters worldwide attested to the fact that so many liberal snowflakes would, indeed, make a significant avalanche.

 

advice, domestic violence, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, personal, postfeminism, rape, sexism, strenght, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

#WhenIWas

Laura Bates’ phenomenal and eye-opening Everyday Sexism Project first hit the web in 2012 as a new kind of digital-based consciousness raising project, where women were actively encouraged to discuss and analyze their own experiences with sexism and misogyny.

 

Starting the website, Bates’ original hope was to acquire at least 100 stories but quickly became an international forum for women’s rights, their experiences of oppression and violence and the institutions and practices which hindered them.. Bates’ project, at its inception, was a basic website which quickly developed multiple language forums, 140 character replies on Twitter, and culminated in a paperback in 2014. Bates’ project has even been actively utilized by governments, politicians and policy-makers to improve the conditions of sexism and misogyny prevalent still in our society.

Everyday-sexism

Today, Bates is proving her project remains as relevant as ever with the trending hashtag #WhenIWas.

This new take on the Everyday Sexism Project actively requires women to look back on their own his(her)story, review their experiences, and question the lessons learned during their formative years and beyond. Like the Consciousness Raising sessions of our feminism forebearers, Bates’ new campaign motivates women to openly and unabashedly declare their wounds, their humiliations, their anger at the patriarchal imperatives encroached upon them; and the women are taking this up with reckless abandonment.

What’s more, many of the tweets currently dominating this hashtag honestly and courageously admit to experiences of emotional and sexual abuse, rape, and gender-based violence. At a time when the threat of rape and domestic abuse is of critical importance – specifically owing to the worryingly small rate of reporting to police and shortage of support services – this hashtag couldn’t be more timely or relevant.

For many of the women utilizing the #WhenIWas trend, this experiences are months, years, perhaps decades old – or, perhaps they are merely weeks, days, or hours old -, regardless, they are the truths which women have struggled with for years. They are the small humiliations of a neighbour staring at your legs which left you fearful – the threat of the figure following you down the road one night – the memory of hands touching you without consent – the loud voice declaring your sexual proclivity to the street – the feeling of complete and utter loneliness and inequity.

So, I implore all of you today and in the near future -if you don’t feel the desire to submit your own #WhenIWas confession – like, reblog, retweet and applaud the survivors and show them that loneliness and inequity are slowly (but, I hope, surely) becoming things of the past that we can one day include in the #WhenIWas trend.

 

advice, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, rape, sexism, strenght, violence, Violence Against Women, women

Gaga Politics: Lady Gaga’s AntiRape Activism and”Til It Happens To You”

“The following contains graphic content that may be emotionally unsettling but reflects the reality of what is happening daily on college campuses

“Til It Happens To You” Lady Gaga

 

To say Lady Gaga is a controversial persona might be a moot point at this stage. Certainly, many revile her many ostentatious looks as “over the top” and her celebrity persona as “attention seeking” based merely on image; but then there are her many droves of fans, her so called “Monsters” who adore these exact traits.

For me, there is nothing so important in the Cult of Gaga as her politics. Unlike many pop stars and celebrity personas with mass followings, one cannot accuse Gaga or shying away from the societal and political issues which affect – not only her – but her fanbase and her peers.

Indeed, Gaga is a well known supporter of the LGBTIA+ Community: her hit anthem “Born This Way” and her own queer activism are proof of this. She actively defends herself as a “bisexual” women – a sexual identity highly contested on grounds of (I am paraphrasing from a selection of argument I have had) “selfishness” and “attention seeking”- drawing attention to the difficulties and controversies currently surrounding claims to sexual identities and preferences facing those who put the B in LGBTIA+.

More recently, however, Gaga has loaned her celebrity status and her vocals to an equally significant issue: Rape.

In the last year, Gaga has emerged at the head of a vanguard against rape in America. Her haunting and emotional tribute to survivors and victims of sexual abuse, “Till It Happens To You” closes the recent documentary on campus rape “The Hunting Ground” and has come to openly identify herself as a survivor of rape, describing her own traumatic and emotional experiences and advocating as a survivor for an end to the rape culture which plagues college campuses and countless men and women.

