Standing with victims of assault

This week the news has been focused on the allegations against Hollywood bigshot Harvey Weinstein, with scores of women coming forward to state that he has sexually assaulted, or in some cases, raped them. While the sheer amount of women coming forward is shocking, what was more so was the reaction of people around the world shaming the victims.

There was a variety of reasons why these women were set upon, claims that they had ‘waited too long’, that they were ‘asking for it’ or wanting attention. Some questioned whether these women were telling the truth. There was something missing, however, the trauma these women will have gone through and the outrage at Weinstein.

The fact that, yet again, women speaking out have come under fire when they have faced assault, to me, shows why we need feminism still in modern society. Rather than believe that these women have encountered a sexual predator. Their stories match up again and again. A young actress invited to a meeting about their career by a powerful man at a hotel, lead to his room where he attempted to get sexual favours or assaulted them.

With names such as Angelina Jolie, Kate Beckinsale, Cara Delevigne and Gwyneth Paltrow all speaking about their own encounters we should be celebrating them for speaking out. Assault is incredibly difficult for a person to overcome and as these women speak out, and many more as the days pass, we shouldn’t be shaming them.

Unfortunately, we may never know the extent of this. This was a blatant act of using power to cause fear in young women. Knowing he was an incredibly successful figure, Weinstein, appeared to see himself as untouchable and able to treat these young women as he liked. At the time of writing, he is not working and has checked into a rehab centre. I’m hoping that in the coming weeks a police investigation will take things further.

If this case highlighted anything at all it’s that we need to think about the way we treat victims when they speak out. Instead of instantly questioning and trying to guess if they are guilty or not or if they ‘just want attention’. To imagine what they have gone through and the courage it must take to go to the police. We need to stand with victims of assault, and not to forget men can be victims too, and show them that they can speak out without fear or judgement.

Feminist Friday with … Charlotte Selby

Why I Need Feminism

This is a guest post by Charlotte Selby, a YA Writer, Book Blogger and Booktuber. Charlotte has requested the following trigger warnings to be in place; Sexual Abuse, Anxiety, and Depression.

Living alone in my second year of University was a bad idea. I was in my own company a lot and my anxiety was at the highest it had been; I was yet to get a diagnosis. I was struggling to leave my flat to see my therapist, never mind going to classes. I hadn’t established a strong enough relationship with the friends I’d made where I felt I could confide in them about my problems. Then someone came along. For the purposes of this post, we’ll call them Ash.

They got me. They knew when to listen to my problems and when to give advice. I became dependent; messaging them when I thought I might relapse, begging them to come over. When they kissed me, I felt it was a turning point: someone wanted me even though they’d seen how broken I was. My previous partner broke up with me because I wouldn’t sleep with them so I wanted to take my time before losing my virginity. Ash respected that. My friend warned me and our friendship became strained. She didn’t understand. Ash was good for me.

After a bad relapse, Ash came to the rescue and took me to their flat. I didn’t want to be alone for fear of how much further I would go. After I calmed down, Ash kissed me. I said no but they became icy after. Later they tried again and I said no. We had already slept together at this point, but this time was different. This time I didn’t want it. But they were so persistent that, in the end, I let them.

“Come on, it’ll take your mind off things.”

I told them I didn’t want to see them anymore after that (outside of class obligations). When I confided in a friend about what had happened, she had her I did warn you moment and explained the concept of consent to me. I felt foolish.

Flash to final year and it all came out. There were six other girls at the same time as me all with similar stories. We didn’t go to the police. We didn’t tell the university. We all knew we’d be blamed until we dropped it. One day when a society I was part of hosted a bake sale on campus. Ash showed up. The boyfriend of one of the other girls came and attacked Ash. He’d learned his girlfriend was one of the many victims. He screamed “manipulator”, “sexual abuser” and “rapist.” I was called out too. “How dare you stand when they did that to you. You’re just as bad as them. You could have helped people.” In the drama of it all, I don’t think anyone noticed I’d been outed; there were a select few who knew the names of the people involved, he just happened to know mine.

What happened with Ash had a big impact on my next relationship – which started during second year and we’re still together now. One night when we were messing around one night, he jokingly said: “come on you know you want to.” When I worked up the courage to tell him about Ash, I expected a breakup. We didn’t and we’re still together now, but it took a long time to fully trust him. Even now if I’m not in the mood for being intimate I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt, like I’m letting him down in some way.

Ash didn’t go to graduation. They weren’t missed.
I wish I could say I felt free when I cut them out. But I don’t. While I’m in a much better place mentally now but I’m easily shaken. I often think of “what ifs.” What if I’d stood up for myself? What if I’d spoken out sooner?

I need feminism because had there been more support for women, if there had been a safe place we could have gone to report it, if there was less stigma around sexual abuse, maybe Ash wouldn’t be out there right now. Living their life, probably never thinking about what they did to all those girls.

