16 ways to End Violence against Women and Girls

These are just a few of the ways that you can support women’s services during the 16 Days of Activism to Eliminate Male Violence against Women and Girls.

  1. Donate £1 to a different specialist women’s service like the national organisations Rape Crisis, Women’s Aid, or Refuge every day.
  2. Donate £1 to your local service providers supporting women who are living with domestic and sexual violence and abuse. BME women’s services have been disproportionately impacted by so-called ‘austerity’ so please don’t forget them.
  3. Share fundraisers for women’s services across social media. We understand that many women can not afford to donate £1. Sharing fundraisers is just as essential as being able to donate £1.
  4. Host a coffee morning for your friends to raise money.
  5. Bring some baked goods into work and ask for donations to a service of your choice from your co-workers.
  6. Collect clothing, bedding and any other unused household items to donate to your local refuge or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc.
  7. Donate toys to a local refuge for children who will be living in them at Christmas or those support services for women who are homeless, living in poverty etc..
  8. Donate new toiletries and another nice gifts for teenage girls and women living in refuges.
  9. Make a donation to your local food bank. All women are disproportionately impacted by poverty and austerity measures. Women living with violence are disproportionately impacted by cuts to housing benefits and women’s services. 
  10. Donate sanitary products to food banks. These are essential for women and teenage girl’s access to education and work. 
  11. Write to your local councillors, MP, or MSP to demand ring-fenced funding for women’s specialist services, including those for BME women or those with disabilities.
  12. Write to local councillors, MP, MEP, or MSP and ask them to undergo specialist training on domestic and sexual violence and abuse from specialist organisations.
  13. Write to your MP and MSP demanding they support the campaigns to end the detention of refugee women and children.
  14. Write to your MP and MSP demanding mandatory sex and healthy relationships education in schools, as well as campaigns to make schools safer for girls.
  15. File complaints with media about inappropriate, misleading and offensive coverage of domestic and sexual violence and abuse.
  16. And, if you’re a man, stand up for women’s rights. Challenge men who make rape jokes. Call out male friends who refuse to financially support their children. Insist your employer implement the equal pay legislation. Donate money to rape crisis centres and refuges. Wearing a white ribbon isn’t enough. Your need to do the work to end violence against women and girls.

You can find the address and contact details of your local councillor via  WriteToThem.

 

This post was originally published on Everyday Victim Blaming.

The Best Rape Prevention: Tell Men to Stop Raping

This post was originally published in the Huffington Post. It was shortlisted for the Best Blog category and first runner-up at the 2014 Write to End Violence against Women Awards hosted by Zero Tolerance, White Ribbon Campaign, Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid held at the Scottish Parliament.

 

Last week, New York defence attorney Joseph DiBenedetto made headlines when he used the phrase “I’m not saying she deserved to get raped but” live on Fox News. The comment was a response to a question about the rape of teenager Daisy Coleman in Maryville, Missouri. The case hit the national press because of how the criminal justice system in Missouri handled the aftermath of the rape rather than the rape itself; rape being such a common crime that it very rarely makes headline news.

Comparisons have already been made between the Maryville case and that of the rape of a young girl in Steubenville as both cases involve high school athletes, charges were originally dropped and the online harassment of both young women has been horrific. As with Steubenville, it has been public campaigns, which have resulted in the case being investigated by a Special Prosecutor.

The reaction to DiBenedetto’s comment has been one of outrage, which is interesting because DiBenedetto has not said anything different than many other people.

Victim-blaming is endemic in our rape culture. It is the cause of West Mercia Police’s “advice” for women that blames women for drinking alcohol rather than men for committing rape :

“Don’t let a night full of promise turn into a morning full of regret”, says the headline on West Mercia Police’s web page dedicated to tackling rape. “Did you know”, they ask “if you drink excessively, you could leave yourself more vulnerable to regretful sex or even rape?”

Oxford Police ran a similar campaign. The University of Kent and the University of Oxford’s Student Union have both come under criticism for anti-rape campaigns that focus on the victim rather than perpetrator.

Slate recently published an article by Emily Yoffe with the title “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk” which blames women who have been drinking for their rapes rather than the rapists. Yoffe’s article is hardly new though. The advice within it is the same advice women get everyday despite the fact that the only factor that makes people vulnerable to rape is being in the presence of a rapist. The article itself has been publicly criticised by a number of feminist organisations and publications like JezebelFeministing and Ending Victimisation and Blame [Everyday Victim Blaming]. It has also been criticised in more mainstream media outlets.

DiBenedetto’s comments aren’t new either; neither is his suggestion that Coleman has made a false allegation. The public’s reactions to these comments are new. The widespread condemnation of DiBenedetto’s comments is new.

We are at a turning point: we have the power to end rape culture and victim blaming.

