Not Guilty. But Not Guiltless…

Oh how the Belfast rape trial has thrown up feelings of dejavu of the Ched Evans trial.

Of course, all of the men I’m referring to in this blog are ‘not guilty’ of rape and I accept this based on the verdict reached. Obviously I wasn’t there the night the woman alleged she was raped and nor was I in court for the trial.

Ok, so they may not be convicted rapists, but these ‘men’ who ‘spitroasted’ a 19 year old woman, who caused bruising and internal injury to her, who left her bleeding through her clothes and crying inconsolably in the taxi home are most definitely entitled, misogynistic predators with a questionable understanding of consent.

What this latest trial of ‘promising and talented sportsmen’ has done is launch a resurgence of the terrifying culture of victim blaming that cases of this nature have thrown under the spotlight over the last few years. I mean, victim blaming in general. Regardless of the innocence or guilt in this specific case, having read and heard some of the beliefs that people hold about consent and the contempt that’s held against women is as bleak as it gets.

The usual hate campaign by supporters of the accused that we see in high profile rape trials has been active all over social media. And, as usual the vitriol spouted isn’t confined to the woman in question but is extended to women in general. It’s a disturbing demonstration of the blatant disrespect towards women; of the sense of entitlement these men have towards women; of the internalised misogyny of women against other women, and of the belief that false rape claims are a common response by women who just regret having sex with someone.

Even though the not guilty verdict doesn’t actually mean that the accusation is false or that the rape didn’t happen.  Even though reporting rape is a horrible, drawn out process that involves going over what happened again and again, undergoing humiliating examinations and having photographs taken of your genitals. Even though reporting rape means taking a gamble and starting at a disadvantage because unless the rape took place in a dark alleyway by a stranger with a knife, the default response to an allegation is disbelief. And all this is long before any trial.

We all know that rape cases are notoriously difficult because, often there are no witnesses which means it’s one person’s word against another. Therefore, those defending the accused in rape cases tend to look at any way in which they can discredit the complainant, especially if she’s working class and not a virgin. And, oh my days, if the circumstances of the rape also include alcohol, high profile alleged perpetrators and a situation where a woman voluntarily goes to a party / hotel / home with the alleged perpetrators, then it’s game on!

In this particular trial the woman’s blood stained underwear was passed around the court. The photographs of the injury to her vagina and of the inside of her vagina full of blood was on the verge of being shown to the jury when, thankfully, the medical examiners came to a conclusion amongst themselves, sparing her that humiliation.

The woman was cross examined by the defence for 8 days. Each of the accused took the stand only for either half a day or a day, which begs the question who exactly was on trial here?

The evidence included whats app messages between the men in a group chat describing the night of the alleged rape which was full of vile, misogynistic language.

Here are some examples:

“Pumped a girl with Jacko on Monday. Roasted her. Then another on Tuesday night”  

“She was very very loose.”

“Any sluts get fucked?”

“We’re all top shaggers”

“There was a bit of spit roasting going on last night fellas.”

“There was a lot of spit roast last night.”

“It was like a merry go round at the carnival.”

“Boys, did you pass spit roast brasses? Why are we all such legends?”

“Aye, just threw her home then went back to mine.”

Oh, but the misogyny didn’t stop there, it wasn’t the sole territory of the accused. Those defending these men in court demonstrated that they, too, are disgusting chauvinistic creatures. Like the defence barrister who said that the messages were “banter and immature boasting” and called the vile messages “a titillating sideshow” with no evidential value.

And then there were the questions that a defence barrister thought the police should have asked the woman, but didn’t – “Why did she not say no? Why did she open her mouth? Why didn’t she scream? A lot of very middle-class girls were downstairs; they were not going to tolerate a rape or anything like that. Why didn’t she scream the house down?” (I don’t even know where to begin with that one!)

