child abuse

Shout your abortion

Following the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood services in America (state funded), abortion activists took to Twitter with the hashtag #ShoutYourAbortion to counter the arguments made by zealous anti choicers. If you’ve ever followed the ever present attacks on family planning or been involved in actions to support your local abortion clinic you’ll have been confronted by some very strange people indeed. With this in mind I knew that tweeting in solidarity would provoke a backlash, I just wasn’t as prepared for the kinds of things completely random people on the internet would say to me (and me, a seasoned survivor of trolls).

I tweeted:

I didn’t say I’d had an abortion or that I agreed or disagreed with termination (for the record, it’s your body, your choice) but I knew it would reach those people whose lives it had saved, at least those who acknowledged the established life within the pregnant person carrying a promise of potential life (20% of first time pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion, 80% of those before 12 weeks gestation), which is in no way a baby or a person (person being a societal construct). When a foetus is squatting in your uterus it does not cancel out the life already in existence, without which the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Bizarrely this fact seems to have escaped these people.

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Nope, not what I said at all

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Logic clearly evades you for refusing to accept there is life in the person carrying the foetus.

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This tweet is particularly interesting because it feeds into the idea that pregnancy is essentially a woman’s fault. By opening my legs I am consenting to a foetus being installed in there. If this person could acknowledge the sperm provider and the condom issue many men have (yeah sure, they’re ‘too tight’) and spread that responsibility about a bit I’d be less inclined to believe they were woman hating scum.

For example all these people with their righteous war on people who carry foetuses (I doubt very much any of these people has even considered the fact that other genders are also capable of pregnancy, this is a specific hatred driven at cis women for not being masculine/male/patriarchal).

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The idea that all unwanted pregnancies can be attributed to selfish promiscuous women is entirely misogynistic and anti woman. These people would probably accuse a woman of entrapment if she happened to get pregnant and wanted to *keep* the foetus. Similarly there is no sympathy for women choosing to abort because their life depends on it. Going back to my original tweet, I said it because I used to work as an advocate for women in abusive relationships and have seen firsthand the violence inflicted on women for being pregnant in the first place. 30% of all domestic abuse begins in pregnancy. This is because the pregnant partner is suddenly vulnerable and dependent. Controlling abusive people use this to their advantage. It’s not uncommon for perps to threaten forced miscarriage, the idea that they put the foetus in there and they can also take it out should the victim refuse their every whim. There are people who cannot grasp the complexity of human relationships, and crisis points, relationship breakdowns, never mind the systems we have created to control people according to kyriarchy so it is a bit of a reach on my part to expect compassion.

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You are not representative of almost 8 billion people worldwide.

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76% of women faced a further incident of violence for having the audacity to leave. The period after a survivor leaves the perp is the most dangerous, “if you leave I will hunt you down and kill your kids”. 

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This guy thinks we should run all decisions by him because it’s all about him. It’s not and he is nobody.

This assertion that complete strangers have of themselves as the saviours of the unborn would have more merit if they were willing to consider the life of the pregnant person but they cease to be human from the point of conception instead acting as a vessel for the precious new life everyone’s going to forget about once it moves out of the uterus. The pregnant person will be left with the foetus they did not want.. What’s that you say?

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Complete strangers think it’s ok to tell me to sacrifice my body and wallow in the guilt of my unwanted pregnancy which I’ll then have to hand over to a stranger, the system, uncertainty. Pregnancy can be life threatening, from the phsyical difficulties to the mental strain it can put on a person, no one has the right to torture you for having the misfortune of being born with a uterus. If pregnancy doesn’t kill you then labour might. Cis men have no say in the abortion debate because they will never carry a foetus or suffer the fallout if things go wrong. The reason they are so vocal on the anti-choice scene is because they are redundant if they do not exert patriarchal power and control. They won’t ever create life so they control it.

From the frightening to the downright ridiculous, opponents of bodily autonomy reveal more about themselves than the people they target, they’re nosy and perverse, poking around in strange uteri.

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Ah, Americans.

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I keep looking for the illegal thing I’m supposed to have said but to no avail.

