The Story the Media isn’t covering: The Scottish Cup Final

Today is the Scottish Cup Final. Apparently, it’s the Hibs and the Hearts playing. I don’t follow football and I actually don’t care all that much. At least, I don’t care about who actually wins the Scottish Cup. What I do care about is the consequences of the game on women. All sporting events bring an increase in domestic violence, rape and the abuse and trafficking of prostitutes. In 2010, the Association of Chief Police Officers made public warnings about the increase in domestic violence during the World Cup. The Washington Post covered the increased risk of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl. The 2010 Vancouver Olympics was accompanied by the highly successful “Buying Sex is not a Sport” campaign. There is very real media coverage of the increase in violence but it isn’t targeting that group of men who will use their victory/defeat as an excuse to hurt women. We need more athletes, especially professional footballers, to stand up and start taking responsibility for the consequences of the hyper-masculine culture which they inhabit. After all, I didn’t see huge swathes of footballers calling Ched Evans a rapist, even after he was convicted. It isn’t just athletes who can stop violence against women. Everyone needs to step up and take responsibility for the safety of women around them.

These are the statistics on domestic violence in “normal” situations:
  • A victim can suffer from 35 attacks before the abuse is reported to the police.
  • In the UK on average two women per week are killed by a current or former male partner.
  • Domestic abuse accounts for 15 per cent of all violent incidents.
  • One in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic abuse in their lifetime with women at greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury.
  • 89 per cent of those suffering four or more incidents are women.
  • One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute
The 2006 World Cup campaign saw an average increase of 25% in terms of domestic violence calls. By 2010, research by Manchester police was suggesting an average of 30% higher than normal; this research was confirmed by the Home Office. That is for domestic violence alone.  It does not cover rape, sexual violence or the abuse of prostitutes. 

Dr Catherine Palmer, of Durham University, was tasked with reviewing all the literature which could demonstrate a link between violence against women and sport after the World Cup in 2010. The report is available here via the End Violence Against Women Coalition. These are the themes raised in the report: 

• there are clear links between expressions and enactments of masculinity and sport- related violence against women;
• sport-related violence against women occurs in a range of settings and contexts, including homes, pubs and clubs, hotel rooms, brothels, the street and other public spaces;
• sport-related violence against women is perpetrated by both male athletes and by male fans or consumers of sport and sporting events, as well as by coaches of female athletes;
• human trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation remains difficult to quantify, with the research evidence frequently being contradictory, but literature suggests that events such as London 2012 may well provide a context in which women and girls could be trafficked;
• the literature suggests that the influx of tourists, site workers and contractors, the media, and indeed the athletes themselves, at major sporting events creates a particular environment that may have an impact on women’s safety;
• the literature suggests the increased population in the UK for the Olympic Games and Paralympics and the Commonwealth Games may create a greater demand for on and off street prostitution;
• events such as the 2010 World Cup have highlighted the connections between sports spectatorship and intimate partner violence, and the need for police, authorities and services to be aware of this when planning sporting events;
• excessive alcohol consumption is a contributing factor in the above;
• the literature suggests that there is sufficient evidence for agencies and authorities to be concerned about a potential increase in trafficking, prostitution, sexual exploitation, sexual assault and harassment, and intimate partner violence. There is a need to act now in order to respond to and prepare for London 2012, Glasgow 2014 and other major sporting events.

These statistics are horrifying and we, as a society, are simply not taking the responsibility for changing the patriarchal structures which consider it normal to abuse women’s bodies as a reaction to how their team performed. 

Today, everyone needs to take responsibility for the safety of women. 
Witnessing violence without phoning the police is condoning violence.
Men who “buy” prostitutes are committing sexual violence.
Sex trafficking includes moving women within a city.

Dial 999

or


Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247
Rape Crisis Scotland: 08088 010 302 

Lt Eve Dallas: A Feminist Heroine

J.D. Robb’s “In Death” series are some of the most popular mystery novels and regularly make the New York Times Bestsellers List. Their popularity is partly because Robb [a pseudonym for Nora Roberts] is a brilliant writer and partly of the because of the romance. What differentiates them from “normal” romance/ detective series like Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series is the way Robb treats the issue of Violence against Women.

Robb doesn’t treat Violence against women and children as voyeuristic plot device. Instead, she writes about VAW as systemic and endemic; it is constant, continuous with consequences rippling through families and communities. Women and children are victims of homicide, rape and torture because of the institutional misogyny which treats women as subhuman. They are victims because they have “no” value in a society which values masculinity above all else. The main character is Lieutenant Eve Dallas: a woman who became a police officer as a way to heal after systematic physical, emotional and sexual abuse by her father which culminated in her killing him at the age of 8. It’s not uncommon to have female leads in detective novels who are “unusual” but one who is a victim as well as a survivor and a strong, intelligent, compassionate woman fighting for justice for other women is different. She is heroine not because she is violent but because she is real; a real woman struggling to rebuild her life and learning to love and care for other women in a way that the patriarchy loathes.

The only other fictional books that I have come across which have treated VAW as systemic and endemic are the Shakespeare books by Charlaine Harris. The main character in those is Lily Bard and she is the victim of a serious gang-rape. Her healing involves strengthening her body through martial arts but she also heals by helping other women. Harris’ most famous creation are the True Blood books and they are very definitely feminist. They are also a searing critique of the misogyny, racism, homophobia and disabilism rife in society and the hypocrisy of those who use “manners” and “tradition” to cover up their destructive and violent behaviour.

