I believe Eleanor de Freitas

Content note: This post discusses rape and suicide

Eleanor de Freitas was just 23 years old when she took her life.

Her story started like far too many others. She reported a rape to the police, and the police said there was insufficient evidence. It’s a script as tired as time: inconsistencies, blah blah blah. Unlike most other cases, though, it deviated radically from the script.

The man accused took out a private prosecution against Eleanor de Freitas. He must have been a rich, powerful man to do this. Her solicitors asked the CPS to stop this spiteful action, but the CPS decided to take it up for reasons which are currently completely unclear.

Eleanor de Freitas was a vulnerable woman, with bipolar disorder. She had been receiving counselling for rape. As soon as the summons came, this support was snatched away. Her mental health grew worse, and her psychiatrist deemed her not fit to stand trial.

Three days before the trial was due to start, Eleanor de Freitas took her life.

Her family would like the CPS to address the questions that they have, although so far this request is being blocked. Why did the CPS think it in the public interest to prosecute a sick young woman? Why didn’t they put a stop to the private prosecution that was quite literally killing her, despite its duty to think these things through? Why did they allow her vital counselling to be withdrawn?

The CPS need to address these questions, and their silence speaks volumes. There is something fishy going on.

I am inclined to believe Eleanor de Freitas, knowing what I know about rape and rape culture. I know that the police are fucking terrible at dealing with survivors coming forward, and don’t understand how the stress from trauma can lead to statements they deem “inconsistent”, because that’s how human brains work. I know that men falsely denying having committed rape is vastly more common than women making up false allegations. I know that society is far more inclined to give the men making denials the benefit of the doubt. I know that women with mental health problems are more likely to be disbelieved, thought to be mad.

I believe Eleanor de Freitas, and I want to know why the CPS helped a man to kill her.

__

Update 24/3/15: Men keep leaving comments explaining why one shouldn’t believe Eleanor de Freitas. I’ve not approved them because men get platforms to spout rubbish in all sorts of other places. Anyway, all of their comments make me believe Eleanor de Freitas even more. Their comments boil down to three threads:

  1. Eleanor’s mental health: as discussed earlier, women with mental health problems are less likely to be believed.
  2. Some CCTV evidence or other showing her in the company of the accused after the alleged rape: so? A lot of survivors end up spending time with their rapists. It’s really fucking common. Read this
  3. They are saying Eleanor de Freitas was a sex worker: again, so fucking what? Whether this is true or not, sex workers can also be raped. In fact, sex workers are another group less likely to be believed. 

In short, these comments remind me of Ched Evans supporters. And we all know Ched Evans did it. Every time I see rape apologism crop up, I believe Eleanor de Freitas even more.


Cyril Smith: Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True

Content note: This post discusses child abuse

The MP for Rochdale raped children. He was aided and assisted by men of his race. He and his paedophile ring procured children from care homes and raped them at parties.

The police were aware of what the MP for Rochdale was doing. They watched the paedophile ring raping children through secret cameras. They gathered a substantial amount of evidence about this paedophile ring, and who was involved, and what they were doing. And yet the police did nothing–worse than nothing. They shelved the investigation, and they threatened police officers who wanted to talk about this paedophile ring into silence.

It is only decades later that we are beginning to hear about this paedophile ring, and the Met are now investigating themselves to see whether they covered it up.

Cyril Smith, former MP for Rochdale and child rapist, was a white man. His gang of fellow child rapists were also white men. Most of the police force are white men, and they exist to protect the interests of white men.

This is hardly the first predominantly white paeodophile ring we’ve heard about, either. Take, for example, the Catholic Church sexual abuse. Most of those embroiled were white. The higher-ups at the Catholic Church are mostly white. And, as with Cyril Smith, we don’t know anywhere near as much as we should about what happened, and how it was allowed to happen, because the authorities are more than happy to cover it up.

We don’t talk about the race of the perpetrators in these paedophile rings because of white supremacy. White supremacy also drives the police to help rather than stop the abusers by keeping a lid on everything. You can’t say anything anymore.

There are things in white culture that help men rape children. White people are instilled with a sense of entitlement from birth, the feeling that if they want something, they can take it. White people are taught to look after their own, to keep each other away from accountability. White people blame anyone but themselves. White people feel as though they can get away with anything–and this is rarely a delusion.

We don’t talk about cases like Cyril Smith in the terms of his race, because this is usually shut down due to white supremacy. The privilege white skin bestows silences these discussions, because white skin is treated as simply “normal”. And yet at least in part, Cyril Smith’s whiteness let him get away with all his life. Same with Jimmy Savile.

