Adding my voice to those revictimised by Nadine Dorries.

// 17 May 2011

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This post contains aspects which may be triggering to some readers. It is written by a guest blogger who preferred to remain anonymous. 4741823343_117014c7d7_o.jpg

As if Nadine Dorries hadn’t already done enough damage to women and disabled people, and doubtless others, she yesterday perhaps excelled even herself. Appearing on 5’s Vanessa, and talking about her abstinence sex-ed motion, she said,

“If a stronger ‘just say no’ message was given to children in school then there might be an impact on sex abuse … if we imbued this message in school we’d probably have less sex abuse.” (Nadine Dorries)

While others have bravely spoken out on their own blogs, I am posting anonymously, and part of the reason for this is the prevalence of attitudes like Dorries’.

When children are sexually abused, it is not as simple as saying no. Firstly, it is a rare abuser who would hear ‘no’ and actually stop. The whole point of abuse is that the abuser is getting off on exploiting and hurting you. A protest against it does not make the slightest difference to their actions. And secondly, saying ‘no’ does not always come as naturally as you might imagine. When a child is faced with a situation that scares, hurts, intimidates and threatens her, she will sometimes disappear into a dissociated bubble in which she distances herself from what is happening and rises somewhere into the ceiling. Whatever is going on to the child on the bed is far, far away and the pain, the humiliation and the disgust are happening to somebody else. Or she can freeze, unable to move or speak. She is under so much threat that no noise will come out of her mouth. Or, of course, there is a hand over her mouth so she could scream ‘no’ as much as she was able, but it would never be heard. When I say ‘she’, I mean, of course, ‘me’.

In these cases, the child might not even say no. Do not imagine, even for a millisecond, that this means that he or she does not object to what is happening. That they don’t want it to stop, or are ambivalent about being abused. It means they are unable to say no, or that they have said no a thousand times before and it never made any difference.

What it is vital for people like Dorries to understand, is that abusers abuse regardless of the preferences of their victims. Why are people still needing to point this out? The power differential between an abuser and a victim is an inherent part of the process of abuse. They do what they do because they can. Because they have power in their older age, or they have power in their strength, or they have power in their gender, or they have power in their position of authority. Those power differentials are part of the reason that some children are unable to protest. What is the point of saying no, if the abuser can lift your whole body with one of his arms? Dare I say no, if he will then abuse my sister instead of me? Should I say no, if it means that I will get bad marks from her in lessons?

Many survivors of sexual abuse feel guilty if they did not say no, but it is never, ever their fault. The onus is always on the abuser NOT to abuse, not on the victim not to BE abused.

And this is what is most offensive about what Nadine Dorries said yesterday. Even if she does not understand all of the above. Even if she does not understand that some children can and do say no, other children can’t and don’t. Even if she does not understand why that can be. The worst thing about what she said is that it puts the blame on the children. It puts the responsibility for stopping abuse squarely onto the shoulders of the children who are being abused.

As if these kids would never have thought to object to their own victimisation, without a teacher telling them not to have sex… To put the onus on them is to deny where the blame and responsibility have to lie – on the person who is committing sexual abuse.

Children who are being sexually abused already tend to believe it is their fault. One of the reasons they fear speaking out is that they fear that others will believe it is their fault. Now we have a Member of Parliament saying, essentially, that it is.

I want to say that abuse is always the fault and responsibility of the abuser. It was not my fault I was abused, nor was it your fault you were abused. There is help available. If you are a child who is being abused, you can contact Childline on 0800 1111, and if you are a woman or girl who has been sexually abused, you can find helpline details at Survivors UK supports victims of male rape and sexual abuse, and if you are concerned about the welfare of a child, you can contact the NSPCC Child Protection Helpline.

(Image adapted from sad girl by doll dreamer)

Comments From You

Feminist Avatar // Posted 17 May 2011 at 10:51 pm

Wow, that comment by Nadine Dorries is just breathtakingly offensive.

Louise // Posted 17 May 2011 at 11:50 pm

WHAT.THE. FUCK???!!!! Seriously, there is just nothing else that can be said to that.

Jennifer Drew // Posted 18 May 2011 at 12:04 am

Nadine Dorries’ claims are on a continuum with the dominant male-centric view that women and girls are always either responsible for causing males to commit sexual violence against them or. -Girls are sexually precocious and supposedly seduce older males into committing sexual violence against them.

Both claims are used to hide male accountability because it continues to be overwhelmingly males who are the ones committing sexual violence against women and girls and also to ensure the focus is always on the female victims – never the male perpetrators.

Women and girls have always been scapegoated by our male supremacist society and Nadine Dorries is no different. For decades the issue of male sexual violence against predominantly female children was viewed as rare and if it did occur it was always the female child’s fault or her mother’s fault – never ever the male perpetrator’s fault.

