Transforming public perceptions of male violence against women and girls

Featured

Dr Jessica Taylor

@DrJessTaylor

15th March 2021

It only happens to naïve women and the women with low self-esteem.

It only happens to women who wear revealing clothes and have no self-respect.

It only happens to young women and girls. 

It only happens to women who were abused in childhood.

It only happens to poor, disadvantaged women, the uneducated and disempowered women.

It only happens in developing countries. 

Women lie about male violence. 

Women use disclosures and reports as revenge against their exes.

Women exaggerate how common male violence is. 

Women ask for it and want to be treated like objects by men.

Women say no when they really mean yes.

This list could take up my entire blog, and psychologists, feminists and activists have been trying to draw our attention to the way women and girls are perceived and portrayed since the 1960s.

The most important thing to note about all these harmful myths about women subjected to male violence is that they serve one main purpose: to erase the offender from their own crimes and decisions. Instead, the focus is switched back to the woman and everything about her comes under scrutiny. Whether it is her body shape or her sexuality, her character and behaviour is highly likely to be criticised and blamed for being subjected to male violence.

These widely embedded views impact our justice system, mental health systems, education provisions and social care services. My research on this topic showed that views which seek to blame women and girls for male violence committed against them has reached so many different levels and corners of society that we have a real problem on our hands.

Male violence against women is minimised, ignored, glorified, sexualised and excused. Women are positioned as mentally ill, liars and seductresses who lead men on, or cause them to commit acts of violence.

These views need urgent change. We need to completely transform the way we think and talk about women and girls subjected to male violence. 

To that end, I want to talk to you about what I believe to be the 5 most harmful views about women and girls which need to be transformed, and I want to tell you what I have been doing for the last 11 years to try to transform these views, to varying levels of success.

The five beliefs I will discuss are:

1. The abuse, exploitation and murder of women and girls is rare;

2. Women and girls are asking for it;

3. Women and girls should take responsibility to protect themselves from male violence;

4. Women and girls exaggerate or lie about abuse and violence;

5. Women and girls are respected and supported when they disclose their experiences.

In 2014, after a long day managing a rape and domestic abuse centre, I nipped to my local shop to get some bread. The woman who always served me on the counter noticed that I looked particularly tired and troubled. She asked me if I was okay, and I responded that I had had a difficult day at work. She asked the question I often dread being asked in public, ‘What is it that you do then?’

I tried to dodge the question by saying that I managed a charity, but she probed and eventually I told her that I worked in a rape and domestic abuse centre in our town. 

The woman gave me the most extraordinary look. It wasn’tsadness, or pity, or shock – it looked like confusion. She laughed. And then she said the words:

“Well! You mustn’t be very busy then, must you?”

I stared at her, thinking of the 357-strong waiting list we had for counselling and support services. 

“What do you mean?” I replied.

“Well, you know, all that rape and abuse stuff, it doesn’t happen around here does it? You can’t be very busy…”

And that was when I realised she was being serious. She genuinely believed that my job must be very quiet because rape and abuse of women and girls was so rare. I nodded at her, and let her continue her shift thinking that I ran this empty, quiet, unneeded rape centre in a town where the abuse of women and girls never happens. Where me and my counsellors just sit around and play dominoes for want of something to do.

It reminded me, after several years immersed in this type of work, that there were people out there who genuinely believed that the abuse and rape of women and girls was a rare occurrence in the world. 

Instead of being rare, male violence against women is actually very common. 

30-50% of women have been victims of domestic violence by male partners and ex partners (CSEW, 2017) and 1 in 4 girls will be sexually abused in the UK before the age of 12 (NSPCC, 2017). 1 in 5 women will be raped or experience an attempted rape and 1 in 3 women will be subjected to physical sexual violence in her lifespan according to the CDC (2015). This week, the UN and ONS released data stating that 97% of 1000 women have been harassed.

Further, 3 women per week were killed by men in the UK in 2019, representing a 14-year high. 66% of those women were killed by their partners and exes in their own homes, with others being killed by male family members, acquaintances, and strangers (Femicide Census, 2020).

Every year, millions of women and girls are trafficked across the world for sex and estimates suggest that between 60 and 100 million women are missing from the global population due to sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and deliberate neglect of female newborn babies (Watts and Zimmerman, 2002).

In my own study which will be published this summer, we collected data about women’s experiences of male violence from 4636 women and found using a new methodology that 78% of women were sexually assaulted at least once in childhood, and 46% of all women were sexually assaulted more than 3 times. 92% of women reported that they were catcalled in the street in childhood by men.

Only 6% of the women had ever reported any crimes committed against them in childhood to the police.

In adulthood, out of 4636 women, 83% reported that they had been sexually assaulted with 52% of women reporting that they had been sexually assaulted more than 3 times. 

The reality is that in studies and meta-analyses across the world, violence committed against women and girls by men is actually very common. 

And what about belief that women and girls are asking for it?

Research has now spanned several decades (from as far back as the 1960s) to explore why we are so likely to believe in rape myths such as that women and girls ‘ask for it’. Back in the 1960s, around 50% of the public believed that women and girls ask to be raped by the way they act or the way they dress. But have we really made any progress?

In 2017, The Fawcett Society surveyed over 8000 people in the British public and found that 34% of women and 36% of men believed that women are always partially or totally to blame for rape. My own research found that victim blaming of women and girls depends on the way we perceive the woman or girl, and on the type of offence they were subjected to. There were certain types of offences against women and girls which caused high levels of victim blaming, for example, when it came to questions where I asked men and women about ‘asking for it’, 58% of the general public sample assigned at least some blame to the woman. 

The third harmful belief that needs total transformation is that women and girls should do more to protect themselves from male violence.

This might be the one that annoys me the most, especially as entire industries have popped up to exploit this belief. Now we have anti-rape knickers, anti-rape trousers and anti-rape bras (I cannot explain to you how those work, I’ve been trying to figure it out, but I got nowhere). There are even anti-rape jewellery companies now, who have essentially designed and sold little rings with a blade that pops out in case women are attacked by men, and anti-rape necklaces with a blade that pops out, and I’m pretty sure they are illegal.

Add that to the rape self-defence classes and the rape alarms, pepper spray and relentless advice to women and girls not to use the tube, use headphones, wear their hair in a ponytail, use taxis, walk home alone, jog in the park, walk in the dark, eat, sleep or breathe without protecting themselves from male violence – and we have a real culture of placing the responsibility on women and girls instead of on male offenders. 

In my own study, 80% of participants assigned blame to the women who had been subjected to male violence where I described the woman as unable to say no or trapped in a situation or assault that she could not escape. 

I included offences against women which used manipulation, blackmail and intimidation. These features appear to have elicited high levels of blame from the participant group with over 75% of items resulting in high victim blaming of women. The issue appears to be about the woman’s agency and lack of power in the sexual offence, which increased the amount she was blamed; because she did not ‘assert herself’ or stop the offences, she was blamed by the participants.

The belief here presents many problems, and puts us on a pathway to individualising male violence, not into the individual offender, but into the individual woman or girl. Instead of stopping offenders from abusing, oppressing, assaulting and murdering women and girls, we are giving strong public messages that women and girls should make changes to their lives, appearances, experiences and social lives in order to avoid men who want to hurt them. 

In 2017, I interviewed a woman who had been raped multiple times. She told me that she wished people talked about the rape of women in the same way they talked about terrorism. I asked her what she meant, and she told me that when women are raped, they condemn the woman, but when terrorists commit acts of violence, they condemn the terrorist. 

I thought about that conversation for months. I couldn’t get it out of my head. 

She was right.

When innocent women are targeted and attacked by violent offenders, we tell women ‘don’t go there, don’t do that, don’t put yourself at risk’. But when innocent people are targeted by a terrorist attack, we make clear, public statements that our lives will not change, we will not live in fear, we will not change our behaviours or characters, and that we will challenge, condemn and convict terrorist offenders. There is a clear difference. 

It often makes me wonder why any woman would want to live in a world like this. A world in which male violence is seen as so acceptable and so normalised that they should have to walk down the street with their keys poking between their fingers or pretending to be on the phone to try to protect themselves from male violence. 

A world in which women and girls are chatted up by men and boys, and no matter how many times she says no, it is taken as ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’. A world in which women and girls have learned that the only way to stop a man or boy harassing them is to say they have a boyfriend, because the fact that she is already owned by another male is the only thing that might protect her from another violent male. 

Think about the state of that world for our women and girls. We need urgent transformation. We need urgent change. 

As if we needed more bad news, what about the fourth harmful belief – that women and girls exaggerate or lie about abuse and violence committed against them?

Similar to some of the other beliefs about women and girls, the belief that they lie about being subjected to male violence is a tale as old as time. As old in fact, as The Bible.

There are several examples of women being positioned as lying about rape in The Bible, but two clear examples include a story of a woman who lies about being raped by a male servant who is then punished for crimes he never committed, as a warning to women that they will be held responsible for the harm of men who they lie about.

The second example comes from the Old Testament, which suggested that women who are raped outside of city walls should be punished for leaving the city walls, and women who are raped inside of city walls should be punished for lying about it, as the argument is that if they were truly raped inside of city walls, everyone would have heard her screaming for help and would have rescued her.

Whilst these examples come from texts that are hundreds, maybe thousands of years old, not much has really changed here in 2021. 

There is still a strong belief that women lie about being raped and abused by men, with research showing that 38% of soap storylines about rape depict a woman lying about being raped (APA, 2007). The media has a huge role to play in this. Despite false rape allegations being very rare (around 2% according to Lonsway et al., 2007), the media tends to overreport on cases where there are accusations of false rape allegations and this influences the public to believe that women and girls often lie about being raped. In 1980, Burt found that half of men and women from a community sample believed that women lie about being raped and almost thirty years later, Kahlor and Morrison (2007) found that participants believed that an average of 19% of sexual assault and rape reports by women were false.

The final harmful belief that needs urgent change, is that we have made progress.

Professionals, academics and members of the public say this to me frequently. They tell me how much better it is for women and girls now, and that women and girls are believed, respected and supported when they report male violence.

I have lost count of the times I have been told, “It’s not like that anymore!” when I have been criticising our national and international responses to the abuse and oppression of women and girls. 

It’s as if we decided that if we tell ourselves enough times that things are better, our practice has improved and that we’ve made huge progress, it will become true. But it isn’t becoming true at all. 

Women and girls are still faced with serious barriers to justice around the world. Whether it’s the rape clause in tax credits, the police being able to mine your mobile phone data and social media accounts when you report abuse, the lowest conviction rate for rape the UK has ever seen, the messages from police telling women and girls that they should keep themselves safer or the victim blaming of little girls who have been trafficked, raped and drugged by gangs of men – where is the progress?

Research has shown that when women and girls do report their abuses and rapes to the police, over 73% of them blame themselves after being questioned (Campbell et al., 2009). When women and girls tell their families that they have been abused by men, 78% of them experience their loved ones turning against them (Reyea and Ullman, 2015). The reporting rate of rape and sexual violence reduces every year according to the Crime Survey England and Wales. 

This final point brings me to what I’ve been doing for many years now, attempting to cause cultural, systemic and psychological change in our professional and public spheres.

I’m just like thousands of other women; I’ve had enough of this. I have worked in the criminal justice system, rape centres, domestic abuse support, child sexual exploitation and anti-human trafficking and these portrayals of women and girls need to be changed urgently.

My work, along with the work of many other dedicated activists, female leaders and academics have consistently and robustly challenged victim blaming, rape myths and misogyny in our social systems. But transformation isn’t easy. It is especially difficult, when people do not see the need for change, or believe that what they are doing is righteous or justified. 

I have worked with organisations who blame girls for being raped, and tell me that the girls brought it on themselves, and need ‘a good shock to the system’. I have worked with police sergeants who have told me that 12 year old rape and trafficking victims are ‘easy’ and ‘slags’.

I have worked with youth hostel managers who have told me that when girls lie about their age to get social media accounts, they deserve to be raped. I have dealt with cover up after cover up.

I have challenged professionals who thought that showing videos of girls being raped to teenage girls would make them ‘protect themselves from sexual exploitation’. I have worked with police teams who tell women that it will be their fault if their rapist attacks another woman, if they do not give good evidence in court for prosecution. I have worked with professionals who believe that women who have been abused and raped should not be allowed to have their own children.

Transformation is hard work. It requires critical reflection, humility, an examination of your own biases and of the cultures and systems you exist within. It means that you have to work through your own stuff – and work out how much of it you are projecting on to others. Sometimes, it means acknowledging that you have worked or lived in a way which has harmed women and girls in profound ways, and that you need to do something to take responsibility for that. 

The same is true of systems. It means that organisations, governments, authorities, charities and companies must examine their own role in the way they have portrayed and treated women and girls when they have been subjected to male violence. They must explore their own strategies, policies, staff training, measurement tools, organisational cultures and belief systems. 

I have been challenging some of the most powerful structures in our country for years about this, and it causes a range of responses.

One of the first things I had to do to be able to effectively challenge is resign from my job, something I never expected to have to do. As soon as I started to challenge the wrongdoing and unethical treatment of women and girls, people came after my job and started to write to my employers. I was very lucky that my employer stood by me, but I knew from that day on, that I had to go it alone.

I figured that they couldn’t come after my job, if I was self-employed. Who would give me the P45?

With that out of the way, I could concentrate on working with willing (and unwilling) professionals and organisations to explore their practice, challenge their beliefs about women and girls and encourage them to reframe everything they do. No small ask. 

To finish this blog, I want to tell you two more stories. One of them highlights how resistant we are to changing the way we think and talk about women and girls subjected to male violence, and the next shows how capable of transformation we really are, when we just take a step back and think.

In 2018, I had been working on a contract for 18 months with an authority who had approached me to retrain and rewrite their materials about the sexual abuse and exploitation of girls in the UK.

My job was to rewrite and then deliver the materials to 600 professionals who worked every day with girls who were sexually abused, trafficked and exploited. I had been doing this every month for 18 months when one of my professional students approached me.

“Have you seen the email that went around?” He sort of stumbled over his words in a lowered voice and looked over his shoulder.

I hadn’t seen an email. 

“They’ve sent an email out to everyone saying to ignore your training and materials, because they are causing too much challenge.”

I was shocked. We had spent months causing serious organisational change, which had included empowering hundreds of social workers to challenge the victim blaming and abuse of girls they were working with. 

“They said that too many of us were challenging decisions about the girls, and that everyone kept citing your work and your training. They have sent an email to say that we are to ignore everything we learn today, and that they are going to be stopping your training.”

He was right, and that is exactly what they did. 

They never replied to my calls or emails to explain why they had chosen to stop systemic change, and to tell their professionals to ignore their new skills and knowledge. The woman I had worked closely with at the authority resigned soon after, and told me that she couldn’t continue to work there knowing what they had done. 

The issue here was that the authority had not planned for the way successful systemic change causes complete cultural change – and when they had got exactly what they had asked for, they were not ready for hundreds of educated, critical thinkers making better decisions and challenging poor practice. Instead of empowering transformation, they shut it down. 

By contrast, while I was writing this blog, a woman from an organisation I worked with recently called me. She called for a catch up and as we were finishing the conversation, she rushed to add something.

“By the way, the team you worked with on their misogyny towards the girls they are working with went away from your sessions and realised that they were wrong. They apologised to all of the girls and took responsibility.”

I was gobsmacked. This team had been controlling what girls wore, and telling them that wearing vest tops, shorts or skirts was ‘asking for it’ and ‘dressing inappropriately’. I challenged them and they were not at all comfortable with needing to change. They were certainly not ready for change. One of them even made a comment that they would prefer the advice of a male academic than me. 

To hear that they had not only apologised to the girls but had removed all clothing rules and empowered the girls to wear whatever they wanted, was such a sweet shock – and a reminder that transformation is possible, and it is within our reach. 

So, what can we all do to cause transformation?

Be braver. 

Think critically about the world around us, and why so many of our systems seek to blame women.

Acknowledge the reality of male violence against women, and talk about it.

Challenge the messages and beliefs which place responsibility on women and girls for the violence of men who harm them.

Hold systems to account, and challenge them to be better. 

Believe women, support women and stand up for their rights. 

Transformation is possible – but more importantly, it is absolutely vital.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

15th March 2021

Email jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Buy Why Women Are Blamed for Everything on Kindle, Hardback or Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Women-Blamed-Everything-Victim-Blaming/dp/1472135482/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=why+women+are+blamed+for+everything&qid=1615654143&sprefix=why+women&sr=8-1

Tweet: @DrJessTaylor

‘Men only target vulnerable women’ & other myths

Featured

Dr Jessica Taylor

15th October 2020

Content warning for rape, abuse and blaming of women and girls.

One of the biggest lies we’ve ever been fed is that women and girls have an innate vulnerability which causes sex offenders, domestic violence offenders and child abusers to spot them and target them.

I write this blog to dispel this powerful myth, and to reassure millions of women and girls that it wasn’t their ‘vulnerability’ which led to them being beaten up, abused, raped or harmed.

I want to make this argument in six points:

⁃ The vulnerability myth is based on some very old, and very shit science

⁃ We like to deny our own vulnerability by calling other people ‘vulnerable’

⁃ We teach children that only ‘vulnerable’ kids get abused and harmed

⁃ We have an oversimplified understanding of abusers and offenders

⁃ We don’t know how to tackle the global epidemic of male violence

⁃ Vulnerability does not lead to other humans committing crime

The message which I hope to convey is that ‘vulnerability’ is not the cause or the source of the abuse that women and girls are subjected to. Further, we have leant on this explanation so heavily that services, programmes, interventions and policies are based upon it, despite it being incorrect.

The vulnerability myth is based on some very old, and very shit science

Calling women and girls ‘vulnerable’ is so commonplace now, you might not even notice it. You might not notice that when a woman or girl is abused, someone will point out her ‘vulnerabilities’. You might not notice that the conversation often becomes about her background, her personality, her childhood or her understanding.

The truth is that this process of seeking and assessing ‘vulnerabilities’ of women and girls who have been abused and harmed is deeply embedded into social care, psychology, mental health, counselling, policing, legislation, education, law and justice.

To understand how we got to a place where we pick apart the woman or girl and lay out her ‘vulnerabilities’ as reasons for being raped, trafficked, abused or traumatised – we have to look at some of the old theories which have continued to influence our thinking.

One such theory is almost 80 years old, and comes from positivist victimology.

Key theorists in victimology and criminology as far back as 1948 argued that only certain types of people became victims of crime and often brought it upon themselves.

Hans Von Hentig wrote in Time Magazine (1948):

‘Certain characteristics of law-abiding citizens arouse a counter reaction in the criminal. The inexperienced businessman, for example, invites embezzlement; the nagging wife is flirting with murder; the alcoholic is a natural for robbery. Thus, the victim becomes the tempter.’

As you can see from this example, it is theorised that victims ‘tempt’ and ‘arouse’ criminals to commit crimes by being vulnerable, inexperienced – or… a woman.

Spoiler alert: There is a lot of misogyny in vulnerability theories and research.

Later victimology theorists such as Benjamin Mendelsohn and Stephen Schafer also suggested that victims caused crime by being weak, vulnerable, female, old, disabled or young. All three theorists suggested that victims precipitate crime by provoking offenders. Whilst this sounds somewhat outdated, these perspectives are alive and well.

Many theories within psychology and criminology still rely on the assumption that women subjected to sexual and domestic violence either brought the offence on themselves, should have done something to protect themselves, should have behaved in a different way or that their vulnerabilities led to the offender targeting and attacking them.

Victim precipitation theory and research suggests that victims precipitate a crime by their behaviour, vulnerability, character or even the way they walk. This research is still ongoing, and only recently I spoke to an academic who was conducting research into which women were ‘vulnerable’ to being raped by their gait and style of walking.

The argument goes that if a woman or girl walks in a way which is not confident or assertive, she gives off some sort of signal to offenders that she is vulnerable and would therefore be a good target for rape or abuse.

Walking isn’t the only thing which academics have suggested to be a vulnerability in women and girls – everything from their appearance to their childhood has been explored in the literature for decades. There are thousands of articles and studies which seek to name the ‘vulnerability factors’ of women and girls, with the aim of reducing them by changing something about that woman or girl.

Interestingly, the same cannot be said for men who are raped and abused, they are not generally discussed as if they were ‘vulnerable’ to offenders or ‘giving off signals’ to be raped or abused.

It’s as if we see rape as a violent crime when committed against men, but as natural process of taking of an opportunity of a weak person, when rape is committed against women.