The campaigns fighting rape culture and victim-blaming are incredibly inspiring, Rape Crisis Scotland’s anti-rape campaigns: “This is not an invitation to rape me” and “Ten Top Tips to End Rape” went viral because they inverted normal anti-rape campaigns. Parenting website Mumsnet’s We Believe You campaign was instigated by members angry at the prevalence of rape myths. End Online Misogyny was created in response to the rape threats directed at feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy. Ending Victimisation and Blame [Everyday Victim Blaming] started in May in response to the press surrounding the Oxford Gang case. Reclaim the Night marches are being held all over the UK now, as are Slutwalks.

Only last week, the CPS published new guidelines for the prosecution of child sexual abuse in England/ Wales that actively challenges the existence of rape myths in trials. These new guidelines were in response to feminist activism and, whilst they aren’t as strong as they could be, they are an important start.

However, we need to do more and we need to start with more anti-rape campaigns which put the focus on the perpetrator rather than that victim, like Vancouver’s Don’t be that Guy campaign. We also need a fundamental overhaul of our justice system :

1. Anonymity for rape victims must remain a fundamental tenet.
2. Rape victims should never be required to testify in open court.
3. Rape victims should never be required to testify in front of the accused.
4. Rape victims should be entitled to their own legal advisor to protect them.
5. Rape myths must be legally prohibited from being used as a defence tactic.
6. The CPS and judiciary must undergo constant (re)training on rape myths.
7. Juries must be giving training on rape myths before the trial starts which includes the real definition of what a “false accusation” actually entails [since we consider rape victims who withdraw their complaints as “false accusations” this is absolutely necessary].
8. The “sexual history” of a rape victim must be banned. The defence should have no legal right to undermine the credibility of the victim by discussing their “sexual history”.
9. The press should be prohibited from publishing the specific details of the rape. It is enough to say: X has been charged with child rape.
10. Anyone who attempts to identify the victim should be prosecuted.

Rape has a purpose in our culture, as does victim blaming. We will not end rape culture, victim blaming or the oppression of women by continuing to focus campaigns on rape prevention that hold victims responsible for being in the presence of a rapist.

Most importantly, this change needs to start with a message to men: rape must stop. Men must take personal responsibility for their own perpetuation of rape culture and men need to call out other men who are engaging in sexually predatory behaviour.

We all have the power to change rape culture, but we need men to take a public stand now.

* The legal definition of rape in England and Wales requires the insertion of a penis without consent . Men and women can be, and are, convicted of sexual assault that carries the same tariff as rape. See Rape Crisis Glasgow for the definitions of rape and sexual assault in Scotland.

Rape as Genocide: Understanding sexual vulnerability, abuse and rape in the context of the Holocaust

This is a conference paper I wrote in 2006. I am sharing it today as part of Holocaust Memorial Day. Since I wrote this paper, more research into rape and the sexual exploitation and violence perpetrated against women and children has been undertaken. Women Under Siege is an excellent source of information as is the book Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women during the Holocaust. My own research in feminist theory has changed my understanding of sexual violence and genocide.

 

In the light of the stories of sexual vulnerability, abuse and rape that are a part of the larger narratives of genocide in Darfur, Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, it is almost becoming a truism to suggest that sexual violence is an intrinsic feature of genocide. In the realms of Holocaust history and studies, however, it is still a subject that has not attracted a great deal of attention. Certainly, scholars who are working on the ambit of female experience, such as Myrna Goldenberg and Joan Ringelheim, have always acknowledged the existence of these stories in Holocaust testimonies, but they have focused on the specific sexual vulnerability of women due to pregnancy, motherhood, and amenorrhea and so mention only small numbers of testimonies of women who claimed to have been sexually assaulted or raped, or even having witnessed these. Furthermore, they have also tended not to look at male testimonies concerning the sexual vulnerability, abuse or rape of female prisoners and even fewer have looked at stories of male sexual vulnerability, abuse or rape.[1]

My own (feminist) readings of the testimonies of witnesses Lucille Eichengreen, Sarah Magyar Isaacson, Thaddeus Stabholz, Weislaw Kieler and Fania Fénelon[2], however, led me to believe that there were more stories of sexual violence than have been acknowledged. Furthermore, if one accepts that sexual violence is not only a common part of genocide but can also be a genocidal act, then it is one that needs to be explored within the context of the Holocaust and the murder of Soviet POWs, the Sinti and the Roma, the mentally ill and differently-abled, and the exploitation of ‘Slavic’ slave-labour during the course of Nazi Germany. This includes not only the sexual violence perpetrated by the German SS, the Wehrmacht, and other Aryan administrators, but also that of the Soviet mass rapes of women at the end of the war and during liberation, as well as the sexual violence by all other militaries, Allied or Axis, and that perpetrated by ‘victims’ of Nazism against other victims of Nazism.

