The Orwell Prize

I am hugely proud, and grinning a ridiculously large grin, to be able to put the badge above on here.

I have been longlisted for the Orwell Prize, along with 17 other bloggers, all of whom are amazing – in particular, my two good friends, David Allen Green, a fellow legal blogger, and Lisa Ansell, who blogs purely on politics.

The full longlist is here, with links to the journalism long list, and book longlist too.

May the best man, or gobby bird, win!

The posts I entered are:

Justice RIP

In screwing Ken Clarke, Victoria Derbyshire fucked rape victims

RIP Helen and Mark

Rape is Rape, Right?

Adoption Stories from the Tories Part 1

F**k You, Bad Reporting

Shoesmith and Baby P: Who does have blood on their hands?

The Sun, that picture, and that headline

Slutwalk: Just more noise in an already noisy space

Calm Down Dear

Love you like you want me to

It would appear, that rather like the economy, the discourse around domestic violence has this week returned to the 1970s.

The week kicked off with The Mirror reporting an interview Dennis Waterman gave to Piers Morgan, in which Waterman not only puts forward his view that clever women ask for a slap because, being bright, they ‘win’ arguments by being verbally quick; he also attempts to suggest there are bands of domestic violence; the occasional slap being somehow different to being a ‘beaten wife’.

Demonstrating his complete lack of acceptance of responsibility in his own words:

‘It’s not difficult for a woman to make a man hit her. She certainly wasn’t a beaten wife, she was hit and that’s different.’

‘The problem with strong, intelligent women is that they can argue, well. And if there is a time where you can’t get a word in… and I… I lashed out. I couldn’t end the argument.

The Daily Mail, as the Daily Mail is wont to do, rolled out the estrogen factor in finding a possessor of a womb willing to act as a clumsy apologist in an attempt to explain away Waterman’s stance that violence is sometimes contained to one woman only, as if in some way, that makes it ok.

To demonstrate the point, the writer uses the example of her ‘fiercely clever friend’, Jean, who had three relationships involving violence. Apparently the men had never hit a woman before or after Jean, and Jean would never put up with ‘a proper beating’. Jean’s view was:

‘with a bit of a slap, at least you know who wears the trousers, don’t you?’

Did she, perhaps, encourage her friend to get some help examining her relationship model? Doesn’t appear so.

Quoting an unnamed psychiatrist, she develops her point, by telling us that apparently research shows that the common denominator in cases of domestic violence is women having an IQ at least 10 points higher than their partner. Additionally, she goes on to say that the psychiatrist told her that the problem is:

They don’t want to ‘wear the trousers’… It doesn’t make them feel womanly enough. However much goading it takes, they’d rather be slapped than be victorious. When push — quite literally — comes to shove, these women prefer to have a dominant man to whom they might defer as an authority figure.

Of course, she eventually pulls it back (she really has little choice otherwise) saying well below the line that we have to have zero tolerance in domestic violence and making the important point that:

Not every two-little-slaps turns into routine, full-blown domestic violence. But almost all routine, full-blown domestic violence began with two-little-slaps.

In fairness to her, she made the point rather more firmly on the Jeremy Vine show (today hosted by Aasmah Mir, available on iPlayer here from around 70 onwards), although she did also have a wee giggle about her friend ‘Jean’. So if she pulled it back, what is the problem?

Well, look at the front page. How many perpetrators do you reckon will have seen that and nodded in agreement? How many survivors do you think will have seen it and mentally added it to the ‘I deserve it’ monologue that runs through their minds, put there by the perpetrators?

Judging by the comments BTL on the Mail piece, and listening to some callers on Jeremy Vine, quite a few see this as endorsement of their views – that sometimes, a woman* deserves it, and the man* is justified if he is pushed into using his fists to make a point. We are unlikely to know how many survivors add it to their internal monologue because, of course, they are the last people who are going to speak out.

I know I have laboured this point in respect of rape, but can we please start to watch what we say, how we say it, and consider the impact the language used has on both perpetrators and survivors.

To challenge and to change the behaviour we have to change the mindsets. While not all of us can go out and do direct work with perpetrators and survivors, we can make a difference in our own way by taking more care of not only how we talk about it, but in refusing to accept the way the media do, too.

