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Sexual Violence

What the Torah says about sexual assault

Author:
Screen Shot 2018-09-07 at 07.50.58

By Sofia Heller

Content Note: Sexual assault, sexual violence, rape

“Dustin Hoffman accused of sexual assault.” “Mario Batali Tells Fans: Sorry for the Sexual Assault, Here’s a Cinnamon Roll Recipe.” “More Women Accuse Russell Simmons Of Rape, Sexual Assault.” “California Democratic Party official resigns after rape, misconduct allegations.” “Former Intern Accuses Wyoming’s Secretary of State of Sexual Assault.” “Houston firefighter arrested for sexual assault of teen.” “No charges for alleged sexual assault at Kansas basketball dorm.”

These headlines are only a few in the recent surge of coverage about sexual violence. The avalanche of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape allegations over the past few months – catalysed by the sexual harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein – make it clear that sexual violence is a problem deeply embedded in our society; it even finds credence in Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah.

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says, “If a man comes upon a virgin who is not engaged and he seizes her and lies with her, and they are discovered, the man who lay with her shall pay the girl’s father fifty [shekels of] silver, and she shall be his wife. Because he has violated her, he can never have the right to divorce her.”

In other words, the Torah determines that a rapist must marry his victim, thus framing it as punishment for the rapist. The wording in the last sentence – “he can never have the right to divorce her” – makes it seem like we’re supposed to feel bad that the rapist is trapped in this marriage. No part of this passage recognises that the person truly being punished in this type of arrangement is the victim – a disturbing example of the Torah’s patriarchal views and authorship.

If the Torah had been written by women, I’m pretty certain that marriage between a rapist and victim wouldn’t be conveyed as punishment for the rapist, and this type of “punishment” probably wouldn’t have appeared at all. The text, as it is written, completely erases the woman’s victimhood and trauma, and, while framing it as a punishment, actually gives all of the power and privilege to the rapist. To add insult to injury, the text makes it seem like the woman benefits from this type of arrangement, when in reality, we know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

This text illustrates the great importance of being aware of who has a voice and who doesn’t; who gets to tell stories, and who isn’t given a voice. The recent flood of sexual violence allegations as well as the #MeToo movement represent women seizing control of the narrative, and that’s extremely significant. However, there remain those voices that sympathise with the predators because of how they’re being punished, just as the Torah does, when it’s the survivors who should finally be receiving the sympathy and support they deserve.

In the aforementioned headlines, there’s an emphasis on men in positions of power who have taken advantage of women beneath them in rank. These men seem to feel that they are invincible, and they have a basis for feeling so entitled. Companies and even whole industries often work to protect men who have been accused of sexual violence. Women are intimidated or threatened into staying quiet. We see this in the Torah as well. After all, since women are forced to marry their rapists, staying silent is theoretically a way to avoid that fate.

While these past few months are not, by any means, the first time women have come forward to speak out against their attackers, hopefully the mass media attention and the actual punishments we’re starting to see represent a positive shift in our society – a shift away from the type of male privilege we see in the Torah, privilege born of a patriarchal system that’s intentionally designed to benefit men and oppress women. These allegations, and subsequent repercussions, serve as a new message that sexual violence will no longer be tolerated and that sexual predators will no longer be protected.

This content has been provided by the Jewish Women’s Archive

The allegory behind Black Mirror’s “USS Callister”

Author:
black_mirror_uss

By Stephanie Wang

WARNING: the below includes major plot spoilers for season 4 episode 1 of Black Mirror, “USS Callister”

Content note: Sexual violence, control

At first glance, “USS Callister” seemingly features some odd Star Trek-adjacent fantasy of a genius programmer, Robert Daly. And at first, viewers tend to sympathise with him – he’s clearly shy and used to being manipulated and walked all over by his co-workers at the company he co-founded. Despite coming up with the idea and code for the popular virtual reality game, Infinity, he receives little of the credit as the spotlight falls to James Walton, a man much more charismatic and likeable, but with no real knowledge of the technical side of the company.

While all the other workers treat Daly with as little respect as possible, the new hire Nanette treats him with the utmost respect, idolising his code and recognising him as the one who actually coded for Infinity. After being given even the slightest attention, Daly begins to stare at Nanette constantly during work, even eavesdropping on her conversations with other workers – basically, he’s giving off major stalker vibes.

And then, he digs through her trash and obtains a coffee cup and it’s revealed that with this DNA, he’s able to essentially create a digital clone of her. It turns out that this Star Trek-adjacent fantasy is not so fantastical – instead it features cloned copies of co-workers. These individuals still have the same personality and memories of their lives in the real world but are stuck on this ship, USS Callister, for Daly to control in the form of a modded Infinity game that looks like Daly’s favourite TV show.

In this game, he’s the one in charge and the one responsible for keeping peace in the galaxy, tracking down villains. On this ship, Daly can do whatever he’s too scared and timid to do in real life – whether that’s kissing the female members on his ship, choking or otherwise abusing everyone, or turning anyone on the ship who even slightly questions his leadership into a monster.