The reason that I reject this research and these theories entirely is simple: none of it is true, and if you look hard enough for correlations, you’ll find them no matter what they are.

If I looked hard enough, I bet I could find a correlation between which vegetables women eat and being subjected to violence or abuse by men. The reality is that violence against women and girls is so common, that you can often find correlations that don’t really exist, purely based on how common one of the variables is.

I, and thousands of other professionals, have been working with abused women and girls for decades. Those of us who have done these jobs know that we come across women and girls from every background imaginable. I’ve never seen a particular personality, character, appearance, walk or background that has formed any sort of pattern in the women I have supported.

I’ve supported everyone from female MPs to child victims of trafficking. I’ve worked with lawyers and police officers who were being raped and abused by their husbands at home. I’ve worked with social workers who work in safeguarding teams every day and live in fear of their partners. I’ve worked with women who were experts in martial arts who were raped and beaten up by men. I’ve discussed experiences of abuse and rape with women in the military and women who are now veterans.

Equally, I’ve worked with women who have been in care since they were toddlers. I’ve supported girls who have been trafficked around the country. I’ve worked with girls who have never known a safe place to live and have struggled to get a decent meal.

I can’t think of any ‘vulnerability’ that any of these women or girls had in common. They were a mixture of confident, nervous, strong, terrified, healthy, unwell, believed, ignored, extrovert, introvert, popular, lonely, religious, atheist, old, young, poor, rich, supported and isolated women and girls.

The only thing they had in common was that they were females in a patriarchy, and that means that statistically, they are at constant risk from male violence.

We like to deny our own vulnerability by calling other women ‘vulnerable’

You might be wondering why we go to such efforts to name the vulnerability in the woman or girl.

My work, and the work of many others, explores the concept of ‘denial of personal vulnerability’.

Simply put, this means that we are all vulnerable at some level, but we like to pretend we are not.

We are vulnerable not because of innate characteristics or behaviours, but purely due to how common abuse and rape is. At any given time, any of us could be attacked, assaulted, abused, threatened, groomed or even murdered. But to think in such terms would leave most of us anxious and terrified to live a normal life, so we instead tell ourselves that it would never happen to us, because we are not ‘vulnerable’ like those other women and girls who are raped and abused.

We tell ourselves that we would never be that stupid, never be that trusting, never drink that much, never date that guy, never go to that place. We tell ourselves that we would ‘see the signs’. We tell ourselves that the first time he laid his hands on us, we would be out of the door.

It’s all bullshit, of course. But we like to redirect our own feelings of personal vulnerability by pointing the finger at victims and then picking out their ‘vulnerabilities’. We then say ‘ahhh, that’s why she was raped, well, I would never do that, I would never let that happen to me.’

It’s a defence mechanism. A coping strategy for living in a patriarchy. We blame and name other women and girls as ‘vulnerable’ so we don’t ever have to face the fact that it could happen to us.

This is true even when academics write papers about ‘vulnerabilities’ of women and girls subjected to male violence. The difference is, they get to dress it up with big words, theories and titles so that we all nod and agree. It must be the vulnerabilities of the victims! Of course!

We teach children that only ‘vulnerable’ kids get abused and harmed

We invest a huge amount of time and effort into convincing each other that only the vulnerable will be abused, raped and harmed. This starts early, as early as primary school.

Children are taught in PSHE, assemblies and workshops that only the vulnerable children will be abused or groomed. Resources from everywhere from NSPCC to Barnardo’s have endorsed the myth that only the vulnerable children will be abused, and that if we remove their ‘vulnerabilities’ they will be safe from sex offenders and child abusers.

It’s again, all total rubbish. But that doesn’t stop us from showing children videos, resources and sessions which encourage them to identify the ‘vulnerability’ of the child who is raped and abused. It also doesn’t stop us from constructing entire vulnerability assessments in professional practice which erroneously attempt to identify which vulnerabilities of the child caused the abuse, so we can ‘solve’ them.

A common example of this is when professionals conclude that a girl has been exploited or raped because she didn’t ‘have enough education about consent and healthy relationships’.

This leads to plans around the child which suggest that increasing her knowledge of consent and abuse will protect her from the sex offender who is exploiting her, because once she has more knowledge, she will use the knowledge to defend herself and protect herself better.

This completely ignores the fact that even the most educated professionals who work in abuse every day, are still just as likely to be abused as anyone else. There has been no research which suggests that knowledge of abuse is protective. It is educative at best. This is because power dynamics and the choice to commit violent crime against women and girls has literally fuck all to do with the victim and has everything to do with the motivation and personal choices of the offender.

If we are to tackle this myth, we need to look at why we embed it from such an early age in girls and boys around the world.

We have an oversimplified understanding of abusers and offenders

One of them main issues we have is that whilst we like to scream ‘monster’ and ‘pervert’ and ‘paedo’ at offenders, we don’t actually get taught anything about these men. This leads to serious misunderstandings about offenders who commit domestic and sexual violence offences.

One such misunderstanding is that offenders carefully seek out and then deliberately target the most vulnerable women and girls in society.

This is very easily disproved, especially as direct qualitative research with sex offenders and domestic violence offenders shows that men who commit these crimes target their victims for hundreds of reasons, most of which have absolutely nothing to do with vulnerability.

In interviews, sex offenders have said that they targeted girls because they liked their hair, their tights, their body shape and their smile. Sex offenders report targeting children because they are confident and happy. Some talk about their specific sexual fantasies. Some only target girls of certain ages and ethnicities. Some sex offenders report not caring who their victims are at all, and will rape and abuse any child they can.

When it comes to online sex offending, there is plenty of evidence that sex offenders target children and adults randomly, based on whoever responds first and in a way they want. This means they can literally use a scattergun approach to attack and groom hundreds of victims per day, and never know anything about their so-called ‘vulnerabilities’.

In chat logs of sex offenders abusing children which were analysed by Kloess et al. (2017), most offenders never even asked for details about the child. They were not seeking vulnerabilities to exploit. They were targeting hundreds of different kids. They had very little in common.

With the abuse and grooming of adult women, the same can be said. It is seen as ‘common knowledge’ that abusers target vulnerable women – and yet, many offenders actually target assertive and confident women who spend the rest of their lives wondering how that man managed to grind them down and destroy their sense of self.

The reality is, for lots of misogynists, destroying confident and healthy women is part of the fun. It’s part of the kick they get out of belittling and humiliating her. Why would an offender always target vulnerable women, when they enjoy breaking down women and controlling them?

The vulnerability theory is just myth. It suggests that offenders don’t target or abuse ‘strong’ women, and that if you are a strong woman, it shouldn’t ever happen to you.

This is particularly true for Black women who are generally positioned as strong, aggressive matriarchs due to racism. So it’s even harder for Black women to be seen as victims of abuse and male violence, because we assume they are all ‘strong, assertive’ women who would never be targeted by abusers. There has been much written about this phenomenon, and it deserves a lot more attention. Especially as it exposes so fluently, the stereotypes we use to build the ‘perfect victim’, and what happens when you as a woman, sit outside of that perfect victim stereotype.

If you are not seen as vulnerable or weak, you can often be positioned as a liar or a malicious ex.

It’s almost as if we believe that all victims of male violence must be inherently vulnerable women and girls, and they are not vulnerable, they are not real victims.

We don’t know how to tackle the global epidemic of male violence

This is probably fairly obvious, but we don’t actually know how to (and there is very little appetite for) challenge and end global, systemic male violence.

We did get to a point where we started to take notice of the fact that 97-99% of all violent crime is committed by men globally, and that we had to do something about the way men and boys were being socialised and brought up to regard fighting, violence, sexual power, competition and bullying as masculine traits to aim for.

However, more recently, we have seemingly gone backwards. When we talk about male violence or male crime stats, we are shouted down and told we are misandrists and man-hating feminist bitches, (ironic, but okay).

It seems that if we cannot even publicly address decades of solid evidence and statistics, we definitely cannot work towards tackling male violence yet. As much as I would love to see that for the good of our entire species, you can lead a horse to water but you cannot force it to drink.

Everyone knows the reality of violent crime, but many are reluctant to do anything with it.

We’ve now moved away from holding men responsible (again) and gone back towards positivist theories of victim precipitation and vulnerability.

Vulnerability in one human does not lead to other humans committing crime

My final message has to be the clearest.

It does not matter how vulnerable a woman or girl is, it never ever ‘causes’ another human with free will to choose to abuse, rape or kill them.

Absolutely nothing inside that victim has any power or effect on the choice-making of an offender.

They are capable and competent adults who make active choices to harm women and girls for one reason:

Because they want to.

You don’t need any other theories. Offenders do it, ultimately, because they want to. That’s why they are able to keep their cool with their boss, or their best mate, or some dickhead they play footy with – but ‘lose their cool’ with their girlfriend at home or abuse little girls.

This isn’t about vulnerability of the woman or girl, it’s about a choice that is made by a misogynistic, violent offender who wants to abuse and harm women and girls (and in some cases, children in general rather than just girls).

Let me explain something to everyone reading this blog:

If vulnerabilities lead to some sort of human arousal or temptation in us to exploit or abuse or kill weaker humans, we would all do it (or at least the majority of us). And yet, not only do the majority of humans not commit these crimes, but women hardly commit any.

Globally, women are only responsible for around 2% of violent crime. So does this mean that victim precipitation theory only applies to male offenders and female victims?

If the vulnerability theories were real, that would mean that if you came across a drunk woman, accidentally separated from her friends and lost in the high street, you would think ‘she’s vulnerable and alone, I could do something to her right now!’

But you don’t, do you?

Most of us have never had a thought like that in our lives.

You might instead see her and think ‘shit, she’s alone, is she okay?’

Or you might approach her and ask her if she’s safe, and where her friends are. You might ring an ambulance or police if needed. You might help her back to somewhere safe like a taxi rank or a bar where her friends were.

That’s because you made a CHOICE.

100 people could walk past her and the majority would see all of her so-called ‘vulnerabilities’ and either try to help her or not stop at all.

And yet a handful may stop and make a choice to harm her, rape her, rob her or kill her.

Her ‘vulnerabilities’ had nothing to do with it. It is all about the active choice making of the offender.

It is ALWAYS the choice of the offender.

Vulnerability of women is just a myth used to distract us from the real cause of male violence: men.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

35% off all books, journals and educational resources at victimfocus-resources.com and use discount code VFAS35 for 35% off everything in store

Email: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @DrJessTaylor

Facebook: @JessicaForenPsych

Insta: @victimfocus_jessica

20 signs your boyfriend or husband is a misogynist

Featured

10th April 2020

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

The thing about lockdown is that it will be causing reflection and in some cases, forcing some very uncomfortable thinking to take place.

You might be missing loved ones, but you might also be starting to realise that you are in a relationship with a misogynist. This blog is to help women and girls think about whether they are in a relationship with a misogynist and consider the impact it may be having on you.

Before I give you the signs to look out for, let me explain what I mean by ‘misogynist’ or ‘misogyny’.

Misogyny is officially defined in dictionaries as:

‘The hatred of women including prejudice and contempt for women and girls. Misogyny can also include the belief that females are inferior humans to males.’

There has been a concerted effort to minimise and delegitimize the concept and language of ‘misogyny’.

When we discuss the reality and impact of misogyny, we are now met with accusations that misogyny is a myth dreamt up by feminist and ‘social justice warriors’.

The word ‘misogyny’ comes from two words. ‘Misos’ meaning hatred and ‘gune’ meaning woman. In the mid-17th century, it began to be used as ‘misogyny’ to mean the hatred of women. 400 years later, the definition has not changed, and we continue to discuss the global phenomenon linked to sexism – the hatred of females.

To people who have never considered this before, the concept of people hating 51% of the global population probably seems unlikely or farfetched. However, as my new book will and many other books about violence against women and girls already have shown, there are thousands of examples of the constant, enduring ways we hate, harm, control, abuse and kill women and girls all over the world and throughout history.

Misogyny is displayed in so many direct and indirect ways. Sometimes they are obvious, and sometimes they are hidden in seemingly benevolent messages and beliefs about women, men and social roles.

Misogyny has existed in several forms for thousands of years. Aristotle wrote that women were ‘inferior, incomplete, deformed versions of men’ (Freeland, 1994). Ancient Greek mythology contains many examples of misogyny, in which stories are told that the world was a peaceful and balanced place until Gods created women. However, later Greek literature generally considered misogyny to be a disease, as it contradicted all natural and social aims and norms to hate women and girls.

Second wave feminists tend to argue that misogyny is both the cause and the result of patriarchal control.

If you notice any of the following in your relationship or in the man you are with, you are living with a misogynist or someone who hold misogynistic views.

He tends to make comments about women being incapable, stupid or weak

He might make comments directly, indirectly or as ‘jokes’. He might like posts, watch shows or listen to speakers who consistently talk shit about women and girls. He might suggest that women are shit drivers, are too weak to perform certain tasks, are incapable of leadership etc.

He’s sees female equality as some tokenistic ‘woke’ bullshit

He makes comments about female world leaders, CEOs or female sports stars that suggest he believes they are only there because we have to play along with equality and pretend that women can do things as well as men.

He expresses a real distaste or anger towards female politicians and leaders

He might suggest they only got to where they are because they’ve slept with men or because of what they look like. He might talk about female leaders and politicians dress, body shape, face, appearance and behaviour in a way that is not relevant to him in male leaders and politicians

He doesn’t support or like you working or earning decent money

He is grumpy, annoyed, distant or offensive about your money. It might be that you’ve recently got a new job, had a pay rise or been promoted. It might be that you’ve gone back to work after having children and now have your own income source that he no longer controls. He has no interest in the things you are saving for and he doesn’t value anything you have paid for. In contrast, anything he is saving for or has paid for is the most amazing and kindest most generous thing ever to happen to anyone.

He uses phrases like ‘don’t be such a woman’ or ‘like a little bitch’ or ‘he’s a pussy’

The badge of the misogynist – his constant use of female as an insult. Every time he uses these phrases and phrases like it, what he’s really saying is that there is nothing more offensive than being female. Pussy is an insult because it’s female. Bitch is an insult because it’s female. ‘Don’t be a woman’ is an insult because he’s suggesting that being a woman is something to be ashamed of.

He expects you to be his mother and his housekeeper

Yeah. You’re supposed to look after him, mother him, cook for him, clean for him, do his laundry for him, keep his diary for him, remember his mother’s birthday for him, remind him of your own birthday, sort all the bills, write all the Christmas cards, advise him (though he rarely takes your advice), listen to him moan and so on and so forth. Your role is basically his constant servant, to fulfil his needs in every way possible at all times.

Sort of like a mother. Who he wants to shag.

Freud would have a field day. Wait? Didn’t Freud…?

He wants sex when he wants it, on his terms, how he wants it

Sex with him is sort of like an obligation, when you don’t want it, he gets angry with you. He has sex the way he wants, sex is not about your pleasure or about what you want. You rarely orgasm or you fake it so he feels fulfilled because he couldn’t handle knowing he’s so bad in bed. He sometimes withholds intimacy as a punishment. He wakes you up in the night wanting sex. He doesn’t take no for an answer. He might talk you into it when you don’t really want it. He might think he’s the most amazing guy in bed ever – and make sex all about his performance rather than your experience.

(NB – if any of these are true for you, this is sexual abuse and rape, and he’s not just a misogynist.)

If he does any ‘woman’s work’ he wants some sort of medal for it

He prides himself on hoovering once or cleaning the kitchen that weekend. But you didn’t hear the last of it for months.

He doesn’t really like or want to do any housework or childcare because he suggests to you that’s it’s your job, and he has important man things to do, like work and play on the Xbox. If he does help around the house and look after the kids, he wants constant praise and thanks for it. If you forget to thank him one hundred times a week, you are told you are ungrateful.

Alternatively, he does quite a lot of housework but reminds you of how good he is for doing stuff you ‘should’ be doing. He might do this in a subtle manner or literally tell you that he’s a good man because he does housework/childcare.

He puts you down

About anything. Your friends. Your hobbies. Your skills. Your interests. Your talents. Your appearance. Your family. Your accent. Your ideas. Your studies. Your opinions. Your dreams. Anything. He’s doing that because he’s weak as fuck and he wants you to feel as weak as him. He can’t stand that you are an independent human.

All his exes are ‘psychos’

Red flag alert. If all his exes are ‘psycho liars’ – you’re in danger. If every word he says about his exes is to convince you that they are all mad as shit and made his life hell, he’s trying to discredit them for some reason. He wants you to believe they are all crazy because he’s a misogynist who thinks angry, upset women are all psycho. He wants you to hate them, but why?

Think about it. Why would he want you to hate a stranger? And if his exes are angry and hurt by him, find out why. Not from him.

He’s like Jekyll and Hyde

One of the things you might notice is that he’s like two different people. He’s one person to you but a complete actor to everyone else. He speaks to you and treats you in ways he would never treat his friends. You might also notice he’s like this with his mother. He might be lovely to her face but absolutely vile behind her back. Or he might be absolutely vile to his mother whilst telling everyone what an amazing mother he has. Watch out for this one.

He literally believes he is a gift to women

The thing is with men who hate women, is that they also want to be desired by women. They think they are the best you will ever get, they might even tell you that. They might tell you they could leave you and get another woman very quickly whereas you would end up alone because no one will want you. He describes himself as the perfect partner and often lists all the amazing qualities about himself. He makes you feel like he is the only man who will ever look twice at you – but that women are crawling all over him and you’re lucky to have him.

He engages in benevolent sexism but dresses it up as respect for women

Red flag for a misogynist – they dress up their sexism by making it sound like concern or respect for women. Examples include ‘I’ll get that door for you’ or ‘women shouldn’t be carrying heavy items’ or ‘the army is no place for a lady’ or ‘women shouldn’t be exposed to lad culture’. He’s saying you’re not his equal. Women are less than him.

He doesn’t like you being praised or celebrated

Watch out for this one. Does he get moody or annoyed when people are happy for you or telling you how great you are? When someone thanks you or supports you, does he say they are ‘up your ass’ or ‘probably want something from you’? Does he get angry if others tell you you have talent or skill?

You might notice that he claims to be proud of you but it feels shallow or fake. That’s because it is.

He takes your ideas and passes them off as his own

Of course he does. He’s a misogynist. He can’t bear the idea of you thinking something before him or better than him.

He only helps with the kids in front of people

Ugh. This one is so disgusting. The way he leaves you to cope with the kids or baby for hours on your own until his parents show up and then he’s superdad. When they leave he’s back to ordering you around. He knows what he’s doing. He’s keeping up appearances. The way he calls it ‘helping with the kids’ like he’s doing you a favour.

He will get annoyed when you talk about misogyny and sexism because he doesn’t think it really exists anymore

No explanation needed here. He’s a misogynist.

He hates feminism and thinks women’s rights are a joke

Any man who hates feminism is a red flag for misogyny. What man who loves and respects other humans would not want equal rights for women and the end of oppression of women? If he doesn’t want that, there’s something wrong with him. He claims men are more oppressed than women and that feminism is man-hate. He thinks feminists are all disgusting, ugly, spinsters or lesbians. He’s a misogynist.

He may try to play you off against other women

He wants you to be insecure – he wants you in direct competition with other women or his exes. Worse, you might even feel that you’re in competition with his mother. It might be that he tells you other women are better than you. It might be more subtle than that. Maybe sometimes he brings up how amazing he thinks other women are whilst treating you like you’re stupid and worthless.

The last point is that he may actually learn over time not to show any of these behaviours or views. Despite this, he might still be violent and abusive towards you.

He might attack you, abuse you, force you to have sex or gaslight you but then go back to being ‘perfect’ for a while. Do not under any circumstances believe this bullshit persona. His violence is not accidental. The way he swiftly reverts to being ‘perfect’ and apologises profusely, is a tactic.

If after reading this, you think your boyfriend or husband is a misogynist, the best thing to do is to leave. I don’t say this lightly and I know how this will come across.

You can’t live with someone who hates you, puts you down and doesn’t believe you are his equal.

Don’t spend your life trying to prove yourself to a misogynist. You’ll never be good enough and he’ll make sure you know it. Don’t spend your life trying to raise children with a man like that either. The quicker (and safer) you and the children can get out, the better. Children, whether boys or girls, do not need a misogynist as a role model.

Finally, remember that his beliefs and values about women are not a reflection on you. You can’t change views like that and none of this is your fault.

