The Complex Case of Shamima Begum

The case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year old girl who flew the UK four years ago to join ISIS is extremely complex. Her story made the headlines when her and two other friends left London to join one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Now, four years later, her two friends have died, she’s lost two children, she’s just given birth in a refugee camp, and Begum wants to return back home to the UK and her family.

**** update: Shamima’s baby son has lost his life to pneumonia after freezing to death in the refugee camp that Begum has been living in since the UK government stripped her illegally from her citizenship.

The UK’s reaction

For lots of people in the UK, this has caused outrage. Her citizenship has since been revoked meaning that she is now stateless. Most people won’t know what that means, but it’s a pretty dire and dangerous situation to be in. Being stateless strips her of all her rights and to do this is actually illegal under international law. Marie Lecont says “I find the issue of young people who’ve joined ISIS as teenagers and now want to come back very complex to be honest. I’m not sure where I stand on it. I’m amazed so many of you have confidently picked a side once and for all.” For me, it shows the extremity and online bravery of so many uneducated people who seem to be detached from the international world.

From reading online, I’ve seen the jokes made of professors, educators and academics. Where the awful woman that is Katie Hopkins (who makes the most unrelated points) is actually being given more of a platform than people who understand and are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to cases of terrorism, psychology, human rights and international relations, which is ultimately what this case is about. It’s much deeper and complex than most would even care to understand. And what an easy bandwagon it is to jump on when you hear the words ‘terrorism’, ‘Muslim girl’ and ‘ISIS’.

It’s funny as most people are quick to think that Shamima is fully responsible for being groomed and abused by ISIS, but are still furiously angry at the Rotherham and Oldham cases where girls of the same age were also groomed and abused. Perhaps it’s because the ethnicities have been switched? We need to also remember that no man has ever been treated like this. Her issue is made more of an issue because of the complexities regarding her gender, race and religion.

People have also been quick to compare her responsibility to that of the boys in the James Bulger case. A case where the boys had committed a gruesome murder at the ages of 10 years old and were convicted as the UK’s youngest criminals. A case where people only take into consideration that first part, and not the part where they served only 8 years in prison, and were assessed and monitored throughout, to then be given second chances with normal lives and under new alias.

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An eye for an eye

Shamima is not the first and won’t be the last to have fallen for the tricks of ISIS and now wishes to return home. An estimated 400 people have left and returned back to the UK from Syria and ISIS. The girls are groomed online for a long period of time, sold a dream of a life overseas by people that they think they can trust, only to discover a life of the opposite. When they arrive, they’re usually sold as wives to unknown men, raped, abused over and over, and taken to areas where they lack food, water and electricity. It’s not like she could just book a flight home. She didn’t have the access, knowledge or capability. The friends that she went with have since died, so it’s a miracle that Shamima has even escaped, not forgetting that she has literally just given birth.

Her interviews

In her recent interviews where she discovers that her identity has been revoked and she is stating that she wants to come home, it seems she lacks remorse or even a great understanding on the seriousness of her case. I watched it and was a little shocked myself. However, I looked a bit further into this too. Shamima’s answers are short, she seems unbothered and says she has little regrets about her last 4 years. But let’s take into consideration that….

  • She had just given birth in a refugee camp before one of the interviews. Of course, she is tired, probably suffering from PTSD and is facing a backlash regardless of what she says or does.
  • She’s also spent the last four years in vulnerable states surrounded by men. The only people that have interviewed her so far are men.
  • There’s such thing called Stockholm Syndrome where you grow to love your abuser or kidnapper. Though the people who surround her and her life might be the most terrifying people in the world to us, to her, they’ve been her family for years and probably shine in a very different light. This actually makes her even more vulnerable.

