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 the loss of all 4 specialist refuges in Sunderland. They have confirmed they are delighted to accept as much money as I have raised and will continue to be in desperate need of funds. I hope to continue to help them.

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 fierce.....you 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.
































































































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

Monday, 22 May 2017

You can't beat a woman to death because she wants a man who won't.

I rode number 37 of the rides in #Ride4MurderedWomen for Natalie Hemming on Sunday.

I read about her before I set off. The details are horrific. All the details of all the women I ride for are horrific because at the end of their stories a man kills them. A man they knew. A man they knew better than any of us. The thought of what they endured before he did kill them is nearly as bad. For those of us who have our own memories - we know that she was dying a bit faster and harder every day she spent with him anyway.

Natalie Hemming's ex partner beat her to death in their living room. He beat her severely, causing a fractured skull and damage to her arm (consistent with defending herself) and then wrapped her in a blanket. During this one of her two children, her son, came down and peeped through the door because he had been woken up by the frenzied attack. He was afraid of what he saw, he thought he might have been in trouble. Natalie Hemming's ex-partner then dragged her naked body out and took it to a wood. He dragged her through the ground by her ankles and left her face down to be found by whoever came by.

He them returned home and took his children to the zoo the next day as though nothing had happened.

3 weeks later her body was found by a man doing some work on the wood.

It does not really matter "why" he killed her. He killed her because he was an abusive woman-hater and had been for many years. He was controlling and violent and bullying.

Yet, when I read the details there were details which bothered me. The details which are constantly thrown around male circles to justify abuse.

She was embarking on a relationship with another man. A colleague. It had begun as "flirtation" and "developed into something more" so she was planning to leave her violent, controlling, manipulative partner with whom she had endured a controlling and coercive relationship/hell on Earth. In her view they had already split up. In his head - she was his possession.

I realised yesterday, whilst believing absolutely none of it, that some men hearing this would secretly say..... "Ah. She was unfaithful. I can see where he was coming from." Or worse, the men who say, "If my wife cheated on me I'd kill her and then I'd kill him" or "He has every right to smack her about, she's a slag."

I could hear some women absorbing those time-established judgement from within themselves thinking..... "oh but... she was seeing another man behind his back. That's not really allowed. It was bound to make him angry."

Over the years many women have sought refuge from an abuser by entering a friendship or relationship with another man. At the time they have been utterly destroyed. In all kinds of ways. They are not used to seeking women to help them. They do not know about feminism or refuges or escape plans. They feel intrinsically that the way to escape one violent bully is to seek another man who may be able to protect them from him. Women who are used to relying on a man who makes them totally reliant only see the escape route in yet another man.

It makes sense no? This man is hurting me. Who can help me? Where will my escape route be? Ah. A better man. A stronger man. A different man.

When another man shows interest in them it may be the only kindness they have had from anyone in years. A man saying "your hair looks nice" is like a thousand diamonds strewn at your feet after a man who makes it his life's mission to make you feel ugly and worthless.

She will have heard.... "Who on Earth would look at you? The state of you! You've got fat. You're old. You're ugly. You'd never get a man like me again. " She has heard this a lot. Her esteem is ridiculously low. I have seen the loveliest women with personalities like sunshine and eyes like oceans convince themselves they are as unattractive as gravel. They get new clothes. He says they make her look like a tart. She cuts her hair... he likes it short. They grow their hair. He thinks they're letting themselves go and trying to act "like mutton dressed as lamb". They wear perfume to make themselves feel prettier. He says the smell turns his stomach. They cook nice meals straight out of the cookbook. He says it makes him sick. What a waste of his money. They try to share details of their lives. He says they bore him and he's tired because he doesn't have the easy life they do.

In their heads they fantasise escape routes. One where he dies. They live a better life. They win the lottery. They leave him and live a better life. Or they meet someone who offers to save them and take them away from all this.

They are terrified. A man can get them killed. They know the rules. And yet.... a word of kindness and a smile can break their pain for a day. A gesture of care can lift their eyes. A simple offer of basic help or a sharing of emotion can lead them onto a fantasy world where they are free. A text returned can be the rope that hangs them or leads to freedom. Women faced with unbearable choices make unbearable choices. The man they turn their face to for the sun may also be an abuser sniffing out their vulnerability. Or he may be a good man. He may genuinely think he can help. He may unwittingly place her in danger.

