Unbelievable: A true story

Writing can be so hard. You have a million things that you want to say, things that you want to tell the world, but nothing comes for months and months. No inspiration and little motivation. In fact, this year, I’ve only written five blogs which sucks for me. But then, something happens… you have a moment of spark, something that kicks you straight outta bed and makes you run to your desk to write. My modern-day writers block was just cured, thanks to Netflix.

 

I could easily spend hours on end binge-watching all sorts on that platform, but it’s rare to watch something that is well made and important for the world. Netflix’s latest drama; Unbelievable is one of the best shows on there today (along with Delhi Crime which has a similar narrative, watch that too). It’s a real-life story based on the award winning journalism piece from Pro Publica and The Marshall Project which is super relevant and incredibly important to today’s current climate. A story that is far too common, a story that I share myself (read that here) and a story that made me cry silly ridiculously in my room after watching it all.

For anyone that wants to watch it, sorry for the spoilers. But also, if you’re not planning on watching it and you’re reading this now, I’m telling you to just watch it regardless.

 

The Story

The story starts with a young girl, Marie Adler, who is awoken in the night, raped repeatedly in her home and abused for hours. The guy leaves with little evidence and Marie is subjected to an awful few days in questioning, statement giving and suspicion from those around her following from her attack. The police involved were ill-trained, her support system was lacking, and she was made to believe that her story was not worthy of pursuing. Everyone doubted her which eventually flipped her life upside down due to charges of false reporting, joblessness, media reporting and social rejection. She took a plea deal and tried to forget about it all.

But a year later, and the rapist had committed five more attacks in the same way. He was caught and currently serves a 200+ year sentence thanks to a team led by two incredible women who worked relentlessly to seek justice for these survivors.

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What are the facts?

Violence against women is one of the only criminal statistics that gets higher every year. Violence against women has no race, no border, no age and no preferences. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women have experience physical/sexual violence at some point in their lives. Less than 40% seek help, and of those, less than 10% seek help from the police.

So, why don’t women report? This story highlights all the reasons why violence against women remains one of the most common and easiest crimes to get away with. Not only does every single system worldwide fail to support survivors but our social systems tend to preference male perpetrators, worrying about ruining their reputations and having a hard time believing that they’re capable of such things. Because of this, only 9% of all rapists will get prosecuted. Only 5% of cases lead to conviction, with 3% of rapists spending a full day in prison whilst the other 97% will walk free.

 

 

What can we take from this?

I’ve scrambled down five points that I believe every single person on this planet can reflect on from this story;

  1. Believe

At the centre of the violence is the shame and fear of not being believed. Societies around the world regard violence against women so low that when someone does speak out, they’re put on trial with their stories judged and dissected. That’s what it feels like anyway. Marie’s whole life was evaluated before the police even considered searching for her rapist. And it’s so rare that anyone would make this stuff up. In fact, men are more likely to be victims of a sexual assault themselves than to be falsely accused of committing one. We’re living in a global movement where people are feeling braver and stronger than ever with their stories, let’s believe survivors and stop treating them like the accused.

 2. Support 

Each time you must tell your story or think about the crime, the trauma is relived, and on days it feels endless. A moment, a smell, a touch in the wrong place, a feeling, and it sends you straight back to that moment, no matter how many years pass. There was one scene at the end where a survivor confronts her attacker in despair, she wants to know why he picked her because her life has never been the same which shows that violence is never an event that happens once. Going through an ordeal like this one, speaking out about it and living with the trauma that follows affects your whole life. It’s not easy. A good support system is crucial when healing and living through the processes of prosecution. Support those around you.

3. Share

As we’ve learned, most victims will never tell their stories fully, but for those that do, we must share and honour their stories. Their stories are examples of a society gone wrong and hold important lessons for our futures. Sharing and listening to survivors’ stories means that as a society, we’re taking their stories into account, we’re not dismissing them and we’re allowing others to feel safe to come forward with their own stories. In this case, the rapist was caught thanks to the sharing of other stories and multiple people coming forward.

 4. Fight

Most justice systems worldwide lack the services, training and support for those dealing with cases with women and violence. Creating more jobs for women in the justice system, training programs, and care support services for victims will enable the criminal process to be more effective, supportive and less distressing. Signing petitions, fighting for a more equal world and standing up for women will encourage and support everyone on the planet in multiple ways. 

5. Help

From catcalling in the street to rape and death; our stories, our perpetrators are almost always men. Yet, there are places around the world where a woman could be killed for declaring “I’ve been raped” whilst the rapist continues with his free life. 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.

Call out the men around you who show any signs of mistreatment or abuse to the women in this world. Make the treatment of women an everyday healthy conversation with your sons, boyfriends and people. And if you can’t keep us safe, be brave enough to seek help. Here’s a brilliant TedTalk to listen to about this;

Jackson Katz: Violence against women — it’s a men’s issue

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“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

 

This story is just one in a million. The drama adaptation highlights everything that is important to understanding and creating a safer space for more than half of the world’s population. It’s hard to watch but I’m so glad it’s there for you all to see. I hope you take some time to watch and learn more about one of the longest running injustices to people on this planet.