I speak out now. I shut down negative discussions about sexual assault/ abuse and rape. I challenge harmful views. I don’t want people to have to go through what I did and then blame themselves after. I am a feminist.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And by god, I am stronger now.

Thank you so much to Charlotte for this post, it’s such an important yet hard topic to discuss. If YOU want to get involved with Feminist Fridays email chloefmetzer@gmail.com with ‘Feminist Friday’ in the subject line.

 

Feminist Fridays: The Stanford Case

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The Stanford Rapist was released this month, after a mere 3 months in jail after being convicted of raping an unconscious woman behind a dumpster, only to be caught by two men who tackled him to the ground. For women everywhere the fact that the rapist was ordered to serve 6 months (and got let out early for ‘good behaviour’) instead of the many years he could have served was a slap in the face. It was explained that a longer sentence would have a big impact on his life…with no mention of the young woman who has to live with the trauma of being raped for the rest of her life. Oh and he was and still is notoriously described as the ‘swimmer’ rather than rapist, a title he deserves.

Sexual Assault can happen to both men and women and both are considered a taboo to speak out about. While women are notoriously shamed for what they drank, who they go out with and what they wear, lawyers will also go to extreme lengths to make it sound like the woman ‘wanted it’. In this case, being unconscious behind a bin doesn’t add up to wanting sex, it adds up to being drugged and abused. I won’t write his name on my blog, because he is disgusting and repulsive plus any news outlet has too much information on him anyway. There have been an outpouring of emotional responses, none that touched my heart more than the video below:

Assault is assault, it needs to be punished.

In The News: We Need to Talk About Sexual Assault.

 

It’s hard to have missed two huge news stories in the past few weeks. While this might be an uncomfortable topic, I want this blog to be honest and unflinching. We need to talk about Sexual Assault. Late last month the world was horrified to learn that a 16 year old girl had been recorded being gang raped by up to 30 men, it was then uploaded onto social media. As if this wasn’t bad enough, this week the media gaze shifted to the United States after a young woman had been raped while she lay unconscious behind a bin. The rapist was found guilty, but still the media focused on what he had lost. They focused on his athletic career and even his own father wrote about how his life had been ruined by ’20 minutes of action’, with no insight into how the young woman’s life had been changed after her ordeal.

This isn’t the first time this year we’ve been talking about sexual assault. Kesha is still battling the man she accuses of raping her and has been blocked making music unless she works with him. Lady Gaga stood up and wrote the beautiful song Til It Happens To You (above), performing it at the Oscars surrounded by fellow survivors of assault. With all this talk in the media, surely it has to get better… right?

It wasn’t until I came to university that I fully understood the extent of women being affected by sexual assault. On nights out girls were touched again and again, even when they said no. Guys would come up behind me and try and dance against or touch me, something I’m deeply uncomfortable with. They would shout remarks on my way home or try and grab me and then laugh. I know too many people who’s drinks have been spiked or who have been so drunk they could hardly speak, but were taken home by someone and had sex with.

The worst thing though? The worst thing is when you’re told that you’re making a ‘fuss over nothing’. When you’re told it’s sports night and they’re just trying to dance close to you. When you’re told that boys will be boys. When you’re told that when you launch someone across a dancefloor for touching you in a club you’re the one who needs to lighten up and get a grip. It’s still made out to be your fault. I was made to feel bad by other people for being angry that I’d been touched by someone and I didn’t want them too. I was pressured by classmates in my teens not to report someone when they thought it was ok to slap my butt and make comments because I was the only girl in class and couldn’t I take a joke? When I was 11 and the guys told me to go ‘suck it’ or when one boy pushed me up against a wall and was inappropriate, or when he beat me up my school didn’t care. We reported it but we were just kids this didn’t mean anything, he was just a naughty boy. So I just got on with my life and shouted when I got mad, every time I got told by someone in authority that I needed to ‘calm down’. Luckily that’s not how my family raised me.

It’s hard sometimes because you feel like you’re fighting a losing battle. If I tried to report someone touching me up on a night out, nothing would happen. When we read about women getting attacked in the media the questions asked are ‘what were they wearing’ or ‘why were they alone at night’. When we read about a man getting attacked (because don’t forget, they do too) it’s made into a joke about how they should enjoy it. Recently a teacher was arrested for raping her 13 year old student, people were saying how ‘lucky’ he was. It was rape, he was a child and he was groomed and raped. That’s it.

While I appreciate that this is a heavy topic, it’s been tearing me up inside, reading all these reports. I don’t want to demonise men, not at all. I do, however, want to contribute to tackling the way rape and sexual assault are seen in the media, because only then will be get more convictions, more education and more support for the women and men who have faced such a terrible ordeal.