A ranty, funny, dead-serious intersectional feminist blog.

Posts tagged “Violence against women

Not All Men, But These Ones

SAYNOTALLMENAGAIN

Trigger Warning for the many ways we experience violence at the hands of (not all) men, including CSA, SA, rape, VAWG.

I saw a quote a while back that hit home for me. I can’t find it now, but it went something like this:

The issue is not that all men are violent. The issue is that nearly all women have experienced violence at the hands of men.

The sad but true fact is that while not all men are violent, men do commit violence against women and non-binary people (and other men—in fact, according to the FBI, most violent crimes are committed by men).

I have told parts of my story before here and there. And I suspect that I will do so again. In this case, I’m reprising my tale now in order to join others who have shared their litanies of violence as a counter to the superfluous yet oh-so-ubiquitous cries of “not all men.” Because FFS, dudes. Enough already.

derail“Not all men” is a derailing tactic and serves literally no other purpose than to focus attention away from male violence and center it on the man decrying the unfairness of it all.

When people who are not men say “men do this,” we’re reporting that our experience is that enough men do this that it stands out that men do this. The fact that men do this contributes to an overall feeling of oppression. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate patriarchy. Men do engage in behaviors that perpetuate sexism and misogyny. Men do these things without even thinking about them because the men who came before them did it and because too often no one does so much as turn away in disapproval when it happens.

Not all men did these things to me, but these men did.

The man who sucked my tongue, fondled my genitals, and taught me to give him a blow job when I was three.

The man who was my uncle by marriage and came in my mouth when I was six, then spent hours trying to get into my underwear as we camped out in the yard.

The man who fondled my nipples when I was seven or eight during a nighttime hide-and-go-seek game at my cousin’s house.

The man who flexed his exposed erection at me and my friend when we were 9 via the leg of his shorts.

The man—a trusted family friend—who gave me music lessons when I was 9 and performed oral sex on me while my parents weren’t home.

The man who used a finger cot to make his penis small enough to fit inside me when I was 10. Who also gave me a cigar tube to practice with at home.

The man who pulled his truck over as I walked down the street, opened his door, stepped out naked and masturbated while staring at me.

The 14-year-old boy who violently raped me when I was 12 and smoking weed with him in a fort behind my neighbor’s house.

The man who had sex with me in his van knowing that I was a 12-year-old rape victim (but probably not really believing that second part).

The boys and men who repeatedly “pantsed” me over my loud objections and ridiculed me when I was angry.

The two men who took turns raping me while I was passed out drunk at my first kegger when I was 14.

The many, many men—adults—who gave me alcohol and drugs and got their rocks off on me when I was a troubled teen.

The man who exposed his genitals to me in a grocery store parking lot when I was 16.

The man who spent a drunken night trying to coerce me into sleeping with him when I was 16.

The man who raped me when I was 16 because I said no after a night of partying with him and his friend.

The man who attempted to grab me on a dark street as I rode my bike to a friend’s house, 16 and pregnant, and only stopped because I scared him with my primal and guttural GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME.

The man who beat the shit out of me in front of my 2-year-old for leaving a party when I was 18.

The man who decided that the fact that I was unconscious on his sofa meant he could go ahead and rape me.

The man who thought because we were friends and had been sexual in the past, it was ok to straddle my drunken body and ejaculate on my chest after I said no to sex.

The many men who have wished me harm here on my blog and on social media.

How many men is enough? How many men must commit violence upon my person before it’s ok if I just say “men did this”?

Men did these things. Not all men. But enough of them that this list is not even complete. Men did these things. And every time some dude Kool-Aid-Mans into a thread where people who are not men discuss male violence to declare that not all men did these things, the only thing he makes clear is that he is utterly ignorant and unwilling to listen to people who are not just like him.

Not all men. Just dozens of men in my case. Hundreds if you count my circle of friends and relatives. Thousands if you count their friends and the people they love.

And that’s enough.


PSA: Abusive commenters will be deleted and banned, so kindly piss off in advance. (Comment Policy)


Related on MMAS:

 


I’m Not as Strong as You Think I Am

rosie

(art by Norman Rockwell)

Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m a persona.

(Hi, Rosie!)

I exist to protect the person who hides behind me. I allow her to say things she has trouble saying with her real mouth, but I am her True Voice. Through me, the person who writes this blog has found a way to talk about her life and what it’s like to be a woman in what is still very much a man’s world in so many ways.

I can be a bit rough around the edges. Ranty, sweary, short-of-temper, unlikely to take crap. She’s like that too, but my knob is tuned way higher than hers. And I think that sometimes people make the mistake of thinking that the fact that she and I have strong opinions about things and fight for what we believe in means we’re super tough and impervious to harm. I think sometimes people have the impression we’re so sure of ourselves—this real-life-person and I, her avatar—so confident and secure, that words, judgment, implications that we are what’s wrong with feminism, that we see problems where none exist, that we’re too angry and intense and that we spend our energies on all the wrong things…that none of this gets through the armor of this persona and reaches the real person.

But she’s in there, and she’s tired and sad and it’s taking everything I’ve got to help her find the words to admit it. She has learned that life is different now and unless she’s willing to give up on the dream of making positive change, she’s going to have to get used to encountering resistance not just from the faceless Internet, but from friends and allies.

She’s sad and tired and sometimes she feels like giving up, but she’s got hope and she clings to it and it’s what gives me whatever power I’ve got to pull out words when all she’s got are tears. Hope that all this will end up being worthwhile (and faith that it must), and that those friends and allies who doubt and resist will let down their guard and trust that when she says “this hurts me” it does. Hope that the fact that she hurts is enough to make a thing—or even a movement—important enough to them that they won’t dismiss it out of hand or imply that she’s not seeing clearly or that she’s “too angry.” Hope that if they disagree, they’ll remember that it’s not philosophy to her—that it’s something she feels deeply.

Hi. I’m Rosie. And I’m here to tell you that activism isn’t fun. It can be very, very rewarding, but when one of us launches a campaign like the one I helped launched yesterday, we’re putting ourselves out there to be criticized by the whole entire Internet, and if you think I haven’t spent the last 24 hours second-guessing myself, alternately shaking with rage and crying tears of frustration, then you think I’m a lot stronger than I really am. I’ve been told I’m part of the problem and that my perceptions are flawed, that I’m wasting my time, and that I’m aggressive. None of these are firsts, but when every ping from your blog and social media elicits a moment of panic, you know you’re stressed. And when some of the doubt comes from within the tent, that’s particularly hard to take—but it happens every single time. And while it’s certainly healthy to entertain differing points of view, by the time I’ve gone all-in on a campaign like this, I’ve gone over and over it and I know how I feel about it, so the second-guessing is just a mind-game I play with myself. I’m in no doubt, for example, of how I feel about that hotel ad.

And that’s what I left out of my post yesterday: Me. Why this campaign is important to me personally.