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If a person is feeling suicidal cos they’ve been forcibly impregnated, an abortion is life saving and I would go as far as saying therapeutic in terms of their recovery, and regaining control of their own life.

Every single one of these people and the many I didn’t document failed to see the hypocrisy in their words. The life of the foetus cancels out the life of the person carrying it, without whom the foetus wouldn’t exist at all. Personally I’m not here to change your thoughts on abortion or bring you round to my superior way of thinking – something anti-choicers may want to examine in themselves – but to ask you to cast the first stone only when you can say you are completely sin free.

Also, this stance on abortion seems to be as far as they’ve got in terms of a world view and how that actually works in practice. They’re all ‘save the foetuses’ but how many of these advocates shared the same enthusiasm for the precious lives of Syria’s existing children, rejected by Europe, asleep in the freezing cold, barely surviving? Or the fully formed babies with given names blown to pieces in Palestine? How about the severely disfigured infants of Fallujah? Selective outrage makes a mockery of the whole pro-life movement. The planet is exhausted by our reproductive efforts, live viable children are treated as though vermin, domestic abuse blights the lives of some of those foetuses saved by those ignorant of life in its entirety, yet hellbent on power and control. That’s all it is.

Mother, do you think they’ll drop the bomb?

“Your mother, your mother, your mother”. That was the premise of one of my favourite Islamic children’s books as a kid, referring to a hadith (kinda like the gospels) where the prophet responded to a follower that mothers take not only first place in our hearts but second and third also, with fathers coming in fourth. I may have been 8 years old but I believed in those words more than I appreciated at the time. I simply did not have a relationship or bond with my dad, I couldn’t understand the point of him to be honest but I clung to my mother and she favoured me out of the four of us, her right hand Sam, always eager to please and whip the rest of them into line.

I can’t remember exactly when we drifted apart, it was more a collection of events that drove a wedge between us until we were so estranged from our relationship as mother and daughter, we forgot how to speak to one another. I was determined to fit into the white western ideal of acceptable behaviour and presentation which at the time translated into wearing very little and getting wasted and of course this would actually frighten my very traditional mother from a village in a remote part of Kashmir, especially when daughters who go bad are often attributed to a mother’s loose morals, regardless of the actual circumstances – violent father, violent household, cultural and religious demons and attitudes, societal pressures and expectations of brown girls in a white world.

To preserve her own honour she had to reject my behaviour by turning her back on me. She was probably disgusted by me to some degree. I did fry up a load of pork sausages in her kitchen once, out of defiance which made her promptly throw up in the sink. I felt hella guilty as the severity of what I’d just done dawned on me but I had a point to prove that I was an individual with the right to self-expression, however much my mother’s stomach flipped at the thought I was destined for hellfire.

The cause of the rift between us was largely down to the society we found ourselves in. These days I see you coming, suss out your intentions within the first few sentences but as a young person, microagressions had a different effect on me. I bought into them and believed if I was more like my white peers I wouldn’t be targeted for the colour of my skin. I wore a cross, I did goth, changed into hipsters and crop tops on the bus into school or town, joined in with the paki this, paki that, keen to make the distinction between them and us but it meant denying my very being, the people who brought me into existence and the way we are perceived by the ‘natives’ of this island. They tolerate us as long as we toe the line.

In the process of rejecting all the labels required of me, and finding self-love I remembered what it felt like to feel close to the woman who had given birth to me, 2 months premature, having carried my twin and me carefully in her 5ft frame up until then, and how I could still love her after so many years apart. I reverted back to using my ‘mother tongue’ with anyone who could understand it. For years I struggled to communicate effectively in my first language, perhaps because I didn’t have the comfort of just speaking without being judged on my grammar. Like anything, you become rusty without practice and of course I was busy showing off my English language skills to demonstrate how much I really belonged here. It’s like riding a bike though, as I discovered when I sat down with my mum, for the first time in almost decade, neither of us expecting the other to apologise for abandoning one another, just two women with an understanding of the lives we’d been forced to lead; violence being a feature whether in the home or on the streets.