But for your own sanity, talk to someone you trust and try to get out. If this article has raised an alarm for you, tell someone.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

Tweet @DrJessTaylor

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

My new book ‘Why Women are Blamed for Everything’ is out on 27th April 2020

Pre order: https://victimfocus-resources.com/products/why-women-are-blamed-for-everything-exploring-victim-blaming-of-women-subjected-to-violence-and-trauma-by-dr-jessica-eaton

5 ways we are encouraged to blame women and girls for being raped and abused

Featured

Dr Jessica Eaton

23 June 2019

Content warning: This article discusses sexual violence against women and girls and the ways they are blamed for being victims of male violence

Having spent 10 years working with women and girls subjected to sexual and domestic violence of all kinds, I have never had a case or a caseload in which the woman or girl was not being blamed for what someone else (usually a man) was doing to her. Sometimes she is blamed by her family, sometimes by her partner. Sometimes she is blamed by police or by social workers. Sometimes it’s the mental health team blaming her.

Victim blaming is the act of transferring the blame from the perpetrator (who is 100% to blame for sexual offences they commit) and moving that blame back to the victim of the sexual offences.

My interest in the psychology of victim blaming really started to grow about 7 years into my career when I noticed strong patterns in the ways victim blaming was being encouraged and communicated across all sectors I had worked in. I decided to do a PhD in forensic psychology to explore why victim blaming of women and girls was so common.

This article gives an introduction to 5 ways (out of thousands) we are encouraged to blame women and girls for sexual violence perpetrated against them, built on my own research and my new book which will be coming out in 2020.

Let’s look at the ways we blame women and girls when they are raped, abused, exploited, assaulted, harassed or stalked:

Blame her behaviour

One of the first things we are encouraged to do is called ‘behavioural blame’. This is where we are encouraged to examine the behaviour of the woman or girl to look for behaviours that might have ‘led’ to being raped or abused.

Behavioural blame may include blaming women and girls for drinking, going to an event, using a dating app, walking somewhere alone, working in a bar, going travelling around the world, getting the tube at night, wearing headphones, meeting new people at a party and so on until infinity.

The purpose of behavioural blame is to pinpoint the ‘behaviour’ of the victim which ‘led’ to being raped or abused so we can convince ourselves that we would never make the same ‘mistake’ and therefore this offence would never happen to us. This is about denial of personal vulnerability, and us searching for an answer as to why this happened to her.

The problem with this of course, is that the answer has been staring us in the face for millennia. The cause of rape is men who rape. The cause of sexual offences is sex offenders.

Behavioural blame therefore obscures the real reason for the offence and focusses our attention on the victim.

Behavioural blame often leads to behavioural modification, too. This is where the victim (and sometimes women and girls in general) are advised or told to change their behaviours to protect themselves from sexual violence.

In my own research, I found that women and girls who had been subjected to sexual violence had often been told by professionals or by people in their personal support network that they should change their behaviours so they are not raped or abused again.

Just in my one study, this resulted in women telling me that they had changed their lifestyles, stopped dancing, stopped dating, stopped wearing certain clothes, stopped going to bars, stopped drinking, closed down their social media accounts, stopped going to places of worship, quit their jobs, stopped hugging people, stopped walking home from work, stopped smiling at men and stopped making new friends.

However, lots of those women told me that their drastic behavioural changes failed to protect them and many of them had been assaulted, raped or abused again despite following the behaviour modification advice from professionals and family members.

This is completely unfair. This is encouraging women and girls to make their lives smaller and smaller, whilst blaming them for the actions of a sex offender.

Blame her character

When behavioural blame fails to explain a sexual offence against a woman or girl, we very quickly move on to ‘characterological blame’.

This means that when we can’t blame her behaviour, because maybe the circumstances of the rape or assault were such that we can’t find anything ‘wrong’ with her behaviours before, during or after the attack – we will be encouraged to examine her character.

Characterological blame can include blaming a woman or girl for being too confident, too naive, too trusting, too flirty, not assertive enough, too outgoing, too sexual, too ‘streetwise’, manipulative, deceitful, too clever, too stupid, too articulate, too scared, not scared enough, too emotional, not emotional enough and literally anything else they can use to attack her.

Research shows that attacking the character of the woman or girl and finding something that we believe ‘led’ to being raped or abused makes us feel better about ourselves and reaffirms our belief in a just world in which bad things only happen to inherently bad people.

Again, this type of blame obscures the real reason for the sexual offence (the sex offender) and instead encourages us to dig up dirt on the character of the victim – like this cancels out the offence or makes her deserving of rape and abuse.

Characterological blame is central to the defence in some trials, in which the evidence is so clear that the only thing left is to destroy the character of the victim to cause doubt in the minds of the jury. Whenever defence lawyers used this tactic in my courts, I always knew they had nothing left to give to the defence, so instead, they had taken to attacking the character of the girl or woman.

However, whilst this is a sneaky tactic, it often works. Juries are highly influenced by characterological blame of women and girls and I saw many trials take a nosedive at the point where the defence team started to attack the victim for their character and encouraged the jury to take this into account to decide their ‘credibility’.

Blame her sexuality

My research has recently shown that one of the main factors of victim blaming women and girls is to blame her sexuality.

What I mean by this is her choices, preferences, actions, history and experiences of sex.

In a general public sample study in UK, I deliberately manipulated some scenarios about sexual violence against women to contain sexually active women. I then asked participants whether they blamed the woman for being raped or abused.

In some items I mentioned that she had multiple sexual partners. In some I mentioned she was bisexual. In some I mentioned she used Tinder. In some I mentioned she had been having a sexual affair. In some I mentioned that she enjoyed a good sex life. In some I mentioned that she liked feeling sexy and desirable. In some I mentioned that she takes nudes of herself. In some I mentioned that she likes to dress sexily sometimes to make herself feel good.

Long story short – these items resulted in much higher victim blaming than other items in the study. Some of these items caused between 40-60% of the participants to blame her for being raped or abused by a man.

This finding is backed up by much research and real life examples of trials and investigations in which the sexual history or the sexual activity of the woman or girl is used against her to either drop charges, to drop an investigation or to use against her in court to position her as promiscuous.

Isn’t it interesting that in 10 years I’ve never heard of a case in which a man who was raped was asked how many people he has slept with and whether his ‘promiscuity’ led to being raped?

This is because research definitively shows that we have an issue with female sexuality. We love objectifying and dementalising women into the topless pin-up or the woman being penetrated by three blokes in the porn scene – but we don’t like it when women and girls around us are sexually active. Or worse. In control of their own sexuality in the way they want to be. Oh hell no.

Blame her situation

‘Situational blame’ is an intriguing approach to victim blaming which again, completely erases the offender from the offence. In this case, we are encouraged to blame the situation the woman or girl was in when the offence was committed.

I find this type of blame most common in child sexual exploitation practice (CSE) in the UK.

Situational blame may sound like people blaming parties, clubs, hotels, taxis, tubes, train stations, parks, gigs, schools, council estates or blocks of flats for sexual violence committed against women and girls instead of blaming the offender.

It often sounds like this:

‘Well you know, if she’s going to keep going to hang around on that park, she’s putting herself in a situation where she might get raped’.

Or it sounds like this:

‘That estate is like that though. It’s dangerous. If you live on that estate then you know what will happen.’

Or it can sound like this:

‘She lives in poverty and hasn’t got much else going for her so it’s obvious this was going to happen to her.’

In this type of blame, we are encouraged to blame the situation, the inanimate environment, the park or the stairwell.

What this does of course, is it ignores the offender as the cause of the offence.

You cannot be sexually assaulted by a park. You cannot be raped by a hotel.

You cannot be exploited by train station.

You cannot be sexually abused by poverty.

These are human actions. There has to be an offender for these offences to take place.

For example, last week a social worker told me that it was a teenage girl’s fault for being sexually exploited because she keeps hanging around the MacDonalds drive thru at 10pm at night and men keep picking her up in their cars and asking her to get in to give them head or have sex with them.

She claimed that MacDonalds was the dangerous situation that she kept ‘putting herself at risk’.

I argued back.

I said to her, ‘If I drove past her at the drive thru, would I ask her to get in my car and give me head? No. If you drove past her at the drive thru to get a burger, would you wind the window down and tell her she’s sexy? No. That night, it’s likely hundreds of adults drove right past her and her friends and didn’t even notice they were there. Families. Single women. Single men. Couples. Parents. MacDonalds therefore is not actually the dangerous situation you’re making it out to be. The danger comes from the ONE sex offender who winds the window down and asks her to get in his car. If he never went to MacDonalds that night, nothing would have happened to her. He chose to attack that child. He could have just driven past and ate his food. But he didn’t. The situation isn’t to blame, the offender is. Every time you blame MacDonalds drive thru for this offence, you excuse the perpetrator.’

See how that works?

Blame her appearance

This one is how we know misogyny is still alive and kicking. No one cares what men and boys were wearing when they were raped or abused. Similarly, no one cares what the man was wearing when he raped someone. No one cares what the victims of literally any other crime were wearing.

Except women and girls who are subjected to sexual violence. Then, clothing becomes central for some reason.

Was she wearing a low cut top? Was she wearing a short skirt? A push up bra? Lace knickers? A bikini? A backless dress? High heeled shoes? Knee high boots?

Apparently this is all relevant in blaming women and girls for sexual violence committed against them.

This is most curious, because the majority of all sexual offences against women and girls are committed by partners, ex-partners and family members and are usually committed within a residence. Therefore, the chances are that most women and girls are wearing pyjamas, comfortable everyday clothing, school uniforms, work uniforms, jeans, leggings, hoodies, slippers, trainers, sports bras, trackies and tee shirts when they are raped, abused or assaulted.

However, this doesn’t stop professionals from using clothing against women and girls. Even children are being blamed for their clothing choices.

Last year I worked with a local authority where their social workers felt strongly that girls wearing cropped tee shirts and showing their midriff were bringing CSE upon themselves and that took some serious work to challenge those beliefs.

In 2014, I was given access to case records of children being sexually abused and one of them said of a 12 year old girl who was being raped, ‘She prances around the house wearing knee high boots trying to seduce her Dad’.

In 2016, I read a missing person notification about a 13 year old girl who was being trafficked around the country; written by a police officer.

It stated that she must want it, because she had packed a small bag containing a change of underwear, a clean bra and make up.

Further, in many CSE risk toolkits used in local authorities and police forces all over the UK, there are items that ask what the child is wearing which include:

  • Sexualised dress
  • Wearing make up
  • Revealing clothing

This means that the common rape myth of ‘only girls and women who wear short skirts get raped’ has actually filtered right down into social work and police assessments, not only of women but of children who can’t even consent to sex.

Does it really matter if the 12 year old is wearing a crop top and shorts at the time she is raped? Really? Isn’t she a victim of serious crime anyway?

And to that end, even adult women should not be scrutinised on their clothing at the time of rape, abuse or assault. Why would her wearing a backless dress change the offence that was committed against her?

Unless of course we are claiming that the bodies and clothing of the woman are causing the offences. Which we are. Which is why this is still happening.

Interestingly, the appearance of the woman or girl can also influence a police investigation and a trial. In my PhD thesis, I wrote about research that has shown that body type and body shape of women and girls can change the outcome of sexual violence trials. For example, if the woman or girl is perceived to be overweight or unattractive, they are more likely for their case to be dropped or to be found not guilty in a court of law. Researchers argue that this is because there is still an assumption that ‘fat’ or ‘unattractive’ women and girls don’t get raped or abused because the offence is about sexual desire.

However, that doesn’t mean that other women and girls are going to get an easier time in court. Oh no.

Research has also found that if the woman or girl is slim and perceived to be very attractive, she also has a high chance of her case being dropped or found not guilty in court. This is because there is still a perception that the attractive woman or girl must have either wanted it, or led the offender on with their appearance, because he can’t help it.

Blaming the appearance of women and girls for sexual violence committed against them is related to sexual objectification.

Objectification and sexualisation of women and girls as constant walking sex objects for men and boys to use and abuse will encourage victim blaming. When we look at girls and women like this in our society, we will still see them as sex objects even when they are raped and abused. In fact, we are not likely to see certain sexual offences as ‘real rapes’ or ‘real assaults’ at all because we will be socialised to believe that women enjoy them or want them to happen. Therefore, our thinking about sexual violence becomes about the sexuality and sexual allure of the woman or girl – rather than thinking about sexual violence as a deliberate act of violence and oppression.

I’ve written about research that has shown that when we objectify women and girls, we also dementalise them. This means that we assume they have no thoughts and feelings of their own, as they are an object to crave and use, not an equal human being. Therefore, objectification will also result in an assumption that sexual violence against women isn’t that serious and women are exaggerating or lying about it.

This is not an exhaustive list of ways we blame women and girls

Far from it. This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of what I have found in my research and work.

If I was to continue writing this blog, I would include the way we blame women and girls for their reactions to sexual violence, their culture, their upbringing, their age, their ethnicity, their social class, their assertiveness, their mental health, their relationship status, their knowledge of sexual violence and hundreds of other issues which will be covered in my new book, ‘Why Women Are Blamed For Everything’ by Dr Jessica Eaton.

This will be available on pre-order at the end of 2019 and will be published in 2020.

The fact is, we have cooked up thousands of reasons as to why women and girls are the ones to blame for sexual violence. The evidence is solid, and we have been finding these reasons and factors for over 50 years in the academic literature. However, even books such as ‘Rape in Antiquity’ can teach us much about the way women and girls were subjected to sexual violence and then blamed for it centuries and millennia ago.

Victim blaming is nothing new. But it does need to end.

We will never tackle male violence across the world whilst we use women and girls as the scapegoats and excuses for millions of rapists, child abusers, paedophiles and sex offenders.

Written by Dr Jessica Eaton

Psychologist

Founder of VictimFocus

Published: 23 June 2019

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Website: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Jessicaforenpsych

Why education will never stop rape

Featured

Content warning: discussion of rape and abuse 
Written by Jessica Eaton – VictimFocus

05/07/2018

This blog is long overdue. I have been talking about this issue for about 18 months now but I am learning that the myth that rape and sexual violence comes from a lack of education is a strongly embedded myth in the UK (and maybe abroad but I only have limited experience working in other countries).

It doesn’t matter who I say it to, professionals recoil with horror when I tell them the following things:

  • Educating children about sexual abuse will not reduce sexual abuse
  • Educating women about rape will not stop them from being raped
  • Educating men about male rape will not reduce male rape
  • Awareness raising campaigns about sexual violence will not end sexual violence
  • Education about being sexually exploited will not change sexual exploitation
  • Educating children about being groomed online will not reduce grooming online

I said these things recently in a couple of national workshops, at a conference and in some meetings and the response is generally the same: shock, and then anger.

So I am writing this blog to set out the problems with assuming that education can solve rape, sexual violence and abuse – from both angles, by educating victims and by educating perpetrators. Education is clearly not the answer and yet we are ignoring all of the warning signs.

Before we go any further, I am NOT saying that education is useless or irrelevant. I write and teach sex and relationships ed myself. I even teach children about porn and sexual abuse. So, I am pro sex-ed from the earliest possible age.

However. And this is a HUGE HOWEVER.

I do not do my job, believing that educating those children, women or men – will protect them from a calculated and motivated sex offender. And herein lies the crux of this blog.

Here are my 5 main arguments of why education will never stop rape:

1. Education is not preventative or protective for victims

Education is a wonderful thing. We can teach children and adults about relationships, respect, sex, their bodies, their development, their identities and even teach them about their perspectives on the world.

We can teach them about abuse. We can teach them about rape. We can teach them all about domestic abuse and familial abuse. These are all great steps forward for a society that still regards abuse and sex as taboo.

However, we have taken a bit of a leap of logic over the past few years in a desperate bid to appear like we are doing something positive or to look like we have all the answers. We started to sell packages of education to each other and to victims of abuse and rape (child and adult) that assume that the REASON the child or adult was raped or abused, was because they couldn’t identify abusive behaviours and grooming tactics. Some companies and individuals got fat off the profit – some still are. They sell programmes to schools and tell the school that their work is ‘preventative education’ – to ‘reduce the risk of being abused’.

This is absolute bollocks. There is no way this can be proved – but also, this ignores the fact that it doesn’t matter how educated you are, if a sex offender can overpower you physically or psychologically, your education disappears. That’s why police officers and rape specialists can still experience rape. That’s why qualified social workers working in social care can still be in abusive relationships at home.

I once worked on a case of a very successful female solicitor who specialised in domestic and sexual violence. Her husband was an extremely dangerous abuser. He would lock her in the house and cut all the phone lines, smash her phone up, cut the electricity off, abuse her and keep her there for days with no contact with the outside world. Then he would blackmail her with her job and telling everyone about her, knowing it would ruin her career. At one point, he locked her in a place outside with nothing but a tent.

This woman was at the pinnacle of her career. She knew everything there was to know about domestic and sexual violence. But education and knowledge did not save her from such a dangerous and controlling abuser.

Think about it. Education is educative. It is not preventative or protective. Education will not protect any of us from a sex offender or an abuser in our inner circle.

 

2. Education has not solved a social problem or oppression yet

This is really important but this is also the point that annoys me the most. We often claim to be evidence based in our work – which would mean drawing on evidence from the past and from parallel issues. However, we don’t seem to do this much.

Education has attempted, and failed to solve lots of serious social issues and crime types. Education has not reduced the statistics of domestic abuse at all. Education and awareness campaigns has not reduced the statistics of women being murdered every week by their partners – in fact, in our age of wokeness and information, its gone up! Education has not reduced racism or war or genocide or terrorism or misogyny or… anything really.

Education has certainly raised our awareness of the issues. Maybe we can all converse about it. Maybe we know what FGM stands for and we know what radicalisation is now. But has that awareness translated into safety for humans around the world? Did we all have epiphanies with our new knowledge and stop harming each other? Nope.

This is arguably because these issues are not from lack of education. You don’t call an entire generation ‘cockroaches’ or ‘bad hombres’ because you need a bit more education. You don’t hold a child down whilst you abuse them because you missed the awareness raising in Coronation Street the other week. You don’t drive a truck into a group of Muslims because you didn’t have enough information about Islam.

Come on. Education is vital, but we have to stop pretending that it is the magic bullet.

 

3. Educating victims and then expecting them to protect themselves is victim blaming

This was the first time I think I ever blew my stack at work. It was when I realised that we were sitting children down who had been repeatedly raped and abused by adults and getting them to learn about consent and healthy relationships as a way to ‘reduce their CSE risk’. I couldn’t think of anything more damaging or patronising. It partially led to my #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – in which films of rape and abuse were being shown to children as an educative or preventative method.

In exactly the same way as the domestic abuse field had to learn that leaving a woman and her children to be raped and battered by an abusive partner whilst we taught her about keeping herself safe and what a healthy relationship looks like was completely inappropriate and a form of victim blaming; here we are in sexual violence.

We are investing left right and centre in sessions for school children about how to reduce their risk of being raped or abused. We are putting on workshops for women going to university. We are talking to girls before they transition up to secondary school. We are making police force campaign posters with images of unconscious women with their knickers around their ankles that say ‘Don’t drink too much tonight’.

We are heavily psychologically invested in telling victims what not to do, so they stay safe from a rapist or abuser. So heavily invested in fact that when activists or victims stand up and say ‘Why don’t you tell the rapist not to rape people instead?’ its either met with shock or it is laughed at as a stupid approach to sexual violence, because victims have a ‘responsibility to keep themselves safe’.

Someone said to me last week:

“If we know that a certain sex offender operates in a local venue, and we educate all the kids that the sex offender is there, they can protect themselves from that sex offender because they were educated. We can educate kids about where sex offenders hang around and how they will target them – so education does work.”

And I said:

“But 97% of rapes and sexual abuse occur at home with their significant others or family members as the perpetrators, so what are you gonna say to them? Don’t go home? Leave? How do you educate a child or adult to ‘keep themselves safe’ if their rapists lives at home with them? Can you educate them out of that situation?”

The reality is, education as a method has good intentions and we shouldn’t abandon it as a universal right to information and education – but telling children and adults who are already being harmed, raped, assaulted or abused that they can protect themselves once they have the education is a horrible form of victim blaming. It positions the victims as uneducated or unaware, and therefore reframes them as culpable because they ‘didn’t know enough’.

