I generally struggle to come up with genuine answers to the question, “what would you like for Christmas?” This year, no problem: if anyone asks, I’m going to say I’d like something bought on my behalf from Refuge’s Christmas list (and maybe also a chocolate bar).
Refuge is a UK charity that (among other things) provides safe havens for woman and children escaping domestic violence. Their appeal aims to ensure that everyone in their shelters at Christmas has a present to unwrap. It’s simple enough to contribute: you go to John Lewis’s gift list page, enter the gift list number 609505, and select and buy a present or two. They range in price from £4.50 to £25.
There are many forms of sexual and gender based violence. Some of them have only come to light in more recent history, and some we still tend, collectively, to fail to understand. However, the University of Michigan’s (otherwise seemingly wonderful) initiative to prevent and more effectively respond to domestic and intimate partner violence, has offered a very worrying example of sexual violence. The site reads:
Examples of sexual violence include: discounting the partner’s feelings regarding sex; criticizing the partner sexually; touching the partner sexually in inappropriate and uncomfortable ways; withholding sex and affection; always demanding sex; forcing partner to strip as a form of humiliation (maybe in front of children), to witness sexual acts, to participate in uncomfortable sex or sex after an episode of violence, to have sex with other people; and using objects and/or weapons to hurt during sex or threats to back up demands for sex.
Withholding sex and affection is not a form of sexual violence. Rather, too often, claims of failing to be sexually available and affectionate enough have historically been used to justify mistreatment of (and sometimes violence towards) partners–just think of the offensive (and mythical) stereotype of the ‘frigid wife,’ and the various ways in which it has been employed.
When I saw the title, I thought this was going to be pretty bad–it’s really difficult to put humor and unjust violence together in a productive way. But, I thought this was sharp.
Anyone on Facebook will have seen posts asking people if they have seen a missing person, and appealing for help in finding them. Like me, you might feel you’re helping to reunite lost family members by passing on the info and sharing the photos. But it turns out this might not be the best thing to do. A man recently made a heart-rending plea, asking for help to find his missing children. Kind-hearted folks shared the photos and eventually, someone recognised them and told him where to find them. What no-one sharing the photos realised was that his ex-partner was living under a secret identity after leaving the man, and this information allowed him to find her. She subsequently had to move to a women’s shelter. You can read more here.
An article on CNN is discussing bystander training in a high school, instituted in the wake of the murder of former student Lauren Astley by her ex-boyfriend. It’s a terribly heart-breaking story, but it’s a welcome change to see these issues being discussed in a nuanced way, and to see long-term plans for intervention going forward, in a mainstream news outlet.
So Charles Saatchi attacked Nigella Lawson at a posh restaurant. And though lots of people took photos, and some apparently contacted the police, nobody intervened. [Expletives deleted] It is, however, provoking some useful discussion (yes, amazingly, from the Telegraph):
So class or status is irrelevant, but we persist in our naivety. It’s a defence mechanism, of course; we’re desperate to find a cast-iron reason that will distance us from the miserable fate suffered by someone unnervingly similar to our comfortable little selves – because we don’t want to believe that it could happen to us. We cannot tolerate the thought that we are not safe. And from this weaselly position of “I’d never get myself into that situation”, it’s a short, shameful step to blaming the victim: why does she stay with him? Why does she put up with it?
Excellent TED talk by Jackson Katz, one of the folks behind the bystander approach. Watch it. Then ask your friends to watch it.