In fact, stories of sexual violence are more common than early feminist Holocaust scholarship has previously acknowledged, which is not to say that it was widespread, although this is likely, but simply that there are more stories than first recognized. There has also been an expansion in the number of stories of sexual violence in testimonies, partly due to new feminist research into rape, pornography, prostitution, and sexual trafficking,[3] which casts some testimonies in a new light, partly also due to the fact that the number of Holocaust testimonies published has increased exponentially since the genocides in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. These new testimonies include more stories of sexual violence and interpret more events as having a sexual component rather than simply an act of violence of humiliation.

But while the increase in the numbers of stories of sexual violence is partly simply because witnesses now understand and write about specific events in this manner it is also because current feminist reading of testimonies includes a greater knowledge and awareness of sexual violence and reading my/contemporary definitions of sexual assault against the definitions given by witnesses is also essential to my thesis. Furthermore, it is the tension between my reading and what is written/not written that makes this a fascinating area of exploration. It also acknowledges, as Anna Hardman has previously noted, “the difficult interpretative questions as to the relationship between actuality and representation.”[4]

I believe, therefore, that the most significant reason for the expansion in the number of stories are the evolving definitions of the terms rape, sexual abuse, prostitution, humiliation, and choice by scholars, witnesses, and readers of these stories. There are numerous stories now interpreted as sexual violence. These include but are not limited to forced sterilizations of Mischlinge Jews, the Roma and the Sinti and the ‘asocials’, (that is the undesirable elements of society); forced abortions due to race; refused abortions due to race; forced pregnancies; viewing the abuse of others; forced stripping and performance; forced ‘prostitution’; brothels in the concentration camps; and the fear of rape. As a feminist, I feel that these stories needed to be placed in the centre of Holocaust studies along with the stories of abuse, humiliation, torture, starvation, deportation, murder and mass murder, ghettos and gas chambers.

What I consider to be the one of the more common forms of sexual violence during the Holocaust is what Myrna Goldenberg has termed ‘sex for survival.’[5] That is to say, stories of women, men, and children being exploited sexually in exchange for food, clothing, accommodation, work permits in the ghettos, or ‘good’ jobs in the slave-labour and concentration camps. Stories of ‘sex for survival’ exist in diaries written during the war and post-war biographies and oral testimonies.[6]

One such story may be found in one of the most well-known Holocaust testimonies: Fania Fénelon’s published testimony Playing for Time, also published as The Musicians of Auschwitz. Fénelon’s text is one of the most [in]famous memoirs of women written about Auschwitz-Birkenau and, more specifically, about the women’s orchestra in that camp. Fénelon was arrested as a member of the French resistance but was also half-Jewish. She spent nine months in the transit camp of Drancy, where she was tortured, before being deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in January 1944. She remained in Birkenau until November 1944 when the Jewish members of the orchestra were deported to Bergen-Belsen, where they were eventually liberated in April 1945. Upon arrival in Birkenau, a member of the orchestra recognized Fénelon as a cabaret singer and her ability to sing Madame Butterfly placed her in the privileged orchestra protecting Fénelon from the severe abuse and torture of the ‘normal jobs’ in the main camp.

Before discussing in depth the stories of ‘sex for survival’ in Fénelon’s testimony one must acknowledge the controversy surrounding it and the subsequent Arthur Miller play and film adaptations based on the text, particularly in relation to the issue of lesbianism and Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and her testimony Inherit the Truth 1939-1945: The Documented Experiences of a Survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen.[7] The debate is worth mentioning because of its discussion of identity, the use of survivor interpretations of the behaviours of others, the labels they attribute to other inmates, and the differences in the types of witness testimony, (literary texts, memoirs, poems). Succinctly, the debate concerns Fénelon’s description of the other members of the female orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau and the boundary between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’, particularly of the characters ‘Marta’ and ‘Clara’. Fénelon devotes a section of the text to the relationships between the other prisoners in the privileged orchestra which includes a reference to a lesbian relationship. One of the women involved in the lesbian relationship was a cello player. Lasker-Wallfisch has been very clear that she was the only cello player in the orchestra and that she was not involved in any lesbian relationship and that Fénelon was well aware of this.[8]

There are a number of stories of ‘sex for survival’ in Fénelon’s text but the ones I want to discuss centre around Fénelon’s relationship with the character ‘Clara’ who she meets on the train to Auschwitz-Birkenau. I am engaged in a ‘literal’ reading of the text here in order to demonstrate some of the difficulties inherent in [re]-reading and [re]-writing representations of memory and identity. The problematic status of this particular text is does not lessen its value as a document, rather it is another instance of the problematic use of memory and representation to write a ‘history’ of  the Holocaust. The character of Clara is described as “a girl about twenty with a ravishing head set upon an enormous, deformed body”[9]; a body deformed in the transit camp by starvation, a well-brought up girl who was engaged to a boy she loved. Clara is apparently still a virgin; we do not know about Fénelon. The two young women become friends during the journey and pledge to help one another in the camps.

