**TRIGGER WARNING** For rape, abuse and rape apology, for brief mentions of eating disorders and suicide, but mostly for our worst enemies masquerading as our lovers, colleagues and friends.
We have watched, fought and cried over the awful ignorance surrounding rape that’s being touted in the media in the last month or so. There is no denying that rape is very much in the public mind at the moment, but while politicians play top trumps with the worst definitions they can think of and push women’s rights and body autonomy further towards the 19th century, the perpetrators of this despicable crime are still very much being glossed over, remaining comfortable while idiots like George Galloway defend them in the public forum. Last night, after being sexually harassed at a train station for twenty terrifying minutes, I came home to see a facebook event to a feminist men’s discussion group. Now, debates over the usefulness of a regular male space to discuss patriarchy aside, in the list of people who had signed up for updates I clocked at least one man who has made women feel unsafe and abused. I know this because it was someone who I was intimate with for a long time, and other people know this because I am not the first person who he has dismantled with his lying, abuse of consent, gaslighting and, ultimately, abuse of privilege. Yet, in the group he remains, protected by a history of showing up to feminist discussions, dating awesome feminist activists and an ability to quote Bell Hooks. I’m sure he’s not the only one either.
It’s an old activist joke that when you start seeing injustice in one place then, like The Matrix, you see it everywhere; my experience with abuse has felt like that. For two years, to my detriment, I made apologies for the behaviour of the person I called ‘love’ and, even in the face of my beloved sisters who he had previously hurt, I poured my compassion and mental health into the relationship. It’s only now, after comparing notes and identifying patterns with other victims and after exploring my sexuality, consent and emotion with friends and lovers that I realise just how bad it was and how much danger I had been putting myself in. And now I fear going back to the feminist spaces in my town, for fear of being faced with my abuser, for fear of having to explain myself, for fear of being shouted down again and overlooked and shamed for having opinions that didn’t align with his. I don’t want to turn up to Reclaim the Night and know that the man who made me so unsafe, the man who inspired a suicide attempt and eating disorders will be there.
When people are far more likely to be abused and raped by people that they know, we must turn our attention to those among us who claim to be allies but who are actually the enemy. This is imperative. There are too many consciousness raising circles that promise to call out ‘bad behaviour when we see it’ and yet still invite and welcome known abusers into the fold when they should be our safe spaces. Julian Assange has shown us that many so-called feminists are prepared to brush off allegations and the personal stories of women in order to protect their constructed reality. I’ve had people tell me that my ex has just got ‘women issues’, as though an entire gender is just a substance to be mistreated and abused and that’s just his Achilles Heel, hey, we all have a weakness. Even he charted it all down to just being a ‘bad boyfriend’, something that couldn’t be helped but didn’t make him a bad person because, after all, he did try but I guess it’s just in his nature not to respect consent or value my worth, like someone who can’t dance, it’s just not his fault. When we make excuses for the people in privileged social circles then abusers become abstract working class men, men of colour, slavering beasts in darkened alleyways but the truth is simple: Patriarchy slithers into even the tightest and most right-on activist groups and we must be fierce in our defence of those spaces. I have heard excuses too many times; I have heard so many people in the aftermath of my break up telling me how uncomfortable they felt in the presence of the man who mentally pulled me apart and yet they said nothing at the time and they are still saying nothing.
So let me say something. To the abusers, rapists and apologists: stay the fuck at home when feminist events and marches come up in your facebook calander. It is not our job to accommodate you. It is not our job to give you a second/third/fourth chance. You are everything we despise. I refuse to tip toe around you after you obliterated my self worth. You made me feel so isolated and so fragile, hiding my true allies away and making every one of us feel worthless, but we found each other now. We are stronger than you: We don’t need you, we don’t want you here. Rapists go home.