When I was 20, the man I was with beat the shit out of me and promised me I would not live through the night. He smacked me around first, then gouged my eyes with his fingers (leaving scars I still see when I look at a blank wall), cut my face with a putty knife, then threw me across the room. Somewhere in there he told me he was going to bury me in a field where no one would find me. About half this he did in front of my two-year-old daughter. That’s just one of my stories of violence, but it’s the one that comes up like bile when I see this image.

A reader yesterday said the ad in question looked like slapstick to him. Someone else said she looked like she was just lying there—no violence implied. Me? At a gut level, without any analysis, I see a dead woman lying on concrete (I get “alley” or “parking lot”) at a glance. When I see this image, I see her story. The story this image tells me is of a woman to whom violence has been done (she didn’t throw that suitcase at herself) and who has been left for dead on a stained concrete floor. On closer inspection, she’s sprawled in a decidedly lifeless way (I now have a copy of the magazine and it looks like she’s in a parking garage—there are oil stains), her hand palm-up. She’s certainly not conscious—not struggling to get up under the weight of the heavy suitcase she accidentally dropped on herself. In fact, to me, it doesn’t look like she’s getting up at all.

And when I see that, I think of all the women who—like me—have had violence done to them but who—unlike me—did not survive it. And I feel sick. And I feel like this is a crass fucking way to sell a product. But at the heart of it, this image causes me pain and given the response I’ve received privately, on the post, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in the comments section of the petition, I’m not alone.

Hi. My name is Rosie. And I’m not as strong as you may think I am. But I’m not alone. For that, I’m more grateful than I can say.


Related

The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women (makemeasammich.org)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Trigger warning: violence against women.

TL;DR: Sign the petition.

UPDATE 8/29: Refocusing on DuJour

moore24f-1-webI have rewritten the petition letter to focus on DuJour, but have left The Standard as a recipient for now. This campaign is still getting press, and if the petition takes off,  would hate like hell for them to miss out on all the fun.

Please continue to share the petition and contact your media peeps.

Thank you for all your help and support!

UPDATE 8/28: On Fauxpologies and Small Victories

standard-downtown-los-angeles-logoIn activism, we have to choose our battles often accept small victories when we’d rather announce that we got everything we wanted the way we’d like to. In the case of The Standard, I’m pretty sure we’ve heard all we’re going to from them unless we step this campaign up in a major way. (DuJour has not responded yet; more on that in a bit.)

In under 24 hours, we got The Standard’s attention and that of several media outlets, including BuzzFeed. (UPDATE: The Daily Mail apparently also picked this up yesterday, and Business Insider and The Daily Beast both covered it today.) This post has had over 2,600 hits, and has been reblogged many times. We got people talking about an image that for many of us produced a visceral reaction and sent a message that dead women make great advertising fodder. And we got an apology from The Standard.

Now let’s talk about that apology, shall we? Because it looks a lot like other apologies we’ve seen from entities in response to criticism of the type we’ve leveled at The Standard.  I’ll break it down:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm.”

Translation: This is art, dummies. Blame the artist, not us.

This avoids responsibility for the content by branding it “art” and hopes, I think, to make us feel a little silly for making such a big deal out of it. I mean, we didn’t ask who the artist was, and the fact that it’s art is completely irrelevant. You spent exactly four sentences on this apology, The Standard. Did this really need to be one of them?

“We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence.”

Translation: We don’t see it that way, but we’re sorry you do, and if you do, it’s not really our fault.

Ok, look, I’m asking a lot here, I know, but couldn’t we get a “We’re sorry we did a bad thing?” “We’re sorry we used this image without thinking of the implications or the impact on survivors of violence?” No, we basically got “we’re sorry you were offended,” and that not only defers responsibility for the perceived “offense” onto us, the “offended,” but it declines to acknowledge that any damage occurred.

“No offense or harm was intended.”

Translation: We didn’t mean to do anything wrong, ergo, we didn’t and/or you should let us off the hook because our intentions were not evil.

Duh. You didn’t set out to cause harm to women or survivors of violence or anyone with this ad. You intended to get people’s attention and you didn’t think about what this image might actually say about your brand–what it might say to over half the population who, presumably, you’d like to attract to your hotel. You didn’t think about the harm it might cause despite your intentions, and now you’re not really admitting to any harm, just assuring us that none was intended.

“The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

Translation: We were done with this campaign anyway, so here’s a bone.

Yes, I’m being extremely cynical, because we should really call that line a win, dog-boney as it is. We have (as the amazing Jaclyn Friedman (Women, Action, and the Media) kindly pointed out to me yesterday) created an “opportunity cost.” We have caused this company–and anyone watching, including DuJour–to take a look at the cost vs. benefit of using ads like this in the future. That is a GOOD THING.

So yeah, this was a pretty weak apology–but it’s still a win. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

As for DuJour, they ran the ad apparently thinking it was acceptable, and so far they have not responded in any way to our petition. I would sincerely like to get a response from them saying they get it, but frankly, at the rate we’re gaining signatures on the petition, I’m not sure how long that will take or whether it will happen at all. As Jaclyn pointed out, there are many ads like this out in magazines around the country and the world, and we have to choose where to focus our energies.

Your Input Needed

What do you think, readers? Should we leave the petition up, removing The Standard so DuJour keeps getting emails when someone signs? Is it worth pushing for more signatures, more media coverage? Or is it time to call this a victory and move on to the next thing? If we had 2,000 sigs instead of under 200, this wouldn’t even be a question, but I’ve only got so much energy to spend and I want your input on this. Let me know what you think in the comments section.


UPDATE 8/27: The Standard Responds

Fewer than 24-hours after we launched our petition, The Standard posted the following response to Change.org:

“The Standard advertisement utilized an image series created by the contemporary artist, Erwin Wurm. We apologize to anyone who views this image as insensitive or promoting violence. No offense or harm was intended. The Standard has discontinued usage of this image.”

I’ll have commentary on this soon. Meanwhile, let me know what you think in the comments section below. Are you satisfied with The Standard’s apology? Have they done enough?


The Standard Hotels, DuJour Media, and Violence Against Women

Last week Daisy Eagan sent me the image below. It’s a partial of a full-page ad for The Standard Hotels in DuJour magazine’s summer issue. The ad contains no text—just this image and the hotel’s logo and a bit of fine print at the bottom.

Click for full page ad.