Obviously, Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room, amongst many others, also write about VAW as it actually exists within the patriarchy. The difference with Robb and Harris’s books are that they are mass market fiction and they reach an audience that feminist literature simply never attracts. Robb and Harris are also incredibly sympathetic and supportive of the women in their books. They both write very triggering stories but they are necessary stories. We need more women writers discussing VAW as systematic, systemic and continuous. We need more women writers not using serial killers as plot devices because they are “abnormal”. We need more women writers using strong, intelligent female characters. Male violence against women is not abnormal. It is daily. It is everywhere and it is committed by normal men. I have no idea if Robb intended this to be the effect of her books but they have brought the issue of VAW into the public sphere in a non-confrontational manner that has, hopefully, made more women cognisant of its destructive consequences.

The True Power of Sisterhood or When MN has got your Back

I don’t want to rehash the proceedings of the past two weeks and the behaviour of a certain male organisation. They have wasted far too much of the time of everyone who isn’t clinically stupid. They are a joke and everyone but them knows this.

What I want to say is thank you to the women of Mumsnet who stood up for me and who stood up for each other in the face of some extremely aggressive bullying. It is incredible being part of a network of women who really talk to one another and share and support and love; who are willing to fight for that support. I am not going to name the hundred or so MNers who got my back either by defending me on FB or by sending me private messages of support because I don’t want them to become targets for abuse. They know who they are and they know how much I love them [even a certain newbie I’d never met before].

This is what the FeMNist sisterhood is really about; no matter how much we disagree with one another’s politics or parenting choices, when it comes to the Patriarchy’s Baboons we are there for one another.

So, thank you. 🙂

Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect us From Violence


The February Non-Fiction Mumsnet Feminist book club was Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear: Survival Signals that Protect us from Violence. It isn’t an explicitly feminist text [and, obviously, not written by a woman] but I was so incensed by the absolute misogynistic twaddle being peddled as “romance” in Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife that I think the following information can not be stressed enough:

(T)here are many reliable pre-incident indicators associated with spousal violence and murder. They won’t all be present in every case, but if a situation has several of these signals, there is reason for concern:

1) The woman has intuitive feelings that she is at risk.

2) At the inception of the relationship, the man accelerated the pace, prematurely placing on the agenda such things as commitment, living together, and marriage.

3) He resolves conflict with intimidation, bullying, and violence.

4) He is verbally abusive.


5) He uses threats and intimidation as instruments of control or abuse. This includes threats to harm physically, to defame, to embarrass, to restrict freedom, to disclose secrets, to cut off support, to abandon, and to commit suicide.

6) He breaks or strikes things in anger. He uses symbolic violence (tearing a wedding photo, marring a face in a photo, etc.).

7) He has battered in prior relationships.

8) He uses alcohol or drugs with adverse affects (memory loss, hostility, cruelty).

9) He cites alcohol or drugs as an excuse or explanation for hostile or violent conduct (“That was the booze talking, not me; I got so drunk I was crazy”).

10) His history includes police encounters for behavioral offenses (threats, stalking, assault, battery).

11) There has been more than one incident of violent behavior (including vandalism, breaking things, throwing things).

12) He uses money to control the activities, purchases, and behavior of his wife/ partner.

13) He becomes jealous of anyone or anything that takes her time away from the relationship; he keeps her on a “tight leash,” requires her to account for her time.

14) He refuses to accept rejection.

15) He expects the relationship to go on forever, perhaps using phrases like “together for life,” “always,” “no matter what.”

16) He projects extreme emotions onto others (hate, love, jealousy, commitment) even when there is no evidence that would lead a reasonable person to perceive them.

17) He minimizes incidents of abuse.

18) He spends a disproportionate amount of time talking about his wife/ partner and derives much of his identity fiom being her husband, lover, etc.

19) He tries to enlist his wife’s friends or relatives in a campaign to keep or recover the relationship.

20) He has inappropriately surveilled or followed his wife/ partner.

21) He believes others are out to get him. He believes that those around his wife/partner dislike him and encourage her to leave.

22) He resists change and is described as inflexible, unwilling to compromise.

23) He identifies with or compares himself to violent people in films, news stories, fiction, or history He characterizes the violence of others as justified.

24) He suffers mood swings or is sullen, angry, or depressed.

25) He consistently blames others for problems of his own making; he refuses to take responsibility for the results of his actions.

26) He refers to weapons as instruments of power, control, or revenge.

27) Weapons are a substantial part of his persona; he has a gun or he talks about, jokes about, reads about, or collects weapons.

28) He uses “male privilege” as a justification for his conduct (treats her like a servant, makes all the big decisions, acts like the “master of the house”).

29) He experienced or witnessed violence as a child.

30) His wife/partner fears he will injure or kill her. She has discussed this with others or has made plans to be carried out in the event of her death (e.g., designating someone to care for children).

De Becker’s book is not without criticism particularly in its use of “choice” discourse in discussing intimate partner violence [IPV]. There are two clearly competing and conflicting theories: one in which women need to trust their instincts to prevent being victims and one in which women are being held responsible for being victims. He’s quite honest about his abusive father and I wonder how much of the second theory is [unconscious] unresolved anger at his own mother for not “protecting” him even though he [consciously] understands the pathology of IPV. However, the psychological IPV in The Paris Wife is so constant and insidious that the idea that it can be “romantic” is dangerous, destructive and the reason that Mumsnet has such a well-used Relationships board.