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Gender-based Violence

We must never look the other way

Author:
Sexual-assault-is-everyones-problem (1)

By Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Sexual assault, violence against women and girls

People often look out of the window to avoid the problems sat right in front of them. When there is something in need of addressing, we tend to plunge into an irrelevant stream of thought in order to dismiss the matters at hand. Society has reached a point where it would rather silence the oppressed than cut down the roots of the oppressors. Or, injustices are ignored completely.

Ignorance, of course, feels infinitely more comfortable than protest. However, within those reactionary walls of ignorance and comfort, we are only incubating inequality. We are creating conditions in which true change can never occur.

In the past few weeks, the issue of widescale sexual harassment has come to public attention. One high-profile case (the sexual assaults carried out by film producer Harvey Weinstein) has led to many more people speaking out about their own experiences. The accounts were both harrowing and inspiring to read. On the one hand, I was saddened to be reminded that patriarchal power structures still exist that allow this kind of abuse to happen so easily. At the same time, listening to these immensely brave people speak so openly about their trauma was sobering indeed.

Initially, it seemed as though everyone’s stories were taken seriously. There was active effort to make people feel comfortable enough to share. Reading Lea Seydoux’s distressing retelling of her encounters with Weinstein highlighted a sad truth: so many women are made to feel vulnerable, and there are malicious, exploitative men who are eager to capitalise on that vulnerability. The upside that manifested out of these heart-breaking stories was the fact that a discussion had now begun. For a brief moment, I allowed myself to believe that the days of sexual assault being something to hide or keep to oneself were nearly over.

My optimism was ruined very quickly. I had the displeasure of catching a short glimpse of a popular UK panel show – Have I Got News For You. A panel of incredibly privileged men were openly laughing and making light of sexual assault cases. The only female panellist, Jo Brand, was left to defend the seriousness of the situation. Ian Hislop (editor of popular UK political publication Private Eye) made a patronising comment regarding sexual harassment – ‘Some of this is not high level crime, is it?’ – and Jo quipped back: “If I can just say, as the only representative of the female gender here today… I know it’s not high level, but it doesn’t have to be high level for women to feel under siege… And actually, for women, if you’re constantly being harassed, even in a small way, that builds up and it wears you down.”

I admired Jo’s boldness and the accuracy of her comment. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed and disheartened by the fact she had to intercept in the first place. The fact that a group of adult men had failed to understand the severity of sexual harassment on any scale was demoralising. I had thought the entertainment world was making significant progress toward recognising the abuses of power happening behind its closed doors. This seemed like a tragic step back – to have comedians deriding the struggles of women who had been maltreated and exploited. I was outraged.

It may appear like a small issue – a group of men laughing – but the problem runs deeper. A society that can laugh at women speaking out about their discomfort is a society that promotes their oppression. If a panel of comedians can joke about cases of sexual assault, then anybody watching the show at home who may have been a victim in the past will no doubt feel reluctant to speak out and seek help. It’s a violent cycle that needs to end immediately. I wish for all future cases of sexual assault to be treated with the utmost humanity and integrity. No matter the scale. I never want to see a panel of grown men make snide comments about the suffering of women again.

Toxic masculinity fuels this kind of childish, unwarranted behaviour. It is also the reason why so many male victims of sexual assault are made to feel like they shouldn’t speak out. An inundation of groundless patriarchal ideals tells them they should remain quiet. Women are certainly not the only victims of sexual assault to be recognised recently. Actor Anthony Rapp told how Kevin Spacey made sexual advances towards him when he was only 14 years old. This is horrifying to imagine and Rapp’s courage is admirable. The masculine ideals that lead to a culture of shame surrounding male rape and assault need to be fully dismantled.

Obviously, this is not just an issue occurring in Hollywood. Sexual assault happens everywhere. There is a worry that the current discussion ignores issues outside of Hollywood and parliament. Because those who have come forward are privileged in terms of class and wealth, it is essential that people from less privileged backgrounds are not left behind. Many women’s organisations are closing or facing the possibility of closure due to austerity measures. People who rely on these kinds of centres do not have the same platform as multi award-winning celebrities to voice their experiences and gain mass support. They do not have that privilege. Minority groups and working classes cannot be left by the wayside. Patriarchy can’t only cause outrage when it’s happening in The Weinstein Company, it has to cause outrage when it’s happening in the local pub or on the street corner as well.

An end must come to the atmosphere of terror we live in, an atmosphere that means women fear being seen or noticed in case that means being hurt. It is not appropriate to deride anybody with the courage to come forward. Nobody should ever feel embarrassed or ashamed about what has happened to them. Right now there is a real chance for change. Everyone has a responsibility toward each other; we must listen and give support… we should never look the other way again.
Help Line Numbers and Sites Available for Support (UK) –

Help after a sexual assault or rape – https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealth/Pages/Sexualassault.aspx

Find a Rape/Sexual Assault referral centre-
https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Rape%20and%20sexual%20assault%20referral%20centres/LocationSearch/364

NSPCC Helpline: 0808 800 5000 (24 hours, every day)

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/grooming/

Rape Crisis-

Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2:30 and 7-9:30)

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

Support for Victims-

Victim Support Supportline: 0808 168 9111

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-and-sexual-assault
RASAC (Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre) National Helpline: 0808 802 9999 (12-2.30 & 7-9.30)
http://www.rasasc.org.uk/
The Survivors Trust Helpline: 0808 801 0818

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/
Help Line Numbers and Sites Available for Support (US) –

