Writing women’s lived reality out of the narrative of their death

8 Christina Randall

Hull City Council has recently published a Domestic Homicide Review[i] (DHR) into the murder of Christina Spillane, also known as Christina Randell. The conclusion in the  Executive Summary of the full report stated ‘Nothing has come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’

On 5th December 2013, Christina Spillane had phoned the police and in the course of describing threatening and aggressive behaviour from Deland Allman, her partner of over 20 years, she told them that he was going to kill her. The claim that nothing suggested her murder could have been predicted is not just wrong, it is doing one of the things that DHRs are supposed to avoid: writing the voice of the victim out of her own narrative. Christina had herself predicted that Allman was going to kill her and she told this to the police the first time there was any recorded contact between  her and them. Also, women are more likely to underestimate the risk they face from a violent partner than overestimate it.  Her fears should not have been ignored whilst she was still alive, let alone after she had been killed.

The conclusion of the executive summary of the DHR, contrary to several examples given in the body of the report, states ‘There is nothing to indicate there were any barriers to reporting and advice and information was given to [Christina]  regarding services but these were not taken up.’ This belies any understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence and abuse. 1 in 4 women in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes and almost 1 in 10 will suffer domestic violence in any given year. Most women will never make any sort of formal report, to the police or any other service, statutory or otherwise, but most of them would be able to explain why they haven’t, exactly because of the multitude of barriers to doing so: shame, feeling it’s your own fault, not wanting to admit there’s a problem, feeling knackered enough and demoralised by the abuse and not being able to face telling a stranger about it, feeling judged, feeling more afraid of the unknown future than the known present or past. These are just a few examples from a much longer list of possibilities. On one occasion that the police were called to respond to Allman’s violence against Christina, their adult child had told the police that their mother, Christina ‘was too scared to call the police.’ That the panel of people assembled for the domestic homicide review panel declined to identify this, or any other significant barriers to reporting in the report’s conclusion, is a shockingly bad omission.

Research published in 2012 by the Equality and Human Rights Commission showed that 95% of women using women’s services preferred to receive them from a women only-organisation.   Another report ‘Islands in the Stream’ by London Metropolitan University also stressed the importance of independent organisations. The domestic violence and abuse service in Hull is provided by Hull Domestic Abuse Partnership, a multi-agency response within the council’s community safety function. This is not an independent woman-only organisation. It is remiss that the DHR report does not consider whether this might be a barrier to reporting. Indeed it only reinforces the suggestion that too many statutory commissioners are happy to ignore what women tell us about the services they most value and furthermore, that independent women’s organisations are often undervalued and their importance side-lined.

For Christina there were additional problems: she had problematic substance use and a long history of involvement in prostitution. The review details that she had a criminal record including  ‘prostitute loitering and prostitute soliciting’ but does not consider even in passing that this may have affected her behaviour, choices, beliefs about herself or relationship with ‘the authorities’. By failing to look at this, the inclusion of this information in the review risks merely inviting judgment of her character, the expectation of which is itself a barrier to accessing support. Indeed a report by nia found that prostitution-specific criminal records have a profound and specific negative impact on women, massively influencing how they expect to be viewed by others. Additionally, involvement in prostitution itself is a homicide risk factor.  The Femicide Census found that of women who were involved in prostitution and killed  between 2009 and 2015, almost 20% had been killed by a current or former partner, suggesting prostitution must be recognised as not just a risk factor for or form of male violence, but also as a risk factor for intimate partner violence including homicide. There is no indication in the DHR that anyone on the review panel had an expertise in understanding the impacts of prostitution upon women and considered this a barrier.

On 1st February 2015, almost two years and two months after telling the police that she feared Allman would kill her, Christina Spillane was found dead. Allman had stabbed her three times and strangled her in an assault of such force that the blade had snapped. She was 51. Far from there being ‘Nothing [that had] come to light during the review that would suggest that [Christina Spillane’s] death could have been predicted or prevented.’ as concluded in the executive summary, there had been a number of indicators of serious risk: escalating violence, threats to kill, reports of strangulation, separation, expression of suicidal thoughts by Allman, and male entitlement/possessiveness indicated by Allman’s belief that Christina was ‘having an affair’. Christina had spoken to the police, her GP, her drugs support agency, a support provider for women offenders and A&E between calling the police in December 2013 and her murder on the eve of 1st February 2015. It is simply incorrect to state that support ‘was not taken up’. Another interpretation is that Christina Spillane was desperately afraid and made multiple disclosures as she sought to find a route to safety, was facing multiple barriers to accessing specialist services and was failed by those that may have been able to help.

