violence against women

Violent Rich White Men

I think a few rich white men were offended by my tweets regarding white male violence against women and how easy it is for them to evade justice. I’ve just been suspended from Twitter again (for 7 days, during which I cannot tweet, only DM), for another hyperbolic tweet I’d completely forgotten about. I’m speaking in relation to trophy hunters, overwhelmingly rich and white and murderous. Nobody reported it at the time, presumably because nobody cares but what are facts when you’re trying to silence someone long enough for it to be yesterday’s news?

rich white prats

(the image featured a white woman holding a dead giraffe, apparently unrepentant, saying she would do it again)

As most of you know, I worked in DV services for near a decade, supporting women through the justice system, advocating on their behalf. I came into contact with women from all walks of life and learnt a lot about what to look for when there are no obvious signs of abuse because victims don’t tend to go shouting it from the rooftops. I learnt about how society enables abusers, how patriarchal societies are skewed in men’s favour, so that even violence against women and children is justified in order to maintain power. We provided a service for which there should not have been a need, that is, to ensure that public authorities were doing their duties correctly and to minimise further harm to vulnerable women and their children. A sad indictiment of British society, that we should need to constantly reiterate duty of care to agencies to prevent repeat incidents and educate them about the various types of abusers.

If there’s one thing I know intimately, it’s an abuser. I was raised by them, I was engaged to them, I watched many of them being sentenced for hurting my clients. Gendered violence knows no cultural racial religious or economic bounds (poverty doesn’t cause DV, just exacerbates it). Often the worst offenders are the people you are least likely to think of as violent, because they have a good job, went to a good school and move in the right circles. There is a higher prevalence of violence in males working public jobs in policing and justice. It felt counterintuitive to trust these people with vulnerable women but there were no other options. Just like it feels wrong to trust in the British state and government, people with the power to act with impunity, to claim up is down.

We all saw the footage of Mark Field handling the Greenpeace activist. As victims and survivors of gendered violence we were triggered, because we’ve seen that look before in an abuser’s eyes. We know that he’s done it before, it was so instinctual for him to grab her around her the neck. In the standard test for victims of DV, the CAADA (co-ordinated action against domestic abuse) DASH (domestic abuse, stalking and honour based violence) specifically asks whether the perpetrator has ever strangled or put their hands around the victim’s neck. This is because statistically, men who target the neck area are threatening to kill their victim. There is a correlation between men who strangle and domestic homicide. A yes reply would result in an instant referral to a MARAC (multi agency risk assessment conference) regardless of whether any of the other criteria was satisified. This fact cannot be downplayed by the defenders of violence against women, regardless of whether have a column in The Times or attended the Banker’s dinner.

When talking heads like these, with their privilege, and platforms use their power to deny abuse, as they have done with racism these past few years, incidents of violence increase. Violence trickles down, from parent to child, from the toffs to the underclass. They’re so keen to normalise violence, these very damaged adult children, because they took it when it happened to them, and didn’t complain, choosing instead to identify with their abusers. They are not normal, they are disordered, they believe violence against women can be justified.

..Except when the perpetrators are black or brown, then there are calls for collective punishment. We need to speak truthfully about the violence of white men and why it has been a badly kept secret for 100s of years. We know child sex abuse is endemic but we’re yet to accept the same of gendered violence, not when there are so many lazy stereotypes of poc to so easily buy into.

Given that there is a causal link between domestic abuse and terrorism, aren’t you reassured Field is the Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific? No? Me neither.

(The Greenpeace activist, Janet Baker, is quoted as saying Mark Field should go for anger management classes. I would advise against this as research suggests that perpetrators of gendered violence use them to hone their power and control, making them even more difficult to detect)

BREAKING NEWS – Police called to house Boris Johnson shares with Carrie Symonds.
“At one point Symonds could be heard telling Johnson to “get off me” and “get out my flat”.

 

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White feminists, when will you condemn the white men attacking woc in the streets for their clothing and colour of skin?

aniso attack

I only ask because I can just imagine the furore if white women were being stripped, spat on and physically assaulted for not adhering to the rules as dictated by, say, extremist Muslim men. As it is, savage white males with delusions of supremacy rooted in toxic masculinity see nothing wrong with assaulting us, even though they routinely come out against Asian grooming gangs (to the exclusion of all white child rapists, of which there are significantly/disproportionately more).

