Boys will be boys! And other issues…

“If we are to fight discrimination and injustice against women we must start from the home for if a woman cannot be safe in her own house then she cannot be expected to feel safe anywhere.” ― Aysha Taryam

 

This April is sexual assault awareness month. Pretty long title but it’s a form of sexual violence which basically covers many types of crimes and global issues such as rape, groping and domestic violence. Now, I’ve definitely held back from getting too involved over social media and decided to stick to one day because life is already pretty heavy with everything going on at the moment! Buuuut, it’s also a super important time as domestic violence is obviously on the insane rise and this month has a special focus on supporting victims.

 

#MeToo

I know the importance of feeling supported and heard, but it’s all so complex and daunting for all of us. The crime and abuse of many experiences are bad enough, but the aftermath of trauma, support and seeking justice sometimes feel so much worse. I know this because I’m a survivor (read more here) and I know how hard it is to be vulnerable, ask for help and to also provide the right help to others. Please do reach out to me for any advice or support. I hope this blog  helps at least one person.

 

COVID-19 and the rise of domestic abuse

Fighting injustice remains my main fight because even for a wealthy and developed nation, we have a long way to go. Home is not always a safe place and outside is scary too. Violence against women are some of the only crimes that remain on the rise. And now in a lock-down, we’ve seen these statistics almost double with some helplines and support website traffic in the UK increased by 156%. But, have we seen a dramatic rise in police reporting? No, only about 3%. This is an issue.

Being in a lock-down situation means that these incidents are also becoming more violent and more common, however with refuges closed and being unable to leave our homes, many are left with few options and less safety. If you’re reading this and are not sure how to get help, connect with someone here or read at the bottom for other options.

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Guys are not the problem

I know that men can be victims too, but women are the main victims in almost every crime (around 84%) with men the main offenders (around 92.4%) so, violence against women remains the key issue and crisis. But this doesn’t mean that men are the problem. It’s our cultures, our societies and our behaviours that need fixing. We’re talking about gendered crimes which are deeply rooted in almost every society around the world from the President of the United States to that guy in my hometown. It’s a pandemic in itself which has lasted decades but it’s still so invisible. So, how can we recognise, help and support those who need it the most including ourselves?

The signs

If your friend starts choking, what do you do? You try the Heimlich maneuver, call for help, call the emergency services. We do these steps because we know what to do in an emergency. But when someone you know may be a victim of violence, there are no clear steps on how to help them or how to even recognise the signs unless they’re 100% obvious, which by then, it’s very serious.

 

Ten signs of an unhealthy relationship

  1. Making threats or instilling fear.
  2. Insulting, putting you down or making you feel bad.
  3. Forcing you to do things unwillingly.
  4. Guilt tripping.
  5. Physically mistreating you (pushing, slapping…).
  6. Checking your social media, phone and web history constantly.
  7. Wanting to control where you are, who you spend time with etc.
  8. Cheating on you or accusing you of cheating.
  9. Forceful sex/rape.
  10. Manipulation with your finances or belongings.

 

Note, it’s important to notice these signs and to know where to get help from because the effects of abuse, assault and violence can last generations and has more impact than you’ll ever realise. Even if you think this doesn’t affect you, it does, through our healthcare, our justice system, our taxes, our community, our loved ones and we’ll never break these cycles unless we address the root and heal as early on as we can. If you recognise these signs in your own relationship, please click here.

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What is rape culture and am I involved?

Rape culture is all around us, it’s a very real thing. And it’s not that people are being told to rape or to be violent but it’s kinda excused or shrugged off in mainstream media and society. It creates a normalisation within our environments and through ‘locker room’ talk, derogatory language, objectification of women and porn/glamorisation of sex and violence, it enables a society that ignores others safety and rights.

