Seven Years

It is almost seven years exactly.

Seven years since I walked into that school and felt all of the pride and excitement that comes with starting the job of your dreams.  Especially after returning to university to get there.  Giving up a professional income to study for this because THIS is where your heart is.  Where all of the best things can happen.  The classroom.  And it was mine.

Seven years since I moved into my first real home on my own.  Not a granny flat or weirdo share house.  Mine.   Two bedroom unit I would pay for with my dream job in the school I had chosen, in the beautiful small suburb on the edge of town.

I was in a relationship.  I had my home.  I was happy.  All my ducks were in a row.

Seven years since the school year started but I see now that by that day, I was on his radar.  He was a predator from very early on, if he has ever been any other way, I couldn’t say.  Certainly the gossip from those on his interviewing panel were that his references were questionable.  Inappropriate relations with staff, in general, were part of his MO.  But hey, they knew him.  He was a Nice Guy.  Further complicating my experience, the power plays and existing alliances amongst such a small, long term staff list would ensure I would not get any of the support that was rightfully mine when the time came; ethically, morally, legally or as the profession standard.

Seven years I have tortured myself.  First with denial – This revolting creature could not possibly be serious?  But I will never forget how he asked for a ‘team photo’ on school photo day and as they took the shots his hand slid down my back and squeezed my buttock.  But I look so happy in the photos.  My hair was shiny, my eyes bright.  My belief that I was in the right place with important work to do with students as a caring, empathic teacher was at peak level then.  And I fought it’s demise every step of the way.  Then I tortured myself with the guilt and shame spiral that I’d come to know well working in welfare with child survivors of sexual abuse.  No amount of reasoning and research means a thing when you feel so stupid and trapped in your own skin.  That theoretical knowledge probably makes it worse in some ways.  Another thing to beat yourself with.  How could I miss the signs?  How could I be fooled?  How did I get to this?  I am an educated adult in a fair country in 2007.  I am a Union member who knows my rights by heart.  I can talk.  I know who to tell.  How the hell can you have all of that and still sit at the bottom of your running shower every night and wail?  How?

It really has been seven years of screaming into people’s faces as they stare blankly ahead and pretend they can’t hear me.  I did it that first night.  We had the children on a school camp, you see.  While you wondered how your kids were on their first big camp away, they were tucked up in bed but the most senior teachers were both in a dark room with me.  One trying to remove my pyjamas, one joking about how I was young and “probably giving HIM an erection” as I fought him off and yelled about how much trouble he would be in.  She was awake.  She did hear me.  I fucking told her I was upset about it when he left the room and she said, “He’s just an affectionate guy” – hard to say in your sleep.

I just had to stop for a bit.  Seven years and it still hurts.  It is still hard to believe that two primary school teachers acted in that way with kids asleep in the cabins beside us.  He was supposed to be in a cabin on the other side of the camp.  With the fathers who had volunteered to assist.  On this camp so far away from home.  No car.  Only HIS car.

I am in awe of the human mind, how it worked to get me through that camp.  That whole year with HIM, in the office next to my classroom, only windows between us. Six months later, after he was sent home and the Police became involved.  As the Principal held a staff meeting to tell everyone that HE was suspended due to accusations by a staff member.  And the room fell in on top of me.  (Protocol that can be found on a Google search clearly states that this meeting should not have taken place, staff should NOT have been told but apparently the Principal should not be reprimanded because “he was new to the job”.)  I printed out the guidelines for him, you know.  Highlighted what he had to do next and the ‘chain of command’, if you will.  I spoon fed it. I knew enough to have little faith in either his abilities or interest.  And he pretended I hadn’t. Because they went to school together as kids.  He knew HIS wife.  HE was immature but harmless, couldn’t I see that?  They were both just NICE GUYS.

For seven years I have heard that.  From every level of the hierarchy.  I have been questioned, cross examined, shamed, blamed and talked about.  I worked for another two years (because I’m stubborn, and I truly believed in Right and Wrong) but this followed me.  Like they told me it would.  When I sat in her office, broken down, desperate, and asked the Principal for help as HIS frightening behaviour was breaking all kinds of LAWS (I thought that would scare him into action HAHAHAHAHA) and he stated very simply, “If you make this known outside these walls, your career will be ruined.  Mud.  Sticks.” I still thought he was being dramatic, or referring to other difficulties.  I did not realise that what he actually meant was that the three of them together would almost kill me from the inside out.  That he would laugh when a temp agency called to ask if I had worked there before.  That I would become unemployable because someone with authority over me in the workplace decided that he would have me, body and mind, whether I wanted that or not.  Every time I got the guts (or pissed off enough) to say something I was “being unprofessional” and “should reconsider whether I am suitable for the job”.  Said the ‘new to the job’ principal.  Was he also new to planet Earth and Australian Law?

For seven years I have known that the only option for me was to fight.  At times I had nothing left.  I considered how I could stop the insanity…only one way that I could see.  Then I would decide again that they couldn’t have all of me, the pricks.  I didn’t try to wipe myself out in defiance because that would be too much of a gift to them.  All gone.  Nothing for them to worry about.  I wanted them to have something to worry about.

For seven years I imagined bloody revenge.  Fiery vengeance.  Sometimes violent retribution.  What else can you do?  I did take myself to a counselor then and ask if I was becoming a psychopath, had I crossed the line?  What had I become?  (It’s particularly disconcerting when the targets inhabit primary schools, really makes you feel fucked up)  Just a normal person after trauma, apparently.  Using anything that my brilliant mind could dig up to release some of that pain.  I don’t think you can ever be the same though, after a mind shift like that.  My tolerance for hearing about other people’s trauma is much lower.  I am enraged.  Angry.  Sick to fucking death of sexual violence and manipulation and victim blaming bullshit.

It has been less than seven years since I first called my union representative and put this scenario to them.  Probably about three years since I saw a lawyer.  The union works with this law firm to aid employees financially and legally in a way I cannot emphasise strongly enough to you.  Join your goddamn union and investigate your rights at work.  That wasn’t enough to help me, true, but I have utilized those venues in the only way they are available to some of us – with the impending threat of a public hearing.  Seeking some financial compensation.  Not to get rich.  Hahahaha you don’t choose Workcover to get rich, kids.  Turns out you have to be a bit of a sadist, or one tough mother.  It’s brutal.  For bringing Rape and Stalking charges against your boss…faaaaark.

Even with all of the evidence that I had, the Police and Court documents, countless psychiatric examinations by strangers and sharp legal representation to face their scary lawyers…seven years to come to an end.  Three years of constant legal action.  He pled guilty, right?  Still three years for that to be recognised.  To prove that I was damaged by what we agree he did.  Prove damage enough that I might get some recognition in the eyes of…well…anyone.  I wasn’t fussy by now.  Only one option.  I had to fight for it.  I knew I couldn’t go on any other way.

Yesterday, I got the call.  My lawyer.  Her voice happy and light.  It IS over.  I’ve taken it to the limit and the other side has made an offer that indicates I was indeed the victim of some hellish wrongdoing.  There was a tussle, mind.  Some initial offers which were insulting to the person reading them out and all of us.  This kind of settlement could’ve meant a much higher one should I have been forced into  jury trial to prove employer negligence.  It could also have meant the same, or less.  Depends on the jury.  It would have meant more public knowledge and opportunities for more abuse and pain for me.  I was willing because I wanted to prove a point but I’m pretty bloody glad that I don’t have to, as I’m sure anyone would be.  Seven years is enough.

