Thursday, 24 March 2016

You cannot keep your heroes. Let go of Ched Evans and Adam Johnson.

Football drives men to do crazy things. Like cry at the world cup.

Or support rapists. Or support child abusers.

Lots of people have been somewhere between bemused and horrified at the amount of people supporting both Ched Evans and Adam Johnson this week.

The first was convicted of rape. The second was convicted of child sexual abuse.

They both play football.

That is where *some* football fans and sensible morals part company. The kind of men who would possibly beat up a man in the street that they thought was a "nonce" will happily begin bartering the correct age that a girl can "really" count as a child who has been abused. They offer numbers. 2, 4. 6, 8. Or find it funny that a footballer cannot put his penis in a girl without asking her. Or joke about what the footballer has done to the child or the woman. They deny that the woman was human. She is just a "slag" or a "whore". Words that dehumanise and other them.

Football is small. No really boys. It is. You've been sold a lie. You do not need it to exist. Your world is really small and not everyone shares it. Or wants to. Many men and women manage to keep breathing and working and laughing and living without it. They do not need it to form their sense of identity. They do not need it to bond normally with other people. They do not need to face towards it in a pub at all times. Or in their living rooms on giant screens. They read books. Cycle. Walk. Talk to each other. They go to different cities for pure shits and giggles. They don't need a shirt to feel close to other people. They wear all sorts of crazy shirts that simply clothe their bodies from the elements. It is ok to like football too though. It is brilliant if you enjoy the whole experience of watching that sport. I just wish that men, in particular, could love the sport and also love and respect women. Some men manage this perfectly well. Learn from them. Those men instantly turned from Evans and Johnson. They keep their moral core and their love of a goal.

I used to enjoy football. I used to attend football matches. I grew up with football talk in the house at all times and had a bedroom in sniffing distance of a ground. I know the offside rule and could spot it from the back of a crowded pub with half a clear view. I have been to matches in other countries to see how they do it. I knew the names of lots of players just like you men do.

I don't like football any more. I could no longer go to a game. The last 2 years has killed football for me.

Here is why.

The abuse that I have seen levelled at rape victims and those who support them has done more than just sicken me. It has made me immune to abuse. People are constantly asking "Why though? Why are they supporting a rapist? Why are they supporting a child abuser? I don't understand!"

They are questioning why men like this, think like this...

Or this boy who felt no need to ask for consent to have sex with a woman....

Or the one with a very poor grasp of biology....

Or this one that just wanted me raped and well.......any woman who drinks deserves to be raped he thinks....

I'm guessing that normally you can pass these men at work, or at the bus stop or in the supermarket and they will smile at you. They may have smiled at me. If anyone touched their wife or girlfriend or sister they would be the first to ball up fists and threaten to bring back hanging single-handedly. They know that rape is a heinous crime. Normally. They know that grooming children for sex is wrong. Normally. They know that screaming rape and death threats at women they don't know is wrong. Normally. Just not now. Not when "our boy" is involved. Or the success of "our team" is at stake.

The thought that their hero may be a villain is too hard to contemplate as they must then shift their loyalty. When a family rapist is uncovered, that can be hard for a family to accept.  The football family seems to be worse. The thought that he is not different to any other rapist just because he is part of their football "family" is too much to bear. Football and the players of their chosen team are like a drug they need. They cannot let it go. I wonder. If that footballer asked "May I rape your bird?" would they say yes, no, punch him or call the police? I'd like to say I know. But I don't. Have they got specific women in mind that it is ok for footballers to do this to? Are they different to their women? I've asked this before.

You cannot keep your heroes just because they are your heroes. Manhattan is one of my all-time favourite movies. Woody Allen was one of my favourite directors. I will never watch a movie of his again. He is a child abuser.

Step away from these criminal footballers. They are no longer your heroes. They have let you down too. There will be other footballers for you.  Your heroes were false. Get new ones.

You only get the women in your life once. Look out for all women. Those women are real. Protect them from villains like your fallen heroes.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Dear women...

This week is going to be tough for some of you. I will keep this brief.

Adam Johnson goes to court for sentencing on Thursday. The judge has the ability to sentence him for up to ten years. I hope he gets all of them. He could get much less. The message will be dangerous if he does. It will leave many of you angry and upset.

Ched Evans goes to the appeal court to present new evidence. It could see his conviction for rape quashed or upheld. The result could leave many of you angry and upset.

I am not going into the details of either of these cases. My feelings on both have been expressed already.

I just wanted to pass a message of solidarity to you and all victims of rape and sexual assault.

There will be some terrible things said on social media over the next few days. There will be cruel and deluded victim-blaming at best and rape/death threats at worst. Most of these things will be said by men. Most of these things will be said by men who want to hurt women and want courts to tell them it is ok when they do. Many of those men will be young and that saddens me more than anything. The feminist action and opinion in both of these cases has never been about just those two footballers but about consent, rape, child abuse and attitudes towards sexual violence and feminist attempts to change those attitudes.

But I don't care about any of those men. I care about victims. I care about you.

I just wanted to send you all a great big feminist fist in the air.

My love to you all.

