Monday, 11 December 2017

Sexual Assault Is All Over Now. Still all over.

A friend....a man....well-intentioned and very kind....told me last week that he was hopeful. Weinstein’s abuse and unmasking really might change everything. There always has to be a turning point. It seems like something is happening. This is hopeful. He pointed me to the Time front cover.

Forgive me. I held my head to one side in that way we have. You know the way. The one that says “I want to punch you in the neck for that naive comment that makes me want to scream but I like you so I will breathe hard while not punching you and then my head will sag over with the effort”.

Eva’s piece said that our hope – as women - comes and goes every year. I thought... you, as a man, can hope. Because having that hope dashed every year simply means the world isn’t going to be as moral or kind to women as you would like. But it won’t mean that the world will remain constantly hostile to you as a sex class. It won’t mean that you are despairing as to how things will ever change. I wondered if I was being a bit.... well.... me. Hard. Pessimistic about the patriarchy. Angry.

Then came Saturday night.

I never go out to busy bars in the centre of town. Ever. I rarely go out late around men. I tend to avoid bars where a certain type of man will be drunk, and especially, drunk late at night. I class a problem time to be anywhere past 9pm. Most men will not understand this. Some women will.

Saturday night I had promised to go and see a couple of male friends sing at a bar. I took along a female friend. It was only 8pm. I figured we would be ok. It isn’t a swanky, trendy bar. Quite old and well-established. Surely anywhere with live music by a hoard of gay blokes would be ok? Surely?

But this is Christmas. Everything I ordinarily fear about this is worse at Christmas. It should be better. But it isn’t. You can’t put a bauble or fairy lights on a sexually risky situation. 

As we entered it became clear that personal boundaries were being eroded by alcohol. People pushed. You pushed back or fell. I made my way to the bar and my friend indicated she would wait at a distance.  A man at the bar looked me up and down and then “made way” for me. Except with that look. The one that says .... you can cram in here but you have to do it by rubbing past my body. Again.... women will know that look.

I held my arm out to invite him to step out of the way first. He did but suddenly “fell” into me. I massively eye rolled and waited for him to move on. No real harm done. I don’t get automatically pissed off at every time someone touches me in a bar. No matter what the Twitter Trolls might say.

I waited to be served. It was very busy. I knew it would take a while. Suddenly someone tapped me on the shoulder. I expected it was one of my friends. I turned. It was a sea of male faces. None of whom I knew and not one of whom acknowledged they were trying to get my attention. I turned back to the bar. Then it happened again. I realised someone was trying to wind me up. I turned around with a smile and offered to the sea of unidentifiable faces, “Come on lads. Pack it in now.” Many women will know not to anger drunken men. Fighting is not sensible. Glass is involved.

Why would the men do this? Easy.  “Woman alone. Fun. Bit of a joke?” Or something more along the lines of “Woman.. alone.... confident.... let’s take that away! That will be fun. She is few and we are many.” The latter is what experience teaches me.

And so I registered all this rather quickly and thought that continuing to ignore was best.

And then I was tapped on the shoulder again. This was swiftly followed by a hand firmly though my legs and a grab, quite hard, of my vagina. I spun around. Not a face moved. All men stared ahead.

All. Men. Stared. Ahead.

And that’s when you know.

Nothing has changed. Nothing is changing.

Unless ordinary women keep fighting, I will be long dead before I can go to a bar and expect to keep myself, and my vagina, safe.

For women... the Weinstein case heralds no new dawn. These men won’t even know about it. They won’t have seen the hashtag #MeToo They won’t have got the “stoppit now” memo. They won’t have read the front part of the newspapers before clicking through to the football. They won’t have clicked the ardent blogs before clicking on Pornhub.

Why the hell would they? The world and bars and women are theirs. Women should stop being hopeful. They should stop listening to men being hopeful on their behalf.

When all men stare ahead while a woman is sexually assaulted, women must stare at the future and know it will not change unless we change it.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Ride For Murdered Women - 2016

Yesterday I completed the final ride of an awareness-raising project I started in March 2017 to complete a bike ride named in honour of each of the women murdered in 2016 by men they knew - as a result of domestic abuse. I mostly used a list provided by Claire Moore of Certain Curtain Theatre Company who compiles it for her "One in 4" project. I thank her for her extreme kindness and solidarity. I have tried to raise some money for Wearside Women In Need who faced a severe funding cut and I am hoping they will shortly confirm that they will accept the funds.

It has been an honour to ride for each and every one of these brave and beautiful women. Fighting my way up hills that took my last breath sometimes, was nothing, nowhere near close, to the agony and horror they endured before they breathed their last at the hands of some of the most brutal and wicked of men that have ever walked the Earth. I hate every one of the men who murdered these women. I have no sympathy for their "excuses". I care nothing for their mental health or drug issues. I don't care about their upbringing or their "provocation". No man should take the life of a woman. No woman should be trapped with a man who hates her. No mother or sister or child or friend should have that woman stolen from their lives.