*I have used gender terms in the way I have due to largely talking in this instance, about male perpetrators. I of course acknowledge that domestic violence involves female perpetrators and male survivors too.

Sarah’s Case

Yesterday, Sarah’s case was heard by the Court of Appeal.

Sarah, a rape victim who was convicted of perverting the course of justice for making a false retraction (i.e. she retracted her claim of rape, then admitted her claim of rape was true), brought about an important change in law – one which doesn’t help her, but means in future, prosecutions of this nature can only be brought with the permission of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

The Court of Appeal yesterday rejected her appeal against her conviction. They had, back in 2010 already heard her appeal against her sentence, when they reduced it from 8 months in prison to a community sentence.

I wrote about the case for Legal Feminists, which can be found here, and for the Guardian, which can be found here.

The 58% campaign

What’s the conviction rate for rape? 6%? Some other figure? Don’t know but know it is incredibly low?

                            The conviction rate for rape is 58%.

Surprised? Would you be even more surprised if I tell you that the conviction rate for all crimes is 57%, therefore the rape conviction rate is on a par with other crimes tried?

I know you will have heard the 6% figure. Everyone has heard the 6% figure. But that figure is not a conviction rate; it is an attrition rate, and it is high time we stopped using it. Why? Because of this:

68% of women in that survey, which in that instance is 852 women, would hesitate to report a rape because of conviction rates. Because they have heard the 6% figure too.

And this:

So where does the 6% figure come from? The Stern Review puts it better than I can:

The first two images tell us why we need to stop using it – there is a perception that the conviction rate for rape is 6% therefore it is highly unlikely that a conviction will follow, therefore people do not want to report the crime. And who can blame them?

I want to see a campaign that yells loudly about the 58% figure. One that says ‘if there is evidence to take this to trial, you are more likely than not to see your offender convicted’ – but also one that is honest about the difficulties in getting a case to trial – not to put people off making a complaint, but to enable them to make a proper, informed and educated assessment of whether they want to make a complaint.

It is unfortunate that Mumsnet, in their We Believe You campaign, have used old research and data to perpetuate myths within the myths they want to see busted – if you look at the bottom of that page for instance, where they summarise their research, you see no mention of The Stern Review, or the very recent HMIC report, and in particular, they repeat the attrition rate without explanation.

So lets have a campaign, one that does shout ‘We believe you’. And not only that we do, but juries are likely to, too.

*Stats from The Stern Review here, and the MoJ



Shared Care: Ideal for whom?

The child A shall reside with the Applicant father as follows:

During term time:

Week one: From Tuesday (collect from school) to Friday (return to school).

Week two: From Friday (collect from school) to Tuesday (return to school).

During school holidays the above arrangement shall be suspended, and the following arrangements shall prevail:

The child A shall reside with the Applicant father as follows:

For the first half of the Easter holidays, father to facilitate delivery of the child to mother;

For the half term in February and October, collection and return of Child A to and from school;

For 3 weeks of the summer school holidays, with no more than 2 weeks to be taken as a block;

Christmas: Year 1 (and for the avoidance of doubt, 2012 shall be year 1):

From school on the last day of term until 1pm Christmas day. Father to facilitate return to mother;

Year 2:

From 1pm on Christmas day until term restarts. Mother to facilitate delivery of Child A to father. Father to return Child A to school.

At all other times the child A shall reside with the Respondent mother.

The above is an order for shared care, in this instance, one for 50:50 care, which is the ideal of many fathers’ groups – it being ‘fair’ apparently. I am not sure about for whom it is fair.

Imagine being child A. Really imagine it. Where is home? Do you have a home, or are you ferried between houses, with your favourite things constantly being packed up in the bag you seemingly always have to carry with you.

Separation isn’t easy on anyone. But in fighting for what might be perceived as fair for a grown-up, we might overlook what is often most important to a child post-separation, which is stability. I honestly fail to see how stability can come if you shuttle from one place to another every 3 or 4 days.

I have, I admit, no answers. However, I don’t think this is the answer we are looking for, however ‘fair’ it may be.