 

Most recently, on Sunday night, Gaga invited and stood with a dozen or so survivors of sexual abuse and rape having just performed “Til It Happens To You”. The survivors – men and women; white and black – and Gaga raised their clasped hands to thunderous applause,  both audience and performers in tears in this moment of solidarity against the rape epidemic.

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Gaga dedicated the performance, earlier that night via her Twitter, to Kesha Rose – who was recently denied an appeal to break her Sony contract with her alleged rapist Dr Luke

I’ll be thinking of u 2nite. This is not over we’ll stand by u until you are free to live a HAPPY life. Everyone deserves that.

Gaga went on to reveal her gratitude to these survivors and to celebrate their stories and their bravery via Instagram, in an image which, contrasting their grim faced sobriety during their performance, displays their joy and euphoria in their solidarity.

Thank you for standing next to me on stage. Thank you for all the things you said, for listening to my story and sharing yours. I will never forget it. 50 survivors, so brave, relentless determination.

The music video itself is a shocking narrative not only of the rape of different women and the aftermath of their attempted recoveries – but is itself an examination of gender and sexual identity. One of the narratives reveals a young woman binding her breasts – an act which implies her transsexual identity while her subsequent rape can be read as a “punishment” for her identity. The two other primary narratives of the music video, simultaneously, depict the horrors of acquaintance rape – where a seemingly friendly encounter becomes a violent act – and the drugging of two Asian women at a house party which follows with one of the women fighting off her attacker and then aiding her worse-off friend. 

These emotional and, for many of us, all too real narratives take up only two minutes of the 5 minute 25 second video.

What follows is a depiction of the aftermath, when the trauma truly shows. The survivors are depicted with their inner most thoughts tattooed on their very bodies – the instruments of their assaults – from “I am Worthless” to “sometimes I hate myself” and all the thoughts which come with survival and the one hope so many women have following sexual assaults:

“Believe Me”

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And while these three women among others are depicted walking away from their narratives of abuse with those who believe and support them, their is one woman left in the end. A silhouette of the next victim of the rape epidemic infecting college campuses.

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The ultimate message of Gaga’s song is the simplest expression most rape survivors have: “believe me.” And with so many victims of abuse accused of being willing participants, of being too drunk, too naive, too provocative, this statement simplistically describes how many victims feels they will be treated following such traumatic experiences.

attack, feminism, feminist, GBV, gender, misogyny, race, racism, rape, sexism, Uncategorized, violence, Violence Against Women, women

A New Year’s To Remember in Cologne, Germany

It’s more than a little shocking – moreover it’s absolutely appalling and disgusting – that in our ever shrinking world (where we can contact the other side of the world via word, photograph or video within seconds) that the news of MASS SCALE SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON WOMEN only begins to gain attention after a week of silence.

The New Year went off with more than bang when mobs of men in city Cologne, Hamburg, and Stuttgart in Germany turned violent and angry. Reports reveal that fireworks were thrown into crowds and the police claimed to have felt notably intimidated by the angry crowds. The final results were worse, with over 100 women assaulted  by the mob: many reported being groped and verbally insulted, some where even raped by men in the crowd.

Little has been done in the way of appeasing or supporting these women’s fight for justice – news is only now breaking of the mass scale of the assaults and the horrid nature of what seems an almost systemic attack on women in these cities. Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker has disappointed the public, with her response seemingly admonishing the women for being out in the first place – she has advised women to travel in group and keep an arms length between themselves and men, she has even promised to publish a set of guidelines, her “code of conduct”,  advising and preparing women, how kind of her. Furthermore, the Cologne Police Chief has been removed from his post following weak responses, both during and after the events (no one has yet been arrested despite the public and mass nature of the assaults) and after allegations that the scale and nature of the event was being covered up within the police force.

The nature of these attacks rest on the crux of a very volatile social issue currently shaking Europe: that of Syrian refugees and the immigrant crisis. Germany, crucially, has been both applauded and criticised for welcoming scores of Syrian migrants into the country and it is these people who are largely being held accountable for these attacks.

