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“Probably Just” – a poem by Jane Atoms

Author:
selflove

Content note: Domestic violence, partner violence

My mother says, “I know you can do better”
But she probably just doesn’t like the way you look.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My sister says, “He wouldn’t be a responsible father”
But she probably just thinks you party too hard.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My grandma says, “Are you sure he’s the one?”
But she probably just thinks you’re too poor.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My best friend says, “You need to choose yourself first”
But she’s probably just jealous, and wishes you were hers.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

Your sister says, “Be careful with him”
But she probably just thinks her brother can do better.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

Your ex says, “Don’t believe him, he’ll cheat on you too”.
But she probably just hasn’t gotten over you leaving her for me.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My neighbor says, “Are you sure you’re safe?”
But she probably just doesn’t like to hear our kinky sex.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My therapist says, “It’s your childhood abandonment issues”
But she’s probably just projecting her own trauma.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My gynecologist says, “Reproductive choice is your right”
But she probably just thinks I’m too young to have children.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My boss says, “Is everything okay at home?”
But she probably just doesn’t want me to be late for work.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My doctor says, “It’s not love, it’s just oxytocin”
But she probably just doesn’t understand feelings.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My teacher says, “That doesn’t sound healthy”
But she’s probably just being overprotective as her job.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My landlord says, “Are you sure you want him here?”
But she’s probably just worried about the utility bill.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

The triage nurse says, “He’ll die of alcoholism soon”
But she’s probably just fear-mongering to make more money.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

The woman on the street says, “Is this guy bothering you?”
But she probably just doesn’t get that I said something wrong.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My old journals say, “Don’t fall into this again”
But I was probably just young and angry then.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My brain tells me, “This is harmful, it has to end”
But it’s probably more important to listen to my heart.
Because I love you, and I know you love me too.

My heart asks me, “Are you sure?”
And I realised that I haven’t asked myself…
Because I think I love you, but do you really love me too?

I thought, “I know what love looks like”
But it probably doesn’t look like this.
Because I love you, but I don’t think you do.

You say to me, “Fine, I’m leaving right now”
But it’s probably not going to work this time.
Because I’m onto you, and I think you know it too.

I used to say, “Please don’t go, I’m sorry”
Because it was probably just my fault
Because I loved you, and I thought you loved me too.

So today I say, “See ya later”
But it’s probably just “goodbye”.
Because I love me.

Head over to our Facebook and Twitter to get involved in a discussion about “Probably just”.

If you have been affected by domestic or sexual violence you can contact these organisations:

UK –

National domestic violence helpline

Women’s Aid

Refuge

Solace Women’s Aid

Rape Crisis

NHS

My Body Back

US –

The national domestic violence hotline

NCADV

Domestic Violence Resource Centre

H.E.L.P

Women Against Abuse

Government website

Domestic shelters

Election Reaction: Trumping Trump

Author:
trump_farage

Content Note: Rape, sexual violence, racism

It’s hard for us to have words for what’s happened in the US election. We’ve felt shocked, lost and broken, but we’re ready to fight. Here are some reactions to Trump’s win from the young women who write for us:

Amy, UK –

I was all set for election night to be one of my most positive university experiences. My university has an unusually high proportion of American students, and everyone at the election night party (with ‘democrafted’ decorations and balloons to pop as each state announced their results) was initially in very positive spirits. Obviously, this didn’t last. Being in the room with so many Americans who were disappointed, angry, even afraid as the results rolled in, made the reality of what this election result means hit even closer to home. Yet their engagement, passion and anger was infectious and inspiring. They are not taking this lying down. We should not take this lying down. By uniting and engaging against the fear mongering and hate fuelled environment likely to be perpetuated by the election result, we can feel less helpless and hopefully make a positive change.

Anna, UK –

Donald Trump is a racist rapist. He will not take responsibility for his actions and and now there is no court high enough that will bring about justice for his actions. This is an incredibly upsetting and triggering situation to have to come to terms with and I really hope that survivors of all kinds of violence, but especially sexual violence, are able to take care of themselves and each other. The only way I can really accept this is if I totally commit to my own survival and the survival of other survivors – nurturing and polishing my rage and self and taking direct and potentially violent action against Trump, but also against all men who violate people – all abusers and rapists. I refuse to let Trump’s election crush me, or you. We will rise.

