Nostalgia edition

Monday, 29 November 2010

I don't know about you but I spent a significant proportion of my primary school years reading the Little House on the Prairie books and watching the television adaptation of the series, which used to fit nicely into the slot between coming home from church and eating lunch on a Sunday, if I remember rightly. The obsession became so great that I even remember re-enacting favourite scenes in the playground at school - the typhus epidemic from the TV show and the 'Long Winter' among others in case you're wondering; I suppose it helped that, like most people, we had a friend who was not dissimilar to Nellie Oleson. I read and re-read those books so many times, propped up in bed with a cup of tea and biscuits, that I can still remember huge chunks of their storylines.

So you can imagine how much I loved reading Samira Ahmed's piece for the Guardian, entitled 'Spirit of the Frontier'. Ahmed writes about being a childhood Ingalls fan, re-enactions and the fascination with maple syrup poured onto pans of snow (or with whatever 'molasses' and 'cornbread' were, in my case). As an adult it's intrigued me how preserving the memory of Laura and her family has become such an industry, with books, a newsletter, museums, festivals and a musical - among other things. I mean, there's even a conference called 'Laurapalooza'. This year's extravaganza included presentations such as Looking for Laura: Place, Memory, and the Authentic “Little House” and What is at Stake in Staking a Claim?. I'm not even writing this in a mocking way; to be honest I'd definitely relish taking part in a panel discussion entitled Loving Laura in a Lindsay Lohan World.

Now a couple of years ago I discovered that Christian fundamentalists of a certain persuasion don't like the Little House series. This is bemusing, as it's basically got everything that they usually love - the 19th century, large families, agrarian living and plenty of learning of Bible verses and stories with a moral. With it having been years since I read the books (I still have them but they're packed away in a box) I couldn't remember what it could be that might have caused so much offence. The piece in the Guardian cleared that one up, or at least I'm 99% sure it has, anyway. Ahmed writes about Laura:
"She married in her black cashmere dress to save the trouble and expense of an elaborate wedding, and refused to say 'I obey' in her marriage vows, defying social convention. She wrote, 'I could not obey anybody against my better judgment'..."
Of course I had to go and check this out and there it is, for all to see within the pages of These Happy Golden Years:
"Then she summoned all her courage and said, 'Almanzo, I must ask you something. Do you want me to promise to obey you?' Soberly he answered, 'Of course not. I know it is in the wedding ceremony, but it is only something that women say. I never knew one that did it, nor any decent man that wanted her to.' "
" '... even if I tried, I do not think I could obey anybody against my better judgement.' 'I'd never expect you to,' he told her. 'And there will be no difficulty about the ceremony, because Reverend Brown does not believe in using the word 'obey'.' 'He doesn't! Are you sure?' Laura had never been so surprised and so relieved, all at once. 'He feels very strongly about it,' Almanzo said. 'I have heard him arguing for hours and quoting Bible texts against St. Paul, on that subject.' "
Clearly Reverend Brown knew his stuff! You learn something new every day.

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

Thursday, 25 November 2010

I end up writing about violence against women quite a lot on this blog; it's one of the main issues I'm concerned about and it's something you can't escape from. Wherever you look, whichever paper you open, there'll always be a story or report about the major human rights issue that is VAW. It's relentless and depressing and we often wonder how things will ever change.

Today is the 2010 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, a day on which we come together to recognise and raise awareness of the injustices of gendered violence worldwide and seek to involve ourselves in initiatives to end it. It is also the beginning of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence initiative.

"The word is spreading: violence against women and girls has no place in any society, and impunity for perpetrators must no longer be tolerated. On this International Day, I urge all – Governments, civil society, the corporate sector, individuals – to take responsibility for eradicating violence against women and girls."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon
Some stories which have made the news today:
- Harriet Harman has made a speech to ActionAid today about VAW and investing in women and girls
- Ways to take action via End Violence Against Women
- A report by Women For Women on violence against women in conflict-affected countries, with particular focus on Nigeria, will be launched today in London
- The coalition has announced its plans to tackle VAW. Theresa May said that the government intends to "...ensure offenders are brought to justice, victims are given support and most importantly challenge attitudes and behaviour."
- I have been doing some promotion of the great (and relatively new) organisation Restored, which is working with individuals, ogranisations and churches to combat VAW. As a Christian I am excited that Restored is committed to working with churches and helping them do all they can to combat abuse and raise awareness in their congregations. They have produced a fantastic information pack available for download which aims to help churches deal with the issue from a practical, legal and theological point of view and I look forward to seeing where they take their initiative in the future.