Have a peaceful day and please get in touch if you ever need someone to listen;

Vanisha

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For anyone affected and to learn more, here’s some links below;

Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger: Our story of rape and reconciliation

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/

http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/299-fast-facts-statistics-on-violence-against-women-and-girls-.html

https://www.survivorsuk.org/

https://www.propublica.org/article/false-rape-accusations-an-unbelievable-story

#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

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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

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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

Global bodies, sex and stories from around the world.

“Every young person will one day have life-changing decisions to make about their sexual and reproductive health. Yet research shows that the majority of adolescents lack the knowledge required to make those decisions responsibly, leaving them vulnerable to coercion, sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.” -UNFPA

 

Sexual education improves the lives, dignity and knowledge for every single person in the world. Sexual education helps define healthy/unhealthy relationships, consent, safety and human rights which is vital knowledge for absolutely everyone. Right?

 

It’s no shocker that caught up in all the wrongs of the world are our young girls and women who are most at risks of HIV, aids, unwanted and unsafe pregnancies and abortions, STD’s, sexual assault and exploitation. This is especially unsurprising when 120 million girls don’t even have a basic education yet alone a sexual education.

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Travelling is amazing and opens your eyes to many differences around the world including some of my main interests such as sex in society, prostitution, trafficking and how the women and girls of the world fit into all of this. It’s apparent that sexual education, knowledge and awareness is sometimes non-existent in many countries around the world.

 

This means that some girls around the world have their monthly periods and have no idea why they’re bleeding, if it’s normal, if it’s natural and what their body is even doing. It means that for some girls they are locked in their homes during these times, stopped from going to school and forced to using unsanitary solutions in shame.

 

This means that 125 million girls and women alive today have undergone various forms of female genital mutilation without the knowledge as to why they’re being mutilated, what their rights are, and even the full knowledge of why they have genitals in the first place.

 

This means that people are unaware of their right to consent and safety and are fully exploited by people who see dollar signs all over their female flesh. This means that people visiting brothels whether they’re in Amsterdam, India or London are usually unaware or don’t care that the human being who is there to ‘give them a good time’ is more than likely to be there not out of choice, but out of force, bribery, slavery, trafficking and fully stripped from their rights, safety and voice.

 

There are approximately 20-30 million slaves in the world today. 80% of these humans are sexually exploited. 80% of these humans are women and girls. Still not shocked?

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Conversations with a friend in Peru brought to light the situation of women and contraception in the country. He explained how it’s mostly women prostitutes who are on the pill which completely took me back as a young woman on the pill herself. In the UK, most women I know are on some form of contraception and for so many different reasons. It shocked me that perhaps the knowledge and availability of contraception might not be accessible or encouraged for all females, and not just sex workers.

 

This also reminded me of my experience with a man in Indonesia who hosted me and a friend and allowed us to attend a double circumsion ceremony for two boys aged 11 and 7. The conversations that followed will always be with me. He spoke about how his wife every month has bloody clothes but was unsure why. Especially surprising as they had two children together including a daughter who had also undergone FGM. Yet, he had no knowledge about the female body, what happened at his children’s births, why his wife has bloody clothes every month, and also how sex can be for pleasure and not just for reproduction. The knowledge and tradition that he did possess was that the female genital is actually seen to be ‘unclean’ in his community and is in a much better state once cut or mutilated.

 

As a woman who has grown up in a country where sex education may be basic but still teaches all the essentials, where I freely and openly talk about my body, health, sex and sexuality with my friend, family, nurses and teachers, where my further studies have opened my eyes to the dangers surrounding the female body regarding rape, FGM, assault, and inequalities, it never crossed my mind that these girls I want to protect and the men who live beside them might not even know how to have sex, or what a period even is.

 

“If an 11-year-old girl arrives in hospital pregnant, nobody says anything,” says Alvaro Serrano, director of the region for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). “Women and girls are dying because of poor sex education.” – The Guardian

 

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It’s a pretty deep topic but further conversations with some European backpackers about their experiences with prostitutes, their ridiculous expectations and their absolute disrespect and disregard for the humans interacting with them spurred me on to further research, share my stories and help raise awareness on the importance of sexual education for everyone worldwide. Sexual education should not be based around fear, shame, religion or tradition but around health, dignity, humanity and for all those most affected, especially our women and girls. 

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What are your thoughts on sexual education? Is it helpful for young people? Are there any alternatives? Do you have any experiences that you want to share or talk about?

 

Feel free to drop me a message!

You can also follow my South American adventures on instagram @vanishamay

 

Thanks for reading guys!