Evangeline, US –

Coping with the election results has been difficult. It has been a process of self-care to recover from the literal shock of the results. As I am currently studying abroad, it has especially been a struggle to stomach the results so far from home; however, I have found solidarity with other Americans studying abroad with me and locals just as impacted by the results, showing what a truly global influence these results have. Above all, what makes me most heartbroken about the results is the hate — both through words and actions — and the fear, the feelings of unsafety that such hate produces. All I can fairly say at this point is that, no matter who is in office, at what speed, and in what way, I hope we can positively move forward.

 

Christiana, US –

Despite having a week to process this election it’s still hard. I woke up Wednesday and it took an hour to fully hit me, but when it did I couldn’t stop crying. I cried as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I cried as a woman, I cried as an aspiring ally to people of color and people of differing abilities. I cried for the numerous victims that had come forward and been completely ignored. I cried for our country. I still haven’t fully processed how to put all these emotions into words. I stood before my Introduction to Women’s Studies class speechless, trying to explain to them that despite it all we’d keep moving, that it would be okay. Yet student after student was still just in disbelief, shock, and fear. I want to believe everything will be okay, but I’m genuinely scared. I’m scared of the hate crimes that ensued after the election, I’m scared that my friends will be hurt, I’m scared for my personal safety when I’m out with my girlfriend will be at risk. I’m also angry. Angry, that I’m surrounded by people who voted for him, but still tell me that I’m important to them, angry at people who have wives and children and women in their lives that supposedly matter to them, angry at people who claim they’re not racist, but believe that supporting a racist candidate is okay. Mostly, I’m angry that the work I’ve dedicated my life to—sexual violence prevention is jeopardized. How do I look at victims and tell them that justice is possible, when our country’s highest elected official has been convicted of sexual assault multiple times and never served a day in jail?

The one bright light I have seen in all of this is the organizing. I’ve seen groups on college campuses and in the community coming together. Groups that have never interacted before. Intersectional feminism is happening right now! As Black Lives Matter, Indigenous Rights Groups, Feminist Groups, LGBTQ+ groups, etc. continue to merge it is creating a ripple effect and a roar so loud that even the White House will shake and we will move forward, but most importantly We. Will. Not. Go. Away!

Innocent until proven guilty? The case of Kesha

Author:
Kesha+Long+Hairstyles+Long+Wavy+Cut+f1mO2mWnoo6x

By Issy McConville

TW Over the last couple of days, the #FreedomForKesha hashtag has seen an outpouring of support for the singer, who is currently embroiled in a legal battle against her producer, Dr. Luke, on the grounds of sexual assault. However, it has been almost a full year since Kesha first brought the charges; a year which has seen her disappear from the public eye, whilst Dr. Luke continues to produce records, finding success with artists such as Usher and Nicki Minaj in the past year. Kesha also named Sony in the case, claiming the label knew of her abuse, but turned a blind eye for almost 10 years.

Sadly, at this point, it is likely that Kesha’s career will never recover, simply because she decided to speak out against her abuser, and about the industry which was implicit. The silencing of Kesha’s voice, and the destruction of her career, is a telling reflection of the inherent misogyny of the music industry, and of society as a whole.

Comment pieces about the case have continued to appear on my Facebook timeline. Scrolling through the comments section – I should perhaps have learned by now that this will be nothing but trouble – I happen upon comments such as ‘there is no detail of the supposed rape, just a load of feminist garbage’ and continued calls for Dr Luke to be, ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Yes, of course, innocent until proven guilty, this is a fundamental human right – but tends to be a luxury that is only afforded to the accused.

While Kesha’s career has ground to a halt, Dr. Luke is continuing to work. While Kesha’s claims are being cross examined by the public, and being blamed for crying wolf with a false accusation, Dr. Luke continues to dominate in the music industry with no retribution. And this is a pattern which is being replayed all over the world. According to statistics from RAINN (the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network, recorded here – https://rainn.org/get-information/statistics/reporting-rates) only around 2% of rape claims are proven to be false, and in fact, only a little more than 30% of rapes are ever reported to authorities. Dispute the accuracy of these figures all you want – there is a clear discrepancy between actual false rape claims and the amount that are derided as being such.

However, the ideology of victim blaming continues. We live in a world which shames a woman for daring to speak out against an abuser but makes excuses for the man until the very last minute. Just look at problematic photographer Terry Richardson. Countless models have made claims of sexual abuse and an abuse of his power, and yet he continues to work with the biggest celebrities and be popular in the public eye. We just aren’t interested in hearing about his misdemeanours, much like those of Dr. Luke. In this case, perhaps Dr. Luke is innocent. But, as he was also named as possibly being the abuser of Lady Gaga, perhaps not. Irregardless, Kesha’s experience is just one of countless similar stories that reveal the narrative of victim blaming that exists. Kesha may have sacrificed her career to name her abuser. And until we stop believing that every rape claim is false, we play into the hands of the abusers, and allow that 70% of rapes to still go unreported.

