[CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of misogyny, violence, sexual assault and rape]
A Guest Post by Professor X
2016 has been a shite year for everyone. But in the last month, there seems to have been a specific emphasis on the discussion of violence against women, and this discussion has been far from acceptable.
After being stunned by what happened back in September between writers for this blog and Darren “Loki” McGarvey (which I won’t go into but you can read about here and here), I genuinely believed for a brief second that maybe we’d get a slight break from the hell that has been 2016. It was a nice thought for all of about 24 hours.
Then just under 2 weeks ago, there was the fateful video released of Donald Trump (you know, that guy running to be US President) boasting about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it because…he’s famous. Since then there’s been an outpouring of women gaining the courage to go public with their experiences of sexual assault at the hands of Trump after, in some cases, decades of hiding it. This has also brought the cases already under way against Trump for alleged assault and underage rape front and centre. Or has it? Since that tape was released 10 days ago we’ve seen countless celebrities and politicians jumping at the chance to call out Trump’s words for what they are: evidence, or at the very least encouragement, of sexual assault. However, for all the people calling him out, a good chunk of these are still supporting him. Which begs the question: how little respect do you have for women and their well-being that you would genuinely still want this man to be in charge?
More recently than Trump though, and closer to home, there was the Ched Evans rape re-trial and resulting not guilty verdict. In 2012, Ched Evans was convicted of the rape of a young woman, a conviction that he later (thanks to his girlfriend’s very rich da) successfully appealed. The re-trial took place over the last 2 weeks with the verdict announced early last Friday afternoon. And it was a shitshow.
Since then, anti-rape campaigners and any person with a decent moral sense about them has spoken out, to denounce the message such a verdict sends, when presented with the evidence of what actually and undisputedly happened: Ched Evans admitted to an act which, if we’re to actually protect women, needs to be called what it is. Evans did not speak to this woman before, during or after sex. If the current laws don’t make clear that‘s a crime or if the current justice system doesn‘t see this crime prosecuted effectively, it‘s the laws and the justice system we need to be fighting to change. We cannot allow consent to be redefined because it doing so would put too many people at direct risk.
If the victim is too drunk to remember what happened, this is rape. Sex without consent is rape; a person that’s drunk cannot wilfully consent. Whatever the laws and the courts say, we need to speak this truth to the powerful, whatever the consequences.
But unfortunately, whilst the outcry from anti-rape campaigners has been vast and strong, so has the outcry right back at them. Within an hour of the verdict being announced a friend of mine tweeted without removing Ched Evans’ name from said public tweet; within minutes of that tweet, they got a barrage of responses including ““idiot” “daft bint” & “put the fucking kettle on”. Ched Evans himself tried to make himself look like sweetness personified by telling the press that people need consent classes, in a move eerily similar to Brock Turner’s statement that he wanted to go on speaking tours to talk to students about “the dangers of alcohol.”
Then on Monday, BBC Radio Scotland (for reasons we are all still totally in the dark about), decided that the debate topic on Call Kaye was going to be “Where do your sympathies lie in the Ched Evans case?”. I’m not about to repeat all of what someone else has said better, but it is always important to add another voice saying: this was a fucking horrible choice.
What I will pick up on here though is that not only was the choice of topics despicable, but the choice of guest was possibly even worse. Mike Buchanan of J4MB fame is a very outspoken, violent misogynist who this blog has dealt with before. He believes that men cannot be held financially responsible for their child without written consent obtained prior to sex, whilst being very strongly against abortion rights for women; he believes that the majority of male rapists have been the victims of female perpetrators at one point in their lives; he works with and supports Ray Barry of Fathers 4 Justice who was previously charged with harassment of his ex-wife (charges that were only dropped after he publicly humiliated her); Buchanan literally used nonsense articles about “13 Reasons Women Lie About Rape” as part of his 2015 election manifesto. He peddles nothing but anti-women views and ideals, especially ones relating to sexual violence. And the BBC honestly believed he was a good choice for this “debate”. What the fuck BBC?
These are incidents that have been at the forefront of Scottish, and international, news over the last few weeks so it seemed important to pick these up for this discussion specifically, but really, I could have been talking about a lot of cases involving violence against women this year: the Standford University rape case, the case against Derrick Rose, the resurfacing of the case against Nate Parker, Adam Johnson being sentenced to 6 years in prison, the arrest of a Tory aide on a rape charge, to name but a few.
The central discussion is always the same: the justice system, the government and society continually fails women victims of sexual and physical violence. Even in the case of Adam Johnson, his supporters (mostly men) defended him to the teeth despite the evidence of him being a literal paedophile. The Stanford University rapist is still free after 4 months in jail. We still see people defending Bill Cosby despite the number of women being over 50 now. Donald Trump still stands a chance (albeit very reduced) at becoming the leader of the USA.
And part of me still questions why this matters to me, why I’m talking about this. There are so many cases to talk about that the vast majority get forgotten about or disappear into the abyss of uncared about victims and stories, so why?
A lot of people won’t if it doesn’t affect them. A lot of people can’t because the pain is too much. So we must.
We being survivors. We being women (mostly) that have worked with some of the worst cases of violence against women. We being women who live in constant fear; who carry keys between our knuckles at night; who don’t go out at night for fear of being attacked. We being women who are all too fucking aware of the shit that we will be put through if we are attacked: the horribly low conviction rate, the shit procedures we’re made to endure in disgusting surroundings and the possibility of being publicly named or our sexual history being dragged through the dirt in defence of our attacker. We being women who should not have to discuss this more, because we know exactly what the conversation around this is, and that we’re not being listened to.
As a survivor, I’m all too aware of the fear that’s attached to the aftermath of an attack. Only a handful of trusted friends know about my assault, because I know how it would look to a lot of people: I’d be told it wasn’t rape or that it no longer matters. But it was rape. And it always matters. It never goes away and it’s something I have to deal with and navigate my life around any time stories like Trump, like Evans, like any of these above, appear in the news. And that happens a lot.
The last few weeks have reminded us, survivors or not, that violence against women is still alive and very much well across the world. It is still constantly defended as “he said she said”, even if it’s a case of “they all fucking said”. There is still so much work to be done to change rape culture and the way we report on, prosecute and talk about sexual violence against women. There is so much that people constantly assume is a thing of the past about the way women are treated and viewed by society, and men in particular, but all of these events and the way they are continually handled proves otherwise. As Michelle Obama said in her all-too-relevant speech last week,
We thought all of that was ancient history, didn’t we? And so many have worked for so many years to end this kind of violence and abuse and disrespect, but here we are in 2016 and we’re hearing these exact same things every day on the campaign trail. We are drowning in it. And all of us are doing what women have always done: we’re trying to keep our heads above water, just trying to get through it, trying to pretend like this doesn’t really bother us maybe because we think that admitting how much it hurts makes us as women look weak.
Maybe we’re afraid to be that vulnerable. Maybe we’ve grown accustomed to swallowing these emotions and staying quiet, because we’ve seen that people often won’t take our word over his. Or maybe we don’t want to believe that there are still people out there who think so little of us as women. Too many are treating this as just another day’s headline, as if our outrage is overblown or unwarranted, as if this is normal, just politics as usual
But…be clear: this is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable.
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