This woman believed that she had been raped. She did not consent to what happened on the night in question. She was left bleeding and inconsolable. She was not going to report it because she didn’t want to ‘take on the Ulster rugby team’ but eventually made the decision to go to the police about  what had happened.

The fact that the case was taken to trial in the first place suggests that there was sufficient evidence to support her complaint. The evidentiary bar for rape cases is very high and often there are rape cases that don’t meet this which means they don’t get taken to trial, but which doesn’t mean the crimes didn’t happen.

The fact that the accused were not convicted is not, in itself, proof of innocence. It simply means that the jury did not believe beyond reasonable doubt that the men raped the woman.  And this is the way our justice system works, to minimise the risk of miscarriages of justice which is the way it should be, of course. But equally, it means that people are acquitted who probably committed the offences they’re accused of because ‘probably’ isn’t enough to convict. Again – this is the way it should be, but it does not always mean the alleged offences did not happen.

Some of the responses to the verdict from the supporters of the defendants are almost unbelievable. Many of them focused on a perceived ‘epidemic’ of false allegations, even though the vast majority of rapes go unreported to the police. And, even though there is no evidence to suggest that false rape allegations happen any more than false allegations of any other offences.

The way that these ‘men’ spoke about the woman in question, and the reaction to the verdict by their supporters are filled with threats of violence. Some high profile sportsmen have called for her to be killed. And this is all just the tip of the iceberg, beneath which lies male power, privilege & entitlement; misogyny; sexual violence in pornography; victim blaming; rape jokes and lads ‘banter’; domestic abuse; rape culture; the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls…

…and a deafening silence from the people whose voices deserve to be heard.

 

http://www.shakesville.com/2009/10/rape-culture-101.html

Hormones, the little bastards…

Yesterday I had to cancel plans because of my womb. It was far from being the first time and definitely won’t be the last, because for over 25 years, my hormones have acted as little jailers, caging my body in their agonising, bloody, prison.

I’ve never NOT had a problem with my hormones… I started my periods late at nearly 16. I gave birth to my first and only child age 17 & shortly afterwards I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome which led to years of trying countless ways of managing the symptoms with varying degrees of success.

A few years ago, during a very heavy period, I was feeling a bit sorry for myself and also feeling a bit like I was always moaning about something health related or another. And it suddenly occurred to me that almost EVERY health problem I’ve had – both physical and mental – can be attributed to my fucked up hormones or the treatment I’ve been prescribed.

Like the depression and anxiety I’ve experienced since I was a teenager, which has included a panic disorder, agoraphobia and led to suicide attempts. From my mid 20’s on, I’ve managed my mental health well and the last time I needed time off work for mental health related reasons was so long ago I can’t remember. Which is all good, BUT the hormone related fluctuations in mood will never go away and there are times when my PMT magnifies every crumb of anxiety and depression that will forever be lurking in the background waiting to take centre stage again.

People (by which I mostly mean ‘men’) tend to dismiss PMT as some kind of dramatic women’s issue that makes life hard for the people around them once a month. It’s used as a reason to minimise or dismiss women’s valid feelings, a big joke, with ‘long suffering’ boyfriends and husbands rolling their eyes in solidarity with one another. For at least one week in every month, many women are reduced to the perceived symptoms of their menstrual cycle and that’s just really fucking shoddy!

The impact of hormone fluctuations on mood is real and isn’t funny for women who genuinely feel low, anxious, irritable, unconfident, tired, bloated & unmotivated. We have to carry on with life, work and relationships feeling like this – and we DO. Why would anyone who cares for a girl or a woman that experiences PMT not want to be kinder, more tolerant and compassionate during that time?

The emotional rollercoaster caused by my hormones is a ride that I’ve learned how to navigate in some ways -like, I know that there are times I need to be alone to just…be. (That’s the best way I can describe it!) Times when I know that being around people any more than absolutely necessary is too much. And how do you explain that to people who want to make plans? How do you explain that to colleagues who have watched you being positive & motivated all day?