It was nice. She was older but less stressed and receptive to me, as me. I felt as if we’d glued together the gap in our relationship, and we could continue from this point forward without having to look back; an unspoken understanding that there was no agenda only life reminding us how painfully short it is. I was thrilled to feel at home and close to her once again. She seemed genuinely proud of every little thing I could do, without the usual expectations one has of an individual in a white western patriarchy. She doesn’t care about my lack of a job or mortgage or husband. I had surpassed her expectations by coming back to her and apologising for choosing this country over her.

When I was a kid I sneered I had no idea how I had come from her body and was composed entirely of her and my dad. I looked down upon them, thought them unintelligent and unrefined. Whilst I cannot say this has changed about my father, I take back the judgments I made about her. I judged her through the White Gaze™ and it doesn’t treat women like my mother very well. It considers them weak and unattractive, an easy target, and she was targeted, even when she had four under 5s in tow. I blamed my mother the victim for the abuse white people subjected her to. I am ashamed I put her through this.

My mother is a highly intelligent individual. She has a self-awareness that is missing in most people. She taught herself English by reading our textbooks over the years. I wasn’t even aware of her level of comprehension until one day she flipped at me for lying about my whereabouts, because she’d actually been reading an email I’d sent to my friend over my shoulder and I hadn’t bothered to cover it up assuming she didn’t have the first clue.

Never underestimate a woman of colour. We haven’t had an easy ride of it so we’ve gotten good at adapting to our surroundings. I know where I got these skills from now and it was a joy to talk politics with her over a cup of tea. I wondered what she could have been if she wasn’t a housewife and mum of four at the age of 21. What could she have achieved if she hadn’t been abused by my father and abandoned by her own family who lived thousands of miles away? They thought they had done their best by her, 1 of 8 daughters, by marrying her off and to a young man living in England too. They hadn’t anticipated the power and control that would govern her life.

This Mother’s Day, the first for me in almost a decade is a special one. I’ve bought her some comfortable shoes, biscuits for diabetics and a posh card to make up for all the ones I never sent. I’m excited about it, and looking forward to wishing her a happy one. For a while it was a day of triggers and self-hate, because under the defiance and stubbornness of underlining my grievances I actually felt unworthy of her love. I felt abandoned. I had burnt that bridge by rejecting who she was for some fake promise of acceptance if I assimilated with the white people of this land.

I was wrong and I am sorry. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom (I’m a Brummie by birth, alright?) x

There’s no point in online feminism if it’s not intersectional

Since we’re looking for the least privileged woman in the world I’d like to nominate my mother. True, she lives here in the West and has never gone hungry (well, at least for no more than a coupla days) but I think she’s somewhere near the bottom and a good a place as any to start.

My mother was born in a village in Kashmir. She was the fourth of 10 children and 1 of 8 girls. Her father was a community doctor and so earned a reasonable enough wage but with that many children they were never what we might think of as well off. So much so that Granddad worked hard to save enough money so that he could give his daughters a decent enough dowry. The plan was to marry them off as soon as they hit puberty thus lessening the burden on the family as a whole.

She was barely 16 when she was packed onto a plane ready to begin her new life in Great Britain. She had barely enough of an education so that she could read letters sent to her in Urdu by her mother, my nan. She was just a child. But one my grandparents couldn’t afford to feed. And so she was palmed off on the first willing man to take her on. My father was 10 years her senior and didn’t want to get married. Or at least he did, but not to her. He was in love with a woman of mixed heritage and his mother, my paternal gran was determined it wouldn’t happen, she hadn’t brought her boys to this new land only for them to mix it up. She and my grandfather had a way of ensuring their children did as they were told, mainly through violence and coercion. My great grandparents had been Muslim scholars, feared and revered by the community in Pakistan. They had a reputation to protect and this came at any cost. My grandparents were the product of an extremely insular and strict manifestation of Islamism. As a child I heard my paternal great grandmother was beaten to death barely a few months after the birth of my granddad’s younger brother. This, because she had sat on her brother’s bed, whilst he lay recovering from an illness. It was too much for great granddad’s male ego and honour. “That’s just the way they did things” was the reply I got when I protested my family legacy through tears. “I’ll show them,” is the mantra I’ve had my whole life. I will be a feminist for all my foremothers; I will take back what was stolen from the women who came before me. A life, namely. An education. Bodily autonomy. Sexual freedom.