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She is not innocent, but she’s still a victim

It’s complex because she is not innocent. She’s witnessed and been involved with one of the world’s most notorious organisations. Therefore, she should be, rightly, tried before the courts and completely and thoroughly assessed and monitored with her baby taken into care. If you want to understand why and how people can be radicalised, if you don’t understand why she got on that plane in the first place, then the most logical thing would be to fly her back, question her and try to understand it all from her point of view. We could really learn a lot from this and learn to prevent situations like this.

We must take into consideration the complexity, back story and situation where she has made such an awful decision that will affect her for life. A decision that has left her suffering, bereaved, confused and lost. A decision that would obviously affect her words when it comes to news reports. A decision made where she had little or no control and was completely vulnerable. A decision that we can learn from to ensure that this never happens again.

We must also take into consideration that “At 19; she’s lived in a war zone, aware she’s betrayed her family and caused them pain, she’s lost two children, lost a husband and is living in a refugee camp” – @BLKMimiLD says on twitter. We must remember that for three of her four years, Shamima was pregnant, which means that she was not out running around, beheading our men and fighting on behalf of ISIS, as most of you seem to think. We must also consider her current mental state, her PTSD and the battles that are now seeded in her mind.

As a humanitarian, I believe she needs intensive mental care, restorative justice and rehabilitation. She is not innocent, and she will never be able to live a free life again, but she is a human who has lived her last four years in unimaginable circumstances, whose life may have been different if we as a society hadn’t failed her to begin with. What kind of life did we provide her in the UK where the option to join ISIS seemed far better?

I say, by unpopular opinion, that we should allow her to come back, we should learn from her and her last years in captivity and we should also ensure that we are not creating or allowing more souls to be damaged and affected in this world. If you hate ISIS and everything they’re doing to our world so much, then you should be fighting for the root cause of cases like this, not at the victims who are the end result of their doings.

Peace and love to you all,

Vanisha

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To support organisations who are working in refugee camps, with online abusers and terrorism, click the links below;

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If you want to educate yourself more on the topics of terrorism before feeding into the likes of Katie Hopkins and The Sun, then below I’ve created a list of helpful readings, books and materials;

Books

  • Human rights in the ‘War on Terror’ by R.Wilson
  • Enemies Everywhere: Terrorism, Moral Panic, and US Civil Society by Rothe, D. and Muzzatti, S.
  • Terror vs. terror by Mallow, B.
  • Terrorism by Howard, L.
  • Women, Gender and Terrorism by Laura Sjoberg

Watch and listen

  • Three Girls, BBC
  • Woman’s Hour, The Shamima Begum Case Podcast
  • The High Low, The Complicated Case of Shamima Begum Podcast

Online Readings

#metoo

“I have learned now that while those who speak about one’s miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more.” – C.S. Lewis

 

There are some people out there who will never understand what it’s like to be a female, to be treated as an object, disposable, and used. No exaggerations. They’ll never understand our daily struggles from the most mundane things like being extra wary on our walk home, to the extreme cases like rape and sexual violence.

And I hope they’ll never experience what it’s like,

but I hope more people will understand.

 

2017’s boom of the #metoo movement bought to light how prolific sexual violence is, how many people are affected, how many people suffer in silence and how little is done to help the healing, to fix our rape culture and to stand by those who suffer the most in our societies. The massive movement highlighted the abuse that takes place within the most influential and powerful circles which hit home just how vulnerable we all are to men, their power and violence.

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It proved once again how sexual violence, abuse and rape knows no boundaries, classes, cliques, race or ages.

 

Then came 2018’s hearing of Brett Kavanaugh and Dr Christine Blasley Ford which took another toll on the hurt we all feel as women in a society that fails to keep us safe, that fails to hear us and that fails to even stand by us.

The social media trends that followed were both incredibly inspiring and incredibly heart breaking. I could barely sleep that first night of the Kavanaugh hearings. I watched as millions of men and women took to their social media platforms, using their voices to tell their stories and showing support for the horrible ordeal that Ford was put through.

#ibelieveher #whyididntreport and #metoo all became top trends.