So, then comes the guilt which, when added to the anxiety and the low mood, becomes exasperation at the whole situation and then it’s hello snappy, irritable, tearful twat! And all this is just a starter, the main course has yet to be served…

THE PERIOD. Over the years I’ve gone several months without a period at all, and I’ve gone several months that feel like one constant, epic period. The older I’ve got, the longer the periods. And here are the ingredients….

Pain. The cramps of ‘period pain’ are basically caused by the womb contracting, like it does when a woman is in labour. It really hurts, and although the hot water bottle is a cliché, it can be the only thing that offers a tiny bit of relief. Unfortunately, holding a hot water bottle to your abdomen is something that you can only really do at home. So we tend to fill up on painkillers and just power through, which is quite tiring.

Throwing up. Sometimes, accompanying the excruciating cramps there’s throwing up. I don’t understand why, although I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation. I do know that it’s horrible and when it happens, there’s no going anywhere.

Bleeding. Well, yeah, obviously… it’s a period! But I’m not talking about bleeding here. I’m talking about BLEEEEEEEDING. I kid you not, I have flooded so badly that my bathroom floor has needed to be MOPPED. I’ve ruined clothes & bedding. I’ve always got a stash of sanitary towels in my bag, car and desk drawer. I have ‘period’ towels on top of which I put a puppy training pad to soak up the crappy few hours of sleep I get when I’m BLEEEEEEEEDING. I avoid any unnecessary journeys, I can’t go out socially, I can’t wear light clothes, climbing stairs can be challenging, and even getting in/out of the car is risky because of the whole ‘wide step’ motion!

Clots. For me, it’s completely expected that I will ‘birth’ a fair few clots during a period. My husband doesn’t bat an eyelid when I let him know I’m off to “birth”. They’re big bastards too, the size of a…. I’m going to say, gerbil. My womb helpfully contracts for a good few hours to help them on their way, which is nice. And usually, the clot itself is followed by a river of blood, which if I’m lucky will happen on a toilet. Otherwise….look out bed / chair / car / clothes / floor.

Fatigue. Maybe due to the hormone fluctuations, heavy bleeding, anaemia… who knows? But it’s real and it totally impacts on pretty much everything. Every drop of energy needs to be saved for things like work – because, well, money is a necessary evil. There’s no energy left for anything else, and even talking feels a bit much sometimes.

Migraines. I’m absolutely convinced that the migraines I suffer from were triggered by the various synthetic hormones that have been pumped into my body over the years. There is a clear connection between periods and migraines for me, and as well as being excruciatingly painful, they’re debilitating as fuck.

Acne. Again, definitely hormone related. Also painful (hello boils) and hideous.

So that’s the period itself. Not all women will have the same experience as me, but I guarantee that the things I’m describing are far from uncommon. And as if all that isn’t enough, there’s more.

It’s expensive – I’m lucky in that I can buy decent sanitary towels. I have literally spent thousands of pounds on these ‘luxurious’ items in my life so far and if ever I needed motivation to hang on to my job, being afforded the dignity of buying a half decent sanitary towel is up there with keeping a roof over my head!

I’m killing the environment – See above. Yes, I know I could theoretically use washable pads and I’m aware of such things as moon cups and sponges, but honestly, anyone who knows the reality of flooding and clotting will tell you that these are not really options when there’s always ultra with wings….

It’s made a liar out of me – Nowadays I have the luxury of being a boss lady with a woman MD above me, who I would never need to lie to if I couldn’t be in work. This hasn’t always been the case though, and in past jobs I have felt like I had no choice other than to lie about needing time off. Because women are generally not believed when periods are the cause of sickness & the options have literally been lie or tell the truth and have everyone think you’re lying….

It kills the romance – I mean, bedroom shenanigans with the things mentioned above? Enough said, I think!