50 Shades of Abuse

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Before I start on why exactly it is that Fifty Shades of Grey is a sexualisation of an abusive relationship, I need to clarify something: I shouldn’t have to. The examples of abuse are abundantly clear, and I am continually dismayed by the sheer amount of people who see the trilogy, or the film, as sexy. I also find it offensive that the film was premiered on Valentine’s Day. This film has nothing to do with love, or healthy sex. It’s about a manipulative control freak who stalks a woman, then makes her sign a contract which gives him complete control over her life. I genuinely fear for the people who have missed all these signs, because it demonstrates how easy it is to miss obvious signs of an abusive relationship.

The story begins with Christian stalking Ana, travelling three hours from where he lives, to see her at work. He admits to having stalked her to find out where she works (sorry for the spoiler, it’s in the second book), then asks her out. When on their first date, Christian informs Ana that she can only call him “Mr. Grey” or “Sir” whereas he can call her “Ana”. Alarm bells should be ringing. Firstly, that’s an incredibly creepy thing to do on a first date, and secondly, he’s clearly trying to intimidate her and ensure he holds power over their relationship. He proceeds to tell her Ana that she “should find him intimidating”. This guy is not sexy, he’s creepy.

Sometime after this first date, Ana is out celebrating finishing college with her friends, something she is completely entitled to do. She pocket dials Christian by accident, and in classic Christian Grey style, he demands to know where she is and what she is doing. This is alarming, bearing in mind they had only been on one date at this point. Illegally, he traces her phone calls to find out where she is and goes to collect her. This is not romantic. She specifically told him not to, and hung up the phone because he was pestering her. Instead of taking her back to somewhere she would feel safe such as her house or a friend’s house, he takes her back to his hotel room, after she’s only met him twice. This relationship is not necessarily abusive yet, but the controlling behaviour of Christian forebodes the control he will force Ana later in the story.

The next morning, she awakes confused and asks if they slept together, having no recollection of how she got there. Christian tells her they didn’t sleep together, but also says “If you were mine, you wouldn’t have been able to sit down for weeks after the stunt you pulled last night”. By “stunt”Christian is referring to Ana going out with her friends and celebrating her success. I for one did not realise that drunken pocket dialling people was illegal or deserved punishment. What is illegal though is tracing someone’s calls and stalking them. It should also be clarified that at this point in the book, no mention of BDSM has been made, so this dialogue cannot be interpreted as anything but an open threat. By now, alarm bells should definitely be ringing.

Christian demands an unhealthy level of control over Ana. In chapter 10, Ana’s friend Jose calls, which Christian interprets as Ana cheating on him, telling her he “doesn’t like to share”. She’s not a possession, nor does she belong to anyone. Ana just so happened to be talking to a human who just so happened to have a penis. No person in a healthy relationship should demand that control. It’s all downhill from here.

Subsequently, Christian asks Ana to sign a contract to “stop all this”. When Ana asks what Christians means to stop by this contract, he replies “you defying me”. Forget his money or his looks for a moment and see what is actually happening here: A man is asking a woman to sign a contract which restricts all her freedom and makes her completely submissive to him. If you need any proof of this, in the contract, Ana is referred to as “the Submissive” and Christian, “the Dominant”. No loving, healthy relationship has one partner asking the other to sign a contract giving away complete control to the other. Nor is this BDSM. BDSM refers to control or dominant/submissive power roles exclusively in the bedroom and does not go further than their sex lives. This is not about BDSM, this is about control and abuse. One of the clauses in the contract which particularly infuriates me is Clause 9:

“…the Submissive is to serve and obey the Dominant in all things. Subject to the agreed terms, limitations and safety procedures set out in this contract or agreed additionally under clause 3 above she shall without query or hesitation offer the Dominant such pleasure as he may require and she shall accept without query or hesitation his training, guidance and discipline in whatever form it may take.”

Ana is being asked to sign a contract to establish herself as subservient to Christian, having to endure all sorts of abuse from him. Yes, she signs the contract having read it, but I think this is coerced consent. She says herself “He’s dangerous to my health, because I know I’m going to say yes. And a part of me doesn’t want to”. Fair enough, at this point she hasn’t said no to him directly. But also remember the controlling, intimidating tactics he’s used on her so far and consider whether she really had a choice. Later in the story, when Ana threatens to leave and go to Alaska, Christian tells her “Alaska is very cold and no place to run. I would find you. I can track your cell phone – remember?”. I don’t believe that Ana has any freedom to say no, and this unfortunately leads to Christian taking ultimate control of her body and raping her.