Turns out that there is no precedent for this scenario in workplace/employer law to get this far.  Has a boss sexually assaulted an employee?  Well, yes.  Was it like this?  Did everyone involved lie, bully and blacklist the victim?  Was that person able to fight this long?  Nope.  When I first called the union they did say, “Um, I don’t know where to start.  This is a new one for us!”

I wanted to make a mark on the world, you know.  And I hope I do it in other ways, too.  But in these circumstances, I have had a big win.

What I am hoping for is that this seven years and yesterday’s outcome serve as a warning to employers and other staff (especially THIS employer) that rape, sexual assault, stalking, harassment and gossip ARE WRONG, EVEN IN YOUR ISOLATED WORKPLACE!  A Duty of Care exists even if you choose to think that young women are “dick teases” who “bring it upon themselves”.  (Yes, direct quotes).  If an employer in the future only acts out of fear for his own hide rather than being a lawful and ethical professional, so be it.  As long as someone’s silent suffering is minimised or prevented.  The moral revolution necessary and thorough smashing of the patriarchy that enables this shit must come also but that’s work far beyond the capacity of the utter bastards in my story.  It was of course their strongest weapon.

If there happens to be another asshole out there preying on a Bright Young Thing who dreams of Making A Difference (and I think we know there is), and she has to call her union rep or a lawyer one day, I want to make sure they know there is a precedent in this area.  You are not lost in the woods entirely.  Because I tried my best to slash my way through and I think I left a trail with a little light.  It’s yours if you need it and I’ll be here somewhere if you need directions.  Funnily enough, in about seven weeks I don’t have to be an anonymous shell anymore.

Persistence

Educating Mia: On Preventing Rape and Other Fairytales

SlutWalk Sydney

SlutWalk Sydney (Photo credit: creatrixtiara)

I don’t really know how to start this time.  I wrote this out, walked away to refresh my brain and took foolish a peek at twitter.  This is still the topic de jour and while I’m glad people are expressing views, perhaps which may even make people think, there is an article which declares the author of what I am about to deconstruct ‘unrepentant’ and it is an unfortunate thing indeed.  For the sake of brevity (and it avoids linking you to the website itself, no ‘views’ for you from my corner of the Internet, thanks!) you can see the latest article here.  That should get you up to speed if you don’t know what I’m on about yet.

I put it to you tonight that there is ample reason to be upset by the article I am referring to; it’s written in a sensationalist style with emotive language but fails to support any claims with real evidence, that it insensitively claims there are ways to avoid rape and sexual assault which any loving mother must teach her daughters and that anyone who asks ‘but what about..?’ to dig deeper into the issues involved lives in an alternate utopian dreamland.  According to this article, you cannot be a good mother and also demand that the discussions we have around sexual assault and rape are framed around the perpetrators rather than how victims can avoid their own doom.  I am by no means an expert on everything and do not represent all women who have been hurt by the perpetration of sexual violence.  I am a mother, I know how to look for evidence and I implore you to look more critically at articles like Freedman’s and not take the implied message at face value.  It is because I am a mother, to a son, that I take this (or any) opportunity to pull apart the public discourse on this highly emotive topic.  Freedman’s article is broken up from here on and highlighted in coloured text, my thoughts underneath.

This isn’t victim blaming; this is common sense   (Her title, not my claim by any means)

The entire premise of Freedman’s article is based on two personal articles written about college/university on-campus experiences.  Which might pass muster if the piece she wrote was entitled “I will warn my daughters about binge drinking if they live on campus at university because of the ingrained rape culture that still permeates” but she didn’t.

And let’s say there was something you could tell her that would dramatically reduce the likelihood of her being sexually assaulted during her lifetime.  Would you tell her?

A statement like this would require some evidence to back it up.  What proof does Freedman posit to show that either a vast majority of sexual assault victims were drunk when assaulted, or, that sober victims of attack more often than not can avoid/fight off/escape an attack from a sexual predator?  It’s emotive and dramatic but without any evidential basis whatsoever.

This hurts victims.

This encourages the myth that alcohol causes and/or contributes to rape.  This thinking validates pointing the finger at the victim.  For a claimed feminist, Freedman looks like she’d make a pretty good criminal defence lawyer in a rape trial.

I’ll tell her that getting drunk when she goes out puts her at a greater risk of danger. All kinds of danger. I’ll tell her that being drunk impairs your judgement, slows your reflexes and dramatically reduces your ability to asses risks and escape from harm.

This is still coming from the false assumption that sexual assault and rape are inherently linked with alcohol consumption.  I’m going to let this one through to the keeper for examination even though the statement applies much more to why drink driving is illegal and dangerous rather than demonstrating any measurable impact upon ‘avoiding rape’.  Many people, myself included, have hypothesised about what they would do if someone attempted to touch their body or assault them in any way.  That is the link Freedman makes, that if drunk, you could not react the way you hypothesise you might.  The way you hope you would.  Being sober is no guarantee of anything.  And makes it sound as though a woman with a wine glass is a sitting duck.  Doesn’t that message bother you?

May I take this opportunity to introduce some science.  Brace yourselves.

You may have heard of the Fight-or-Flight Response common to the animal kingdom.  There is a nice technical description from the Genetics Department of the University of Utah here; pictures and even a video.

The phrase “fight or flight” was “coined by Cannon (1927, 1929) in the 1920s to describe key behaviours that occur in the context of perceived threat. This term has not only been influential in later conceptual and empirical work on anxiety and its disorders, but the phrase also has become relatively well-known in popular culture” (Schmidt, Norman B; Richey, J. Anthony; Zvolensky, Michael J. and Maner, Jon K.  2007).  Put simply, when the body perceives a threat or is suitably ‘alarmed’, adrenaline pumps through your body placing you in a biological hyper-alert state. Heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension and blood sugar increase while blood is diverted from your limbs to your head and trunk.  This response is activated what is referred to as the Reptilian Brain – here there is no room for thought (Mamilian/Limbic) or emotional reasoning (Primate/Neocortex).

This is what we imagine when we say, “If someone touched me like that I’d just kick him in the balls”.  It is the ideal reaction and wouldn’t that be great if Fight or Flight guaranteed that?  I will never forgive myself for not kicking my attacker in the testicles, I can tell you!  I have that guilt despite knowing that there is peer reviewed psychological research which explains that there is a recognised third reaction in the human body – caused by chemical release at the time – not my failure to be prepared and certainly not anything to do with alcohol impairment.

The independent biological response system that kicks in also includes the Freeze Response.

The Freeze Response is “believed to have adaptive value. In the context of predatory attack, some animals will freeze or “play dead.” This response, often referred to as tonic immobility includes motor and vocal inhibition with an abrupt initiation and cessation. Ethologists have documented non-volitional freeze responses in several animal species” (Schmidt et al 2007).

This type of response to threat has apparently received little scientific exploration in humans, the one exception, according to Schmidt et al, being PTSD/rape literature wherein “several studies have described a rape-induced paralysis that appears to share many of the features of tonic immobility. This literature suggests that a relatively high percentage of rape victims feel paralyzed and unable to act despite no loss of consciousness during the assault. Since fear, predation, contact, and restraint are common to both rape and the induction of tonic immobility in animals, it has been concluded that these phenomena are essentially isomorphic”.