It’s undignified – Sitting on puppy pads in the car; laying towels on the bed to sleep on; flooding in a public loo and having to clean up with just tissue; leaking on other people’s furniture; gasping in public when cramps hit you unexpectedly; the many scans, smears and internal examinations; being somewhere without a sanitary bin and having to put the used pads in your bag until you can dispose of them; Taking pants off IN the bath for a shower, and putting freshly prepped sanitary towelled pants on as soon as the shower is turned off while still stood in the bath; Using incontinence pads; spending at least an hour every day plucking my face (thanks to PCOS).

The whole situation is just a huge part of my life and a huge part of life for many other women like me, and here is my frustration – why are menstrual / hormonal disorders not taken more seriously? From an overall health perspective alone, it would make sense to research causes and treatment so that women could be less depressed, less tired, less self-conscious & more able to exercise consistently (because yes exercise is good for women having a ‘normal’ period, but almost impossible when it’s anything more).

It just seems so shitty that the ‘solutions’ offered by the medical profession almost always involve prescribing synthetic hormones which often not only make things worse, but can have pretty serious side effects. My own experience of ‘treatments’ have included various types of contraceptive pill, some high doses of the hormones that make up ‘diannette’ (Following which I started experiencing the migraines referred to earlier) Tranexamic acid, mefenamic acid, IUD’s, vitamin B6 & B12. Then there’s the treatments for PCOS including several different types of long term antibiotic for acne, topical acne treatments, roaccutane and laser hair removal. All things that mask the symptoms without considering the cause.

Is it not really taken seriously because we’re women? Like many exclusively ‘female problems’, the general attitude seems to be that we should just be getting on with it, and we’re usually offered a load of examples of how women have been doing this for centuries without whining like we do these days. To which I say shut the fuck up and don’t even get me started on the history of maternal mortality, women being labelled witches or believed to be hysterical and institutionalised.

Really though – we’re talking about something that significantly affects the lives of over half the world’s population and yet it’s shrouded in stigma and shame. This has to change, and while we’re waiting, how about we stop making light of the whole subject and start giving a shit about what many women experience just by existing. Stop dismissing women’s feelings based on their ‘time of the month’ – have a bit of empathy and understanding. Teach children about periods – girls AND boys and do whatever we can to help girls & women who don’t have access to sanitary protection by donating pads and tampons to food banks and homelessness projects. (I’ve chucked some links below.)

And also, watch this awesome woman:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4vu2BsePvoI

Told you she was awesome! Was I right or was I right? 🙂

https://www.change.org/p/theresa-may-mp-free-menstrual-products-for-all-children-on-free-school-meals-freeperiods

https://www.trusselltrust.org/get-help/find-a-foodbank/

https://www.bloodygoodperiod.com/about/#bio

https://plan-uk.org/media-centre/freeperiods-research-on-period-poverty-and-stigma

 

 

 

So…Obesity Causes Cancer

Anyone who knows me won’t be in the least bit surprised that I’m compelled to weigh in (pun intended) on the debate around the Cancer Research obesity campaign, so here goes….

I’m fat. People are also thin, tall, short and lots of other things. I’m not actually going to give ‘obese’ the time of day, seeing as it’s a medical term based on a BMI calculation which is increasingly accepted as being pretty inaccurate as a measure of health.

As a fat woman, I’m already hated by the medical industry; mass media; clothing industry; fitness industry – and of course, by sheeple on social media who claim to be concerned for my health. People basically bullying fat people using ‘IT’S A FACT’ as justification. So this is my first beef with the campaign…. It’s a platform from which bullies can further justify their bullying. Thanks for that.

Never mind that many of the links between cancer and it’s causes are complex and little understood – hence the fact that there’s still no ‘cure’! Never mind that Cancer Research themselves say: ‘It’s very clear that there is a link between cancer and obesity. But it’s still not completely understood how exactly obesity causes cancer.’

