No Excuses – No Victim Blaming

Published November 22, 2012 by sleepydumpling

This Sunday is White Ribbon Day.  I blog about White Ribbon Day every year, because it is a cause close to my heart.

This year, White Ribbon Day is particularly important to me.

What is White Ribbon Day?  It is the one day per year that is devoted to the cause of ending violence against women.  It generally has a domestic violence focus, but it is in fact a campaign to end ALL violence against women.  I’ll give you a few Australian statistics:

  • Every week, a woman is killed by a current or former partner.
  • One in three women over the age of 15 report physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
  • Domestic violence is the major cause of homelessness of women and children.
  • 33% of women have experienced inappropriate comments about their body or sex life.
  • 25% have experienced unwanted sexual contact.
  • 1 in 5 women have been stalked.

Be aware these statistics are of reported cases.  This does not cover the hundreds of incidents every day that go unreported.  Violence against women is not just physical or sexual.  It is also mental, emotional, financial and institutional.  Every act of dehumanising a woman is violence against women.

This week just past has been hellish for me.  In the week since I attempted to launch a project for marginalised women and was forced to shut it down due to the amount of harassment, bullying and threats aimed at me and anyone who expressed interest in participating, I have been subjected to a constant barrage of abuse from complete strangers.  Everything from anonymous hate on Tumblr, days and days of harassment on Twitter, someone creating fake Facebook accounts in my name (with stolen photographs of me) and attempting to spam all of my friends and colleagues to actual death threats.

This abuse does not exist in a vacuum.  This abuse happens because culturally in Australia, and the rest of the world, violence and abuse against women is considered culturally  acceptable.  Not just the kind of abuse I’ve experienced this week either – rape, physical assault and murder are excused repeatedly.  Victims are blamed for their abuse – either they are told they actually did the wrong thing, ie were in the wrong place, wearing the wrong thing, behaving the wrong way etc, or if they do speak up, they are accused of “playing the victim” or “drawing negative attention to themselves”.

The most horrifying fact is that many women internalise these dehumanising messages and then turn them on their fellow women.  Just this week in my own experience, many women actively recruited men to help them abuse me online when I refused to apologise for telling them to fuck off out of my space.  This is disgusting behaviour, and a prime example of internalised misogyny.  “Women aren’t allowed to say that!” or “What a bitch, she’s going DOWN!”  Not once did I initiate contact with any of these people, nor did I go to their online spaces to leave abuse or even respond to them, the only time I responded was when they approached me, and mostly it was simply to tell them to fuck off out of my space.

There is NO excuse for violence against women.  There is NO reason that a woman is to blame for being abused.  No matter how she dresses, where she goes, what she does with her own body, what she drinks or consumes, what she says or how she behaves.

Women do not have to be nice, polite or submissive.  Women are allowed to say NO.  Women have every right to tell someone who comes into her space, be it physical or online to fuck off.  Women don’t have to give someone “the benefit of the doubt”.  If she does, and that person then abuses her, she is then blamed for not protecting herself.  “What was she thinking!?” people cry.  She was clearly thinking that she should give someone “the benefit of the doubt” like she was told to do.  Women are allowed to be loud, to swear, to dress themselves however they like, to have consensual sex with whoever they wish to, to be angry, to inhabit any public space without it drawing violence to her.  Women are even allowed to be rude, cranky, impolite, abrasive, abrupt, nasty, bitchy… and all those other words that are shame code for “women being assertive” without it drawing violence to her.

THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

If you do not like a woman, walk away.  Don’t pursue her into her space either online or physically.  Do not force her to pay attention to you when she does not want to.  Do not bully her anonymously to try to shame or silence her.  Don’t try to passive aggressively shame her by claiming you are offering “constructive criticism” when she does not want it and you are in her space.  You are not “offering” anything, you are forcing her, and that is violence against her.  Don’t recruit your friends or men to bully her if she doesn’t respond to your demands.  Do not abuse her for being rude if she walks away from you or tells you to leave her alone, even if she says “fuck off” in doing so.   She has every right to do so and owes you nothing.

If you really believe you are superior to someone, then you will walk away from them secure in that knowledge.  A better human being always will.