JH x

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Let's Save #Annie'sHouse - Part 2.

[This contains descriptions of domestic and sexual violence. I don't apologise for that. The men who commit those acts should. ]

Annie is going to lose her house later this year. She has to give her ex husband a share he was awarded ten years ago by a court after he disguised his finances and wealth. He has contributed nothing to its mortgage or upkeep for the past ten years and his other financial contributions to the children have been patchy. She works 2-3 low-paid jobs and she is skint. With three children to support, money does not go far. Over the past week a lot of you have pledged support for action to help her and I can't thank you enough. Annie does not want any money. She just wants to keep the house she has worked and paid for because she loves it and it keeps her sane in a world where men have tried to drive her mad.

Annie came to see me last night. She arrived late and shaken. I'll tell you why shortly, but first she would like me to pass on her thanks. She cried as she read some of your comments on Twitter and was overwhelmed that anyone cares about her situation.

The important thing to say is that this is not just about Annie. Other women have said in the last week  or so that they are in the same situation. Divorce from abusers frequently leaves women at an economic disadvantage at best and destitute at worst. This is assuming that they are not dead, because of course, the worst thing that happens to women that leave violent men is that those men kill them.

Robert is a well-respected *businessman* in Annie's home City. He doesn't formally present as one as that would mean he had to pay Annie money for the children. He hides the wealth behind a partner. Men who abuse women can be both successful and well-liked. They can often have positions of power and influence. It makes their abuse so easy.

I'm going to pass you over to the words of Annie as best I can.... I'm not wonderful at transcription. This is as accurate as I can make it.

She is talking about how she first began to let Robert into her life. Annie had escaped a first violent partner a couple of years previously. That man had beaten and abused her and finally sexually abused her with a beer bottle in a drug-induced fury. She had a small child, Nicky, and he was the father.  In the following days she put Nicky under her arm and she ran. She never went back. She left everything she owned behind. She lived. I think of her running and I think of her elation at escaping and she felt such optimism and joy and freedom. Then along came Robert.

"I kept Robert away from Nicky for a long time. It was probably a mistake. I recall an incident when we had been going out for a while. We left my flat, we hadn't bought the house yet, and we were driving out into the countryside and we had forgotten Nicky's football. He was 5. Robert turned around in the car, he's a terrible driver. You know that thing where if you said anything ... he'd like grip my arm... that was already happening...and he turned around and he was just so vile to Nicky.

I think we must've bought the house or been in the process of buying it actually, well he'd bought this house, because my name was never on it for years and years and I didn't even know that I didn't own anything, even though I was paying bills here and all sorts of things. He never contributed to Nicky or anything.

Anyway he turned round in the car and was so vile to Nicky and just screamed at him.. "STOP! STOPPIT!" and then "ACT YOUR AGE! GROW UP AND ACT YOUR AGE!" and he was 5 years old. He was 5! You see it came that be to get to me he would get to Nicky. It had already started and I didn't even see it. I was not supposed to spend time with Nicky. So if Nicky had an activity, there was sulking and there was stomping and banging about. You know where your body kind of tenses up and you're frightened? So I'd be thinking I'm not really allowed to do these things with my child. This obviously started before we were married but I didn't see it.

I can't remember lots of it but you know what happened. We got married. We went on our honeymoon. Which was very nice but it was "why were you talking to him?!" and I had those kind of questions while we were away and there was a guy that took us out on a tour one day and so I had to have a conversation with him but I was questioned and had to defend myself with "well... I was only talking about the fish " and that kind of thing.

Then the weekend after we got back and it was Friday night and the girls were going out and I went upstairs and got ready. At that time I was working full time and some days 7am to 7pm and so Friday night was always really important to me and I always went out with my friends. I thought I was happy. I was married and I was happy. I loved the new house. It was a shit tip but I loved it! I came down stairs and he was "are we going out?' So I was like.... "well... no... it's Friday night...girls night..I always go out with the girls on Friday". He looked me up and down like I was some piece of shit off the street and he said "I don't think so. You're married now." I went cold. I went cold all over. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. Because I'd already had a really violent and abusive relationship I just felt sick. I felt like I had to stand my ground. Then I worried .... I feel sick just talking about it... but I felt a chill go down my spine. I did go out. I paid for it that weekend. He didn't speak to me He was aggressive and bullish and it was all my fault. He was intimidating. I pleaded with him and tried to get him to see my side. That it was normal to go out with my friends. I apologised and pleaded. I told him I was happy and wasn't going out to meet any other men. But he was a champion of using silence to punish me. So when I suggested me taking Nicky out for a bike ride he didn't want me to go without him. So we all went and when he was taking the bike down from the car he was swearing and he swung round and hit me in the shin with it on purpose. I took it. I tried not to show pain. Then we came to a gate and he decided to put it over the top for some reason. I said I would grab it at the other side. He then threw the bike at me. From above. He didn't say anything or apologise and people were looking at me crying. I felt so stupid. He barged me out of the way. That was it really. That was the start of it. "

Annie stopped at this point. She is determined to tell you her story and she is extremely brave but she finds remembering all this very difficult and can only do it in chunks. She has had nightmares about both partners for many years. She doesn't identify as a feminist. She has had therapy. She doesn't feel that it really helped and she feels that she will always suffer trauma as a result of Robert whether she receives help or not. I do of course signpost her to Women's Aid and others who can support her. She seems to find the best support is her friends. I've changed names and she is safe from him.