I’m under no illusions that feminism works for me and women like me. I wasn’t dressed like a Muslim but I was still called a Paki bitch whilst travelling through London in the early hours of the morning. Feminism didn’t rush to salve my wounds with the sisterhood, but anarchists did with their innate sense of right and wrong. I still feel happy to identify as an anarchist but I’m hesitant to align myself with the likes of Guardian and New Statesmen ‘feminists’ who seem to have hijacked it from the rest of us. Why aren’t prominent feminists like Caroline Criado Perez, with the nouse and gall to get balls rolling, publicly denouncing the violence being levelled at women of colour and those who ‘look Muslim’? We are women first, are we not? I don’t mean the odd tweet, I mean an awareness campaign on par with the banknotes façade. They dominated front pages, and talking points with their heartfelt pleas to the bank of England. What is preventing women like CCP, Helen Lewis, Suzanne Moore, Grace Dent, Sarah Ditum, heck even Hadley Freeman and the like, from addressing this pertinent issue in their magazines and papers? They were all too quick to condemn women who did not get behind unelected Theresa May as antifeminist, her womanhood qualifying her for sisterly support, even though she frequently allows the murder and torture of women institutionalised at Yarlswood.

Why wasn’t white feminism shook to the core over the murder of Nahid Almanea, stabbed for wearing a hijab? Or the forced termination of SamSam Haji-Ali’s twin pregnancy when she was repeatedly kicked in the stomach by a ‘shabby racist’ who was later convicted of racially aggravated assault and sentenced to a paltry three years? More recently Resham Khan and her cousin were set upon by thuggish John Tomlin in an acid attack whilst they sat in traffic at a red light, she had to raise awareness of the attack herself through social media whilst recovering in hospital. If Resham had been white, the local news agencies would have picked it up the same day and there’d be a nationwide man hunt. The perpetrator would have been taken down and executed, as is the norm for white victims of oppressive forces, their attackers do not live to see another day, never mind sit trial for their crimes.

White women don’t care about woc targeted by white men because we are also frequently targeted by them.

wasi attack

This woman spat on a friend of mine in London recently, right in her face and muttered something like “people like you”. It’s not just disgusting, it is common assault. The audacity of this – older – woman to behave in such a confrontational violent manner towards a virtual stranger is not as rare as it might seem to most people. White women are presented in a light where they are vulnerable and overall, just mean well, as this excerpt from male white supremacists over at Spiked Online suggests.

spikedshite

They need protecting and whilst white feminists like Caitlin Moran think of themselves as ladettes and better than any man, they still need white knights to come to their rescue against women who are not white, like that time Glinner ignored all the racism being hurled around in favour of Moran’s right to literally not give a shit about black women.

White feminists literally do not give a shit about woc and this is why I no longer give any fucks for objectives as set out by white feminists. You can fuck your language policing, ya pearl clutching twats. No, I really do not give a flying fuck for your feeble opinion on women who vote Corbyn instead of May, not least because it is utter garbage. White feminism doesn’t strive for equality but the right to behave like white men. That is not what I thought I was getting into when I chose feminism.

If white feminists cannot condemn white male violence against woc then it is time we started the discussion/debate on the inherent violence of racist sexist white supremacy. The violence of white men and women, and how they’ve turned it on its head to present themselves as the ultimate victims. The perverse attitudes they have towards foreign bodies they want displayed for all to see (frolicking bodies in the sun, decaying bodies in the war on terror) and if you object to this way of being, the forfeiture of inalienable human rights.

The Politics of Violence Against Women

As a survivor of domestic violence and a repeat victim of online harassment and abuse, neither of which were acknowledged by the authorities or the commentariat responsible for throwing me to the trolls in the first place, I am angry but also demoralised by the display of ignorance and entitlement our feminist women MPs have treated us to the last few weeks.