We live in a horrifically victim blaming culture.  We harass women online and off, threaten and bully them into submission, shame them when we deem that they are unworthy or inferior.  We get angry at women who stay in abusive relationships, but also deny them support and protection if they leave those relationships.  We shame them for not standing by their man, not standing on their own two feet, not caring enough about their children, not trying hard enough to make things better.  All the while we absolve the perpetrators of any responsibility.  We deny women support financially and emotionally when they leave abusive relationships, shame them for being “single mothers” or “sluts” or “a drain on society” for needing financial assistance when a partner has financially abused them and their children.  In the same breath that we tell women to give men “the benefit of the doubt”, we then blame her if she does and it turns bad.

But most importantly, we must speak up.  We must speak up as a culture and say “This is not ok.”  It is scary to speak up, as I’ve seen particularly painfully this week, and I am sure this very post will draw it as well*.  I am not “special” or “brave” for doing so – I’m just a woman who has had enough of being treated like shit by society and then blamed for it and treated even more like shit.  I have just reached a point where I can’t survive any more being pushed down for being a woman who is deemed unacceptable or inferior.  You too can speak up whether it’s loudly and publicly like I do, or amongst your own family or friends.  Big or small, every statement made against the violence women suffer gathers, accumulates and gets louder and louder.  Every voice, wherever it is, makes the world a bit safer for women and gives women courage to stand up to abuse and expect better for herself.

Tomorrow and through to Sunday there are many events happening around the country to raise funds and awareness for women who have or are suffering violence.  Every small donation for a white ribbon, every raffle ticket, every cocktail party or rally makes a difference.  If nothing else, donate a couple of bucks, buy a white ribbon and wear it to work, around your friends and family, on the street.  It is a tiny symbol of hope for women who have suffered everywhere that someone cares, that someone will stand with them, that someone believes that campaigning to end violence against women matters.

If I had seen that tiny symbol when I was suffering domestic abuse, I know I would have been empowered a whole lot earlier in life than I was.  I know I feel a whole lot more empowered now seeing it on men and women everywhere.

And if you are a woman suffering or have suffered abuse or violence of any kind, know that I care, as do many others.  I do this for you as much as I do this for me.

*I will be reporting any abuse I receive to the police,  including IP addresses and all other details.  I will also be publishing this information online.
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33 comments on “No Excuses – No Victim Blaming

  • Kath, I can’t believe you were forced to shut down your online mag. I, for one, thought it was a brilliant idea. I would have loved to contribute to it. Shame on those arseholes who made your life hell and forced you to ditch it. Fuckers.

    Thank you for blogging about White Ribbon Day. It’s a cause close to my heart too. I was a victim of sexual violence many years ago. I recently blogged about it. Would you be interested in me posting a link to it here?

    • Thank you VickiR. Please do post your link here – if it doesn’t show up immediately it’s because WordPress often forces any comments with links to be approved first. I’ll keep an eye out for it.

      With regards to the blogazine, hopefully someone with more resources than I is able to fill the gap in the not too distant future.

  • I am mostly just a lurker on this blog, but feel like i should add my voice to the pro-heffalump team. Thank you for doing what you are doing. Many of the things you have shared have helped me in very real and personal ways. Keep being your fabulous self!

  • I came close to being a victim of domestic abuse in my early 20′s, thankfully I’d read enough about how it was likely to end and had just enough support to get myself out of there before it got physical, but I was being emotionally and financially abused by a guy who knew he was taking advantage of my depression.

    I got angry, which is lucky, it made me look at where I was and realise I had options, I was also lucky I had those options. I now try to support any friend of mine who might be in a similar situation because you can almost never get out of a crappy situation without help and I don’t want to leave anyone in the kind of situation I was in if a simple gesture from me will help them.

  • I’m a former domestic abuser. It wasn’t until I went to jail and had to pay for my girlfriend’s extensive medical bills that I knew domestic violence was wrong. Hopefully your blog helps a fellow domestic batterer see the light.

  • I wish we had this here in the States. I believe we have a week, but it doesn’t seem to have a visible symbol and generally gets a couple desultory mentions in the press and is ignored the rest of the year.

    All too often abusers are actively supported by the system.

    Just last summer, an off duty police officer in Arizona walked into a nightclub, approached a woman from behind, and forced his fingers up her vagina. She had him arrested for sexual assault. At the trial, the judge informed the woman that this wouldn’t have happened to her if she hadn’t gone to the club and dismissed the case.

    I don’t know about anyone else, but I don’t consider an unseen stranger’s hand up my skirt part of the cover price of going dancing.

    Oh, and that judge? Is still on the bench where she will try other rape and sexual assault cases. Yes, she.