The entire premise of warning females (indeed, males also) not to drink because they’ll be unable to fight off what according to Freedman’s piece is almost certainly imminent predatory behaviour, thus preventing their own sexual violation, is a misnomer.  A possibly well-intentioned but ultimately misplaced suggestion.  As it is not based in fact, this ‘warning’ more likely serves another purpose.  A more sinister one.  It encourages victims of sexual violence to blame themselves even more than they already will.  It perpetuates the myth that drunk girls are easy targets.  That boys can’t help themselves.  That one is leaving the keys in the ignition of one’s car…in a bad part of town.  What else could happen?  If only she’d locked up.  Been in a better area.  Hadn’t dropped the ball and let a rapist have their way.  Made it easier for someone to act criminally.

Would you say that about the heavily pregnant lady recently held up at knife point in Melbourne?  Did she ‘fail to prevent’ her own mugging by being visibly pregnant and making herself ‘an easier target’?  No, we just think whoever did that is really low to target her.

Would you say that about the pensioner walking back from the shops recently who was brutally bashed and had his head stomped on though he didn’t fight his attackers?  Clearly a bit slow on his feet, perhaps he should have stayed at home and not made it easier for someone to bash him?  No, we just think whoever did that is incredibly low and cowardly.

What is this acceptance of rape and sexual assault as an inevitability that forces women to police their own behavior at a level unprecedented for men?  Why is the language around sexual assault so incredibly skewed against the victim?  We have judges ruling that children encouraged their own abuse by ‘acting older’ (I’ve read accounts from pedophiles claiming 2 year olds ‘came on to’ them).  Steubenville. #justicefordaisy.  We have people like Freedman and ‘feminist’ Caitlin Moran discussing the cons of women wearing heels and using the ‘keys in the car’ example frivolously in the direct aftermath of the brutal rape and murder of Jill Meagher in Australia.  I was incredulous and wrote something at the time.  As did countless others.  It is this reason that I find it about Freedman’s choice to grandstand “as a mother” on this topic again particularly upsetting.

No one has suggested that parents won’t, or shouldn’t, say, “Hey, be careful.  I love you”.  That is not the conversation we need to be having, especially in the public domain.  It’s a no-brainer.  What does need attention is the language we use in the public discourse, popular culture and especially via influential media sites like Freedman’s.  There is a seemingly perfect, powerful chance to start a conversation about the insidious culture that means we feel we have to warn our daughters about becoming someone’s prey.

I’ll tell her that there is a crystal clear connection between alcohol and sexual assault, both for the victim and the perpetrator.

Please, can I see the evidence upon which this is based?  Why has Freedman also taken the time to insist that alcohol is a part of how rape happens (that the perpetrator is drunk, too)?  More on this idea below.

So what’s the problem? Some people are angry at the idea of highlighting the link between drinking and sexual assault.

No, they are not.  They may be looking for more evidence than pointing to ‘frat boy culture’ (which I find repugnant but two articles from the internet does not explain How Rape Happens And How To Avoid It).  They may be annoyed that you chose to focus on the alcohol consumed by females rather than the binge drinking, mob mentality of adolescent males – but again, this focuses on such a minority of sexual assault and rape realities.  I’d suggest people like me aren’t angry at what you’ve highlighted so much as what you’ve chosen to ignore.

Some people insist that when we mention the connection, we are victim blaming.

These ‘some people’ are the women Freedman claims to speak to, and speak for, via her site, on television and radio.  They are the women she markets to, very well, and makes a living off the back of.  It is fairly well understood by now that around one third of these women will have experienced some kind of sexual harassment or assault, possibly rape, in their lifetime.  They will certainly include women who have, or are currently experiencing, violence in their own homes.  I know from my own interaction on social media that the ‘some people’ also includes men, members of the legal system and experienced journalists and despite the slight Freedman handed out about the upset coming from only those without children, many mothers and fathers are amongst ‘these people’.  What is the impetus for dismissing such a large cross-section of the community like this?  With each eye rolling tweet from Freedman including the link to her original article.  Oh…

Seriously, though, this needs addressing.  What constitutes victim blaming surely rests in the hearts and minds of the said victims, does it not?  Freedman’s proposition is as flimsy (and downright offensive) as ‘I’m not a racist but…’ and perhaps she could peruse some educational material on the matter given her interest in issues for women.  Or even simply acknowledge that some hurt has been caused.  It was good enough for Serena Williams, it should be good enough for Mia.

Finally, ‘the connection’ between sexual assault and alcohol is as logical as the connection between rape and all of the other alleged causal factors.  Like these:

  • Being a woman
  • Being a child
  • Wearing a dress
  • Laughing at his jokes
  • Walking home
  • Being at work
  • Being visible
  • Like, just BEING

There is ONE connection between a victim and a rapist.  This is that the rapist chose to rape.

Somehow, in some quarters, the right to get wasted has become a feminist issue and this troubles me greatly.

The “right to get wasted”?  “Feminist issue”?  Troubles you, does it?

I can’t really address this as it is just so preposterous!  Emotive twisting of the issue to make it appear that the nay-sayers are just drunk bitches.  Feminist THAT.

But teaching girls how to reduce their risk of sexual assault is not the same thing as victim blaming. It’s not. And we must stop confusing the two.

You cannot reduce your risk of being sexually assaulted or raped with any surety in ANY environment.  I did not think it was news that rapists rape young people, sober people, strangers, people they know, people they claim to love and people who make a living in the sex industry.  Rape is not ‘Oopsie Sex’.  If you beat your chest about girls’ responsibility to prevent their own rape, packaged in parental love, you help make this victim blaming echo louder.  I am even more disappointed that Freedman did not as yet show one ounce of understanding or empathy for the individuals who have contacted her or shared their stories in a brutally brave way to help her understand where the alleged ‘anger’ is coming from.  It’s a little bit of anger but it is also patently obvious that it is mostly human pain and suffering that she is scoffing at.

According to a study into sexual asssault by the Australia Bureau of Statisics: “Victims of sexual assault were more likely to believe alcohol and/or any other substance contributed to the most recent incident they experienced if the offender was a friend (76%). This was significantly higher than the overall proportion of victims of physical assault who believed alcohol and/or any other substance contributed to their most recent incident (59%).

Let us just take this one sentence from all of the research on sexual violence and rape available and consider it.  The victims were ‘more likely’ to believe alcohol or drugs ‘contributed’ to the most recent incident ‘if the offender was a friend’.  This is somewhat higher than victims of physical assault – say being bashed. 

I put the following question to you, given the extremely limited information Freedman offers her readers about the context and/or methodology of the ABS study.  I would also ask you, as someone with a previous career in social research, to question the conclusions that can be drawn from a document which appears to rely on the victims themselves to evaluate the circumstances of their own trauma.  Ask yourself, why might a victim of sexual assault believe that alcohol played a part in their assault?  Because we tell them it does.

“I was raped last night”

“Were you drinking?”

