Month: June 2012 (Page 1 of 2)

Domestic Violence: The Facts

Trigger warning: This article deals with issues around domestic violence, sexual violence, emotional violence and may be upsetting to survivors or witnesses of violence.

One out of four women in the UK will be affected by domestic violence in their lifetime (British Crime Survey 2011). That’s one out of your close group of girl friends, two of the girls in your rowing team, four of the women taking your bus, about twenty of the girls in a large lecture hall, and a quarter of the women you pass on the street every day.

Why then, does no one talk about domestic violence outside of feminist and charity circles? Does no one believe in the reality of its existence? Is it simply taboo? Is it, like rape, something we know happens but just don’t want to acknowledge because it makes us too uncomfortable? I think the problem is partly due to a misunderstanding of what domestic violence is.

The image that springs to mind stereotypically is of a woman who is beaten by her husband. However, although physical violence is part of domestic violence, a far larger proportion of the abuse consists of the psychological and emotional violence used by a man to control his partner on a regular basis. (Men can be victims of domestic violence from female perpetrators, and domestic violence happens in same-sex relationships, but in this article I will talk about evidence based on male perpetrators and their female partners.)

The psychological and emotional abuse commonly used by perpetrators includes the use of strategies such as: Isolation, Forced Trivial Demands, Degradation and Humiliation, Threats, Displays of Total Power, Occasional Indulgences, Exhaustion and Distorted Perspectives. (These terms and this model is one commonly used by practitioners in the field and is the one I was taught on a domestic violence awareness training day run by Tender, an excellent organisation who work with young people. These strategies parallel some of those used in concentration, torture and POW camps.) Continue reading

Objectification? I object!

After several drunken post-exams conversations, I’ve had numerous women finally pluck up the courage to ask me how can I be a feminist and the college women’s officer when I like to dress in corsets, pencil skirts, tiny dresses and miniskirts. The truth is I simply do not subscribe to the idea that I am somehow objectifying myself for the benefit of men when I decide that I’d rather like to wear a catwoman fancy dress costume over dressing as a parcel at Christmas. The fact that it has been suggested that I am putting myself in the place of a ‘thing’, object or dehumanising myself, is quite frankly insulting as it suggests that I have no will or understanding of the way the world works. I’m an educated woman; I know exactly what I am doing when I go out. I know that man buying me a drink has no interest in my personality, life story or what I’m studying. Yet I don’t have any interest in him either, I’m just out having a good time and getting a free drink. To be honest, what business is it of yours anyway? Continue reading

Street Harassment: Fighting Back

Once upon a time, I was on a train. I was chatting to a very good friend on my mobile for half an hour (yes, I’m one of those annoying phone-on-train ‘oh has it cut out again?’ people) until my phone died. I’d finished my book. Boredom ensued. I decide to go on a saunter down the train in search of some coffee. As I went through the carriages, on my saunter, I came across a fairly packed carriage, carrying some football fans. As I walked past the throng, I heard someone shout something after me: ‘lift up your skirt a bit love, let us see some gange!’ Being a good feminist, and generally protected by a bubble of reasonable, non-violent people, I turned around, and with my best scowl (and best Mancunian accent), asked, ‘who said that?’ Honestly, I can barely remember the details of what followed anymore – it’s too long ago and anger/upset erases the memory. Check the court transcript if you’re curious (I’m guessing it’s public). Anyway, what got shouted back was seriously offensive, and pretty threatening. Perhaps somewhat naively, I politely informed them that this was unacceptable, and that I was going to report them. I turned and stomped down the train passage way (full of silent passengers), and by the time I’d got to the other end of the carriage, I saw that some men had sprung out of their seats, and were following me down the carriage.

Let’s pause for a minute. Now the thing is, mostly when the topic of sexual harassment comes up, two ideas always seem to rear their ugly heads. To me, those seem to be a) surely it’s just a compliment, as it’s usually directed at people who dress ‘sexily’? And b) responding will only escalate the situation though, won’t it? All I can say is that you don’t need to take anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or intimidated as a compliment. It’s just harassment. And verbal abuse (including sexual comments), and physical intimidation (including following someone) are utterly wrong, and they should be treated as crimes. If in doubt, you can always call the police! You’re not wasting their time, you’re doing society a massive favour by calling out those who intimidate and harass. You may just be the thing that stops them. Continue reading

‘Stop Taking Offence, Start Taking Care’: A Response

***NB: this article has simply been uploaded by me. It is the property of the forty eight representatives who have signed it (see below)***

Dear Editors of TCS,

We would like to respond to the comment article by Phil Sheppard entitled “Stop taking offence –‐ start taking care” (Lent Term Issue 8), in which the author discusses women’s responsibility for their personal safety with regards to the crime of rape.

Mr Sheppard suggests that it is dangerous for feminist campaigns to “attribute one hundred per cent of the factual responsibility to [the criminal]” since this may give the impression that women should have no responsibility for their personal safety, thus putting them at risk. He argues that not all rapists are responsive to education directed at men and that we should also continue to educate women on how best to take reasonable steps to prevent such a crime.

We wonder if Mr Sheppard could provide advice as to what these reasonable steps would be? Rapists all rape in different circumstances. Some may rape a drunken acquaintance; others may rape a sober stranger; others may rape their wife or daughter. A woman may avoid getting drunk at a party, only to find that she is raped by her friendly housemate when she returns home. A woman may avoid walking alone after dark, only to find that she is raped by the taxi driver (or bus driver) who has driven her to her destination. A woman may avoid dressing in revealing clothing only to be raped while wearing a baggy tracksuit. This, incidentally, is the driving force behind the SlutWalks that are disparagingly mentioned in the article: they serve to illustrate that a) clothing is factually not a causal factor in rape (women are routinely raped wearing burkas in the Middle East, for example) and b) it should therefore not be used as an excuse for the rape. Continue reading

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