    Every year women die, women are raped, and women are maimed for life because those in power refuse to take the signs of domestic abuse or stalking seriously. Rape is still a nudge-nudge joke to many men… and to too many women who have been lucky enough not to suffer through it.

    I know several women who have suffered years of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse at the hands of men who claimed to love them. Most of them haven’t been able to call it abuse for a long time. One is still convinced that since the abuse was emotional and financial in nature, it wasn’t really abuse. After all, he never hit her. But more than two years after she tossed his sorry ass to the curb, I still see vivid signs of how he damaged her emotionally.

    Enough is enough.

    Dammit, Kath, I am pained and wish I were more shocked at what happened to you for daring to speak out. The haters may have shut down one project, but I know you’ll keep fighting. So will I. This has to stop.

    • I believe we have a week…

      These aren’t necessarily women-specific, but in the US, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. You’re right, though, that they’re generally not made known to the general public.

  • I was concerned when it was so long since the Melbourne Cup Fashion post and then doubly so when I noticed your Twitter feed had been removed from “public” settings. I’m sorry to find out that my fears were justified. **HUGS** Kath.

    There is a semi-analogue to White Ribbon day here in the states, but it is almost explicitly only about dating/domestic violence. It’s called “Take back the night” and most of the events seem childish and pointless. Like “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” where guys mostly seem to take away the lesson that size 14 high heels are hard to find and hard to walk in; the metaphor is lost in the hilarity of watching frat boys totter down the street.

    • Thanks Amber. I had to take the Twitter account to private after it just got CONSTANT harassment for days on end. Hopefully these people will get a fucking life and move on and I can open it up again later.

  • I just realised over the last two days that I was being manipulated and emotionally abused by my grandmother. She is out of my house now thanks to my fiancé and my friends but before then she was taking advantage of my depression and anxiety (which she denied that I was even experiencing) in order to turn me against my friends and isolate me.

    The worst part is I know she wouldn’t even be half as bad as what she is if she hadn’t been in an abusive relationship for years with her ex husband verbally and emotionally abusing her. It broke her and made her not care about what she was doing to me.

    As for the magazine I was sorry to see that go but your safety is more important. I hope they at least shut up for a bit.

    • I’m sorry to hear this JKitty92. I hope that you can find respite from this abuse and that it stops for you soon. It’s so very wrong to be abused by someone who is supposed to love you, I know that from experience.

  • I am so sorry that you have to deal with those unimaginable shitheads, and so enraged that cultures the world over do so little to stop it.

    Please know that you have done so much good with your presence and that your blog is one of the resources that helped me become the confident, bright color wearing, fat lady that I am, and that if I could bring over homemade bread and hugs I would. You are an important and wonderful person.

  • If people are so angry that they’re hounding you, then you’ve struck a nerve and threatened someone’s power. Sorry to hear that you had to let it go, but good on you for speaking up and refusing to take shit.

  • The fact that you’re receiving hassle for targeting an undeniable evil is really quite disturbing to me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to come to the conclusion that all of those horrified by your endeavour to make things better are the ones who are making things worse- the abusers, those who condone violence… Although one good thing they’ve done (and I’m so sorry it’s come at the your expense) is prove that, yes, there is a massive problem with violence, sexual abuse and gender-based discrimination. In a way, they’ve almost played into your hands. Try and see this as a victory, if you can, the way these trolls have persecuted you brings a lot of attention to the cause you were fighting for.

    With all that said and done though, I’m so sorry for what you have to put up with, just for doing that which is good and right. You’re a braver woman than I. I suffer from depression too, albeit of the postnatal variety and even on a good day I could not face the rubbish you put up with. Please take care of yourself during this awful time, I hope you’ve enjoyed a peaceful White Ribbon Day so far.

  • hi – I work each year on an event in Jackson, Mississippi called “The Chick Ball.” It started about 8 years ago as a domestic violence prevention fundraiser. We also have a line up of women musicians who perform a show. This is a way to highlight the talents of women musicians as, here in the southern US, we are often overlooked as performers. I added a link to a song I wrote and played in 2011. Each year the fundraiser looks to raise both awareness and money. It’s a tough, deeply ingrained problem in our world. I appreciate your work and your blog. And I’m sorry that you endured such abuse. Peace from Mississippi. –Laurel

  • Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for speaking out and for demonstrating such a great model of self-care. You are much appreciated!

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