Fénelon and Clara’s first encounter with the concept of ‘sex for survival’ happened quite quickly after arrival in Auschwitz:

A soldier was walking next to Clara. He had a totally unremarkable face, something between animal and mineral. Suddenly he addressed her in French, in a voice as devoid of expression as he was himself: “I’ll get you coffee if you’ll let me make love to you.[10]

The two girls ignore him and the subject is not brought up again. But the soldier’s statement, so early after arrival, after several days trapped in a cattle car, is a lesson about Birkenau. As Fénelon comments:

Coffee? Either a woman wasn’t worth much around here, or else coffee was priceless. She said nothing and he let it drop.[11]

We do not know if either girl has some prior experience with this in Drancy; both were there for an extended period. It is quite likely that they did but this is assumption rather than factual knowledge. The other, more experienced, girls in the orchestra are quick to point out how cheap a woman’s body, and, by extension, a man’s and a child’s, were in the camps. Jenny, another girl is the orchestra tells them: “All you need to do is find yourself a man; here sausage replaces flowers.”[12]

We can interpret this as a story of prostitution but, while, there is a tremendous amount of feminist research into the coercive aspects of ‘prostitution’ in ‘normal’ society, exchanging sex for food in the midst of a centre for genocide changes and questions the terms we use to define the activity. Not all women who were given the option to engage in sexual activities in exchange for food ‘chose’ to do so, but, some did. Obviously, the term ‘choice’ is also questionable. The terms prostitution, sexual vulnerability, and sexual slavery are debated in feminist scholarship, but once we are within a situation where the intent to commit genocide is evident, trading sex for food, moves outside of common definitions of prostitution. Yet, the term ‘sex for survival’ also seems insufficient to describe the situations that many people found themselves during the Holocaust; indeed, the terms we use to describe these stories seem almost irrelevant in their inability to demonstrate depth of meaning.

Clara, quite quickly, makes the ‘decision’ that food is so important that sex can be traded for it. Furthermore, according to Fénelon, she hoards the food for herself and she is not particular in who the partner is. Several of the other girls have ‘lovers’ whom they sleep with for food, some even sleep with the SS but Fénelon does not describe these other women in the same manner that she describes Clara or her ‘choice’. In fact, Fénelon is extremely dismissive of it, claiming Clara was more interested in food than remaining ‘female.’ Thus it is unclear whether Fénelon is disgusted with Clara because of the sexual act, claiming Clara had lost her ‘womanly dignity’, or that she is disgusted with Clara because Clara is actually transgressing sex or gender boundaries, by refusing to engage in communal survival and share the extra food received. As Fénelon says:

Clara had changed quickly, very quickly. A month after our arrival in the music block, one evening at six o’clock, she’d said to me … I won’t share with anyone anymore.” The next day, at dinnertime, I opened her box by mistake and saw a pot of jam. Clara rushed at me. “Leave that; I told you to keep your hands off it.”

“I’m sorry, I wasn’t thinking. All our boxes look alike. I certainly wouldn’t touch that nobly earned jam of yours!”

There were tears of rage in her eyes, perhaps a last glimmer of a former morality, a remnant of dignity. The donor was probably a kapofrom the men’s camp. Only the kapos, the blockowas, all Poles, Slovaks, or Germans, could come to our block.

Had she been a virgin? It was possible, it wouldn’t have been a decisive factor. Besides, the risk of pregnancy for internees was virtually nonexistent.

I felt sorry for Clara when I saw her twitching her large behind, … She had been an innocent young girl who loved her boyfriend and who still nourished childlike dreams. Living in a sheltered milieu she was innocent of life, like the adorable and naïve Big Irene, who remained so, while Clara changed so quickly and so totally. She had become frighteningly selfish; she would do anything to get food. In the middle of all these painfully thin girls, her obesity was a wonder, a most effective lure for men, who paid court to her in butter and sugar.[13]

But what is ‘womanly dignity’ inside a concentration camp? Can we not interpret part of Clara’s behaviour as an attempt for semblance of human contact or even love?  It is easier to interpret it in this fashion when Clara is engaged in relations with other male prisoners in privileged positions, but it is more difficult to do so when the boyfriend is a particularly brutal (German) kapo who, apparently, voluntarily worked as an executioner for the S.S. guards in the camp, apparently for pleasure rather than requirement. Fénelon posits Clara’s relationships against her own relationships with Leon, her ‘lover’ from Drancy who volunteered for the transport to Auschwitz in order to be with Fénelon.[14] Clara’s ‘boyfriends’ gave her food in exchange for sex, Leon gave Fénelon poetry and letters for, apparently, nothing. Love exists but Clara does not know what it is and is confused.

What is particularly interesting is Fénelon’s construction of Clara’s changing identity, and the way in which she contrasts her transformation from a good virginal girl to a prostitute with her understanding of the behaviour of ‘real’ prostitutes in France. While Fénelon defends the behaviour of French prostitutes who engaged in sexual acts with German soldiers to gather information for the French Resistance in terms of heroism, Clara’s attempt to survive through sex is viewed with disgust, a contrast that is highlighted in Fénelon’s description of Clara’s outrage at her participation in cabarets where German officers were the major clientele:

“I couldn’t have heard you sing,” said Clara rather primly. “We’d stopped going out at night. We didn’t mix with the Germans, and no one went to nightclubs except Germans and collaborators.”