She had arrived late as her two younger children had been upset because of manipulative texts from her ex Robert to them. He has tried to come between them by asking for their support in taking his share of Annie's house. He won't consider, as they ask him to, that it is their house too and that they love it. Annie is determined that she will hold together herself, the house and her children.

As her story unfolds I'm hoping we can use her experience... firstly to raise issues around financial abuse... but also to try to show how the law needs to change around divorce and finances when abuse is involved. Abusive men should not be allowed to continue to abuse women after divorce through finances. This is frequently the case.

You can find the first post in the series "Let's Save Annie's House - Part 1" here

Love to all you women. Please use the hashtag #SaveAnniesHouse if you share this.

JH x

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Let's save #Annie'sHouse - Part One.

With your support I am going to begin tracking what happens to a woman who has contacted me recently with her story of domestic violence. I will post regular updates and Annie's background story.

She is safe. You should know that. She is many years free of his physical violence. She is not free of the following economic violence which is so common in abusive situations where women survive and escape.

We DO NOT need to give Annie money. We DO NOT need to support her financially. I will ask only for your support in a campaign where we make an example of this man and this piece of divorce law which harms women.

We do need to try to make sure that the man who abused her is not allowed to take her house. The house she has raised his children in. The house where she and the children still live. The house she loves like a fourth child. The house that gives her peace. The house that bends and shakes with love and laughter when once it bent and shook with his violence. The house where she put herself back together after he broke her.

Annie is a brave and beautiful woman. She needs our help. She wants to set an example to abusers like hers everywhere.

Annie has asked for my help. Annie is not her real name. She wants you to know her story and she wants to keep her house. It isn't a lot that Annie wants. Annie has very little in life and keeping herself and her kids clothed and fed is a struggle but she has clung to the roof over her head. The man who abused her wants to take the thing that keeps her alive. I will not let him take it from her if there is a breath left in my body to stop it.

Are you with me women?

JH x

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Ched Evans and "No".

Yesterday it was announced that the rapist Chedwyn Evans would have his case heard by the Court Of Appeal on the 22nd March.

Ched Evans was convicted of raping a woman on 20th April 2012. He is, at present, still a rapist and serving his sentence on license.

Men who rape women would like not to be caught. Men who rape women and are caught would like not to be convicted. Men who rape women and are convicted and sentenced would like to be set free. Men who rape women and are set free would like never to have been caught and convicted and sentenced and would like to go back to a life before they raped a woman and their life was spoiled.

The key thing here that would make those men happy?

If the woman had just said "yes".

Or if she hadn't said "no".

Lots of them believe she did say "yes". Or that she flirted, winked, fell over a pizza box, groaned, moaned, implied by sipping a vodka that she meant, "Yes. Put your penis in me. That is a thing I want."

Unfortunately, for the men, and of course for the women, (remember them... they are the ones with the vagina that the penis goes inside... that is the inside of their bodies.... through one of the entrances to their bodies.... THEIR bodies...) this often did not happen.

Ched Evans does not like "no". He likes "yes". When he was convicted in 2012 he appealed. A judge said "No." Ched did not like that and he has continued the ordeal of his victim in pursuit of "yes".

He wants the Court Of Appeal to give him a "yes".

For a lot of rape victims they know it is totally pointless to go to any court. Or the police. Or even to tell anyone at all. They are well aware that when they said, "no" they were not listened to. When they said, "stop" they were not listened to. When the man heard, "yes" they were saying, "no". 78,000 men a year did not get a "yes". They got a "no" either directly or by the absence of "yes".

Only around 7% of women who said "no" to a man who put their penis inside them without their consent are ever told by a judge and jury that they had the right to say "no". That is a woefully small amount of justice given to women. That is a frightening amount of men who do not care what a woman says when they want to put their penis inside her.

A lot of men are back on social media already screaming obscenities at women who support the right for all women to guard the entrance to their own body. The right to say "no". There are a body of men who do not like women who say "no". They would like it very much if women didn't need to say "yes".

So, Ched Evans takes us all to court with him. Again. We are all waiting for a Court Of Appeal to say "yes" or "no" on behalf of a raped woman.

Wouldn't it really be better if any man understood that a woman has the right to say "no" and if they do not or cannot then the answer to the often unasked question is not "yes"?

To the men who ask me if I will say "sorry" if Ched gets his longed for "yes"... I say this.....

I am sorry that so many women are so afraid of how the UK justice system will treat them if they have said "no" to a man that they do not even ask for help.  I am sorry that if those women do ask for justice they frequently do not get it. I am sorry that if those women do obtain justice after a lengthy ordeal then a court can still take away that justice if a man still cannot understand that if he doesn't get a "no" then he hasn't automatically got a "yes".

I will always be sorry for women who are raped.

Love to the sisters at this horrible time,

JH x