The facts and as we know them are as follows and are updated with some common sense knowledge:

  1. Mobs of men (over 1000 in Cologne) are reported to have sexually assaulted a number of women on New Years Eve 2016.
  2. These men are reported to have been of Arab and African descent – just to be clear, this is what is being stated in many newspapers at the moment, if the crowd is as large as stated (over 1000 men) not all could be so clearly identified, some may have been white, Asian, Mexican, or even – shockingly – German.
  3. No arrests have yet been made.
  4. No political, ethnic, social or racial group has taken responsibility for the attacks.
  5. Several reports are stating that Syrian men were boasting of their new reputations in Germany to police – this, obviously, does not necessarily mean these men were actually Syrian.

Finally and most crucially:

What is going to come across most as this event gains more media attention is the racial crux. What the media and subsequently the people will discuss and condemn will be the Syrian men who commited this act. This is not a racial issue; this is an act of gender based violence. This is an act of misogyny in its most volatile form. This is the physical form of sexism at its most extreme.

The problem with what happened in Cologne was little to do with race and everything to do with gender; the perpetrators of this crime were men. In over 95 per cent of cases regarding rape, sexual assault and sexual harassment and intimidation, the perpetrators are men.

Rebecca Solnit, in her illuminating essay “The Longest War” states:

We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human right’s issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.  (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2013/01/24/longest-war-one-against-women)

 

That gender is, unfortunately, male. Solnit apologetically continues by stating that of course not all men are violent (thank God); but violence is often perpetrated by men.

That is why what needs to be focused on following these large scale events is not the Syrian or migrant elements of the attacks – of course, should any Syrian men be found responsible and guilty of these crimes they should rightly be punished – but should concentrate on the fact that of the 1000 people committing these attacks there is one definite determining factor which binds them: they are all men.

………………………………………………………………………………………….

We all know what New Years Eve is about. We all know why we join with our loved ones and celebrate – boisterously, sanguinely, or quietly. We do it to ring in a not only a New Year, but a new opportunity, another 12 months. We do so with optimism and hope and sometimes alcohol.

We have insurmountable expectations for the year to come; but for the women of Cologne this was not the expectation. None of those women expected or deserved this to happen.

 

 

advice, domestic violence, feminism, feminist, GBV, misogyny, sexism, shooting, Uncategorized, violence

Why #HerNameWasReeva is Important

Today marks a day of justice for Reeva Steenkamp. Murdered by her now infamous partner and former Olympian Oscar Pistorius in 2013, she and her family can finally attempt to find some sort of peace.

Pistorius was infamously charged with manslaughter, despite having fired four rounds into a locked bathroom door; he claimed to believe an intruder was in the room. Regardless, and as the judge rightly concluded, the intent could not have been different. Four rounds into a small, locked space.  Reeva Steenkamp had little chance.

After being released and confined in his home following only a year of his then five year sentence, Pistorius has finally been sentenced to murder by the South African Court of Appeal’s Judge Leach.

Judge Leach argued:

As a matter of common sense at the time the fatal shots were fired, the possibility of the death of the person behind the door was clearly an obvious result. And in firing not one but four shots, such a result became even more likely.

Judge Leach stated that the identity of the person behind the door was irrelevant to Pistorius’ guilt for the crime.

But the person behind the door was Reeva Steenkamp and on Twitter the hashtag #HerNameWasReeva is once again making the rounds. But what is trending is #OscarPistorius. Many times over the past two years I have heard people debate his guilt or innocence, argue the case, know his name without pause or thought. Many people do not even know his victims first name.

Today, we need to honour Reeva Steenkamp. Today, her name should be trending. Her story should be heard. Her memory honoured.

As is the case with all gender based violence, domestic violence, all abuse: the victim often goes forgotten. It is a pattern in our society to let the victim become silent.

By speaking her name we challenge that silence. We challenge the institutions and patterns which encourage and permit the continuation of gender based violence and abuse.

Today #ReevaIsHerName and tomorrow it will be another woman’s name.

Do not forget the victims.