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Fast forward to today; 19th January 2019. The King of R&B is under criminal investigation after a docuseries brought together the survivors of R Kelly’s 30 year-long abusive horror stories. People were once again taking to social media to make a stand and highlighting one of the worst issues we have in modern day society.

 

Millions of men and women coming forward and telling their stories of rape, abuse and sexual violence.

Millions of men and women coming forward with millions of reasons why their stories went unreported.

And then millions of men and women who are still silently healing and hurting, who can’t find the right words and are still figuring out or moving on from their stories. Millions just like me.

 

These movements and trends are one of the positive and best things that have come out of 21st century technology. And unlike the feelings of isolation and shame that sexual violence brings, the trends and sense of community from social media instead brings us together. It gives comfort, support and the bravery needed to tell your story and bring you one step closer to dealing with it. To healing from it. Which is why, although it’s taken me more than 6 months of writing, re-editing and brave moments, I’m feeling braver and able to talk about my own experiences.

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Today, I feel ready to say that I’m with her, I believe her, and me too. I’m one of the statistics that didn’t report it, and it’s something that has stayed with me heavily ever since.

And like millions of others, there were and still are so many reasons why I felt like I couldn’t report it.

 

I’m a girl who stands up for others in acts like this. I preach and research and even wrote my whole dissertation about injustices against girls.

But when it happened to me, I did nothing.

I lost my voice then so much more.

It felt like something from a movie.

Like something you’d seen a hundred times before.

You’re watching clips of someone doing something to your body,

in your safe space, and you have no control because you’re barely conscious.

He leaves you and the scene.

You wake up the next morning sore and in autopilot.

Your body just walks straight to the shower and you clean.

You scrub your skin and you brush every bit of your mouth.

You feel dirty.

And you hurt for days.

And you cry.

Then you get on with your life.

Because it’s not like real-life, and it couldn’t have happened to you.

But, as dramatic as it sounds, it happened just like that.

 

And it’s so easy, to try and brush it to the side. Something so common.

Because what’s the point in fighting?

There’s not enough help. There’s victim blaming. There’s court. And police. And proof. And no support. It’s scary, and costly, and lengthy, and in many cases, just one word against the other.

Then there’s feelings of shame, embarrassment and loneliness, and the feelings from the aftermath which are so much worse than the feelings of the actual incident. Feeling dirty, used and completely unworthy.

Because of society, and a boy, and the behaviours we allow and brush to the side. And all of this makes me feel angrier at society and myself than at him.

More than one year later, and after yet another horrific incident, I’m not sure how much stronger I feel. But I’m still angry and I want change. And that makes me want to fight harder.

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63% of sexual assaults will never be reported to the police. And out of 1000 rapes, 994 abusers will walk free.

How is abuse against women so rampant in every society around the world? How is it one of the only things that are showing no signs of improvement?! How are we failing so many girls and women around the world every single day? Mocking our basic human rights of safety and love.

 

I don’t want it to define me, ever. I don’t want people to see me and think of these incidents. I don’t want to be a victim because I’m so much more than what happened them nights. That’s not what this is about.

 

And for so many of us, it’s not simply about justice or seeking revenge. It’s not about getting even. It’s about building a future and creating the change needed to ensure that society can keep our women and girls safe from abuse, rape and violence.

 

We need better ways and more options for reporting and supporting. Even now, I don’t believe the people from my incidents should be locked away. I think they, like many others, need rehabilitation and restoration because simply locking these people away will not solve this social and global epidemic or stop the cycles of abuse.

 

We shouldn’t be afraid about making conversation around these topics and instead teaching our young men and women what is right and what is wrong. We need to teach and learn to recognise the stages of abuse, what our options are when it comes to abuse and to create a safe space where we can have real conversations about it all with our abusers, with a support system, with our communities and even with ourselves. We need to call it out before it happens, when it happens and keep that conversation going if there is an after.