Review: 'Quiverfull - Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movemement'

Monday, 22 November 2010

For those of you who have heard the term ‘Quiverfull’, the term might conjure up an image of the Duggar family, stars of 19 Kids and Counting. Although the Duggars don’t refer to themselves as ‘Quiverfull’, they’re the faces often most associated with the movement because they’re the most famous example of many of the things the movement stands for - foregoing birth control, homeschooling, living debt-free, courtship and betrothal, rigid gender roles, Christian fundamentalism.

The Duggars and their rise to fame are mentioned a couple of times in Kathryn Joyce’s 2009 book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement. But for the uninitiated, this fascinating account of a belief system that’s very much growing in popularity provides an insight into the lives of many more families and personalities – and with it, a clearer picture of how the patriarchy movement is distorting Christianity. Joyce was able to do a lot of research for her book by looking at blogs and forums representing both people who are very much a part of the movement and those who have left it. With many fundamentalist organisations having a major online presence and many families choosing to showcase their lives through blogging, the internet is an important source of information and for keeping in contact with likeminded friends.

But in recent years, blogs and forums with a different flavour have started to appear. Those discussing the spiritual abuse within the movement and the way it has ruined lives. Those discussing help and healing for women deeply hurt by its teachings, like No Longer Quivering and Quivering Daughters. It’s when you read these that you start to wonder just how much the movement lives up to idyllic image portrayed by the Victoriana-obsessed Vision Forum, the blogs full of pictures of beaming families with ten children.

Joyce has divided the book into three sections – dealing with ‘Wives’, ‘Mothers’ and ‘Daughters’ and the way the teachings impact their lives. She provides particularly thorough explanations of the interpretations of scripture influencing the patriarchy movement – which is helpful because it makes it easy to see, from a Christian point of view, where undue emphasis is being given to some things and where many, many extra-Biblical ‘rules’ are being employed and considered ‘essential’ to living a God-centred life (stopping women from attending university, advising them that they should not vote or learn to drive). This enables us to see how adherents’ core beliefs centre on reformed theology, for example – as well as the importance given to Reconstructionism.

The one word repeated over and over to wives is, of course, ‘submission’. Submission in a way that’s completely different to what’s generally taught in more mainstream churches. And so we see a move from ‘Wives, submit to your husbands’ to being able to call your husband ‘Lord’, catering to his every whim at the drop of a hat, revering him as the ‘priest of the home’, blaming yourself for his shortcomings and above all, never, ever criticising him (to his face, or to friends and family). All this promoted by women’s ministries, books and retreats, usually under the banner of ‘Titus 2 training’. We meet Debi Pearl, author of Created to Be His Helpmeet and wife of Michael, whose controversial teachings on ‘child-training’ have made headlines following the death of a young girl. She firmly believes that love is not a feeling but a voluntary act and prides herself on never questioning her husband, believing that women exist to fill their husband’s sexual needs whether they want to or not and teaching them that female friendships are ‘dangerous’.

What hope is there for a woman trapped in such a situation with an abusive husband? These teachings put so little focus on a husband’s duty to love, respect and care for his wife and could clearly encourage domineering and violent personalities. She’s discouraged from having close female friends, discouraged from discussing marital problems and told that she must do whatever her husband wants, when he wants. As the final chapter in the ‘Wives’ section illustrates, trying to seek help from the church can end up causing untold misery.

Joyce talks to Jennifer Epstein, who wanted to deal with her marital problems within a church setting – interestingly, the very church run by Vision Forum president Doug Phillips. Jennifer maintains that Phillips branded her a ‘whore’ and a ‘Jezebel’, barred she and her husband from taking communion and insisted that she adhere to a set of rules which included letting her husband plan out her schedule of household activities in advance and refraining from having theological discussions with men. Eventually, the family were excommunicated from the church and ‘shunned’ by their friends.

Later in the book Joyce talks to Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff about her experiences of church discipline, which involved giving leadership access to her emails, bank accounts and post. Considering the churches discussed in the book take the view that leadership cannot be criticised and that ‘gossip’ of all kinds is prohibited, it’s interesting to read of the very public ways they have shamed and exposed members of their congregations. Email campaigns, sister churches contacted to spread the word about these ‘sinners’, shunning and interference from other church leaders. It’s clear that there’s a deep vein of hypocrisy which goes far beyond members being accountable to church leaders, having them counsel them on their problems. The women Joyce interviewed for the book had numerous shocking and moving stories to tell about the way leaders in the movement exert control.