Frank Mullane, CEO of AAFDA,  a charity set up to support families of victims of domestic homicide in memory of his sister and nephew who were murdered by their husband/father, says that the “victim’s perspective should permeate these reviews throughout”. The DHR in to the murder of Christina Spillane sorely failed to achieve this aim

No-one but the perpetrator, Deland Allman, bears responsibility for killing Christina. It is not the purpose of a DHR to redirect blame from violent killers (usually men) who make choices to end (usually women’s) lives. But if DHRs are to fulfil the functions of contributing to a better understanding and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse, they cannot be a hand-washing exercise. They need to ask big questions, there needs to be a robust challenge to victim blaming and they must endeavour to see things from a victim’s (usually woman’s) perspective. If we want them to be part of what makes a difference, we need to make sure that we hear what victims of violence tell us, rather than use them as a means of absolving us from taking responsibility for the differences that we might have been able to make.

 [i]  Since 2001, local authorities have been required to undertake and usually publish reports on Domestic Homicide Reviews (DHRs) where the death of a person aged 16 or over has, or appears to have, resulted from violence, abuse or neglect by a relative, household member or someone they have been in an intimate relationship with. The purposes of the reviews, which should be chaired by an independent person with relevant expertise, include establishing and applying  what lessons are to be learned from the ways that agencies work to safeguard victims and also, to contribute to a better understanding of and the prevention of domestic violence and abuse.

 

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The Attack in Manchester was an Attack on Women and Girls

Manchester 22

We now know the names of the 22 people confirmed dead in the attack in Manchester, and we know the 17 of them were women and girls.  Whilst not to deny or denigrate the lives of the 5 men that were also taken, it is essential that we view the attack as an attack on women.

Daesh have claimed responsibility and so the attack is rightly framed in the context of religious extremism.  The patriarchal oppression of women by men is at the heart of this ideology,  and in that respect Daesh is not alone.  Inequality between women and men and men’s violence against women go hand-in-hand the world over.  It is estimated that across the globe  66,000 women and girls are killed violently every year .  Generally those countries with the highest homicide rates are those with the highest rates of fatal violence against women and girls; but other factors are at play too,  countries with higher levels of sex  inequality also have high rates of men’s violence against women and girls. The UK is no exception, this year, even before the attack in Manchester, at least 37 UK women had been killed by men.  Links between men who perpetrate violence against women  and terrorism are now being identified; and mass killers, including school shooters, are almost always male.

Gender is a hierarchy, the ideals of masculinity and femininity are critical tools in maintaining the oppression of women by men,  in the creation of men’s violence against women and the conditions that support and enable it. We cannot afford to fail to identify and name patriarchy as an ideology underpinning violence and we cannot afford to fail to name male violence against women in the Manchester attack.   If we want to end men’s violence against women and girls we will have to dismantle the structures that support inequality between women and men, without this almost any intervention that we might make will have little impact.

The prevent agenda, one of the 4 strands of the UK governments counter-terrorism strategy,  has been condemned as toxic and anti-Muslim, as reinforcing rather than healing mistrust, but cultural relativism is not the solution.   If we want to tackle terrorism, we need to understand and acknowledge that structural inequalities that create the conditions for violent hatred – be they grounded in patriarchy– or imperialism or  capitalism  – are critical and that solutions, if they are to have any impact, need to be equally ambitious.  We also need to make sure our definition of terrorism includes acts of violence perpetrated by those claiming to be motivated by the aims of ideologies held, or perceived to be held, by populations who are mainly white. Religion is one of the tools of ideology. We need to push for a secular state, that doesn’t have to be about the absence of religion from the lives of those who choose it, but it does mean the separation of religion and the state.   Of course if we are to learn from the mistakes of imperialism, this means that the West cannot impose secularism on the Global South.  But we can redouble our efforts to fight for universal Human Rights for all, and human rights fully encompass women’s rights. The right to life, the right to freedom from torture, the right to freedom from slavery: men’s violence against women and more broadly the oppression of women is an international human rights crisis.

Yes, now is the time for unity – and in that unity we should seek our connections to those killed and harmed in the name of violent and oppressive ideologies across the world.  We must be unified in our fight to identify, name and end all forms of men’s violence against women and girls and also to end hierarchies between women and girls.  Whether international terrorism or domestic terrorism, men’s violence against women and girls is used to control, disempower and degrade women and girls.  The attack in Manchester was an attack on women and girls, on our liberty, our safety, our lives.   The response to terrorism must always include the rights of women.

In memory of

Angelica Klis, 40

Georgina Callendar, 18

Saffie Roussos, 8

Kelly Brewster , 32

Olivia Campbell, 15

Alison Howe,45

Lisa Lees, 47

Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51

Megan Hurley, 15

Nell Jones, 14

Michelle Kiss, 45

Sorrell Leczkowski, 14

Chloe Rutherford, 17

Eilidh Macleod, 14

Wendy Fawell, 50

Courtney Boyle, 19

Elaine McIver,43

And also,

Martyn Hett, 29

Marcin Klis, 42

John Atkinson, 28

Liam Curry, 19

Philip Tron, 32

2017

91 women

January – September 2017: At least 101 UK women killed by men, or where a man is the principal suspect. 101 women in 273 days is one woman dead every 2.7 days.

