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

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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/

https://www.womensaid.org.uk

 

For learning, listening and watching;

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