She will cling to him. What trapped prisoner would not want the man with the key to their prison to befriend them? We women have grown up with fairy tales. We do not always realise that other women have the key too. That we have the key in ourselves. We are too weakened and beaten and lost.

If Natalie Hemming clung to a man... and I don't know if he was a good man... or if he was a man who would not have saved her.... I don't care the judgement about "adultery". You cannot commit adultery or be unfaithful in a relationship where you are already deceived. Abuse is deceit. It is one man convincing you he loves you whilst he steals your soul. You owe that man nothing. None of us do.

She may also have heard the words that Natalie Hemming did. "If I can't have you no one can." He was right. No one ever did again. Including her children and her friends and her parents. Never judge a woman for her escape route. Her escape route is the thing that she needs to stay with us in this world.

Let's keep women in this world.

JH x




Monday, 15 May 2017

Dear Tommy Robinson - Open Letter

Over the last few days I have been the target of a number of your "supporters". They are very keen to tell me how little I care for women rape complainants. Apparently you have suddenly become the saviour of said rape complainants. I therefore need to address this. Mainly because your concern, and theirs, seems woefully and transparently inauthentic in its intent.

Might I ask what statistics you are aware of regarding rape? Are you aware that the conviction rate for rape generally is so terrifyingly low that women spend years of their lives campaigning to improve it. Some women, like Jill Saward, died trying. The statistic hovers around 7% but with adjustments can be as low as 3%. The HMIC report of November 2014 ( Crime Recording - Making The Victim Count) states that 3.1% of reported crime is deemed "no crime" but for rape that statistic rises to 7.3% and the total for all crimes of sexual violence is 26%. I'll repeat, 26% of crimes where - and it is predominantly male on female crime - the result is that police don't proceed to court. You know this surely? No? Just this one case that you thought was valid? Because this kind of injustice happens to a lot of women. Roughly 76,000 of them per year achieve no justice at all.

Whilst I have massive sympathy for Chelsey - and should she seek feminist support it will be here in bucket loads and more - then it is important to see this as a systemic failure of women as a sex class.

In fact it can be seen as a male crime of violence which is routinely overlooked. Of course if you factor in the statistic that only 16,000 rapes out of 78,000 are actually reported to police and that only 1500 of them approximately proceed to conviction then .... you can sort of see why feminists get angry.

We even name the problem. We name it men. That includes men of all races, religions, immigration status and umm.... political motivation. There will be men among your own ranks who have raped women I don't doubt. There will be men among your own ranks who are keen to make it "othered" as a crime - (See Jock Young - The Vertigo of Late Modernity - 2007 ....it would be invaluable to you on the concept of "othering"). However... it is dangerous to women and girls to do this. Yes, grooming gangs are a problem. Yes, there have been horrific institutional failures at every level from police to government and the judiciary, and yes... we must hold them to account. We cannot do this proceeding on the basis that only immigrant men or muslim men are to blame or that only white women are victim/survivors. This is narrow, naive and foolish. Or racist. Shall we stick to narrow, naive and foolish? Because as soon as you point a torch on a very small percentage of those 78,000 rapist men, as you are doing, then that allows a massive amount of men (including those white British men in gangs, or as individuals, who groom)  to slink off into the shadows quietly and continue their evil.

In the interest of sharing expertise which I don't think you currently have I will link the HMIC research document here.

https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmic/wp-content/uploads/crime-recording-making-the-victim-count.pdf

That was my way, not too subtly of saying that you are a little under-informed and have wandered into an arena with a grudge against a specific section of the community and actually you don't have the correct weapons or the correct target.

Systemic injustice for women subject to sexual violence is not new. Resistance to it is not new. Local government collusion and police corruption in this area is not new. Neither is the opposition to it.  Infact.... nothing you are doing is new. The only supposedly novel angle is "muslim grooming gangs" and this is not new either. Andrew Norfolk highlighted the atrocities many of us knew were occurring in Rotherham years ago. This led to a major government inquiry in the form of the Alexis Jay report. This led to a greater awareness among the public and following investigations and revelations. I was alerting anyone who would listen to me about the dangers of the negligence of former Police Commissioner Shaun Wright many years ago. As were many other feminists. Feminist organisations have picked up the pieces of those atrocious crimes. For years. They are still doing so.