4. Educating sex offenders hasn’t worked out too well for us so far

The opposite argument to all of this, is that we should educate offenders – and potential offenders about sexual violence and consent so they don’t commit a crime (or any more crimes). Most people I teach come to this conclusion before really thinking it through. They assume that if teaching victims is negative, the positive outcomes must come from placing responsibility on the sex offender and educating them to stop raping and abusing children and adults.

I wish it was that simple. So did many others. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that thousands of people working in forensic psychology, prisons, CJS, criminology and psychiatry all thought the same. Much research and development was done over the past thirty years to look at education of sex offenders to look at things like sexual schemas, rape supportive beliefs, cognitive distortions and so on.

In 2016, the USA released a report that showed that the Sex Offender Treatment Programme actually increased sex offending in the men who went through it – and less than a year later, the UK released the same findings. The SOTP was dropped from every prison and community programme and we were back to square one. Why would an educative programme fail like this? Why would men who had committed sexual offences and then spent weeks in a SOTP become more dangerous?

The truth is, the SOTP was designed to be an individually tailored, one-to-one programme based on the offence and characteristics of the offender. When it was expanded and watered down by government and prisons, it turned into a classroom based group programme where lots of sex offenders spent time together talking about their offences, feelings, beliefs, thoughts and sexual schemas. Instead of education, we caused collusion. We caused normalisation and minimisation. The same has more recently been found in domestic abuse perpetrator programmes that have group elements.

Education is not the answer here, either.

Sex offenders who are motivated to harm others, will do so. They didn’t end up in prison for raping six children because they needed some education and some workshops. They did it because they wanted to and because they created an opportunity to do so. And so it becomes glaringly obvious that we have missed something vital in our calculations…

 

5. Sexual violence is so much more than a misunderstanding or ignorance of consent

Someone said to me last month:

“Most men in university who rape young women do it because they don’t understand consent and misunderstand when women say ‘no’.”

Yah. Sorry but I call major BS on that. Sexual violence is not a lack of education. It is not a low awareness. It is not misunderstanding or ignorance. It’s not that these people don’t know what ‘no’ means.

Sexual violence is a global social phenomena wrapped up in misogyny, hypersexualisation of society and children, economic factors, power struggles, porn culture, rape myths, weak laws and… individual motivations.

The uncomfortable truth is that our education cannot undo the damage our society has already done – and we cannot use education of individuals to change the way our entire society of millions of people have absorbed messages from porn, advertisement, patriarchy and the media.

The true way to combat sexual violence is to begin to reflect on the world we have created for ourselves. No point in blaming society when we ARE the society. It is us who allow porn to feature children, violence, rapes, torture, strangling, suffocation and abuse. It is us who allow our children to become sexualised by the media, by marketing and by popular culture. It is us who allow entire generations to be oppressed and harmed by a second powerful group. It is us who are so desperate for power over each other that the heady mix of sex and power gets mixed together to form an influential rape culture that is celebrated and accepted everywhere.

Education alone cannot solve these issues. We need drastic, human, individual and collective change. Educating children in a school hall or adults in a small group therapy about abuse and expecting them to be able to keep themselves safe – and then sending them off into that society we have created for them is WHY none of this is working. Educating sex offenders in prisons and community groups and then sending them off into that very same rape-supportive society we created for them is WHY none of this is working.

A message to professionals and commissioners:

Lots of professionals and commissioners are terrified when faced with the prospect that what they have been told to do won’t actually protect children or adults from sexual violence and to them, I say this:

  • Sometimes, you cannot fix a huge global issue like this – but you CAN fix the way you or your organisation responds to it. You might not be able to end sexual violence or abuse or CSE – but you can vastly improve the way you interact with victims and the services you deliver
  • Telling someone that the reason they were abused, raped or assaulted was because they didn’t know any better and that knowing more about abuse or rape could have stopped it from happening to them is abhorrent practice – make sure no one in your team says or believes that
  • Do we make daft promises like ‘We aim to end murder by 2020’ – no, we don’t. We know that won’t happen. But we are making massive promises like that in abuse and sexual violence. ‘We aim to end child abuse!’ ‘We aim to end CSE’. Good for you, but, you won’t. So stop chasing the impossible dream and focus on what you CAN do. Stop making promises we can’t keep. Stop selling products that don’t do what you say they do.
  • Stop commissioning education of victims as preventative or protective method. It’s patronising and it’s unethical. Focus on asking them what they need from you or your organisation. Support? Advice? Practical help? Someone to offload on? Someone to help them with a criminal trial?
  • Do not use education as an excuse to blame victims of sexual violence and rape. Education would likely not have made any difference to what a sex offender chose to do to them. The victim is not the problem here, the offender is.
  • When you are thinking about the problem of sexual violence, think bigger. Look around you. See adverts, music videos, porn, upskirting, forced marriage, laws, policies, campaigning, imagery, film plots… you live in a sexually violent society that celebrates forced sexual activity and the objectification of women and children
  • Remember that you can do a brilliant job of educating children, adults, professionals and even offenders – but to do so you must accept that you can’t predict or control sexual violence perpetrated by offenders you don’t even know.
  • Your education might have a positive impact on the people you are teaching, but please do not assume or expect it to protect them from rape or abuse – and don’t blame them if they are attacked after you educated them.
  • Outcomes measurement is important here – do not mix up your values and beliefs with true outcome measurement. If you educate 500 teenagers – the outcome is that you provided education to 500 teenagers. The outcome is not ‘we reduced the risk of 500 teenagers’ or ‘500 teenagers are now educated in sexual violence’ or ‘500 teenagers now better understand how to protect themselves’. You provided information, that is what you did.

 

Jessica Eaton is the founder of VictimFocus and the VictimFocus Charter to reduce victim blaming in professional workplaces and organisations. http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

My Post (1)

 

Woman blaming: How radical feminists are blamed for male violence

Dr Jessica Taylor

20/07/21

I open my social media apps to yet another onslaught of abuse, harassment and threads about how violent, evil and dangerous I am as a radical feminist in the world.

Only the day before, I watched as a famous woman was sent hundreds of abusive comments and death threats for holding radical feminist views.

The day before that, an artist was sent threats and abuse for her radical feminist perspective.

The week before that. The month before that. The year before that.

And yet, despite all this violence levelled at radical feminists for so much as writing their thoughts down, or creating artwork; I have noticed the persuasive shift towards arguing that radical feminists are the cause of male violence.

Most recently, I have noticed radical feminists being blamed for men committing homicide, femicide, rape and acts of misogyny.

In this post, I want to explore why this is happening, and how the only feminists who are able to name male violence, are now being held responsible for male violence. Specifically, I want to talk about radical feminists being blamed for:

1. Men murdering trans women

2. Men raping and murdering sex workers and prostituted women

3. Men sending death and rape threats to women online

4. Men hating women and girls (especially MRA/incels)

Before I get into these points, I will take the opportunity to clarify what we mean when we say we are ‘radical feminists’. Whilst many people think that the word ‘radical’ must mean ‘extreme’, this is not the way the word is used in activism of any kind. Radical thinkers and activists are termed ‘radical’ because they seek considerable systemic change to deal with the root of an issue. Radical feminists (like me) believe that we need a complete overhaul and reordering of the systems around us (locally and globally) in order for women and girls to stop being oppressed. This means addressing everything from subtle attitudes and stereotypes through to overt violence and persecution.

In doing so, radical feminists often point out the obvious male violence around us:

Men make up 99% of all violent offenders in the world each year

Men make up 97% of all sex offenders in the world each year

Men make up 99% of all murderers each year

Men make up over 99% of all terrorists and suicide bombers

Men make up over 99% of all school shooters

(FBI, 2020; MOJ; 2020)

But men are still more likely to be world leaders, business owners, senior leaders, financial controllers, CEOs of banks, criminal judges, lawyers, police officers, crime commissioners, politicians and heads of families (this is where the word ‘patriarch’ comes from).

Globally, the world is an unequal place where women make up 51% of the population but in some cases of senior boards, government leadership and financial institutions – we make up less than 2% of these roles.

Men are over-represented in violent offending, abuse and power – at all levels of society.

Radical feminism seeks to restructure this inequality and to change society at every level possible, in order for women and girls to seek equity.

Now the basics are out of the way; let’s look at how women who adopt radical feminist principles are now being blamed for the violence and abuse committed by men.

1. Men murdering trans women

Almost every day now, I see a social media post or meme claiming that radical feminist theory, arguments or activism cause the murder of transwomen around the world, despite the fact that transwomen are almost always killed by men.

In the UK, we have had one murder of a transwoman, Naomi Hersei, who was murdered by a 25 year old man. They had met on a sex swingers website. He had brutally murdered Naomi by stabbing in a hotel room in 2018.

However, in other countries (especially in South America), the murder of transwomen is commonplace, and increasing. According to TransRespect, the majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (152), Mexico (57), and the United States (28), adding up to a total of 3664 reported cases in 75 countries and territories worldwide between 1 January 2008 and 30 September 2020. 98% of those murdered globally were transwomen. 82% of all the murders registered happened in Central and South America; 43% in Brazil.

Of all murders of transwomen, 62% were being exploited or were described as working in ‘sex work’ at the time they were murdered by a man (or groups of men).

In most reported cases, transwomen are killed by the men who rape them, sexually exploit them or buy them for sex, and then kill them. Further, other transwomen have been murdered by male members of their families, such as brothers, uncles and Dads – and men in their communities. This is usually as a result of transphobia and homophobia (and/or a combination of the two, with other intersecting factors such as racism).

What is clear, is that in every single one of these cases, men made active choices to murder a transwoman. There have been no cases of radical feminists harming or killing transwomen. In all cases, transwomen have been stalked, harassed, raped, beaten and/or murdered by men.

This is male violence. Just as men are most likely to kill men, and women, and children, they are also most likely to kill transwomen.

There are two main arguments I have seen around this topic which need to be challenged. The first is that radical feminist views on gender and sex are the reason violent men kill trans people. I think it’s fairly clear from each case that the men who committed these homicides have zero interest in feminist theoretical discussions of the origins of gender and sex. Instead their murders have been based in their own motivations, violence and power dynamics (as are all acts of male violence).

We also mustn’t ignore the fact that many of the transwomen who have been murdered have been in sex work or sexual exploitation, being oppressed by men – and that the men who buy their bodies for sex are already dangerous, violent people who choose to exploit and use vulnerable minorities for sex on tap.

None of this is about radical feminist thinking or theory. It is purely down to the man who commits the crime.

It puzzles me that most of the time, radical feminists such as myself are framed as fringe extremists with nothing useful or impactful to say, and that no one should listen to us harp on about the abuse of women and girls – but that people seem to think we are powerful enough to influence thousands of homicidal men to go out and kill transwomen.

We can’t be both shrivelled up, shrieking nobodies who have no influence over men and also causing worldwide murder by influencing men.

The second is that radical feminists views on why we need to be able to label males and females (especially in crime reporting) are bigoted and harmful.

Yet here, we have a vital reason why we need to be able to record the correct sex of the criminal – males are killing transwomen which is part of a millennia of male pattern offending and male violence. Men are the majority murderers of everyone else – so it makes sense that they would also be the murderers of transwomen.

It is vital that we are able to talk about male violence (and female violence, when it does occur, and it does) correctly and accurately for everyone. We cannot tackle male violence against transwomen if you cannot name the perpetrator as a man – or as a trend in male violence.

It strikes me as the ultimate form of victim blaming and woman blaming, to excuse and shift the blame of male murderers on to women and feminists. Women and girls are being killed in their thousands every single day by men. They are not the ones causing or influencing male violence towards themselves, or towards transwomen.

It appears to me that we have become the scapegoat.

Such a self-proclaimed progressive movement, and yet, they have made the age-old error of pointing the finger at women, instead of men who commit violence. Again.

2. Men raping and murdering sex workers and prostituted women

The second example I seem to see a lot, and have been subjected to myself, has been radical feminists accused of causing the rape and murder of female sex workers and prostituted women around the world.

I have often been sent abusive messages accusing me of contributing to, or causing these crimes against women in sex work, by my own views on sex work. Despite the fact that my views on sex work come from lived experience, my views are clear: women in sex work should never be criminalised, we should campaign to have all of their convictions removed, and we should help every woman exit sex work – whilst criminalising the buyers, exploiters, owners and punters.

I (and many other radical feminists) believe that no man should be able to purchase consent, and that women in sex work are predominantly exploited, raped, harmed, beaten, threatened, injured, oppressed, criminalised, pathologised and discriminated against – all so a man can get his kicks.

Nowhere in radical feminist views do we support any discrimination or harm of women in sex work or prostitution. In fact, renowned radical feminists have been instrumental in helping prostituted women to remove their criminal convictions which were unjustly subjected to.

Again, what we have here is the positioning of women and radical feminists as the cause and the solution to male violence. Despite the fact that the majority of all sex buyers and exploiters and traffickers are men, women are still blamed, held responsible and held accountable for male violence.

Similarly, I find it odd that anybody would argue that radical feminists (who are a relatively small group of women) would have any power over violent men who buy sex and consent from women and girls around the world. These men certainly don’t listen to radical feminists when we talk about the harm and the trauma caused by sex work and prostitution, so why on earth would they listen to any of our theoretical arguments about decriminalisation or criminalisation?

It seems a lazy and misogynistic excuse to simply blame women for the actions of men, yet again. I just can’t understand how everybody can see that men (and the patriarchy in general) are not remotely listening to radical feminists, and instead silence them, shut them down, threaten them, harass them, mock them, and humiliate them – but simultaneously attempt to argue that radical feminist theory and thinkers are the reason men go out and commit such devastating crimes against women in sex work and prostitution.

It’s as if they have never considered that men going out into the community and buying sex with women and girls, would suggest that those men are already violent criminals that are more likely to kill women and girls.

The other point that it completely ignores by blaming radical feminists for men murdering and raping sex workers and women who have been prostituted, is that a large proportion of radical feminists are survivors of the sex trade, sexual exploitation and prostitution. Therefore, the radical feminist position is often informed by thousands of women who have survived male violence and prostitution. They weren’t listen to or respected by men then, and they’re not listened to or respected by men now. I just cannot see how you could robustly argue that radical feminism is the cause of male violence.

Aren’t men making their own decisions here? Why can’t we hold them accountable for their views and actions the way people seem to be able to do to radical feminist women?

Men are killing sex workers and women and girls in global prostitution because they dehumanise them, and they hate them. They use them for sex, and then they kill them. Radical feminists on the other hand, are arguing against the sex trade because of these things. Because of the fact that violent men dehumanise women and girls, and hate them, rape them and kill them. These are not two sides of the same coin. These are not related positions. These are opposing positions.

3. Men sending death and rape threats to women online

As some of you will have seen this week, J. K. Rowling has been subjected to yet more death threats because of her opinions on sex and gender. Her position is broadly radical feminist, and this has resulted in thousands of messages of harassment, abuse, and threats of being bombed or killed.

There are two levels to the victim blaming and woman blaming that has happened in the last couple of days. The first is the indirect and direct blaming of J. K. Rowling for the death threats sent to her. It has been suggested several times that the death threats are justified, and that she deserves them. Secondly the victim blaming is focused on radical feminism, again.

One of the arguments I’ve seen is the belief or position that radical feminists holding contentious or contested beliefs about the concepts of gender, stereotypes, gender identity, and sex means that they are causing men to abuse them, harass them, and threaten them online. This often goes further and moves towards a suggestion of justification or desert. The belief seems to be that if women speak out or even privately discuss their views about sex and gender, they are bringing the violence of men upon themselves. Many radical feminist women (especially in the last 5 to 10 years) have been subjected to increasing security threats, rape threats, death threats, doxxing, stalking, and other forms of male violence in the name of activism and feminism.

What is most interesting is that women are paying the price for a view that is actually held by many men as well. I’ve noticed that when men speak out about their views about sex and gender they are criticised, but they are not subjected to death threats, rape threats, doxxing and harassment in the same way.

The suggestion that radical feminists are bringing male violence upon themselves by merely holding views about gender and sex, is very similar to the position held by men’s rights activists and incel groups which often argue that radical feminists deserve, and bring male violence upon themselves, by their so-called ‘misandry’.

4. Men hating women and girls (especially MRA/incels)

It’s no secret to most of us that MRAs and incels hate radical feminism and radical feminists. For them, we are the ultimate opposition. For most of us, we are gender nonconforming women, we are lesbians, we are activists, we are educated, we are independent – and for a lot of us we have no interest in living with, or cooperating with men, or the broader global patriarchy.

On the many occasions that I have been targeted by MRAs and incels, I have been advised that my views on feminism and women’s rights are ‘provoking the reaction’ and abuse that I receive. Police even told me to shut down my social media, or stop talking about women’s rights to solve the problem. I know that this isn’t uncommon – because other women have been told the same thing.

With broad similarities to the other points that I have already made, nobody seems to be holding MRAs or incels responsible for their violence online and in person. No one seems to be talking about the mass online groups which share memes, posts, and videos about violent porn, pro-rape culture, anti-feminist and anti-women’s rights propaganda, and articles which suggest that male violence and female oppression is a feminist conspiracy theory.

When questioned, people tend to argue that the MRA movement and the Incel movement are simply reactions or backlash to radical feminism which again position radical feminists as the cause and solution of male violence.

Blame the perpetrator – I mean, really, it’s not hard

I know this might seem a simple conclusion to a complex article, but the solution truly is to blame the man for male violence. Blame the perpetrators of the crime. If a radical feminist actually commits a murder, rape or sexual assault, then fine. It would be their fault. And they would be to blame. No issues there.

But in cases where men have trafficked, threatened, raped, assaulted, stalked, and murdered someone – blame the perpetrator. Hold him fully accountable. Make him take responsibility for his actions.

Where masses of men are committing these crimes, talk about male violence as a system problem – don’t pass the buck to feminists and tell that they are the ones causing men to kill, rape, threaten and abuse.

I’m watching this all very carefully at the moment, and truly believe that we are seeing the meeting of minds between several groups of activists who have decided to pin the blame for many different forms of oppression on radical feminists.

Whilst terrifying, maybe the most interesting thing about this, is that it was inevitable. What I mean by that, is that we are a relatively tiny group of ambitious, educated, intelligent, gender non-conforming, often gay and marginalised women who have decided to stand up for women around the world, network and stand up in the face of great challenge, threat and adversity.

They were never going to let this go easily.

Men have never allowed radical feminists to have an unfiltered voice. We have always been positioned as crazy, evil, nasty, dangerous and abusive. We’ve always been locked up, arrested, abused and threatened. We’ve always been blamed for women’s changing roles in society.

What I can’t understand is how other women who call themselves feminists could look at the murder of anyone, committed by a man, and then turn around and blame a radical feminist, instead of being able to see that male violence is common and systemic – and that radical feminism is the only form of feminism willing to consistently call it out.

The scapegoating of radical feminists for the acts of male violence has to end.

Dr Jessica Taylor

20/07/2021

Modesty shorts for 4 year old girls?

7th June 2021

Dr Jessica Taylor

Today, ITV Loose Women ran a poll which caused significant debate and discussion:

Should schoolgirls as young as four years old wear ‘modesty shorts’ under their skirts and school dresses to ‘protect’ them?

Feelings were mixed, with the poll resulting in shifting outcomes of between 50-60% of respondents in agreement.

I voted ‘no’ in the poll, and want to outline my reasons for disagreeing with the idea that little girls (or teen girls) should be wearing shorts under their skirts or dresses to ‘protect them’.

My main reasons for this are as follows:

1. This makes little girls responsible for male violence, harassment and assault

2. This encourages the conservative view that girls should cover up if they don’t want to be harassed or assaulted

3. What happens if they don’t wear the modesty shorts?

4. Boys need to be held responsible for their behaviours, girls should not have to wear extra layers of clothing to protect them from misogyny and abuse

This makes little girls responsible for male violence, harassment and assault

The most pressing argument for me is the way that this idea will position girls as responsible for male violence. Research from NSPCC in 2016, Barnardo’s in 2014 and the Women Equalities Committee in 2016 have repeatedly demonstrated that little girls are regularly sexually harassed and assaulted at school by boys. This includes lifting up their skirts, pulling down their skirts and underwear, touching them inappropriately, pinging their bra straps, pushing them over, calling them sexist slurs, coercing them to send or receive nudes and harassing them about their bodies and relationships.

What this speaks to, is a much larger issue of misogyny and male violence which is perpetrated and accepted from a very early age (often, this begins in primary schools). Reports show that teachers often ignore the minimise boys’ behaviours and call it ‘banter’ or ‘boys being typical boys’.