Women fight hard to keep other women in this world. They staff refuges, answer helplines, march in streets, sit in each other's houses holding hands, meet with ministers, beg for funds, compile harrowing lists of dead women at great personal cost in order to prove male violence, ask online how women are doing, give advice, link arms, join shoulders, bleed together and cry together. Women do big things and women do small things. We do what we can. Women are fierce and mighty when they join with each other.

Some women are alone. Those are the women who die. We must get to those women somehow. We must teach them as girls. We must arm them for this war waged against them by violent and brutal men.  We must teach them to recognise their abusers and know how to get help. There must be help for them to get. We need more than words from those in power. We need hard cash and resources. Women cannot escape their murderers on promises alone.

Men - look to other men. Look to yourselves. Take responsibility. This is male violence. It is cruel and it is ugly. Women can't stop this on our own. We don't need you to come to feminist space. We don't need you to wear a stupid t-shirt. Men need to stop hurting women - that's all. Stop other men hurting women. Refuse to listen to those men. Or stand with them. Or excuse them. Men need to learn that women are not possessions, or punchbags or power games. Women are not receptacles for your sperm, your anger, or your hatred. Tell men.

I have cried more times than I can remember as I learned the histories of these women and how they died. Some days I cried as I rode. Some nights I woke up remembering how they were murdered and, unable to sleep, planned the next bike ride in my head. Some rides I dreaded because the story was too much. Some stories were just too damned much.

Tomorrow I will begin to ride for the women murdered by men they loved in 2017. The bodies and the stories of male violence just don't stop coming it seems no matter how hard women work. We just keep working. We just keep going. I salute each and every woman who does anything that helps keep women alive. If it is your friend or the woman at work, or a neighbour,  and you ask her how she is... I salute you. If it is the woman who keeps fighting to keep her refuge doors open... I salute you hard. If it is the women of The Freedom Programme or Women's Aid or any of the other domestic violence services... ah you women are don't need me for anything. But I love you anyway.

Mostly I think of the woman who sits and dreams of a life for herself and her children where she is not afraid..... the woman who thinks her life is over most days and that she is just waiting to die ... but in some stray and errant seconds she drifts into a world and a life she knows exists somewhere. The life she should be living. I send love to that woman and hope she keeps on living until she gets that life.

"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill of things unknown but longed for still... for the caged bird sings of freedom"......Maya Angelou

.................keep singing sister. We can hear you. Just keep singing.

The women........

Ride #1 Katrina O Hara - Stabbed to death by her ex husband outside her place of work as she closed the shop. He had lain in wait for her. 

Ride #2 Georgina Symonds - strangled with twine after she "dumped" the man who repeatedly bought her body to use for sex and told her he loved her. Prostitutes lives  matter too. 

Ride #3 Lisa Jane Lyttle - strangled to death by her husband with a mobile phone cord. He was annoyed afterwards that he lost all his friends. 

Ride #4 Andrea Lewis Stamped to death by her husband who then dragged her outside and left her to be found in the street half-naked with 41 different injuries. There was a history of him covering her in bruises.  

Ride #5 Guida Rufino - had her throat slashed and was stabbed in the chest 4 times by an ex- partner she had told to leave. He tied up her friend who had come to help her so that she heard her best friend die, screaming and begging for her life.

Ride #6 Elidona Demiraj stabbed to death by her partner - neighbours heard her screaming and a loud thud.

Ride #7 Geraldine Newman - Beaten to death with a hammer whilst her children lay bleeding to death upstairs after her husband stabbed them.

Ride #8 Caroline Andrews - Strangled to death by her husband, who had defrauded her dementia suffering father out of more than £260,000. He then checked into a hotel room with a woman he intended to prostitute after buying knives, Prosecco and condoms. He lied to their 4 children about her death. 

Ride #9 Bethany Hill - tortured by two men - one of whom was her ex-partner. They bound a Barbie Doll, supposed to resemble her, with duct tape just as they did her before repeatedly slashing her wrists as neighbours heard her screaming. 

Ride #10 - Sheila Jefferson - brutally murdered by her brother-in-law. 17 blunt force injuries to her face and also shot in the face. 

Ride #11 - For Kerry Gascoigne who was strangled to death by her partner. 

Ride #12 - for Leanne Wall was head-butted and then strangled to death by her ex-partner

Ride #13 - for Maria Byrne whose husband doused her in white spirit and then turned the gas on so she caught alight. She lived for 30 minutes. 

Ride #14 - for Rose Hill who was strangled to death by her grandson who also killed her daughter. 