Why might a victim tick that box?  Because even the victims of rape and sexual violence are conditioned to lay blame anywhere except on the perpetrator.  First, it is the victim’s fault.  Second, it’s the influence of alcohol and drugs because Johnny is a really nice guy normally, you know?  Third, mixed signals or blurred fucking lines, if you will.   Your fault, your fault, your fault.

Myself, I was raped whilst at work, at a primary school, and the first question asked by the Police was ‘was alcohol involved?’  When I answered that I was an on duty teacher of small children so NO, the detective replied, “I’m sorry.  It’s the first thing we have to ask.”

Did you notice that victims of physical assault attributed less of the blame on the perpetrator being under the influence of something?  Why might that be?  Could it possibly be because when someone is assaulted after leaving a nightclub, or as they walk home from the shops on Pension day, we are horrified at the brutality of physical violence but far less likely to blame the ones who took the blows?

I was drunk and I bashed a dude – You got drunk and then hurt someone.  Poor guy is in hospital.  You thug!

I was drunk and I got mugged – Jesus!  Druggies will do anything to get money, won’t they?  The pricks!  Are you ok? 

I was drunk and this girl says I raped her – Woah, was she drinking, too?  I mean, did she try to stop it?  She was sitting at our table all night.  Everyone could see she wanted you…what a slut!

At the time (of Jill Meagher’s rape and murder), some prominent feminist commentators tried to shut down those conversations because they insisted it was every woman’s right to walk the streets at any time in any condition and expect to be safe. To suggest anything else was victim-blaming, they said.

What actually happened was that people expressed their unimaginable fear and terror as we literally watched our ‘worst nightmare’ crimes unfold through the CCTV footage that helped catch Jill’s killer.  The said commentators responded to the inevitable aftermath of clichés about women staying in after dark, wearing heels, having alcohol and not having a male escort you home – these were framed, as they so often are, with ‘That’s what happens when…’ and ‘What did she think would happen..?’ which is indeed Victim Blaming 101.  Some also wrote about the very real notion that had Ms Meagher not subsequently been killed, her attack and brutal rape may have in all likelihood received a more frosty public response.  Thankfully, it’s considered slightly more uncouth to attack the behaviour of someone who doesn’t survive their horrific experience.  But not by everyone.  People still did it.  I consider the way Freedman and Moran scoffed at Ways To Avoid Being Raped to be on par with describing What Jill Did Wrong.  That hurt other victims.  That upset women who thought, Hang on, if this happened to me, you’d be discussing my footwear?!  That is scary.  And again, not the conversation that needs to be had.  Women are raised from Day One to be alert for male danger.

Freedman is suggesting that she initiated a new social dialogue and Utopian Femmos stifled her.  What she actually published about her talk with Moran was appalling to many and focused on Freedman herself as the person needing a voice.  This is silly.  And are we really supposed to believe that anyone was attempting to shut her down?  Freedman is the only one with a website named after here in this story.

The point these women, myself include, tried to make at the time was that Women Acting Safely (whatever the hell that actually means) was not the topic that so badly needed a public forum.  Male violence WAS.  All the comparisons to leaving keys in the ignition of a car remain extremely simplistic and dangerously so.

Is it wrong to want to steer the public discourse towards the right of every human to be safe from harm?  To beseech upon the media outlets (of which Freedman is one) to challenge the language we frame these horrible events in?  If it is wrong, I don’t ever want to be right.  I can only seek to compare it to tackling racism or other harmful social ills.  Excuse me if my attempt to compare is clumsy.

If someone talks about the harm racism causes (which, for my money, is to be decided and called out by the people who are harmed by it – people of colour – not for the perpetrators or individuals seated high upon thy privilege to determine) are they not able to say, “An Indigenous woman should be free to live her life free from racist abuse and discrimination”?  What the fuck are we trying to do if not work towards that ‘utopian’ end?  I am not someone who has ever been humiliated by, or discriminated against, based on my ethnicity but I don’t need to be to say, “Hell yes!  That is your right!  You should be respected!  And I will call out shaming language and media when I see it”.

Am I so weird for thinking that way?  Media shapes culture, influences perceptions and Makes A Difference.  One way or the other.  I am very happy to be on the side that speaks up for an ‘ideal’ whilst acknowledging some shitty realities.  I’m quite clever like that, trying to walk and talk.  Freedman’s choice of language suggests that I can’t do that and neither can you.  Or your daughters.  Especially in heels.

She (Moran) told me about lying in bed at night with her husband and listening to women wearing high heels click clacking down the street on their way home at 2am and what a terrible idea she thought that was. Not only did it alert a potential predator to their presence, it meant they couldn’t run if they had to escape danger.  When the interview was published, some feminist bloggers expressed outrage at both me and Caitlin for what they saw as victim-blaming. Many confused the observation about shoes with the thankfully outdated idea that so-called provocative clothing – like short skirts – could increase your chance of being raped. But we weren’t talking about ‘leading a man on’. We were talking about running away.

Honestly, I’m pissed off to even keep cutting out excerpts.  But I need to point out some things here.   I read and re read the post she is referring to.  I’m not linking to it here.  If you want to set fire to your own eyeballs, google away!

High heels as a Sexual Predator Alert Signal:  Just NO.  This would suggest that perpetrators sit in peoples’ front gardens waiting for the sound of heels.  No.  Accepting this bulldust would negate any rape of say, a jogger, wearing their trainers, in broad daylight.  How insulting.

You can’t escape an attack in heels:  Sigh.  See above about Fight, Flight or Freeze responses.

It’s very easy – I’ve come to understand – to have idealistic views about how the world should work. But those views mostly exist in the theoretical realm. Apply them to real life and real people, people you know and love and fear for and they evaporate.

No, but ignore desperately needed examination of rape culture, male entitlement and the judicial system and you help to guarantee that nothing will ever change.  Complain about wacky idealists who are giving a voice to the voiceless, offering a new perspective on the matter and you do the cause great harm.  Freedman appears to be deliberately obtuse here when she could have chosen to also give a broader platform to calls for positive change for females everywhere.  Disheartening in the extreme when this message is pummeled home by another woman, I am sorry to say.

But theories can’t always withstand the conditions of real life. Which is why I believe it’s crucial to educate girls about the link between alcohol and sexual assault and warn them about the increased risk to their safety that comes with getting wasted.

This statement again presumes a link which at best is only relevant to a subsection of sexual assaults and rape.  The only research offered as evidence of this link was self evaluations by victims after the fact, without knowledge of the scope of the study or the sample group.  This is important information if anyone is to draw conclusions about definite links.  And I repeat, this is not a ‘new’ conversation.  Under what premise is this article written?  It seems a bit strange that it was published immediately after Freedman’s piece with the catchy title “Are you a mother or a porn star?” which was a nice reinforcement of the Madonna-Whore Dichotomy so loved by patriarchal forces.  The Angel/Slut, Good Girl/Bad Girl idea that fits SO NICELY into rape culture and victim blaming.  The response on social media and in personal conversations was disgust and a fair amount of confusion.  What on Earth was the driving force behind that piece?  What was Freedman trying to do?  Don’t read it.  Or don’t yell at me if you have to now.  It was trash journalism and the antithesis of the feminism Freedman claims to fancy.  Crap like this compounds the issues which affect the safety and respect of girls everywhere.  Which is it, Mia?  When you cheaply take down another mother for her clothes, presentation and sexual history one day do you expect that your credibility stands up the next day when you deny judgemental and damaging language?  Humbug.