In other words, there’s definitely correlation between being fat and having cancer, but no FACTS as to why this is. Correlation is known, but causation is not.

Fat people are already stigmatised enough – we’re labelled, stereotyped, and discriminated against based on the amount of fat on our bodies. This campaign is only feeding (pun intended again) into the vitriol already spewed towards fat people simply for existing. And, frighteningly, it could COST lives rather than save them. Because, as if fat people aren’t already reluctant to access healthcare… here’s just another barrier. Feeling worried about something? Let me see if I can lose a few stone before going to the GP because the likelihood is, I’ll just be told to lose weight  – seriously, practically everything is attributed to weight when you’re fat.

And apart from not going in the first place, inevitably symptoms of cancer will be misdiagnosed as fat symptoms until it’s too late. Despite early diagnosis being pretty fucking important for cancer.

Hey, maybe the STIGMA and SHAME of being fat contributes to the correlation between being fat and having cancer? Maybe fat people are less likely to be diagnosed and treated effectively in a timely way because of these things?

And why is everyone so obsessed with fat people anyway? So repulsed by fat people?  Why can’t we look at health in a holistic non-weight centric way? We can look at nutrition, physical activity, emotional resilience, coronary health, genetics etc. without it being all about WEIGHT.

I’m not going to justify my existence or defend my body shape – I shouldn’t have to and nor should anyone! But what I will say is that the reasons that people might make unhealthy lifestyle choices are hugely complex. Saying ‘Just’ eating less or exercise more is trivialising the complexity of human psychology and behaviours.

And as well as being a pleasure, food is a powerful and necessary drug. The world we live in is no longer one where food is cultivated or hunted purely for survival. We live in a capitalist hell hole where food is used to control and entice and there’s big money in the food industry regardless of whether it’s nutritionally dense or completely lacking in nutrients. Nutrition is NOT something that everyone understands, and saying that anyone can make healthy meals for a family cheaply is ignorant. (Two large chips and four sausages in batter with bread and butter is likely to work out a hell of a lot cheaper than a nutritionally balanced meal for a family of four.)

And Christ, look around any urban school – it’s not a coincidence that you’ll see a chippy or a bakery close by. Look at how sugary food for children is marketed. Look at the BIGGER PICTURE (Yes, all these fucking puns are intended.)

And as for the tired old ‘fat people are a strain on the health service’ – well to be fair, ILL people are a strain on the health service, no matter what size their bodies are. Everyone takes risks with their health. Even – gasp! – UNFAT people!!! Hello stress, steroids, smoking, drinking, speeding, STI’s, tanning, fighting, drug use, sporting injuries, oh and…. Shit, yeah… just diseases in general like EVERY OTHER HUMAN! Oh, and fat people also pay tax to fund the NHS just like every other fucker! Mad I know!

No, I’m not going to pretend that being fat doesn’t contribute to poor physical health. Not many people deny this, really. And fat people who are disabled by their weight in any way aren’t robots – they are human beings with insight and awareness (and plenty of shame usually – more than you could imagine!). Do you REALLY think that if it was as easy as ‘eat less’ there would be a single person living in any other body than the one they feel most at ease in?? Seriously??? The fact that fat people who hate themselves and their lives exist at all should in itself be enough proof of how much more complicated the issue of weight is! (Obviously this isn’t how all fat people feel – calm down!)

And while we’re on the subject of the NHS, what are all the ‘it’s just FACT’ ranters actually doing about saving this service? How actively are they campaigning and petitioning? To what degree are they making it a priority to educate themselves about the crisis facing the NHS? Or, as I suspect is the case, does their concern only stretch to being mean to fat people on the internet under the guise of concern? 🤔

So yeah… Personally I’m not a fan of this campaign, in case it wasn’t obvious 🤣 And I have SOOO much more to say, but the bottom line is that this is NOT going to make fat people lose weight. So, it’s mission unaccomplished.