Ride #15 - for Julie Hill who was axed in the face, had her teeth punched out and was then drowned in the bath by her nephew who had also murdered her mother. 

Ride #16 - For Lisa Reynolds - stabbed 17 times by her boyfriend as she begged him to stop because the knife was blunt as her children watched. She screamed "The knife is blunt! Stop it Baz."

Ride #17 - For Natasha Bradbury who was murdered by her ex who cracked her ribs, her neck, injured her brain and caused heart injuries. 

Ride #18 for Julie Archer - doused in petrol and set alight by her brother. She told a nurse he did it just before she died. 

Ride #19 For Gemma Stevens - her boyfriend stamped on her head 11 times, stabbed her and then set her house on fire. 

Ride #20 for Dawn Green killed by her husband who then hanged himself.  

Ride #21 for Carrie Ann Izzard who was fatally stabbed 29 times in the neck by her ex

Ride #22 for Lyndsey Smith – who was stabbed to death in the stomach by her ex who went off out having a nice time as she died after years of abuse. 

Ride #23 for Lynn Freeman who was stabbed by her partner who murdered his ex partner, Jodie Betteridge, just minutes later. 

Ride #24 for Jodie Betterridge who was stabbed 30 times in the head and 45 times in the torso – a total of 132 times altogether. The blade of the knife of the man’s knife broke off with the ferocity. He stabbed her on her front garden in front of her 3 children, one of whom ran around in the sun screaming and covered in her blood.

Ride #25 for Joanna Trojniak who was stabbed 6 times by a partner she was trying to leave. He than stabbed himself a tiny bit and ran into the street crying as an attempt to escape justice. 

Ride #26 for Amina Begum who was killed by her son after “multiple incised wounds” according to the coroner. 

Ride #27 for Natasha Sadler who was stabbed through the head and suffered other stab wounds after a man who lived in the same house was unhappy that she turned on a tap and his shower temperature changed. 

Ride #28 for Laura Marshall who was murdered by her ex after months of abuse. He left her in a bath of her own blood, raped and covered in bruises.
Ride #29 for Tracy Cockrell whose partner strangled her and then set her on fire.

Ride #30 for Helen Bailey who was targeted during her grief for her dead husband and then manipulated by a new partner who then suffocated her and buried her in a cesspit under the garage – allowing police to search for her body for months. He killed her dog too and buried it alongside her. 

Ride #31 for Leigh Ann Mahachi who was stabbed 40 times by her ex in the street outside her house. Her mother heard her screams as she died and came out to try to stop her blood with towels as her ex partner ran away. 

Ride #32 for Jean Ryan who was stabbed to death by her husband. 

Ride #33 for Nasreen Khan who was a care worker, stabbed to death with her 5 children in the house, because her husband did not like that she visited men as part of her job.

Ride #34 for Fay Daniels who was stabbed 17 times including 4 to her face, 8 to her neck and had 2 broken ribs. Her ex then dumped her in the back yard.

Ride #35 for Xin Xin Lei repeatedly stabbed by her husband.

Ride #36 For Louise O' Brien whose husband strangled her to death then left a heart-shaped chocolate on the pillow next to her dead body.

Ride #37 For Natalie Hemming whose husband found out she was going to leave him and beat her to death. Her 6 year old son crept out of bed and saw his mother during the murder but was frightened he would be told off. Her husband then dumped her body face down in a wood to be found 3 weeks later and took the children to the zoo.

Ride #38 For Iris Owens whose son strangled, kicked and slashed at her with a chainsaw as she hung out washing on the line in her garden.

Ride #39 For Becky Morgan who was on a date with a man who "allowed" her to fall into the sea without raising the alarm or helping as she drowned. He went off to the pub instead.

Ride #40 for Maria Mbombo whose husband stabbed her to death after an internet search for "the most painful place to stab someone".

Ride #41 for Marina Erte beaten severely by her jealous ex who then drowned her by holding a shower attachment to her face.

Ride #42 for Marina Nolan whose ex slashed her throat and strangled her with a TV flex. He put their 2 year old son out into the street to wander then returned with 3 knives and stabbed her to death leaving her to be found by her other son. (Marina was murdered in 2002 but I was asked by her friend to honour her death)

Ride #43 For Sonita Nijhawan whose husband axed her in the head 40 times and also stabbed her 78 times because she wanted a divorce. She took her rings off the day before and he replaced them after she was dead. He was jailed for manslaughter because "depressed" but not too depressed and "out of control" to search "softest part of the human female skull" the day before.

Ride #44 for Dawn Rhodes. Her husband was cleared of murder. I've included her in this list because he slashed her throat. He had been stalking her, checking her phone and Facebook and found she was seeing another man. He had harassed her and her friends via Facebook posts from a fake profile. It is sad that she was the one labeled "unstable" and he walked free.