This is not an issue of morality. If you want to have casual sex, go for it. Safely. Just make sure it’s your decision and one you’re still comfortable with the next day.

Um…what?  The final line in an article about sexual assault and rape is this?  Apropos of nothing?  What can be extrapolated from this statement except that Freedman is in some way linking criminal acts of sexual violence with Sex You Regret Tomorrow?  If I didn’t have a problem before, I sure do now!

So I hope that clears it up.  Rape AVOIDED.  Mother of the year!

I hope that this self-serving opportunity taken by a click-driven blogger with her own website has not hurt too many others.  Again.  It has hurt me more than I thought.  I’m pissed off at that because who is she to me?  No one.  But the hurtful angle is in the number of people who read this stuff and nod, without asking questions.  And in Freedman’s needless framing of the responses from some people (I saw plenty that supported her and NO evidence of abuse at all on twitter, as it happens) as disposable because “they’re obviously not mothers” and “women in their 20s” who “want to get wasted”.  And her assertions are just those used by the colleague who was in the room when he tried to rape me.  Who joked about it.  Who warned me against “getting her into deep shit” and “ruining his marriage” if I told anyone.  And the Principal.  And other teachers.  And THAT, Mia Freedman, is where you do the most damage.  Whether you knew it before (you did, we’ve done this before) or only realise now as people try to appeal to your sense of reason.  Or something.

I could not prevent or avoid my rape.  I didn’t have heels on.  I was sober.  And my mother was indeed a Freedman, always warning of the dangers of being a visible woman.  I took care.  I lived on the edge of fear.  Then he got me metres away from little kids.

The acts of the perpetrator, I can work on healing from.  What fucks with your head and triggers off PTSD like errant fireworks of doom is the direction of this public conversation.  The same shit coming up again and again.  The people who get a voice.  The people who actually seek to silence others, perhaps by lying and claiming to have been bullied, Mia?  Abused?  Abuse is something you have no idea about. What a wonderful thing it would be if somewhere down the line you could open your mind and put the ego/clicks/righteousness aside and just hear us speak.  That’s my utopian dream.

PS  I just found myself quoted here in an article in The Australian newspaper.  Ha!  I am Little Lion (@thelionwhoroars)

Other voices you should hear on this topic:

Clementine Ford

Lauren Ingram

News With Nipples

Blue Milk 

Bianca Wordley

Everyone, including Mia Freedman, should go to nomore.org

Reference cited 

Schmidt, Norman B; Richey, J. Anthony; Zvolensky, Michael J. and Maner, Jon K.  2007,  Human Freeze Responses to a Threat Stressor, Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, Published online 2007 August 12    Accessed online at US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health on 22nd October 2013 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2489204/

What Other People Think Of Me Is None Of My Concern

i hate you lemon cake

i hate you lemon cake (Photo credit: kayepants) Fuck the haters.  And eat cake!

You know those nice ideals that fit neatly into a motivational slogan?  Someone tweets it.  There’s a book in the Self Help section of a bookshop using it as a title.  I have just realised that if I don’t watch my words in this post I, too, will appear as one of these examples…better slow down.

I have always wanted people to like me.  I wanted to be seen as helpful.  Kind.  Peacemaker.  Troubleshooter.  The Right Kind Of Girl.

I aimed to do this in my own way – I know I am, er, very enthusiastic and passionate about most things.  I can be loud.  Exuberant.  I just hoped that I channelled these traits positively.  Not a bad fit for a primary school teacher, either, as it happens.  Professional Class Clown + Counsellor/Coach.  Educational, self esteem building FUN!  Welcome to my classroom.

I was always trying my best.  I wanted people to know that I was trying my best.  I am still ludicrously proud of myself when my whatever is acknowledged because … I just am.  It’s satisfying.  The flip side of that feedback is disapproval, rejection and all of the negative responses we generally try to avoid.

There are a myriad of influences affecting an individuals response to trauma.  One is ego, concern over ‘what people will say’.  This is especially true of victims of sexual assault and rape.  It was most certainly true of myself but I am trying really hard to smash that idea to pieces because it is nothing short of torture.  I am a great deal further down the line than I when I started, thank FUCK, and I’m realising now that it is imperative to my mental health to always remind myself:  what other people think of me is none of my concern.

My memory is very clear on that first assault.  One of the first thoughts in my head, literally as he was trying to undress me, was ‘The kids must never find out that there is a problem’.  Bit more than ‘a problem’, but I was terrified of doing or saying anything afterwards in part because I thought there would be a ripple effect that the students would become aware of.  When the bastard would walk into my classroom and make lewd comments about having touched me in front of my students I never lost my cool.  I’ve said before that some of the more ‘aware’ kids questioned me about his behaviour and asked me if I was being bullied.  The Shame.  No, I said, hopefully in a breezy reply.  I’ll speak to him about that later.  I’d shake my head and roll my eyes as if it was all just a pesky miscommunication.  The pressure was on me to make sure that no one knew.  He used the children many times in that way, to humiliate or remind me that he was in the position of power.  That still makes me so sad.  I was operating on an auto pilot of superhuman strength because I think of this now, of him, and I want to burn shit down.  But SURVIVAL.

The fact that another teacher was present during several crimes and making jokes about the perpetrator being ‘turned on’ because I was ‘young and good looking’ most certainly affected my attempts to speak out.  That person heard me fight him off, swear and warn him about the fact he was committing crimes right that minute.  What the hell do you do if the person witnessing it replies that ‘he’s just a middle aged guy’ who’s ‘in a drought’ and ‘not getting any from his wife’.  Like I am a receptacle for use?  A service for over entitled assholes who abuse power and privilege for kicks?  If that person later warned me about ‘ruining his marriage’ and being ‘an obvious cock tease’ (read: I brought it upon myself.  For eight months) then what the hell would other people say?  She created a whole other reality about what happened and the threat was clear: she would repeat it thus if I said anything.

When the Principal walked into my colleague’s office where I sat, hysterical, saying that I couldn’t keep up the facade any longer, I didn’t want to tell him either.  I knew he was a weak person and offensively ill equipped for his new role.  I had also been present when he laughed at the perpetrator joking about “Which of the Mums you’d ‘do’ at assembly”.  Or which of the staff were “too fat to fuck”.  The principal never said a word to stop him saying those things and indeed laughed and nodded.  They had gone to school together themselves when they were kids.  This ‘history’ was often the subject of references in staff meetings that made others groan but it was more than that to me.  It said that there was an alliance already present that would make me even harder to believe.  It was going to be almost impossible.  And that bastard wove a web in readiness for that, playing the principal and other staff like a puppeteer.  So that when I said something, though he was so sure I never would, I’d be met with derision and ‘He told me you might say that’…   But the principal exceeded my own low expectations when he declared it a ‘team issue’ and set a meeting for the next week so that the three of us could ‘clarify things’ as we’d obviously been ‘miscommunicating’.  No, fucker, I just told you that your assistant stalks me, interferes with my property, has assaulted me (I did not describe the touching or implicate the other colleague as witness to the most serious assaults at this time), tried to force me to kiss him, turned up at my home and said “Every time I look at you I just want to bone you” and will not take no for an answer.  I’ve just told you that I struggle to come to work and that I cry myself to sleep every night because I love my job but I can’t (nay, shouldn’t) do it under these extreme conditions.   I didn’t go as far as describing my genitals or the sequence of fighting him off then just freezing and floating away in my head.  I didn’t do this because I was sure it wasn’t necessary to raise a red flag – I’d said enough to be of concern, no?  The other reason was in the room and had not five minutes before warned me that to tell that part of the story would put her “in deep shit”.  I was losing control to spill that much but not so much that I didn’t see her staring at me as I revealed almost all to the boss.  This is when he looked up and saw the perp watching us all through the window like the creeper that he was.  “Oh my God, he’s watching us now” says this grown man, leader, my career in his incapable hands.  I knew I was fucked, really, but I truly believed that if I spoke, I’d be heard.  I worried very much what my boss would think of me but I was thinking from a ‘why didn’t you tell me sooner?’ angle. Ha!  I was ashamed to have to explain being touched, followed, harassed and have him imagine my body in this way in his tiny little brain.