Lucy Allan the Conservative member of parliament for Telford was found to have lied about the death threat she allegedly received in response to the fact she’d voted to bomb Syria. Similarly Stella Creasy lamented the ‘call doxxing’ she’d clearly imagined being as there is no such thing. Doxxing is what happens when someone trawls the Internet for your home and work details, pasting them online so that anyone can access your private information. Trolls and those with actual criminal intent (to rape or kill) are then free to hunt you down and hurt you. This hasn’t happened to Stella and even if it did the police would do their jobs, unlike the reality for the majority of victims who are not permitted to even defend themselves with words because it shows they weren’t frightened or intimidated by the perpetrator. Victim blaming aside, in my personal experience the authorities pass the buck on whose duty of care it is to safeguard vulnerable people online. If you’re an MP though, the cops are answerable to you, it’d be more than their job’s worth to treat the elite the way they do the rest of us plebs so to use this language not only incorrectly but to suggest there is no recourse is a blatant lie, especially when someone has already been jailed for getting on Creasy’s privileged side.

Siobhan McDonagh, another Labour MP claimed the attacks on her were comparable to domestic abuse, using emotive language in order to appeal for sympathy because we do care about victims in this country. Domestic abuse is so called because it happens in the home. It is where one person lives in fear of another, a relation, intimate partner, regardless of gender. It is not at all comparable to the righteous condemnation that goes hand in hand with being a representative for the people, particularly when you’re not doing a very good job of listening to your constituents. How do these MPs suggest we behave given that we’re being sold down the river for objecting to more war (and a million other policies) by these elitist warmongering neolibs?

However their words have not had the desired effect, instead survivors have expressed their dismay and unease at this appropriation of survivor language by women who should definitely know better. Why aren’t they trained in women’s issues, how can they be unaware of the ways in which patriarchy denies justice to victims on the basis that “women lie”? When one woman makes a false allegation of anything that is viewed within society as a women’s issue, it has a knock on effect for us all. It’s sad and unfair but a fact that whenever we do make progress we do so for the whole of womankind. Similarly when one of us fucks up, we make things difficult for all.

When Jeremy Corbyn was voted in as leader we were told how unfeminist it was to overlook the female candidates but the feminists themselves don’t understand how unfeminist it is to use these particular words in the wrong context, when so many women are denied justice.

Please stop using the words we use to describe our lived experiences. As marginalised people we need them to describe the actual things we suffer without justice and for people to understand what those experiences mean. To undermine this language is to undermine the work we do in the community and online to raise awareness of violence against women, something of which I’m sure the capitalist fems haven’t the slightest clue.

(To bomb Syria, where there will most likely be women and children is a feminist issue but then white feminism was adamant race wasn’t a feminist issue at all so they’re hardly going to join the dots here)

CN: 50 Shades of Wrong

The first time I saw Mr Grey I knew it was the beginning of a queer little crush I knew most people would probably not understand. He was unnecessarily rude to his new secretary, but only to the untrained eye. Following a stay in a psychiatric hospital the female lead character Lee Holloway takes steps to reconnect with society and goes through the motions; finding herself a job and a man to settle down with. She’s invited to an interview for a secretarial post where she meets her new boss Mr E Edward Grey. Despite her limited proficiency for the job he employs her and over the course of the film their flirtations centre on her submissiveness and willingness to do practically anything he asks of her. He is initially perplexed and tests the boundaries of how far she is willing to go but quite quickly they are interacting with each other in what could be described as a consensual BDSM relationship.

Lee is also in a relationship with a childhood friend who bores her sexually. Her attempts to make him understand that she’s not strictly ‘vanilla’ end with frustration and a resignation to the role she must play within that dynamic. As he humps away for posterity, with his eyes closed and his hand outstretched from the sheer intensity of sexual congress with a seemingly consenting individual, she responds in a dull, monotonous fashion, oohs and aahs coordinated with each thrust. I found this scene uncomfortable because she is consenting to sex for his sake and not really considering her own feelings on what she needs from him. He doesn’t even notice she’s not into it and it is this detachment from the activity and from each other, the absence of mutual satisfaction that is worrying, that she allows her body to be used sexually because that is just what we do. Kind of like the dynamic between E L James’ Mr Grey and his victim.