Ride #45 for Andrena Douglas - police arrived to tell her her partner was injured in a caravan fire- only to find her murdered.

Ride #46 for Karen Hales - bludgeoned to death with a hammer by her daughter's ex-partner. He raped and murdered her daughter Jade at the same time.

Ride #47 for Jade Hales - ex- partner broke in and raped her, murdered her and then also murdered her mother and dog.

Ride #48 for Keziah Flux-Edmunds - aged 6. Killed by her father to torture her mother, his estranged wife. He drowned Keziah and her pet dogs and lay them all on the bed for her mother to find alongside a letter which said " You've taken everything and I will leave you with just memories."

Ride #49 for Helen Fraser - stabbed multiple times by her partner in front of her daughter as neighbours heard her screaming.

Ride #50 for Jean Irwin whose husband hit her with a hammer as she slept and then strangled her.

Ride #51 for Nijole Sventeckiene whose partner slit her throat with a single 5 inch long incision and left her naked crying for help.

Ride #52 for Agnieszka Szymura who was stabbed by her partner 30 times as neighbours watched. There was evidence of past abuse and injuries.

Ride #53 for Sandra Gill. There was clear evidence of past abuse at the hands of her husband and yet a coroner could not be certain that her severe head injury was inflicted by him. He said she may have "fallen off the toilet". Grown women can sit on toilets. And beds. Even when drunk.

Ride #54 for Sarah Nash who was strangled by her ex-partner who was allowed to walk free just months before to attend a "relationship course".

Ride #55 was for Jules Parkin who was killed this year. It was so shocking to know that her class would be going into school to hear that their teacher had been murdered. I included her at the request of a friend but will also ride for her again.

Ride #56 Alison Muncaster shot by her husband as she sat on the sofa.

Ride #57 for Emma Baum whose ex-partner battered her to death with a crowbar and then urged her mother to come and "find her" with him.

Ride #58 for Claire Hart shot by her husband days after she left him. He left a note "revenge is a dish best served cold" he also shot her daughter alongside her after lying in wait for them. He reloaded his gun between rounds.

Ride #59 for Charlotte Hart whose father shot her alongside her mum because her mum had left him days before. His note also said "Karma is a bitch". Charlotte's last words were "It was my dad who shot me". Brave to the last.

Ride #60 for Tracey Gabriel who was stabbed repeatedly by a male "friend" who also stabbed another friend of hers.

Ride #61 for Samia Shahid whose ex-husband raped her and strangled her as he disapproved of her second marriage. Her father assisted him.

Ride #62 for Nicola Haworth suffocated by her ex-partner who left her 9 month old baby screaming in the house beside her body.

Ride #63 for Lenuta Iona Haidemac - prostituted by her partner to another man who raped and murdered her. He strangled her, stabbed her twice, punctured her nipples and wrote a name on her body.

Ride #64 for Margaret Mayer whose husband bludgeoned her to death with a lamp.

Ride #65 for Hannah Pearson whose partner strangl
ed her to death after watching porn. She did not consent to the porn-influenced "sex" either the judge found.

Ride #66 for Gergana Prodanova murdered by her ex-partner who was furious that she refused to go back to him and was beginning a new relationship. He put her naked body in a suitcase and dragged it through the town centre before dumping her to decompose beside a railway line. She had endured years of abuse.

Ride #67 for Lynne Braund who had a deep fear of fires. Her 18 month old daughter had died in a house fire in 1990 and she still suffered the trauma of that when her ex-partner squirted her with lighter fluid and set her on fire. Then left as she burned. 

Ride #68 for Donna Williamson whose boyfriend accused her of sleeping with other men so he stabbed her in the heart and lung. She had tried to call the police and he could be heard screaming "You are dying. You are dying mate. Your life is slipping away from you. What you done to me you c*nt, you f*cking deserve it."

Ride #69 for Xixi Bi beaten to death by her partner. She had 41 injuries including a broken jaw and ribs. Paramedics found her body so bruised they thought it was a result of her being dead for days not hours.

Ride #70 for Jean Constant asphyxiated with a plastic bag by her husband .

Ride #71 for Karen Arnold was murdered by her husband who stabbed her multiple times.

Ride #72 for Alison Jane Farr-Davies beaten to death by her boyfriend and thrown downstairs naked. Her body was hit with such force that there was a penetrating cardia injury - similar injuries are only seen in war as a result of shrapnel, grenades, mortar bombs and explosions.

Ride #73 for Hayley Dean whose partner bludgeoned her to death with a lump hammer and then slept next to her body. He put her head under the pillow. When she was found she had a cigarette in her mouth and a lighter in the other hand.
Ride #74 for Elizabeth Bowe
 whose brother murdered her because she was going to accuse him of rape. She was found with a dressing gown around her neck and naked from the waist down as he sat close by smoking a cigarette.

