Walk A Mile in Their Shoes.

In the wake of the Rolf Harris guilty verdict and sentencing, sexual abuse has been on the lips of many people.

Last week I happened to be privy to one such conversation, in which Oscar Pistorius, Ariel Castro and Harris were discussed. Pistorius was rightfully condemned but, as will happen when you’re in the company of much of the general public who take our patriarchal rape culture as gospel, these amateur sleuths discovered holes in the cases of Castro and Harris.

Because Harris wasn’t preying on children, but almost-of-age women, these people questioned the veracity of his victims’ stories. And the fact that another woman came forward with allegations against the former children’s entertainer after the verdict made them wonder why she would even bother or why she didn’t press charges.

Mia Freedman wrote last week of her encounter as a child with Harris, and how he tried to chat up her uninterested mother. She asserted that dirty old men have been rudely awakened in this day and age when what used to be excused as “touchy-feely” is now considered sexual assault.

The conversation then turned to Ariel Castro and his 11-year imprisonment of Michelle Knight (now known as Lily Rose Lee), Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. In addition to getting the facts of the case wrong (one person claimed the victims were all about 12 or 13 years old when they were kidnapped; in fact, DeJesus was the youngest at 14 years old, Berry was 17 and Lee was 21), victim-blaming was rife. They wondered why, if the victims were allowed free reign in the house and had been permitted outside (I don’t recall hearing or reading about this, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen), they didn’t just leave. From my understanding, Berry and DeJesus were given more freedom than Lee, who bore the brunt of Castro’s beatings, rape and torture. Plus, Berry had a child to Castro she would need to consider before attempting to escape. This is not to mention Stockholm Syndrome.

Someone wondered why the three women, upon rescue, seemed so normal; years of captivity would drive a person crazy, it was asserted. Firstly, I don’t believe the women seemed “normal” at all; we’ve hardly heard from DeJesus and Lee has been the most vocal about her abuse but it’s clear how affected she is by it. Secondly, when I interjected to say the women weren’t exactly children, so therefore had mental faculties that would serve them better in their fight-or-flight predicament, and that they had each other to lean on in the dire situation they found themselves in, I was shut down. Perhaps it was because I’ve heard this person say numerous times they hate to be alone and thrive in the company of others so couldn’t fathom only being in contact with three other people for 11 years, but the human body and mind have ways of adapting to such circumstances. Lee, Berry and DeJesus are a testament to that.

From here the conversation turned to domestic violence victims and, as we oft hear, “why they just don’t leave” and that “there would have to be some evidence of years of abuse” when victims are pushed to the brink and end up murdering their abusers. By this point I was livid and held myself back from saying what I am about to type lest I damage my at-arms-length but daily relationship with these people: intimate partner violence doesn’t just happen out of the blue. It’s not like one day your loving, equal partner snaps and hits you and that’s it: you leave them (although I’m sure there are a small amount of cases like this, the vast majority of abusers have a pattern of behaviour prior that results in violence).

While I’ve never been in an abusive relationship myself, I watched my parents engage in one for 22 years—a relationship that became violent long before that.

Abusers isolate their partner from their support system, severing contact with family, friends and the workplace, and thereby finances of their own, so that when the violence begins the victims have nowhere to turn. My mum was a stay-at-home parent and engaged in several small businesses with my father so she was completely financially dependent on him. My dad would even work three jobs while my mum stayed home which I’ve only just deduced was probably his attempt to keep her as his dependent. I watched my mothers’ friends and family come and go, oftentimes due to altercations about my father. She told barely anyone and never went to the cops or the emergency room; there was no point if she couldn’t leave. I think I remember Mum telling me once that her mother-in-law tended to her cut face and neck after my father glassed her. He abused her whilst she was pregnant with me, and I can count at least ten other times I witnessed violence before the age of 12.  Around that time it stopped, but that was when the years-long break-up, make-up back-and-forth began and didn’t end until I was 22 and my father finally moved out of the familial home. My sister and I followed soon after.

I blamed my mother a lot for “not just leaving”, as the abovementioned gaggle of armchair commentators would say, and I still harbour resentment towards her for exposing her children to a violent relationship. But as I’m exposed to more and more women’s stories of violence, I come to understand my mother’s circumstances more and more. I only hope that as these cases continue to come to light, the ignorant among us can become just a touch more enlightened about other people’s lives.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Mia: “I Met Rolf Harris When I Was About 8 or 9.”

2013: A Bad Year for Women.

Not to discount Wendy Davis’ reproductive rights filibuster in Texas, abortion drug RU486 being added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and feminism trending worldwide thanks to Beyone, Miley et al. clamoring to claim the movement for themselves, 2013 was a very bad year for women. But what year isn’t, really?

On Valentine’s Day in South Africa, Paralympian Oscar Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp dead, claiming he thought she was an intruder. Abusive relationship whispers abounded, but all the media could talk about was that Steenkamp was a hot, blonde model, and many news stories didn’t even bother to mention her name.

While Melbourne woman (by way of Ireland) Jill Meagher was brutally raped and murdered in 2012, the trial of her killer, Adrian Bayley, dominated the Aussie news this year. It was revealed that Meagher was the latest in a long line of rapes and abductions spanning a twenty-year period due to the failure of the parole system. Bayley was sentenced in June to 35 years in prison.

Many of Bayley’s rapes were targeted at St. Kilda sex workers, which brings us to the murder of Tracy Connelly in her van on 21st July which made news in the wake of Bayley’s sentencing. Melbourne writer Wendy Squires furthered Connelly’s story by writing about the woman she never knew by name, but with whom she became friendly as she passed her in her neighbourhood most days.