It is no coincidence these two dominant male characters are both called Mr Grey when E L James’ inspiration comes from Mary Gaitskill’s Bad Behaviours on which the popular cult film The Secretary is based. However, the similarities end with their name. James Spader’s Mr Grey isn’t a self-assured perpetrator of violence against women; he controls her day to day movements with her consent because she enjoys the sense of belonging (having been lost and alone up until that point) and the strict parameters within which she can satisfy her impulsions (preventing another trip to a psych unit). Lee has a troubled past with eating disorders and self-harm that they explore in detail. Mr Grey controls her but in a positive way; for example making a pact that she won’t cut herself because she can find that release elsewhere, spanking with a paddle brush for example. She wants him to tell her what she can eat, making the focus of this behaviour sexual instead of dysphoric, not so much calorie counting but the notion that the two of them are in it together to the bewilderment of everyone else “one scoop of creamed potatoes, a slice of butter, 4 peas and as much ice cream as you’d like to eat”. He indulges her, it’s not about him. In fact he withdraws from the relationship when he fears he might have taken it too far and stresses that his perversions are not sustainable long term. He punishes himself, taking out his frustrations through physical exercise. It is then up to Lee to assure him that she is a consenting adult in it for the right reasons, because she enjoys their dynamic as much as him. A lot of the communication between them is unspoken. He recognises that she intends to prove her intentions when she storms in on him in her wedding dress (she is engaged to the boring childhood friend) and plays along, telling her to sit with her hands palm down until he returns. So she does.

E Edward Grey isn’t the type to beat a woman up and rape her without her enthusiastic consent. Christian Grey on the other hand revels in humiliating his victim. Whilst humiliation is a turn on for some people, again this is with their full consent; between two people who can legally consent (minors/vulnerable adults – drunk – cannot, in any circumstance). There are safe words and there have to be rules both parties are aware of before anything happens. Everyone, from victims of male perpetrated violence to practitioners of BDSM have reacted with outrage to this framing of abusive behaviour as acceptable sexuality because of how it has been wrongly presented as some kind of celebration of female sexuality when actually it is about the power and control of women by men through dominance and violence. If this book was as progressive as people like to make out then there’d be a whole dialogue around BDSM and other sexual preferences/fetishes but there is not because usually we condemn women for expressing their sexuality. Patriarchy can hyper sexualise whomever it chooses to but it will not allow a woman to present her own sexual identity as she sees herself because then she’s just a slag.

The key issue that raises concern throughout the 50 Shades series is this matter of consent. Why does he have to get her drunk in order to have his way? He even admits to it. Sex with someone who is too drunk to consent is rape, clear cut. Try and explain this to E L James though and you’ll get the stock response that you’re a troll and have no idea what you’re talking about. Yes, even if you have suffered those same patterns of abuse in your own relationships or happen to be a lifelong enthusiast of consensual BDSM, your feedback does not matter. James believes she is the authority on a subculture she has tarnished with her twisted misogynistic views. At the beginning of this month she even chose to brandish actress Mara Wilson a ‘sad fuck’ for objecting to her badly written trash. What kind of person calls another, a stranger and perhaps a victim of male perpetrated violence (it being a patriarchy) a ‘sad fuck’? This abuse is indicative of the kind of mind that believes women are to blame for the violence they experience, that they should just put up and take it like a woman.

I know a lot of people who practice BDSM and they are possibly the safest and most considerate people to be around. I have myself been curious and experimented and even considered things such as consensual cutting, a practice that many might consider to be abusive even with informed consent but might make a difference to my self-image if I do not self-harm when I am in a negative mood. I am also a repeat survivor of domestic abuse. I know there is a pretty fucking wide line between the two but that’s only because I’ve spent a while learning about consent and owning my rights to my own body as an autonomous individual.

In a world where many women do not even know when they are being raped (having sex with someone who does not want to/cannot consent is rape not ‘non-consensual sex’) is it really any wonder this book has been so successful? For something so badly written it’s sure been pushed as some kind of revelation and I guess it would appear that way in a society that is otherwise shamed and ostracised for having sexual desires that do not conform to the hetero missionary lights off acceptable form of making babies. Of course misinformation around a book which explores those taboo acts We Never Speak Of will be gobbled up by the sex starved masses who are just grateful someone went there in the first place.

Except it’s dangerous when it encourages coercion and manipulation of vulnerable people and you can’t criticise the fact that it does.

guerillafem

TW: Would you report your rape to the police?