Ride #75 for Melinda Korosi whose ex-partner raped her 3 times before gouging a hole in her neck with a sharpened rock. Police deemed her high risk after she had recently accused him of rape.

Ride #76 for Nasreem Buksh whose estranged husband bashed her skull in as she slept. The children reported that he never spoke to her and hadn't for years.

Ride #77 for Natasha Wake whose partner stabbed her 11 times with an 8 inch knife. He stabbed her with such force that 6 of the wounds went through her torso and out of her back. He then wrapped her in a duvet and put her under the stairs telling her daughter that the blood on the walls was ketchup. He was unhappy that she had found out he was being investigated for sexual assault.

Ride #78 for Jaqueline Pattenden whose partner stabbed her to death through her chest in his home.

Ride #79 for Mandy Gallear whose husband stabbed her as she unloaded the dishwasher because she had told him she was leaving him

Ride #80 for Vicky Bance whose husband saw her talking to another man so he stabbed her 23 times with a commando knife. She had 16 stab wounds to her chest, 14 deeply penetrating her heart and both lungs and any one of them could have been fatal with the maximum depth of one wound being 20cm.

Ride #81 for Sophie Smith whose boyfriend beat her for 4 hours breaking 11 of her ribs, her eye socket and her nose.

Ride #82 for Alice Ruggles who was stalked increasingly and relentlessly before eventually being stabbed to death by an ex partner who had already terrorised and abused her. She felt "palmed off" by police. He eventually broke in to her home and slashed her throat from ear to ear. He stabbed her at least 6 times. Even as he waited to murder her he was on his phone arranging a Tinder date for afterwards.

Ride #83 for Lucy Jones murdered by ex partner in a sustained and brutal attack with a total of 90 separate injuries.

Ride #84 for Belen Tripp whose husband stabbed her 24 times with some of those wounds 14cm deep and damaging her shoulder blades with the ferocity.

Ride #85 for Deeqa Ibrahim who kindly visited her ill husband before he returned to Somalia. He grabbed her and locked them both in the bathroom where he began stabbing her to death.

Ride #86 for Rebecca Johnson stabbed to death by her boyfriend who escaped and pretended to be suffering from hypothermia.

Ride #87 for Linda Ordinans was found murdered after her husband called police to report her murder shortly before killing himself.

Ride #88 for Andraya Webb told her boyfriend on a night out that their relationship was over after he had been violent towards her too many times. She assured friends it would be ok for her to go home even after he had become aggressive. Her ex returned and broke into her home. He hit her with an iron. He stamped on her face so hard he left a boot mark. He poured paint down her throat and put gas canisters between her thighs before setting her on fire. She had 45 different injuries and was breathing when she was set alight. He said "Some of us have angels and some of us have demons. Tonight the demons won."

Ride #89 for Umida Eshboboeva strangled to death by her husband just before Christmas. Always an enhanced period of risk for victims.

Ride #90 for Angela Best was murdered by a man at his home. Few other details are available.

Ride #91 for Claire Paton was beaten to death by her ex-partner - the excuse offered was that he had tinnitus. He also attacked her son with a nail gun after throttling her. No excuse is acceptable for killing a woman. Not even poorly ears.

Ride #92 for Hayley Wall who was lured into a "relationship" with her abusive uncle. He then murdered her because she refused to sexually touch him in public in front of her friends. He smashed her skull in with a television.

Ride #93 for Nicola Woodman murdered on Christmas Day 2016 by her partner who stabbed her in the chest. He also battered her with a pickaxe handle. A judge told him "You are not ill. You are wicked."

Ride #94 for Tracy McPartland beaten to death over a 2 day period by her son who had  history of abusing her. She had a total of 29 separate injuries. The judge said "she simply took the beating and did not seek help". No woman expects the child they give birth to will one day beat the life from them. It is the ultimate betrayal.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Nevertheless He Persisted.

It isn't all about toilets. Though yes. When I am physically vulnerable and stood at a sink with menstrual blood on my hands I would prefer if I was doing that around women who know why it is there ....because they have experienced the very same. Not "felt" as if they were doing the same. I have no idea how you can "feel" a period or the many problems it can present in any valid way. It is a uterus shedding itself. Magical and clever. Biologically, you need a uterus to shed a uterus. I never thought that saying so would be controversial. I never thought that the obvious would need to be said.

If I, or any of the women or girls I know, are raped we should be able to request a woman to examine us at a rape trauma centre/investigation unit. I would prefer if the woman did not have a penis. Self-identification as a woman would mean that a biological male could examine me. He would not even have to "present" as a woman. He could simply be a man who says he is a woman and he could put his hands inside my vagina immediately after I have been raped. Where would male rapists most like to situate themselves? Within easy proximity of vulnerable women. Women who cannot legally ask that they aren't there. Abusive or violent men will love that. Access to places that they previously had no access. Not too big a leap of reasoning. Yes there are transwomen who do not, and have no intention to, rape women. But there are men who do. Men who are laughing at legislation which will remove all barriers to protect women.