  1. 7 January 2017: Nicola Beck, 52, was found dead along with her husband Michael Beck, 62. Police have described their deaths as ‘domestic related murder and suicide.’
  2. 8 January 2017: Kerri McCauley, 32, was found dead. A post-mortem was inconclusive but Norfolk Police said there was evidence that Kerri was subjected to a severe blunt force assault. Her former partner, Joe Storey, 26, has been charged with her murder.
  3. 10 January 2017: Eulin Hastings, 74, was killed in a house fire. A 26-year-old man was arrested and bailed.
  4. 11 January 2017: Victoria Shorrock, 45, was found dead having suffered ‘a number of injuries’. Lee Grime, 35, had been charged with her murder but the charge was changed to assault when the cause of death could not be verified. Det Insp Tim McDermott said: “Even though we can’t be sure exactly what happened in the hours before she died, what is clear is Grime assaulted her, with her death following at some point afterwards. Victoria was a vulnerable woman who Grime took advantage of. He showed himself to be a dangerous and manipulative individual.” Grimes was jailed for 16 months.
  5. 16 January 2017: Leone Weeks, 16, was found stabbed to death on a footbath close to her home. 18-year-old Shea Heeley, has been charged with her murder.
  6. 16 January 2017: Kiran Daudia, 46, ‘s remains were found in a suitcase by a member of the public. Her 50-year-old ex-husband, Ashwin Daudia, has been charged with her murder.
  7. 18 January 2017: Kulwinder Kaur, 40, was killed by a stab wound to her neck. Her husband, Azad Singh, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  8. 19 January 2017: Anne Forneaux, 70, was found dead at home and is believed to have been killed by her husband, Edward Forneaux, 74, who is thought to have killed himself by driving in to a tree.
  9. 20 January 2017: Anita Downey, 51, is thought to have been stabbed to death. David Lymess, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  10. 28 January 2017: Chrissy Kendall, 46, was found dead with multipole stab wounds. Her husband James Neary, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  11. 30 January 2017: Gillian Zvomuya, 42, also known as Nyasha Kahari, dies from head injuries and also suffered injuries from a ‘bladed item’. Her husband Norbery Chikerema, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  12. 3 February 2017: Amandeep Kaur, 35, was found dead with significant injuries. Baldeep Singh, 38, has been charged with her murder.
  13. 6 February 2017: Tina Billingham, 54, was taken to a doctor’s surgery with stab wounds but later died in hospital. Her partner Ronald Cook, 54, has been charged with her murder.
  14. 11 February 2017: Hannah Dorans, 21, was found dead. Frazer Neil, 23, has been charged in relation to her death.
  15. 11 February 2017: Catherine Kelly, 71, was killed in a fire which was thought to have been started deliberately.
  16. 11 February 2017: Hang Yin Leung, 64, was killed when a group of men posing as cold callers entered and robbed her home.
  17. 13 February 2017: Karina Batista, 40, was found dead with multiple injuries to her upper body. Jaici Rocha, 36, has been charged with her murder.
  18. 15 February 2017: Humara Khan, 42, was found to have a serious head injury when police were called to her home. She later died in hospital. Her husband Jamal Khan, 52, has been charged with her murder.
  19. 19 February 2017: Hazel Wilson Briant, 27, was stabbed to death by her partner Olumide Orimoloye, 42, who also killed himself.
  20. 19 February 2017: Margaret Stenning, 79, was stabbed to death. Her husband, Ronald Stenning, who claimed she slit her own throat, has been charged with her murder.