DuJour is a new fashion/lifestyle magazine published nationally with localized issues for major cities. The Standard is a “boutique” hotel chain with locations in New York, Miami, and L.A. The image above looks to be taken from the NYC edition (based on the small print on the facing page). Somewhere in the offices where each of these companies does business, one assumes that entire teams of people looked at this and thought it was ok. At an ad agency hired by The Standard, some bright young creative type came up with this ad* in response to the challenge to market a hotel chain to rich people, a group that must certainly include many, many women. All three of these companies made the decision to use violence against women to market a product. Apparently, this isn’t the first time The Standard has been criticized for their advertising choices. Claire Darrow, creative director for Andre Balazs Properties has said these choices amount to “surrendering our ads to art, so to speak…We want to contribute to the magazines…We don’t just want to advertise.” (Update for clarity: This piece is part of a series by Erwin Wurm called “One Minute Sculptures”)

I know I don’t have to explain to most of you why this particular ad is (no,  not “offensive”) damaging, but I really have to spend some time talking about how, like recent pieces by The Onion (more info here and here), this ad trivializes violence against women, once again using victims of said violence as bait, once again for the purpose of profiting from our pain. I need to point out for anyone not clear on the concept that by using violence against women for something as crass as attempting to lure people to your “boutique” hotel chain these companies are helping to perpetuate the cycle of violence. They are normalizing it—treating it as something trivial, not worth taking seriously. Treating it as a joke. That teaches everyone regardless of gender that violence against women is No Big Deal. These messages in our media teach women to expect violence and teach men prone to violence against women that what they do is socially acceptable. And apparently The Standard Hotels, DuJour, and the as-yet unnamed advertising agency behind this ad thought that this was the right message to send to potential customers.

Daisy blogged about this ad last week asking her readers to contact The Standard and DuJour and ask them why they think this is appropriate advertising. She had this to say about it:

Dujour magazine ran an ad in its summer issue for The Standard hotels clearly meant to warn women to steer clear of the hotel or face violence and/or death.

I’ve ordered a copy of the Miami edition which should arrive soon, and since TSH has a location in Miami, I assume the ad will be present. When it comes, I’ll update this post with a full image of the ad (now available here thanks to Daisy) and any other information I can find—hopefully including the name of the agency that designed the ad.

Take Action

We’ve started a petition to let The Standard Hotels and DuJour Media know what we think of this ad and the message they’re sending about violence against women. Please sign and share so we can get their attention (tweets have so far had no effect) and make sure they understand that ads like this are not acceptable and that they do harm.

Sign the Petition

You can also write to the parties in question directly. Thanks to Daisy for finding this information. (If you decide to do this, I’d appreciate it if you also signed and shared the petition, which goes directly to their email. Numbers matter. Thanks!)

Andre Balazs Properties
23 E. 4th Street
New York, NY 10003
email: press@standardhotel.com
Twitter: @StandardHotels

Jason Binn
Dujour Magazine
2 Park Ave, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10016
Twitter: @JasonBinn @DuJourMedia
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dujourmedia

You can also help by alerting media folks about this campaign (especially local media if you live in NYC, Miami, or L.A.). Bad press is often what penetrates otherwise impermeable entities.

Let’s make some noise.


Press Coverage

See The Ad For The Standard Hotel Accused Of Trivializing Violence Against Women (Business Insider)

The Standard hotel is accused of ‘trivializing violence against women’ in new ad showing a woman crushed by a suitcase (Daily Mail)

The Standard Hotel’s Latest Ad “Trivializes Violence Against Women” (BuzzFeed)

The Standard Hotel Comes Under Fire For Trivializing Violence Against Women In Their Latest Ad Campaign (The Frisky)

The Standard Hotel Accused of Trivializing Violence Against Women (AdRants)

Hotel Pulls Ad of Crushed Woman (The Daily Beast)

Dear Advertisers: Violence against women is not sexy (Mamamia)

The Standard Discontinues Ad Accused of Promoting Violence Against Women (the fashion spot)

Which Luxury Brand Couldn’t Resist Using Violence Against Women In Its Ads? (the gloss)

Related

Stop Violence Against…Everyone (Stuphblog)


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Why #FBrape is Not About Free Speech

Speech is an action.

Speech is an action.

This is an opinion piece I submitted to the Seattle Times in response to an ACLU blog post claiming Facebook’s decision to apply their existing standards to gendered hate speech is bad for “free speech” on the Internet. I disagree for a number of reasons, among them the fact that Facebook is not the Internet-at-large (but one community within the larger Internet that doesn’t allow hate speech–there are many that do), and does not traditionally maintain any sort of existing “free speech” standard as the blogger implied (in fact, they already ban a lot of content that violates their stated terms). As I have said before, freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences, and one consequence is counter-speech–and counter-action if the community you’re in believes that your “free speech” is harmful to the group. You’re still free to say what you want, but you might have to take it somewhere else if you get voted off the island. That’s just life.

All that said, I only had 600 words to play with, so I focused on my belief that this speech not only contributes to rape culture (which teaches us that rape is acceptable) but encourages (read: incites) rape and violence against women, and as such is not (or should not be) protected. By anyone. I’m about as far from a lawyer as people come, and I doubt there’s any legal precedent for my position, which is probably why the Times declined to publish (i.e., they did not respond within the requisite time). Nevertheless, I believe this to be true.

Today [5/30/13] Jay Stanley took issue on the ACLU blog with Facebook’s decision to remove content promoting violence against women in response to the #FBrape campaign, citing “free speech” and the need to protect it at all costs. I would like to point out that where the First Amendment of the US Constitution is concerned (which should be the primary concern of the ACLU), speech that incites violence is not protected, and can indeed be grounds for arrest. I believe that the content the #FBrape campaign objected to has the potential to incite violence.

Some of the images in question depicted real women and girls unconscious, tied up, bruised, bloody, and even dead–all presented as humor. They bore captions like, “Next time, don’t get pregnant,” “She didn’t make my sammich fast enough,” and “Tape her and rape her.”

There is a term that describes the toxic culture we live in where rape and violence against women are trivialized and normalized in this and many other ways. That term is “rape culture.” It’s a controversial term to some who believe it implies that all men are potential rapists. It doesn’t, but that’s beside the point, which is that rape culture is bad for everyone. It teaches boys that girls are objects made for sex and that they are entitled to sex. It teaches girls that their bodies are not their own; that their consent doesn’t matter, only that they play defense and remain pure. It praises men who have sex while shaming women as “sluts.” It makes light of prison rape and male victims of sexual assault. And it makes a joke of rape and violence against women.

You know who loves a rape joke? Rapists. Rape jokes, and people laughing at them, tell rapists that rape is acceptable when what they need to hear is “Dude. No.” And there are far too many rapists out there. They don’t wear a sign—they look just like everyone else. And they’re listening.

A 1987 study (The Scope of Rape: Incidence and Prevalence of Sexual Aggression and Victimization in a National Sample of Higher Education Students) found that “The frequency with which men reported having perpetrated each form of sexual aggression ranged from 19% of men who indicated that they had obtained sexual contact through the use of coercion to 1% of men who indicated that they had obtained oral or anal penetration through the use of force.” That means that even if you only count “forcible rape” with oral or anal penetration, approximately one in a hundred men are rapists. This is not an insignificant number. When you include vaginal penetration by force, the numbers must increase considerably. And when you begin adding crimes sometimes referred to as “gray rapes” they skyrocket—if not to one in five, then significantly nonetheless.

According to at least one ACLU website, hate speech is not protected:

But this right doesn’t extend to libel, slander, obscenity, “true threats,” or speech that incites imminent violence or law-breaking.