Previously, this has led to schools banning school skirts and even banning girls from showing their collarbones – due to their bodies not just ‘distracting the boys from their education’ – but also distracting male teaching staff. I wrote about this in my book ‘Why Women are Blamed for Everything’, and I’ll repeat my message:

If male staff members have the entitlement and confidence to report that they are distracted by little girls bodies and clothing, sack them immediately. That is not a normal way to look at children. Ever.

Encouraging or asking infant girls to wear shorts under their skirts is just banning skirts by stealth. Rather than banning the skirts or dresses, schools simply suggest that girls should be wearing shorts under their clothing to protect them.

This has actually been happening for over a decade in UK schools. I remember talking to teen girls about it about 8-10 years ago, and they all had the same reason for wearing the shorts: to protect them from the boys.

The schools didn’t encourage it, but the girls had felt so endangered by boys assaults and harassment that they had not only started wearing shorts but had created a culture in which girls who didn’t wear shorts were shamed as sluts who wanted to have their skirts lifted. More on that later.

Ultimately, all of this means that the shorts are a symbol of victim blaming and female responsibility for male abuse and offending. Girls are never responsible for the assaults, abuse and harassment of boys and men – and yet, here we are, advising girls to cover up.

This encourages the conservative view that girls should cover up if they don’t want to be harassed or assaulted

The conservative view of women is that they should be modest, submissive, obedient and should only show themselves to their male partner. Anything else is ‘asking for it’.

It might seem like ‘common sense’ to ask the girls to wear shorts, but all it is really reinforcing is that to protect yourself as a girl, you should be covering your body and wearing multiple layers. This has the added effect of teaching very young girls and boys that girls who value themselves and want to protect themselves will wear the shorts, and the girls who don’t (or can’t) must be asking for it.

Be wary of any initiative which encourages girls to change their appearance, behaviour or lifestyle to ‘protect’ themselves from male violence (which you will notice, is never explicitly mentioned).

What happens if they don’t wear the modesty shorts?

So the next stage of this misogynistic idea, is what happens when a girl can’t or won’t wear the shorts? What happens if she is sexually assaulted by a boy?

Further, what happens when the sexual harassment and assaults continue despite the shorts?

Let’s work through these issues one by one. Will a girl who does not or cannot wear the shorts be seen as a slut? Asking for it? Wanting the attention? Not protecting herself enough? Taking risks? To blame for anything that boys do to her?

“You should have been wearing your shorts,” they might say. ‘They’ being the teachers, parents, police or maybe even a defence barrister in a trial.

And what happens when inevitably, the shorts solve precisely fuck all?

What happens when boys continue to sexually harass and assault girls at schools, even with their magical protective shorts on? What then? Overalls? Turtlenecks? Sleeping bags?

It’s as if people deliberately ignore the reality that the majority of all sexual assaults and rapes are committed against women and girls wearing their everyday clothes (jeans, jumpers, coats, pyjamas, sportswear). Clothing doesn’t cause sexual harassment, assaults and rapes of girls. It never has and it never will. Women are abused and assaulted even when fully covered. Babies are assaulted and abused.

The reason for male violence has absolutely nothing to do with clothing, clothing has only ever been an excuse, perpetuated by misogynists and bystanders. So if clothing isn’t the cause, and the shorts are not the solution, what happens when the abuse and harassment of girls continues?

Where will the blame shift next and why does it never shift to the perpetrators?

Boys need to be held responsible for their behaviours, girls should not have to wear extra layers of clothing to protect them from misogyny and abuse

The answer to the shorts debacle is to stop ignoring male violence towards girls in education settings, to stop allowing misogynistic ideals into our schools, colleges and universities and for everyone to grow a backbone and stand up for girls. They wouldn’t need to wear shorts if they weren’t going to school in an environment of sexualisation, objectification and hatred of girls.

This issue has been going on for over a decade (and broadly, much, much longer) and we have made zero progress. Every time feminists and women speak out about this, it’s met with ridicule and silence.

The misogyny and objectification of women has slowly seeped into every single part of women and girls lives, younger and younger, bit by bit, until now we are having national debates and polls about whether four year old girls should be wearing ‘modesty shorts’ to school.

In all of those years, no one has been able to do anything significant about male violence, or boys attitudes towards girls. Schools have not taken a strong position on misogyny and have instead watched as sexual assaults and rapes on school and university campuses have increased year on year.

These girls are the women of our future. They are our future thinkers, leaders, scientists, writers, inventors, sports stars, carers and mothers. Is this what we want to teach them? Is this really our message?

‘Cover up Dear, or you’ll get sexually assaulted by the boys at school.’

Really?

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

7th June 2021

Tweet: @DrJessTaylor

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Website: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Read ‘Why Women Are Blamed for Everything’ by Dr Jessica Taylor

Hardback, paperback and Kindle on Amazon, Waterstones, WHSmith and independent book stores.

In all good bookstores and online direct from the author at http://www.victimfocus-resources.com

15 signs you’re in a relationship with a manbaby

20th April 2021

Dr Jessica Taylor

It is so hard to watch capable women around me have to cope with grown men in their lives acting like helpless manbabies.

Do you ever get the feeling that your male partner couldn’t survive without you? I don’t mean that in a romantic way, I mean it in a way which meant that if you were to leave for a few days, you would be worried that you could come back to absolute chaos. Or a feeling that if you didn’t do all of these things for him, they would simply never get done.

Here are 15 signs that your relationship has moved from being with a man you loved, to mothering a manbaby who does nothing for himself:

1. If you don’t do it, it won’t get done

Ugh. The never ending realisation that you are the only person pulling your weight and if you don’t do that thing, it will never actually get done. Whether it’s cleaning out the car or ordering a birthday cake for your kids: you realise that it’s all down to you because he’s useless.

2. You are his PA for some reason

You are the one who has to book his GP and dentist appointments, remind him of important dates, sort out meetings with his family and friends and suddenly, you’re like his PA. He has absolutely no interest in using his own calendar or diary and will ask you to remind him of things ‘so he doesn’t forget’ because he cannot be arsed to remember anything, and knows that you will take the responsibility for remembering All The Things.

3. He has no idea how much the bills are

Since he’s useless at managing his own life, he has nothing to do with household spending (unless it’s on stupid, frivolous items). If you were to ask him today how much your bills were and how you manage the family budget, he would have no idea. He has no idea what you spend on utilities or the mortgage because you’ve also morphed into his accountant and bank manager. Worse, you can’t trust him to go grocery shopping because you know he will come back with bags of junk and will have wasted your shopping budget.

4. You have to control money so he doesn’t piss it all up the wall

You’re with a guy who is so irresponsible with money that you have to keep savings away from him, or you’ve agreed together that you control the money to take care of you and your kids because if he had access to the accounts, he would empty them. Whether he would go on a bender and spend all of the food money, or buy a random mountain bike he doesn’t even need and leave you skint for a month – you’ve ended up having to guard the family money so he doesn’t piss it up the wall on nothing.

5. You have to remind him of his own family members’ birthdays and anniversaries

Back in PA mode, it’s your job to remember all of his family members’ birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions because he has zero interest in any of them. You write them all in your calendar, you buy the cards and gifts and he has no idea you’ve even done it until you tell him. He puts his name in a card and acts like it was a joint gift or a joint decision but he didn’t even know about it until yesterday.

6. You have to remind him of your own special dates

You dread Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, your own birthday and your anniversary because you know that if you don’t give him daily reminders for two weeks beforehand, he won’t even remember it. He’s the type to frequently forget special dates and events, and blame you for not reminding him. The type to go and get you raggedy petrol station flowers at 15:55 on Mother’s Day just before everywhere shuts.

7. You pick out your own gifts because you know he will forget or buy you something terrible

Oh, this one hurts. You’ve been with him years but he knows and cares so little about you that you have to plan and pick your own gifts and order them for yourself for two main reasons: he will forget if you don’t do it for him, and if he did miraculously remember he would probably buy you something that you cannot stand or have absolutely no need or connection with. You have clear interests and hobbies but he ignores them all and buys you a bottle of Prosecco (you hate Prosecco) and some chocolates because he cannot be bothered to think what you might like.

8. You are his problem solver

Over time, you’ve become the solution to everything. He comes to you with every single problem in his life from not being able to Google something properly to making you ring his mum for him. From asking you to write an email to HR for him to dealing with his bereaved friend. You have become his constant problem solver because he’s totally dependent and reliant on you now. He doesn’t use his own brain anymore, and as soon as he is presented with something remotely challenging, it all gets handed to you no matter what is going on in your own life.

9. You have covered for him at work

He’s had you call in sick for him, write emails for him or cover for him at work because he’s irresponsible, lazy and knows you will do it.

10. You are used as an excuse for why he can’t be arsed to see his mates

This is a real pet hate. He tells his boys that he can’t come out because ‘uhh you know, the missus’ or ‘uhhh I think I’m busy and have to do something with the missus and her family’. You’ve become this constant go-to excuse when he doesn’t want to do something, which means his mates think you’re a controlling partner who never lets her man out – when in fact, he’s never even asked you and he’s just terrible at maintaining friendships or plans with his mates.

11. He doesn’t help with the kids because he is a fucking kid

You come home to find him lying around in his underwear playing Xbox whilst the kids run riot, haven’t eaten breakfast or lunch and haven’t been washed or dressed. He claims he was really busy or really tired and that the kids have been a handful but you know full well he’s done absolutely nothing with them to help, take care or look after them. You end up having to clean up the mess, feed and wash the kids, make him get up and you feel like all you ever do is nag him to help you.

12. He is perceived as the ‘fun’ parent whilst you get all the boring, unnoticed jobs

He does absolutely nothing ‘boring’ or reliable because you have had to take responsibility for it all. This leaves him free to be the parent who rolls around on the floor with the kids and plays water fights in the garden whilst you do 4 loads of laundry, change the beds, make the dinner and sort all of your bills and admin. Over time, he ends up with a better relationship with the kids who think he’s brilliant whilst you are just ‘boring mum’ who does all the shit jobs no one notices.

13. You have to explain how to be a basic human to him far too often

You have to have regular heart-to-hearts with him about being a basic, decent, respectful human being. Whether it’s a comment he’s made, a stereotype he holds, a belief about parenting or women, a behaviour that harms others – you feel like you’re talking to your 7 year old child about why their behaviour is unacceptable. You find yourself having to ask him to put himself in the shoes of other people, and to have empathy or consider the impact of his actions on others.

14. He can’t cook and doesn’t even try

He jokes to everyone that he can’t cook, and you’re amazing in the kitchen so he just leaves it all to you, which is manbaby code for ‘I can’t be arsed to learn how to make my own food’. Imagine. Imagine being his age and not being able to make basic food. For most women, that is incomprehensible, but for these men, it’s a normal part of life. Can’t cook, won’t cook, you deal with it.

15. He won’t work harder or get a job so you all struggle

He has done nothing but bum around for years, refusing to undertake any self-development or training. You’ve had several jobs or have worked hard for years and yet he has just cruised along doing nothing. He won’t apply for jobs, or worse, refuses to work but won’t apply for welfare or benefits because he thinks it’s beneath him, so you and your family struggle by whilst he does literally nothing. He is fit, able and could work, but just chooses not to. He moans about being broke but never tries to fix the situation. Any attempt by you to tell him to get a job is met with accusations of ‘telling him what to do’ or ‘putting pressure’ on him.

In short, if you recognise your man in any (or several) of these red flags – you’ve ended up with a manbaby.

Truthfully, you have two options here:

1. Confront him, challenge him, tell him how you feel and ask him to change. If he changes, excellent. If he doesn’t, well, you move to number 2.

2. Leave and free yourself

Relationships like this will never be what you want or need as a woman. They are not equal, fulfilling or healthy. You did not grow to be a woman to become the second mother of a fully grown man who is so selfish and entitled that he has slowly groomed you into doing everything for him.

Is this really the kind of relationship you envisaged yourself having? Wouldn’t it be nice to be with someone who was more independent and self-sufficient? Someone who would think about you, consider you and then do things equally?

How can you ever feel personally or sexually fulfilled by a man who you have to look after 24/7? You’re no longer an equal partner, you are a maid.

Please do not waste another moment with a manbaby. Most of the time, you can’t change them and they will expect that you look after them for their entire lives.

Stop doing things for him and see what happens. Tell him you will stop, give him fair warning, and then simply stop. Let him deal with forgetting his Mum’s birthday. Let him deal with missing all of his dentist appointments. Let him do his own laundry. Stand back, and give him space to be his own man. If he can’t do it, walk away.

You weren’t born to be a slave to a man who can’t manage his own life. You are so much more. You have so much more potential than this. Think of the life you could be leading if you weren’t putting this much effort into looking after your own partner. Imagine what you could achieve if you put all of those lost hours into yourself and your own development and happiness.

Just think on it. You deserve more than this.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

You can buy my books and resources at http://www.victimfocus-resources.com

Use VFAS35 for 35% off everything from journals to e-learning

You can take my free courses and read my free research at http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @drjesstaylor

Facebook: @JessicaForenPsych

IG: @jessica_victimfocus

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

I listed every instance of male violence I have been subjected to from birth to 30.

17th March 2021

My name is Jessica. I am 30 years old. That’s me in the picture. I decided to try to write down every memory I have of being subjected to male violence since I was born.

I am a chartered psychologist with a PhD in forensic psychology. I grew up in a working class town on a council estate in a pretty regular family.

In this blog, I am simply going to list every instance I can remember of harassment, assault, abuse, threats, violence, rape and harm from men and boys.

The purpose of this personal post is not for sympathy or for support.

The purpose of this post is to show that I am 100% sure that if every woman I knew sat down and thought about every instance of male violence they were ever subjected to, they would have a long list. Our lists would look different and also very similar. Whether it’s catcalling or sexual abuse, women and girls live every day trying to protect themselves from male violence in ways that men have never even had to consider.

Having written this list, I’ve realised that even as I’ve aged and moved into safeguarding and academia, male violence is still prevalent. You’ll notice that the perpetrators change from strangers on the street to men in my field of work.

It goes without saying that this is very uncomfortable to read. The sheer scale of it will be difficult for many of you. Please consider this a serious content and trigger warning for male violence.

Every experience of male violence I have ever had by 30 years old

9 years old: An older boy at my new school put his hand up my skirt

9 years old: Same older boy threw coins at me on the playground and told me to suck his dick whilst I sat on the floor crying

11 years old: Male family member threw me up against cupboard and broke my wrist because I ducked his drunk punch and he was furious

11 years old: Fireman who lived on our road exposed himself to me and my friend

11 years old: Fireman seriously sexually assaulted me behind garages a few weeks later

11 years old: Family friend tried to sexually assault me in living room whilst parents were in kitchen – shouted for parents

12 years old: 16yo boy pressured me to give him oral sex several times (usually I was given drugs)

12 years old: 16yo boy and 19yo man gave me drugs and made me take clothes off

12 years old: Same 16 yo boy raped me and then mocked me for crying in pain – told everyone I was pathetic/frigid

12 years old: Catcalled from moving car on way to the summer fayre

12 years old: Groomed and sexually abused daily by 25 year old man on our street for 6 months

12 years old: Boy threw me to the floor at a party

13 years old: Builder working on our house sexually harasses me every day for a week

13 years old: In family pub with parents when a man stabbed another man in the eye right in front of me. This caused a brawl where 10-15 men smashed the pub up whilst I was trapped on the floor. I collapsed from the shock/trauma. Family member dragged me unconscious to safety through broken glass and furniture causing injury to my legs and arms. Woke up with paramedics.

13 years old: Music teacher said he liked my legs in tights – reported but no action

13 years old: Waiter on family holiday sexually threatens me and harasses me for 2 weeks solid until we went home

13 years old: Given alcohol and drugs by older boys and men frequently

13 years old: Picked up by men in cars and given drugs and alcohol with other girls

13 years old: Beginning of 5 year ‘relationship’ with abuser and rapist (one of the older boys in the group)

13-15 years old: A lot of emotional abuse and control, isolation, drugs, alcohol, controlling friends, checking my phone etc

14 years old: Regularly sexually assaulted by club bouncers who let underage girls in, if you stood still whilst they sexually assault you at the door

14 years old: Boy at school put a cigarette out on my hand and held me there until it burned deeper ‘as a joke’

14-16 years old: Regularly catcalled and followed by men on the way to school and on the way home

14 years old: Attacked by local man in alleyway, strangled me and threatened me (the next year, he went on to be convicted of attempted murder of another local schoolgirl who he attacked her with meat cleaver at the summer fayre)

14 years old: Taken to middle of nowhere in pyjamas and no shoes and left there in the night by abuser. Walked home alone, barefoot.

14 years old: Sexual images of me were shared with a large group of adult men

15 years old: Pushed out of moving car

15 years old: Suckerpunched and knocked out by 28 year old man in front of other men at a car rally as ‘a joke’

15 years old: Thrown in front of a moving car in city centre by abuser. Driver performs emergency stop before running me over. Driver didn’t dare get out to help me.

16 years old: Beaten up regularly by abuser (he was 18-19 years old by now)

16 years old: Raped whilst abuser pressed large scissors to the side of my neck

16 years old: Abuser pins me to wall and strangled me until I gave him my debit card with my wages. Two of his friends watch and say nothing.

16 years old: Drugged by abuser and other 28 year old man and then raped whilst unconscious by both men

16 years old: In his car with abuser, when 28 year old man deliberately ran his ex girlfriend over and left her in street. Threatened to never tell anyone what I saw.

16 years old: Forced to clean oven with sharp knife held across my throat by abuser

16 years old: Pushed down stairs by abuser, miscarried pregnancy, first ever hospital attendance

16 years old: Abuser took all my clothes and shoes, put them all in bath of bleach so I couldn’t dress or leave house

16 years old: Abuser snapped mobile phone in half and destroyed all childhood items and photo albums

16 years old: Abuser threw glass vase at me and then dragged me through broken glass and cut my legs open with the glass

16-18 years old: Abuser regularly smashed entire house up and then made me clean it up in front of him

16 years old: Area manager at work tried to pay me to have sex with him at a conference, when I refused and told him he was disgusting, he sacked me

16 years old: Abuser steals my bank card and spends my whole month salary in strip club in one night

17 years old: Pregnant again by abuser within a few months

17 years old: Forced to perform sex acts whilst pregnant whilst being called fat, ugly, disgusting etc.

17 years old: Abuser drove car into oncoming traffic to try to kill me and unborn baby

17 years old: Frequent threats to kill me and unborn baby

17 years old: Raped a few days after baby is born, all episiotomy stitches ripped out causing severe bleeding and injury – treatment needed but didn’t disclose to nurses

17 years old: Items thrown at me

17 years old: Regularly raped post-partum

17 years old: When baby cries in night, abuser keeps jug of water next to bed and pours it over my face whilst I sleep to wake me up and make me see to baby and feed/change

17 years old: Regularly catcalled whilst pushing pram on walks with baby

17 years old: Spat at in street for being ‘disgusting teen mum’

18 years old: Punched in back of the head and head butted oven door due to impact

18 years old: Abuser threw water over me whilst I was using electrical appliance to try to electrocute me

18 years old: Tell abuser it is over

18 years old: Abuser attacks me a couple of weeks later, headbutts me, throws me over dining table whilst holding baby, disclocated my shoulder, throws large set of keys at my head, I ring 999 whilst lying on the floor (first police contact)

18 years old: Abuser charged with 13 sexual and violent offences, denies them all

18 years old: Whilst on bail, abuser sends 47 death threats detailing the ways he will kill me and what he will do with my body – police ignore

18 years old: Abuser kicks front door in to come in a attempt to kill me – police ignore

18 years old: Abuser sits most nights and throws stones at my bedroom window to intimidate me and stop me sleeping – police ignore and tell me to ‘stop tattle taling on him’

18 years old: Abuser texts me at night telling me what I am wearing or what I am watching on TV as he is hiding in garden or looking through windows. Calls to police almost every night. Police attend once, find him in garden. He tells them he is a police officer and they BELIEVE HIM. I tell them he is lying and he works in construction. They warn me not to report him again.

18 years old: Abuser convinces everyone that I am mentally ill

18 years old: Abuser turns up drunk to my place of work and abuses my managers and me – police ignore it

18 years old: Abuser and friend call my place of work and maliciously report that I have been selling credit card details to men in pubs. Luckily my manager recognised their voices from the incident earlier in the month. My computer was still investigated. Was found to be malicious.

