Saturday, 13 October 2012

Men like Jimmy Saville will get away with it until we listen to women and girls

Trigger warning – discussion of rape and child abuse

Yesterday I caught a little bit of Newsnight talking about the Jimmy Savile horror, and they showed a clip of Nick Clegg, asking in disbelief how Saville was able to get away with abusing girls for so long, without it coming out. To quote:

I just keep asking myself why did this remain buried for so long…There must have been just so many people who knew what was going on in hospitals, the BBC, maybe in the police. The only explanation I can come up with is what we are seeing is the dark side of the culture of celebrity, and actually in this case it wasn't a culture of celebrity it was the cult of celebrity. I get the impression people felt that with all that glitter and shine there can't be a dark side, there can't be a seedy side”

It’s a question many people have been asking over the last week and a half since the revelations came out. It’s a question that has evolved from “why are the women only speaking out now” (answer, they weren’t) to “why did the BBC/police/hospitals/government do nothing?”

Maybe, as Clegg seems to think, it was something to do with the cult of celebrity.

But I think it’s a lot, lot simpler than that.

It’s to do with the fact that when women and girls come forward with allegations of rape and abuse, the default position in a rape culture is to not believe them.

When the revelations first broke, it felt a little bit like screaming into an echo chamber, as commenters on CIF etc. demanded to know why the women were only speaking out now, when Saville was dead.
‘They didn’t!’ we who had bothered to listen to the women shouted back. ‘They told at the time and no-one believed them!’ In fact, in some cases the then girls were punished for “telling lies” about Saville. And once you’ve been called a liar once, and seen the power and respect your abuser commands from everyone, then it would be hard to speak out again, I imagine. It would be hard to go against the huge tide of public opinion, when you know that speaking out again means more punishment, more disbelief. When you’re a child, and no-one believes you, no-one listens, and everyone calls you a liar.

It’s becoming increasingly clear since last week that it was the silence of his victims that Saville counted on. And in this, he is like every other abuser. But he was also counting on a rape culture that doesn’t listen to women and girls. And again, in this way he is like every other abuser.

There’s been a lot of comforting talk about how this culture was just something about the seventies, when we had a ‘Life on Mars’ attitudes towards sexual politics, and harassment and violence simply wasn’t taken seriously. Thanks to our sisters in the Women’s Liberation Movement, our society now at least pays lip service to the idea that violence against women and girls should be taken seriously. But we’re kidding ourselves if we think we have moved on so much that sexual abuse on this scale could not happen today, that today we’re more enlightened and would listen to girls, and would make sure the violence stopped.

Because a couple of weeks before the Saville story broke, the Guardian gave a comprehensive report on the failings of multiple services to protect girls in Rochdale, where girls as young as 13 were repeatedly raped and abused for profit by a vicious gang of men who hate women. The right wing press tried to push the notion that the gang remained unchallenged for so long because of ‘political correctness gone mad’. But I find this hard to believe. I believe, and the Guardian report reveals, that this was nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with rape culture, where we simply don’t believe girls who come forward to report violence. Suzi, the fifteen year old who was brave enough to tell the police what had happened to her, was deemed ‘unreliable’, and the rape and violence continued for four more years. ‘Unreliable’ is the ‘liar’ branded on Saville’s victims by the authorities back then. Just as Saville was able to get away with it for so long because no one believed the accusations made against him, so the Rochdale gang, the Derby gang, and the hundreds and thousands of rapists that never get caught, were able to get away with it because as a society we simply fail to believe women and girls when they tell us that men are violent towards them.

Even when we do listen to the women, and a rapist is found guilty in a court of law and fails any appeal to have his rape conviction over turned, too many people still don’t really believe the women. The case of Ched Evans earlier this year proves that. With a conviction rate of 6.5% (that rises to a higher number when the case reaches court), proving anyone guilty of rape still seems to be pretty hard, so when someone is found guilty I tend to believe that yes, they’re guilty. But that guilty conviction wasn’t enough for the thousands of men, and some women, that came out in support of Evans. Even when the evidence was there to convict, they still held strong to the idea that the woman was lying, that she was a liar, and he was a wronged hero. So hard it is for our society to accept that men rape, and women tell the truth, that even when there seems to realistically be no other conclusion to draw, the conclusion is still that she lies.