Obscenity arguments aside, one question is this: How imminent is the threat of violence by a rapist against a woman? It is estimated that three women are raped every hour in the US military. In the general US population an estimated 78 women are forcibly raped ever hour (this number does not include those so-called “gray rapes”). Promoting rape as acceptable, inevitable, and funny not only gives rapists tacit permission to rape, it is responsible for the idea that “all men are rapists.” All men are not rapists, but the ones who are thrive on society’s acceptance of rape.

And the ones who aren’t yet rapists but might be under the right circumstances? They’re listening, too.


References:

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/comm/malamuth/pdf/81Jrp15.pdf

http://www.apa.org/divisions/div46/articles/malamuth.pdf

http://www.parentstv.org/PTC/publications/reports/womeninperil/study.pdf

http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/resources/pdf/pubs/ThatsWhatHeSaid.pdf

http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/SOO.PDF

http://www.soci270.carvajal.ca/documents/KossTheScopeofRape.pdf

http://www.musc.edu/ncvc/resources_prof/rape_in_america.pdf

http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/36/2/156/

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/sexist/2009/11/12/rapists-who-dont-think-theyre-rapists/


Related on Make Me a Sammich:


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


Five Things I Know After #FBrape

Oui.

Oui.

I’m exceedingly proud to have worked on the #FBrape campaign to end gendered hate speech on Facebook, and of our success in getting the corporate giant to back down. It was an exhausting week, but the rewards were many, and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. Not even to avoid the inevitable trolling that has followed.

Yeah, they did. It’s amazing to me how many people seem to think that rape culture on Facebook is something to be protected and defended by coming to #FBrape and calling campaigners “bitches” and “cunts” and “fascists” and claiming that our victory is some kind of blow to everything thinking people ought to hold dear.

I just can’t even. But as I said, I’m proud, exhausted, and mostly satisfied. We did an important thing, and we’re still doing it.

Here are a few things I took away from the campaign:

  1. We need each other: Women are sick and tired of being in the majority and yet being treated as though our right to safe public spaces don’t matter. We are fighting back. Thousands of us pulled together, and we couldn’t have done it any other way.
  2. We need men: Rape culture will not go away unless men participate in the fight. Many men joined us in the #FBrape campaign, and their voices helped so much to counter those who showed up to ridicule us. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, men who campaigned, for being with us during this week of intensive work.
  3. We need our allies to be present during our struggles, not just during our successes: Feminists who couldn’t seem to find time for the campaign while it was happening are jumping on the bandwagon (and the popularity of the hashtag) now that we’ve won. I can’t help but wonder where they were when the hard work was getting done. I hoped for better.*
  4. We’re ending rape culture: Ending rape culture on Facebook is a huge step toward ending it in society as a whole. Facebook is a microcosm of our society. It is a community that has set a standard of behavior for its members, and finally, it has stated for the record that violence against women is strictly counter to that standard. Their response was very corporate, but it was a complete turnaround from their “our system is working” response three days previous. There is work to be done. We have to keep them honest. But this is a WIN and I’m CELEBRATING.
  5. This is not about free speech: Free speech, while important, is only one of our civil rights. Much as your right to own a gun doesn’t preclude my right to not get shot, your right to free speech does not trump my right not to be surrounded by images suggesting that beating, raping, and killing people like me is acceptable, expected, and funny. This is hate speech, it encourages (read: incites) violence against women,  and it cannot be tolerated in civilized society anymore than we allow racists to harass and threaten people of color in public spaces. We don’t. We can’t. My right to exist safely trumps every rape-joker’s right to free speech, and I will fight to ensure that my right—and every other woman’s—is protected.

*This is not directed at anyone who is likely to read this, but at high-profile professional feminists (the most conspicuous of whom was Sheryl Sandberg, of course) who suddenly had articles in major publications after Facebook caved. It just made me a little sad, that’s all.

largemarge.png


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


#FBrape: We’re Holding Facebook Accountable. Join Us.

survivor-16

wamwedidit

UPDATE: FACEBOOK AGREES TO MAKE CHANGES!

From the official WAM statement:

Last Tuesday, Women, Action & the Media, the Everyday Sexism Project and author/activist Soraya Chemaly launched a campaign to call on Facebook to take concrete, effective action to end gender-based hate speech on its site. Since then, participants sent over 60,000 tweets and 5000 emails, and our coalition has grown to over 100 women’s movement and social justice organizations.

Today, we are pleased to announce that Facebook has responded with a important commitment to refine its approach to hate speech. Facebook has admirably done more than most other companies to address this topic in regards to content policy. In a statement released today, Facebook addressed our concerns and committed to evaluating and updating its policies, guidelines and practices relating to hate speech, improving training for its content moderators and increasing accountability for creators of misogynist content.

Facebook has also invited Women, Action & the Media, The Everyday Sexism Project and members of our coalition to contribute to these efforts and be part of an ongoing conversation. As part of these efforts, we will work closely with Facebook on the issue of how Community Standards around hate speech are evaluated and to ensure best practices represent the interests of our coalition.

For details regarding Facebook’s response, please visit here.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped. Let’s all get involved in this conversation and keep them honest, shall we?

Read the New York Times editorial.


NOTE: Trigger warnings for rape, abuse, racism, and corporate assholery. Also, this post is updated regularly with news, FAQ, and new action items. See large headers throughout the article.

It’s gone on far too long. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Facebook’s wacky double-standard (triple? quadruple?) that says this is not ok:

But then, this happens:

Trigger warning: violence against women.

Trigger warning: violence against women.

The woman behind Rapebook did her best, but eventually had to give up the fight because she’d been targeted with rape and death threats and she has a family to think about.

Now Women, Action, and the Media has teamed up with The Everyday Sexism Project and writer/activist Soraya Chemaly to launch the #FBrape campaign to hold Facebook’s feet to the fire by targeting their advertisers (and in turn, holding their feet to the fire). Make Me a Sammich signed on to the Open Letter to Facebook, and I’ve been tweeting about this all week (along with thousands of others), and some companies have responded. Some have pulled their ads. Others have made excuses.

Today I received a letter from WAM founder and activist dynamo Jaclyn Friedman alerting signatories that today is especially important:

We’re writing because today is a KEY day in our campaign. We can tell you that we’re currently in conversation with Facebook, and they’re considering their response. We also know that several of the companies we’re targeting are in “crisis mode” from all the backlash they’ve received, and are putting enormous pressure on Facebook to end this soon. We believe that if we make today our biggest day yet, we could have a real win on our hands.

Loyal readers and friends, I need you to join me in making today count. Take action on the action page, thank advertisers who opted to do the right thing by women and pressure the ones who did not on the follow-up page. Share this post with your networks. Share my Facebook post. Retweet Jenn Pozner’s tweet.

This is a golden opportunity to make some real, positive change. I’m not going to kid myself that if we lose this battle, we’re all giving up Facebook. That doesn’t work for at least two reasons: 1) We all rely on the communities we have built on Facebook and I, for one, won’t abandon mine; 2) This fight, as Soraya Chemaly pointed out on Twitter recently, is partly about public spaces and the fact that women shouldn’t have to remove themselves from such spaces to feel safe.