CPS guidelines currently stipulate that rape requires a penis. Rape can only be committed by the penis being forced into the anus, vagina or mouth of the victim. When statistics show that 100% of rapes are committed by males - the penis is the reason.

When self-identification according to amendments to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 comes into law, as Maria Miller MP intends, then those figures are meaningless. We will be told to ignore the penis. A man will be able to self identify as a woman and the crime will be recorded with a "woman" as the perpetrator regardless of the sex of the victim. Data is pointless. Fighting for funding according to sex-based need is pointless. Fighting for women-only spaces to help women recover from rape  or other forms of male violence - are utterly meaningless and pointless.

Biological women do not commit rape. They cannot do so in UK law. Though 78,000 of them are raped a year. By men with a penis. Those figures will soon mean nothing. It will be impossible to fight for funding for those women because we will no longer be able to say "woman" in any meaningful way in the context of rape. We will not be able to keep men out of rape crisis centres if those men say they are women.  A raped woman will have to sit among biological men at the very point she needs most to be in a space free of men. I don't care what those men say about the penis they sit with between their legs, they can identify it as a fluffy kitten if they like. It is still there and in the space of a raped woman. A penis was forced inside her against her will. It is still male sperm that will be scraped from her vagina as evidence to try to commit her perpetrator to jail. If he identifies himself as a woman -the crime will be recorded as female on female according to the new law. The raped woman meanwhile still knows that it is the feel of a male sexual organ ripping at the entrance of her vagina that will not leave her until the day she dies. She knows what a penis is very clearly.

Similar problems will beset the issue of domestic abuse. Statistics show that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators of this crime. The data is already skewed since recording of incidence is capped at 5 and men will report after a single incident but women will endure repeat incidence before reporting. When they do report and report repeatedly as many abused women need to - those reports will be capped at 5 reports to the police. See the report by Walby, Towers and Francis (2015) on the significance of this and the fact that 96+ incidents (less than 2 a week - not uncommon in a relationship with a violent male partner) are also capped for CSEW recording purposes. Such vital (though limited) statistical analysis will be meaningless anyway when the Gender Recognition Act is enforced. None of this painstakingly obtained and analysed data and research will be possible, or can be used in order to target resources and funding to help victims ....who are predominantly biological women.

Homicide statistics show that 95% of the 437,000 global homicides have a male perpetrator. Intimate partner violence accounts for 64,000 of those murders. 66% of the victims of IPV are biological women. We won't be able to say that and it mean anything. 50% of the intentional homicides of biological women are committed by an intimate partner compared to only 6% of men. Targeting resources at the cause - which is men - and the result - people are mainly killed by men... will be impossible because the data won't be able to say anything relevant.
(UNODC  data 2013 from Walby et al - 'Concept and Measurement of Violence Against Women And Men' 2017)

All of a sudden it will be impossible to point to the root cause of women being harmed. The problem is male violence but suddenly it won't be possible to say that. It therefore won't be easy to stop it. Think of all the work that has been done on this? Think of all the advances that have been fought for over decades and centuries. Think of the suffragette strapped to a chair being force fed. What would she make of being told her suffering meant nothing and that one day the very term woman would be meaningless?

Once this act has been passed and you go to see your GP you will be unable to specify that you want to be examined by, or discuss your unusual smelling vaginal discharge with, a female doctor. The woman shoving a painful speculum up your vagina for your cervical smear and asking you to drop your legs to the side may have a penis and certainly has never experienced the same. If you object and request a biological woman do this you will be committing a crime of discrimination. A hate crime. A crime of transphobia. You will have to spread your legs or risk cancer. Stark choices. The Handmaid's Tale is horror. Our future is horror.

And the future is expensive. Changing the law and the inherent administration of that is costly. I have no idea how many millions of pounds will be spent rewriting public and corporate documentation to accommodate self-identification. The retraining of staff in various public and corporate bodies. The redesign of the collection of important data on crime for the Crime Survey England And Wales. The retraining of staff and redesign of data collection Office For National Statistics. Employment law. Limited examples of course. The cost of self-identification is unfathomable at a time when the resources available to women who have been victims of rape or domestic abuse have been slashed and slashed. 17% of women's refuge places have gone since 2010. Biological women are dying at the hands of biological men at the rate of 2 a week. Imagine how many women could be saved if there were adequate resources to save them?