Spot these examples

  1. “She asked for it!’’ or victim blaming.
  2. “Boys will be boys!” or telling everyone that assault is inevitable, and boys can’t be held accountable.
  3. “But guys get falsely accused all the time!” which is not true and deflects those who are truly affected. Men are more likely to be raped themselves than to be falsely accused.
  4. “But what were you wearing? Were you drinking?” this teaches that it’s more important to not get raped instead of teaching men to just not rape. It also deflects from the issue and causes more damage to the survivor.
  5. “Rough, beaten, underage and crying for help” these videos and titles in porn are damaging to those who confuse what they watch with real life and real situations to their online screen.
  6. “Men are dominant and aggressive grrrr and women are submissive and passive” not always true, not healthy and definitely should not be defined so much. Men can cry and women can be strong AF and so on and so on. Let’s embrace this.

See the issues?

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For you, the survivor;

 

For you seeking support for others and creating a better world

  • Stay connected and don’t be afraid to create conversation.
  • CONSENT! Always ask for consent, communicate and never assume.
  • Think about the media, our friends and our own language and messages.
  • Listen without judgement and believe what they are saying. We don’t even have to offer advice or question their choices. Just listen, believe and support.
  • Speak out and stand up for what is right, even if it feels hard.
  • Educate yourselves on these issues. There’s so much available on Netflix, TV and YouTube and the more we know and learn, the bigger chance we all have in creating safety and equality. I’ve tagged a load below!
  • https://www.rainn.org/articles/help-someone-you-care-about
  • https://www.rainn.org/articles/tips-talking-survivors-sexual-assault

 

It’s always tricky to write a blog like this. It’s hard to find a balance between knowledge, awareness and support but I hope it’s helped or made you think about something differently.

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/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk

 

For learning, listening and watching;

#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/

International Women’s Day

Today we celebrate International Women’s Day 2018 and this year we also celebrate The Year of the Woman. We also carry the movements of #TimesUp, #MeToo, #HeForShe and many others as we watch women capturing headlines, rising up and demanding for change.

But why is this so important still? Why are we still fighting for change? And how are half the humans born on this planet still facing lives of inequality and injustice? These are the questions that we hear on a daily basis, so I hope, whoever and wherever you are, that this blog today will bring you the knowledge, inspiration and the power to act now. Because the #TimeIsNow. Let’s #pressforprogress.

International Women’s Day is a day for everybody. Yes, everybody. It’s a day to look at our progress, our future and our current successes. And I don’t want to write a long-winded serious essay today so I’m just gonna give you a few facts, a list of women that are inspiring me, and a lil’ empowerment for you all to take in.

I hear more often than ever the confused question of “but aren’t women equal now?” and we have come a long way, it’s true. Thanks to the Pankhursts and tonnes of other brave women who have been fighting for the last 100 years and since, well, forever, us few women in the West are reasonably lucky. From the hills of Hollywood to the workplace, women are finding their power and using their voices. But we are still not equal. For many women around the world, their situations are unimaginable, situations far from safety, far from luck, and even further from equality, there’s still a long way to go.

So, we fight on. And it’s not just women. For all you guys who are still reading but questioning your place in this global movement, this is for you too. For all the gender stereotypes, for equality for ALL genders, this is to smash that glass ceiling and bin the ideas around blue is for boys and crying is for girls. For everyone who identifies between the binary, this day is for you too. Because we all deserve a fair and equal chance in a world filled with love, safety and opportunity.

A big problem surrounding gender inequality is poverty. Did you know that we can eradicate global poverty if we achieved these two words? Gender equality. Because poverty is sexist, with 70% of the world’s poorest people being women. If we educated more girls, less girls would die at childbirth, less women would experience domestic abuse and violence, and more women would be able to push their families out of poverty, therefore breaking both cycles that threaten millions of people worldwide. The goal is 2030. Are you with me?

So, what are the facts? Why are we still fighting?