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In times surrounding these events and movements, know that these women will be rethinking and reliving some of their darkest times, many in silence and many still healing. Look at the women in your lives and love them hard, support them and tell them “I believe you”.

 

I’m so proud and grateful for every single person who has come forward, for every #metoo, #ibelieveher and #whyididintreport for their bravery, power, support, and inspiration. For anyone struggling, know you’re not alone, you’re worthy, you are loved and you’ll have better days. The actions of someone else is not your fault.

For anyone affected or for anyone who wants to talk, you can message me privately on here, on my Instagram @Vanishamay or email vanishamay@googlemail.com.

 

I hope you all find some happiness, strength and courage today,

V

X

 

For more support;

https://www.rainn.org/

https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sexual-health/help-after-rape-and-sexual-assault/

https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/crime-info/types-crime/rape-sexual-assault-and-sexual-harassment

https://rapecrisis.org.uk/

http://thesurvivorstrust.org/

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

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How to prevent rape

One in four women will be raped. Only 10% will report it. The other 90% will take refuge in silence. 50% of these be cause the perpetrator is a family member or someone they know. The other half think they won’t be believed. And they won’t be believed.” – Ines Hercovich

Why didn’t she call for help?

Why does she stay?

How could she go home with him?

Why would she wear them clothes?

She shouldn’t have drunk so much.

She should have said no again.

She should have struggled more.

She shouldn’t have left her friends.

What do you expect?

All the above is called victim blaming which happens so often and in so many contexts that when someone is raped they themselves question whether they were raped or just simply ‘asking for it’.

The world teaches us that we’ve done something wrong. We’re shamed and blamed in to thinking it’s our own fault. We should not be carrying the burden of their actions by ourselves. 90% of us should be given more of a chance.

A situation that is so common, yet almost completely silenced.

A situation where I think I drank too much.

I made a mistake.

I should have tried harder.

A situation caused by greed, power and privilege.

A situation involving not me, just my body.

A situation caused by someone else.

A situation where the only thing that could have stopped me from being raped that night is the person that raped me.

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However, not all rapists are monsters. And not all victims are damaged.

In fact, what is damaging are these labels. These labels do not explain what makes an everyday man lose his humanity for minutes of self-centred pleasure and control. Rapists, abusers and violators are not devils crawling in and out of black holes reaching out to our bodies with one aim in life.

They walk the streets with us, sit in our classrooms, they’re our bosses, our boyfriends, they’re everywhere.

Which is why, to stop violence against women, girls, and everyone else in fact, we need to shift the focus from women and girls and bring men into the conversation. Men need to be part of this movement, and men need to be the main leaders of this fight because it’s men that are being failed at some point, in a society that leads them to believe they have privilege and control over someone else’s body on a scary scale that has been happening today and for years and years and years.

A situation that goes beyond borders, race, religion and status.

It is our job to speak up for the women and girls who are unable. Women and girls who can’t find the strength or are not ready to share their story. Women and girls who live in place where their lives will be in even more danger for saying the words ‘he raped me’.

But men and boys also need to be encouraged to speak up and say ‘I raped her’ in order to change societies blame game, and in order to understand better, in a humane and safer perspective, why men are the solutions and fully responsible for this inhumane global pandemic.

Our voices matter. Our words can create change. But we need all voices, not just the survivors, and not just women.

Each story involves two people. We need to create questions for him, and conversation for her. And we need to give both a space in which we can address this global issue, so that his son does not make the same mistake to her daughter, so we can create a safe world for everyone and our futures.

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So, let’s change the questions;

Why does he hit her?

Why is domestic violence a global issue?

Why are men the main perpetrators to all children, women and other men?

“Why do so many men abuse physically, emotionally, sexually, verbally the women and kids that they claim to love?

What’s going on with men?

Why is this a common problem in society?

Why do we hear over and over again about new scandals erupting in major institutions like the Catholic Church or the Penn State football program or the Boy Scouts of America, on and on and on?

