Little Lolita

A schoolgirl flew back to England today, to be returned to the care of her family. She, aged 15, disappeared from home a little over a week ago.  She was found on Friday, in France, in the company of her male maths teacher Jeremy Forrest. He has been arrested for child abduction under the auspices of a European Arrest Warrant, and, having indicated he won’t fight extradition,  is due to be returned to England for questioning.

The press coverage and social media commentary has been, to some degree, stomach churning. One tweet, summarising a seemingly popular opinion, said:

‘[That schoolgirl] should write a book: ‘My Teenage Years’. Or, ‘How I Cost My Maths Teacher His Job’.

This level of victim blaming is not, sadly, unusual in crimes relating to women and girls. Victim blaming is even more so prevalent when scenarios would appear to involve sex, as this one, prima facie, does.

This is rape culture. Rape culture is a ‘concept used to describe a culture in which rape and sexual violence are common and in which prevalent attitudes, norms, practices, and media normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone sexual violence.

Examples of behaviors commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, sexual objectification, and trivializing rape’ (Wikipedia).

The problem with rape culture is it allows certain people, and indeed institutions, to turn a blind eye. It is rape culture which lead social services in Rochdale to write off girls who were being raped, sold and sexually exploited, as ‘prostitutes’.

It is rape culture which means that staff did not bother looking why, or how, or take measures to stop these girls being ‘prostitutes’. It is rape culture which allows the ‘wrong’ girls – because it is never the ‘nice’ girls – to be written off as ‘prostitutes’ and allows us to fail to safeguard them – fail to ask the questions which should have been asked, fail to acknowledge we owe them a duty, and quite simply, abjectively, all round, totally, fail them.

Preventing paedophile sex rings like those in Rochdale starts with our attitudes to schoolgirls like this one. No-one, save she and Forrest, knows the nature and extent of their relationship. But what we do know, what the law tells us – and I hope and pray our internal morality does too – is that only one of them owed a duty to the other – a duty of care, a duty to safeguard, a duty not to enter into a relationship outside that of student and teacher. And that wasn’t the schoolgirl.

And that was summer

I’ve neglected this blog for a wee while – it was summer – we moved, the little one was off school, the big one had stuff for me to sort, and to be honest, there was nothing I wanted to write about.

Bit odd really, for someone who writes about rape to suggest, in what can only be called a summer of stupid when it comes to the issue, that they had nothing to say. But I didn’t. It had all been said before. If summer taught me one thing, it was that we are not as evolved on the issue as certainly I had believed, and that it would appear that some folk don’t as yet understand the very basics.

Anyway, the brain space I reserved for the topic I used to read ‘Hitting an all time low‘ by Sharon Taylor (@sharongooner) rather than preach to the choir of stupid that no still really does mean no.

Sharon was drug raped. Although for many years she had partial flashbacks, she didn’t fully comprehend what had happened to her until she saw her rapist by chance in a pub.

Her book describes her descent into Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, her struggle to receive appropriate help from mental health services, or even basic compassion from some health professionals. How the police, hopeless at dealing with her rape, were the organisation that tried to help her during her suicide attempts.

If such a book can have a happy ending, it is that Sharon eventually, after a struggle she frankly shouldn’t have to have endured, found the help she needed, and started on the road to recovery.

Anyone who in any context works with rape or mental health – police, health professionals, anyone in the CJS, should read this book. Not to feel shame for the way colleagues treated this woman, but to understand the trauma survivors can go through. Anyone outside of those professions should read it to understand what it is those 1 in 4 women who this happens to have to face.

It is a hard read, a gritty, visceral, hits you right in the gut read, but it is very much worth it. It is only available as an e-book, and is £1.53 at the mo, which supports the charity MIND.