White supremacy won’t allow us to associate whiteness with paedophilia, but it’s time we noticed that it is, so we can start to expose the horrors going on that the perpetrators and their chums would rather we didn’t.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Hi everyone. Let me begin with a PSA. Don’t, for the love of god, drink pina colada. Ever. It’s like an evil scientist tried to create a drink that tastes exactly the same on the way back up as it does to drink. This is why the round-up has come so much later in the day than usual.

Anyway, let’s get on with some links.

Casual Love (Carsie Blanton)- This article articulates so many feelings I’ve had about love and romance which I haven’t been able to articulate and it’s excellent.

Boring (Robot Hugs)- Cute comic about how lovely negotiation is.

The Bad Blood: My Life With Sickle Cell Anaemia (Sara Bivigou)- Beautiful, heartbreaking piece about life with sickle cell.

HIV-Positive LGBT Women Are Discounted, Miscounted, and Uncounted (Jeff Krehely and Tari Hanneman)- Important article about a largely-invisible group.

Beyond Indian Wells: Serena Williams has been consistently disrespected for her entire career (Jenée Desmond-Harris)- Overview of misgynoir aimed at the tennis star.

Queen Sabrina, Flawless Mother (Hugh Ryan)- Biography of a remarkable LGBT hero.

How the Home Office keeps getting it wrong on LGBTQ asylum seekers (Ray Filar)- On the homophobic mess that is the Home Office.

And finally, my friend Elaine is doing a very exciting challenge. She’s visiting every embassy in London while dressed as Carmen Sandiego to raise money for people for whom borders aren’t so easy to cross. Read more and sponsor her here.


In the news this week: cis white men are awful, water is wet

This week has been a week of complete non-surprises.

Today, we’ve seen shocking revelations that Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, is a massive racist who thinks protections against racism should be scrapped. I use the word “shocking” because that’s the word Labour’s press officer used, apparently having not paid any attention to thing this opposition politician has said until today. I doubt anyone who has been following Farage and didn’t learn politics from late night talk radio will be particularly surprised that the leader of the most respectable fascist party is a racist, but the way the media are going on is certainly acting as though this is news.

In other dreadful bigots, Jeremy Clarkson’s been having a less-than-brilliant week. It turns out that a man who has made his fortune saying ghastly bigoted nonsense is a bit of a spoilt brat who punched a producer over not getting a sirloin steak and fondant potatoes (whatever that is) for his tea. Nonetheless, humourless men have been getting their knickers in a twist about his employer’s decision to suspend him, believing a rich man’s right to fondant potatoes to be absolute. I suggest, out of solidarity, they all go and punch their own colleagues in a temper tantrum over dinner.

These two clowns were the obvious awful men, but a special mention goes to Tim Lott, who joins the ranks of Clarkson and Farage in a persecution complex of the dreadful bigot who has noticed the world has moved on past him. Poor Tim is sad because people challenge him when he spouts crap. Poor Tim is so silenced that he is continuing to be paid for parping out the same column for a decade, because ten years ago you also couldn’t be racist about Muslims.

These men are representative of a breed which is, hopefully, dying. They growl and whine that you can’t say anything any more when implicit in their words is the acknowledgement that the world moved on without them. They self-identify as a silent majority, when in fact it’s a small circle of wankers getting paid to be wankers, with a small army of sockpuppets barking like sealions. I am surprised at how few people signed Clarkson’s petition or will vote UKIP, given how this lot seem to imagine themselves as representative of a population.

They’re not, that’s why. They’re a gobby little minority who feel threatened as they awaken to a world that doesn’t want them any more. And that can only be a good thing. I hope it terrifies them.


Things I read this week that I found interesting

Today is International Women’s Day, which means this blog is celebrating its fourth birthday, because I like making things easy for myself. Yay me. Yay women across the world. I’ve changed a lot over the last four years, having learned a lot from reading excellent stuff by brilliant people, so what better way to celebrate this double special day by doing my weekly linkdump?

Living a Lesbian Life (Sara Ahmed)- On lesbian feminism, and why it needs a revival [note: Sara Ahmed isn’t a transmisogynist, therefore this is actual lesbian feminism, not that bullshit trotted out by TERfs]

Someone Tell Me That I’ll Live: On Murder, Media, and Being a Trans Woman in 2015 (Kai Cheng Thom)- This is a heartbreaking read, but very important.

Why Americans Don’t Care About Prison Rape (Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig)- Upsetting article about the magnitude of the problem.

Rape culture: would prison abolition help women? (Josh Kitto)- Exploring issues surrounding prisons and sexual violence.

‘Not a lesbian’: Aderonke Apata and the impossibly high threshold for asylum claims based on sexuality (Jennifer Blair)- Overview of Aderonke’s case, read and share.

Police Surveillance in Britain (piercepenniless)- This is an enormous problem, here’s why.

Power to the people; A post for International Sex Workers Rights Day (Sometimes it’s just a cigar)- ISWRD was also this week, and here’s why it’s important.

