I know that often it can feel like we shout into the wind and nothing ever, ever changes, so I thought it was worth posting about something that I think Is significant change.
Very recently in the UK media, there have been 3 very high-profile cases about abuse. The first is simply absolutely massive. It concerns a hugely high-profile celebrity and entertainer, now dead. He was already immensely famous in the 70s, and in the 90s I reckon the vast majority of British people over the age of 5 would've known his name and face - I'll pluck a guess of 95% out of the air. He was one of The biggest names in British showbiz, ever. Recently, allegations against him of sexual abuse went public, and within days the number of allegations and victims snowballed. Now, after around 5 weeks, it stands at around 300. Police are quoted in news reports describing him as a "predatory sex offender". No-one is talking about this with any shred of doubt.
Obviously, the story is horrific, and every single one of those people is a person harmed in a way no-one should ever be harmed. Obviously, I wish this wasn't true, and that it had never happened. Given that it Did happen, I see this current knowledge and openness as a huge positive. I don't think that things can possibly be unchanged by this. I'm not naive enough to believe that things will be instantly much improved and victims/survivors will all be treated better and more likely to believed, but I still think this is huge. Some of his victims were abused at television studios where he worked, others in children's hospitals, institutions housing/schooling disabled children, institutions housing people with mental illness (or supposed mental illness), where he had close connections and developed a lot of charity work. This was a man who was clearly above suspicion, on the grounds of his position in society, his wealth, power, popularity, and charitable work. All things that are very familiar stories to people familiar with abuse issues. With this story now, I don't think anyone can ever be above suspicion in quite the same way again. I think it opens a chink of room for the thought that just Maybe someone isn't what they appear, and just Maybe a victim is telling the truth - because this guy was an abuser, and to the public at large, that was unthinkable. Some of the most very vulnerable members of society are now being heard and believed.
The second case involves a number of teen women and girls who were systematically abused by gangs in one city, who were failed horribly and repeatedly over at least 3 years until now by police and authorities. It's finally come to light, and the authorities are being hugely criticised for their inaction and for not believing and protecting the victims. Again, there is no question now that the victims were telling the truth, that there was large-scale and systematic abuse going on, and that the authorities utterly failed them. (It was pretty horrific - they, and sometimes their parents, tried to report abuse, they were legal minors and under the age of consent, often groomed from the age of 12, and authorities decided they were "prostitutes" making a "lifestyle choice" and they couldn't do anything, and planned to remove a baby from its teen mother after she reported abuse on the grounds that she wasn't providing a safe and appropriate home for it, while not helping the 15-year-old mother in any way.)
The third case involves a current well-known male comic/presenter who was accused of abusing his ex-girlfriend. (Charged under a "harassment and threat"-type law, but it was about abuse.) Given that even abuse cases involving physical bodily evidence may not result in a guilty verdict, I was surprised and delighted that this case did, particularly considering -it was about emotional abuse (Not less important than other kinds, but less well recognised), -she was an alcoholic, -if I remember correctly, she had mental health difficulties while in the relationship. Of course, he tried a typical abuser tactic of basically claiming she was crazy, and that she was maliciously trying to harm his reputation. She had a recording of him ranting at her and calling her names. I think that conviction is a big deal, both for what it's for, the circumstances, and that he's famous. It sends a great message that that behaviour is not just wrong, it's Illegal, we Shouldn't accept it, and it Can be stopped and punished in a court of law, and our society Doesn't accept it.
I honestly believe that things are changing. Not fast enough, and likely they'll never be supportive enough of victims. I also see big problems in how the sexual abuse cases are being discussed - everyone is discussing and wondering why it could happen in those specific cases, and how people were so negligent in those specific cases (and in the city case, coming up with some horrible, harmful and wrong conclusions re. race), and I'm nearly spitting with frustration that No-One in mainstream outlets seems to be saying what we know in our sleep - that This Is How Our Society Works, that usually people Don't believe, that This Is Not Peculiar, that we Do Not need only to be looking at what went wrong in those cases, but bloody Waking Up to the fact that usually victims are not believed, and we need to change That as a basic societal thing. Don't get lost in blaming one police force, the BBC, all the people who were around that abusive celebrity - look at Every Single One Of Us and our whole society and All change.
But yes, I think this is significant and meaningful change. I think people reporting just got a little more likely to be believed. I think that abused people just got a little more encouragement that what's happened/happening to them Is wrong, and that maybe someone might just believe and help after all. I think that the public at large just got a nudge that maybe they Should do something when they think something isn't right, because maybe it really Is the unthinkable thing they hope it isn't. I recognise that we've got here because of decades of tireless, immense and brave feminist and anti-abuse activism and speaking out, and as a still relatively young person who has also benefited from an improved climate around these things, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to every single person before me.
(I wasn't sure if I felt ok posting links to news stories about this, whether it's awareness-raising or unnecessarily intrusive (to victims/survivors, not perpetrators, obviously), but if anyone would like to participate in the conversation and needs that info to do so, I can certainly post links to news articles.)
-------------------- The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not. Posts: 1786 | From: Europe | Registered: Sep 2011
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I totally want to chat about this but I've vowed to stick to studying! So my response is on hold, but I thought I'd say so and express my earerness!
Posts: 694 | From: Leeds UK | Registered: May 2011
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