I fell silent, slightly ashamed; it had been very good business. How would Clara have judged the proprietress of Melody’s, who looked like a madam – indeed, perhaps she was – but who protected us? How she would have despised those tarts that hung from the necks of German officers and gave us papers, photographs, and information.[15]

But, why is Clara’s transformation into a ‘prostitute’ to save her own life so negative? Partly, it is because Clara does behave increasingly violently towards the others. Certainly, when Clara is given the job as a kapo, (an inmate barracks supervisor), Fénelon claims she behaves with ruthless and vicious violence, beating the block inmates sadistically for various rule infractions. But this did not happen until after the girls were transferred to Bergen-Belsen; Clara’s ‘prostitution’ occurred in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.[16]

This story of ‘sex for survival’ is not uncommon. What is different is the way in which it is contrasted with ‘good’ stories of using sex for resistance. But how is resistance different from survival? Obviously Clara’s brutal behaviour as a kapo in Bergen-Belsen is part of the story and can partly explain Fénelon’s construction of Clara, but we do need to separate Clara’s behaviour in Bergen-Belsen from that in Birkenau to understand how Clara’s ‘choice’ was choiceless and thus to recognise her experience as one of sexual assault. More generally I think this story reveals the complexity of sexual vulnerability, abuse and rape in the Holocaust in that at a certain point Fénelon forgets Clara’s identity as ‘victim’ and recasts her as a ‘perpetrator’ and in so doing, makes the sexual exploitation of Clara a footnote to the dehumanising effects of their situation. In order to rehumanise her (and many other victims of the Holocaust) we must therefore acknowledge and recognise the way in which sexual vulnerability is accentuated by and essential to genocide.

 

 



[1] This is not a criticism of their research but an acknowledgment of the research required. See Myrna Goldenberg, “Different Horrors, Same Hell: Women Remembering the Holocaust”, in Roger Gottlieb (ed.), Thinking the Unthinkable: Meanings of the Holocaust, (New York: Paulist Press, 1990), pp.150-166; Joan Ringelheim, “Women and the Holocaust: A Reconsideration of Research”, in Signs: A Journal of Women in Culture and Society, vol. 10, no. 4, (University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 1984-1985), pp. 741-761. Other examples of this sort of scholarship include Judith Tydor Baumel, Double Jeopardy: Gender and the Holocaust, (London: Vallentine Mitchell, 1998). Renate Bridenthal et al., (eds.) When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984); Anna Hardman, Women and Holocaust, (U.K: Holocaust Educational Trust Papers, 1999–2000); Marlene E. Heinemann, Gender and Destiny: Women Writers and the Holocaust, (New York: Greenwood Press, 1986); Sara R. Horowitz, “Memory and Testimony of Women Survivors of Nazi Genocide” in Judith R. Baskin (ed.), Women of the Word: Jewish Women and Jewish Writing, (Detroit: Wayne University Press, 1994), pp.258-282.

[2] Lucille Eichengreen with Harriet Hyman Chamberlain, From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust, (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1994); Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, translated from the French by Judith Landry, (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997, 1976); Judith Magyar Isaacson, Seed of Sarah: Memoirs of a Survivor, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Illinois  Press, 1991); Wieslaw Kielar, Anus Mundi: Five Years in Auschwitz, translated from the German by Susanne Flatauer, (London: Penguin Books, 1982 [1972]); Thaddeus Stabholz, Seven Hells, translated from the Polish by Jacques Grunblatt & Hilda R. Grunblatt, (New York: Holocaust Library, 1990)

[3] Much of this research has grown in relation to the wars in the former Yugoslavia. See: Beverly Allen, Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Hercegovina and Croatia (Minnesota: The University of Minnesota Press, 1986); Alexandra Stiglmayer, Mass Rape: The War against Women in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Bison Books, 1984); Anne Llewellyn Barstow, War’s Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution, and Other Crimes against Women (Ohio: The Cleveland Press, 2000).

[4] Anna Hardman, Women and Holocaust, (U.K: Holocaust Educational Trust Papers, 1999–2000), p. [check notes]

[5] Myrna Goldenberg, “Rape and the Holocaust”, paper presented at Legacies of the Holocaust: Women and the Holocaust Conference, (Krakow, Poland: May 2005)

[6] Mary Berg, Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary, (New York: LB Fischer, 1945); Trudi Birger with Jeffrey M. Green, A Daughter’s Gift of Love: A Holocaust Memoir, (The Jewish Publication Society: Philadelphia, 1992); Lucille Eichengreen with Harriet Hyman Chamberlain, From Ashes to Life: My Memories of the Holocaust, (San Francisco: Mercury House, 1994); Hedi Fried, The Road to Auschwitz: Fragments of a Life, edited and translated from the Swedish by Michael Meyer, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990); Gisella Perl, I was a Doctor in Auschwitz, (New Hampshire: Ayer Co., 1992, 1948).

