A How Not to Guide on Teaching Children Internet Safety

She said X was the closest park to her house

This is genuinely a line in a YouTube video called “The Dangers of Social Media” that claims to teach parents how easy it is for a ‘paedophile’ to groom a teenage girl: by identifying the neighbourhood she lives in to 30 million viewers.

In fact, the video reveals identifying details of three teenage girls, including street views of their homes and their parents’ faces. Rather than giving any information to help parents actually teach their children how to navigate social media safely, the video invites us to participate in the public shaming of these girls. We are allowed to watch the parents shouting at the girls but not actually engaging in why these girls arranged to meet a stranger they met online. If the aim was to highlight their lack of skills in navigating the internet, a more pertinent question was why no one bothered to teach them any. Why isn’t the focus on the parents rather than the children?

There are so many issues with this video that it’s hard to know where to start. The language itself is incorrect – the term paedophile has a specific clinical definition. The vast majority of child rapists are normal men who make a choice to harm a child; they have no pre-existing psychological condition.

The video also reinforces the ‘stranger danger’ myth. Statistically, fathers form the majority of perpetrators of domestic violence – whether this is physical, emotional and sexual abuse of the children themselves or witnessing the abuse of their mothers. Fathers, brothers, cousins, grandfathers, uncles, and stepfathers are far more likely to sexually abuse a child than a stranger. If we focus on ‘stranger danger’, we ignore the majority of men, and most child sexual abusers are male, who are actually a danger to children. This isn’t to say we pretend that strangers never harm a child; rather that we need to understand risk and help children develop the skills to keep themselves safe. Pretending that the only person who is a child rapist is a creepy man in a trench coat puts them at risk.

Rather than going for scare tactics like those in the video -having parents dress up in skeleton masks and drag their kids into a van- we need to teach children the skills to negotiate a world where a large number are at risk of experiencing domestic and sexual violence and abuse. We can start by using the appropriate words for body parts like vulva and penis.

Children also need to be taught about consent starting as toddlers. One easy way to do this is with tickling. If a child squeals no, stop and ask them if they want you to continue tickling. Then keep asking them. Another way is by telling children that they don’t have to hug or kiss anyone anyone that they don’t want to. Granny might want a hug but a child shouldn’t feel pressured or obligated to do so. Doing this teaches children that they have the right to bodily integrity and that their boundaries should be respected.

Children need to learn the skills to negotiate social media, including online gaming safely. Banning social media until the age of 13, as Facebook does, and then expecting children to be safe online is simply ridiculous. How are children meant to differentiate between unsafe and safe adults when their parents have 900 ‘friends’ on Facebook? If we depend on ‘stranger danger’ myths, do these 900 adults then become safe because their parents ‘know’ them? Equally, we give children mixed messages if we tell them not to talk to strangers but allow them uncontrolled access to X-Box Live. How are children meant to recognise that the older boy from down the road is a child rapist or that the really cool guy on Minecraft is a safe person if we don’t give them the tools to do so.

More importantly, shaming is not an acceptable teaching technique. Publicly shaming your child will not encourage them to have open and honest dialogue with you. It teaches children that their parents are more interested in the performance of ‘safety’ than their actual safety. It makes it impossible for children to ask for help when being bullied at school, never mind when experiencing abuse by a family member or a stranger they’ve met online.

Parents, and schools, need to take more responsibility for helping children develop the skills to negotiate social media and gaming safely, but, as Lynn Schreiber, an expert in social media, says about the video:

Scaring parents will not protect children. Blaming victims will not protect children. This video also reduces the eSafety message to one (fairly rare) danger, while ignoring the far more commonly occurring issues of children viewing violent or sexual content, cyberbullying, going viral, reputation management, and public shaming. Our children are growing up with this technology and need to be taught how to use it in a positive and sensible way.

The average age a child views porn online is between the ages of 9 – 12. Many children experience online bullying and harassment. Others live with domestic and sexual violence and abuse within the home. These conversations on personal safety, online and off, are very difficult but that is why they are necessary. We need to teach children the skills to deal with unsafe people and navigate the real world. In our global economy, the Internet is the real world.

This is what child protection should start with: teaching children their emotions are valid, that they have the right to say no, and that is completely unethical and unfair to publicly shame them on social media.

 

Originally published in the Huffington Post on 02/8/15.