Celibacy Challenge (GLAAD)- Fun campaign video against homophobic blood donation regulations, starring the delightful Alan Cumming.

#DearMe: A Letter to My 15 Year Old Self (That Pesky Feminist)- This is cute, touching, and one of my favourites along this meme I’ve seen.

#ThisIsLuv: A Black Bisexual Manifesto (Crystal Fleming)- Touching, passionate and articulating the problems Black bisexuals face.

Who’s Afraid of Call Out Culture? Jerks, Mostly. (Kitty Stryker)- Kitty points out bad faith in a lot of articles about “toxic call out culture”.

The Logic of Whiteness (Ronald A. Kuykendall)- On white constructions of criminality.

Are We Mistaking Feelings for Politics? (Sarah Jaffe)- On the rise of “feelings journalism”.

#blackoutday (Amadi Talks)- Beautiful piece on the necessity of initiatives like #blackoutday.

And finally, my friend Elaine is doing a really cool challenge. She’s going to visit all 170 embassies in London dressed as Carmen Sandiego. She’ll be raising money for refugees and migrants, who can’t travel the world so easily. Donate to this really brilliant project.


Solidarity with Aderonke Apata

Content note: This post discusses lesbophobia and treatment of migrant women

Aderonke Apata is a lesbian woman who was born in Nigeria. There, she faced absolute horrors. She was tortured by police, three members of her family were murdered, her girlfriend of 20 years was murdered. Aderonke herself was sentenced to death by stoning by a Sharia court, and due to a homophobic law passed in Nigeria, she faces 14 years in prison if she returns. What happened to Aderonke–and what could happen to her–happened because she is a lesbian woman in a world that would rather lesbian women were dead.

Over here in the UK, the Home Office too would rather send Aderonke to face–at the very least–prison and the very real threat of being killed. They’ve refused to grant Aderonke asylum, a decision which Aderonke is challenging. They refused, even after Aderonke was forced into all sorts of degrading things to “prove” she is a lesbian, such as submitting a DVD and intimate photos of her sex life.

Their reason? Aderonke has children, and had previously been in heterosexual relationships. They are playing on lesbophobic tropes to try to send this vulnerable woman into danger, because they know that society at large thinks horrible things about queer women.

The issue of “provability” is in and of itself a lesbophobic trope. Under heterosexual patriarchy, sex doesn’t actually count unless a man is involved. In terms of “proving” that she is gay, Aderonke must fight a losing battle, because she is trying to battle against a world that doesn’t believe in lesbians anyway.

Aderonke’s relationships with men, many years ago, are unduly weighted as her “real” relationships, negating her true identity as a lesbian and devaluing her relationships with women.

Unfortunately, the definition of “lesbian” is kind of baffling to most people who aren’t queer women who have given this some thought. There is a demand for a “gold star”, for lesbian women to have never even kissed a man, let alone had sex with one. “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race,” said the barrister against Aderonke, summing up this ridiculous societal attitude pretty fucking well, by accident.

Under heterosexual patriarchy, women are expected to have sex with men. Wanting that is presented as a norm, a default. A hell of a lot of lesbians have had sex and relationships with men, simply because it is expected (and often, because men feel entitled). When there’s a norm presented, most people will at least have a pop at living the normative way. This is even the case in countries where homophobia is nominally, legally Not A Thing, the sort of countries where gays can marry.

The “gold star” drivel has sadly been internalised by some lesbians. It’s used to devalue lesbians and queer women who haven’t managed to figure it all out early, or those of us who are bi. The myth of the gold star is something we desperately need to destroy.

The other thing, of course, that needs smashing, is the idea lesbians are incapable of reproduction. That’s really not the case. A lesbian couple can reproduce all by themselves.

The sad thing in regard to Aderonke’s case is this is not abnormal for the Home Office. The Home Office is where misogyny, homophobia and racism come together to crush women like Aderonke. Ultimately, we’ll stop seeing cases like Aderonke’s only after we have ground that repulsive institution and the ideologies that underpin it into dust.

But in the meantime, there’s some things you can do to help and support Aderonke. You can sign a petition. You can follow the Facebook page for updates about actions in the meatspace and what’s going on with her case. And finally, there’s this beautiful photo project for queer women and femmes to show solidarity. Please help Aderonke, and help women like her by rejecting the structural lesbophobia and racism coming wafting out of the Home Office.

 


An open letter to Rape Crisis South London from a devastated survivor

Content note: This post discusses rape and transmisogyny

Dear Rape Crisis South London,

I’m at work today. I’m supposed to be working, but I can’t. My hands are shaking, and a knot in my guts twists about itself as I veer on the edge of vomiting. My head is full of thoughts of things my rapist said and thought, things I’d worked hard to believe aren’t true about me, things that aren’t true about anyone–or at least shouldn’t be.