Christian turns up at Ana’s house unannounced and aggressively tries to seduce Ana. Ana clearly tells him that she doesn’t want sex, “’No, I protest, kicking him off”. However, Christian, having no respect for Ana’s wishes, replies “If you struggle, I’ll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you.” He then continues to have sex with her despite Ana clearly saying “no”. Despite the contractual agreement of consent, Ana says no, and Christian proceeding to have sex with her is indisputably rape. However, as Ana enjoys the sex, the reader and audience is supposed to ignore the fact that it is rape. E.L James seems to think that portraying a woman experience sexual gratification whilst playing a subservient role to a man is some kind of feminist empowering message.

All of this having been understood, I appreciate that this is a fictional story and I am not necessarily condemning the author or the production team for producing such a disgusting story line. However, I am appalled by the ridiculous response to it. Perhaps it’s a consequence of such a pornified and shallow culture, that we see a man abusing a woman, but are too distracted by his abdominal muscles to realise this is happening. Without the sex scenes which draw so many readers in, this is a story of an abusive man controlling and dominating a virginal, vulnerable woman.

50shades

“Can’t you take a compliment, love?”

Author:

By Lily Scott

tumblr_static_stopstreetharassment-2.jpg_1d861f354af6415a9deb4a71d549b387

As a shy, easily embarrassed child, I used to hate it when my parents got involved with situations in public. Whether it was an argument on the street or a shopkeeper facing an abusive customer, they would surely step forward and speak their mind, often trying to help the victim. My brother and I would step back, mortified as they raised their voices and onlookers stared.

My attitude changed when I was on a bus home with both parents and we witnessed a young woman being harassed a few seats in front of us. Sat next to my Dad, I could feel him tense. Quickly, he got up and walked towards the woman, asking her in a loud voice if she’d like to move seats and sit near us. The man, who was distressing her, turned around with a sharp look and asked my Dad to go away as it was none of his business and he wanted to talk to her. He was trying to touch the woman’s leg and was trapping her in the window seat, by leaning in very close. My Dad claimed that the woman was his friend and asked the man politely to move out of the way so she could get out. This clearly made the man angry as he stood up and tried to intimidate my Dad into moving away. The woman quickly climbed out and was able to get off the bus, with a smile of gratitude towards us. Although the woman had managed to escape, the man was angrier than ever and gestured to his friend to stand with him and face my Dad. He started shouting abuse – ‘Why would you ruin that for me?’, ‘What is your problem?’ By this point, my mum and I had got up and were trying to pull my Dad back to sit with us as we felt scared for his safety. The friend of the man fumbled around in his pocket and threatened that he had a knife. By this time, I was in tears. Other passengers were watching the incident, with puzzled expressions as if wondering why my Dad would go to such an effort to protect a stranger on a bus. Many shuffled away awkwardly, not daring to get involved. Thankfully, the two men jumped off the bus moments after their threat of violence and ran away, shouting abuse.

As a teenager, who has been catcalled, pestered and worse, I look back on this event and realise how proud I am that my dad stood up to that man when every other person on the bus looked away in embarrassment. Too often, women are ashamed, scared or too shaken up to report street harassment or stand up to the harasser and sadly, bystanders don’t often feel comfortable to intervene. Many women have said that harassers becoming aggressive upon rejection is very common. ‘Why can’t you take a compliment? You’re fat anyway’, ‘I’ll rape you…’, ‘Don’t be so frigid’ are just some of the responses that women have had when standing up for themselves. One woman writing on Everyday Sexism, described being ‘followed by a car of teenage boys who then tried to reverse into me when I wouldn’t talk to them’. Street harassment makes the victim feel paranoid, vulnerable and objectified. Instead of confronting it, many choose to keep walking, look at the floor and end the situation as quickly as possible. What is often forgotten, is that street harassment is a form of sexual assault. It is easy for a catcall to escalate to violence and rape – allowing this misogynistic culture to exist normalises sexual assault and makes a victim think twice about reporting it.

Having support from passers-by, knowing somebody is there who witnessed the harassment or even just an ‘are you okay?’ can help someone to feel safer and less alone. If you notice someone feeling vulnerable and uncomfortable, don’t walk past and pretend you haven’t seen it. Sometimes it is too dangerous to directly confront the harasser but it is always possible to notify others nearby or even call the police – sexual harassment is assault and no one should have to face it alone. You can make sure they don’t.

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