What’s going on with men?” – Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

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This is not a battle or about girls vs boys. We’re all producing this culture and behaviour and we all suffer as a result. How are we all going to stop it?

Let’s talk. Let’s challenge. Let’s end it for all of us.

Hoping for the best,

V

X

p.s this is just 745 words, this is not my whole scope or thoughts or words on the issues surrounding gender, men, women, society, sexual abuse and violence. I want this to be something positive and to create something positive from something that is so disturbingly negative, personal and common. I don’t claim to have all the answers and everyone deals with things differently, but this is just 745 words and for some that’s brave, and a start, and it might just help someone’s life, so let’s hope for change, take care of each other and just be nice.

Below is a list of things I’ve read, watched and resources for anyone who is interested in learning and understanding more about one of our world’s biggest and ongoing problems;

And you can find these on Netflix:

  • The Hunting Ground
  • Audrie & Daisy

And these are some of my other related blogs:

If anyone has any good resources, website links, blog posts or books then please share!

The Aziz Ansari Case: Sex, consent and common misbehaviour.

CONSENT.

What does that mean to you?

The Aziz Ansari case is why I’m up late writing today. Moving away from the poorly written exposé (click for the original here) and whether the account was true or not, I want to focus on why this story really matters. I want to focus on the root of the problem and how our society is failing women and men, all of which is evident in the reactions of this story. I am so sick of people missing the root of the problem. The whole bloody point is CONSENT (or lack of!) along with the normality and ignorance of common misbehaviour.

And it’s funny because so many people are reading her side of the story and wondering what all the fuss about. People cannot believe that he might be losing shows over something so bloody trivial like a ‘date gone wrong’. So, what if he seemed a bit eager, a bit too aggressive? They’d had a few drinks at his house, she stuck around, she coulda called a cab earlier? A scenario so common that it’s almost too easy to brush it aside because behaviour that is so common, a scenario that so many of us can relate to, is the whole reason that this story highlights how big of an issue consent, sexual assault and the misuse of power is. Something so serious should not be so common.

Life is not a porno. There is no situation where you can sneak into someone’s room, insert yourself in their body while they sleep, and not be violating their human rights. There is no situation where it would be okay if a girl starts by saying ‘no’, but you brush that aside, cos she might not be serious right? and tempt her into sex anyway. There is no situation where if you slide your hand up a girl’s skirt on the dancefloor and assume she’s gonna love it. Why are we still going so wrong in society? Where our behaviour is mirroring what we see on the TV and there are people who think it’s acceptable to be treated like that in 2018 without a full, clear, enthusiastic, big fat given consent?

The New York Times have just released an article headlined “Aziz Ansari is guilty. Of not being a mind reader”. Because when you’re in a situation where someone is forcing themselves on you, celebrity status or not, it’s kinda hard to scream out NO. Because we live in culture where men use sex as their power while women are still not fully heard in life, yet alone in the bedroom. Because the obvious, foundation and bottom line of consensual and therefore enjoyable sex, like asking “you sure you cool with this?” and hearing an enthusiastic “YES give it to me”, is non-existent in this scenario and many others.

I’m actually appalled at Bari Weiss and The New York Times for releasing the shameful article (which you can read here). Let me share one of Weiss’s thoughts that she had whilst reading the story, so you can understand why we still have a disgustingly huge problem in 2018…

“If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do, use a four-letter word, stand up on your two legs and walk out his door” – Bari Weiss, letting down humanity at The New York Times