  21. 22 February 2017: Avis Addison, 88, was found dead at home after police were called to the property. Her husband Douglas Addison, 88, has been charged with her murder.
  22. 25 February 2017: Beverly Hudson, 42, died in hospital 2 days after having been stabbed 20 times in the neck, chest and abdomen as well as her arms, hands and back by her partner Mark Minott, 41, who used a second knife after the first one broke.
  23. 26 February 2016: Julie McCash, 43, was stabbed to death at a vigil being held for her missing nephew. Robert Stratton, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  24. 26 February 2017: Sarah Pitkin, 58, is believed to have been stabbed to death by her husband Richard Pitkin, , 65, who then hanged himself.
  25. 28 February 2017: Lea Adri-Soejoko, 80, was found dead in an allotment lock-up store. She had been strangled. Rahim Mohammadi, 40, has been charged with her murder.
  26. In February 2015, Justene Reece, 46, killed herself by hanging following a period of sustained stalking and coercive control. In a landmark legal case, Nicolas Allen, who had formerly been Justene’s partner, admitted manslaughter.
  27. 8 March 2017: Anne-Marie James, 33, was stabbed to death by her brother Melvin James,36, who then killed himself. He also badly injured their mother.
  28. 13 March 2017: Sabrina Mullings, 38, was stabbed to death. Her partner Ivan Griffin, 23, has been charged with her murder.
  29. 22 March 2017: Aysha Frade, 43, was killed when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London.
  30. 25 March 2017: Tracey Wilkinson, 50, and her son Pierce, 13, were stabbed to death by Aaron Bailey who was known to the family. Her husband was also badly hurt in the attack.
  31. 25 March 2017: Kanwal/Bernice Williams was last seen alive. Her body was found on 9th of April, two days after the discovery of the body of her husband Lawrence Williams, 50. He is thought to have killed himself.
  32. 6 April 2017: Andreea Christea, 31, died after falling in to the river Thames when Adrian Ajao/Elms, also known as Khalid Massod, drove a car in to pedestrians in a terrorist attack in London on 22 March.
  33. 9 April 2017: Vicki Hull, 31, was found strangled. Mark Mahoney, 31, has been charged with her murder.
  34. 14 April 2017: Hannah Bladon, 20, a student from Derby , was stabbed to death in Jerusalem by Jamil Tamimi, 57.
  35. 17 April 2017: Carolyn Hill, 51, died of a head injury. Skye Page, 37, has been charged with her murder.
  36. 19 April 2017: Karina Evemy, 19, died in hospital of injuries sustained on 13th Her boyfriend Dylan Harries, 21, had previously been charged with attempted murder.
  37. Between 16 April and May 2017: Megan Bills, 17, was killed. She was found decomposing and wrapped in cling film in May. Ashley Foster, 24, was initially charged with preventing a proper burial and later charged with her murder.
  38. 4 May 2017: Karolina Chwiluk, 20, died after being stabbed in an incident in which two other people were injured. Grzesiek Kosiec, 23, said to have been her boyfriend, has been chared with her murder and two counts of GBH.
  39. 7 May 2017: Tracy Kearns, 43, was last seen alive. Her body was found on 11 May.  She had been strangled. Her partner Anthony Bird has been charged with her murder.
  40. 15 May 2017: Concepta Leonard, 51, was stabbed to death by her ex-partner Peadar Phair, who and killed himself and tried to kill her son.
  41. Angelica Klis, 40
  42. Georgina Callendar, 18
  43. Kelly Brewster, 32
  44. Olivia Campbell, 10
  45. Alison Howe, 45
  46. Lisa Lees, 47
  47. Jane Tweddle-Taylor, 51
  48. Megan Hurley, 15
  49. Nell Jones, 14
  50. Michelle Kiss, 45
  51. Sorrell Leczkowski, 14
  52. Chloe Rutherford, 17
  53. Eilidh Macleod, 14
  54. Wendy Fawell, 50
  55. Courtney Boyle, 19
  56. Elaine McIver, 43