So far, so unsettling. However I don’t think it’s until the book’s second section that you can clearly see how very damaging and, let’s be honest, cultish the patriarchy movement is because it pervades all areas of life. Dealing with ‘Mothers’, it charts the growth of Quiverfull from a few Christians criticising birth control and abortion to the aggressive natalist tactics we see today, often accompanied by the old saying that ‘the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world’.

Quiverfull leaders often teach that women must give birth to as many children as they can, view nonprocreative sex as an abomination and see all their offspring as future soldiers in a war against culture, Satan, left-wing politics and all of Western civilisation. All this thinking is bound up in fear of a ‘demographic winter’ and the belief that white Christians need to be having more children in order to attempt to outnumber Muslims. Prominent patriarchal leaders have denied accusations of racism but the fact is that the organisations they’re part of often have distinct links with kinist groups.

Some adherents are more zealous than others and indeed Joyce claims there’s a worry among some Quiverfull women that their acquaintances have idolised childbirth to the extent that they correlate number of children with holiness and suffer greatly with depression and feelings of uselessness when their childbearing days are over. Terrifying as it is it’s not hard to see how such an extreme way of thinking can foster the idea that miscarriages and morning sickness are due to personal sins which must be repented of. Identity is often heavily influenced by the centuries-old teachings of women being weak and easily led, incapable of knowing what’s best for themselves.

And it’s not just the teachings on childbirth that are causing problems. Something I’ve talked about in a previous blog post is how the compulsion to raise large families in a debt-free, agrarian lifestyle is leading to severe poverty for Quiverfull families. It’s important to note that although very fortunate families such as the Duggars and the Phillipses are the public face of the movement, their comfortable existences are not the norm for those families attempting to build their own homes and grow their own businesses while clothing, feeding and homeschooling an ever-expanding family as well as exemplifying ‘frugal living’.

When fundamentalists get coverage on feminist blogs it’s often down to their attitudes surrounding daughters – purity balls, elaborate betrothal rituals, much talk of ‘authority’ and ‘stay at home daughterhood’, along with very vocal rejection of ‘equality’ and the women’s movement. Understandably it makes a lot of people uncomfortable. Joyce’s research into the ‘Daughters’ of Quiverfull focuses mainly on Geoffrey Botkin, a leading light in the Vision Forum ministry and father of Anna Sofia and Elizabeth – effectively VF’s ‘poster maidens’ for unmarried Biblical womanhood. Through their book, DVD and website , Visionary Daughters, they provide teaching on their way of life, centred as it is on homemaking, serving their father and preparing for the day when they will ‘transfer’ to being under their husband’s authority.

Anything that contradicts their lifestyle is ‘feministic’ and therefore wrong. They state that women need to eschew university, jobs and living alone. In case you’d missed out on the somewhat uncomfortable undertones, Joyce talks about the Vision Forum Father/Daughter Retreat, at which young women are set ‘tasks’. These tasks have previously involved a blindfolded obstacle course - so they can learn to respond more effectively to their fathers’ verbal commands – and ‘intimacy-building’ tasks where they must shave their fathers or tie their shoes.

Now Geoffrey Botkin is a man who’s dedicated time to producing an Excel spreadsheet plotting his imagined descendants for the next two centuries. At the culmination of his personal ‘200 year plan’ he hopes to have 186,000 male descendants, all of them believers exerting influence on society. He doesn’t count his female descendants because they, of course, are destined to be part of the 200-year plans of other men. There happens to be a website which focuses on helping young people to overcome ‘Botkin Syndrome’. At this point I really don’t think any more needs to be said.

Joyce’s intention with Quiverfull is not to mindlessly criticise and insult, but to express genuine concern about these churches and groups and what they’re doing to people. As she says, strict followers number in the tens of thousands but the conservative Christian homeschooling movement is reaching millions and ‘converting’ many to more extreme beliefs along the way. And it's not just confined to the USA. This year, the UK branch of women's ministry and magazine Above Rubies, which typifies the beliefs of the movement, held two conferences in Britain. They were fully booked. Joyce has been criticised by Christians who see her writing as being biased by her ‘liberal’ views but it’s clear that the abusive mindset being perpetuated by some of these groups and churches should be a concern to Christians as well, not just the liberal atheists they so often view as ‘the enemy’.