But I’m in this to win. I hope you’ll join me.


FAQ

Wait, what? I haven’t seen any of these “rape pages”  and  I don’t believe Facebook would EVER allow the sort of thing you’re describing!

Here are some VERY GRAPHIC examples of the pages and images Facebook has deemed acceptable.

Here is an example of a VERY GRAPHIC page a user reported, and the response they received from Facebook. This is the standard response those of us who report these images receive from Facbook. That’s why we’re making all this noise.

Why are you targeting advertisers? Facebook needs to change. Target them!

This fight has been ongoing for several years, and Facebook claims that they are doing everything they can. And yet, reporting pages depicting violence against women results in this statement again and again:

But advertisers can’t choose which pages their ads appear on, can they?

No, they can’t. So the only way to make Facebook take this seriously is for those companies to take violence against women seriously enough to pull their ads if Facebook won’t fix this.

Read WAM’s FAQ with lots more information.


UPDATE: 3/27: Dear Zappos – You Get an F

Yesterday I sent this tweet to @ZapposStyle [TW]:

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.52.04 AM

Today I got this response:

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.55.47 AM

Screen shot 2013-05-27 at 7.57.43 AM

Seriously, Zappos? That’s still your response after all these days?

Ok, just for starters? If we weren’t at the start of this campaign (which most of us were), we’re all very well aware now of how Facebook ads work because companies like yours keep using the Facebook ad system as an excuse for the fact that you are sponsoring rape and abuse pages. Secondly, if it wasn’t clear from the previous sentence: you ARE sponsoring hate and abuse pages by continuing to give Facebook your ad dollars. It’s just not that complicated.

Look, before this campaign started, I was a customer and a fan. I bought my last pair of shoes from a Facebook ad for Zappos. But you are seriously blowing my entire image of you right now (with apologies to John Bender, but I know he’d understand). You are pouring so much money into Facebook that I can’t I refresh one of these rape pages twice without seeing at least one–sometimes two–your ads. You ARE sponsoring rape and abuse pages. You just are.

“We recommend clicking X to delete the ad.”

I dont even know where to start. How about here:

The sentence in bold type above assumes that I’m hanging out on these pages for fun, and the offensive thing is that HOLY SHIT, THERE’S A ZAPPPOS AD! QUICK, HIT THE LITTLE EX AND MAKE IT GO AWAY!!!!

Zappos, this response is so full of fail, I’m surprised you fit it into two tweets.

Love,

Rosie

PS: Readers, here’s a sample tweet you can copy and send to Zappos to let them know what you think of this response:

Hey @ZapposStyle: You ARE sponsoring rape and abuse pages by pouring ad $$$ into FB. When will you step up and help end #FBrape?

UPDATE: 3/36

Ok, Facebook is fighting back. Today they pulled advertising from pages like [TRIGGER WARNING] this one and this one and this one, so now advertisers don’t have to worry that their ads might appear next to rapey images. Will advertisers be happy? Certainly. Am I? Not even a little bit. This move is a direct attack on our ability to pressure Facebook via its advertisers–it appears to me to be a statement from Facebook that they’ve heard our cries, but have no intention of changing their internal policies.

Earlier in this post I said I would not abandon my community on Facebook. But their reaction to this so far makes it impossible for me to promise to stand by that. Interestingly, I received a request to fill out a Facebook survey today. Here’s what I told them in the comments section at the end:

Screen shot 2013-05-26 at 1.08.45 PM

Of course, “minorities” is probably the wrong word these days, but I think they’ll get my drift.

UPDATE 3/25:

Today I receive this tweet from a new account claiming to be an official Facebook policy Twitter.

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.50.40 PM

Naturally, I was skeptical, both about the authenticity of the account and about the statement they linked me to:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.53.53 PM

FYI: Here’s a note I received from Trista Hendren, creator of Rapebook:

“I have been talking to FB for over 6 months – directly.  I have all the emails.  They are very much aware of what is on their site.”

Having just received private message to my Facebook page containing a link from a reader to a nasty-ass rape page I could see with my very own eyes, I responded:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 2.56.09 PM

Nothing. I took a screenshot of one of the images on that page and tweeted it as further evidence. Then I refreshed and the page was gone. And so was “Offensive Humor at its Best,” one of the pages many (but not nearly all) examples have come from. (The @FacebookUO account tweeted that statement exactly six times, then went silent. I’m assuming it was created as some kind of damage control attempt, and that they abandoned it when they realized their statement was a major fail. Then again, maybe someone created an account to defend FB–but that seems less likely. I’m going with Occam on this one.)

Is this victory? I’m sorry, but I don’t think so. Not yet. I mean, the way that page disappeared without a word impressed me at first, but it ultimately felt more like they were trying to support their statement that this problem doesn’t really exist rather than actually doing something to solve the very real problem we’re fighting. And just reread that statement. Here, let me interpret it for you:

“We took care of this a long time ago using our existing system that works very well, but some malcontents on Twitter have been resharing the images as though they’re still online. No fair!”

Sorry, Facebook, but no. You don’t get to claim that your system works. And you don’t get to claim that you’ve made some sort of instaprestochange and this is all fixed. Know why? Because right before this all happened I reported this image:

kkkcrow

…and got this in response:

Screen shot 2013-05-25 at 3.03.14 PM

When your moderators don’t recognize a KKK robe as a hate symbol, your system is broken. When your moderators don’t recognize jokes about beating and raping and killing women as hate speech, your system is broken. Facebook: YOUR SYSTEM IS BROKEN.

This isn’t over. I’ve asked @FacebookUO if they’ll clarify the policy changes, and I’ve forwarded this image to them. I’m also looking forward to hearing from the leaders of this campaign regarding what official word they might have received. I’ll let you know as soon as I know anything.

Oh, also? These still exist (trigger warnings) [UPDATE: A number of these have been removed. I’m weeding them out and adding new ones as I find them.]:

https://www.facebook.com/HiILoveYouBai/posts/394629313979499

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hope-you-have-pet-insurance-because-Im-about-to-destroy-your-pussy/123711017730757?fref=ts

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=504713129581784&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369534067

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=465266280216071&set=pb.445527162189983.-2207520000.1369534470.&type=3&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=504609859592111&set=a.501611093225321.1073741828.501606319892465

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=503859486333815&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369535804

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=505165316203232&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369611867

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=395212607254503&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369612147

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=503977086322055&set=pb.501606319892465.-2207520000.1369612258

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=394485250660572&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369612681

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=389219381187159&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617016

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=388819697893794&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617097

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=387767251332372&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617189

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=386221908153573&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369617260

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=383685095073921&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369619675

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=364462360329528&set=pb.345984872177277.-2207520000.1369620377

https://www.facebook.com/Raith420

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=187393818082239&set=pb.166047116883576.-2207520000.1369621156

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=463227490430518&set=pb.410653822354552.-2207520000.1369620804

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=465131776906756&set=pb.410653822354552.-2207520000.1369620634

 

TAKE ACTION!