Saffie Roussos, 8*

  1. 23 May 2017: Gemma Leeming, 30, was found strangled. Craig O’Sullivan, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  2. 25 May 2017: Emma Day, 33, was stabbed to death. Her ex-partner, Mark Morris, 39, has been charged with her murder.
  3. 26 May 2017: Mohanna Abdhua, 20, also known as Montana, was shot dead in what appears to have been crossfire of a ‘gangland shooting’. Two men have been arrested and bailed.
  4. 27 May 2017: Marjorie Cawdrey and her husband Michael, both 83, were stabbed to death. A 40-year-ond man has been charged in relation to their murders.
  5. 28 May 2017: Sobhia Khan, 37 was found dead. Her husband Ataul Mustafa, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  6. 29 May 2017: Romina Kalachi, 32, was found stabbed to death in London.
  7. 30 May 2017: Arena Saeed, 30 and her two children Shadia, 6 and Rami, 4 were killed in Liverpool. Her husband (their father) Sami Salem, 30, has been charged in relation to their deaths.
  8. 2 June 2017: Alyson Watt, 52, was stabbed to death and her 16-year-old son was also attacked. Her former partner Gary Brown, 54, has been charged.
  9. Christine Archibald, 30
  10. Kirsty Boden, 28
  11. Sara Zelenak, 21
  12. 8 June 2017: Sarah Jeffrey, 48, was strangled. Her husband Christopher Jeffrey, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  13. 9 June 2017: Karen Young, 47, was found dead in Allan Doherty’s flat. He has been charged with culpable homicide.
  14. 10 June 2017: Corinne Hayes, 23, was found dead on 10th A 33-year-old man has been detained under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  15. 13 June 2017: Jean Chapman, 81, was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Her 71-year-old husband John Chapman, has been charged with murder.
  16. 12 June 2017: Janice Griffiths, 59, died in hospital 2 days after being subjected to a violent attack. A 22-year-old man has been held under the Mental Health Act in relation to her death.
  17. 14 June 2017: Joanne Rand, 47, dies after sustaining chemical burns on 3 June from a substance in a bottle that was kicked during ‘an altercation’. Xeneral Webster has been charged with attempted GBH.
  18. 17 June 2017: Dionne Clark, 27, was found dead. Dominic Wallis, 28, and Elizabeth Ellis, 19, have been charged in relation to her murder.
  19. 18 June 2017: Ellen Higginbottom, 18, was killed through multiple wounds to her neck. Mark Steven Buckley, 51, has been charged with her murder.
  20. 27 June 2017: Julie Parkin, 39, was stabbed to death. Adam Parkin, 35, has been charged with her murder.
  21. 29 June 2017: Molly McLaren, 23, was killed by her throat being slit. Her ex-boyfriend, Joshua Stimpson, 25, has been charged with her murder.
  22. 29 June 2017: Joanne Hemingway, 39, died in hospital after being seriously assaulted. Glenn Foster, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  23. 6 July 2017: Veronika Pugaciova, 33, was killed when she was hit by a vehicle as she left the van of Johnathon Allison, 54. He has been charged with breaking a restraining order.
  24. 9 July 2017: Vera Savage, 89, was stabbed to death. Police believe her son John Savage, 54, killed her and then himself.
  25. 19 July 2017: Celine Dookhran, 19, was kidnapped, raped, had her throat cut and her body was placed in a freezer. Majahid Arshid, 33, has been charged.
  26. 20 July 2017: Vanessa James, 24 was stabbed in the neck and abdomen. Tre Cameron, 21, has been charged with her murder.
  27. 21 July 2017: Florina Pastina, 36, was suffered head injuries as a result of being bludgeoned in the head with a hammer. Lucian Stinci, 34, has been charged with her murder.
  28. 21 July 2017: Olivia Kray, 19, was strangled. Her father, Richard Kray. 63 has been charged with her murder and the attempted murder of another woman.
  29. 29 July 2017: Farnaz Ali, 49, was killed in what has been described as a ‘sustained assault’ . Danny Williams, 26, has been charged with her murder.
  30. 31 July 2017: Elizabeth (Betty) Jordan, 53, was found seriously injured and died later in hospital. Her husband, Paul Jordan, 54, has been charged with her murder.
  31. 3 August 2017: Leanne Collopy, 25, was found in a burning house with her 2-year-old daughter. She died of stab wounds and burns. Saleem Said, 39, has been charged with her murder, the attempted murder of the two year old girl and arson with intent to endanger life
  32. 5 August 2017: Rikki Lander, 26, was found dead at home. Her husband Paul Lander was found hanged. Police said that ‘It’s clear a sustained attack had taken place towards Rikki.’
  33. 6 August 2017: Alex Stuart, 22, was found with facial injuries and had been stabbed. She died in hospital. Nicholas Rogers, 26, has been charged with her murder.
  34. 11 August 2017: Leah Cohen, 66, and her daughter Hannah Cohen, 33, were stabbed to death. Joshua Cohen, 27, Leah’s son and Hannah’s brother, has been charged with their murders.
  35. 11 August 2017: Hannah Cohen, 33, and her mother, Leah Cohen, 66, were stabbed to death. Joshua Cohen, 27, Hannah’s brother and Leah’s son, has been charged with their murders.
  36. 12 August 2017: Beryl Hammond, 81, was found dead at home. Her son, Darren Hammond, 41, has been charged with her murder.
  37. 14 August 2017: Quyen Ngoc Nguyen, 29, was found dead inside a burning car. William McFall, 50, and Stephen Unwin, 39, have been charged with her murder.
  38. 14 August 2017: Karen Jacquet, 59, was found dead by police called to an incident. Yousef Mohammed, 65, has been charged with murder.
  39. 27 August 2017: Jessica King, 23, was found dead. Jordan Thackray, 27, has been charged with her murder.
  40. 9 September 2017: Tyler Denton, 25, was found dead. Redvers Bickley, 21, was charged with her murder and the attempted murder of her father and two sisters
  41. September 2017: Emma Kelty, 43, was shot, raped, tortured and had her throat slit before her body was dumped in fast flowing water. She was kayaking down the Amazon river and killed in Brazil by drug traffickers.
  42. 24 September 2017: Jane Hings, 72, was found dead at home. Craig Keogh, 25, has been charged with her murder, rape and burglary.
  43. 27 September 2017: Nasima Noorzia, 29, was found dead in woodland by a roadside after a search following a call about concerns for her safety. Her husband, Habib Rahman, 42, has been charged with her murder.
  44. 28 September 2017: Katherine Smith, 26, was found dead. Anthony Lowe, 46, has been charged with her murder.
  45. 29 September 2017: Leanne McKie, 39, was found dead in a lake. Her husband Darren, McKie, 43, has been charged with her murder.