Help after a sexual assault or rape –

https://www.rainn.org/get-help

RAINN Helpline: 800.656.HOPE (4673), open 24/7

https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline

Sexual assault helpline – 1800 010 120

http://www.dvconnect.org/sexual-assault-helpline-2/

Abbatoir Floor

Author:
Photo by Kaylen Forsyth

A poem by Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Violent and sexist language, gender based violence and harassment

my name changes from BABY to HONEY,
NEARLY DRUNK ENOUGH, DARLING to BITCH.

i always thought i’d love the first boy to talk in poetry,
but i craved metaphors of moonlight, not war-talk and violence:
BANG, SCREW, NAIL, DESTROY.
“i like this song, do you?”
“i prefer the original,”
and you’d think i’d said something funny;
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp-

i have an opinion, i exist outside of this room,
i exist as a person- when i’m not just a nail
to be banged, to be screwed.
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp- but do you know what’s harder?

watching a girl even younger than myself
with a man twice her age on the abattoir floor.
she’s probably the girl of his dreams
or close to it-
the youngest he won’t be sent down for,
and he grabs at her throat like he’d tear at a steak;
he decides if she’s raw,
if she’s burnt,
if she’s bloody.
“keep your eyes off those boys,
you dirty, little slut!”

he has reigns on her conversations,
her body, her beauty.
and when i check on her later
she’s smiling so wide,
calls the finger-shaped bruises on her neck pretty pearls-
“why should I be afraid? it was just like a movie.”

Why We Need The Istanbul Convention

Author:
istanbul-petition

By Anna Hill

Trigger Warning: sexual violence

The Istanbul Convention is a document that sets out a legal framework to tackling violence against women and girls. It sets minimum standards for the government to meet when tackling this issue and will ensure that governments prevent violence, protect those that experience or could experience that violence and prosecute perpetrators. Many countries have ratified [i.e. accepted into law] the convention already such as: Denmark, France, Italy, Serbia, Spain, Turkey and Albania. To read more check out this page.

I asked fellow PBG writers why we need the Istanbul Convention so badly:

We need the Istanbul Convention because we are simply not doing enough to protect victims of sexual violence, educate the general public on this issue, and punish the perpetrators of such acts. I support the ratification of the Istanbul Convention because as a survivor of child molestation I need support and security I need the assurance that there will be less people like me – less people who suffer from flashbacks and panic attacks due to those events and whose lives are affected by the violence they have faced. – Anon

I could list off a lot of statistics about gender based violence. The fact that 1 in 5 women in the UK will experience sexual assault in her lifetime; that over 20,000 girls under 15 are at risk of female genital mutilation each year; that one incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute. I could tell you that 1 in 3 school girls experience unwanted sexual touching; that 85,000 women are raped each year; and that 2 women a week in the UK alone are killed by a current or former partner. The numbers are shocking, and they’re a big part of the reason why we need the Istanbul Convention. But these are not just numbers- behind every number is a person. That Some of these people are people I love, people you love. One of those people is me and it might be you. The fact is that I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t know someone who has suffered from gender-based violence, or is a survivor of it themselves. We need to do something about this. This is why we need the Istanbul Convention. – Yas

The Istanbul Convention was signed by the UK government on 8 June 2012. Since then, the government has supposedly taken steps to facilitate the ratification of the Convention – such as creating legislation on forced marriage and FGM – yet continues to stall fully ratifying the Convention into UK law. Why is the government hesitating in creating a safer country for women across the UK? Every 30 seconds, the police receive a call related to domestic violence. Each year, up to 3 million women experience violence in the UK. In ratifying the Istanbul Convention, the government would be committing to implementing measures to ensure that the UK is a safe place for women. The measures within the Istanbul Convention form a structure under which violence against women would be prevented and women and girls would be protected, with prosecution of violence. It would implement safe spaces and refuges for survivors, allowing women to thrive rather than live in fear. Ratifying the Istanbul Convention in the UK is long overdue – countries such as Italy, Spain and France have already ratified the Convention. We all have the right to a life free of violence and fear. The Istanbul Convention facilitates the measures necessary for this, and its time the UK government responded to its commitment to ratify this. – Amy
Check out the petition, website and twitter for more info and ways to get involved!

Sexual Violence in Advertising

Author:

By Elli Wilson

Trigger Warning

Another day, another dozen stories about violence against women and girls. Often complete with sensationalised headline and a hyper-sexualised photo of an objectified female body. The forms this violence takes are myriad – sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, FGM, childhood sexual abuse, ‘honour’ crimes – but it is all rooted in a deep societal misogyny that people are loathe to confront on an individual and an institutional level. For myself, and countless others, these stories are not just statistics or isolated incidents that can be forgotten by turning the page and shrugging off the uncomfortable thoughts that they provoke. This is our lived experience. It’s the guy groping you in a club, or harassing you when you dare to go out and be a woman in public. It’s the boyfriend who doesn’t think no means no, and the pupils at your school who shove their hands down your tights and then laugh.

And then suddenly it’s the advert making a joke of the sexual violence that you have suffered. Whether it is the coffee company using groping to sell their product or the female model surrounded by men in what looks suspiciously like a ‘fashionable’ gang rape, for a survivor of sexual violence, it is repulsive to see it used as a tool to maximise profit. This is capitalist misogyny at its extreme; women’s bodies are used to sell products and so is their abuse. This is what rape culture looks like and it has got to stop.

coffee

 

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