18 years old: Abuser given access to baby. Abuser turns up at my place of work, abandons baby in car park, throws nappies and food all over work car park and leaves. Security at my workplace bring me my baby and my things whilst I am at work in call centre having watched him on CCTV – police ignore it

18 years old: Abuser reports to social services that I am incapable of caring for my baby and that I am addicted to heroin – social services investigate and then NFA as malicious

18 years old: Abuser goes to give bouquets of flowers to my parents and grandparents and tells them he’s innocent and I’m mentally ill

18 years old: Abuser stalks me everywhere, follows me in his car as I walk with pram – police ignore it

18 years old: Abuser threatens suicide regularly

18 years old: Abuser gets hold of me and whispers that he enjoyed every rape and every time he beat me up – laughs at me that he will never be convicted

18 years old: Abuser sends me song lyrics and songs about abusing or killing me and how much he misses hurting me every day

18 years old: Abuser claims he’s been falsely accused and is being alienated from his child deliberately – pretty much everyone believes him and many people try to convince me to drop charges and to give him access to baby

18 years old: Taxi driver helped me in with baby and grocery shopping and then locked my door behind him and tried to rape me in the kitchen – screamed and fought until he left. Reported to taxi company, local authority licensing and police but NFA.

18 years old: Man in stag do in bar ripped my shirt open as I walked past and then punched me in the jaw for saying I wasn’t interested in him

18 years old: Guy I knew from school deliberately put his cigarette out on my leg whilst I was talking to him and held me there whilst it burned

18 years old: Went to bank to ask for overdraft but bank manager said no. I cried and explained I had been abused and was struggling etc. He was kind. Text me 20 mins later saying he would give me rent money and overdraft in cash if I would sleep with him.

18 years old: Left area due to death threats and safety concerns

19 years old: Abuser pays man at Royal Mail to give him my mail redirection address – Royal Mail investigate and give him a written warning

19 years old: Abuser sends group of men to my new address to attack me

19 years old: Abuser abducts baby and disappears – call police but they say it’s not a crime

19 years old: Abuser stalks my social media and creates fake accounts to send abuse and threats – Police say it’s not a crime

19 years old: Abuser calls and texts frequently during police investigation with abuse and threats, police ignore every single report and tell me to call Samaritans

19 years old: Catcalled walking up a hill with pram by two men in van

19 years old: Catcalled walking past petrol station by 4 men in convertible

19 years old: Threatened in a bar for telling man I wasn’t interested in him

22 years old: A man verbally abused me for telling him I wasn’t interested in him and called me a ‘fat ugly slag’ moments after saying he wanted to fuck me

22 years old: Two men drinking on the steps of the town hall shouted sexually abusive comments at me as I got into my car after a meeting

23 years old: I am assaulted for reporting a safeguarding concern. I have stitches in my face and gums. Police officer on duty attends my address, threatens to ‘smash my face in’ if I continued with a complaint against his family member for ABH – says he knows everything about me etc. Another office is present with him and blocks my exit from room whilst other officer threatens me to drop charges

23 years old: Report officer to police force who tell me it never happened even though I had names and badge numbers

24 years old: Male ex partner throws mug full of hot tea at me

24 years old: Sent dick pic by male professional on LinkedIn

24 years old: Male ex partner throws me to floor in argument and then leaves the house

25 years old: Man in a bar bit me on the shoulder for saying I wasn’t interested in him

25 years old: Man drove up to me and screamed abuse at me whilst I sat in my parked car waiting to pick my kids up from school. Then he drove off.

25 years old: Man on internet sends me pics of myself that he has wanked over and cut my head off in each pic

25-26 years old: Stalked and harassed for almost 2 years by male professional in safeguarding whom I’ve never met or spoken to who disagrees with my work

26 years old: Sexually assaulted and pinned to wall by male stranger in a bar who wouldn’t take no for an answer

26 years old: Male academic sent me abuse because he doesn’t agree with my views and then tagged loads of pro- paedophile accounts to give me more abuse which lasted weeks

27 years old: Tommy Robinson tagged me in a post which went viral and encouraged his followers to abuse me. Received upwards of 5000 threats including death and rape threats. All of my accounts were trolled for about 3 weeks.

27 years old: Male professional in safeguarding threatened to kill me for reporting him to police for harassment after he stole my work and sold the documents on. Shared a public image of me from a holiday and claimed I had privately sent it to him.

27 years old: Sent sexual messages by a Priest on LinkedIn

27 years old: Hotel staff member helps me to my room with laptop and bags. Sits on bed and refuses to leave. Tried to come on to me. Wouldn’t leave my bed. Shouted for help.

28 years old: Male ex partner opened back doors to my vehicle and started throwing my belongings on the driveway, punched my vehicle and then opened the door to my moving vehicle as I drove into the road and tried to pull me out of the driver seat

29 years old: Trolled by MRA and alt-right movement when my book was published. Received over 10,000 abusive messages, rape and death threats over 5 day period. Reported to police, initial response was that it was my own fault for being a public figure.

29 years old: MRA activists hack my computer – police take it for investigation

29 years old: Man sends explicit threat about injuries he wanted to cause to me with weapons

29 years old: Man in Canada writes violent, abusive and homophobic articles about me for alt-right magazine

30 years old: A man stole my holiday photos and sold them online, pretending to be me posing as a sex worker for men. One of the men who bought images of me decided to tell me what had happened.

25-present: Due to being in public eye, I receive on average 3 threatening or abusive emails or messages from men per week

Okay. So that’s everything I can think of for now.

That’s 108 incidents I can remember after 2 hours of thinking and writing.

In terms of how many actual crimes have been committed in acts of male violence towards me since I was born, it’s probably thousands.

I’m not alone here. I’m not an outlier. I don’t believe there are any women who have never been abused, groped, catcalled, harassed, raped, assaulted, threatened or harmed by men and boys. Male violence is just too common for that to be possible. Even women who have been lucky enough to have never been raped or abused will definitely have been sexually harassed, sent inappropriate messages or catcalled as a girl. For example, a recent study in the UK found that 97% of women 18-25 have been sexually harassed. That’s a huge number. That’s almost every woman.

We need to have this conversation, and we need to have it now. Or yesterday. Or in the 1960s when feminists highlighted it, and were ignored and ridiculed.

One of the interests I have in this topic is that all of the academic theories of ‘revictimisation’ suggest that male violence only happens to women and girls who are vulnerable or precipitate the crime in some way.

I am of the opinion that if all women say down and completed this written exercise, they would each have so many experiences of male violence, that the theories of revictimisation would cease to make sense. Instead of repeat victimisation of women and girls being something about the individual woman or girl, we would find that male violence is so common in our communities that it’s hard NOT to be a victim of male violence.

Being female in a patriarchy is our so-called vulnerability.

If you wanted to do this exercise yourself, please don’t feel that you have to share it or share the number of incidents you can remember. It’s not useful for everyone and it can be very traumatic for those who are not ready or able to think about the scale of male violence committed against them.

However, if you have read this and think it might be useful, you can do it privately and whilst practising self-care. Sometimes it can help to see a timeline or the sheer scale of what you have been subjected to in your life as a woman.

Thank you for reading.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

@drjesstaylor

Email jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Why we should never use childhood trauma to excuse male violence

Why we should never use childhood trauma to excuse male violence

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

27 January 2021

I have noticed an alarming pattern recently. More and more professionals, speakers and influencers are latching on to the theory that childhood trauma is the reason that men commit acts of violence such as domestic abuse, sexual abuse and rape.

This is not a new phenomenon. We have been excusing male violence for millennia. We have normalised it, minimised it; we’ve even glorified it in film, literature and song. Male violence has been smothered in righteousness, justice and honour. Men killing each other, colonising countries, going to war with each other, raping and abusing women and children, and enslaving entire populations, is a huge part of our global history.

What I am noticing now, is the academic movement towards explaining or excusing male violence (especially towards women and children) by arguing that the offender had a difficult or traumatic childhood.

In this blog, I am going to set out the key arguments as to why this is false, and why this is happening. My main arguments will be that:

1. Childhood trauma does not cause adult offending

2. Childhood trauma is used differently against men and women

3. ACEs frameworks have been debunked and should not be used to explain male violence offending

4. This is all another elaborate excuse to sympathise with male abusers and force women to take responsibility for men’s responses and actions

Okay. Are we sitting comfortably? If so, let’s begin.

Childhood trauma does not cause adult offending

This has to be the most obvious counter argument to those who claim that men commit violent acts because of their terrible childhoods. Childhood trauma does not cause adult offending at all. Arguably, if it did, the majority of all adult violent offenders would be women. Globally, girls are subjected to much more childhood trauma than boys are. This includes forced marriage, FGM, forced pregnancies, abortions, rape, corrective rape, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, sex trafficking and exploitation to name but a few of the misogynistic oppressions of girls. If childhood trauma really does cause violent offending in later life, why, according to the FBI (2019) are 97% of all violent offenders male? And why, according to the MOJ, are 96% of all sexual abusers and 99% of all murderers male? Where are all the angry, wronged, misunderstood female victims-turned-murderers and abusers? They seem to be missing.

Something just doesn’t stack up, does it?

More broadly, there is no evidence that being abused in childhood means that you will go on to abuse others in adulthood. What is interesting about this, is that some studies that have tried to explore this have found that less than 1% of victims of abuse go on to abuse others, but when we ask men in prison why they abuse others, over 55% of them say it was because they were abused as children (MOJ, 2014). This is particularly true for domestic abuse perpetrators, who have a tendency to report that they were abused in childhood or witnessed domestic abuse of their mothers.

Whilst I am not necessarily disputing this, and I believe that loads (if not all) of those men were subjected to abuse in childhood, I do not accept it as a reason for why they made a choice in free will to then go on to abuse another human (statistically, a woman or girl).

The fact that they were abused in childhood, or had other serious traumas to cope with, is not a reason or explanation for their crimes against women and girls. The moment you start introducing their childhood as a reason, you completely diminish their capacity, choice and agency – which the majority of these offenders have in abundance.

You know how to tell that they are making free choices to abuse women and girls, and that their childhood has nothing to do with it?

Because they don’t rape, abuse, traffic and control men. They know not to lash out at their boss. They don’t abuse their brothers. They don’t rape their best mate at the pub. They don’t groom their colleague. They don’t threaten to kill their Dad.

They deliberately abuse and control women and girls. It’s a choice. It’s always a choice. It’s a conscious decision to bully and abuse someone specific, isn’t it?

The same men who tell their wives and girlfriends that they ‘can’t help it’ and ‘just lose it’ and ‘see red’, sure seem able to keep their jobs and friendships, where everyone thinks butter wouldn’t melt.

Why is this important? Because it means that the same men claiming they have no control actually have immense control over when they offend and who against.

Childhood trauma is used differently against men and women

This is important. Childhood trauma is used to excuse men and incriminate women. Women reading this who have ever tried to report to the police or have ended up in family court will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Men use childhood trauma to excuse, minimise, frame and contextualise their abusive behaviours. Their lawyers and police officers explain that he can’t help it, because of the way he was brought up. That he’s traumatised and needs help for his childhood traumas. That he’s struggling and needs understanding and time.

Women will tell you, when their childhood traumas are brought up in an official context, it is not for a good reason. It’s not to excuse them or reframe them as in need of forgiveness or mercy.

Fuck, no.

Women know that their childhood is brought up for one reason, and one reason only:

To frame them as mentally unstable.

Childhood traumas are the ultimate get out of jail free card for men, and are a one way ticket to a psychiatric evaluation and a family assessment for women.

You see, women’s childhood trauma is used to beat them with, and men’s childhood trauma is used to excuse them and exonerate them. This is arguably linked to the hypermisogynistic society we inhabit, which ignores and trivialises women’s suffering and traumas, and reframes it all as personality disorders and hysteria.

Lots of academic work has been conducted to explore topics related to this. One study from 2018 showed that when women are having cardiac symptoms in emergency departments, they are left on average 4 hours longer without treatment or examination than men with the exact same symptoms. The researchers interviewed doctors and concluded that it was because even the most skilled doctors working in emergency departments were influenced by misogynistic myths that women over exaggerate their pain and physical symptoms. This leads to men’s suffering and pain being taken much more seriously than that of women, and leads to many more women dying of heart attacks than men.

This effect simply spreads out across many different experiences of womanhood, and includes the way we position women’s childhood traumas as exaggerated attention seeking and mental health issues, whereas men’s childhood traumas are validated and considered to be impacting their behaviour and decision making.

ACEs frameworks have been debunked and should not be used to explain male violence

I have written blogs and delivered several talks, YouTube videos and webinars about the ACEs framework being made up bullshit so I will save you from reading it again.

If you have no idea what ACEs are, watch this video and then come back:

https://youtu.be/yE-pncpeGw4

Okay, so for those of you who know that ACEs were a very simple set of questions used for population level epidemiology research, that the original authors have literally begged people to stop using in trauma and mental health…

I’ve noticed that some professionals, speakers and academics have started to talk publicly about certain so-called ‘ACE scores’ causing men to become domestic violence perpetrators, rapists and even paedophiles.

This worries me greatly, not least because the ACE framework has no validity in the first place, but because there is an undercurrent there of excusing or explaining male violence using childhood adversity.

We have to be absolutely clear on this, as psychologists, social workers, prison officers, police officers, policy makers and academics:

Childhood trauma and adverse life experiences do not cause you to commit rape and abuse. Millions of people who have devastating childhoods will never harm anyone as long as they live. There is no causal relationship between childhood trauma, ACEs and offending (no matter how hard the DFE and Department for Health try to make daft cartoons about this made up relationship).

We talk so much about being ‘trauma-informed’ and ‘strengths-based’ and believing in ‘resilience’ and ‘capacity for change’. And yet, here we are being encouraged to simply blame the childhoods of violent male offenders who could seemingly keep their violence to themselves at all other times except for when raping their girlfriend, or abusing their child.

We are giving them yet another excuse. We will never cause social change if we just keep piling up excuses for male violence at the feet of violent men.

This is all another elaborate excuse to sympathise with male abusers and force women to take responsibility for men’s responses and actions

Where this ultimately leads us, is back to blaming women and girls for the violence of men. If every time a man rapes or abuses or kills a woman or girl, we look back to his childhood and then suggest that he committed those crimes because of how awful his childhood was, we remove his agency and culpability.

What follows, is an expectation on women and girls to help, support and understand these ‘troubled’ men, and not to hold them responsible for their own violent choices and actions. Instead of prosecuting them, holding them accountable and speaking out about male violence, our society shrinks back to sympathising with and supporting male violence as if it is the natural way of the world, that men cannot help themselves.

Their victims (mainly women and girls) are then framed as responsible not only for male violence, but for helping men to be better men. The narratives around this are already pretty embedded, and women and girls often feel a sense of duty to ‘help’ violent and abusive men to be better, or get help. Even women escaping serious danger from violent exes and family members often feel guilty for not ‘helping them enough’.

I’ve worked with hundreds of women who, when they finally leave abusive and violent men, are told by those men that they ‘need help’ and ‘will seek counselling’ and ‘need their support’.

Women are conditioned to believe that this is true, and that their role is to selflessly support a violent man whilst he figures out the most basic tenet of a mutual relationship: don’t hurt others.

Men often position themselves in the patriarchy as the ones with the agency, the brains, the power, the strength, the money, the opportunities, the ideas and the choices.

And yet, when it comes to their offending against women and girls, we infantilise them as if they are small, malleable 2 year olds who watched a cartoon and then copied it with no understanding of context or content.

When will we finally stop listening to men’s excuses about their violence?

“I was stressed

I was jealous

I was abused as a child

I had a traumatic life

I was made redundant

I was tired

I was depressed”

So?

That doesn’t give them a licence to commit violent crimes, and pretend they had no agency or choice.

We need to stop discussing their childhoods and their past traumas as reasons or contributing factors in their violent crimes.

Every single time male offenders choose to rape, abuse or murder, they make an active and considered decision, that you cannot blame on their childhood.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

Email: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @DrJessTaylor

Facebook: @JessForenPsych

Web: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Positive thinking phrases you should never use about abuse

Positive thinking phrases you should never use about abuse

Dr Jessica Taylor

Content warning for discussion of abuse and rape

Whether you are reading this as someone who has been subjected to abuse, whether you know someone who has or you are a professional who supports people who have – you might notice some ‘positive thinking’ phrases in here that you use to reframe the abuse.

This blog explores some of those phrases and then discusses why we shouldn’t use them, and the problems they create for people who have been subjected to all forms of abuse.

The positive thinking phrases I will discuss in this blog are:

‘It made you stronger’

‘You had something positive from it’

‘It made you who you are today’

‘Everything happens for a reason’

‘You get back what you give’

‘Positivity attracts positive people’

‘We can’t change what happened, but we can change how we feel/respond to it’

Whilst some of these sound brilliant, they can harm us in ways we don’t realise. Especially if we begin to believe some of the connotations of these phrases and their underlying beliefs – which are often linked to victim blaming.

So let’s jump right in with the worst of them all.

‘It made you stronger

Most people who have been subjected to abuse have heard or read this one countless times. Maybe you had been telling someone what you have been through, and suddenly, some well meaning friend or therapist tells you that the abuser, or the rapist or your abusive parent ‘made you stronger’.

It’s always meant well.

But the thing is, being raped or abused or harmed or beaten up or gaslit every day didn’t make us stronger – it did the opposite. It really hurt us. It felt like it destroyed us. It broke us down into pieces.

For some of us, this phrase puts an awful lot of pressure on us to be some kick-ass strong survivor type person. To be able to brush it off and keep going. To pretend that none of it impacts us anymore, because it made us stronger. Right?

No, the abuser or rapist, the abuse and the rape did not make us stronger at all – but if we did feel stronger these days, we did that ourselves.

Don’t ever give credit to an abuser for making someone else stronger. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that being raped or abused MADE you or anyone else stronger. Instead, if you or someone else feels that they are getting stronger after living through trauma, that’s something they did for themselves.

Don’t attribute that to the offender, or the offence.

‘You got something positive from it’

This one is quite specific, and relates to the way that women and girls who have children with abusers are told that they should be thankful that they got something positive from the rape or abuse (their children).

I would go even further and say that I’ve heard some people say things like ‘well think about it, if you hadn’t been raped/trafficked/abused, you wouldn’t have your kids, would you?’

Or even

‘Well, you wouldn’t want to change what you’ve been through, because then you would never have had your kids!’

I just want to say this:

Women, you do not have to feel thankful that you had children with a rapist or an abuser. You can love your kids and still wish you were never subjected to trauma and abuse that changed your life.

You do not have to associate these things, or hold them as equivalents.

And to people who say this to others:

I know you mean well, but this really does induce a lot of guilt when women are trying to talk about the abuse and trauma they have been subjected to.

Yes, they might have ‘got two wonderful kids out of it’ (in your perspective), but she lived through hell. Her kids are not a consolation prize or a reward for putting up with being raped and abused.

Don’t use this one, it’s just never a good idea to go down this line of reasoning with a woman.

I would extend this, however, to any argument that someone makes that a woman, man, boy or girl ‘took something positive’ from being abused or harmed.

It’s just not okay to reframe their suffering and oppression as something positive, or a gift of some kind.

‘It made you who you are today’

So much shit is said with good intentions, and here is another common example.

Whether you’ve said this to someone who has been subjected to abuse, or whether you say it to yourself – the abuse did not make you who you are today.

This one redefines your entire life, your entire being – as a product of the abuse and the choices of the abuser.

Being raped or abused or oppressed did not make you who you are today.

You are not defined by the crimes of another.

‘Everything happens for a reason’

This one is related more to theories such as Belief in a Just World, in which people who say these kinds of things tend to believe that things happen for a reason (because you are a good person, because you are a bad person, because you deserve it etc).

However, being told that ‘everything happens for a reason’ strikes me as a mixture between not knowing what else to say, trying to say something meaningful and reframing the abuse or rape as predestined to happen for some sort of cosmic reason.

I mean, if you wanted to be picky, I could say, yes, the rape and abuse did happen for a reason, the reason is that the abuser is a nasty fucking lowlife who made an active choice to harm others instead of looking at themselves. That’s the reason.

But it has nothing to do with your life, or your journey. It didn’t happen to you to teach you a lesson, or to help you, or to make you grow as a person, or to make you stronger, or to mould or shape or define you.

I would actually argue that there is no evidence that ‘everything happens for a reason’, anyway. Especially not in the cosmic sense.