But my mother, now divorced and estranged from me, still suffers. We don’t speak because I am alien to her. From a very young age, I believed my emancipation would come from allying myself with the white feminist. I wanted what they had. As a very small child this meant the freedom to dress as I wish and associate with boys. That’s as far as my struggle got through my teens. But as I got older, I continued to behave as my white peers did and this widened the gap between my mother’s hopes for me (she really wanted me to be an air hostess) and my desires for equal rights in a man’s world. She won’t speak to me because she is afraid of what I have become. She won’t give me the opportunity to explain I did this for her.

As soon as I was old enough to hit the men back (15), I dragged my mother away from the community she knew and set into motion the process to divorce her from my father. During this time, I gullibly confirmed to the white workers who were trying to house us in temporary accommodation that the men in my family were savages, bringing with them the patriarchal controls they had back home. When fleeing domestic violence the local authority has an ‘interim duty to accommodate’ and as I rolled out the reasons we were presenting as such, it suddenly dawned on me, I was lucky to be alive. Domestic abuse, child sexual abuse, poverty, homelessness, religious/cultural demons, immigration issues (read racism), disability, isolation, self-harm, eating disorders.. This was not an exhaustive list but my small family had been victim to them all. Sure, I had internet access at the time but I didn’t see it as a privilege, more of a necessary escape. That’s a very silly thing to say Sadie. And it is your privilege that allows you to think like that.

I wish my life had been a little easier. I wish my mother had the right to an education so that she was self-sufficient and might have kicked my dad to the kerb with her dignity intact. But she didn’t. After 20 years of unfaltering duty, irrespective of the abuse she suffered, my father granted her a divorce and gave her £6000 for the trouble. That’s how much she was worth in the end. Her body ravaged by pregnancies she did not consent to, her children traumatised and displaced. She put the miserly amount he’d afforded her towards my younger sister’s nuptials. Because, despite the living hell she’d endured, she was still afraid the community would judge her for her unmarried daughters. This is also where I fell short in my duties as a daughter.  I don’t believe in marriage and who could blame me? But my mother doesn’t see it like that. The patriarchy has controlled her life since forever and although she suffered as a result of it, it still governs her thoughts, she doesn’t know any better.

If I’m a bit mean, frankly, it’s because I’m fed up. Suzanne Moore blocked me on Twitter a little while ago. I can’t even remember what for but I was reminded of it when I tried to RT the fuck outta her tweet asking for James Delingpole to admit he’s a misogynist cock. I joked that it was a shame because even though I had my issues with her, united we would stand in the face of patriarchy. I’m assuming it got back to her because later on that evening I was able to RT with abandon. Why couldn’t Sadie Smith leave well alone? By writing her piece all she’s done is pander to patriarchy. Hell, she even admits to wanting to behave like a misogynist. How is that EVER ok Sandie?

Could it be that privilege allows you some control? The privilege of having a voice or a face that fits so that you can use a platform whichever way you want. “Feminism is not bullying and beating up other women.” Haven’t you done exactly that, Sadie?

As a result of my life, I take pills. There are the ones that keep me on an even keel and the ones that work directly on my spinal cord and brain. When I accused Mary Beard of racism, I was horrified and immediately apologised, but I was made an example of when privilege politics go wrong. I’d unwittingly caught the tail end of a Twitter storm and was held up as an example of ‘stupid’ intersectional feminists using the race card at will. I wish I had the privilege of a clear, sharp mind. I wish I could pick the days when the fog takes over; I could plan my life a bit easier.

If I’m mean or angry, couldn’t you at least try to understand why? That’s what we intersectional feminists do. We understand that some of the stuff that happens in life has profound and lasting effects on people. None of us ask to be born for if we did, I’m sure we’d all tick the white cis gendered box. Nobody would choose an existence where you are overlooked/beaten/murdered for the colour of your skin, or choose to be disabled or *trans.

It’s just how we were born and all we mean to ask is, why am I not as worthy as you?

