Louise Livesey // 13 November 2008
Seemingly according to Jersey officials sexual abuse survivors should shut up. Now bear with me whilst I explain how I got to that conclusion… They have called the release of information about the investigations at Haute de la Garenne “misleading”. It was that information which created a culture shift in which (alleged) victims of sexual and physical abuse at the children’s home felt they could come forward. In short, Lenny Harper’s actions releasing information led to a situation in which survivors could disclose. By calling that “misleading” effectively argues that survivors should never have been enabled to speak out about the abuse they experienced. Yet again, those people who risk stigmatisation, who risk being stereotyped, who risk being called liars, hysterical or fantasists, yet again they are told that their society does not want to listen to the truths of abuse.
Also being told to shut up are the mothers who complained about the lack of protection given to their children during the Holy Cross protests in Northern Ireland. The Holy Cross situation included protestant men throwing pornography at and displaying hardcore images to catholic schoolgirls on their way to attend school (note in other settings this would constitute child sexual abuse according to UK law) as well as intimidation, verbal and physical abuse etc. Some mothers took a case all the way to the House of Lords claiming discrimination because the Police allowed “inhuman and degrading treatment”. The House of Lords have dismissed the claims and criticised the Human Rights Commission for supporting the case. At the same time the House of Lords agreed that the children were subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment”. The summary of the judgement is this:
“the House clearly accepted that the children were subject to inhuman and degrading treatment, yet concluded that permitting a protest to take place, which the police admitted was illegal, was upholding the rule of law,”
Meanwhile, nine people have been jailed for their role in an “online brothel” (the term is misleading – this isn’t about avatar sex, this is about trafficking of women for (male) sexual purposes). The set up is simple – web sites advertise the “goods” (i.e. women) on offer at brothels and men using the internet can select their preferred options. Some sites seem to be run by women themselves, advertising nothing more than themselves and colleagues working without pimps. But not in this case where the women were “indentured” (i.e. slaves with no chance of paying off their “debts”).
One of the women – advertised on the website as “Helen” – had been “bought” from her traffickers by a syndicate of two women and a man for £11,000 and then told she would have to pay her “bondholders” £30,000 to win her own freedom.
Brian O’Neill, prosecuting, said she effectively had to sleep with 300 men, at £100 a time, to buy herself out of a modern-day form of slavery.
The nine people jailed (sentences in brackets) are site owners/runners (and ergo brothel keepers and enslavers) Pongpoj Pitayatanakul (18 months prison), his brother Bordee Pitayatanakul (15 months prison), and Pongpoj’s girlfriend Monthira Duangthip (12 months prison) and in addition drivers/assistants Panya Peakaew (28 days prison), Nopharat Charoenying (28 days prison), Graipich Vudto (28 days prison), Thatri Pornpaditkong (community service order). The “bondholders” (i.e. slave owners) were Sutima Khongpon (2.5 years prison), Phanusak Kaewbenjarkarn (2 years prison) and Jiripha Sriwicha (2 years prison).
So there you have it – up to 60 women were advertised on this site and the maximum sentence received was 2.5 years. That’s what a woman’s freedom is worth.
In rather more positive news from the Palace of Westminster, Parliament has launched a Charter for Asylum Seeking women. And Amnesty International has launched a report on Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse in Armenia.
In disability news, amandaw has written this poignant and accurate explanation of the “second shift for the sick”. I’ll let her articulateness stand for itself as I’d only mess it up!
Resistance — truly the best word for it — it is as though “normal,” “healthy” folk are able to move throughout the world uninhibited, like pushing your hand into thin air — but sick people, disabled people must move through a world which is set up to prohibit their full participation — like pushing your hand into a thick heavy bog.
That is privilege. The ability to swim through your sea with nary a care, completely obliviously unaware of the freedom of movement you are so fortunate to have, while the rest of us have sand bags tied to our limbs, anchors roped round our waists, our feet set in cement blocks and to look back at us and ask, “What’s taking you so long?” It’s exhausting. I cannot convey in words how exhausting the fight is. Always on the defensive, always saddled with the knowledge that your basic needs require a struggle, while everyone else’s basic needs are pretty much a given so long as they put in at least a half-assed drop of effort. It’s not even just time spent, it’s energy.
In popular culture analysis, Sociological Images has an advert from a Polish phone company which objectifies women to make the point that (I assume for men) it’s better to talk to other men about men’s things like cars, sports and breasts. Not only does it objectify them but it suggests that female firefighters, soldiers and mechanics are too “girly” to do an adequate job. Feministing has also flagged up the lack of female voices doing movie trailers. And further to this mention of Nell McCafferty’s new portrait (which I should say I think is fab), McCafferty has spoken out here
“Sure, I’m against people using the beauty of women to sell cars and things, and that hasn’t changed. The message is different here, it is about showing the body for all its age. I haven’t exactly had any offers from car companies asking me to help sell even their second-hand cars since the picture appeared. What would I sell? Trabants?,”
Also, member of Birmingham Feminists, Mari Jane Cox has written a book about domestic violence which she is encouraging people to request from their local libraries so it exists as a resource. It’s also available to buy from various outlets including Amazon (and do remember in the approach to the festive season that the F Word shop raises funds through Amazon referral sales for the site and feminist activities – to link through us as referrer then use the “shop” link to the right or the link above).
If I had an “Analysis of the Day” award it would currently be tied between amandaw’s piece and this piece by Jeff Fecke deconstructing an MRA diatribe. Fecke gets points for making me laugh out loud. Amandaw gets points for making me nod madly and go “yes that’s it!”