Most things that happen to us or are done to us are random, and often could not be predicted or stopped. The world is a zillion possibilities all zooming around, colliding, missing, synchronising at once.

The reality is that you could drive to work today and bump into the car in front. Or you could get a text message from an old friend that changes your life. Or you could fall over and break your knee. Or you could stay home and see an advert on the TV that makes you consider stopping smoking. Or your partner could tell you they are no longer happy. Or your kid could get a cold. Or your tire could be flat when you go outside.

So many things happen in a day. And yet, we often tell ourselves that they mean something, that they all happen for a special, magical reason.

We are best to avoid this kind of thinking, especially when thinking about rape and abuse.

The only reason it happened was because the abuser chose to harm another human. The rest is just magical thinking that we use to give meaning to experiences we try to make sense of.

The issue with this one, is that it can lead us to believe that the rape or abuse was supposed to happen to us, for some sort of reason. It then undoubtedly leads to ‘why me?’ questions, which often turn into victim blaming and self blame.

‘You get back what you give’

I really hate this one. Especially when used in the context of abuse.

Simply put: no you don’t.

The entire dynamic of being abused is that you DON’T get back what you give. Often, victims of abuse and oppression are putting everything into a relationship or situation and are not even afforded basic human respect.

Abuse has nothing to do with what the victim ‘puts in’ or ‘gives’.

Abuse is always about the offender and what they are choosing to do to other humans.

My main issue with this one is that it assumes that you ‘get back’ what you ‘give’ – for example, if you don’t work hard in a relationship or situation then you will be treated like shit. It implies that you have been abused because you didn’t ‘give’ enough in the relationship or situation.

Nope. No. Ugh.

This is not appropriate at all when discussing abuse. It reminds me very much of the people who say that you only get treated how you allow others to treat you, which is also bollocks.

‘Positivity attracts positive people’

I’ve seen this one being used in domestic abuse, usually towards women, and it bothers me a lot.

This obsession with meaningless, empty Instagram quotes is impacting the quality of the advice we give to women subjected to abuse.

This one annoys me because it suggests that if you are a positive person who believes in positive thinking and positive action, you will only attract positive people into your life, and you will not be abused or harmed by them.

It’s essentially victim blaming.

It’s suggesting that the person attracted someone ‘negative’ into their life by not being positive enough. Almost as if, happy positive people will not be targeted by abusers or oppressors, because their positivity is some sort of force field that only attracts good people and repels bad ones.

It’s bollocks, basically.

And it puts a lot of pressure on people who have been subjected to abuse and harm to be more positive in order to ‘attract the right people’.

It’s a really nasty, insidious one.

Don’t say it to people who have been subjected to abuse, and even more importantly, don’t feel that you ‘attracted’ the wrong ‘type’ of people into your life by being a certain way.

It feeds self blame, but sounds like positive thinking. Same as many of the others, really.

‘We can’t change what happened, but we can change how we feel/respond to it’

The final one is this interesting rhetoric which probably has its roots in cognitive therapy traditions, this idea that you can simply change the way you think about your abuse or rape or childhood trauma.

The problem with this one when used in abuse and trauma is that we are essentially saying to victims of serious crime and oppression that they can just choose to think differently about what was done to them, and stop being sad, anxious, scared, angry, traumatised etc.

This isn’t realistic and it minimises the real impact of those crimes on the person. It also puts pressure on the person to respond ‘better’ than they are already doing.

It’s a message of, ‘Yes, this did happen to you, but you could be dealing with it better if you just thought positively’.

It’s not fair to expect this of anyone, and it comes across as shaming people who are trying to cope with trauma and the impact of abuse.

I remember once having this discussion with a senior clinical psychologist and we did eventually come to the conclusion that it borders on gaslighting by professionals to tell a traumatised person to think differently or respond differently to the abuse or trauma. I feel exactly the same way about this phrase used in positive thinking.

Final thought

Lots of phrases we use in positive thinking and in supporting people subjected to abuse and trauma sound good, mean well, but are having detrimental and harmful impacts on them, including inducing guilt, shame and blame.

Written by Dr Jessica Taylor

Psychologist

Director of VictimFocus

10 November 2020

My books and resources are at http://www.victimfocus-resources.com

More information at http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Email: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @DrJessTaylor

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JessForenPsych

30 things I’ve learned in 30 years

Dr Jessica Taylor

This is a personal blog post to mark my 30th birthday. I have been thinking about a way to write about reaching this milestone for months. 30 has simultaneously scared and empowered me. I have lived through so much that at times, I wouldn’t have believed I would be able to get to 30, or even want to get to 30.

However, I am here (somehow) and I want to share some of the things I’ve learned and some of the values I live by.

I hope to look back on this one day and see if I change in the next decade or two. I also hope some of this helps others. I feel I’ve learned an immense amount about myself so far, and expect that to continue for the rest of my life.

Here are my ‘30 things I’ve learned in 30 years’.

1. Popularity is a distraction from purpose

This one has been a slow lesson, but properly hit home when I was about 26 and I’ve never been able to ignore it since. There were so many times as I grew up, through my adolescence and then particularly through my twenties when I was trying to do something or achieve something – but it was making me unpopular. Society pins popularity as one of the most important things we can achieve, so it becomes really scary when we realise we are not popular. We might even be threatened with our popularity (no one will like you/we won’t be your friend/we will unfollow you).

I’ve been in these positions many times. Once when I needed to report poor practice in a rape centre. Once when I was trying to protect children from CSE. Once when I reported poor practice in a prison. When I supported radical feminism. When I resigned from my job. When I challenged my university. So. Many. Times.

Popularity is the threat that keeps you quiet and compliant sometimes, and it distracts you from what is really important.

When I was 26, I was directly told by someone senior in local government that I was making myself unpopular by challenging poor practice and that was the first time that I genuinely laughed in that person’s face and said

‘I think you’ve got the wrong woman, mate.’

I then realised the game that was being played against me and I’ve not worried about who likes me and who doesn’t ever since. I’ve got shit to do.

2. Being the underdog is powerful

Ahhhh I used to hate being underestimated. Always underestimated, always predicted to fail. It’s always been that way, since I was a little girl. I spent so many years trying to ‘prove’ myself and to ‘show’ people that I wasn’t stupid, that I wasn’t useless and a waste of space. It took many more years to realise that being the underdog in every process and every situation you’re ever put in is actually brilliant. This only occurred to me in my late twenties.

Being the underdog does mean that people assume you’ll fail, and that might hurt you, but it’s a great place to be.

If everyone is expecting you to fail, they aren’t paying any attention to you. When they aren’t paying attention to you, you can do the things you need to do without them noticing.

It’s also a lot of fun to see people squirm when you succeed, like you knew you would. I haven’t tired of that yet. I hope I never do.

Some people will never see your potential and that’s okay. As long as you can see it, you can carve out your own life and then they can watch you from the sidelines, stood there trying to figure out how you did it. Haha. Brilliant.

3. Authenticity keeps us healthy

This one has been so important to me as the years have passed. There are many things that will happen to you during your life, but if you stay authentic to yourself, you will at least know how you really feel about those things.

It’s so easy to get pulled into being someone you are not. Whether that’s putting up guards that aren’t real or being a pushover when you don’t want to be. Whether that’s faking who you are to fit in, or deliberately isolating yourself when you really want to be the centre of something.

Know thyself.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that to be sure about things in your life, you have to know yourself. Really know yourself. And then you need to honour yourself. If you feel angry, say so. If you feel sad, feel it. If you feel compromised, pay attention. If you think you’re being lied to, you’re probably right. If you have a gut feeling, don’t ignore it. If you believe in something, stand by it.

Don’t bend and change for people. Don’t be a different person to different people. Live authentically, live by your own values and live honestly.

This won’t always feel comfortable or easy. Often it will put you in positions where you’re the only person who won’t toe the line. It might mean you end up the whistleblower over and over again. To the point where you are sick of being authentic.

However, I’ve always felt healthier and more content when I am being completely authentic. Cognitive dissonance makes me feel ill and stressed.

4. Beliefs seem more important than facts but that doesn’t make them right

From childhood I’ve been a stickler for facts, science and the truth. I don’t particularly have much time for what people believe, especially if it’s contrary to fact and truth. I won’t tell people what they can and can’t ‘believe’ but I have no interest in colluding or supporting it when I know it’s not true.

As I’ve aged, this seems to becoming more and more common, in an era that seems vehemently anti-science and anti-reality. Social constructionism has taken over from empiricism and common fuckin sense and this means that I often state facts that people don’t want to hear, or don’t want to believe.

I’ve had to just find some comfort within that strange place, and know that lots of people’s minds can’t be changed with rational argument or facts. My close friend once said to me, ‘you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.’

She will know who she is. The brainbox.

Anyway, what she means is that if someone has arrived at a belief or conclusion which comes from emotion, coercion, manipulation, deception or some other means, you can’t usually use rational reasoning or facts to deconstruct their beliefs – because they aren’t based on facts or reason in the first place.

This has become more and more obvious to me as the years have passed. It’s tiring but it’s something I have learned.

5. Throw yourself in the deep end and see if you swim

This is one of my favourites. I learned this one early on, and I still do it to myself often. I have a real tendency to throw myself into things I am scared of, or don’t know much about – and force myself to learn, experience and to listen.

This might be anything from a new topic I know nothing about, to a new job or idea that seems huge and impossible.

I’ve not sunk yet.

6. Never show your hand to people who don’t respect you

I say this to those around me whenever they need a reminder that not everyone who smiles at you is your friend. Don’t reveal your ideas, thoughts, secrets, personal business or work projects to people who don’t respect you. If you’re not sure whether they truly respect you, don’t tell them shit.

You have to keep your cards close to your chest, and protect your ideas, personal life and work.

If someone you barely know, or you are unsure about, keeps asking you about your projects, ideas, writing, personal life etc – steer well clear. You’ll thank me later.

7. People want change until you cause change

Ugh. This one has only really sunk in for me in the last year or so. I’ve been suspecting this to be the case for about 5 years, but now I’m sure of it.

Lots of people (obviously not everyone) demand, ask, need, want, expect change in one way or another.

It’s probably more apparent for me in my job, because I am often commissioned or contracted to undertake work which causes change, improves something or removes something. The point of my work is to make services better for victims of abuse and trauma. However, I have been frankly astonished how many times I’ve done exactly what has been asked of me and then disciplined or criticised for causing the change they said they needed or wanted.

I was once asked to work on a project to improve a service that (by the leadership’s admission) had become dangerous and clients were at risk. I did everything asked of me. I highlighted all of the areas of danger and risk in the practice.

Annnnd then I got threatened.

I was once commissioned to cause serious change in a service which had an issue with victim blaming children subjected to CSE. I caused so much change that eventually I was taken to one side and told that I had motivated the staff ‘too much’ and they were now challenging the management and the poor policies.

I have often concluded that some people who say they want change, don’t actually want systemic change. They want something superficial and quick that they can show off.

8. Never stop learning or reading

Fairly self-explanatory, but this has been a huge part of my life and I hope it always will be. Never get to the point where you think you know all there is to know. Accept that knowledge and wisdom changes, and accept that you can learn from others.

Read as many books and articles as you can. Read them from perspectives you disagree with. I own several books from authors I disagree with on pretty much everything they write, but it won’t stop me from reading it.

As an example, I have a book by a man who basically thinks that women who are raped are the most privileged and protected class of people on earth and that the most oppressed group is rich white men. The book is drivel, but it was so interesting seeing how he argued it and what on Earth he was citing!

(Note: turns out, he was citing very little, and some tabloid articles.)

Learning goes beyond reading of course, and I feel strongly that we should never pass up an opportunity to learn no matter how old we get.

I promised myself that I would go back to playing music when I had finished academia and I did. I started piano lessons in September and have loved every moment.

On my list for the future is to learn a new language to a decent standard of conversation and to learn another few instruments.

I have also decided to undertake some other forms of training and education because there are areas of knowledge that I feel I need to learn more about.

I hope I always feel this way about reading and learning.

9. Music is a lifeblood

Every year that passes just cements this one for me. Music is everything to me. I have it on constantly. In the shower. In the car. In the kitchen. While I clean. While I work. When I’m chilling out. In the background when we have people over for drinks/food etc.

I couldn’t and wouldn’t be who I am today without my music collection, and my fascination in the history and context of my favourite genres and styles. I love learning about the meaning and origins of music. I think it has to be one of the greatest achievements of humans.

10. Money is a trap

This one has only occurred to me in the last few years. Having spent my entire youth and younger adult years scraping around to pay the bills, often not actually paying the bills and ending up in serious trouble: all I wanted was to be financially secure.

When I was a kid, I dreamt of having the things I needed. I figured out pretty early on that you needed quite a lot of money to live comfortably. I think there is a message we give that you can live comfortably and healthily on minimum wage or low paid jobs as long as you work hard enough – and it just isn’t true.

I knew that wasn’t true as one of 6 kids.

However, whilst this definitely influenced and motivated me to seek employment (I had two part time jobs at 15 years old – one in a pub and one in a restaurant) it also led me into a trap.

The thing I’ve noticed is that once you have had secure income, you become absolutely terrified of ever losing it again. You never forget what it feels like to be hungry or to be cold or to be in debt, and it scares you to death. You do literally anything you can to keep it. Even working yourself into the ground. Even forsaking your well-being or your family.

That’s why it feels like a trap, to me.

11. Misogyny is relentless

Gah. There are some days where I can’t even face how much the world blatantly hates women and girls. Don’t bother commenting or emailing me your essays about how women and girls are equal. It’s bollocks and I don’t care what you have to say to defend or minimise or deny the global oppression of females.

That’s it. I learned that misogyny is relentless and it hurts. Not all of these lessons are positive.

12. Classism is real and it’s tough

Another negative lesson unfortunately – I had absolutely no idea what classism was until I went to do my PhD. The thing about classism is that you’re kinda insulated from it until you step into an environment where you don’t ‘belong’.

I had no idea what class was. Or how it impacted me. Or what I was. Because I lived in an area and in a family where we were all the same. The definition of rich was someone who had a 12 plate car and had some decent trainers. Or a permanent full time job. We were all the same, we all sounded the same, we all lived the same ways.

It was only when I became surrounded by people from middle and upper middle class in my work and in academia that I really started to feel odd, but I didn’t know why.

Comments about my accent, my tattoos, my childhood, my lifestyle, my communication style, my kids – it came thick and fast but I still couldn’t put my finger on why I was different.

It was only when someone made a specific comment about where I grew up and laughed at me was that I realised that I would never be seen as ‘one of them’, and that I was some sort of… novelty.

13. I learned nothing in high school

I know people say this all the time, flippantly, but I actually didn’t learn a thing. I realised recently that I learned all of my ‘school’ learning from primary and middle school. I went to high school at 14 and learned precisely fuck all from 14-16. All I remember is saying to my friends ‘didn’t we already learn this in middle school?’ and then cramming for exams.

I learned that I was worthless, and that my teachers expected nothing from me and most of my friends. I learned that rules were only applied to kids they didn’t like. I learned that they didn’t respect us but we were supposed to respect them. I learned that grown ups were allowed to bully kids but kids weren’t allowed to bully other kids.

But education? Nothing. Like many kids, I was by that age, a very different kind of learner, and I struggled with bureaucracy and power dynamics. I loved learning but I hated how oppressive and patronising school felt.

It completely put me off sixth form and university – and I left school at the beginning of year 11. I had no interest in ‘education’ like that. And I thought I would never get my love of learning back.

However, I have to thank The OU for giving me my love of learning back, and allowing me to do a degree with no other education.

To be clear, school is not necessarily the same as education, and school is not always conducive to learning for lots of kids. Don’t write them off, they just don’t fit there. Loads of us don’t.

14. The body keeps the score

This one has been a hard, long lesson. One I love and hate. One that keeps cropping up for me.

However, it is one lesson that has changed my life.

I have struggled with health issues since I was 18, and not one doctor could ever put their finger on what was wrong with me.

Most noticeably, I had chest pains that never resolved, lasted 9 years and would double me over in pain. I was admitted to hospital countless times and never got any clarity as to what the pains were. At 27, I decided to invest in some manual physiotherapy from a guy who was highly recommended and in one session, he solved the chest pain. He told me that I had an old injury in my shoulder and spine and that the chest pain was actually referred pain round my ribcage. He told me that when I was super stressed, I held all my tension in my shoulders and neck which caused the years of pain. 6 weeks of treatment and the pain had gone. However, he was absolutely right, and every time I was going through a rough patch, the pains in my neck and back would come back.

Later on, when I realised I was lesbian and I had fallen in love with a woman, I became extremely ill. At the time, there’s no way I would have connected the two issues, and everyone told me it was because I was working too hard.

However, the body has incredible ways of responding to anything from guilt to stress – and my body couldn’t deal with the conflict and the sudden realisation that I was in love with a woman and needed to be openly lesbian. I stopped being able to eat, suffered from malnutrition and it took a long time to get better.

What was nothing short of amazing, was that when I did get to be openly lesbian and with the woman I loved, I started getting better within a couple of weeks. It was so strange.

The bottom line, your body will tell you when there is something wrong. If you aren’t listening to it, it will get worse. Stress and trauma will play out in physical symptoms. Pay attention.

15. Self belief is a super power

There’s a reason people don’t want you to be confident and believe in yourself. Because once you do that, you don’t need permission or support from anyone to do the things you need to do.

Self belief is a super power – you can achieve anything if you believe in yourself and nurture yourself.

It doesn’t matter what others say to you or about you, if you know you are capable of anything. It makes you mentally bulletproof.

Lots of people struggle to understand how and why I’m able to do the things I do, and the answer is simple really: I know I can do them, so I do them.

I’m not scared of failure and I’m not scared of having to adapt or learn, because I believe in myself. That has taken me so far already.

16. Success is the best revenge

All I have to say about this one is HA HA HA.

Nothing pisses off people more than having to watch you do well when they really really don’t want you to do well.

It’s hilarious.

You don’t always have to do anything specific to exact a form of revenge – you can just focus on yourself and your own development and dreams – and know that people who wanted you to fail squirm every time they see you or hear your name.

Once I’d learned this, I stopped getting angry at people who had hurt me and realised that I hurt them by focussing on myself, doing well and ignoring their sorry ass.

17. I’m all in, until I’m all out

I probably learned this one in my early 20s, and has no idea this was part of my character until then.

I always put 100% into everything and everyone I care about. I’m all in. All the time. No matter what.

I realised that, contrary to popular belief, I’m extremely slow to anger. I can be poked and prodded and mistreated for a long time whilst keeping calm.

But once something changes in my mind about a situation, a job, a person or a relationship – that’s it, I’m out.

This was an important learning curve, because I didn’t know this about myself when I was younger.

It also means I pay attention to feelings of discomfort or injustice in a situation or relationship, and try to confront it quickly, because I know once that switch has flipped, nothing will get me back there.

18. I can’t do fake nice, so I don’t

I was 18 when I realised I was not capable of lying to someone’s face, or pretending to be nice when I didn’t like them, or when I didn’t respect them.

I’m not capable of it, and whilst this might sound like a nightmare, it does make life much simpler.

I choose not to spend time with people I don’t like, and I never do ‘fake nice’ to anyone.

I’m genuine with everyone, even if I clearly don’t like them, which is usually when I avoid or choose not to spend time with them.

I’ve had people in my life who really struggle with this, and will say to me ‘just be nice, it doesn’t matter, just lie.’

And when I say I can’t, they just don’t get it.

I’ve grown to be comfortable with this and I’m glad I don’t mislead people.

19. Body image is a bastard

Fuckin hell, I hate body image issues so much. So much, that I choose not to write about them, campaign or get involved in activism around it. I am not at a place where I can discuss or work on these long standing issues which undoubtedly come from years of abuse – but rather than pretend to be a face of feminist values around body image, I simply tell people that I’m not able to be useful in this arena because I have processed my shit around this.

I truly hope that if I get to 40, 50, 60, 70 or 80 – that this mental torture and societal expectation on me as a woman to look like a fuckin living doll will end.

One day, I want to truly love my body. I’m sad I didn’t achieve it by 30, but I’m glad I’m aware of it.

20. I don’t seem to fit in anywhere and I’m getting more comfortable with that

I spent so many of my younger years trying to fit into something or some place. As I found my voice and my talents, I thought I would fit in to new places.