Perpetrators, Paedophiles and Patriarchy

It’s been a while since I was a teenage girl but I can remember how I used to feel. I am one of an identical set of twins. Identical, but different still. I was the quiet studious one, she was the pretty one all the boys wanted. Identical remember? I was a few pounds heavier so this made me the fat one. Pounds, not kilos or stones. They said I had a bigger nose even though most people couldn’t tell us apart at first glance. I was a coupla inches taller than my younger sister by four minutes, but patriarchy doesn’t care for a healthy body mass index just sex appeal and next to me; she was a little bit skinnier and more talkative, especially with the boys.

She was 12 the first time a boy called her frigid. He was the cock of the class, advancing through puberty with straight As and all the girls wanted to be his girlfriend. I did too but I can’t remember why, it was just what we did. We weren’t thinking of losing our virginities, heck, we didn’t quite understand how that all worked. The gesture of the finger through the hole was frightening, what on earth did it mean? My sister was called frigid for refusing to let this boy kiss her cheek. In fact, she thought he’d already gone too far by holding her hand! A little while later we’d heard he’d cheated on her with a girl a coupla years above us. Everyone said they’d had sex and everyone called that girl a slag. But everyone gave him a pat on the back and whispered about who’d get to be his next girl. This behaviour was considered normal.

Teenaged girls are walking the tightrope to acceptance. I’ll never forget how an ex described how happy and reassured he was that his recently tweenie daughter was funny; a skill that would help her fit in with the boys. He actually said that it didn’t matter if a girl was not so attractive as long as she had the ability to charm them over with her wit. It was then I understood that he understood patriarchy and how it controls women. To fit into this man’s world, you’ve gotta make yourself attractive to them, on their terms.

And so we start shaving the baby bird down we sprout when our bodies start changing. We aspire to be the girl the other girls don’t like; they’re only jealous. We want a boyfriend but that’s only because so and so has one and if we don’t it’s probably because we have herpes. The word virgin makes us cringe and it’s only when we lose our virginities that we realise it’s too late, now we are sluts and can never be a virgin again. Some of us will have to have our hymens sewn up so that we can pretend it never happened. It’s that or risk death in the name of patriarchal ‘honour’.

In light of the Savile enquiry, with hundreds courageously coming to the fore, our society has had to think seriously about the way in which we silence child victims of sexual abuse in this country. They have been scorned and accused of making their allegations up; because it’s easy to present as a victim of systematic abuse? Only it’s not. How is one hardwired to think of people being so duplicitous as to convince a jury that they have been horrifically violated, sexually, against their will? Imagine replaying those incidents over and over in  your mind until one day, when you feel for the first time people are actually listening, you dare to share the crimes committed against you, hopeful that you will have finally have support. Except.. They say that you are lying, that they don’t believe you and this is something you have conjured up for financial gain.. Why would anyone risk putting themselves through this unless they are telling the truth?

Even if you are telling the truth and the judge believes you, convicts the perpetrator and locks him away, there’s a message in it for you still. It doesn’t matter that you’ve just only just left primary school, haven’t even had all of your jabs, the fact that you were there shows you were willing. This is what Judge David Farrell QC had to say whilst passing sentence on Roshane Channer and Ruben Monteiro, jailing them both for just 40 months because he accepted the perpetrator’s defence that she was ‘willing’ and looked at least 14.

Judge Farrell said: “Despite her age it is accepted that she was a willing participant, but the law is there to protect young girls from this type of behaviour and to protect them from themselves.

“The girl had clearly been subjected to systematic sexual exploitation and you willingly used her for your own sexual gratification. It is aggravated by the fact that the event was being videoed.”

I disagree, Judge Farrell. The law is there to protect children from men like you. And you are there to implement the law, not make a mockery of it.

But he’s the not only one. Last month Steven Pollock admitted to violating a 13 year old girl. He was duly convicted of sex with a minor yet somehow managed to walk free from court with just an order for community service and undertaking that he should attend a sex offender’s programme. He obviously knew he was committing an offence when he told his very drunk victim to pretend she was 16. The CPS changed the original charge of rape because they could not establish whether she had given consent.

CONSENT?

How is a minor able to give consent? Is this not a clear cut case for statutory rape?