Her book is an important one. Not all families in the movement experience abuse and cultish control and many lead very happy lives. But when read alongside the forums and blogs providing support for those who have exited the patriarchy movement, the book provides an extremely worrying picture of why we should care about these ‘fundies’, so often lampooned as vaguely humorous ‘nutjobs’ then left to their own devices. We should care because it’s down to them that within Christian culture, ‘the family’ is being not just built up and revered but hurt and destroyed.

Just call it what it is

Thursday, 18 November 2010

It's been another bad week for injustice in the world of rape cases.

Yesterday we saw the results of a survey - carried out by The Havens - revealing the depressing fact (among other things) that 23% of young men think that having sex with a woman even if she has said no from the start is not rape. The survey was carried out on people in London aged 18-25 and reveals several somewhat concerning facts, including that 21 per cent of men surveyed would 'expect' someone to have sex with them after kissing and that only 56 per cent of respondents said they would not pressure a partner into sex. Results can be found in full on The Havens website.

The story on the Sky News website quickly received a wide-ranging selection of vitriolic comments. At first I was left wondering if things are getting worse. Has public attitude towards rape always been this unpleasant? Considering the way victims were treated by the courts in the past, I think we can safely say it has when it comes to victim blaming. But as I found when I took a look at the way the Daily Mail has reported rape cases over the last three or four years, the way people comment on these stories has changed. It's now common for the comments on a report of a rape case to consist of a fairly consistent stream of misogynist bile, claims that '90 per cent of rape allegations are made up' and disgust expressed at the 'way women ruin mens' lives'.

People hide behind their computers. It's a case of that not-so-old adage: 'If you don't have anything nice to say, say it on the internet'. People will go much further online than they would in person. But the fact remains that they're still thinking these thoughts and thinking that they're appropriate.

In 2007 there was a notorious incident in the US where a judge refused to allow the word 'rape' to be used during a court case. Jeffre Cheuvront claimed that it was too strong a word to use and could sway the emotions of the jury, affecting their impartiality. Also 'banned' were 'sexual assault', 'victim' and 'assailant'. The victim was instead forced to talk about 'having sex' with her alleged attacker.

I was reminded of this today when I spotted a news story talking about a London policeman who has been dismissed from his job for having 'non-consensual sex' with a woman. Several sources have covered the story but only one - the BBC - uses the word 'rape' to describe what the man did. All others refer several times to 'non-consensual sex' as if the other is too difficult to utter. The reports detail the facts of what happened and state that the Met's discliplinary services, 'based on the balance of all probabilities' found that non-consensual sex had taken place. But the man has not faced action by the CPS as there was 'insufficient evidence to prosecute'. The CPS was unable to prove that the offence had 'occurred beyond all reasonable doubt'.

The disgraced PC was described as 'predatory' and 'despicable'. But he's still a free man.

As if all this wasn't bad enough, the case of an alleged gang-rape victim from South Africa being charged with underage sex has also hit the headlines today. The 15-year-old has been charged with statutory rape alongside her alleged attackers.

South Africa has one of the highest incidences of rape in the world, with 1 in 4 men admitting they had raped someone in a 2009 study - many saying they had first raped as a teen - and gang rape widely considered a form of male bonding. The country's government has been repeatedly criticised for failing to respond what's seen by human rights organisations as an 'epidemic' and yet we're seeing another example of a girl treated appallingly and made to feel as if she is somehow to blame for what happened to her.

There is something very badly wrong about all this. No wonder surveys like the one carried out by The Havens come out with the findings they do. This assumption of consent. This attitude that women are there for the taking and that so much as a kiss constitutes an invitation to engage in sex. The belief that a woman can be crying, saying 'no' or physically attacking you but it's still okay to go ahead anyway. The press, the courts and society are all responsible.

100 posts!

After two years of blogging, I've reached the milestone of 100 posts. As blogging goes, that doesn't make me very prolific, but seeing as I don't usually write about my day-to-day life and I fit it around work, church life, running, other writing commitments and a social life I don't think I do too badly.

I started blogging because I'd been writing about my feminism, my religion, politics and the media in a 'friends only' journal for a long time and it was something I wanted to reach a wider audience. Something I wanted to be able to use to network with people, bounce ideas off people and respond to current events in a way which might be helpful to people. I'm not going to lie - Twitter has also helped with this a lot and so have connections I've made through conferences and marches I've attended. The fact is, I'm really grateful for these connections, the people who make me think and inspire me.