[7] Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, Inherit the Truth 1939-1945: The Documented Experiences of a Survivor of Auschwitz and Belsen, (London: Giles de la Mare Pub., 1996)

[8] For an excellent discussion of this debate see Anna Hardman, Women and the Holocaust, (U.K.: Holocaust Educational Trust Research Papers, 1999 – 2000), pp. 20-27.

[9] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.12

[10] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.18

[11] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.18

[12] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.66: Jenny to Clara

[13] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p.105-106

[14] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p. 15

[15] Fania Fénelon with Marcelle Routier, Playing For Time, p. 15

[16] This post facto reconstruction of Clara may of course speak volumes about the nature of memory and memoir.

Safe Spaces and Trigger Warnings

Earlier this week, I was asked to put a trigger warning on an article I published on A Room of Our Own. The request wasn’t to include a trigger warning about domestic violence or self-harm or rape or the consequences of limited options of women living in a patriarchy. It wasn’t about the reality of male violence. I was asked to include a trigger warning on a post written by a woman who regrets having an abortion. Apparently, a feminist space which includes a very personal post by a woman who regrets her abortion – an abortion she was effectively forced into – isn’t a ‘safe space’. The violence this women experienced did not require a trigger warning, but regretting an abortion does.

A Room of Our Own started in December 2013. Since then, I have published articles on rape, domestic violence, murder, infant loss, post-partum depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, racism, homophobia and all forms of violence against women and girls. The very first request for a trigger warning was on an article where a woman expressed regret about an abortion – an abortion that was a direct consequence of male violence. Seemingly, this one article where a feminist spoke of her regret was enough to invalidate the entirety of the blogging network.

AROOO was never intended to be a ‘safe space’. It was created to combat cultural femicide by building a space where a full gamut of feminist and womanist thoughts, musings, anger and reality was explored. It was never intended to be a space where everyone agrees with everyone else. And, this is the problem with the current rhetoric around ‘safe space’. It isn’t about ensuring that women have a place to discuss without experiencing male violence or silencing.

Currently, ‘safe space’ means a space in which no one disagrees with one another ever. There is no room for discussion or questioning. We see campaigns to have women no-platformed for daring to criticise the sex industry as criticism might hurt the feelings of women who work in it. The feelings of the many women who have survived prostitution don’t count in the rhetoric. Instead, we see sex workers referring to abolitionists with abusive names – a member of the sex-worker open university used the name ‘Rachel Whoran’ on their twitter account for ages. Former prostituted women who talk openly about their experiences of rape and abuse are mocked, insulted and harassed by supporters of the sex industry (including members of the Sex Worker Open University). Where is the safe space for women to talk about their negative experiences? Why aren’t they entitled to the same right to a safe space?

There are attempts to prevent university student unions from saying anything critical about the sex industry because it makes it an “unsafe space” for students working in it without giving a thought to the fact that many of their students working in it are actually unsafe. The motions put forward by some students unions would effectively bar their officers from supporting a woman leaving prostitution if she so chose because it wouldn’t be a ‘safe space’ for women who want to remain in it. How does this make universities safe for female students?

The answer is pretty clear: it doesn’t and it isn’t intended to make them safe. Young women on campus experience high levels of sexual harassment and violence and it is now individuals which criticise the sex industry that are blamed for making them ‘unsafe’. It isn’t the fault of the rapists on campus or the university management who collude with rapists, but feminists criticising pole dancing as ’empowerment’ for women (and until I see someone suggest that members of the UN take up pole dancing to empower themselves, I’m going to keep believing it is nothing more than a misogynistic attempt to limit women’s choices through perforative constructions of their sexuality).

This idea that universities must become ‘safe spaces’ free of dissent or discussion is infantilising an entire generation of students. Staff put content notes on lectures which some students might find difficult, but you cannot study history without learning about genocide, mass rape and religious wars. There is no literature, in any language, which is free from racism, homophobia, classism, and misogyny. Science is not free from these structures. You can put a content note on a lecture which discusses Sapphire’s Push, but that note isn’t about supporting the students who are living with child sexual abuse. It’s a clause that allows students to refuse to engage with material that they might find challenging. How many times have I heard students refuse to read about the Holocaust because the thought of it upsets them? And, those who want learn about the V2 rockets because machines are cool and not the thousands of slave-labourers who died building them because it made them sad.

We absolutely do need to make universities safer for female students – not by preventing discussions on difficult topics but by actually tackling rape culture on campus appropriately. Today’s tweet from the National Union Students Women’s Group asking the audience at their event to stop clapping as it “triggers anxiety” demonstrates the failure of universities and students unions to understand the difference between a space free from male violence and a space free from anxiety.