When second wave feminists focused yet again on the issue of male sexual violence against women and girls (because first wave feminists had also raised the issue) for a very short while this issue was taken seriously, but then it was quickly co-opted by male supremacy and once again girls and women were blamed for males’ sexual violence committed against them. So we should not be surprised Nadine Dorries is parrotting male supremacist lies because on no account must we challenge how male sexuality is still constructed and why males learn as children that they have the pseudo innate right of sexual access to girls and women 24/7.

That is why the issue of rape is still hotly contested because rape supposedly rarely occurs and as with males committing sexual violence against girls – it is always females who are blamed.

Shreen // Posted 18 May 2011 at 2:39 am

I think the original comment needs to be viewed in context as a lot of people seem to have slightly misinterpreted it.

Of course saying no in a lot of child abuse circumstances is not always possible and a ridiculous thing to suggest, and coming from Dorries some might assume that this is what she meant.

However if you look at the comment in context, she says sit hortly after talking about a 14 year old girl who was too scared to say no to sex from her friend/boyfriend because of what the other children would think about her at school, that she would be considered “weird” for not joining in and conforming.

*This* I think is what Nadine was referring to when she said “children” – very young teenagers having sexual relationships with other very young teenagers, not a young child and a older adult abuser taking advantage of the [physical and mental] power imbalance (where saying “no” is not always realistic). I don’t think she was refering to child abuse = paedophilia, but child abuse = young people taking advantage of each other.

I don’t agree completely with her proposed sex education bill but looking at this stint on the Vanessa show in isolation, I do think she has a point that there is a culture that does not make it clear that saying no to sex is a choice that can be made (without shame!) because people have confused sexual liberation with the idea that the only liberated stance is to be having lots and lots of sex.

That should absolutely be challenged: that notion that saying no is not always socially acceptable. And that is what I feel Dorries was saying.

Lara Williams // Posted 18 May 2011 at 9:28 am

It’s hard to pinpoint what is most offensive about her statement, but I think I am most appalled at her comparison of saying no to sex with saying no to abuse. It’s abuse. The clue is in the name. This is a failure of basic reading.

Also – her movement is just to educate girls – so either she believes boys know how to say no to being abused whilst girls do not, or she thinks they don’t need the help/it doesn’t happen to them. Pretty horrific either way you look at it.

kinelfire // Posted 18 May 2011 at 12:07 pm

There’s not much I can add, except to say thank you to the author of this post; for expaining the issue at hand so clearly and powerfully.

Clara X // Posted 18 May 2011 at 1:56 pm

Absolutely. I wrote my own response here:

gingerbread // Posted 18 May 2011 at 7:04 pm

You were really brave for sharing your experiences. :)

Nadine Dorries has written a piece on her blog in response to Twitter comments appalled at her comment:

“Apparently yesterday was another classic day of Nadine bashing. When I hear that, it’s music to my ears. If I’m trending on Twitter, which I have done a lot over the last few weeks, then it means the ideological left are really angry which generally means I have got it right.

I am not even going to comment on the ‘sickness’ of those people who yesterday manipulated my comments to attempt to make people believe that I think the victims of abuse should ‘just say no’. Victim blaming is always wrong and it is sick beyond belief that some people use party politics to manipulate such a false argument. The abused are never to blame, but those who would use their tragedies to score political points are.”

The rest of her blog is below:

Charlotte // Posted 18 May 2011 at 9:00 pm

I’ve just watched the Vanessa show where this quote came from, and it seems to me she isn’t actually talking about victims of abuse per say, simply young people living in our hyper sexualised society. She never mentions that being a victim of abuse and not saying no is the victims fault. I don’t believe the word abuse should have been used as it does not fit her context. Perhaps she should be more careful with her wording in future.

gingerbread // Posted 18 May 2011 at 9:29 pm

On her blog she hasn’t actually apologised though, what she has said is this:

“To anyone whose awfully real and tragic history of abuse was manipulated yesterday for the political ends of my opponents, I am truly sorry for you.”

It may be that she didn’t fully think through what she said but what she said whether took out of context or not has still had a negative impact on many people. She could apologise for that and explain what she meant, explain that it was not her intention but she hasn’t she has shifted responsibility and used, or attempted to, to her advantage.

IronFly // Posted 18 May 2011 at 11:01 pm

I agree gingerbread she needs to clarify her stance as this hysteria has gotten a little out of hand with people making very aggressive personal threats against Dorries, and others getting upset over her words.

I emailed her inviting to her to comment on my interpretation on my blog, or asking for clarification on wording at least *somewhere*, anywhere. I am not impressed by her latest blog post where she is effectively making fun of anyone who doesn’t understand her statements yet at the same time refuses to clarify them.

I find that bizarre and frustrating.

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