An earlier version of this article appeared on Everyday Victim Blaming on 17/8/15

Jeremy Corbyn and the Women-Only Carriages Paradox

(orig published in Huffington Post on 26.8.15 as Everyday Victim Blaming)

We are highly critical of all political parties as not one meets our standards on policies to end violence against women and girls. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats decimated women’s services and have institutionalised poverty. Current Conservative policies engage in flagrant victim blaming of people who have very limited choices within a white supremacist capitalist-patriarchy and Labour has made it clear that they supported many of these so-called austerity measures. We’ve been following the Labour leadership campaigns with interest hoping to see real policies to end violence against women and girls.

Our interest was piqued this morning with the gendered reaction to Jeremy Corbyn’ssuggestion to hold a public consultation on the possibility of women-only carriages in trains to deal with street harassment. To be clear, and a number of media outlets have flagrantly misrepresented the issue, Corbyn has not made the proposal, rather his suggestion to hold the consultation was in response to women raising the issue with him.

In our, admittedly unscientific, poll of twitter this morning many women said they felt the theory was wrong as it held women accountable for the criminal behaviour of men. Many of these same women also said they would use women-only carriages if they existed because of their experiences of harassment and assault on trains. This paradox is a direct result of women’s experience of harassment and sexual assault on trains. It is the consequence of male violence.

 Trawling through various twitter timelines we came across three common responses from men:  #notallmen, women are over-reacting to men just being friendly, and jokes. Because nothing says hilarity like women being groped, assaulted, harassed and raped on public transport. Minimising women’s experiences of violence serves only to support perpetrators. They read these comments and know that they will not be held accountable; that others support their behaviour.

#Notallmen is an utterly tedious and completely predictable response to media coverage of male violence. Despite the fact that 1 in 3 women experience male violence during their lifetime, the refrain #notallmen is constant. Yes, not all men are violentbut it’s not just three men in the UK committing 80,000 rapes every single year. We have a serious problem with male violence in the UK and constantly interrupting women to shout #notallmen shows how few men are actually willing to listen.

Domestic and sexual violence and abuse (DSVA) continues because men do not challenge other men when they minimise the impact of DSVA. It happens because we live in a culture where jokes about VAWG are common and the torture and murder of women constitute mainstream entertainment from televisions programs like Law & Order SVU to games like Grand Theft Auto. It happens because men believe they are entitled to women’s time. Street harassment continues because we tell men they aren’t responsible for their actions.

The “women are over-reacting” mantra is equally tedious and predictable. Being trapped on a train with a man who hasn’t bothered to bring a book and thinks the woman stuck next to him is responsible for his entertainment is male entitlement.Women, who may be working, reading, sleeping or just not interested, are forced to negotiate their space knowing that the man sitting beside them might be the one who calls them a frigid bitch if they don’t want to chat. Or, the one who punches her in the face. Being bothered may be more common than being groped, pushed against, or flashed but it is still a barrier to women’s safe access to public spaces.

The “over-reacting” refrain is applied to women have been sexually assaulted and raped. Their experiences are minimised and those around express concern for the rapists’ life being ‘ruined’. Consequences to the victim are, clearly, negligible – certainly the reactions to the incarceration of Ched Evans bear this ‘over-reaction’ refrain out.

We don’t support women-only train carriages because it fails to deal with the root causes of harassment: male entitlement to women’s time and sexual access to women’s bodies. The resemblance to police ‘safety’ campaigns is clear: institutionalised victim blaming. Women-only carriages on trains would have the same result: women would be at fault for being in the ‘wrong’ carriage; for not being more ‘careful’; for being in a public space.

Women only carriages puts the onus on women to change their behaviour rather than insisting that men stop harassing women or that perpetrators be held criminally liable for their behaviour.

We do welcome Corbyn’s suggestion of a consultation because it makes the serious issue of endemic harassment of women in public spaces a political issue. Organisations like The Everyday Sexism ProjectHollaback and Stop Street Harassment have been evidencing the reality for years. We know its a problem and it is time the government stepped up to end the pervasive nature of street harassment with legislation, enforcement of said legislation, and mandatory sex and healthy relationships taught in school to challenge male entitlement.

Women-only carriages are not the answer but it just *might* be the place to start a serious discussion about the reality of male violence and harassment of women and girls on public transport.