Tweet the Media:

Please contact media folks and ask them to get up to speed on the campaign and cover us on this week:

Media Matters for America

Rachel Maddow (MSNBC)

Melissa Harris-Perry (MSNBC)

Ann Curry (MSNBC)

Tamron Hall (MSNBC)

Nicholas Kristof (NYT)

Martha Raddatz (ABC)

Whoopi Goldberg (The View)

Joy Behar (Say Anything)

Sara Gilbert (The Talk on CBS)

Julie Chen (The Talk)

Sharon Osbourne (The Talk)

Aisha Tyler (The Talk)

Sheryl Underwood (The Talk)

The Talk on CBS

Melissa Block (All Things Considered on NPR)

Audie Cornish (All Things Considered)

Fresh Air (NPR)

Xeni Jardin (BoingBoing)

Stephanie Miller (Stephanie Miller Show)

Pressure Advertisers:

Here are some tweets for companies not yet on the action list at WAM. You can copy (more impact coming from individuals) or retweet these to help put pressure on these companies to respond to the campaign:

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338683808159264768

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338444238196981760

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338441099007893505

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338438666923950081

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338438078513434624

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338493663673995265

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338491900107558914

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338482637909934080

https://twitter.com/MMASammich/status/338480248578523137



Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


How to Report an Asshole on Twitter

[TW: Rape, Assholery]

Douche is the word...

Douche is the word…

Today’s Asshole: Jose Canseco

Mr. Canseco, a Very Famous Athlete, is accused of rape. Today he decided the best possible course of action was to out his accuser on Twitter.

Via the Atlantic Wire:

Jose Canseco — former All-Star outfielder, admitted steroid user, part-time fantastic Twitter idiot — apparently just live-tweeted the police arriving at his Las Vegas home, then said he has been accused of rape, then proceeded to publicly name his apparent accuser to his more than 500,000 followers, with bikini photos, and the woman’s phone number, and talk shows, and cats… then proceeded to delete the whole thing. Except her name.

Canseco also tweeted the name and address of the woman’s gym and invited followers to stop by:

Image

So, using Jose’s illegal activities as a model for a) how to report assholes and b) how Twitter’s “report” function fails to provide adequate reporting options for illegal activities like this one, here are some instructions (click images for larger versions):

(UPDATE: JC has deleted most of offending tweets because his lawyers are smarter than he is, fortunately for him. But there’s still this one. Yes, that’s her. Report his ass.)

      1. Point your browser to https://support.twitter.com/forms/abusiveuser.
      2. Click the option that best describes the situation. In this case, that’s “offensive content.” That doesn’t really cover it, but as you can see, it’s the only option that comes close:Image
      3. Type in the Twitter handle of the offending tweeter, in this case JoseCanseco:Image
      4. Next, you need to paste in URLs to the offending tweets (like this and this).(UPDATE: JC has deleted most of offending tweets because his lawyers are smarter than he is, fortunately for him. But there’s still this one. Yes, that’s her. Report his ass.)Image

        Click “Report another Tweet” for another link box.
      5. Answer the miscellaneous questions, then fill in the details box. I suggest something along the lines of “Jose Canseco has published the name, photo, and gym of the woman who accused him of rape. This is illegal. Please suspend his account.”Image
      6. Now you’re ready to hit the Submit button and hope Twitter does the right thing.

It only takes a moment of your time, and if enough people do it, maybe they’ll get the message. Maybe Canseco will get the message that bullying his accuser is not only illegal, it is not only dangerous, but it is also socially unacceptable behavior with consequences. Because rape culture has taught him that this is the right way to handle a rape accusation, and as a VFE he, in turn, is teaching young people the same lesson.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


The Day the Onion Died

[Trigger warning: graphic discussion of domestic violence]

Or at least, one can hope, because these assholes obviously haven’t learned anything. (It’s been dead to me since Quvenzhané.)

Image

Hey, The Onion? Violence against women isn’t funny. It wasn’t funny at the Oscars, and it isn’t funny now. It’s time for you to sit the fuck down and take a time out. Forever.*

Beyond that, I have far too much rage to form words right now. More later.

Follow-up:

Full disclosure: One of my exes beat me because we fought and I left a party without him and caught  ride home with a passing car that happened to be driven by a man. This particular ex always figured if I could talk to another man–Hell, if I could look at him–I might as well be fucking him. So, you know, I might as well have fucked that guy who gave me a ride home. Fuckhead beat me, cut my face with a paint-scraper (so no one would find me attractive again), poked my eyes with his fingers (I still have scars I can see when the light is right and I look at a blank surface), and told me that when he was done with me he was going to bury me in a field where no one would find me.

Perhaps some of you who think I don’t “get” satire will understand that some things just aren’t funny to some people. And considering HOW FUCKING MANY OF US HAVE BEEN THROUGH THIS (and how many haven’t survived it), I don’t think asking for a little sensitivity is out of order. I don’t think asking the Onion to find a way to poke fun at Chris Brown without making a joke out of domestic violence is too much to ask. I just don’t. Chris Brown deserves whatever shit life throws at him, but I think it’s ok to ask questions about whether a work of satire meant to draw attention to domestic violence might actually be harming the people it seeks to help.

onionquote

And no matter how many of you come here to tell me I really ought to get mad at something else or someone else or expend my energy elsewhere and stop making feminists look bad, I’m not shutting up. When something strikes me as wrong–when it hits me in the gut like this did–I’m going to talk about it. Write about it. And as so many have said to me here and elsewhere regarding just “not reading” the Onion? If you don’t like what I have to say, you know how to avoid this page.

*Something an acquaintance said today reminded me of the above line, written in a fit of rage, which I didn’t mean literally and have neglected to address before now (3/10). I’m never in favor of shutting anyone up. I do think The Onion needs to examine whether they are actually achieving their goals (I don’t pretend to know what those goals are, but I used to feel they were more aligned with my own). Satire should point up, and too often, The Onion ridicules and trivializes the people it seeks to champion.

Additional Updates:

Hope Fiending has written something very like what I would have if I’d been able, so off you go to read her piece:

I’M PRETTY SICK OF PEOPLE USING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AS AN EASY “PUNCHLINE.” IF YOU CAN EVEN CALL IT A PUNCHLINE. PUN PROBABLY INTENDED.

Buzzfeed featured my post, and The New Republic quoted me. Apparently “a hardcore of feminist bloggers” is a thing. Like a murder of crows. Neat!

Also, Salon chimes in:

Has the Onion gotten mean?

Aaaand here’s an article written from the POV of the three Cleveland, OH women recently freed in which they lay the blame for all of society’s ills squarely at the feet of men. I don’t even know what to say about that except #FUCKTHEONION.


Respectful discussion is welcome and encouraged. When in doubt, see the Comment Policy.


