Tuesday, 29 October 2013

I believe the word you want is 'rape'

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(updated tw - generally discussion only of use of terminology of rape and sexual abuse, but note near end of piece briefly mentions an incident of rape)

I am so angry right now. Furious, in fact.  That kind of anger that makes you feel like you’re physically shaking even when your body is still, that makes your hands hot, and your mind feel hectic to the point of being unable to focus on any other thing, your outrage snatching your mind right back to its source every time.

I’ve just read the Evening Standard’s article* on the case of a 23 year old Roma woman being raped by two members of staff at Yarl’s Wood detention centre.  Only they describe the incident as follows:

“Staff sacked over sex with detainee” 
“Two staff at a privately-run immigration removal centre for women have been fired for engaging in sexual activity with a detainee. 
A third employee at Serco-operated Yarl's Wood, in Bedfordshire, was also sacked for failing to take any action when the female detainee reported the two men” 
“inappropriate sexual behaviour from guards”

Nick Hardwick, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, does go a step further in his own description:

“two staff had engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee, something that can never be less than abusive given the vulnerability of the detained population”

but still holds back from calling it what it clearly is (based on the descriptions given here): rape.

‘Rape’, along with the images it conjures, is an ugly, nasty word.  Uglier and nastier still, though, is the experience of each and every person that experiences it.  Their experience warrants, at the very least, the respect and truth of being accurately labelled and recognised.

How can there be any justification in downplaying this woman’s violation to something that is made to sound (in the case of the Standard’s article) more akin to a casual fling, a sexual encounter in which the woman involved had just as much say as the men?  That is, a vulnerable female detainee is presented as having had a choice in the matter of engaging in this act of sex with the two men, staff involved in her detainment, who abused her (abusing their position of power over her at the same time).  Is the Standard really suggesting that she had any element of consent?  Because that is certainly how their headline and description read.

As @HonestlyAbroad put it:

According to the online Oxford dictionary, rape involves ‘forcing another person to have sexual intercourse with the offender against their will’.  I am not quite sure how in any way this case does not fit this definition.

This is beyond irresponsible journalism (and in referring to the Standard, I use ‘journalism’ very lightly here).  It serves to add to the widespread trend of victim blaming that continues to surround rape and sexual abuse.  Describing this incident as anything but rape downgrades both the offence committed and the abuse experienced by this woman, as well as implicating the woman who was abused.  I can only assume that the thinking behind this (i.e. that there is any element of consent or blame attributable to this woman) is the same that continues to imply and/or state that victims of abuse are in any way complicit with any type of abuse they experience.

Over the past few years, I have spoken to a number of women who have experienced rape and other forms of sexual abuse.  In so many cases, despite rationally knowing they were not responsible, they still held an element of guilt, believing they allowed it to happen, didn’t do enough to prevent it, or did something to ‘ask for it’.

A friend recently told me that, many years ago, she was raped by a former partner.  For years, she lived with the knowledge of what had happened, but with no definition for it. It couldn’t be rape, because they were in a relationship, because they’d had consensual oral sex before, because she didn’t report it afterwards - and all the other reasons offered to victims of abuse, convincing them they are either exaggerating or permitted what happened to them, or both.

And yet she continued to be triggered by even just the word ‘rape’, finding herself distressed whenever she came across reports of other victims, but unable to explain to herself why she should be.

It was only recently that she learnt that happened was actually rape - that the ‘reasons’ for why 'it couldn’t be' were false, and that this was its true name.  Despite the horror of the event itself being in no way diminished by this new knowledge, the relief - of finally knowing she had reason to be distressed and that her feelings of being violated were not just in her mind, were not her ‘mis-reading’ the event - has been immense and empowering.

Caitlin Moran’s vile comments about women wearing high heels alerting potential rapists; ‘safety advice’ which basically reads as ‘if you don’t take these precautions, you have yourself to blame’; judges who attribute a portion of the blame to victims of rape; even taxi ads - these and numerous other examples demonstrate thinking that bolsters the implication that rape can ever be even the slightest responsibility of the person raped, rather than the rapist themselves.  This insidious and harmful trend of victim-blaming is not ok at all, and has got to stop.

There is no place whatsoever for diminishing rape, and no justification at all for presenting it as something other than it is is.  I do not ask that the Evening Standard (or any other media outlet) states allegations as anything other than that (unless/until proved).  What I do demand, though, is that rape is always given its proper name, and never presented as anything that could be even remotely mistaken for consensual sex.

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In telling me about her experience, my friend wrote: 

"You may also want to mention tonic immobility. Like many rape victims I did nothing to stop my rape. I just froze. I only just found out that it's common and an involuntary reaction. Also I found it hard to piece together the memory the next day - another involuntary thing the body does when it goes into tonic immobility.
...we'd had consensual sexual experiences before and had oral sex, but I'd been clear that I didn't want to have proper sex and lose my virginity before marriage. So when he raped me with anal sex I didn't know whether or not it was rape and I didn't know whether or not I could still call myself a virgin."