We all know how frustrating it is when we don't have the time to blog about something and by the time we do have a spare moment, dozens of others have said it better, got all bases covered and had the conversations - by which time everyone's moved on to discussing something else. You miss out, but on the other hand you get to read so much quality work from other people. I just hope that I'm able to keep up the momentum in the future and not abandon this place because everything else has got in the way. Since the summer, this has at times been the case and it's been frustrating - however (and unfortunately for you, maybe) I'm going nowhere.

I thought I would use my 100th post to highlight some of my favourite posts - posts that cover issues important to me and posts that mean a lot to me. They sum up why I blog and what I'm all about. Why I keep on blogging.

Noughtie Girls - because it's time to dicuss what our feminism is really about.
Finding My Identity as a Christian Woman: Part One and Part Two - because it's a story familiar to countless women and one which I hope might encourage more to find peace about their place in the world.
This is What a Feminist Looks Like - because our 'click moments' are important too
When Waifish, White and Wealthy Wins - because sometimes I 'do' fashion blogging.
Quentin Letts - Officially a Nasty Little Man - because sometimes you just fancy a good dose of Mail Fail. And because this post has led to someone at the House of Commons finding my blog by Googling 'I hate Quentin Letts'.
An Open Letter to My Christian Sisters - because my views aren't 'evil' and 'poisonous'.
Daily Mail: Getting Creepier By The Day - because we all know it's a sorry excuse for a newspaper. Her's another reason why.
Obsessive Coverage of 'Cry Rape' Cases and Public Perception - because this is one of the most worrying things about the way the British media works.
Equality and the Privileged Woman - because I'm not down with those who take advantage of the victories feminists have won while claiming they 'don't believe in equality' and dismissing our concerns.
This is Why I Believe in Equality - because we need to keep up the fight.
On 'The Menz' - Or Why Patriarchy Is Bad For Us All - because freedom from rigid gender expectations means freedom to be who you really are.
Daily Mail Rape Chronicles: Trawling the Archives - because this forced me to spend a very long time on a certain website and it only served to show how unpleasant the Mail really is.
Relationship Advice from Cheers Magazine - because you never know what heinousness will lurk between the pages of a local community publication. And because the ensuing furore culminated in ITV News getting quotes from editor Dapo Sijuwola through his living room curtains.
Stumbling Blocks, Modesty and Respect - because people need to stop with the legalism already.
Equality Not Superiority - because I want to have debates without being silenced because of my faith.

Breaking news

Friday, 12 November 2010

Here's the news we've been hoping for all week - the government has confirmed that it will abandon its plan to grant anonymity to rape defendants.

This was a plan which, had it been put into place, would only succeed in sending out more clear messages that women who accuse men of raping them are liars, that they are not to be trusted and that they would be likely to face discrimination by the courts. No doubt the newspapers which worked so hard earlier this year to paint all rape victims as despicable homewreckers will be quick to show their anger at the government's decision.

For the time being, as I said in my last post, we need to continue working to support the women who need our help, continue busting the unpleasant myths surrounding rape and continue fighting for fairer representation of violence against women in the press.

Unfortunately the BBC is also reporting that the women jailed for 'falsely retracting' her rape claim has had permission to appeal against the eight month jail conviction she received last week turned down. Her appeal will now go to the Court of Appeal in London.

It's a pity that the good news has to be followed by something so shameful.

Today's lazy links list

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

- Two Saturdays ago I spent a great couple of hours In Cambridge with Michelle and Jessica of Women Speak Out discussing everything from our feminist awakenings to university to marriage and children and church. Look out for their write-up on the blog which should be appearing soon.
- At The F Word people are discussing the fact that five Anglican bishops have resigned and will join the Catholic Church due to the decision to ordain female bishops...
- ...while the Ms. magazine blog is wondering whether or not the 'New Atheism' will make room for women.
- The Indy has claimed that the Home Office will drop plans for anonymity for rape defendants this week due to criticism 'from all sides'. Although it this will be a triumph for all who have spoken out about the anonymity proposals throughout the year we must still consider what needs to be done in order to improve the way rape cases are reported by the press. The Daily Mail et al have let up slightly with their relentless catalogue of 'false accusation' stories in recent weeks but public perception of rape victims will not change unless media attitudes change also.

Following this week's news of a woman who has been imprisoned for falsely retracting a rape claim, I've seen several discussions where many, many women have admitted that they would not want to report a rape because of fear about the way they feel they would be treated by the police and the courts. It is the most depressing state of affairs to see woman after woman saying this and just shows why the majority of rapes go unreported. This case of yet another woman let down by the CPS is no doubt likely to make women feel even less confident about reporting rape and violence.