One Woman Voted Against VAWA…Twice

Via Wikimedia Commons.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Via Wikimedia Commons.

Meet Kristi Noem. Yesterday she distinguished herself as the only woman in Congress to vote against both the House and Senate versions of the Violence Against Women Act.  While you ponder that, here’s a bit about her from Wikipedia:

Kristi Noem (born November 30, 1971) is the U.S. Representative for South Dakota’s at-large congressional district, serving since January 2011.[1] She is a member of the Republican Party and has been elected to the Republican Leadership for the 112th Congress as one of its two freshman representatives.[5] She previously represented the 6th District in the South Dakota House of Representatives for four years, serving as an Assistant Majority Leader during her final year. She is a farmer, rancher and small business owner by profession.

Many on her Facebook page (male and female–even some Republicans) are asking for an explanation, but I found no official statement on her page. Apparently this is not a cut and dried issue for her, as she has waffled on it before. According to a statement to press after the vote, she believes the VAWA will “muddy the waters with constitutionally questionable provisions that will likely only delay justice.”

Also, according to the Argus Leader, Noem has plans to…compensate? for voting against women by introducing new legislation in future:

Noem said she soon will introduce a bill to help victims of domestic abuse in Indian tribes. The measure will include a series of provisions, including improving coordination between U.S. and tribal law enforcement.

Yeah, sorry, but…no.

Republicans voting against VAWA

This is what the war on women looks like.

To see Ms. Noem among these white Republican men in this context is so bizarre to me. As one Facebook commenter said, “How could anyone with a uterus vote against VAWA?” But even more bizarre was seeing this from one female commenter:


Susi's Comment

And this, also from a woman:

Henri's comment

I’m never surprised to see men bashing VAWA. To be clear, I’m never surprised to see men defending VAWA, either–it’s just that most VAWA opposition I’ve encountered comes directly from Men’s Rights Activists who claim that the Violence Against Women Act is a conspiracy by feminists to strip them of their parental rights and destroy the institution of the traditional American family. The rest has come from white, male politicians who honestly seem worried that they or one of their friends might find themselves subject to reservation justice, which when you think about it is pretty gross. But why else oppose protections for Native American women raped by men who are not members of the reservation they chose to perpetrate their crime (often repeatedly)?

But when I see women caught up in opposing their own rights and protections, I just feel sick. Who are these women, and how did someone convince them that VAWA was bad for them (or for anyone)? And more importantly, how do we counter this tendency?

A male commenter on MMAS recently said that women need to stand together and watch one another’s backs the way men do. I think he’s right in that women have been trained to see one another as competition for males and while some of us have risen above that and are embracing sisterhood, too many still don’t want to be seen as One of “Those” Girls. Men are competitive, too, but it’s just not the same, I think. When women buy into the cultural stereotypes that tell us that our sex is bitchy, naggy, and oh-so-crazy, but tolerable as long as we look cute and don’t make waves…well, what chance to we have? When women buy into conservative/MRA lies that tell them VAWA is a feminist plot or a way to complicate legal proceedings or persecute white men…how the hell do we counter that?

With the truth. Here’s some from the White House VAWA Fact Sheet:

VAWA has improved the criminal justice response to violence against women by:

  • holding rapists accountable for their crimes by strengthening federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and creating a federal “rape shield law,” which is intended to prevent offenders from using victims’ past sexual conduct against them during a rape trial;
  • mandating that victims, no matter their income levels, are not forced to bear the expense of their own rape exams or for service of a protection order;
  • keeping victims safe by requiring that a victim’s protection order will be recognized and enforced in all state, tribal, and territorial jurisdictions within the United States;
  • increasing rates of prosecution, conviction, and sentencing of offenders by helping communities develop dedicated law enforcement and prosecution units and domestic violence dockets;
  • ensuring that police respond to crisis calls and judges understand the realities of domestic and sexual violence by training law enforcement officers, prosecutors, victim advocates and judges; VAWA funds train over 500,000 law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and other personnel every year;
  • providing additional tools for protecting women in Indian country by creating a new federal habitual offender crime and authorizing warrantless arrest authority for federal law enforcement officers who determine there is probable cause when responding to domestic violence cases.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

VAWA also provides services for victims of domestic violence and their families. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers 22,000 calls a month, and is the first call most victims make when they decide to seek help. And since VAWA passed in 1994, domestic violence is down nearly 70%. Programs VAWA created have resulted in greater awareness of what constitutes abuse, resulting in higher reporting rates, so more abuse victims are getting out and getting the help they need. Because of VAWA, more women understand that abuse is not “normal” and is never okay. And I’m sorry to report that making abuse a black-and-white issue is one of the things opponents of VAWA really dislike. Because some men believe they have the right to visit all manner of punishment on women so long as they don’t actually lay a hand on them, and they’d really rather we didn’t label their behavior as abusive. Well, sorry, dickheads. You lose.

As for women working against their own interests, all I can say is fight it wherever you find it, people. Women like Rep. Noem may be a lost cause (although I encourage you to let her know what you think), but too many are just asleep. And it’s time for a wake-up call.


Victim Blaming by Any Other Name

30%

Guest post by Sid

domestic-violence-400x258I have had five full-blown relationships in my adult life.

Three of those relationships were abusive.

Guy one (G1) was fine in this regard, as was guy five (G5). They each had their own issues, of course, but they weren’t abusive.

Guy number two (G2) choked me one day. We had been together for well over a year, closing in on a year and a half. Some months later, he dragged me with his car for about twenty feet. Any time I tried to break up with him, he sobbed and sobbed, berating himself until I recanted. He yelled at me if I disagreed with him, prayed before a meal, or called him out on one of dozens of pathological lies.

Guy number three (G3) also choked me, but it was much softer. It was as though he didn’t intend to actually hurt me, but wanted to remind me what being choked was like (because of course he knew G2 had done it) and wanted to show me he could do it just as easily. To my mind, this is just as bad. It was more threat than act, but it amounted to the same. Some months later, he was holding my hand while angry and crushed it. It hurt for several days.

Stop_Domestic_Violence-150x150Guy number four (G4), though…he’s the tricky one. He didn’t choke me. He didn’t drag me with a car or crush my hand. His thing was all about how much I wasn’t listening to him. He was also quite tall, so when he felt I wasn’t listening to him, he would bring himself up to his full height and grab me by the arms—tightly, so that I couldn’t get away. He would then push his face into mine so that my head went back, and he would scream at me.

I struggled away whenever I could, but often I was backed up against a wall or into a corner and had nowhere to go.

I would scream back, of course, because I felt trapped and threatened, and I was trying to understand what was happening. Any time we had an argument, if I tried to step away from it to calm down and sort my thoughts, he would follow me after just a few minutes. In one of our homes, as soon as I closed the bedroom door behind me, I would sneak out the sliding glass door and walk down the street so I could get some peace. It wasn’t long before he figured that out, though, and ran down the street after me. A couple times, when I’d gotten far enough that he couldn’t see me, he came after me in his car, window rolled down and sobbing for me to get in.