Awaiting charging information regarding the deaths of Samantha Blake-Mizen, Rosemarie Stokes and Anna Maria Pereira De Sousa Rebelo. Please let me know if you have information regarding the deaths of these women or any other women/girls (aged 13 and over)  where a man/men is/are the primary suspects in the UK or UK women killed abroad in 2017

*Counting  Dead Women is a record of women and girls aged 13 and over. Saffie Roussos is commemorated here but not included in the count.

Last updated 2 October 2017

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh

Naked headless women golf tees, it’s all a bit of a laugh, eh?  Adding, according to Dunlop, “a little humour to your game” or “the perfect gift for someone who takes the sport a little too seriously.”  Bend down and stick the nice bit of pink plastic tits and arse in the ground, balance your golf ball head, swing and “thwack”. Hilarious.

But what about those of us who aren’t laughing?

I grew up in a village in Yorkshire with a pub called The Silent Woman.  The pub sign was a picture of a woman carrying her head in her hands.  To be silent a woman had to be headless.  A misogynistic leap of association, dragging in the nagging wife, the fishwife, the gossip: to be silent a woman must be headless. Is there a feminist on social media who hasn’t experienced attempts at silencing when she expresses her opinions?  I’ve lost count of the number of men who have told me “Don’t start with ….”, “Shut up,” or called me variations of screeching, bleating feminazi.  The Silent Woman in Slaithwaite did not have a unique pub name, there are several across the UK, with The Headless Woman as a variation.  Sometimes the  name appears with the couplet: “Here is a woman who has lost her head,  She’s quiet now—you see she’s dead” (Author unknown) just in case the inference from name alone isn’t clear enough.  Carl Jung talked about cultural archetypes. Cross cultural , universal concepts that he believed indicated a collective unconscious.  Unconscious forces that are expressed in images, religion, stories and mythology as they enter consciousness and shape our interactions in society.  The silent woman, synonymous with headless woman is a patriarchal archetype. It reflects sexist misogynistic cultural values.  Not convinced about the concept of patriarchy?  Remember Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects? “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist.”

The objectification of women, reducing us to hilarious little objects that exist to titillate men, to give them a giggle, is another means of keeping us unequal.  Reducing us to hilarious little objects towards which to swing a golf club makes hitting us fun.  Making a joke out of the objectification of women and male violence against women is another way of normalising and reducing our ability to stop and stand back, to confront the horrible reality of what is happening.

Male violence against women does not exist in a social vacuum, it simultaneous reinforces and is reinforced by inequality between woman and men, given more than a helping hand by the objectification of women. Two and a half years ago, I started counting UK women killed through male violence.  Since I started counting in January 2012 and the end of May 2014, 333 UK women had been killed; amongst them, I am aware of six women who were decapitated.  Anyone still laughing at Dunlop’s golf tees?

Is it funny if I remind you of 29-year-old Gemma McCluskie?  She was actor living in London. In March 2012, her brother Tony McCluskie, 36, killed her by hitting her head and then chopped her up with a cleaver and a knife.  The next day, he took a cab carrying a heavy suitcase.  A week later, her torso was found in the suitcase in the canal close to where he was dropped off.  A week later her arms and legs were found in black bags.  It was another six months before her head was found.

Will you laugh if I tell you about Elizabeth Coriat? In March 2012, Daniel Coriat, 43, killed his 76-year-old mother Elizabeth Coriat in their shared home in London.  She was found on her bed, fully clothed, decapitated and mutilated with various weapons embedded in her head and body, injuries to the wrists and ankles in a ‘crucifixion-like’ pattern. She had suffered almost 50 separate injuries inflicted by weapons including carving knives, secateurs, a chef’s steel and a pruning saw.  Her head had been cut off completely off, rotated 180 degrees, and placed back on her body.

Will your golfer stop talking the sport so seriously if we think about Catherine Gowing, a 39-year-old vet who was murdered by a serial rapist Clive Sharp, 47, in October 2012? He raped her for 4 hours before killing her. The next day he bought bleach, petrol, a hacksaw and spare blades, and a Halloween mask.  He dismembered Catherine’s remains in open ground before disposing of her body in various locations in North Wales.  Only her torso, right hand and foot have been recovered; her head and remaining body parts were never found.