I have a Google email alert for sexual offences police corruption. It’s been a busy week for a few bastard coppers. I created the alert after the case brought against Ryan Coleman Farrow who was convicted of 13 counts of misconduct in public office (THIRTEEN) yet received only 16 months in prison for his crimes despite the fact that one of the victims killed herself following his negligence. They described him as a ‘rogue officer who set out to deceive’ implying that victims should not be alarmed by his practice, as though he was the exception not the rule (even though there was some vague reporting of a coinciding case where the defendant could not be named for whatever reason). Another of Coleman Farrow’s cases involved the rape of a 96 year old woman (she died without justice) by her son, in her own home. I would imagine if you were going to make an example out of anyone to serve justice as a reminder to the rest, this would be the one but I cannot say that 16 months is a particularly effective deterrent especially given that he could be released in half that time.

I want to prove that this kind of conduct is endemic in police forces across the world. I want to point out how ridiculous it is for us to expect these people –among the most likely to demonstrate their entitlement – to protect us from the worst of violations. We can start by having a look at this pig. Here we have the judge using the Polanski Defence in his ruling; the poor sod was so grief stricken due to the death of his wife, he couldn’t help but molest a 14 year old child. He was given a reduced sentence because of the effect on his own 11 year old. Here is a court identifying two counts of indecent assault against a minor yet all the while subtly condoning his behaviour in the form of a lenient sentence of 18 months and actual fucking praise for having done “so much for the public in North Wales”. The defendant, Donnelly, had told the girl she reminded him of his late wife. Now, I cannot be the only one alarmed at the fact that this man has been given a reduced sentence because of his own underage child (who is probably more likely to remind him of his late wife if the child is from that pairing?). The judge said that he hoped the public would understand “the balance the judge has to make in these cases” to which I put this; he is now a schedule one sex offender. Will social services and probation follow up these offences and supervise his contact with any minor given that he has a conviction for subjecting a child to cruelty, exposing them to ‘moral and physical danger’ and will be on the sex offenders register for the next decade? Doubt it.

A lot of victims don’t get to court because of how the system is set up to favour perpetrators (rape culture) or through fear that the case will play out as the one above. Many more make the decision to report abuse but then fall back after their first encounter with the cops. I can understand why. As a general rule they aren’t the most sympathetic in nature nor friendly, their job is to contain disorder so that it protects the surrounding area (buildings mainly). It is a huge leap to entrust these (mainly) men with sensitive information when we are afraid they are capable of the same things.

As a DV worker I was aware of a few ‘rogue officers’ in my line of work. We knew one of them was quite a sadistic abuser, all the while giving the impression he took domestic violence seriously but we couldn’t let on because his victim was also a colleague. Imagine that; working for a domestic abuse organisation, unable to point out the perpetrators in your midst because mendacity. If the truth had been outed, she would have probably lost her job. Imagine reporting your abuse to someone like the copper I worked with. What do you think he’s going to do? I would think he probably couldn’t care less and depending on how vulnerable you were, might try this. Then imagine that the Met refuse to accept responsibility for an on duty uniformed police officer (one who has been convicted and dismissed from the force for his actions) for taking advantage of a vulnerable drunk woman who was unable to consent. What will their defence entail? She shouldn’t have been so drunk she was unable to protect herself? But.. The police are supposed to protect us. We don’t see them as individuals; they are the police (plural). With this stance are they in fact reminding us that the police are free to act with impunity? No accountability? No responsibility? It certainly seems like it. I’m yet to see the term ‘rogue officer’ applied with this recent spate of predatory coppers. Perhaps because it would be an unashamed blag and at this juncture, career suicide for anyone stupid enough to stand by it. The Sapphire Unit (since “overhauled and renamed” allegedly) has been exposed for its corruption yet again. A detective constable and police constable facing claims that they faked records (perhaps in a bid to boost detection rates a la Coleman Farrow). The public are not waning in confidence, they are livid with anger at this blatant disregard for victims of patriarchal violence. These perps are not just the knuckleheaded cap toting Neanderthals we find at demos but senior officers; detectives at the top of their game. Like this prick. Of course the police will not be commenting at this stage because anything they do say, can and will be given as evidence.