But surely this is necessary and the cost shouldn't matter if fairness and justice for trangender people is the result? Well no actually. Gender harms all of us. We are in no disagreement there. Few of us fit a prescribed gender identity box with assigned stereotypical male or female traits. We are all served badly by the concept of gender and the way society shapes us.

However, the issue here is that if you erase the term woman and open that biological reality as an "option" or "choice" for any human then there are far-reaching, identifiable and, crucially, real consequences for the safety and lives of biological women. The funds that would go to help them and amend systems that oppress them are lost in order to appease a minority. I don't mind who wants to wear a dress. I don't care how many transwomen want to buy makeup or high heels or conform to the many patriarchal beauty norms that feminists have fought to overturn for decades. That is absolutely fine by me.

Do we feel transphobic we women who refuse to accept this? No we do not. We are no such thing. We intend no harm towards transwomen or transmen. We are not afraid of them and we do not hate them. Transphobia would require this. We are simply refusing to accept biological men into our sex-protected spaces, our statistics and our funding. Women want to stay alive. Currently 30% of us will be affected by domestic violence inflicted by a male partner over our lifetimes. We can't fight that if we can't even say it.  25% of women aged between 16-64 will experience sexual assault at the hands of a biological male. We can't fight that if we can't say it.

What we do feel is that feminists who have allowed such massive and fundamental change at such an incredible pace have let the suffragettes and our second wave sisters of the seventies down very badly. We are letting down our future granddaughters if we do not continue to fight to make sure that the word "woman" means something. Violent, abusive men can see that everything women fought for over centuries and in the areas of male violence in the 1970s and since going. Going so very fast that those of us fighting to save it are breathless and tearful with frustration. Going so fast that those men are laughing in our faces.

The t-shirt will also change.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless he persisted.

But so will we.

Love to ya sisters.

JH x

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

I'll never have another you.

People always ask how it started. "Why didn't you get out? Why didn't you spot it? How could he have said and done things and you not get help? Or not tell your family or friends?"

As though it's easy.

There's no set of reasons. Often there is very little a woman could have done. Whether she is aware of domestic abuse or not. Many times a woman knows some things and is ready.... "if he EVER hits me I'm out of there!" "I would NEVER stand for a man telling me what to do!". She means it. She just never sees it. It is slower. It is more brutal in its creeping and creepy ability to drop us to our doom while we think it isn't even happening.

I know that writing anecdotally seems self-indulgent and pointless regarding change. I defend myself with the fact that some woman always tells me it helps them. So. Once again. Forgive me if you hate this kind of writing.

I knew my abuser already as someone I encountered in pubs occasionally. I have no idea whether he hated me from the start. Probably though. He hates most women. Openly. The phrase ...."All women are nutters!" is common with him. He made me feel quite special even before we became involved. I would encounter him and he would be charming and funny and complimentary and..... dangerous.

I was a bit bored. He was a bit "different".

"Different"-  I could now rephrase as "psychotic".

A friend and I discussed our abusers the other day and how they lured us in. We discussed the tactic of offering excitement. Of offering the feeling that we were doing things the "ordinary" people and relationships weren't. Falling for a "bad boy" is a romantic trope. We are having a fabulous time and later, if we need to, we can change them. At least they aren't boring right?

No. Being hurt is never boring. Living with trauma could never be called dull. Being brainwashed is disorientating and soul-destroying but not predictable.

When an abusive man begins his quest it is often in the gentlest and loveliest of ways. Love bombing is a tactic you will have heard. If I pinpoint it to one moment that sealed my fate it would be this.

In the early days. When I thought he was falling in love with me. This....

We had been out drinking and gone back to his flat. He had told me he had no furniture in the lounge. He had one chair. I asked why and he proudly said... "I don't want anyone to feel comfortable enough to stay long." He is a control freak. He had a big leather chair like a throne and anyone else had to sit on the floor. He always has to make himself feel more special and important than anyone else. It stems from deep insecurity. At the time I thought it made him more interesting and quirky. He is only quirky in that he hates women. He hates anyone he thinks is better than him. He needs to hate a lot of people. His hatred is dangerous. 

But this particular night he offered me a glass of wine in what he told me were very expensive wine glasses. A present from his parents. I took the glass and began to drink. He had a balcony. There was music playing. It seemed rather romantic. Even sitting on the floor whilst he sat on his "throne". I read nothing into his power/domination techniques then. I later told this whole story to friends as though it was incredibly lovely and a sign of him really caring about me. 

Unfortunately for me... in ways I could not judge then... I dropped the glass and it shattered across the floor. 

I know what you are thinking. He hit me? He shouted? He called me names?

Not at all. He smiled. 

I cried actually. I was embarrassed and felt really bad. I had smashed something important to this new man on whom I wanted to make a good impression. So what did he do?