Thanks for that tip hun. I’ll take that into consideration for next time…

  1. “If he pressures you to do something you don’t want to do?!” WHY is he pressuring me into doing something that I don’t want to do?! What is going wrong in his and her way of thinking that we’re even starting the sentence off with that scenario?
  2. That if played back on CCTV, we could see more clearly where the lines may be crossed but, men are so apparently unaware of their actions that they’re unable to read basic body language and use their own ears?? Should men be excused from reading social cues or do we need to work on their ability to be able to read another human beings body?
  3. Bari Weiss, have you ever been in a situation where you are not in control? When your whole body shuts down because you can’t believe this could be happening, so you physically can’t walk out his front door? Where your ideas of this person being someone that you liked, someone that is respected, someone who you thought liked and respected you too, were completely wrong and now he’s violating that trust with your own body? Where you are not strong and confident enough to shut a man down? When it’s 4am and dark outside, and you feel obligated and under more pressure to stay. Not because you want to, but because you’re there now, and it’s 4 am and it’s dark outside and society tells you not to be “one of them girls” and you’ll be leading him on, giving him mixed messages, when actually, an invitation to his house does not mean an invitation to my body.

Another one that made my whole soul ache was ‘The humiliation of Aziz Ansari” by Caitlin Flanagan in The Atlantic. She writes…

“Eventually, overcome by her emotions at the way the night was going, she told him, “You guys are all the fucking same,” and left crying. I thought it was the most significant line in the story: This has happened to her many times before. What led her to believe that this time would be different?

  1. Haha well Flanagan obviously has no hope in mankind, the one thing we have in common. Because we should just expect men to treat us like that? Because it’s happened to her before, so she should behave better? Because we should give up all hope now and assume that every story will lead to an ending where we are not in control of our own bodies and rights? Because he’s not to blame and she should have known? And that makes it all okay?

Flanagan ends her article with…

“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men.”

  1. I’m not a privileged young white woman hun.
  2. And you’re a fool to turn this important conversation around to race. This is not about race. The colour of your skin does not define whether you can mistreat, abuse or assault another human being. It’s not his skin colour that is problematic in this situation and he is not being called up on it because he is brown-skinned. He’s being called upon his actions because he supposedly forced her hand on his dick 5-7 times, whilst she expressed her discomfort and cried all the way home as a result of her whole experience.

Women should not carry the burden of getting ourselves out of dangerous situations. There should not be any dangerous situations in the first place. Men need to start taking full responsibility for their actions. And questioning whether their partner said ‘YES’, and whether she is in a fit and able situation where she feels comfortable or bloody conscious enough to say ‘YES’. There should be no ‘if he pressures you’ or ‘if you’re in a situation like this’ because otherwise we are failing to address the safety of women and the bottom line of his actions and CONSENT. And I’m fully aware that I’m talking as a female and that men do suffer sometimes too, but the reality is that women suffer so much more. Whether you want to hear it or not, women are usually the victims and men are usually the perpetrators. And this needs to change.

Even if Ansari’s alleged actions are not criminally wrong, the story suggest that our society is a mess when it comes to sex. Thanks to porn, clubbing culture, music videos, college culture and machismo culture, boys are taught to treat girls with disrespect, like toys to play with, like objects where a ‘no’ is taken as a challenge. Whilst girls are still unsure whether they can speak up, we sit and take it, wondering if it’s the right time to say no, scared of feeling frigid, and concerned about whether he’ll call you back otherwise. This is not normal or okay behaviour on both parts. We must break these damaging and heartbreaking social norms.

When will it end? Do we need paper consent forms before we have sex? Do we need to challenge our every thoughts and actions? This story, the #metoo movement and all our other smaller stories are so important and a great start, but it is 2018 and it is still not enough. We need conversation, we need justice, we need support and we need change more than ever.