I suffer anxiety in these kinds of situations. I can fake it now but social situations make me incredibly anxious and I do not like loud noises, like prolonged clapping. My daughter still hates the sounds of hand dryers in public toilets and the flushing mechanism on trains and planes. The noise makes her visibly upset. Equally, the use of ‘jazz hands’ isn’t new. It’s common in BSL and is used with children who have auditory sensitivities. It is a way of managing specific situations where clapping would not be appropriate.

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Women who have survived sexual and domestic violence and abuse can be triggered by a million sounds: police sirens, stomping, whistling, a name. We cannot stop every single thing that might potentially trigger a student – we can help them access appropriate support and help them find ways to manage their anxiety, but we can’t pretend away the very things which caused their anxiety or PTSD in the first place.

NUS Women’s Group tweet requesting delegates not clap demonstrates the fundamental need for immediate, specialist training of all students unions officers and all staff on campuses in trauma awareness, as well as male violence. This type of suggestion doesn’t read as though it comes from someone with an in depth understanding of trauma, but rather from someone performing what they assume is social justice – as was the request for me to put a trigger warning on an article about women’s abortion regret.

This is the reality of discussions around safe spaces and triggers warnings now – its all about the performance and not actually making spaces free from rape and other forms of male violence.

 

 

David Osborne’s “she was gagging for it” full text

David Osborne seems to have taken down his blog blaming rape victims for being raped during his interview with Stephen Nolan on BBC 5 Live. I’m reproducing it here with quotes from his interview with The Mirror since misogynists shouldn’t get to pretend they aren’t misogynists by hitting delete:

“She was gagging for it”

I have been following the latest machinations over rape allegations with some interest, as they have serious consequences for all red-bloodied males who are out on the rut.  For the past ten years or more, a politically driven agenda has been thrust down the throats of  court users about the deplorably low percentage of rape allegations that lead to conviction, and successive governments have been enjoined to do something about it.

My considerable experience tells me that there are basically two defences to an allegation of rape: either “it wasn’t me gov”, or “she was gagging for it”. It is also correct in my own experience that most of those accused of rape are acquitted, not simply as a result of the brilliance of my advocacy, but  because the jury did not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim did not consent.

Into this squirming sack of grubby emotions steps Ms. Alison Saunders, who is apparently the Director of Public Prosecutions, so she should know better.  And is it just me, or are women taking over the world?  And is it just me, or do you share my dislike for the prefix ‘Ms’?  It’s all to do with political correctness, or so they say, but speaking for my wife, and I suspect millions of other wives, when she agreed to marry me, convention dictated that she took my name and became Mrs. Osborne.  She does not wish to be referred to as Ms. Osborne, nor does she wish to be known as my partner.  It’s insulting!

Anyway, back to Ms. Saunders and her camp followers.  She has decided, or rather it has been decided for her, that anybody who makes an allegation of rape must be believed, and everything possible in the trial process must be bent towards the conviction of the accused.  Rape trials from now on are no longer to be prosecution led, but conviction led, and when you add into the mix that prison sentences for rape are getting longer and longer, the opportunities for a serious miscarriage of justice are self-evident.  Or should that be ‘ms.carriage’?

Sarah Vine, or more properly Ms. Sarah Vine the journalist, summed up the feelings not just of red-bloodied males but also the legions of fair minded people.  Like me, she deplores the so-called ‘vagenda’, the all men are rapists brigade advanced by vocal feministas like Harriet Harman and the ‘femi-fascist’ twitter mob who increasingly seem to hold sway in public policy. Predictably, Ms. Harman, and I use that form of address advisedly, replied to Ms. Vine’s comments with the usual ‘feminista’ clichés, defending Ms. Saunders for trying to ensure that victims of rape get justice.  Gawd help us!

I have always found it distasteful and unattractive the suggestion that as the victim was blind drunk she therefore unable to give her consent to sex, or more to the point, she gave her consent which she would not have given had she been sober.  In my book, consent is consent, blind drunk or otherwise, and regret after the event cannot make it rape as Ms. Saunders and Ms. Harman seem to be advocating.  Save us  from the Mssss!

I have a very simple solution which I hope you will agree is fair.  If the complainant (I do not refer to her as the victim) was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, when she was ‘raped’, this provides the accused with a complete defence.  End of story and a victory for fairness, moderation and common sense!

POSTSCRIPT:

I have been surprised by the comments from many quarters of the press and the media, as well as individuals, about this article, and in particular the interpretation placed on the final paragraph.  By way of clarification, I remain concerned about Ms. Saunders’s possible manipulation of the system by coaching witnesses before they give evidence (see my earlier blog), as well as seeking ways to excuse inexcusable behaviour.  That said, if the complainant or victim is under the influence of drink or drugs, she is perfectly entitled to refuse consent, it is quite wrong to take advantage of her drunkenness, and the red-bloodied male proceeds at his peril.