In the mid-year political uprising in Egypt, up to 43 women were sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square, but they’re just collateral damage when the larger issue of political freedom is at stake, am I right? And while the brutal Dehli gang rape and bashing of an Indian student and her male friend which resulted in the student’s death from internal injuries happened late last year, 2013 has been rife with other sexual assaults. (It’s important to note that these are just the rapes that have been publicised and picked up by the Western media. Countless rapes have been and are continuing to be committed that we just don’t hear about.) Most recently, a 15-year-old Indian girl committed suicide after being gang raped six months ago.

The U.S. has seen a spate of woman-hating crimes come to light this year, too. In May, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Berry’s six-year-old daughter were rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio after being held captive by Ariel Castro for up to ten years. At trial in August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus and addition 1,000 years. One month later, Castro was found dead in his cell.

The football town of Steubenville, also in Ohio, made worldwide headlines for the rape and kidnapping of an unconscious teen by members of the town’s high school football team. The teenaged victim, whose identity is protected, was transported from party to party whilst she was unconscious (resulting in later-dropped kidnapping charges, in addition to rape and child pornography charges), had photos taken of her and shared on social media, and had her case picked up by vigilante hacking group, Anonymous, which forced the authorities to take the case seriously. The teenaged perpetrators, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, were given the minimum sentences of one and two years, respectively, in juvenile detention while investigations have been launched into the role school officials played in covering up the case.

In another -Ville—Maryville, Missouri—two teenaged girls were raped by boys on their school’s football team… Sound familiar? One of the victims was left passed out on her porch in minus temperatures, has attempted suicide and allegedly had her house burned down as a threat. The case was dropped due to “insufficient evidence” but has recently been reopened as a result of public pressure.

Back at home, the deaths of two young girls and the abuse they suffered their whole lives at the hands of their parents were in the news. Kiesha Weippeart’s mother, Kristi Abrahams, was sentenced to up to 22-and-a-half years in prison in July for the murder of her daughter in 2010. Her partner, Robert Smith, was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years for being an accessory to the crime. It’s no excuse for the brutal murder of a six-year-old, but this Good Weekend article is a harrowing account of the cycle of abuse in the Abrahams family that Kiesha was a victim of. Also making headlines was the sentencing for the murder of toddler Tanilla Warrick-Deaves. Donna Deaves had earlier in the year been sentenced to 12 years in prison for doing nothing to save her daughter from the fatal beating inflicted on Tanilla by her partner, Warren Ross. Ross was found guilty of Tanilla’s murder on 5th December.

But probably the two take away moments of misogyny in 2013 are Robin Thicke, who has been named sexist of the year, for his rape anthem, “Blurred Lines”, and its accompanying god awful video, and the ousting of Julia Gillard from the prime ministership. Now, before all the MRAs get up me for deigning to insinuate that a poor leader shouldn’t stay in that role because she’s a woman, I’m not talking about just her ousting. It was everything leading up to that: the “Ditch the Witch” and “Bob Brown’s Bitch” placards; the sexist menu in which Gillard’s body parts were likened to meat; Alan Jones’ comments; the questions about her partner’s sexuality; the misogyny speech… Hell, Anne Summers didn’t write a book about it for nothing! I don’t necessarily agree with all of her sentiments, and she did make some bad decisions in parliament, but when we look back at Gillard’s time as the first female Prime Minister of Australia, there has been at least one positive development to come out of it: Gillard is now a feminist hero!

What have been some of the worst moments for women in 2013 that I haven’t included here? I would love to get your thoughts in the comments.

Related: The Misogyny Factor by Anne Summers Review.

Anne Summers in Conversation with Julia Gillard.

Elsewhere: [The Age] An Innocent Woman Slain. Where’s the Public Outcry?

[Sydney Morning Herald] Duty of Care: What Happened to Kiesha?

[The Guardian] Robin Thicke Named Sexist of the Year.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

zooey deschanel tuxedo manicure

On the anti-women nail polish name trend. [xoVain]

In the vein of Chris Brown apologists, collectively known as #TeamBreezy, Oscar Pistorius now has his own legion of defenders, #Pistorians. [Vice]

Why do Teen Moms keep becoming Teen Moms? [Jezebel]

Being anti-sports in Australian culture. [Daily Life]

The problem with using the “What if it was your daughter/sister/wife” rape analogy:

“The Steubenville rape victim was certainly someone’s daughter. She may have been someone’s sister. Someday she might even be someone’s wife. But these are not the reasons why raping her was wrong. This rape, and any rape, was wrong because women are people. Women are people, rape is wrong, and no one should ever be raped. End of story.” [The Belle Jar]

Spoilers and pleasure, or rather, lack thereof. [The Atlantic]

Image via Beauty School Dropouts.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

original

Are Princess Diana and Rihanna one in the same? Camille Paglia misguidedly seems to think so. [The Sunday Times]

Clementine Ford interviews Anne Summers as part of Daily Life‘s first birthday celebrations. Brilliant!

The face of porn (SFW). [Jon Millward]

Speaking of porn, is James Deen harmful to his young female fans? [Daily Life]

Lena Dunham isn’t “brave”. [Vulture]

How many models of colour walked in New York Fashion Week? Not many. [Jezebel]

Why have so many “contestants” on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew died? [Jezebel]

Downton Abbey VS. Girls. [Daily Beast]

Why do we flinch when a woman says she’s beautiful? [Daily Life]

“Is There Such a Thing as ‘Asian Privilege’?” [Daily Life]

Stop the presses: Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus debunked. [The Age]

Reporting Reeva  Steenkamp’s murder at the hands of her Paralympian partner, Oscar Pistorius. [News with Nipples]

“In Defence of Diablo Cody.” [Female Gaze Review]

Kurt Cobain: feminist? [Daily Life]

In the vein of Nice Guys of OKCupid comes the racist guys of OKCupid: Creepy White Guys.

Image via Jezebel.