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I recommend Rape Crisis Scotland’s site for an example of how rape safety advice should work.

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Original article by Evening Standard (screenshots - click for full size).

*update - seems an identical report is also on the BBC news website.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

2 way mirrors to spy on women's toilets (article copy-pasted from Express)

The below is copy pasted from the Express - want to share it without giving them the hits.
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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the sleaziest of them all?

A SCOTTISH nightclub has installed a two-way mirror which allows male revellers to spy on women as they visit the toilet.

The-mirror-has-been-branded-an-outrage-by-women-and-is-seen-as-an-invasion-of-privacyThe mirror has been branded an outrage by women and is seen as an invasion of privacy
The recently-opened Shimmy Club has installed the spyglass – normally associated with police interrogations – in two of its £800-a-time private function rooms.
A spokesman for the Glasgow venue, owned by millionaire entrepreneur Stefan King’s G1 Group, insists it does not allow male or mixed-sex groups to hire the rooms.
However, the Scottish Sunday Express has seen photos showing a group of young men with a clear view of women using the bathroom.
There is no sign in the toilets or anywhere else on the premises alerting female clubgoers to the fact they can be observed.
One horrified young woman contacted this newspaper to complain about the venue, saying: “I was completely shocked to discover that the mirror in the ladies’ bathroom is a two-way mirror facing out onto the club.
“I find it absolutely outrageous that a club can get away with this, it is a complete invasion of privacy of the unsuspecting girls.
“Nowhere is it made clear that this is the case so when visiting the bathroom for the first time, there are women bending over the sink, pouting into the mirror to redo their lipstick, adjusting themselves whilst unknowingly being watched by people on the other side.”
The clubber, who asked not to be named, said she was “deeply disappointed and disgusted” when she discovered what was happening.
She added: “The fact that these two-way mirrors only look into the ladies’ bathrooms and not the men’s makes it clear that the intention is to sexualise women as objects, allowing men to make inappropriate gestures and leer disgustingly at them.
“It is completely sexist and immoral that this is allowed in a club and it is evident that they have a complete lack of respect for women and their privacy.”
Another two female clubgoers also separately confirmed they had come across the “strange system” during a night out.
When the Sunday Express contacted the venue posing as potential clients, we were told the ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ booths, which can cost up to £800 to hire, had two-way mirrors into the bathrooms.
We were advised that “for the time being” the rooms were not available for male only or mixed groups.
I find it absolutely outrageous that a club can get away with this, it is a complete invasion of privacy of the unsuspecting girls.
An outraged young woman
However, a photograph on the venue’s own Facebook site shows two young women in a bathroom while a man looks on from the other side of the mirror.
Women’s organisations were aghast to learn about the “perverted” gimmick and also questioned its legality.
In the past clubs in Estonia, Austria and the USA have also fitted mirror glass into the ladies’ bathroom but it is believed this is the first example in the UK.
Because the venue, which opened earlier this month, has no seating apart from the private booths, revellers queue up to hire them for the night.
On Thursday, its Facebook site read: “Booths are nearly full for this weekend so get your requests in quick.”
Ellie Hutchinson, chair of the Scottish arm of sexual harassment group Hollaback, said: “We’re so shocked to hear that a club in Scotland thinks this sort of thing is acceptable – andthe fact that it’s up and running shows there’s a demand for it.
“At Hollaback, we know that every day so many women are subjected to being watched, judged and having their personal space invaded without their knowledge or consent.
“The fact a club is profiting off this often intimidating and frightening behaviour is gob smacking. You have to ask, why on earth would anyone think this form of non-consensual voyeurism is OK?”
Women’s charity Object was also shocked and called for the club to be reported to the police.
Last night Gary Hall, of G1 Group, said it was “definitely not the case” that the women’s toilets were fitted with two-way mirrors.
However, he asked us to email our enquiry to his colleague, who failed to respond. Our subsequent phone messages were also left unanswered.
There was nobody at the club who could comment either, and we were referred back to the group’s head office.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

'How to spot a terrorist living in your neighbourhood' (Article copied from Telegraph)

I've copy-pasted this from the Telegraph so's not to give them hits when I share it.

Somebody please tell me this is satire??