This isn’t just A Thing we have to endure in Britain, police officers in forces all around the world are guilty of almost identical crimes. The intention is to maintain patriarchy, by keeping vulnerable people afraid, teaching them that the state controls what happens to their bodies, it decides your value and whether you can access justice. The same people we are consistently forced to trust with our most intimate violations are in fact the same ones who keep rape culture alive. These officers in America used their authority in exactly the same way ‘rogue officers’ do in every corner of the world. They are in a position of immense power (one where they are perceived to be fighting the forces of evil) and instead they use it for its intended purpose; one of power and control in a hierarchy determined by the patriarchy. Even when they are caught red-handed the preferential treatment they receive in sentencing compared to say, black males, is an overt display of double standards and a reminder that they still win even when you throw the rule book at them. We need a different system.

Understanding the domestic abuser

It takes on average 33 separate attempts to leave an abusive relationship. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing as the survivor reconciles taking these steps with the end of her relationship. It’s not so easy to leave when he is the father of your children or you have a joint bank account. How to leave a relationship without alerting the perpetrator to your plans? If he knew you were leaving he might attack you to teach you a lesson for even daring to contemplate abandoning him; after all, being the King of the Castle, he makes all the decisions, he decides when he’s had enough of you. Domestic violence charities have specific safety plans and risk assessments for this dangerous time; survivors are advised to pack their essentials but to do so slowly, over the course of a week or two so that he doesn’t notice things are missing. If he did there might be a sudden and severe escalation in abuse; 76% of women fleeing abuse faced another incident of violence for having the audacity to leave. What if somewhere in the process of fleeing, the decision to leave your abuser is taken out of your hands? Say you’re a famous TV chef and the man abusing you is Charles Saatchi.

Was Nigella in the process of leaving him? When abusive men strangle or attempt to choke/suffocate their victim, it is to remind them that they control their lives so far as controlling their very breath. In the standard risk assessment completed by DV charities and also the authorities, the question regarding strangulation is given special consideration even if the survivor doesn’t score very highly on others. This is because it is a very serious act and implies intention; it is a threat to kill. This question coupled with a handful of others can result in an immediate referral to a multi-agency risk assessment conference. The police will most likely be involved; many MARACs are coordinated by the local police. If the police wish to refer a victim for support, domestic abuse agencies must establish consent from survivors before pursuing any action to support her, EXCEPT when the risk of harm to the survivor and/or her children trumps the right to confidentiality. This wasn’t just a slap in the face, he didn’t pull her hair; he was letting her know that he could kill her if he wanted to.

Nigella had the right to confidentiality taken away from her. She wasn’t given the opportunity to leave in her own time. We don’t know how long Saatchi had been abusing her but we can say for almost certain, a man who is publicly strangling his wife is used to wielding that kind of power and he is Saatchi, he knows power, he owns power. He didn’t suddenly become enraged at her worsening behaviour or drug abuse as he likes to paint it. In which dimension is it ok for ANY person to justify their violence by smearing the victim as some kind of junkie who needed putting in her place? Especially when women’s workers, independent domestic violence advocates like myself know that substance misuse is a coping mechanism for many survivors. Women experiencing domestic abuse are 15 times more likely to misuse alcohol and 9 times more likely to misuse other drugs than women generally. Many women are introduced to drugs by their abusive partner, they are used to control the victim or in fact, used as an insurance policy should she decide she wants out. “If you leave me, I’ll make sure social services know you’re a druggie. All it takes is a drugs test”. This is what Saatchi is doing now. Humiliated for being the pig that he actually is, his male ego cannot cope with the way he has been exposed. So he ups the ante, he’ll teach her for not standing by her man. Like many abusers, he knows that he doesn’t need to speak to her directly to continue controlling her. He can tell his story to the old boys and they’ll print it in their papers and he can watch her lose her contracts from afar. Domestic violence has a higher rate of repeat victimisation than any other crime. Leaving is not a cure.

Saatchi knows what he’s doing here; he knows that this version of events is something the British public will lap up. Everyone likes to laugh at the addled pop star, their misfortunes being a source of entertainment for people with boring little lives and a serious lack of humanity. Everything can be explained away by their erratic drug induced manias. Nobody likes to think of the peace many drug abusers are seeking. Nigella has been harangued for using drugs some of which she was prescribed, was she taking drugs for depression/anxiety? I don’t think any of us would be surprised if she was. I would actively encourage her to keep taking them not shame her as though that is all we need to know about her character.