And it turns out, the smallest thing done in the office could land a worker into his controlling playground – whether it’s “insufficient smiling,” calling him out for “staring” at employees, or bringing him the wrong sandwich.

In these ways, “USS Callister” can be seen as a type of allegory for the abuses of power taken by the men in leadership roles in big tech companies. It’s no secret that in many of the big Silicon Valley companies, there’s a culture of harassment and sexual misconduct that’s often just pushed under the rug by the companies. In many cases, these perpetrators are never brought to justice as there’s either not a human resources department or if there is one, victims are simply told by HR that nothing can be done. And then there’s the threat of unemployment or for their career to be defined as a whistleblower, giving those higher-up the ability to do anything they want without fearing any sort of backlash.

In 2017, several women in tech came forward with their stories about sexual misconduct of those in Silicon Valley, and while companies promised investigations women say that there have been few tangible changes made by those in power. And still, the simple fact remains that the tech industry on the aggregate has done little to none that would systematically support women in an industry dominated by men because there’s “too much power, too much money, and too few reasons to change.”

Robert Daly is the classic “misunderstood, bullied coder” who uses that to justify the actions he takes. This draws similarities to the way Silicon Valley’s big players wouldn’t try harassing women in the “real world,” but feel free to do so in the workplace where they reign as king, unchecked and knowing that there, their actions have no consequences. And of course, this problem isn’t just limited to the tech world – it’s also seen with the dozens of women who’ve stepped out to reveal the awful abuses of power taken by directors in Hollywood as well as the other silence breakers of varying races, income classes, and occupations. It’s a problem that’s unfortunately prevalent in all aspects of society.

While Black Mirror is infamous for sad endings, “USS Callister” ends on a bright, light-hearted note. The happy ending of the episode – namely the prevailing of the digital clones in escaping to a space universe without Daly and his abusive control – is brought by a woman (Nanette) who comes up with the ingenious plan despite being initially underestimated both by the other clones and Daly. And while this episode, like other Black Mirror episodes, does warn watchers of the dangers of technology (it is technology, after all, that allows Daly to create the digital clones and create this warped world), perhaps the even bigger point is to be even more wary of the human players behind the technology – to keep those with access to technology and power in check.

Whether this same happy ending – the ending of a culture of harassment in both Silicon Valley and on the aggregate level – will occur in the modern world remains to be seen. And it seems like a good step is being taken with this anti-harassment action plan signed by 300 prominent women in Hollywood.

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!

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!

A Christmas Wrapped In Rape Culture

Author:

By Jess Hayden

Trigger Warning

Christmas shopping. Love it or loathe it, it’s an activity which most of us will be partaking in this Christmas. The annual dilemma resurfaces – what to buy the sister who’s hard to find gifts for? Will Dad appreciate another pair of socks? Does Mum even like scented candles? Many companies will lure you in with unique gifts for your loved ones, but one website in particular has left me shocked and offended. There’s no easy way to say this, Cafepress.com has a range of Christmas themed presents, designed by members of the public, with “rape” written on them.

My first thought was, who would even buy it? Is there honestly a market for pro-rape merchandise? And then I realised, it’s all a bit of a joke to them. The designers, and the customers, all find this a bit amusing. This isn’t about wearing a T-shirt to offend p
eople – I honestly don’t think anybody would seriously wear one outside the house. Instead I think these are Secret Santa presents, novelty joke gifts which are meant to be amusing.

Well personally, I don’t buy it. I don’t think it is ethically right to trivialise rape to the extent of a “today I feel raped” bumper sticker, as if rape is somehow synonymous with a feeling like “tired,” or even a baby-grow with the word “rape” written on it.

If these T-shirts are so funny and light-hearted that I get told I’m over-reacting for tweeting about how much this has offended me, then we are defending rape-culture. We live in a society where many people will happily declare they just “raped” their friend at FIFA, or could “rape a full English”, yet as soon as a victim says they’ve been raped, you’ll find many of the same people shouting “over-reaction” and “liar”.

rape, baby clothesI’m not linking these products with an increase in rape, but when in England and Wales a woman is raped every 6 minutes, I think it is far beyond a joke to trivialise such a violent crime. It mocks the victims, encourages shame and is just completely ethically wrong.

Here at Powered by Girl, we decide to stand up for what we think is right and we encourage other young people to do the same. Therefore, we have just launched a petition – asking Cafepress to censor what they sell before selling it. Sounds pretty obvious, but this is something Cafepress are still not doing. I had to send them images of some of the rape-glorifying merchandise for them to delete, and to be fair to them, they did delete the content almost instantly. However, we believe strongly that these products shouldn’t have been on the website in the first place, and Cafepress should censor the products before they appear on their website.

So we ask you to please sign our petition and share it with your friends.

Thank you.

https://www.change.org/p/fred-durham-stop-glorifying-rape-and-violence-abide-by-your-content-usage-policy-by-moderating-content-before-it-goes-live-on-your-site

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