Will the story of Reema Ramzan bring back the missing humour to your game? 18-year-old Reema from Sheffield was murdered by her boyfriend Aras Hussain, 21,  in June 2013. According to forensic evidence although he had stabbed her in the chest,  Reema was likely to be alive while her head was being cut off, though would of course have lost consciousness at some point.  A post mortem showed Reema had also been stabbed in her shoulder and leg.  Injuries on her hands were consistent with self-defence.  Judge Mrs Justice Cox told Hussain  “”The pain, terror, anguish and desperation she would therefore have suffered, as you inflicted these appalling injuries upon her and ended her life, is truly horrifying to contemplate.”

Finally, if your sense of humour needs a final nudge there’s 60-year-old Judith Nibbs  who lived in Hackney, London. Judith had been active in the local community for many years and had worked delivering meals-on-wheels to the elderly for the last 6 years.  She also cared for her disabled daughter. In April 2014, police responding to a call found her decapitated body in her blood-splattered flat. Her estranged husband, Dempsey Nibbs, 67, was also there.  It is believed he had stabbed and seriously injured himself after killing Judith.  Police are not looking for anyone else.

Those golf club thwacks to the head have a broader context beyond beheaded women.  There are numerous women  murdered through blows to the head: garden ornaments, kitchen implements, hammers, feet, fists, blunt force trauma, fractured skull, brain injury. There’s also 68-year-old Sally Hingston, murdered by 25-year old and 6ft 10 Benjamin Radojezic: Sally survived a brutal beating – with a golf club – only to be dumped half naked in a ditch where she took 17 hours to die in Buckinghamshire in 2009.

Off with her head.  Oh, such a laugh. The naked headless woman – a little bit of humour for your game of golf.  I’m not laughing. After reading this, could anyone be?

 

Jo Sharpen has stated a petition to Dunlop to remove the naked woman golf tees from sale.  You can sign it here https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/dunlop-sport-remove-the-misogynistic-nudie-tee-product-which-features-a-decapitated-woman-s-body# %85naked woman golf tees picture

Talking about men’s violence (It seems like I’ve been here before)

Anybody pushing a ‘gender neutral’ approach to domestic – or sexual – violence is just a male violence enabler.

Men (mostly, but yes, some women too) don’t seem to like it when we talk about men’s violence against women.  The responses are nothing new and as yet never original,  so, as a result, I’ve written this to save me the bother of repeating the same thing over and over again because I am not going to stop talking about men’s violence against women and I don’t suppose men are going to stop finding that objectionable.  If I have sent you a link to this piece, it’s because

a) you have suggested that I don’t care about male victims

b) you refuse to accept than the extent of differences between men’s and women’s use of violence or the effects of that violence

c) you’re interpreting what I say as ‘all men are violent’

d) you’ve found it necessary to point out that women can be violent too

c) you have made some nonsense comment about feminism,  or

d) some combination of the above.

I want to see an end to men’s violence against women.  I’m campaigning to raise awareness of men’s fatal violence against women and for action to increase our understanding of the reasons behind the differences in men and women’s use of violence and their victimisation, so that we can reduce men’s violence against women.

Women who are murdered are most likely to have been murdered by a man.  Men who are murdered are most likely to have been murdered by a man.  Men are more likely to be violent than women.  Not all men are murderers, not all men are violent. Some women are murderers, some women are violent.

Gender and gender differences – the ways that many of us behave in ways that are seen as being like a ‘typical man’ or a ‘typical woman’ – are socially constructed.  They are not biological, they are not inevitable.  Not all women and not all men conform or want to conform to these gender differences, many of us sometimes do and sometimes don’t. Because gender differences are socially constructed, it means we can change them.  The stereotypical gender differences between women and men are a way of keeping women and men unequal. At the same time, different doesn’t have to mean unequal.

All men benefit from inequality between women and men.  This doesn’t mean that some women are not in more advantageous positions than some men. It doesn’t mean all men are the same.  It doesn’t mean that all women are the same.   It doesn’t mean that sex is the only important basis for inequality.  It doesn’t mean that everyone wants it to be that way.

Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. It doesn’t have to be that way. If enough of us decide to do things differently we can change the world.  Men don’t have to be violent, towards women or other men. Men can end male violence if enough of them want to.  The thing is, this won’t happen if too many men – and/or women – refuse to see that men’s violence is a problem.  The changes that will reduce men’s violence against women will also reduce men’s violence against other men, they will probably also reduce women’s violence.

I want to see an end to men’s violence against women.  What this means is “I want to see an end to men’s violence against women.”  It doesn’t mean that I do not care about other forms of violence.  It doesn’t mean that I do not feel any compassion towards male victims of violence.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t care  or that I celebrate if men are killed – and that is true whether they’re killed by a woman, or, as is more likely, by another man.