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How to spot a terrorist living in your neighbourhood

We know what kind of people are tempted by Islamic extremism – now we need to do more to stop them

Dame Stella Rimington, the former director general of MI5, has called for people to inform on neighbours they suspect of extremism
Dame Stella Rimington, the former director general of MI5, has called for people to inform on neighbours they suspect of extremism Photo: Alamy
It is surely reasonable for Dame Stella Rimington, the former director general of MI5, to call for people to inform on neighbours they suspect of extremism. To a very limited extent, it happens already. But for the sake of all of us – Muslim communities in particular – it needs to happen more.
Also reasonable, on the face of it, is the Government’s desire to do more to discourage the process by which disaffected individuals turn themselves into people-butchers – the job of the proposed task force on Prevent, the counter-radicalisation strategy.
In fact, we already know all we need to know about radicalisation. What the task force needs to focus on is what to do and – equally important – what not to do.
Studies show that it can happen to anyone, that there is no single identifiable profile. That said, the great majority of terrorists, unsurprisingly, have been Muslim males aged 16-34, a third to a half of whom were unemployed and a significant portion of the rest under-employed. Most were unmarried. Where women were involved, it tended to be in a supportive role, although in Iraq and Chechnya female suicide bombers were radicalised by the deaths of relatives.
Worldwide, about 62 per cent were graduates, with those of Middle Eastern origin generally from the educated but politically frustrated middle class. British home-grown terrorists tend to be less well educated and of lower socio-economic status. One estimate is that about 31 per cent participated in some form of higher education, studying such subjects as engineering, business or science. They are not mad: levels of mental illness were roughly in line with world averages. Between a third and a quarter of those convicted in Britain and Europe had criminal records unrelated to terrorism. A fifth or more of British terrorists were immigrants, often obtaining leave to remain despite being under investigation. Throughout Europe, many extremists were and are disaffected second-generation immigrants.

Motives vary from the territorial (Chechnya) to moral outrage at what they see as a war against Islam. Afghanistan and Iraq acted as recruiting sergeants for those whose perception of worldwide Muslim victimhood chimed with their own real or imagined experiences of discrimination and disappointments. Intoxicated by the cause, they convinced themselves that they were acting on behalf of Muslims everywhere.
As for how they’re radicalised, it’s generally through other people, either directly or online. Images on mainstream news channels of Muslim casualties from Western bombs, or of ill-treated prisoners, are very influential, while film of 9/11 remains a worryingly potent inspiration. A Centre for Social Cohesion study of 212 individuals estimated that about a fifth were linked to the proscribed extremist group
al-Muhajiroun, and that Abu Hamza’s preaching at the Finsbury Park mosque had a significant worldwide impact. Yet most terrorists have only a superficial knowledge of Islam, using it as a veneer of justification for political, cultural and racial self-assertion. It is essentially an ideological rather than a religious process. As has been said, you have to be just clever enough to do it and just stupid enough to believe in it.
So how can you tell it’s happening? Can the neighbours that Dame Stella referred to really know what to look for?
Essentially, there will be changes in behaviour. A sudden ostentatious insistence on religious ritual, especially in a secular context (demands for prayer rooms where no other religion has them); a withdrawal from social interaction with women and disapproval of feminine dress. There may be a sudden obsession with physical fitness, more via Outward Bound activities than team games. Someone may adopt traditional Arab dress or abruptly abandon it (so as not to attract attention). They might forbid or avoid music, collect jihadi material, withdraw from contact with non-Muslims or Muslims who are not extremist; there may be single-issue conversation, vociferous hatred of the West and Israel, and perhaps attempted travel to troubled regions or misleading vagueness as to where they’ve been.
Of course, someone could manifest all these and more – for all manner of reasons – without becoming a terrorist. So what should the task force do?
To start with, it should not let local authorities fund groups little better than al-Muhajiroun under the guise of “community cohesion”. The answer is not money but more effective application of existing laws, especially as to what may be publicly said or broadcast. The task force should not talk of the “Muslim community” – there is no such thing – and should discourage any attempt at single identity politics.
Rather than ban extremist preachers, the Government should refute, prosecute and deport them (as the French do) with their families. It should stress that the proposed Communications Data Bill (aka the “Snoopers’ Charter”) does little more than extend to new media existing practices with the old. Above all, officials should pay more attention to “non-violent extremists”, the swamp from which the Woolwich murder emerged. The Prime Minister publicly called for this in his 2011 speech in Munich, but Whitehall largely ignored him, focusing on what one of Dame Stella’s successors called “the crocodiles nearest the boat”. It needn’t cost much – a few good desk officers here and there – but it would make a difference.

Monday, 27 May 2013

On fear and being far from home when the fascism sets in

Many others have already written about the tragic and brutal murder of Lee Rigby last week, the aftermath that we have witnessed, and what this signifies.  You can read some brilliantly on point blog posts as follows:

There’s also this post, brought to my attention on twitter by @izzykoksal, on the EDL and fascism: 

The above 4, between them, have probably already said a lot of what I feel.  But here goes anyway.

There have been moments when I found myself shaking in reaction to events at the EDL/counter-demo this afternoon. And I’m not even in london.  Reports from those attending the antifascist march are terrifying. 