Lord Turnbull has difficulty answering this question. “It is important to understand that the offence arises out of consensual conduct rather than any form of force, grooming or manipulation.”

MINORS CANNOT GIVE CONSENT.

DRUNK 13 YEAR OLDS CANNOT GIVE CONSENT.

THIS IS CALLED RAPE.

When the judiciary are sending out a clear message to victims that they brought it on themselves, how is it any wonder that Savile’s victims remained silent for so long? Even when they convict offenders they have to slip in a warning (control) for all victims. Anthony Parry was recently convicted of rape and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. His victim awoke to find Parry raping her. Despite this and the fact that Judge Niclas Parry found the defendant guilty, he added that the victim had “let herself down badly” by drinking heavily and taking drugs on the night she was attacked. He told her she had made herself “easy prey for a rapist”.

Take this as a warning women, you should all just accept rapists exist and that they will rape you if you don’t do a better job of immunising yourself against this sort of thing. Stop drinking, stop having fun, change your clothing (but don’t cover up too much lest they think you’re a Muslim, and what a can of worms that is) and for chrissakes, stop sleeping around, or you’re just asking for it.

Sign this petition, not because I believe it will ultimately change anything for the big menz in power but because it is raising awareness by its very existence. RT it, forward it on to your mailing lists, keep talking about it. The more we say, the more we can do to affect change.

Judge Niclas Parry, apologise and retract your victim blaming comments:

https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/judge-niclas-parry-apologise-for-and-retract-your-victim-blaming-comments-to-a-rape-victim

The patriarchal media and its victims

It’s hard being a victim. The very word implies submission to a violent or aggressive act, one in which we were overpowered and controlled. It makes us feel helpless and vulnerable. Being a victim or coming across as one leaves us open to further victimisation. And so we prefer to say we are survivors. We were able to overcome the horrific circumstances that threatened to shut us down and because we have survived we deserve praise for our resilience and ability to rise up. To do this, we need recognition. Firstly to recognise for ourselves that we fought hard and that it wasn’t our fault. Our clothing is not to blame, nor our looks or the time of day. Secondly, that our supporters believe us and in doing so protect us from further harm, defining the line for what is acceptable, ensuring that we do not begin to believe the lies our media and politicians spin in order to control our movements and associations.

A sex scandal is what happens when a supposedly happily married media ‘personality’ cheats on their long suffering, eternally loyal partner. Why it is any of our business, I won’t pretend to understand but for the sake of a comparison, that is how it reads to me (and I hope for most people). My aversion to the phrase aside, I strongly object to those words being used to describe CHILD ABUSE/STATUTORY RAPE (where patriarchy calls the underage victim willing and ‘older than their years’). In one article exposing the child abuse/sexual violence perpetrated by the voice of Elmo (yes, really), he is described as having ‘sexual relationships’ with underage ‘accusers’. Minors cannot consent to ‘sexual relationships’.

NON CONSENSUAL SEX IS RAPE.

(You can read the article here http://huff.to/WMoubA)

The writer of this article calls it underage sex and suggests the voice of Elmo continues to experience ‘misfortune’ as a result of the allegations. Hey Elmo, it really is bad luck that you’ve been caught abusing children. Maybe if we tarnish your young victims with the sort of language that implies something sexual happened but they’re only making it known now cos they want to see you go down, you’ll be spared a proper punishment and the victims will be ridiculed instead.

What do Berlusconi, Dominique Strauss Kahn, Jimmy Savile and Elmo have in common? They have raped and abused and violated women and children without their consent. In the British press, they are all allegedly involved in ‘sex scandals’. There are numerous attempts on behalf of the patriarchal press and media to silence the victims by giving a platform to the perpetrators (‘I’m not an abuser and that’s the end of that. Now give me money’) and using language to convince you of their innocence. Victims do not want to be associated with a sex scandal. It is sordid and implies they were actively involved in some way. By implicating the victims and suggesting that they are in some way to blame, patriarchy ensures that survivors remain victimised. It creates a barrier for other victims to speak out too. It normalises abuse by rebranding it as just sex and the ‘accusers’ as jilted lovers or scroungers after their 15 minutes. Just like the many women who believe partners have more rights to their bodies than they themselves do (wish I’d been there when patriarchy invented this one) even when she doesn’t feel like it, the message we are consistently given is that there are levels of rape and your rape isn’t even rape rape. In fact rape rape is extremely rare so in this way patriarchy has convinced you that sexual violence against women just isn’t even a thing (what rape culture?).