Across the channel, and again we see another case where women are simply not believed when they report the violence committed against them. In the tragic and horrifying case of Nina and Stephanie, who were repeatedly gang raped and terrorised in the Parisian banlieues, they have seen their attackers get away with it. In the case of Nina she was gang raped every day for six months by between 6 and 25 men, who would cue up to abuse her. Her rapists threatened to kill her family if she reported them. But she found the courage to, taking her abusers to court. Unfortunately the French Justice System did not share Nina’s courage, they did not have the courage to believe what the two young women were telling them. They instead chose to believe the men who told the court that the girls wanted it, that they consented, that they were lying. The court acquitted six of the accused, four were given a suspended sentence and one went to jail for one year. One year between 11 men for terrorising and repeatedly raping a 16-year old girl.

Nina and Stephanie now have to live in the banlieues with the men who raped them. The men who threatened them with more and more violence if they ever told.

So when Nick Clegg and his fellow politicians and his fellow commentators wring their hands and ask how, how, HOW did Saville get away with it for SO long, he doesn’t need to look into the past for his answers.

The answer is because in the seventies, eighties, nineties, noughties and today, our society didn't and doesn’t believe women and girls who report rape. The Met are launching their investigation into the Saville case, at the same time as they wrap up the investigation into an officer who repeatedly falsified rape reports because he chose not to believe the women who came to him. That’s how ingrained this culture is.

Until we start believing women and girls, really, really believe them, then we’ll still continue to ask the same question over the next Saville, the next Worboys, the next Huntley, the next gang.

Because to me, living in a rape culture means living in a culture where we find the reality that men rape and abuse women and girls so hard to cope with, so hard to accept, that we will do anything to make it not seem true. And that results in us refusing to listen to women and girls when they tell us that truth.

So, Clegg, and everyone else. Start listening. It’s our refusal to listen that lets abusers get away with it. Stop hand wringing and start listening.

Rape Crisis Number: 0808 802 9999

9 comments:

Karina said...

I've spent the morning arguing with defenders of John Peel. Arguments have included 'It was accepted back then so these men shouldn't be demonised for not knowing it was wrong' 'It wasn't abuse anyway' 'He probably didn't know her age, and if he'd asked she would have lied'. So even if you are believed you may still get people defending your abuser for all sorts of spurious bullshit reasons. I'm so tired of all of this.

I read about Nina and Stephanie yesterday. It's horrifying that girls can be abused like this and then have it made so much worse by the system that is supposed to protect them.

sian and crooked rib said...

I think people don't want to believe it of someone they respect - ie it's easier to nod in agreement of Chris Brown albums being stickered with 'Warning don't buy this album' but when feminists did it to John Lennon albums everyone got upset and confused. It's always been wrong, it's not about the seventies vs now, it's about listening to women and hearing our truths.

shutupsitdown said...

Yes yes yes yes yes! I'm reading it about John Peel now as well. Apparently because she was fifteen and fifteen-year-olds were "promiscuous" back then, it's acceptable. No. A rapist is a rapist is a rapist and we need to start LISTENING to girls and women when they speak their truths.

Ursula said...

Can I report some good news on this, if this if possible, in that I told some older friends (I'm 51) that Peel was also implicated in this debacle. They all believed me, they believed the story and never questioned it.

There is more to this disgusting episode than meets the eye. There are institutions that should be ashamed of themselves.

Savile would have passed the CRB check.

Ems said...

Firstly, thanks for posting a brilliant blog. I work in this 'field' and the more articles like this that are published, the better it is for all women and girls. This needs to be out there on all front pages.
I am glad there are more people like us out there!

JENNIFER DREW said...

Because we live in a male supremacist society wherein it is men who are the ones in control of our legal system and all other institutions, including the police forces, this means the dominant male-centric view is that women and girls are innate liars whenever they courageously report to police that male/males has/have committed male sexual violence against them.