Not least because of the sudden swell in support for the far-right ideologies being spouted, following a week which saw a massive outpouring of hatred and violence against muslims and those ‘appearing’ to be.  

Not least because there seems to be tacit support by the government, in their lack of condemnation of this; by the media, in their lack of reporting or whitewashing of events; and by the police, in their violence against anti-fascists, apparent encouragement of the Fascist demo and seeming inability of certain officers to quite see the problem with the EDL's policies.

From up here, it's easy to be relatively unaware of the level of fear that is inspired by what is going on right now.  This may be especially so if you've never been the victim of racial abuse, racial profiling or any of the other forms of bigotry that range from outright violence to the way certain ideas are perpetuated as being ok to believe, and as such are becoming more and more mainstream.

It may be hard to understand why I should have spent the past few days contacting friends and family, checking they are staying safe.  Why, when I first heard the news of the murder last week, whilst being horrified for the victim and his family, my heart immediately sank when I heard that it was being linked to 'Muslims' and the word 'terrorist' cropped up.  

I have seen people tell others on twitter that they are 'giving the EDL what they want by showing them fear'.  Um...I think the violence and abuse that has been happening is reason enough for fear.  I think the fact that a journalist can use "of muslim appearance' on national tv should ring a few bells.

 The following are a few examples of what life becomes like if you are muslim/non-white, some following events such as these and others with no direct link to any particular event at the time:

- hijabi'd me being followed through a shopping area by three guys calling me things like 'paki' and 'nigger' and telling me to go back where i came from;

- my (hijabi'd) aunt being asked on the bus 'are you embarrassed about the murder that happened in Woolwich last week?'

- non-Muslim, non-white friends and white muslim friends fearing leaving their homes alone for fear of physical attack

- attempts to fire-bomb our local mosque twice in the past few years

- a friend removing her hijab after 9/11 after hearing of attacks on other hijabis

- my anxiety being alone in Liverpool post 7/7, noting the hostility that seemed to appear overnight

- a bearded-muslim friend being pulled over by the police, and when he asked why, told ‘you look like a terrorist’

Despite my anxiety, my fear of the very real risk of attack posed by simply being what I am - black and muslim - I've still wanted to be down in London today. I don’t want to be down there due to safety in numbers - I feel safer up here.  While this may simply be a false sense of security, 

I did get a sense of hope from the action against Farage the other week (worth having a look at this Ceasefire article on that incident).  

But my reasons for wanting to be down there aren't linked to short-term feelings of safety.

I want to be there to add my voice to the total rejection of fascism.

To show the fascists on the street the solidarity that exists among the communities they are attempting to divide.

To show the fascists in the government the solidarity that exists among the communities they are trying to divide

and this latter is an important one to note

In my opinion, the edl are simply the crude, clumsily overtly dangerous tip of the iceberg of racism and bigotry that exists in the UK right now.  The mass of that, which somehow manages to be less apparent and appear less dangerous to many, is the spread of this far-right ideology to mainstream politics, and via the mainstream media (which could really be renamed the PPC - Politicians’ Propaganda Collective).  As someone put it on Twitter:

And that's it, really - this is not just a problem of a minority of bigoted fools who want 'their' country back.  Far-right is swiftly becoming the new mainstream.  To the extent that significant numbers of people really do think that UKIP and the Tories have a point when it comes to their foreign policies.

The threat of the spread of fascism is a very real one, and not just happening at an openly violent, street level.  There is a massive need for solidarity, and awareness - I know many many people, good, intelligent people, who just aren't aware of this as a problem.  There is a very real reason for feeling the fear.  And a very real need to reverse the right-wing trend that's growing.

ps - In my clumsiness and tiredness, I may have said something that isn’t accurate - if you spot any such thing, happy to have it pointed out, in a non-shouty manner.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Julie Burchill's transparently transphobic article (copied and pasted from CiF)

***PLEASE NOTE - I DID NOT WRITE THIS!!!*** This is an article copy and pasted from Guardian's Comment is Free, written by Julie Burchill.

I've no idea the legality of this, and if it's not allowed, the Guardian need only ask me, and I'll take it down. Meanwhile, want to be able to link to this article without getting people to have to link through/make money for the Guardian when they read it.

To contact Burchill or the Guardian see e-mails below, helpfully provided by @rainydaykate

"you can reach Burchill at mail@julieburchill.co.uk (from her website) if you want to give her a piece of your mind"
" matt.wells@guardian.co.uk is U.S. blogs editor, editor of that blog is at cif.editors@guardian.co.uk "

Transsexuals should cut it out

 never a good idea for those who feel oppressed to start bullying others in turn

Suzanne Moore.
Suzanne Moore, victim of the trans lobby. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian