End Sexual Violence in Conflict: An interview with Women for Women International

The recent sexual violence in conflict summit has brought about a welcome and renewed discussion of this issue. Below, Jude Wanga speaks to Carron Mann, Women for Women International UK‘s Policy Director, for Feminist Times.

This week’s End Sexual Violence in Conflict Summit has had a huge focus on conflicts since Bosnia in 1992. There have been numerous events focusing on Rwanda, Congo, Kosovo, the Balkan War and Afghanistan. Many of these nations are recovering from a major conflict and are in the process of adjusting to peacetime, whereas Congo is, though technically in peacetime, still in the grip of conflict. I wanted to explore the similarities that these conflicts had, but also the differences. Why do some of these areas get more coverage, awareness and support than others- and did the international community prioritise some conflict nations over others? The conflict in DRC is the deadliest conflict since World War Two. But casualty estimates are often conservative, and sexual violence figures that are under reported.

All conflicts are, obviously, different. Their origins are different,  and the obstacles to resolution are different, too. However, the exclusion of women from resolution and community stands in the way of community peace-building. This situation is built on gender inequality before the conflict – patriarchy is a worldwide problem, before, during and after war.

I spoke to Carron Mann, Women for Women International UK‘s Policy Director about these areas.

Rest: Feminist Times.

The fear of reprisal: What happens if you stand up to harassment?

I marched – or waded – over and promptly informed the three men that I would rather sew myself up and remain sexless for the rest of my life than have relations with any of them. My fellow swimmers tittered, while I stood, trying to maintain as much dignity as possible in a late-90s Speedo swimsuit and a red face. Then the middle one came forward and hissed, menacingly: “You fucking bitch.” Fear began to set in and my heartbeat quickened. I could feel my pulse in the soles of my feet. I glanced up but the life guard was busy watching over the kids. As I turned to swim away, I could feel them watching me. After two more lengths, I got out.

Lydia Smith on Feminist Times.

Harassment is not harmless or a joke or a compliment or “just how it is” or “boys being boys”. It’s more often frightening, disabling and very damaging.

#grabbed: ‘Women are taught to accept it and not to protest.’

Guardian:

These are just a tiny selection of the thousands of stories that poured in when I started the hashtag #Grabbed on Twitter to document experiences of being touched, grabbed and groped without consent.

Within a few hours, according to the International Business Times, the hashtag had been used more than 6,000 times. By that evening it was the top trending topic in the UK.

As suggested by the overwhelming number of personal testimonies that flooded in, the experience of being touched in a sexual way without your consent is devastatingly common.

Rest: guardian: Too many women are touched, grabbed and groped without consent

We can't ban pornography – but we do need to stop children accessing it

This is not about banning pornography, but protecting children from harmful and often degrading representations of sex and desire.

On the Guardian:

Today the Authority for Television on Demand (Atvod) published research telling us children as young as six are accessing hardcore pornography. If we were to apply their study of 45,000 households nationally, that is 44,000 primary school children and 200,000 under-16s accessing adult sexual material; 112,000 boys aged 12-17 had visited one site alone, Pornhub. These figures aren’t even a realistic assessment as mobiles and tablets do not feature in the research. We should be shocked by the scale of the problem before us and galvanised into action. This is not about banning pornography, but protecting children from harmful and often degrading representations of sex and desire.

[...]

Watching pornography does have real consequences for young people. In 2013, the children’s commissioner set academics from Middlesex University the task of reviewing research on how pornography affected adolescents. More than 276 submitted papers showed that: “Pornography has been linked to unrealistic attitudes about sex, beliefs that women are sex objects, more frequent thoughts about sex, and [that] children and young people who view pornography tend to hold less progressive gender role attitudes.” [Rest.]

#Rapecultureiswhen Trends and Twitter Gets Schooled

We already had to stand up and support that rape culture is a real thing this week and not a product of “female hysteria” this week. Now, thanks to Zerlina Maxwell‘s #rapecultureiswhen, we’ve discovered there might be a few people that agree with us.  “Rape culture” identifies the overwhelming normalization of sexual violence against women as a part of the cultural psyche, extending the cause of rape as an epidemic beyond individuals, to a culture that supports the mentalities that lead to rape. It should be mentioned that rape occurs on a spectrum, and cannot be defined only as forced male penetration. Top tweets all converge on one point: women are still openly sexually objectified and treated as bodies without autonomy, only until they are told they are or were responsible to prevent their own rape.

Via bust.

“When I was about 15, I was beaten up by a younger girl and feared going back to school…

When I was about 15, I was beaten up by a younger girl and feared going back to school because of bullying. Soon afterwards I met a 20-year-old who was in a gang. He had money, a car, and said he was going to protect me, that no one was going to touch me and that if I needed anything he would give it to me. Instead of going to school, I began to just sit at his house with his friends smoking weed, becoming exposed to gang violence and becoming sexually active.

“My body and mind were breaking down. From the innocence that I had, my life was self-destructing day by day. He became so controlling; he had control of where I went, who I spoke to. Whatever he said, I did. He started hitting me, but when he did he would say sorry and bought me things to make it up to me. Two years later I was getting punched so hard that one time I was knocked out.

“At 17 I fell pregnant and at this point I realised that I was scared, that I didn’t want to be with him and I didn’t want to raise a baby with him. I woke up to who was in my life. The midwife asked me who the father was and when I told them they knew who he was because he was under the Mental Health Act with bipolar. The social services came in and that’s how I got out.

“[A girl hoping to exit gang-association] will need a mentor because she needs to speak to somebody, to build up a relationship with someone she trusts. Young people are immature souls. If they have been broken in any way, they have to be fixed back.

“Housing was crucial because if I never got out of that area, even if I didn’t see him, I would have seen his friends and the friends think they’ve got control over you. It can be a very, very dangerous situation when you’re trying to get that person out of your life, but I got my escape.”

Carly’s story, Exposed: the exploitation of girls in UK gangs. [Related]

Girls in gangs leading desperate lives, says report

Girls in gangs are leading “desperate lives” in which “rape is used as a weapon and carrying drugs and guns is seen as normal”, a think tank has said.

The Centre for Social Justice said the “daily suffering” of thousands of women and girls “goes largely unnoticed”.

Girls as young as eight are being used to carry drugs, it added.

The CSJ called for youth workers to be embedded in hospital trauma units to identify victims, and for more support to be given to help girls leave gangs.

The CSJ – a right-leaning think tank established by current cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith when he was Conservative Party leader – carried out the research with the London youth charity XLP, speaking to current and former gang members, voluntary organisations and government agencies.

Researchers producing the Girls and Gangs report heard that:

  • Female gang members in their teens are being pressured to have sex with boys as young as 10 to initiate males into gangs
  • In one case a schoolgirl was abducted and sexually assaulted by nine males because she criticised a gang member
  • Young women associated with rival gangs are targets, in some cases forced to take part in a “line up”, where they are made to perform sexual acts on several men in a row
  • Girls and young women are frequently used to hide weapons and drugs – sometimes in pushchairs – because they are less likely to be stopped and searched by police

Involvement in gang culture has a detrimental impact on the education of girls and young women, researchers said, suggesting that some schools had turned a blind eye to gang activity in order to protect their reputations. [Rest.]

Girls in gangs leading desperate lives, says report

“Rapists are not merely men with heightened libidos…

Rapists are not merely men with heightened libidos; they are men who seek to possess and control, and sex is the weapon they wield—not the ends, but the means. To think that rapists all rape for one universal reason is to think that murderers all murder for a single reason, and to think that rapists all rape because of sexual attraction is to think that murderers who use guns all murder because they like the smell of gun powder.

- Melissa McEwan in Feminism 101

How Sexually Violent Language Perpetuates Rape Culture and What You Can Do About It

Have you ever noticed how violent our language is? Even when we aren’t even talking about anything inherently violent itself?

We tell people to “go f*ck themselves” when we’re angry. We’ll “tear you a new one” when we’re insulting. We “force ourselves” to do a myriad of tasks, “hit on someone” when we flirt, and tell (mostly) women to “suck it” when their power is threatening to us.

That’s a lot of violence right there.

You’ve probably also noticed that that’s a lot of sexual violence.

This language might, on the surface, seem unimportant or coincidental, but as any linguist (or feminist) knows, our language shapes the way we see our world.

When we consider the fact that 1-in-3 women and 1-in-6 men will be victims of sexual violence, it’s not surprising that it is a massive focal point in our speech.

It’s not surprising that threatening sexual assault is the primary way that we engage in verbal warfare.

This language is so normalized, it’s probably part of your vocabulary, too. In fact, not using sexual violent language is almost impossible because of how ingrained it has become.

We don’t even realize what we are actually saying because we don’t question it.

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely that you want to end rape culture and sexual violence. You probably don’t want to be normalizing rape through your language.

So how can every one of us work to stop using language derived from sexual violation? [Rest.]

How Sexually Violent Language Perpetuates Rape Culture and What You Can Do About It

Violence against women: an EU-wide survey: main results report

This FRA survey is the first of its kind on violence against women across the 28 Member States of the European Union (EU). It is based on interviews with 42,000 women across the EU, who were asked about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, including incidents of intimate partner violence (‘domestic violence’).

The survey also included questions on stalking, sexual harassment, and the role played by new technologies in women’s experiences of abuse. In addition, it asked about their experiences of violence in childhood. Based on the detailed findings, FRA suggests courses of action in different areas that are touched by violence against women and go beyond the narrow confines of criminal law, ranging from employment and health to the medium of new technologies.

Main findings from the report (link to pdf).

Extent of the problem

  • An estimated 13 million women in the EU have experienced physical violence in the course of 12 months before the survey interviews.
  • An estimated 3.7 million women in the EU have experienced sexual violence in the course of 12 months before the survey interviews.

Overall prevalence of physical and sexual violence

  • One in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old.
  • Some 8 % of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in the 12 months before the survey interview.
  • Out of all women who have a (current or previous) partner, 22 % have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner since the age of 15.

Characteristics of physical violence

  • Some 31 % of women have experienced one or more acts of physical violence since the age of 15. While women are most likely to indicate that they were pushed or shoved, excluding this form of violence has only a limited effect on the overall prevalence of physical violence, bringing it down from 31 % to 25 %. This result reflects the fact that many women who say they have been pushed or shoved have also experienced other forms of physical violence.

Characteristics of sexual violence

  • In total, 11 % of women have experienced some form of sexual violence since they were 15 years old,  either by a partner or some other person.
  • One in 20 women (5 %) has been raped since the age of 15.
  • Of those women who indicate they have been victims of sexual violence by a non-partner, almost one in 10 women indicates that more than one perpetrator was involved in the incident when describing the details of the most serious incident of sexual violence they have experienced.

Details of intimate partner violence

  • One third of victims (34 %) of physical violence by a previous partner experienced four or more different forms of physical violence.
  • The most common forms of physical violence involve pushing or shoving, slapping or grabbing, or pulling a woman’s hair.
  • Whereas in most cases violence by a previous partner occurred during the relationship, one in six women (16 %) who has been victimised by a previous partner experienced violence after the relationship had broken up.
  • Of those women who experienced violence by a previous partner and were pregnant during this relationship, 42 % experienced violence by this previous partner while pregnant. In comparison, 20 % experienced violence by their current partner while pregnant.

Details of non-partner violence

  • One in five women (22%) has experienced physical violence by someone other than their partner since the age of 15.

Violence against women: an EU-wide survey: main results report

Why naked pictures aren’t harmless

image

A frat flyer featuring naked women contributes to rape culture and objectification, and students are fighting back. 

[…] 

Earlier this week young men at Georgia Tech received an email signed “In luring rapebait” that instructed them to, among other things, grab women “on the hips with your 2 hands and then let them grind against your dick.” In October of last year a woman filed a lawsuit against Wesleyan University citing a fraternity known on campus as the “rape factory.” At Miami University of Ohio someone thought it was a good idea hang a poster titled “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape,” which closed with, “If your [sic] afraid the girl might identify you slit her throat.” A University of Vermont fraternity surveyed members in 2011 with this question: “If you could rape someone, who would it be?” At USC, two years ago, some boys released a Gullet Report (named for a “gullet,” defined as “a target’s mouth and throat. Most often pertains to a target’s throat capacity and it’s [sic] ability to gobble cock. If a target is known to have a good gullet, it can deep-throat dick extremely well. Good Gullet Girls (GGG) are always scooped up well before last call.”). For good measure they added some overtly racist material as well. Five years ago, Yale’s Zeta Psi fraternity took photos of members holding up signs reading, “We love Yale sluts.” Another fraternity had fun running around campus singing, “No means yes! Yes means anal!” Meanwhile, the school’s recommended punishment for sexual assault violations was a written reprimand. In 2012 Yale reached an agreement with the Department of Education, which launched a Title IX investigation in the wake of the song and similar incidents. [Rest.]