Honestly, I just wanted thirty minutes to be alone. I couldn’t get five.

When we moved, my office didn’t have a sliding glass door (or a window on the first floor), but that’s still where I went when I wanted space. When he still wouldn’t respect my request to be alone, I started sitting in front of the door. It didn’t have a lock.

abusealoneThis worked for about ten minutes, at which point he panicked and forced himself into the room. This happened so many times, I couldn’t even tell you how many. I often ended up hurt because the door would throw me into the wall or would hit me, or he would step on me on accident because I was right there on the floor. Once he was in the room, he would start calm, but would eventually escalate, sobbing about how we had to work this out right now and no I couldn’t take any time to work through the problem on my own. Often, it would take us back to him grabbing me by the arms and pushing his face into mine, and screaming.

Like I said, my office didn’t have a lock. But the bathroom did. Once I locked myself in there with my back against the door. He used a credit card and forced his way in. I got hurt this time because I was leveraging myself against the door by pushing against the toilet with my feet, and eventually my knees gave out.

I started leaving the apartment when we argued. But I would literally need to run, because he would be after me in about two minutes. It was kind of amazing, actually. The first time I went to leave, he looked at me and said, “Really? You really think you have to leave the apartment?” He was aghast at my lack of trust—after all, he’d agreed to give me time to think in my office. Again. Two minutes later, he was behind me on the street, begging me to come back with him.

Finally, I started heading for the stairs instead of the elevator—but I went upstairs instead of down. That was the one thing he never figured out. I finally had some time and space to think—about being a grown woman who was hiding on the floor above her own just to escape her boyfriend who literally made a habit of chasing her.

This relationship did not last.

Now, was I an angel in this relationship? Good God, no. I mean, I tried. The good times were so good that we were engaged, and we both thought our relationship was fine. (I didn’t notice the pattern, see. Not at first. Not for a long time.) At the end of the day, though, I was not my best in this relationship, as much as I wanted to be. As much as I tried to be. But that doesn’t mean—and will never mean—that I deserved what I got.

1-800-799-SAFEWhat makes him tricky, though, isn’t that he never choked me or took a direct swing. What makes him tricky is how entwined he was with so many of my other friends. They had become our friends, and it didn’t seem right to air all our dirty laundry to them. I told two of my very closest friends, though, which was difficult because they were also very close to him. And then one of my friends said something I didn’t expect.

“Well, you know, I think a lot of it came down to you two just not being right for each other. I mean, I don’t think that’s his real personality.”

I could have the very specifics of the words wrong—it was a few years ago now—but the sentiment is dead-on. And I was confused. I had been trying to attach the word “abusive” to this relationship as I sorted through the wreckage (I say “trying” because, as with many things, it is difficult for a victim to call out what is true), and this reaction made me feel all the more like I shouldn’t attach that word. It made me feel even more strongly that the problem wasn’t him—the problem was that I evoked the reaction.

I fought with myself for a long time on this one, and honestly I don’t know when in the last three years I settled on the word “abusive,” but I know it was more recent than not. Maybe it was when I heard this same friend say that she couldn’t imagine what goes through people’s heads when they defend a friend of theirs who was called out for assaulting another friend. “How can you look someone in the face and say that he wouldn’t do that? That it was just a misunderstanding?”

I don’t know. How can you?

Or maybe it was just this last week when I stood two feet away as she hugged Rosie and said, “I unfriended that guy because I couldn’t stand to hear him say on Facebook how he was…” something. I didn’t hear the end of the sentence. I was too far inside my own head trying to figure out how it was that B was so despicable she couldn’t stand to be friends with him on Facebook, yet she had managed to remain very close friends with my abuser since I left him.

Abuser. That’s such a strong word. I look at it even now and think, “Come on now, Sid. Surely that’s not the right word. He didn’t even hit you.” Honestly. That’s the thought: “He didn’t even hit you.” I know better than that, and still.

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The thing with a lot of victim blaming, I think, is that it comes from a place not of malice but of pleading. When you say, “You must have misinterpreted the situation,” you’re not really saying, “You’re a liar and I don’t believe you.” At least not most of the time. Sure, there are people who outright say that, but I think even they are really saying, “Don’t let this be true. Please, just leave me any margin for error so I can continue to hang out with my friend who has never shown this horrible side to me.”

It works like this, I think:

  1. You acknowledge the accusation is horrible.
  2. If the accusation is true, then you feel you can no longer be friends with the accused.
  3. You have never seen the accused display any behavior like this; in fact, you would declare the accused to be one of the nicest fellows you know.
  4. As a result of (3), you choose to believe that it couldn’t have been as bad as it sounds. Your natural inclination is to assume there was a misunderstanding.
  5. You report this to the accusing party.

Voilà.

You aren’t trying to disregard your friend’s feelings—in truth, you’re just trying to protect your own—but what you’ve done here is opened the door for second-guessing. Second-guessing something that was probably hard to talk about in the first place. Without even intending to, you have silenced her.

Victim blaming isn’t something any friend sets out to do. (Anyone who does so openly and candidly is honestly not a friend—I have stories about that, too.) Victim blaming is something so subtle it can slip by us without so much as a glance.

PosterHeartAfter my first two abusive relationships (G2 and G3), I was re-applying for a job as a dispatcher. During one of the interviews, the abuse came up in conversation. My interviewers informed me that these relationships proved I had poor decision-making skills and denied me the job. (Before you jump into legality, I can’t prove that was the reason. It was, though.)

It took me several years to get over the shame and the self-blame of those first two, but now I won’t apologize when I tell you that I have been abused. I won’t shrink away and say, “I…I know I should have gotten out sooner, but…” I notice the signs now, and I avoid them. In the case of G4, it took a while to notice the pattern, but when I did—and I realized it was slowly getting worse and worse—I got out, six months before the wedding.

Getting out isn’t as easy as it sounds, and I won’t look down on anyone going through a similar experience. Women in these situations need help and encouragement—not shame, not blame, not doubt. Strength.

My roommate once asked me what my biggest regret was, and I said I didn’t have any. “None at all?” “Nope. Because it’s all important. Our pasts make up who we are, and I like who I am. I wouldn’t be who I am without everything that’s brought me to this point. It’s all important.”

It’s a part of my history. I can’t change it, and honestly, I don’t know that I would given the chance. Not changing your past doesn’t mean you have to relive it, after all. I love and appreciate every lesson I’ve learned, however hard it was.

I don’t make billboards about my abusive relationships, but I don’t make any effort to hide them. And sometimes people still try to shame me—whether it’s with words, body language, or a sudden, superior attitude. It doesn’t work, though. Here’s a quick tip: you can’t shame me about my life, my choices, my hobbies, my aspirations, my friends, or my past. It’s pointless trying.

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You can’t shame me because I am not ashamed.


Read Sid’s previous MMAS articles in Sid’s Stuff. Follow her at @SeeSidWrite.