What we’ve seen here is a classic example of rich powerful man holding more control than rich powerful woman. It’s a patriarchy and this incident serves to remind you of that. If Nigella, with her wealth and connections can suffer this sort of fate, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Shame of Spitalfields

Pride of Spitalfields is the name of the pub where Meow Meet – a gathering of like-minded individuals’ crazy about communism and cats – took place. There was a planned pub crawl but as the night went on, we settled and occupied the back quarter of the pub. Being with kindred spirits aside, I felt myself on full alert having clocked the various leering geezers dotted around the bar. Very early on in the evening a large skinhead attempted to woo me with his American accent all the while slurring how much he liked the cat on my dress, his eyes fixated on my breasts. After we’d done a good job of ignoring him, he sloped off.

I felt safe. A mixed group, I was friends with many of them and since we’d been out together and tackled patriarchy effectively before, I felt reassured I could just be. With these righteous men and women I felt free. Except patriarchy was more brazen that night. I caught the bald American through the corner of my eye, as he left his table to walk past me for the loo. He stroked my shoulders and back whilst I was sat on a stool between two of my friends. Shocked and utterly grossed out, I told the group what had just happened. When he came out of the toilet, one of my beautiful sisters pointed at him and said “how dare you touch her? Don’t fucking do it again?” Far from being embarrassed he’d been caught out, he leant in to her and asked her to slap him. In an attempt to distract him, I asked if he was American. When he replied yes, I said “figures”. Well, then he called me a “fucking cunt”. When the rest of our group stood up, he crawled off, mumbling expletives.

Shaken but proud and empowered, I told one of the barmaids what had happened. I was happy when she immediately said she would not serve him anymore. She also said he had been aggressive but they couldn’t throw them out because there were only three women behind the bar. However, I was just pleased that she’d acknowledged what had happened. Shortly after, the man and his friends left. One of them even apologised to one of the men in our group. We were able to enjoy a few more drinks before the second incident of the evening.

Sat on my stool at the side of the table, somebody grabbed the back of my neck and pushed me down. Alarming and distressing, yes, but I also have a spinal injury. I’ve been told never to attempt to touch my toes. I have to think of my every movement before I make it. I am having an MRI in three days. Livid, I shot up and shouted at the man. I can’t remember what I said; I was too frightened and angry. Other people in the bar started shouting at me, how it was funny it was always the same girl complaining, how our stools were in the way of the path to the toilet and my blood ran cold. I asked the older landlady whether they were saying I was making it up and she matter of factly nodded yes. I didn’t exactly want to burst into tears and start rolling off all the other times I hadn’t been believed but that’s what happened. Like a collage of all the other times I’d been violated but made to feel like the evil scheming temptress I must be. All of it poured out as the mascara gushed down my cheeks. I’d had a drink but the pain is always the same and I react in exactly the same way. Triggers, emotions so strong and so embedded because of careless caretakers and patriarchy; that I try and keep a lid on. For years, I slapped a smile on it until the corners of my mouth hurt so much from smiling, they’d quiver. Now, I cannot.

One of the things said to me by the patrons of that pub was that we should just accept it. Accept what? Being groped? Being leered at? My body does not belong to the public. It is mine and it is fragile. If anyone touches me without my consent, I will shout and scream blue murder.

When I finally calmed down I learnt the man who’d grabbed my neck had also groped one of our teenage comrades (her account). The guy was in his 50s. One of my friends hugged me as she said she’d challenged one of the younger barmaids as to whether she’d been harassed more than a coupla times in one evening and she said yes. The landlady responded there was little they could do with their customers of old. And there, patriarchy is atoned. Capitalism is what makes the misogo man’s world go round.

I can’t keep it in any more. And I know there are many others like me. I’m not going to get quieter as time goes on; I’m going to get louder. And if aggression is what they understand, I might have to do what is required of me.

I think if someone touches you without consent, you should be allowed to hurt them back without theirs. That seems a fair exchange.