This is one of many examples I could give regarding the way news is reported in a patriarchal system and how it influences society’s attitudes to victims of gender related crime. In as many weeks, 2 perpetrators of domestic homicide murdered their wives before committing suicide. Neither case was reported to involve domestic abuse. There was an emphasis on the behaviour of the murdered woman in the run up to the incident, perhaps she liked a drink and was ‘bubbly’ (read overly friendly/in your face). There were no indications as to the behaviour of the perpetrator except maybe he’d had a spell of depression (sympathy please) and don’t forget what an amazing personality/leader/sportsman he was and what a loss this will be to the world. The language used attempts to invoke sympathy for the abuser; it paints a tragedy not a brutal murder.

It is powerful and influential and they know this.

..Don’t even get me started on child ‘porn’.

Religious men and child abuse

It was a long hut made of corrugated metal and plastic. They’d constructed it to fit on the side of the house, the back door in the middle just to the right of where the molvi sat on his throne of cushions. There were long benches, a foot off the floor, leaving a space where you would put your knees. We would sit in the prayer position, legs tucked underneath, feet splayed out to the side. He had a shorter bench in front of him; when it was your turn, you would go to him to read. The girls sat to his left and the boys to right. Being closer to the door, the boys always got to leave first. We’d stare on, those few minutes dragging.

I was 4 the first time I was sent to a madrassa to be taught Arabic and Urdu. It was a fair distance from where we lived but my mother would walk us there every day after school. There was just enough time for a quick cup of tea and a couple of biscuits before setting off to arrive just before 5pm. I vaguely remember the noise and close proximity of other children; all rocking back and forth, reciting parrot fashion the Arabic/Urdu alphabet; Aleph – Annar, Beh – Bakra, Theh, Tahthi.. Snapshots of a space in time I have very little memory of but a period during which I happened to learn an alien alphabet, progressing onto the first few chapters of the Quran. Alien because I could read it; recite it off by heart, but with very little understanding of what I was saying. Urdu and Arabic have a very similar alphabet and structure. Urdu was easy to understand, it sounded very similar to the languages spoken at home. But Quranic Arabic is art. It is complex and difficult to master. It was a language I didn’t understand. Shortly after I’d begun the evening classes, we were moved to the plastic and metal madrassa closer to home. By the time I left aged 11, I had read and recited it 3 times and was preparing to memorise the whole thing. I left because I could not take anymore. I had reached an age where I was able to make the decision that what I was experiencing was not normal and I did not want it. I was prepared to face the consequences.

When finding my niche, I did not have to struggle too much. I found learning fun, possibly a distraction, and had an aptitude for it. It helped endear me to the family; they had someone to pin their hopes and dreams on. I progressed very quickly through the Quran; chapter by chapter I impressed not only my family but my teacher. He would ask me to read louder so the other children could hear and ask for me to perform prayer, to show them all how it was done. I cannot remember feeling any joy in showing off my talents. Whilst eager to please, I was painfully shy. Inside I was sinking but I would do what was requested of me because I was afraid. He had a selection of sticks, bamboo and walking, in varying thicknesses. The thinner they were the more they stung. The thicker ones would leave a bruise but he saved those for the boys. Depending on his mood, your punishment was either swift; with a lash on your hand or behind or more in the way of suffering over a prolonged period of time. Children, as young as five and as old as 14, were made to hold stress positions. Kursi means chair in Urdu. Standing, you were required to hold your body in a chair like position, for maybe an hour at a time. If he saw you straighten or you shifted through pain from a cramp, you were beaten with a stick and made to resume position. Make like a chair, or a chicken. Bent all the way forwards, your arms round the back of your legs, you had to grip your ears from between your legs, holding the position for more than an hour.