This is what men collectively refuse to accept - their accountability in condoning/trivialising/supporting innumerable male sexual predators who continue to prey on girls and women.

First Wave Feminists campaigned vigorously against men's pseudo sex right to females and these brave feminists nearly managed to have men's laws changed but sadly male supremacist men fought back and ensured male pseudo sex right to females remained unchanged.

Malestream media continues to promote the misogynistic lie that 'male sexual predators only existed during the 1960s and 70s;' which conveniently hides fact men have always committed sexual violence against women and girls and still our male supremacist system condones/protects these normal 'respectable males.'

When will women and girls be accorded their fundamental right of not being routinely subjected to male sexual violence and male sexual harassment? When Male Supremacist System is finally eliminated that is when and yet men collectively continue to protect their pseudo male sex right to females.

So it is not 'a rape culture' which neatly hides/exonerates the agents who are of course males, but rather our Male Supremacist System and its male created laws concerning upholding/maintaining male pseudo right to access female bodies any time, any where which must be challenged and eliminated.

Each and every year men rape/commit sexual violence against at least 80,000 women and girls and still males cry 'I'm not responsible - I'm not a rapist!' No?? Well it is never 'just that nasty deviant monster called a paedophile who is committing sexual violence against women and girls - it is those nice respectable men such as Saville, Peel, Roman Polanski and not forgetting those respectable French men who now have jobs and a family who are responsible for committing sexual violence against women and girls.

JENNIFER DREW said...

Take a look at our malestream media nd male dominated popular culture because men's pseudo right of sexual access to females is being promoted as 'female sexual liberation'; with women and girls portrayed by males as men's dehumanised sexual service stations. Malestream pornography is available 24/7; strip clubs are the norm; lap dancing; prostitution are all promoted by male supremacist system as 'women's sexual liberation' rather than men's sexual enslavement of women. Join up the dots because the normalisation and widespread acceptance that men have the pseudo right of sexual access to female bodies does not happen in a vacuum. It happens when men accord themselves that pseudo right and when men have institutional structures in place to ensure women and girls find it impossible to hold men accountable for their crimes committed against them. This is the real meaning of a 'rape culture.'

Not forgetting female handmaidens are swiftly deployed by male dominated malestream newspapers such as Guardian in order to promote men's lies that women and girls are always responsible for curtailing males' sexual predatory behaviour. See this link wherein female handmaiden of male supremacist system blames women and promotes lie that we women just need to say "no" to these normal respectable male sexual predators.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/12/sexual-harrassment-media-anne-robinson

Then read this radical feminist's article which succinctly explains how and why innumerable males continue to subject women and girls to male sexual violence. Oh and by the way what did you do Clegg to curtail mundane male sexual violence against women and girls? Oh yes you supported demands for males charged with rape/arrested on suspicion of raping a female(s) not to have their names published. Well done Clegg for protecting male pseudo right of sexual access to females.

http://herbsandhags.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/the-silence-that-underpins-sexual-abuse.html

Finally we must name males as the perpetrators not hide behind euphemistic language because men's feelings might get hurt. Men have no qualms whatsoever about sexually insulting women and girls and hurling male sexual threats against them whenever a woman/girl holds a male(s) accountable for his sexual violence committed against women and girls.

http://shehasthepower.wordpress.com/2012/10/07/lets-play-name-the-perpetrator/

Frank Jackson said...

What about the paedophiles within St John ambulance who are about to receive awards from the Queen's representative:
http://bit.ly/ourNZexperience

MIKE SMITH said...

In the mail today, (sunday) it had a photo or series of photo of Savile surrounded by girls, introducing top of the pops in the seventies,the blond on on his right has said she was abused by him the, he put his hands up her skirt etc,you can see her moving a far as she can away,(she has come forward now in her 50's, and someone found the film) what struck me was savilles face, he's smiling but a guilty smile, he knew very well what he was doing was wrong,you can see it in his face,what happened when she told one of the production team?... she was told to 'get lost'.It has affected her whole life,shes been divorced, and never told anyone until now. So sad, a life blighted by a sick pervert.