Why naked pictures aren’t harmless

Why do only 28% of women report serious sexual offences? [video]

Link: women’s hour.

Goverment statistics released early last year reported that 28% of women who are victims of the most serious sexual offences never tell anyone about it. The Rape Crisis movement believe that only around 15% of women and girls who experience sexual violence ever report to the police. So why do so few women disclose what has happened? Why don’t they go to the police and what does a Rape Crisis centre offer as an alternative that led to 78,000 calls in the last year? Jenni went to a Rape Crisis centre in London to investigate.

Related:

We must enlist men and boys in the fight to end violence against women

[…] Men who commit violence against women tend to buy into stereotypical notions of masculinity, including the idea that men should dominate women and have “rights” over women’s bodies. As feminist scholars and activists have long asserted, violence against women is the product of unequal relations of power. And, as our own work over the past three decades suggests, this violence also results from the ways we’ve raised boys to be men and the impossible demands of masculinity.

and , the Guardian.

Another quick hit I meant to post a long time ago. Better now than never (and always relevant). From commentisfree:

It may seem foolish to be optimistic on 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The World Health Organisation affirms that one in three women will experience violence from a male partner. A recent UN study in a half-dozen Asian countries finds that one in four men have raped.

Our optimism stems from an extraordinary change across the globe: more and more men are finally joining women to say all forms of violence against women must end. Even more critically, men around the world are saying we must play a key role in creating a future without violence against women.

Men have joined women in India, Africa and the Middle East to protest highly publicised crimes against women; in Europe and the Americas, they increasingly speak out. Together with women, we are calling on governments to take action and uphold the laws. The news from the UK that Clare’s law will now cover all of England and Wales is one example of a victory in this fight. We hope there will be many more of this kind.

The challenge now is to go even further. Yes, protests and marches raise attention. And, yes, arresting men and holding them accountable is key. But neither is enough. [Rest.]

Related:

India Is Sitting on a Time-Bomb of Violence Against Women

Not enough people inside India and outside realise the problem there is on a different scale because of the scale of sex-selection, which has meant that millions of girls who should be in the population are systematically wiped out.

- Sunny Hundal, newrepublic

This is a take on the violence in India that I had not heard before (and I’m not sure what to make of it). I understand the rationale for sex-selection (and am appalled by it, of course) but I am not convinced about the argument that sexual violence against women can be explained by the large numbers of men looking for a mate in a low population pool of women. Isn’t this equating sex with rape (which is incorrect on every level) and reducing rape to some sort of evolutionary need? If so, then it’s a very flawed explanation indeed.

On newrepublic:

Imagine a world where the proportion of girls being born is so low that large proportions of males just cannot find partners when they come of age. In such a world they are more likely to congregate in gangs for company. In turn, that means they are more likely to engage in risky behaviour: i.e. commit crime, do drugs and engage in violence against women. In gangs, men are more likely to harass women and even commit rape.

But this isn’t some dystopian fantasy – there are 37 million more men than women in India, and most of them are of marriageable age given the relatively young population. A social time-bomb is now setting off there with terrifying consequences.

While researching for my e-book on violence against women in India, earlier this year I came across an extraordinary article on why some brothers living in the same household were sharing a wife rather than marrying separate women.

Let that sink in for a moment. The Times of India reported in 2005 on instances where between two and five brothers living in a house, in rural areas in the state of Punjab, had married the same woman. It was extraordinary not just for what was in it, but for what was left out. [Rest: newrepublic]

Related:

Today in Rape Culture: Steubenville rapist released

Via Mary comes the terrible (but hardly surprising, of course) news that one of the convicted Steubenville rapists has been released from juvenile detention. He was sentenced to one year, and served about nine months.

Upon his release, Ma’lik Richmond’s attorney released a statement, which reads in part:

The past sixteen months have been extremely challenging for Ma’lik and his extended family. At sixteen years old, Ma’lik and his family endured hardness beyond imagine for any adult yet alone child.

By way of reminder, Richmond’s victim Jane Doe was 16 years old at the time of the assault. The statement did not mention her at all.

From shakesville.

Related:

Crisis in South Africa: The shocking practice of ‘corrective rape’ - aimed at ‘curing’ lesbians

The prevalence is unknown though “one support group in Cape Town told ActionAid researchers in 2009 they deal with 10 new cases every week.” On the independent:

Mvuleni Fana was walking down a quiet alleyway in Springs – 30 miles east of Johannesburg – on her way home from football practice one evening when four men surrounded her and dragged her back to the football stadium. She recognised her attackers. One by one, the men raped her, beating her unconscious and leaving her for dead.

The next morning, Mvuleni came round, bleeding, battered, in shock, and taunted by one overriding memory – the last thing they said to her before she passed out: “After everything we’re going to do to you, you’re going to be a real woman, and you’re never going to act like this again”.

Corrective rape is a hate crime wielded to convert lesbians to heterosexuality – an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being gay. The term was coined in South Africa in the early 2000s when charity workers first noticed an influx of such attacks. But despite recognition and international coverage, corrective rape in the region is escalating in severity, according to Clare Carter, the photographer behind these images. This is amid a backdrop of parts of the country “becoming more homophobic”, as one recent victim asserts. [Rest here.]

Review of the Year: Victim Blaming in the media

The Everyday Victim-Blaming team round-up the media’s victim-blaming this year. And guess what? It’s a helluva long post.

As 2013 draws to a close, my review of the year will focus on the comments made by those in public life, and the actions taken by our team to challenge these. I wanted to call it ‘stupid shit said by people who ought to know better’ but I couldn’t evidence the latter part of this statement. It seems that a headline grab or a controversial tweet likely to be retweeted hundreds of times is too big a temptation for some.

EVB launched due to media coverage of Julian Stevenson, a British man living in France who killed both of his children during an access visit. The UK media and the police in France almost fell over themselves to explain Stevenson’s behaviour; a ‘difficult divorce’, ‘unsuitable access arrangements’. We were outraged at the repeated excuses for domestic abuse, sexual violence and murder and knew many of you felt the same way and we needed to take action to demand change.

Popping up in the media to tell the criminologists, policy makers and law enforcers where they were going wrong was none other than the TV presenter, Nick Ross.  It seems Nick mistook his responsibility on Crimewatch – instead of him presenting, he appeared to believe he was a super-sleuth, solving the clues so we could rest easy in our beds, and ensuring we ‘don’t have nightmares’. Nick’s book was serialised in the Mail, the reading of which is enough to trigger a nightmare on many occasions. We read the chapter on Rape – needless to say, the book itself wasn’t on our Christmas list. Many of our supporters submitted pieces in response to Nick Ross – you can find them here.

Closely behind Ross was none other than Anne Diamond. What is it with these 1980′s TV presenters rushing to defend the abusive culture that flourished in the media industry, allowing abusers such as Jimmy Savile and others to continue to abuse women and children with impunity? Diane Martin, one of our supporters, wrote a beautiful response to these comments. [Rest.]

Related:

The Lynx Effect: Rape culture in action

Sometimes it’s really difficult to explain the concept of rape culture to the unconvinced. Some people still believe there is rape – which bad people commit – and a surrounding environment which does nothing to condone it. If they do nothing else, Lynx adverts, with their jaunty sexism and teenage bedroom fantasies, make it that little bit easier to show how distorted concepts of seduction feed into a belief that consent doesn’t really matter.

As ever, glosswitch nails it.

[...]

That’s right, ladies, when a man you’ve never met before gives you flowers, you’ll know he’s acting on Impulse (which obviously makes it totally reassuring and not at all stalkerish, or so my 11-year-old self used to think). As ever, the expectations placed on men in response to female body spray were considerably lower than those placed on women in response to Lynx. Women detect a little Lynx Apollo and they’re whipping their bras off to reveal ample, if somewhat artificial looking, tits. Men get a noseful of Impulse Chic and the most they’re expected to do is proffer some limp Gladioli (tip: most women would rather have booze. Or even a book token, to be honest). To make matters worse the ball is then back in the woman’s court (he’s bought you some flowers, you say? Time to whip your bra off to reveal ample …). It’s not great, is it? And all this is before we get into the deeply disturbing overtones of a tagline which suggests men can’t really control themselves anyhow. [Rest.]