Jezebel shames a 3 year old for having a natural human reaction to bears breaking her stuff

Jezebel* has surpassed itself with it’s policy on shitting on people for no reason whatsoever. This time their target is a three year old who gets distressed whilst a family of 6 bears take over her backyard and break some of her toys. Being three, the natural reaction was to be upset. Hell, the father is upset and Jezebel doesn’t insult him for winding up his three year old. Nope, Jezebel has to go for the whole publicly shaming a three year old. And, yes, the child is identifiable to all of their neighbours, extended family and anyone else watching the video:

Five years from now, the little girl featured in this video will watch this and realize just how flagrantly youth is wasted on the young. That’s because, at eight years old, she’ll realize what she didn’t at three: Bears chilling on your swingset isn’t a cause for tears but a cause for celebration! (Just like when a bird poops on you for good luck, but less gross.)

And at 8 the child will be able to read and learn that Jezebel has invited the internet to trash her for being a three old. With emotions. Because nothing says cause for celebration being publicly shamed by a major media outlet.

We’re also supposed to be okay with the bears causing damage because a swing set only costs $300 at Target:

Bro Bible reports that the scene you’re witnessing happened in New Jersey, and correctly chastises this entire family for not just stopping for a second and recognizing how cool it is that six bears (a mother and her five cubs) are ripping up your backyard amenities. A swingset costs $300 at Target, but a story about a bear cub just chewing the hell out of your floatie while his brother tries to use your slide? That’s priceless!

This assumes that the family has $300 to spare to replace the pool and the swing set. The commentary in the video implies they might be but circumstances change and that pool may never be replaced. It’s okay to be disgruntled and annoyed at your stuff being broke. Granted, the father winding up the small child isn’t exactly a vision of excellent parenting, but he’s still allowed to be upset at the bears damaging their possessions.

The rest of the article is also twaddle:

And it’s all on video, so no one can even say shit when the toddler featured here tells everyone about it at school. “You think I’m joking about them ripping up my Eddie Bauer licensed pool float?” she’ll ask her teacher, after being gently accused of having a very vivid imagination. “Well, why don’t we just roll the goddamn tape, Sharon?”

Plus, you know that this is just an excuse for a bigger, better pool, right? Everyone wins!

Unless of course they can’t afford to buy another pool. Or, the bears keep coming back and some over officious police officer shoots them for causing a public menace. Or they get killed by a hunter. Or hit by a car. Or a million other things that can go wrong when bears enter human spaces.

Jezebel seriously needs to dump the label feminist when publishing shit.

* clean link

This Is a War on Women: Erasing Jed Allen’s Choice to Kill

Janet Jordon is responsible for her own murder and that of her partner Philip Howard and 6 year old daughter Derin.

At least, that’s what Victoria Ward has written in the Telegraph this week: Jed Allen isn’t responsible for killing his mother, his half-sister or his mother’s partner because he “had a troubled family life and had struggled with his mother’s alcoholism”. Or, as the title states: ” Didcot Triple Murder: Suspect always had family issues and anger problems”.

These statements come from an unnamed ex-girlfriend and Jane Ilott, the former mayoress of Kidlington and one-time landlord.

Ilott claims that two of Jordon’s children were adopted due to her alcoholism. It’s worth pointing out that we only have Ilcott’s version of event since child protection services are legally prohibited from sharing information about minors. We do not know when the children were adopted, how old Allen was and why he remained in the house with a mother who needed support when his two siblings were removed – if he did indeed remain in the house. Ilott mentions numerous examples of Jordon struggling with alcohol dependency but doesn’t mention once contacting social services as a way of accessing support for Jordon.

Ilcott also helpfully suggests that “it must have impacted on (Allen) when when two of Jane’s children were adopted”. There is no reference to the impact it would have had on Jordon or the other two children.

This is the real problem with Ward’s article: there is no mention of Philip Howard and Derin only gets a brief mention at the end. Ward has effectively excused Allen’s criminal act because Jordon deserved to die since she was a ‘bad mother’.

Ward has not questioned why Jordon had problems with alcohol dependency. She hasn’t bothered to ask if Jordon grew up in an abusive home – and, the links between women’s substance use and child abuse are fairly well established.

This is the reality of the war on women and victim blaming culture: the perpetrator’s agency and choice are erased in favour of a narrative of woman-blaming. Predictably, there is no mention of Jed Allen’s father in this article – and, statistically, fathers are the majority of perpetrators of child neglect and abuse. Yet, there is no pattern of children killing their neglectful or abusive fathers.