- November 25th is the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Sian has blogged about her desire to see the media report VAW more this month as a way of highlighting how common it is:
'It is estimated that this week in the UK 1.5 women have died as a result of domestic violence. A further 500 women who have experienced domestic violence in the last six months will commit suicide this year. Every minute in the UK the police will receive a call from a member of the public relating to domestic violence, resulting in over 570,000 calls each year. Domestic violence has the highest repeat rate of any crime and approximately 77% of domestic violence victims are women. An estimated 100,000 women in the UK will be raped every year, yet the conviction rate relating to reported attacks remains at only 6.5%. Rape is recognised internationally as a form of torture and weapon of war, and 1 in 3 women across the world will be raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. An estimated 6500 girls in the UK are at risk of FGM.'

I have a bit more free time on my hands for the rest of the month and have finally started work on a couple of posts I've been hoping to write for a while. And when I say 'a while', in the case of one of them I mean 'since August'. Maybe you'll get to see them soon.

Woman imprisoned for 'false retraction' of rape claim

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

As yet another woman is treated disgracefully by the courts, it’s time the courts reassessed their approach to rape cases.

There’s a really spot-on blog post which has been doing the rounds on Tumblr and Twitter recently. Entitled ’The People You Meet When You Write About Rape’, it provides a fairly comprehensive list of the various ‘personalities’ you’re likely to come across if you ever get embroiled in the comments on a blog post or news story dealing with that ever-thorny issue.

The post goes on to detail the thought processes behind characters such as ‘Mr Model Victims Only Please’, ‘Ms You Don’t Just Get To Decide Whether You Consent’ and ‘Ms Traditional Values’. All play their part in making sure that discussions about rape and sexual violence are derailed and all play their part in affecting public perceptions of women who have been attacked.

As of this week however, it looks like we can add another victim-blaming stereotype to the list: perhaps we can call him ‘Mr No Sympathy For The Complexities of Abusive Relationships’.

Now I know that’s a bit of a wordy moniker, but last week we saw the British justice system hand down a jail sentence to a rape victim due to such a situation – with devastating consequences and implications for women in general.

On Friday, the 28-year-old woman was sentenced to eight months in jail – because she ‘falsely retracted’ allegations that her husband had raped her.

The woman said that she had not retracted her claims because she had made them up, but because she was being ‘emotionally blackmailed’ by her estranged husband and his family, who wanted her to drop the charges because they knew a guilty verdict would mean a long jail sentence for him.

She had initially made a call to Dyfed-Powys Police explaining that she had been raped six times by her husband back in November 2009. Yet two months later, she stated that although the charges were true, she wished to drop them.

On Friday she was told that a prison sentence was ‘inevitable’ due to her wasting the time of the Crown Prosecution Service and also for the fact she had perverted the course of justice. She is now set to lodge an appeal.

The decision has caused outrage for a number of reasons. The woman told police that she had retracted her claims because her husband and his family were putting pressure on her to do so. And yet the decision eventually made by the courts shows that the justice system is failing to take into account the complex situations women in abusive relationships may be subject to.

It’s not always simply a case of the victim accusing someone and that being the end of it. When the alleged perpetrator is a family member, the father of your children, someone you have many close links to - other factors come into play.

Rape Crisis England & Wales has issued a statement on the case, calling for the woman’s release and saying:

“We are shocked that this woman has received a custodial sentence and by the length of it. It highlights a complete lack of understanding of the complexity and reality of women’s experience of violence in their lives.”

The fact is, a lot of women who have been raped don’t report it to the police because they’re worried about the treatment they’ll receive by the police and the courts, or because they’re worried what the accused’s friends and family might do in retaliation. They’re worried that their ordeal will be misrepresented by the press or that they’ll be accused of making it all up.

Funnily enough, this unpleasant affair isn’t likely to reassure women that their cases will be taken seriously. And it’s thoroughly disappointing for all the activists and groups working so hard to improve the way rape cases are dealt with. We still live in a society where plenty of people think that a woman can’t be raped by her husband; is this likely to help matters?

This month, initiatives will be taking place building up to the International Day for the Elimination of Against Women on November 25th. One thing I know many people are hoping for is that this month the press would focus on the very real and devastating impact of VAW. It’s a shame that instead, we’re seeing reports of injustices such as this.

This post originally appeared at BitchBuzz. Image via jamescridland's Flickr.


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