The fact that these two senior colleagues both deny this discussion even took place to this day has had a greater impact than the crimes committed by the other one.  After this day I was warned repeatedly to “be professional with them or go” by the principal.  When it got to the point that I had to put the details to the Department formally as no one inside the school was appropriate or ethical, he STILL called me into his office to “be a professional”.  By this time he knew that the other teacher had been in the room, etc, throughout and he still threatened that my job was becoming untenable as “she’s not going anywhere.  I’ve known her for years.  She’s the kind of teacher who puts extra photocopies in your pigeon hole” WHAT THE FUCK?!  Truly, I entered the Twilight Zone as the three of them tried to out-gaslight each other around me.  I cannot believe I finished the year.  I simply cannot.

The perpetrator was sent on paid leave while Police investigated so I did finish the year without his physical presence, though the other two made it far from an easy ride.  The two friends I had made were told not to be seen sitting next to me (seriously) and I endured the last term of school on medication and stubbornness.  During the final months there, some parents of students approached me asking about what they’d heard happened, the ‘disappearance’ of the perpetrator and what their kids had told them.

The principal held a staff meeting especially to tell the staff that the assistant was “on leave because someone here has made a complaint about him”.  This was against protocol as complaints are to be kept confidential to protect all parties involved (and may come to nothing) and it was excruciatingly obvious that I was the complainant.  Other staff had made unofficial remarks about his inappropriate behaviour and that they were uncomfortable with his innuendo but I was definitely on my own now.

So, those above me are thinking about me and judging me.  This is my first teaching job.  My only possible reference if I had to leave and start again.  I had a folder of letters from parents and students, newspaper clippings and excellent Performance Reviews.  My contract had been extended early on.  Now my bosses were just talking about whether I was some kind of Lolita or if I’d messed around with him and was crying wolf.  Mortifying.

Now every colleague who didn’t already know there was a problem knew that I’d made a formal complaint against him.  They were thinking about it, talking about it in their own small groups and making their judgements, also.  Many were shared with me (thanks).  I got a few messages of support but they were in secret; one a note left for me with chocolate saying ‘Hang in there’ and a couple of nods.  Isolating and punishment upon punishment when I was the bloody victim.

The students and parents were talking about me, him, The Something.  I’ve written before about how some of the kids were affected and went to their parents somewhere here.  Mortifying and deeply concerning regarding student welfare.  Just my little opinion.

I will never forget the phone call with my union representative when she said, “Look, have you thought about just letting this go?”  Until that moment they had been staunch, if slightly awkward, allies.  If the union thinks I should just ‘cop it on the chin’ who the hell is going to stand with me?

At the Christmas lunch at this school before I left, the principal handed out jokey awards to staff.  Can you believe this prick read out a “Red Neck Award; for always being red in the face, on the verge of tears or about to explode” Staff clap.  Yeah, that’s funny.  She is always upset. ROFL.  

When the Department itself conducted its own investigation (loose term, yo) the letter attached to the findings from the head of the region stated that I “probably misread a lot of situations due to being emotional” and that I should forgive much of my alleged treatment as people involved “were new to their roles”.  So, I know what he was thinking about me and my situation then.  If that’s what he wrote on official letterhead…

The professional Institute/body then began their own investigation and I gave evidence in disturbing detail, made to go through my mouldy diaries and be extremely direct and exact.  About everything.  That started about three years ago now.  I’ve never heard anything.  They must have thought it was no biggy, either.  Thank you.

I realised that people were talking about this region wide…well, when some other teachers who worked in head office told me that.  That’s a large chunk of the state I live in.  Hideous.  I actually moved out of the entire region briefly after this but my whole life is here.  My family.

I made contact with a teaching agency.  I’d be an ’emergency’ teacher, fill in when they were sick, etc.  The word back was I didn’t have a prayer.  No one at that school would agree to be named as a referee.  I did it all for nothing.  If you have a think about it, you’ll remember at least one sub teacher who was an abomination, not a teacher at all.  I was now lower than that person.  Pretty fucking low.

I have spent a long time with my head down.  Dreading running into a student or parent.  Feeling so ashamed and sad.  Also pissed off that the others were still teachers, doing what I loved to do, while I shopped at the petrol station or drive through places.

The longer this has dragged on I have slowly realised that all I can do is be me, and be comfortable with that woman.  I cannot control the opinions and gossip of others no matter how awful and unfair they have been.

The words from others are useless unless we believe them in our own hearts

I know who I am.  I know what happened.  I know who did what.  I know they are horrible, unethical assholes.  I have to accept that this knowledge is all I am going to get.  The knowledge of all I have lost through this treatment at work, in my dream job, I must face alone.  Without vindication or public justice.  Which I wanted so desperately.  The gossip, investigations and my deterioration was public.  Why the fuck can’t my absolution?  I suppose because assholes are assholes and sometimes human beings suck.

When you’re worried about how others think about you, you are in their domain.  And if you’re busy living in their domain, how can you be present for yourself and your own domain?

This one’s a cracker, because I do NOT want to be anywhere NEAR the domain of those people.  Their domains stink.  They’re poisonous.  And I would be wasting a lot of greatness on losers who don’t give me a second thought anymore.  Until they get a call or a letter about me pursuing compensation now.  Hehehe.  May their domains be sleepless, full of tears and abject fear for their careers and reputations.  Especially her.  I hope she is inside out with worry.  Because she knows all of the truth.  And they underestimated the fight in this kitten.

When you live according to your truth and stay in your own mental sphere, others are more likely to honour you and the truth you live, too, whether they agree with you or not

And the added bonus is, with practice, you give less shits what those people think of you.  That’s not at all easy given the personal nature of this topic and experience.  Not. At. All.  But I feel the shift and I will keep reminding myself.  Though their thoughts and judgements have screwed my career in this field…they are not about me, really.  Their shit is about them.*

PS  Fuck the haters.  Kick some ass.  Yell your truth from the rooftops*

*Repeat daily, as often as needed.  See your doctor if symptoms persist.  I believe you.