Marching through streets shouting about muslim men does not put women back together after the trauma of rape. You will find that it is feminist women who do that. You will find that it is women who fight for funding. It is women who give their time voluntarily to helplines which are often the first point of contact when a woman has been raped. You will find that it is a feminist organisation that is campaigning to educate juries on rape mythology to ensure better justice for women.

Rape Crisis funding has been, and continues to be, slashed under government austerity measures. More specialist sexual violence trauma units are desperately needed in hospitals. Juries are woefully under-informed/misinformed by judges. The entire law around past sexual history and Section 41 of the Youth and Criminal Justice Act needs reform so that no such devastatingly painful and questionable testimony is allowed to deliver such a terrible lack of justice as that for the complainant in R v Evans occurs again. Women need fair access to justice from first point of entry into the criminal justice system which begins with the police. You might be surprised to know that feminists push for this all the time. Rape Crisis England and Wales. EVAW, and many, many, many other women are keen to see improvements. Funnily enough, despite the recent incoming Twitter attacks I have seen relatively little declaration amongst your political affiliates that they will fight for justice for all raped women?

And yet, here we are. Standing accused of inaction by men. I would laugh at the ridiculous lack of awareness - but it seems more sensible to politely point out the staggering arrogance and comic delusion in such attacks.


You will find that, contrary to the accusations your followers level at me, I am more than willing to name those responsible for the failures on muslim grooming gangs in Rotherham. The last time I properly wrote on it was in 2016. Here.

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6370704414807518712#editor/target=post;postID=5473051222306346921;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=44;src=postname

It was not just the predominantly pakistani heritage males who were to blame. It was also powerful white men and a woman, who have all conveniently evaded any accountability. The Pakistani heritage community in Rotherham are mostly just as angry about the lack of justice and accountability as anyone else. They are the majority. The male perpetrators are a minority.

I raised £27,000 ( a tiny amount I admit) last year to support rape victims and complainants. I'm still proud of that. It will help to support women of all religious, racial and political backgrounds. Because there is not a designated rape demographic. Other than - predominantly female victim and entirely male perpetrator. Are you aware that Rape Crises England and Wales statistics for 2015/2016 revealed that 27% of service users were from black or ethnic minority backgrounds. This is a rising figure. up from 23% in 2014. I am aware that male on male rape occurs. Are you? Do you know those statistics. Do you know how male violence sweeps through lives? Do you not think that perhaps challenging a culture where men raise other men to see females as sexual objects is problematic? Do you watch porn for example? I would like you to think about where the attitudes to seeing women as disposable humans for sexual gratification comes from? If you watch porn - you collude. Women are raped on camera in that porn. Men take that message into real space and enact it upon women. The sex men watch is violent. Rape is a common scenario.  I'll ask again... do you watch rape on screen routinely? Do you think it is "ok because she likes it"?

So, back to Chelsey Wright. I think this poor woman may have been treated appallingly by men. I think those men have subjected her to sexually violent atrocities and I think it does look as though the criminal justice system is failing/has failed her. Unfortunately I have little knowledge of her case as I do not accept Rebel Media as a trustworthy or truth-validated news source. I have been waiting for more credible information.

I am keen to distance myself from you and your band of followers. Most feminists will do that. We see that you are using a young woman, who appears to have been exploited in the most vile of ways, for a politically motivated agenda. What feminists will do if Chelsey approaches us is take care of her. We would offer her signposting to specialist services and we would demand justice if a lack of justice is shown to be the case.

Crucially, male sexual violence against women and girls is not an issue we can confine to one victim or a small group of perpetrators. The problem is much more extensive than that. If you really want to help Chelsey you will hope that she picks up the phone that will link her to women with specialist counselling knowledge. I don't have it by the way. I am not a trained Rape Crisis counsellor. Largely, I'm just a gobshite like you. Just more adequately informed.

You can thank me for the information. Just don't do it in person.

Kind regards,

Jean Hatchet.