I thought I would fit in to new workplaces but I didn’t. I thought I would fit in at uni, but I didn’t. I thought I would fit into certain friendship groups, but I didn’t. I thought I would fit into feminism, but I often get told that I don’t.

What I’ve noticed is that I’m too much of a mish-mash of a person to truly ‘fit’ into a category or into a group.

I end up sticking out in one way or another – and I used to hate that about myself.

I’m only just learning to love that, and it’s probably why I’ve been successful.

Because I don’t fit anywhere, and because I carve out my own space to thrive. If this is you, stop trying to make yourself fit in. You will clip your own wings.

21. Children are the future, and we treat them like shit

As I’ve gotten older, and moved away from childhood, and had my own kids who are now reaching their teen years, I’ve noticed something.

We have such disrespect for our youth. We treat them, talk to them and approach them like idiots. We underestimate them. We hold them down. We are hypocrites. We ignore their ideas. We expect their undying loyalty and respect. We don’t believe them when they tell us they are being abused and harmed. We don’t protect them in the ways we should. We abuse and exploit them.

And then we sit back, scratching our heads and say ‘why do these kids behave like this?’

Us. Because of us.

But we just don’t wanna see it, do we?

We go on and on about how ‘society’ harms kids. Newsflash. You are society. We are society. We are the adults. We are the harm.

This has been a hard one to swallow, especially as I work so heavily in the abuse and exploitation of children. Children who have many adults and professionals around them, treating them like dirt and then wondering why they won’t trust or respect them.

The answer is much simpler than we think, but we are creating new generations of traumatised and unheard kids. Then we hold them responsible for our mistakes and we move on.

22. Psychiatry is a con and we’ve all been played

This one really took hold in my mid 20s, and not through personal experience. I realised that psychiatry was a con after working with thousands of women and girls who were totally normal, rational and average – but were told by doctors that they were mad, ill, disordered, abnormal and unstable.

Every woman and girl I met with these labels was wrongly diagnosed.

They were oppressed, traumatised, bullied, abused, scared and poor – but they were not mentally ill.

I started to suspect that psychiatry was labelling social impacts on oppressed humans as internal mental health issues as a way to individualise structural harm and oppression.

I decided to educate myself and read this topic – and realised that many others felt the same way I did. Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.

23. People want you to succeed until you succeed

This one has been so hard. I’ve had to learn this one, despite wishing it wasn’t true. I have been completely baffled, saddened and shocked at how I’ve been treated as I got more successful. I really didn’t expect it, which was naive of me. But I didn’t.

I thought people would understand what I was doing and how hard I was working, but my success just attracted more abuse and hatred.

It felt as though the same people who wanted me to succeed and told me they supported me – instantly disappeared or turned on me when I became successful.

This was a real shock.

I then started to notice this happening to other women, and then realised it was a pattern. Sad, but it was a lesson I had to learn.

24. Real love feels amazing and fulfilling

Wow. This one has been quite a journey. It’s amazing what you will position as ‘real love’ when you’re being controlled, abused and harmed by people around you who profess to love you.

Maybe you think that your partner only checks your phone and checks where you are because he loves you.

Maybe you think your partner who belittles you is doing it to ‘keep you grounded’, because they love you so much.

Maybe you think your partner keeps you away from your family because they love spending time with you.

Maybe they tell you that they want you to lose weight or look different because they love you.

Maybe they tell you that they only treat you badly because they love you so much and they are scared of losing you.

It’s all bullshit. But I wouldn’t have believed it, if someone would have told me these things. I thought love was hard, scary, frustrating, painful and exhausting. I thought that was normal. I thought you were supposed to put up with it because you loved them.

None of it is true.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to fall in love with my best friend and have her love me back, and I’ve never felt anything like it in my life. She loves me as a whole person, completely. I didn’t know that was possible. She loves me for things I have never even noticed about myself. She loves parts of me I hide. She loves things I do that I wasn’t even aware of. She supports me completely.

I’ve never felt this before I met her, except in our friendship.

Being with her has been a huge learning curve about love, partnership and communication. It’s made me realise that we name a lot of things ‘love’ that are not even close to love.

25. Talk about ideas, not people

I once read a post on the internet when I was in my early 20s which said that smart people talk about ideas, not people.

I pondered it for weeks.

It did that thing where it bounced around my brain for days. What did it mean?

Once I realised that we could further the human race and our social causes by focussing on ideas and challenges instead of talking shit about individual people, I tried to stop completely.

I chose not to gossip about people. I chose not to listen to people sharing secrets about others. I chose to back off from conversations about people’s personal lives or struggles.

As I then went into my career, I tried hard to focus on the bigger issues and the impact on society, instead of talking about people.

Now, I’m only human, and sometimes I will definitely slip and talk specifically about a person or people who I disagree with or who have abused or harmed me. But I often regret it. Not because I regret what I’ve said, but because it’s not wise or a useful thing to do.

Talking about people won’t change shit. And it’s a waste of your brain power.

If you’ve just sat and talked shit about someone for 40 mins with someone else – what have you both achieved? What could you have been doing instead?

Think what might have been discussed if you had a 40 min discussion about your ideas about the world instead of that woman you don’t like very much.

26. Cut out anyone who tries to bring you down

Short and sweet: you don’t need or want people like this around you, get rid of them. They will harm you short term and long term. They bring you down because they want to bring you down to their own feeling of shit. Run from these people. Fast. Never look back.

27. The people don’t know their true power

Thinking more broadly, it’s been hard to learn how powerful and powerless people are. The people (us, you, anyone) have the power to change the world, but we don’t or can’t do it, for several reasons.

Whole groups and classes of people could revolt and change the world, but we don’t. That’s hard to stomach sometimes, especially in politics.

A lot is invested in making us feel powerless and worthless – so we don’t rise up and change the world.

Once I realised that, I was fired up, and also very sad.

It meant that global change was possible, but it wasn’t going to happen. And that was gutting.

Sometimes we see these little sparks of revolution, and they are smacked back down by authorities and powerful individuals – so we don’t do it again. But we are capable of immense power if we wanted and needed to change the world. We really are. But we don’t work together as a team and we often don’t work for the benefit of those who need our help most.

28. We are capable of literally anything

Linking to the lesson above, I have realised as I aged that we are capable of anything, really. Humans are incredible. We are capable of great good, and great harm. We are capable of amazing engineering and design. We are capable of leading nations and changing the world.

I remember this about myself and use this every day. Every time I get stuck, I remind myself that I’m capable of anything I put my mind to. Anything.

This has served me well, and continues to be a source of my strength.

It is also an important part of my ethos when working with children and adults – strength based working is vital. Seeing all humans as capable of incredible things.

29. Being able to live as a lesbian is the best thing I ever did for myself

This is a very recent lesson for me, as I only came out at 28 and today, I am 30. However, so many things in my life have clicked into place since realising I was gay, and have been gay since I was a kid. Everything makes so much more sense. Don’t really wanna go into details here, but I’ve been through some rough stuff that I thought all ‘straight’ women went through, until I realised I wasn’t actually straight at all.

Being able to be lesbian and love a woman so wonderfully is easily the best thing I did for myself. It was truly a gift to choose to change my entire life and start again from scratch, to live as my real self. It was so hard, but it was the most liberating and psychologically healthy thing I’ve ever done.

I cannot believe that I repressed my sexuality for so long, when it was so obvious to me. I’m sad that I put myself through that, but I’m also proud that I faced it and proudly came out, and told my best friend that I loved her.

30. If you think you can do it better, stop moaning about it and do it

My final lesson is about making a change when you know something is wrong.

As I’ve said, we are all capable of brilliant things – so why not do them?

We all have ideas, thoughts, principles, approaches and feelings that go round and round in our heads – but we often don’t listen to or trust those ideas.

We sometimes moan or talk about wanting change, but don’t make change.

I’ve learned that the fastest way to achieve change is to do it yourself, or to work towards it yourself.

I’ve loved learning that, and I’ve been able to cause all sorts of personal and professional change by just… doing it.

So there’s my top 30 things I’ve learned about myself and the world in my first 30 years of being alive.

I hope I get many many more years, so I can look back on this one day and explore how much I’ve changed (or not).

If you got this far, well done. This was the most indulgent thing I’ve ever written. Why on earth did you read it all? Go and do something fun!

Lmfao

Cheers to being 30, eh!

Jess xxx

Misogyny in the family courts

Dr Jessica Taylor

21/09/2020

Everyone who works with women who have been subjected to domestic abuse, or children who have been subjected to sexual abuse, will know how volatile, unpredictable and misogynistic our family court system can be.

I am going to use this space to explore some of the most common narratives and problems that arise for women and girls in the family courts, and I encourage all professionals working in this field to consider what will be presented here. It won’t be comfortable reading, and I fully expect people to try to tell me that these cases aren’t real, and this isn’t happening.

Each year, thousands of women write to me about their terrifying experiences of the family court system. Despite every woman being an individual, and residing everywhere from Essex to Sydney, the story is the same.

And if I have learned anything from working with and for women in need in the last ten years, it’s to watch out for patterns, especially when they span countries, languages and cultures.

As it happens, the way women and girls are pathologised in the family court systems is one of those patterns, and one that worries me greatly. I am, thankfully, not the only person to notice this or to be fighting against this, and recently the UK family court system has been lobbied to commit to reform and exploration of its practices. Campaigns by feminist activists such as #thecourtsaid have repeatedly highlighted the dangerous and abusive decisions of the family courts.

In this blog, I will highlight the most common issues that women are facing and how they are used to create an adversarial, misogynistic system that disbelieves, gaslights and destroys women step by step.

Believe me when I say that this is starting to look like a blueprint. I have been talking with women from around the world recently, and their cases are almost identical. The tactics and language used are the same. The injustices are the same and the risks to children are the same.

I hope by writing this, that more women will become aware of how common this is, and process the trauma, guilt and blame of these distressing court cases.

Women who report abuse are quickly reframed as crazy, jealous exes

Every single report I have read so far has either directly or indirectly described mum as emotionally unstable, jealous of new partners, delusional or has issues with the ex that they seem to be taking out by manipulating the court process or by coaching their children.

Reports seem to read that when women start new relationships after divorce or relationship breakdown, they are unstable and promiscuous, but when the male ex starts a new relationship, it’s taken as evidence that he is stable and settled down.

Often, women face an assumption that they are in the family court system because they are angry that their abusive ex has a new partner. Every woman I’ve spoken with so far has barely even mentioned the new partner, and indeed in some cases, I couldn’t even tell you if there was one. And yet, the way they are being portrayed is that they can’t let go of their ex, and that the court case is a waste of everyone’s time, because she cannot accept the end of the relationship.

What is interesting about this, is that in all of the cases I have discussed this year with women, the woman actually ended the relationship and left due to abuse. Some went to refuges, some went to family, some found other accommodation. All of them left because they realised they were being abused, or because their children disclosed sexual abuse.

None of them want to be with their ex, but it’s amazing how credible male ex boyfriends and husbands seem to be, when they accuse the woman of being ‘jealous’ that he’s moved on. Mud sticks, and professionals around her soon begin to make comments or write reports which include these inaccurate assumptions. This is particularly dangerous where children have disclosed abuse, and then the family court hearings become more and more focused on mum’s ‘agenda’ and ‘motivation’ instead of what the children have said.

No one seems to be taking young girls seriously when they disclose sexual abuse

The way that young girls are being dismissed by professionals ranging from social workers to paediatricians is worrying me greatly, and is the motivation behind this blog post.

The first thing that seems to happen is that the girl discloses randomly, during play or non-related conversation about something that a (usually) male family member has done to her.

Language is usually infantile and mixed up. This is completely normal. The girl describes the abuse in a way that would be clear to any experienced professional that there is something seriously wrong.

Examples include:

⁃ Daddy pokes me in my privates and my bum

⁃ Daddy checks my vagina all the time

⁃ Daddy takes pictures of my bum

⁃ I don’t like it when the yoghurt comes out of dad’s wee thing

As you can see, these real examples clearly show that the child is not coached or influenced. Some children draw pictures of their abuse or of male genitals. Some children write stories or poems about abuse and rape.

In addition to these clear signs of abuse, we also see girls with injuries and genital irritation such as scratches, marks, itching, soreness and spots. Even when this is happening, mothers are being told that it’s normal and that there is no need for tests or examinations.

This completely ignores all of our evidence base in child sexual abuse, which clearly states that these disclosures plus any kind of physical symptoms in small children are clear signs of sexual abuse.

So why are these signs and disclosures from girls being ignored in the family courts? Why are professionals suggesting that girls are making this up, or don’t know what they are talking about? Why are we so sure that she isn’t being abused, that we will continue contact with sexually abusive parents and ignore her disclosures?

This is the opposite of all of our safeguarding evidence and policies. What is the point of having these policies and child safeguarding legislation if we then ignore it during hearings and investigations?

Character assassination is par for the course; and no one seems to care

Reports and hearings often become obsessed with the character assassination of the mother – and become less and less focussed on the well-being and disclosures of the children.

This is something I’ve noticed more and more over the last few years, and now seems commonplace.

Even where children have disclosed and reported to the police, the reports become about the fact that mum was abused as a child or is on benefits. It has absolutely nothing to do with the abuse of the children, any yet the mum of the children finds herself defending her life choices, childhood, personality and background whilst trying to get everyone to re-focus on the disclosures made by the children.

When this happens, the hearings start to become an adversarial process about which parent is ‘telling the truth’, and which is ‘credible’ – rather than addressing the fact that a child has repeatedly described sexual abuse.

There’s a lot of dodgy psychiatry and psychology going on, with no real process to challenge poor practice

It concerns me how many women are diagnosed or labelled with disorders and psychiatric conditions after meeting a psychologist for 2 hours during an assessment. I have read several reports in which women have been labelled, accused and diagnosed after one short interview, whilst they were under severe stress and worrying about their child being abused.

Despite this, these reports are taken seriously and can be used to make important decisions.

As an example, one woman had reported that her child was disclosing abuse by dad, and so they were all assessed. On the psychometrics and assessment, the mum and dad scored the same, but mum was diagnosed and labelled, whereas dad received a glowing report. Interestingly, I noticed that on one subscale created to detect social desirable responding (where people ‘fake good’), the Dad (who was accused of sexually abusing children) scored much higher than the mum, but mum was accused of faking good with the psychologist and Dad was described as friendly and stable.

It was as if the scales were being completely ignored whilst the psychologist wrote a biased report based purely on their own opinion. When this was challenged, mum was accused of being delusional and emotionally unstable. The more mum protested, the more it was used against her to ‘prove’ she was unstable.

In short, mum was trapped. The more she criticised the report, the more she was pathologised using shitty psychology and psychiatry.

This example seems to be common, and I’ve come across similar cases over and over again. It worries me how little time is used to ‘assess’ the family, and the kind of comments that seem to be acceptable.

I’ve read some reports that are nothing short of libel, based on absolutely nothing and are difficult to get overturned or corrected. Conversely, I’ve read reports about Dad, whom the child has disclosed is sexually abusing them, in which they are described as nothing short of a saint among men. It’s very disconcerting reading the reports about a family, in which a fellow professional has written such a biased report, and the disclosures of the child have been almost completely dismissed.

Further, judges have been found to make awful comments, including one who argued that a woman whose daughter had disclosed repeated sexual abuse by her dad, was accused over being overprotective of her daughter because she had historical miscarriages over a decade earlier.

It raises the question of who regulates and manages these hearings and processes, and what rights do women have to challenge and change inaccurate, misogynistic and biased comments, judgments and reports.

Parental alienation seems to be the trump card for abusive men

Not just confined to the depths of MRA twitter and Facebook groups, parental alienation is now being used frequently in cases where children have disclosed abuse.

Even in cases where children have clearly described sexual abuse by dad, the dad is able to argue that the mother is committed parental alienation by stopping the child from seeing him.

This is extremely problematic, especially as most people would agree that if a child has disclosed sexual abuse, the safest thing we can do is keep the child away from the potential abuser to instantly reduce the risk to the child. However, I have now spoken to several women who have been threatened with action, or accused of parental alienation, for stating that they will not allow their children to have unsupervised contact with a parent who the child is saying, has sexually assaulted or raped them.

Most of the women I spoke to were terrified of the accusation of parental alienation, and in cases where this had been used against mum, it often worked – and Dad was granted access even when the child was disclosing sexual assaults.

It is clear that real parental alienation does happen in some cases – but choosing to stop contact when a child spontaneously discloses serious sexual abuse is surely common sense, and not an act of parental alienation.

One woman I spoke to was threatened by a judge that if she didn’t support contact with her ex husband, (who had convictions for DV and the child was reporting had sexually abused her), that he would award full custody to Dad as a way to punish/control her.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, either.

Something is seriously wrong with our system.

Evidence is not being gathered correctly or quickly enough when children are at risk from abuse

As if there were not enough issues already, one of the things that has really started to worry me over the last few years is how long children are being left after a series of serious disclosures without any interviews, examinations or referrals.

We already know that on average, children disclose 7 times before someone takes it seriously (according to an NSPCC, 2014 study).

However, I keep coming across cases in which children have disclosed sexual abuse and have even told adults that their genitals hurt – and no one has seen them for weeks, sometimes over a month.

Further than that, some children who disclose recent rape or sexual abuse have not been referred for tests or examination for several weeks, sometimes as long as two months, by which time all DNA evidence would be gone, and some injuries would arguably have healed.

This is counter to all of our knowledge and practice wisdom in child sexual abuse, and yet, it seems common when it comes to family court cases.

I have also come across poor practice in which children have disclosed serious sexual abuse, and the way we have dealt with it is to send uniformed officers into their houses, or taken children to police station evidence suites where the child has instantly stopped talking and has refused to speak about anything.

Rather than us acknowledging that our process has scared the child, we have then suggested that the child has not been abused or there is ‘no evidence’.

Even where parents have attempted to record their child’s disclosures in the moment, evidence is being ignored. Professionals are telling mums that they cannot do anything to protect children as young as 3 years old unless the child gives a full and specific disclosure of the sexual offences, which is also incorrect and does not align with safeguarding practice.

Decades of research evidence is being totally ignored

What this all amounts to, is that thousands of papers, reports and theories are being actively ignored in cases where women and girls disclose abuse.

Whether it’s evidence and theories about how to support children to disclose, or evidence based lists of symptoms and signs of sexual abuse – so much is being ignored.

Research clearly gives us lists of things to look out for in children who might be being sexually abused, and despite many of these signs being present in these cases, children are being ignored. Research also defines the different ways in which small children attempt to disclose abuse that they don’t understand, which ranges from verbal disclosures through to behavioural disclosures – and yet I have never read a report which includes this evidence base.

Research on offenders seems to be being ignored too. Men with previous convictions for sexual abuse or accessing child sexual abuse imagery have been given unsupervised access to children because professionals have argued that his own children are not at risk.

An example of this from around 2015 includes a man who had several convictions for sexual abuse of children online, and accessing child abuse imagery. A social worker approached me for advice because she was so concerned about his three children. Safeguarding concerns had been raised about the three small children, the youngest of which was 2 years old. Dad was known to download and hoard sexually abusive images of infants.

It baffled the social worker that the judge had argued that Dad was not a risk to his own children, but only to children on the Internet!

The judge had suggested that the children have locks on their bedroom doors and be given education about keeping themselves safe. Dad was given unsupervised access to the children.

I do think, having written this story out, that you need literally zero knowledge of safeguarding or sex offender research to know that this was a stupid decision which put the children at significant risk of sexual offences.

What is the point of academics, students. authorities and professionals conducting decades of research if we ignore all of it in real world application?

Final thoughts

I’m sorry that this blog is so negative and so concerning. I acknowledge that many professionals will feel wholly uncomfortable with such a critical view of family court systems around the world. It is not to say that all cases are like the ones discussed here, but it is my opinion that even one case this poor is a failure to protect children from abuse. One case is too many cases.

It is not acceptable for anyone to respond to this blog by suggesting that these cases are worst case scenarios, rare and therefore irrelevant. I am not hugely involved in this field (I am not a caseholder, I am not a lawyer, I am not a social worker), and yet I can give hundreds of real examples of this kind of practice towards women and girls in the family courts.

I wrote this blog for one main reason:

Women need to know that their case was not a one-off. They need to know that they are not to blame, and that they are one of thousands of women who have been labelled and gaslit in the family court system. So many women contact me to talk about their cases and experiences, and they have no idea that this happens to other women, too.

We need to raise awareness of the way women and girls are being treated – and then we need to work together to reform the family courts.

Dr Jessica Taylor