  • Because out of the millions of human trafficking victims, you’ll find 8 out of 10 of them are female.
  • Because women are more likely to be victims of rape and domestic violence than from cancer, war, car accidents and malaria. This blows my mind.
  • Because 250 million girls alive today were married before their 15th birthday. This is worse for girls as they are more likely to die from childbirth, more likely to be victims of abuse and violence and less likely to receive education than their male counterparts or if they were married 5 years later as adults.
  • Because in the US, women earn on average 78 cents for every man’s dollar.
  • Because we all know Ed Westwick, Donald Trump, Ben Affleck, Harvey Weinstein, Dustin Hoffman. These men of power, status and money have all had allegations of harassment, sexual assault and sexual misconduct made against them. And they’re just a few names! Imagine how many more there are, how many names we’ll never hear still.
  • Because half the world is female. Because it affects the most privileged woman, to the poorest. That should be reason enough.

And here are my people of the year…

  • Gloria Allred. I actually had no idea who this woman was until a few weeks ago when I watched her documentary on Netflix (Seeing Allred) and became in awe. She’s a modern-day heroine whose name is behind some of the biggest headlines of our year, yet her name is not celebrated or even well-known. Allred is a woman’s attorney in America, fighting especially on high profile cases that victimise and twist the rights of women. Cases against Weinstein, O.J Simpson and Donald Trump. She takes a lot of stick, but due to her own experiences and passion for justice, Allred fights on and is truly a force to be reckoned with.
  • Angelina Jolie. We all know her, we’ve all seen her movies but not everyone knows what she’s up to today. She’s my inspo in so many ways. Of course, she’s great in films, and we’ve all seen her grow and mature through them all, but her best work is the work she does for humanity. Jolie has used her fame and platform to do good, speak up and invest in those that need it the most. What a woman. She works for the UN, LSE, helps refugees, women and children, and has also directed the incredible movie First They Killed My Father, which you can also find on Netflix.
  • Nazra Akter is an advocate for women and worker’s rights in Bangladesh. She’s worked in sweatshops from the age of 13 and has experienced hardship, abuse and inequality in the workplace. So, she started a women’s union party and continues to fight every day for the safety and lives of women. Women like her make our t-shirts, socks and trousers. It’s time women and their work were given more recognition, respect and money than our clothes. Our fashion industry is full of sexism, inequality and absolute horrors. I’m currently researching and writing about it but you can start by signing this petition; https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories
  • Me and you. We have the power and platform to be just as incredible as these three women (we could give it a good go anyway!). The world needs more activists and feminists. These shouldn’t be scary, demonised words. They are brave, bold and life-changing. Encourage it, encourage yourself and encourage everyone around you. Can we achieve gender equality by 2030? Not without me and you. Are you with me?

IWD 2018 is all about being brave, standing up for what’s right, becoming everyday activists and taking action into our own hands!

Whether you’re young, old, male, female, black, white and everything in between know that

you are valued

you are loved

you are worthy

you deserve respect

you deserve to be heard

you can change the future

you can change lives and

you can start today.

Are YOU with me?

Have a great day. Go kick some ass. Let’s change the world.

Vanisha

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So, how can you join me? –

Sign a petition:

https://www.one.org/us/take-action/poverty-is-sexist/

https://act.careinternational.org.uk/letter_garment_factories

Listen:

Listen to women. Trust us. Believe us.

Speak out:

Whenever you see an injustice, a threat or any form of inequality, call it out and use your voice. And use your voice anyway! Show ya support. I wanna hear you not just today, but every day.

Support:

There are so many people and organisations that you can follow and support today. I’ll give ya these to start with…

– Mision Mexico

– Care International

– UN women

– Humanity Unified

Live out your activism:

Let the fight for equality go beyond just statuses and today. Make an effort to make it a real part of you. You’re a life-changer.

And support me!

I’ll be doing a fundraising event in April for March4women, follow me on social media to see how you can support that and keep up to date with me and my ramblings @vanishamay

** art by @thisisaliceskinner, check her out too!