A straw man argument  is misrepresentation of someone else’s position to make it easier to attack or undermine that position.  When men – and it usually is men, but not always – attack me for caring about women killed though men’s violence, by suggesting that this means I don’t care about men who are victims of violence (whether from women, or as more likely, other men), they’re using a straw man argument.  They saying that because I care about men killing women, I can’t care about men who are killed, to attack the fact that I care about women who are killed. This may or may not be, as suggested by a friend of mine, Louise Pennington, because they do not care when men kill women. The thing is, whether they intend it or not, their attacks and their refusal to accept men’s violence as the  problem means that it is less likely that we’ll be able to make the changes that will make us all safer.  And even though men kill more men that they kill women, who benefits from things staying the same? Yep.  Men. Even the nice ones.

More British women killed though men’s violence last year than British troops killed in Afghanistan in the last 3 years

Nigella Lawson used the phrase  ‘intimate terrorism’ to describe her abuse from Charles Saatchi in court in December last year.  It is a derivative of the more useful term ‘patriarchal terrorism’ which captures not only that men are overwhelmingly the perpetrators and women the victims,  but the wider cultural context – patriarchy – in which men’s violence against women takes place.  The concept of terrorism reminds us that abuse is physical and deadly but also about coercion and  reinforcing ideologies of dominance.

The UK’s military role against the Taliban in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 99 members of the Army, RAF, Royal Marines and special forces in the last three years.  Regardless of, and not discounting the arguments for or against British military intervention and also not wishing to denigrate the death of even one person –  military or civilian, or  on either side –  the deaths of British military personnel are far outnumbered by the deaths of  140 women in the UK who were killed though men’s violence in one year alone.

I started keeping the list of the names of women killed in January 2012.   Many people know the statistic than ‘two women a week are killed through domestic violence in England and Wales ‘ but I thought keeping a list of the names of women killed made the horror of what is happening feel more real.  Since I started the list, I’ve counted 264 dead women: 120 in 2012, 140 in 2013 and already 4 in 2014.

When I started keeping the list, I was shocked and angry about the lack of attention given to the murders of women, and what feels like a refusal to look at the links between the different forms of men’s violence against women. It’s not only women being killed by their partners or ex-partners but by their sons, grandsons, fathers, business associates, as well as by rapists and robbers.

I launched a campaign “Counting Dead Women” because I want to see a fit-for-purpose record of fatal male violence against women. Unless we have an accurate picture of what is going on and make connections between the different forms of sexist murders, we will not stop men killing women.  264 dead women later and I’m not going to stop counting and naming the women killed until official records are being kept and the government is doing everything that it can. I’m asking anyone who feels the same and who hasn’t already done so to sign my petition demanding change.

I’d like to thank @thedwellproject for the analogy to British military deaths in Afghanistan in this post by Eddie. For Our Daughters have also compared women killed though male violence to British troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and N. Ireland.  

Vawg – I hate how vawg has become a word.

Yesterday I went to a meeting about men’s violence against women and girls in London.  Access to the meeting room was initially difficult because when I entered the building and told the person on reception that I was here for the ‘Violence Against Women and Girls Meeting’ in Room X, she told me that the room was booked for something else. Eventually she told me that the room was booked for the ‘fourth meeting’.  Could someone have asked to book a room for a ‘vawg meeting’ and been misheard, I suggested. Yes, of course they could, it transpired.   I hate how vawg has become a word and this was an unwelcome reminder.  At the start of the meeting, I started doing a tally about how many times the word ‘vawg’ was used.  I almost immediately forgot because the actual subject matter demanded full attention and constructive engagement.

I hate how vawg has become a word because it allows users to disconnect from VIOLENCE against WOMEN and GIRLS.  It hides the violence. If we who are engaged in raising awareness about men’s violence against women and girls as a step towards ending men’s violence against women and girls, want to raise awareness, how are we doing this if we allow the very words to be erased? Never more so when even ‘vawg’ is misheard and becomes ‘fourth’.

I hate how vawg has become a word though I celebrate that as a concept it has entered the mainstream because it connects the different forms of men’s violence against women and girls under patriarchy: rape, sexual violence, domestic violence, femicide, FGM,  prostitution, pornography and other harmful practices.

I hate how vawg has become a word because I am not particularly fond of acronyms and jargon.  Lazy acronyms make important information inaccessible to the ‘not one of the club’ non-specialist.

I hate how vawg has become a word though I acknowledge that it is useful when we’re writing, especially when we’re tweeting and have restricted characters (Men’s Violence against women and girl is 37 characters) and in these situations I use VAWG or MVAWG myself. It really doesn’t take so long to say it: “violence against women and girls” though, does it?

I hate how vawg has become a word because it renders men – the perpetrators –  invisible. I know, I know, not all men. But saying that men as a class benefit under patriarchy and men’s violence against women and girls is an instrument of maintaining women’s subordination is not the same as saying ‘all men are violent and women never are’.  It really isn’t.  Maybe it would be more accurate to say patriarchal violence against women and girls but this also disguises the role and responsibility of men.

I hate how vawg has become a word.