Vanisha

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My list of used resources and helpful websites…

On menstruation:

http://www.womenshealthmag.com/life/periods-around-the-world

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/menstruation-themed-photo-series-artist-censored-by-instagram-says-images-are-to-demystify-taboos-10144331.html

On sex ed:

https://www.fatherly.com/health-science/international-sex-education/

https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/may/20/six-best-sex-education-programmes-around-the-world

https://plan-uk.org/

http://www.unfpa.org/comprehensive-sexuality-education

https://www.bustle.com/articles/80266-5-places-around-the-world-where-sex-education-is-improving-because-comprehensive-and-progressive-programs-do

https://www.aasect.org/evolving-state-sexuality-education-around-world

On trafficking and the rest:

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-human-trafficking

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs364/en/

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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Man up! Man down. The effects of the hook-up culture and the male identity. 

I’ve been analysing and reading about the phenomenon of the hook-up culture and what it means to be a part of it, and it’s clear to see the gender differences and the impacts it has on all parties, whether recognised or not, and whether wanted or not. There’s lots of research about the effects on women and girls, and I’d tend to write about it as a woman myself, however, recently I’ve been thinking a lot about men and the effects it has, the pressure involved and the ideas behind their behaviour.

As a fighting feminist, I think it’s incredibly important and necessary to look also at men and their roles, their oppression and not to bring them down but to bring them to attention and to an understanding so that they too can explore option and live their lives without judgement on how they should perform their masculinity and to what extent. Feminism isn’t about excluding men or hating them, it’s about equality. So maybe if there was a focus on the role of men, the fight for equality for women would be helped too? Hmmm…

So guys…
Want to have a long and loving relationship? Cool. Want to have multiple hook-ups and no commitment? Cool. Want them relationships to be with the same sex? Cool. Want them relationships to be with all sexes? Cool. Want them relationships to be explored whilst your identity is not so socially defined and your gender role is neither ‘male’ or ‘female’? Cool. Want none of that or something else? That’s cool too.

As a sociologist, (and this is my little rant section) the more I’m forced to analyse and think about gender roles, social performances and constructs, the more I hate people and society. Lol and the more I realise we’re all doomed, but let’s keep the positivity as always guys! I’m more aware than ever before of why I behave the way I do, the reasons behind my actions and all the rest of it. And although this is both a blessing and a curse (because I over-analyse EVERYTHING), it makes me realise more how unintentionally, and unknowingly brainwashed so many people are. There’s no real blame here, but maybe we should all be questioning who we are and our place in society….

The hook-up culture holds huge responsibility in enforcing typical gender roles, especially on men. Currier, 2013, argues that there’s a “hyper-focus on heterosexuality and sexual activity, and the importance of bonding with or impressing men, is much more than bonding or impressing women”. In the article that I read, Currier, West and Zimmerman all argued how “men were doing masculinity on ways that made them more accountable to other men”, and that through the activities of hook-ups, they hoped to raise their status and make names for themselves, which is usually the opposite strategy for women who fear slut-shaming. This all shows the pressure and importance of performances, like having sex and having a lack of respect towards women and their bodies, in order to show off to ya mates and boost what it means to be heterosexual and male.

Connell argues that “heterosexual men are not excluded from the basic capacity to share experiences, feelings and hope. This ability is often blunted, but the capacity for caring and identification is not necessarily killed”. So many are often stuck between how they want to act and how they think they should act etc. Relating it to the hook-up culture is so relevant as it influences and holds its own expectations of ‘doing gender’ and ‘being a man’.

Anyway, going back to my point, it seems men don’t have it all figured out, and things can be pretty tough for them too. And as an example of some guys that I know, those that tend to strut around with egos as big as their need to conform, are actually some of the most damaged I know too. So what does this say? And I’m not saying men are to blame for this, or that it’s all men because it definitely is not, but as a society, do we need to look more at breaking these ideas of what it means to ‘be a man’?

“The number of heterosexual men working on these issues is still small. I don’t think there is anything in itself admirable about being a dissident. I look forward to the day when a majority of men, as well as a majority of women, accept the absolute equality of the sexes, accept sharing of childcare and all other forms of work, accept freedom of sexual behaviour, and accept multiplicity of gender forms, as being plain common sense and the ordinary basis of civilised life.” – Connell, 2014

This is only a little analysis that I did super quickly (because I’m supposed to be writing a dissertation!) but the thoughts came up while doing some research and I’d love to know what you all think? Do you think ‘maleness’ and the related expected behaviour is a real issue and needs to be recognised more? Should we be questioning our roles within the phenomenon of our hook-up culture? Is it time something changed with ‘maleness’ for the benefit of everyone? Could it ever change or is it changing already? Could change mean that men might feel lost in their identities or would they become empowered and free? All thoughts, just thoughts…. Feel free to share yours too!

Have a good day and thanks for reading!

V