Karen Ingala Smith, who runs the Counting Dead Women campaign tracking femicide in England and Wales, makes this double standard clear:

Jed Allen made a choice to kill three people. He is responsible for his actions. Yet it should be understood that his actions took place, not in isolation, but in a context: a society where men and women are unequal, a society that is thick with toxic hyper-masculinity. In this same society, too many are quicker to blame women for men’s choices, even where women are victims of that man’s violence. Jed Allen is at least the 15th UK man to have killed his mother in the last year. He is the second to have killed his mother and sister this year.

Jed Allen may have had a very difficult childhood but so do many children who do not grow up to kill. We need to be very clear here: this is about male violence. It is very rare for women to kill and the context is very different. Women who kill their children tend to have a history of post-natal depression rather than the history of domestic violence of fathers who kill. Women who kill their partners do so in self-defence. Men who choose to kill their current or former partners and children do so as part of the pattern of coercive control that defines domestic violence and abuse.

Our organisation monitors media coverage of male violence. Whilst this is the most egregious coverage we have seen in a while, it follows the normal pattern: blaming the victim, erasing the perpetrator’s agency, and justifying violence without recognising the patterns or contexts of male violence.

Janet Jordon is not responsible for her own murder or that of her daughter and partner. Jed Allen made a choice to kill his mother and sister. He made this choice within a context of endemic male violence against women and girls. These types of murders are not isolated or tragic. They are simply the extension of patriarchal control over women’s bodies and lives.

If we want to end familial violence, we need to start tackling our culture of hyper-masculinity and male entitlement which leads men to believe they are justified in killing women and children. Otherwise, we will continue to read stories of families being slaughtered by a male member and the victims held accountable for their own murders.

The war on women exists because we allow these narratives of justifiable male violence to continue. Until men start examining their own privilege and entitlement, women and children will continue to pay the price with their lives.

 

First published on Huffington Post as Everyday Victim Blaming

#DickheadDetox: George Clooney for hypocrisy

George Clooney’s hypocrisy as a human rights defender has been well known for years. It’s hard to take a man claiming to be a left-wing Right-On Dude seriously when he advertise for Nestle – a corporation renown for it’s total disregard for basic human rights like free access to clean water for everyone. Hell, they are currently draining water from drought-ridden California. Hard for Clooney to miss this since he LIVES in California.

Clooney’s Saving The World activism is completely undermined by his prioritisation of personal wealth over infant health and nutrition in countries where access to clean water to make formula (and the money to buy it) are in short supply due to the behaviour of multi-nationals. Like Nestle. This is without getting into Nestle’s well-documented history of grossly inappropriate, misleading and dangerous advertising of infant formula.

On top of this total disregard for infant health it turns out Clooney’s new organisation The Sentry isn’t quite the The End to All War as he seems to believe. David Swanson’s article in Counter Punch breaks down the who-owns-who and who-hangs-out-with-who data:

Clooney’s new organization, “The Sentry,” is part of The Enough Project, which is part of the Center for American Progress, which is a leading backer of “humanitarian” wars, and various other wars for that matter — and which is funded by the world’s top war profiteer, Lockheed Martin, and by number-two Boeing, among other war profiteers.

The spreading of the U.S. empire through militarism is most often justified by the example of Rwanda as a place where the opportunity for a humanitarian war, to prevent the Rwanda Genocide, was supposedly missed. But the United States backed an invasion of Rwanda in 1990 by a Ugandan army led by U.S.-trained killers, and supported their attacks for three-and-a-half years, applying more pressure through the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), and USAID. U.S.-backed and U.S.-trained war-maker Paul Kagame — now president of Rwanda — is the leading suspect behind the shooting down of a plane carrying the then-presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on April 6, 1994.

As chaos followed, the U.N. might have sent in peacekeepers (not the same thing, be it noted, as dropping bombs) but Washington was opposed. President Bill Clinton wanted Kagame in power, and Kagame has now taken the war into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with U.S. aid and weapons, where 6 million have been killed. And yet nobody ever says “We must prevent another Congo!”

What does George Clooney’s new organization say about the DRC? A very different story from that told by Friends of the Congo. According to Clooney’s group the killing in the Congo happens “despite years of international attention,” not because of it. Clooney’s organization also promotes this argument for more U.S. warmaking in the DRC from Kathryn Bigelow, best known for producing the CIA propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty.

Personally, I’m not exactly shocked or surprised by Clooney turning out not to be the Good Guy. Rich, white dudes rarely are the great men they claim to do. Frequently, they turn out to be the problem.