He walked over and took my hand. Picked up the glass and cleared it away. I was very upset. He walked to the balcony with his own glass and grandly, and with force, deliberately threw it over the balcony. I gasped. I heard it smash on the driveway below. He turned and smiled and said...

"I have another four of those. I'll never have another you."

And that was it. I was in. One romantic gesture for a working class girl brought up on the myth of Prince Charming. The one who would sweep you off your feet. The one. Surely this was the thing such a Prince would say? This was probably the one I'd been waiting for? I'd been groomed for?

I was groomed. By my upbringing. By society. Finally .... by him.

Months later he broke my rib. I had 23 more of them. But I'll never have another him.

JH x

Monday, 12 June 2017

Women are still dying for their vote.....

Last week we saw how powerful and empowering voting can be. People began to hope for something better than there had been. We voted with a desire to see change. We voted against a backdrop of biased media reporting combined with a carefully-nurtured political disaffection and in the face of increasing political cruelty and arrogance.

As the snap election wore on, and a newly-invigorated Corbyn campaign emerged, things began to change quickly. The morning after the election people were, if not elated, at least glad that it wasn’t worse. The prospect of a rampant and unfettered Tory party crippling the poor with yet more austerity measures was just too painful to consider.

As election anticipation grew and excitement at the prospect of rebellion against Tory dominance flourished with the clear signs of Tory wheels coming off, some women still sat at home and did not vote. Not because they were disinterested. Not because they were not eligible to vote. Many of them will have sat at home with a polling card somewhere on a pile of mail. They knew it was there. They knew they could not use it. Or which is really the same - that they could not use it as they would like to.

I tweeted, as did many, about how hard suffragette women had fought for us to vote. This is true, however clich├ęd. The desire in saying it is that we can encourage women out to the polls. Women who are politically active may try to vote for issues that concern women and children. They will probably choose parties that represent women. In many cases that will not be the Conservatives. But….sometimes they will choose right wing parties. Sometimes women will vote for parties whose policies will harm them directly. That is the point of this blog. Yes, the Suffragettes did starve and die for our political rights. Sadly that alone did not free women to vote.

What stops them? Men stop them. The men with whom they are in intimate relationships. Husbands, brothers, partners, sons, grandfathers. The men in their homes and the men in their heads.

Free women can vote freely. Trapped women cannot. They may not be physically trapped.

If a man wants to control a woman he can isolate her from her family. If he wants to control her finances he can isolate her from work. If he wants to control her effectively beyond hurting her and creating fear, the easy ways are by limiting her movement, her financial independence and her access to help via friends, family and outside agency.

Abusive men love to take things from the women they abuse. Calling a woman names takes away her self-esteem. Hitting or raping a woman takes away her belief in personal safety and bodily integrity.

Telling a woman that what she thinks or has always believed is stupid can be really damaging too, as part of his “scheme” of abuse. A man constantly telling a woman that what she thinks is wrong, when he makes what he says and believes sound like “what everyone thinks”, is brainwashing. Many abused women are subject to attempts to brainwash them. Fighting to keep your ideological integrity is just one more fight in many fights. Some fights come before that one. Sometimes it is suffocating to see through the small every day battles and the bigger battle can seem remote. 

A woman may have very strong political views when she meets her abuser. If those views disadvantage or disagree with those of her abuser, he will need to destroy them. If they are feminist views, they will need stomping on firmly.

Many abused women are outspoken and strong when a man targets them for abuse. They are confident and successful. They present a challenge. Skilled abusers need a challenge. Some seek vulnerability, but many also seek a strength that they can destroy.

When people say “Never discuss politics or religion” the suggestion is that it will lead to discord. In a household where disagreements escalate fast from such simple things as the content of a meal many women would never dream of challenging what a man says about the economy or immigration. If they do they soon learn not to. If they are fighting to survive, mentally and or physically, it is almost Pavlovian to learn to say the political things that chime with him. To parrot a political mantra he agrees with is like seeking a pat on the head. Women may support EDL marching bigots of the highest order - because how would you tell a man like that - his views are unacceptable? When he returns home full of fight and alcohol and the certainty from marching with a hundred other thugs that he is right how would you tell him he is wrong? If he has been kettled by police all day as he marched then where might the fight he did not achieve go? What might his partner need to say to defend herself from anger. Create a scale of political views down from the extremist and you will find women agreeing with fracking, NHS cuts, Brexit and more when they would previously have stood against those things. Some women of course are simply not “allowed” to vote. Some women are not allowed to leave the house.

Free women wake up quickly. Free women soon realise that part of reclaiming themselves from him physically and mentally is also about reclaiming yourself politically. Free women run to the polling booth.

I think of the woman who no longer knows what she thinks. I want that woman to finally vote again. Think of how different things might be today if all the abused women last Thursday had been able to vote for things that are good for women like them? Think of the women still dying without a vote.  

JH x