When Something Is Wrong With My Baby, Something Is Wrong With Me

Mother-Son

Mother-Son (Photo credit: srsphoto)

I often start to type and end up writing something completely different to what I was thinking of.  That’s not too hard.  There are so many current examples of hateful, shocking sexual violence and general misogyny that I honestly don’t know where to start.  Several times a day I read or hear something that should defy logic…do people really have no idea of how sexism and denial of voices permeates every word in our language, the subjects of our discussions and so often, great miscarriages of justice?  I struggle to believe that so many can truly be unaware.

See, already meandering…

My divine child is approaching four years old.  He represents all manner of saviours, healing and reasons to hold on *no pressure*.  He is also what my heart looks like as it stands outside my body.

For at least a year I have had people refer to autistic traits they saw in him.  Some raised this issue respectfully, others not so much.  I saw the behaviours they spoke of.  But these things are common in children of his age and not on their own indicators of any syndrome or difficulty.  He is extremely affectionate, demonstrative, aware and engaged.  This kept me thinking that ASD was not relevant.  As yet the sensory issues and dealing with frustration that he has at times were not impeding his quality of life so I waited.

How much does this situation of mine impact upon my child, I thought.  We have existed in a mostly secluded world.  I am on medication for depression and anxiety due to PTSD from sexual assaults and stalking at work.  It’s fair to say that I exhibit some reluctance to socialise and do some of the ‘normal stuff’ that parents do.  Joining playgroups.  Playdates.  Often the idea of going to an open space like a park makes me feel sick lest I be *seen* by anyone – from my work or a private investigator.  And school holidays.  Ugh.  Teacher’s Best Friend is my nightmare now.  Those people could be anywhere.  Seeing school kids makes me sad.  Can’t wait for them to be over again.

Eventually I agreed to going through the assessment process for autism and related diagnoses.  By this time I had already spent so many hours going through the grief process associated with this type of thing.  I mean, I have perspective on where ASD fits on a scale of ‘disasters’ as a parent but it is natural and normal to experience some shock, worry and about one million truckloads of guilt.

On World Autism Awareness Day, someone tweeted a link to a study that found women who take certain antidepressants whilst pregnant may contribute to the onset of ASD in their child.  Which drug?  My drug.  My exact medication.

When I found out I was pregnant I raised the usual concerns with my GP and Obstetrician.  They both said that the ‘risks’ of stopping the medication whilst still under such pressure (and trying to stay at work) were greater than known risks for the baby.  I was worried but they were correct, I think.  I had to be as strong as possible to be the best mother I could be.

But did I do this to my baby?

Is my struggle with these feelings and experiences hurting my child even more than I already thought/felt guilty about?

Is this a tertiary effect of what was done to me at work, that my child has to engage in therapies and I am offered a Carers Payment (this upsets me for some reason), because a man was allowed to rape and harass me for almost a year in my workplace?

If I had been believed, not blamed and threatened, would I have been on medication and still be sitting here?

If men and women in trusted positions in the community hadn’t lied to Police and the Department?

If the overwhelming majority of people didn’t still support and participate in a victim blaming culture of such epic proportions…

I want a different life.  I want to feel strong and brave.  I want to look forward to a future where I can contribute, support and be passionate about things that matter.  Some days I just feel like what these pricks did is like an unwanted gift that keeps on giving…popping up to remind me.  I’m angry because they do not deserve that kind of power or importance.

My son will be more than fine, I know this.  He will reap the benefits (ha) of a mother trained to work in advocacy, education and inclusive practices.  Who is a Proud Nerd and passionate believer.  You want to talk about quadrilaterals, babe?  You’ve come to the right Mummy!

But under that pride and enthusiasm is a dark little cave.  The Guilty Place.  Somewhere people try to put you when you disclose sexual assault and rape.

It’s Your Fault.

You Made This Happen.

And You’re Not Strong Enough to be without meds, so You Made This Happen, Too.

I’ll fight the voices that say things like that but I really need to start looking after myself – on the inside.  That’s always the hardest thing to do.

Your Vagina Is STILL Not A Car

Car

(Photo credit: kewl)

 

A social worker told me once that the Turtle Effect is a real thing.  (I’ve since googled similar and found many penis references.  NOT THAT KIND OF TURTLING, ok?)  I used to joke that I wanted to pull in my arms, legs and head and hide in the safety of my shell.  Turns out I wasn’t far off the mark.  Others must feel like that when vulnerable because it’s A Thing.  Now you see me, now you don’t…

 

I get a lot out of social media and Internet interaction.  I have just blogged about how much strength I get from being able to speak and share.  Sometimes…that feeling leaves and I feel over exposed, stupid and unworthy.  And then you have PTSD.  (Oh hi, forgot you were waiting for a chance to fuck me up).  I feel naked when sometimes my belief in things leaves me vulnerable to an outside force.

 

The issue I saw torn apart is the very topic addressed on this blog, sexual violence, and a woman I followed on twitter has now been written about for ‘rejecting men who want to help’ and ‘going too far’ in highlighting unhelpful language (*women should stay at home at night because rapists*) is at once ridiculous and complimentary, in my opinion.  I don’t reject men, I reject assholes.  Do I feel I have to go out of my way to ensure men are not offended when I speak openly about changing the language we use when discussing fear of rape?  No, I really fucking don’t.    Nor would I feel that I have to baby the women who can’t handle it.  Two people blogged about this exchange on twitter (from which I am now on hiatus, for my own sanity) and used the woman’s twitter handle so that everyone could see who they were growling at in their posts.  I am utterly gobsmacked.

 

A smart lady once told me that ‘what other people think of me is none of my business‘.  That means that their thoughts are simply their own interpretations and I shouldn’t give a shit.  Good advice.  And I’m trying.  I’m angry on behalf of the other woman.  Publishing a scathing takedown and completely ignoring what was actually said (and only naming certain parties involved) is ignorance of the highest order.  And I would suggest, reckless.  This person could have made their point without using twitter details and images which identified the person she was aiming at.  That would have been the respectful thing to do.  Later I saw them asking other people on twitter to share their blog post.  They ‘needed’ to be heard.  They ‘needed’ to point the finger.  For fucks sake.

 

If I had the emotional reserves, I would have engaged in some way. But I do not wish to engage any further with adults who react like Mean Girls.  And I will not play My Rape Story is Worse Than Yours.

 

Rape is shit.  For everyone, every variation of degradation and hurt.  Funnily enough, that’s my point.  That people rushed to reassure the man who said women should stay at home to avoid rapists (not maliciously, but perhaps unknowingly in his desire to keep the women in his life ‘safe’) really irked me.  He later apologised and said someone had explained it to him.  The other person posted her diatribe anyway.  And the named tweeter who’d questioned the focus on women staying home at night time disappeared from twitter.

 

 

Here’s the point as I see it:

 

If we wish to move the focus onto those truly at fault in sexual violence, tough shit, that is men.

 

If we’re not talking about you, if you are a man but not a rapist, why in hell would you get so defensive/belligerent/whatever when a fact is stated?  That’s YOUR problem, not ours.  Deal with it.  I know and interact with men *gasp* who do not behave like this and do not see the need to challenge my gender ‘issues’.

 

Women live with the reality of rape risk every day and night of their lives.  We walk with keys in our fist ready to punch an assailant.  We worry that getting in a taxi instead of walking might not be any safer.  We monitor our drinks like hawks, guarding against spiking with drugs.  Don’t tell me to stay inside at night.  Don’t you dare.