What are your thoughts? As someone who has experienced loving, consensual sex, one-night stands and an experience worse than Grace’s alleged story, it’s the reactions and words of others that have come as a result of hearing her side that have hit hardest with me. It’s a tough subject with many grey areas but there’s something seriously wrong with the fact that so many women can raise their hands and say #metoo

You can check out my related blogs about sex and the hook-up culture here:-

Physically turned on, emotionally switched off. A little look at hook-ups…

Man Up? Man Down

Vanisha

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Instagram and twitter: @vanishamay

Volunteering at Mision Mexico - Bringing love, life and hope to our children

Mision Mexico’s Magic

A day in the life of a volunteer

One of the aims as a volunteer is to spread positivity and inspiration. I walk through doors in hope that at the most, I’ll change or improve somebody’s life, and at the very least, make their day a tiny bit brighter and their smile a tiny bit bigger. What you can never plan for is the impact that someone might make on you and the mark they may leave in your life. One of my biggest inspo’s from Mision Mexico is my girl, M. This is to you gal.

 

Like most of our children at Mision Mexico, M’s journey has a been a tough one. M was found at the age of 4, wandering the streets of Tapachula buying alcohol for her alcoholic parents. At 4 years-old, M was classed as a victim of abuse and neglect. She was bought to Mision Mexico by local social services and police, and has spent most of her life with Pam and Alan Skuse and the family they’ve created at the refuge. Through pictures and videos, you can see how far she’s come. From a sweet little girl to a confident, strong young woman, M is now 17 years old.

As one of the eldest in the house, it’s clear to see who’s boss when M is around, and she can definitely play up to the role when needed! She’s a leader who knows what she wants. And that’s one thing that I love about her. That throughout everything, through all the sadness and hardship, she’s a fearless go-getter who loves life. Plus, she’s completely lovable and has the most infectious and charming personality.

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Like most teens, M has discovered make up, boys and a hate for chores. Actually, I think she reminds me a lot of myself when I was her age! Sometimes loving and happy, sometimes stubborn and testing, and sometimes just misunderstood.

 

As a volunteer at Mision Mexico, it’s not always so easy to find one-on-one time, mainly because there’s 22 children all needing their own various kinds of attention and love! But when you find that time, you break down that barrier and you make that little bond, it can be magic.

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My first magic moment with M came on a trip into town one day. We walked and talked about school and bullying and she held my hand for the whole way home. Then our funniest moment was when she took me to get tortillas in the torrential rain. We were running (which is rare for me!) and as we were attempting to walk through a small river in the street, my flip-flop came off and I almost lost it…! She thought it was hilarious.

But my proudest moment and biggest wave of inspiration came when I took her to her first boxing class. As we walked together hand in hand, M told me stories about school and the girl who she didn’t get on well with. As we got closer to central, we had incidents with two separate cars of men stopping by us and cat-calling. Funnily enough, being one of the only few tourists in Tapachula, the attention wasn’t aimed at me, but instead, aimed at a 17-year old M. Feminist me, and human me was mortified and I was quick to wave them along in anger and hand gestures. Unfortunately, incidents like this are common in areas like this.

We turned up at the boxing class and M had a huge smile of excitement on her face. She got straight into it and barely stopped for the whole hour. While she was punching away at the boxing bag with a face full of determination, I couldn’t help but think about 4-year-old M being taken away from her sad family situation, and 7-year-old M growing up with her new family at Mision Mexico, and 12-year-old M getting cat called on the street, and 14-year-old M getting hit by the girl at school, and now 17-year-old M, strong, smart and beautiful and right by my side.

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It’s an amazing feeling to watch someone who is so remarkable in your eyes, keep looking over and checking to make sure you’re watching her in her newest passion, to  wanting to hold your hand whilst walking around the streets and asking advice about her problems in life.

And, although volunteering is all about giving out love and lifting others, you’re always left with that exceptional feeling that along with changing their lives, they’re also changing yours. Magic. Saying goodbye to M as I left Mision Mexico was one of the most difficult for sure. Kidnapping is not always the best idea but she’s amongst the bunch that I would have loved to have with me forever.

 

Unfortunately, life sometimes catches up with the children and M is currently going through some difficult life decisions. We all hope that she chooses the path that will bring her the most happiness and allows her to be the best version of herself. We love you M, and thank you for being such a big part of my life in Tapachula.