Some years ago, you helped me get on top of the violent chattering in my mind and the sickness pervading my body. You were there for me, and you helped it stop hitting me like this.

So it’s horrifically ironic that it’s you, Rape Crisis South London, who are responsible for throwing me right back into this state.

You hit me with a blindside–it feels like it was hours ago, days ago, weeks ago, like I’ve always been like this–a mere half hour ago:

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hi Zoe. Have you considered choosing to apologise for this  You can hold yr point   rage   also respect for survivors speaking out

It was in response to a string of tweets of mine from a few days ago. A deeply transmisogynistic article had come out, and I’d spoken out against it as a survivor. I said:

Storify link

After demanding an apology from me, Rape Crisis South London, you decided to pretend like both sides were in the wrong.

RapeCrisis SthLondon on Twitter   @stavvers Hold onto your rage and your point Zoe. Both are important. But all survivors deserve respect. You   Rachel. You have a choice.

Yet I don’t see you going after Rachel Hewitt. I don’t see you demanding an apology from someone who thinks in the same way as my rapist. I only see you going after me, the Bad Survivor.

You’ve made it clear, Rape Crisis South London, who you prioritise in your help, and it’s not women like me. Women like me can be thrown to the wolves to protect the hurt feelings of bigots and transmisogynists. You don’t mind rage of survivors, as long as it’s rage directed at vulnerable women, rather than rage directed at those who exhibit exactly the same pattern of logic as rapists.

I feel myself growing stronger as I write this, because a lot of survivors, trans women and trans women who are survivors (which is a fucking big overlap, if you’ve done your research) have got in touch with me, and they feel the same as me. And the way I deal is I take their pain with mine and I scream and shout about the lies you’re supporting in demanding an apology for me.

Rape is not something that springs into being due to the presence of a penis. It’s a choice a rapist makes. In supporting the transmisogyistic line that a penis is some sort of magically-guided rape missile, you’re letting rapists get away with it. My rapist claimed he couldn’t help it, and you taught me that yes, yes he could. It’s devastating to see you taking a U-turn on this.

Genitals don’t matter, it’s obsessing over others’ genitals that’s creepy. My rapist viewed me as a walking pussy. A lot of other survivors I’ve spoken to have had the same experience. So I find it really disturbing that you are implicitly supporting the transmisogynistic line that genitals should dictate who should and shouldn’t be allowed in women’s space. I don’t want to be around people who are thinking about what’s in my pants. I find it terrifying that you would prioritise having creeps who do in survivors’ spaces over women who are more likely to experience rape and sexual assault.

Our trans sisters need our help. Let’s fucking give it to them if we’re serious about tackling male violence.

Survivors shouldn’t have to apologise for anything. Once again, you taught me this, when I felt bad about feeling angry and upset at seeing my rapist’s reasoning everywhere and reacting to it. Pretending a valid emotional reaction to someone reducing you down to your genitals is something to apologise for is…yep, you’ve guessed it, something my rapist did. So yes, it fucking hurts like fuck to see you turning around on this.

I say these things so they will sink in to me and I can believe them too, after the huge setback you provoked this morning. I know them to be true, and I know they will break through and become truths to me once again as this triggered feeling passes.

Meanwhile, I want something positive to come from this destruction of me this morning. I offer my hand, sincerely, in helping you to avoid hurting survivors in this way again, because it’s not just me who feels this way. I will come in and talk to you, I will work with you on these topics. I offer my hand in friendship, because I feel like you were integral to helping me recover, and I don’t want to see you slip under and become an organisation that does more harm than good.

Before that can happen, I need to know that you’ve read this and understood it. I need to know that you’ve realised you’ve fucked up quite seriously. From there, perhaps we can heal. I’d like for that to happen, because it would help me heal, too.

Update 11.13am 2/3/15: RASASC_London have offered to engage by telephone. I’ve replied that this isn’t possible for me, and asked them to send me an email. I await their response.

13.30 2/3/15: RASASC and I have arranged to discuss this issue this evening by email. I will keep you abreast as to how it goes.

18.30 2/3/15: I was emailed by the tweeter from RASASC opening the lines of communication. She offered a heartfelt apology which I accept. Right now, I’m holding off replying fully because I want my thinking to be clear. I’m also aware I have decentred the issue of transmisogyny in support provision onto myself, and I want to talk to trans women about the problem and what you want to happen. If you’re a trans woman survivor, please email me with your thoughts. Thank you, everyone.

3/3/15, 10.30: I received another email from RASASC which makes me less optimistic, reiterating their demand that I apologise. RASASC also tweeted the text of yesterday’s email, again publicly demanding that I apologise. I have storified my response in tweets to this. I am very disappointed that this has happened, especially given how positive I felt yesterday. I am still clinging on to hope that this can be resolved, and that resolution must include justice for trans women survivors.


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