We were all subjected to these punishments, boys and girls. The molvi relished barking these orders, his eyes moving over your body as you struggled to keep still. I can’t remember how old I was when I first recognised his gaze as something that was unacceptable. I had chosen to sit with my friends at the far end of the hut; it is there I first learnt about sex. I had already seen porn; my father didn’t think to protect us from such things. Aged 7, I’d innocently pressed play on the VCR on his room, my siblings sat on the floor around me. At first, I struggled to identify what I was seeing, I thought they were wrestling. And then, a close up. Horrified I reasoned the man was hurting the woman and hurriedly turned it off, shooing my siblings out of the room. I would later discover all manner of magazines and videos and toys. As I joined the dots in my head, I became increasingly distant and withdrawn from my father. Once, I discovered a video of a couple with their daughter. I never let my dad hug me ever again. We weren’t particularly tactile but that was the nail in the coffin for our father/daughter relationship. I was afraid. And I was also determined to leave the madrassa.

He picked on me exclusively. Or maybe he didn’t and I just felt alone. Aged 10, I was a young developer. My chest had begun to swell and I was due my first period. I’ve read up on studies where girls whose fathers are estranged from the mother begin menstruating, on average, 6 months before their secure peers. From my place at the far end of the hut, I could have a giggle with the other girls; we would make fun of this stupid sex thing and vow it was never going to happen to us. But it wasn’t to last. Just as I began my first period, he insisted I move to sit right next to him.

Knees tucked in, facing the wall, he was sat to my left facing the opposite way. He sat so close to me, his thigh was right against mine. He would stroke my side, pinch my ribs. It was all unwanted. Where once he had stroked my knees, now his hands would wonder up my inner thigh, stopping short of actually touching me between the legs.

In Islam, girls and women are prohibited from touching the Holy Quran during their periods because bleeding is considered unclean.  I risked damnation by continuing to do so. I didn’t want anyone to know I had begun bleeding. I was ashamed of it; I was only the 3rd girl in my class at school to have started. At this very early stage of womanhood, I was disgusted by the way my body functioned and utterly afraid of how God would punish me for touching the Quran with my unholy fingers. I would wrap a corner of my burqa around my finger so I wasn’t directly touching it.

He yawned, loudly and stretched his arms up wide and then brought his hand down hard to slap me square on the chest. Of course, this was incredibly painful but I stifled my reaction. He felt my barely even there breasts, lingering and stroking. I knew this was wrong. The way he sneered at me, touched my body at his every whim, I was completely dominated. And unable to tell anyone. I was sure they wouldn’t believe me anyway, he was like a local celebrity. A man of God, he was respected and the community would bend over backwards for the good work he did for them.. Educating a new generation of Muslims. He had the opposite effect on me. I became very un-Muslim. I had started to challenge God and thought he must be a pervert too, for allowing these things to happen. This wasn’t my God but a God for men who did whatever pleased them. It was the same God my father, grandfather and uncles held up as an example. And they were all bad people.

Finally, aged 11 I summoned up the courage to say no. My mother would complain that I was a lovely little girl before I’d started secondary school and she could just not understand why I was rebelling now. I refused to get ready for mosque. On arriving home after school, I would lock myself up in the bathroom. A couple of times, my father managed to beat the bathroom door down and slapped me about for being so defiant. But this would last at least half an hour into the lesson so I successfully managed to avoid it. It was only after one of the last beatings in this chapter that I disclosed what had happened to me. My father had dragged me onto the ground by my hair and was kicking me on the floor. I managed to escape and ran upstairs to my bedroom, my mother followed behind. “What is wrong with you?” She pleaded. And I just blurted it all out.

“You, you send me there. To that man. But he touches me! And you won’t stop him”.

She froze. I remember clearly that her eyes darkened and glazed over and she stopped, her breathing silent again. And that’s all I remember. Nothing was ever said or done. It was never mentioned to me again.

I remember it every time I hear a Catholic church story, and wonder how many millions of children suffer in silence at mosques. Of course they might not, but how would we know? Grassroots madrassas are rife in local communities. They are not affiliated with the local government and there is no way of ensuring they adhere to child protection guidelines. I am also reminded of the practice of removing body hair as part of your religion. I have made an association between religious men, the rules and paedophilia. I don’t think anyone could blame me for feeling this way.