For all those interested in volunteering, please don’t hesitate to ask further. You can apply at volunteers@lovelifehope.com! We’re in need of volunteers especially for October-December 2017. Must be over 21 and willing to commit for 6 weeks minimum.

Thanks for reading!
Vanisha
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Instagram: @vanishamay and @misionmexicovolunteers
Twitter: @misionmexico
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http://www.lovelifehope.com

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Photograph credits to previous volunteers at Mision Mexico**

Child abuse BBC drama

Why everyone should watch BBC’s new drama ‘Three Girls’, and how it could help save a child’s life…

“Violence against children is a violation of their human rights, a disturbing reality of our societies. It can never be justified whether for disciplinary reasons or cultural tradition.” -Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

 

The new BBC drama ‘Three Girls’ is a chilling and disturbing story based on one of the UK’s biggest crime stories. Why should everyone watch it? Because it shows how prolific sex crimes are, how it can go unnoticed for years, how vulnerable our young people are, and how the police, social workers, support workers, local government workers and society failed these girls on every single level. And there are thousands more like them.

 

Studying criminology, stories like this one are not new for me. I’m aware of how cruel and dangerous people in this world can be, but the first episode gave me chills from start to finish.

 

How big is the problem?

Sexual offences against children are increasing in the UK, along with the number of children in child protection. The development in technology has also meant that acts of grooming and cyber abuse are easier and more harmful due to online porn, videos and photos being posted online. Globally, UNICEF estimate that 150 million girls and 73 million boys under 18 have experienced forced sexual intercourse or other forms of sexual violence involving physical contact. Young people are some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

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Which is why this case is so shocking and heartbreaking. Horrific abuse went on for years and the perpetrators were the same men, grooming and victimising 47 girls, some as young as 13. Giving the children free food, befriending them and supplying them with vodka, the men involved in the child sex ring would pass the intoxicated girls round for sex and other sexual acts.

 

The reason this case is so incredibly unnerving is because society failed these girls on a number of occasions. Minus the actions and determination of one woman, Sara Rowbotham, the police, social workers and support workers involved missed clear signs and opportunities to support and protect these vulnerable, hurting and abused children. It’s shameful and difficult to watch or read about. But their story is incredibly important and I have great admiration for all the girls for helping and allowing the BBC to retell their story.

 

Making a difference…

Raising awareness about sex crimes is so important. Recognising the signs and realising the importance of speaking out, questioning and protecting any child that may be a victim of abuse is exactly what we need to think about in order to stop these crime rates from rising. Instead of shaming and assuming sex crime victims are ‘sluts’, ‘prostitutes’ or ‘asking for it’, we need to be more understanding, aware and ready for to support any child suffering, and help bring justice to the horrendous abusers and criminals involved.

UNICEF Rights Respecting School and Child Rights Partners, at Swinton Primary School, in Glasgow, Scotland, on 4 November 2014.

Sex crimes against children are not rare. They happen worldwide, committed against children from all backgrounds and all ages, committed by people from all backgrounds and of all ages. There is no singular type of abuse, victim, or perpetrator. No child is immune. It could happen to anyone. And you don’t have to be part of the police or protective social system to help or understand, you can raise understanding and awareness by watching this series and using your voice and platform to support.

 

Here’s the link to the programme which was helped put together by some of the incredible girls:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08r8pvh/three-girls-series-1-episode-1

 

Some statistics portraying the seriousness, vulnerability and high amounts of children affected in the UK and globally:

https://www.nspcc.org.uk/services-and-resources/research-and-resources/2016/how-safe-are-our-children-2016/

https://www.unicef.org/lac/full_tex(3).pdf

 

Here’s some support, information and helplines for anyone who is affected or wants to read further:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/22VVM5LPrf3pjYdKqctmMXn/information-and-support

 

Thanks for reading,

Let me know what your thoughts are!

 

Vanisha

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