These are some of the quotes he gave to The Mirror in response to queries about his misogyny:

He told the Mirror: “The protection in law that they have got seems to me to be twofold.

“Number One: Don’t go out in the first place.

“Or Number Two: If you do go out don’t get rat-arsed. If you get rat arsed, I’m sorry, you are asking for trouble.

You’ve seen the news sequences of girls who, regardless of the weather, have their backsides sticking out of their dresses and their tits hanging out of the same dress.

“Wandering around the streets, staggering around and then wondering at the end of all that why somebody has, if you like, taken advantage of them.

“And so in those circumstances I don’t see for the life of me why the law should now be slanted – as I perceive it with Alison Saunders – towards the victim and therefore against the accused.”

He went on: “The whole thing is over slanted in favour of drunken victims and against lads who chance their arm.

“I don’t call them victims. I said that these are complainants.

“They are not victims because victims in my opinion are synonymous with people who have been taken advantage of.

“That is the grey area you and I are discussing. Does a bloke who siddles up to a girl: ‘Hello sweetheart, fancy a quickie’ or whatever they say these days – is he taking advantage of her and is she therefore a victim because she is under the influence.

“I don’t see that, I really don’t.

“I’ve advised my own daughter, although thank God she doesn’t trollop around the streets half naked and under the influence.

“She is now just coming up to her 30th birthday. I’ve said that you’ve got to bear in mind that walking the streets provocatively dressed can in some circumstances be an invitation to a red blooded bloke.

“I tell you what would drop the rape statistics would be if girls covered up, dressed appropriately and stopped drinking themselves legless.”

Jay Leno can fuck right off

So, Jay Leno has now joined the line-up of dudes who claim they believe the women who have accused Bill Cosby of rape Yep, apparently Leno has always known that Cosby is a sexual predator. And, he believes all the women. But, he still has Cosby on his talk show.  Because it’s easy to come out pro-women after years of women being labeled liars & some other dude calling Cosby out.

Since we can’t possibly allow profit to drop by supporting women by refusing to have a sexual predator on your talk show which has a bazillion members of the audience and regularly won the most watched show in its time slot. Nope, instead Leno until a whole bunch of decades later to come out to support women.

Leno can take his sanctimonious twaddle elsewhere because I genuinely don’t give a shit about the number of rich, white dudes lining up now to claim they believe women when they could have done something 20 years ago. Leno is a coward – not a supporter of women’s rights.

Some reservations about the coverage of Bill Cosby

I’ve seen speculation about the possibility of Bill Cosby abusing one/ some of the children who appeared on the Cosby Show. I’m very concerned about this speculation because it is extremely harmful to survivors and non- survivors. No one has the right to speculate publicly about whether or not a woman has experienced rape. No one has the right to identify rape victims publicly without consent.

It is clear Bill Cosby is a serial rapist who has been allowed to continue perpetrating rape due to his position in society. Women have spoken publicly about their experiences. We cannot allow other women be forced into speaking publicly about rape, regardless of whether or not they experienced it.

Women have the right to privacy. We don’t need to name other women. We already know he’s a serial rapist.

Allison Pearson & Rape Culture

I storified my responses to Allison Pearson’s suggestion that feminists weren’t in the least bit interested in the sexual exploitation of young girls in Rotherham here.

Fuck you Jezebel

So, Jezebel weighs in on the discussions around Lena Dunham’s troubling passages in her autobiography by insinuating Women of Colour are just being a tad hysterical about the whole thing and the follows it up with this charming paragraph:

It is fundamentally difficult for people—parents, researchers, peers—to identify the fuzzy and necessarily, inherently self-defined line between normative childhood behavior and potential sexual abuse. Women, and people who have worked with victims of sexual abuse or been victims themselves, are (quite understandably) more likely to describe a behavior as abusive that other people would describe as normal, unremarkable, fine.

Us survivors of child sexual abuse are just too damn emotional to be able to do things like read books and come to conclusions. It’s understandable that people working with vulnerable children are more likely to describe a behaviour as abusive: not that they are more likely to recognise the signs of child abuse than someone who isn’t.

The sneering tone of the article makes it clear that any challenge to the construction of Dunham The Quirky Wondergirl is women over-reacting. Nothing more. Nothing less.

My boyfriend performed anal sex without asking rape?

This was a search term on my blog today. If you found my blog searching this term, I’m so very sorry.

Sex without consent is rape. Anal sex without consent is rape. Your boyfriend had no right to engage in any sexual activity without asking permission or consent. Rape within a relationship is also domestic abuse. I understand how difficult this is and how hard it was for you  to reach out.

I believe you.  x

 

You can find support here:

Rape Crisis England/ Wales: 0808 802 9999

Rape Crisis (Scotland) 08088 01 03 02

Ending Victimisation and Blame

Women’s Aid: 0808 2000 247