 

We will ‘be careful’ because we have no other choice in life.  She actually said in the post, “If he’d told you to lock you cars at night, you’d thank him.  It was nothing more than a reminder about avoiding crime”  Haven’t we travelled this well worn path before?  Women who dare to be out after dark are like unlocked cars??  I.  Can’t.  Even.  And neither could Clementine Ford here, after Moran blurted it to Freedman.

 

You know what else?

 

A woman is most at risk of physical and sexual assault IN HER OWN HOME.  When she’s stone cold sober.  In her flannel pyjamas or track suit.  So the premise we seem to persist with about stranger danger and ‘risky’ adventures like walking a few blocks is in most cases, redundant as a safety measure.  And to me, suggests that a recent victim of such horror could have avoided her fate.  That is truly offensive.

 

Of COURSE women and girls ‘are careful’.  How many of us do mini Risk Assessments everywhere we go? Like the Terminator, you scan the crowd, assess for potential threat and act accordingly.  It’s EXHAUSTING.  And the bastards will get you anyway.  When you’re at a mates place.  On a date.  At work.

 

So you didn’t know that telling women they should stay indoors because Bad Men Are Out There actually felt offensive to many of us?  Well, now you do.  All she pointed out was that.

 

If you are someone who is compelled to drop in unannounced to defend the honour of a grown man being challenged then that is your right.  But I would suggest to you that even you are unaware of what you are doing.  In the end, he was able to learn from a new perspective.  At least that makes one of you.

 

From watching this unfold, I am losing my shit.  I am so deeply upset at what was done.  It reminds me all over again how many times it was done to me, how it feels to have some random person tell you How It Is.

 

At least take this:  NO WOMAN’S BODY SHOULD BE COMPARED TO AN UNLOCKED CAR.  EVER.  I can’t help but feel *more* affronted when these words come from another woman.

 

We are so far from change.  It hurts.

 

 

 

 

Nobody Knows Best

A man assaults a woman and appears to try to choke her.  In public view.  She has red eyes and shows clear signs of distress.  Let’s suspend the issue of no one intervening but in fact recording pictures of this assault for later sale.  Let’s just look at the incident itself.

Where is the wrongdoing here?  Surely it is clear that the aggressive party is doing something wrong.  Isn’t it?

Naturally, you’d expect the conversation that follows to be about what a jerk this guy is.  That violence of any kind is never ok.  That we just caught a public glimpse of what 1 in 3 women can unfortunately expect to experience during their lives, in silence and in private.  Are we not collectively outraged at the criminal behaviour of this abusive man?  He is the headline, right?  No?

Oh.  That doesn’t seem right…

Given all the reasons women might stay in an abusive relationship, it seems a more useful question might be “Where do women get the courage to leave their abusers?” or “Why do batterers assume they have the right to abuse?”    Source here

The absolute focus of media and the ensuing discussion should be The Perpetrator and What He Did Wrong.  I shared something written about the language employed by the media which puts the focus of violent crime on the victim rather than the attacker.  This is a powerful not-so-subtle message every time we scan the headlines. We avoid naming the problem.  Forthrightly and without shame.  His violence is the problem.  

The second blow to the victim in this case (and so many others) is the immediate pressure on her to ‘do the right thing‘.  ‘People look up to her’.  She needs to ‘make a stand’.  Examples of this are in articles referred to at the end of this post.

She needs to do bollocks.

Perhaps we can express hope that this person finds a safe place to be tonight.  That she be surrounded by people who care about her and will let her cry.  Who won’t say ‘I told you so’, ‘What did you say to upset him?’ or ‘You have to do A B and C!’  Then, with important support and a fragile trust, hopefully she can plan the steps necessary to keep her and her children safe and secure for the future.  Except this particular woman will be doing it under the watch of the public eye.  Horrendous concept.

Victims of abusive partners will be carrying enough guilt, shame and self doubt to last a lifetime.  They and their vulnerable children don’t actually need to be dumped on, pressured or questioned about this incident or any other that may have come before it (shocking, I know).  Many comment on this topic generally out of ignorance (hey, if you haven’t felt the hell of family violence close to you, that’s bloody excellent news) but also a certain arrogance.  This also happens with other victims of crime, most notably, sexual violence.

Some words of caution to the pious and pontificating: You think you know what you would do if this was you.  You haven’t got a bloody clue.  Oh, you have been in this situation but sorted it like a legend?  Great.  Everyone is different.

Perpetrators of physical and sexual violence are most often a person known to the victim.  Family.  Lovers.  This means that the incident does not happen in isolation. But nor is it their entire character.  It happens slowly.  Over time, abusers chip away at their target.  They are not swinging their fists upon introduction and are so commonly charming and affable.  The relationship between abuser and their victim is complicated and confusing.  It is extremely difficult to process the reality that the person you know/trust/love is capable of such vile behaviour.  That they could be like that.  I didn’t admit in my own mind that what happened to me was rape for…years.  I became easily confused, doubted myself.  Because abusive acts are so hard to deal with.  No one thinks they know people capable of such things.  It can take a lot of help/work/time to work through all of the other white noise of trauma to get to a place of understanding which observers seem to reach so readily for us.

So please don’t tell all and sundry that Nigella, or any other trauma victim, should do anything for you.  They do not have to assume the position of Poster Child for the rest of us.  How they respond to being hurt is NOT a decider of their worth in any way. When you express these dangerous opinions you don’t know who you are silencing in the future.  Who you are shaming in the present.

The most productive thing we can all do for victims of serious crimes is advocate for a system that supports victims at all times, a media that focuses on the perpetrators of violence and names the problem and a public discourse that respects those who deserve it.

*Any person who is a victim of such intimate terrorism

LINKS

The Only Decent One I Found at dailylife.com.au regarding what sparked this conversation

Avoiding Victim Blaming Center for Relationship Abuse Awareness

Everyday Victim Blaming A campaign to change the language, culture and attitude around violence against women and children

Why Do They Stay? Some ideas on the multi faceted influences at play in abusive relationships

White Ribbon campaign to address violence against women in Australia

WHO CAN HELP

  • 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.
  • Lifeline has a national number who can help put you in contact with a crisis service in your State (24 hours)
    131 114
  • Police or Ambulance
    000 in an emergency for police or ambulance.
  • Translating and Interpreting Service
    Phone to gain access to an interpreter in your own language (free)
    131 450
  • Mensline Australia
    Supports men and boys who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties
    1300 78 99 78
  • Kids Help Line
    Telephone counselling for children and young people
    Freecall: 1800 551 800.
    E-mail and web counselling www.kidshelp.com.au
  • Australian Childhood Foundation
    Counselling for children and young people affected by abuse
    1800-176-453 or 9874 -3922
    www.childhood.org.au or www.stopchildabuse.com.au
  • Relationships Australia
    Support groups and counselling on relationships, and for abusive and abused partners.
    1300-364-277 or Vic (03) 9261-8700. Website: www.relationships.com.au
  • ASCA (Adults Surviving Child Abuse) A service to adult survivors, their friends and family and the health care professionals who support them.
    Support line: 1300 657 380
    www.asca.org.au
  • National Disability Abuse and Neglect Hotline
    An Australia-wide telephone hotline for reporting abuse and neglect of people with disability.
    Ph. 1800 880 052
    www.disabilityhotline.org