Category Archives: Quote of the Day

QotD: “The Burning Bed”

For thirteen years, Francine Hughes’s husband, James (Mickey) Hughes, beat her routinely. Something as small as the inflection of a word would set him off: he’d pin her down in a chair and pummel her. They divorced in 1971, but, later that same year, he moved back in. “She did try to get away,” her son, James Hughes, remembers in “The Burning Bed,” a new short documentary from Retro Report. “But he would also tell her, ‘There is nowhere you can go, bitch, that I won’t find you.’ ”

One night, in 1977, Mickey subjected Hughes to a particularly humiliating beating. “Smashing food in the kitchen, dumping out the garbage, rubbing it into my hair, hitting me,” Hughes recalled in a television interview, years later. “I thought, I’m never coming back, never, and then I thought, Because there won’t be anything to come back to. That’s when I decided I would burn everything.” When Mickey fell asleep, drunk, that night, Hughes doused his bed in gasoline, lit it on fire, packed her four children into her car, and drove away as flames engulfed the house. Hughes was then charged with the murder of her ex-husband.

Hughes’s story has been told before—the new “Burning Bed” documentary borrows its title from the journalist Faith McNulty’s 1980 book about the Hugheses and from the 1984 TV-movie adaptation, starring Farrah Fawcett. The documentary emphasizes how groundbreaking Hughes’s case was. Lee Atkinson, who was an assistant prosecutor in her case, says that, at the time, police officers would not arrest someone for a misdemeanor unless they saw the crime committed. For Hughes, this policy meant that the police came to her house repeatedly and did not arrest Mickey. “Does she have bruises? Yes. Does she look like she’s been abused? Yes. The police will take a report, but they wouldn’t make an arrest,” he says. At a time when the criminal-justice system failed to deal with domestic violence because—as an “Evening News” broadcast put it—“traditionally, wife-beating has been considered a family affair,” Hughes’s case initiated a sea change, forcing a long-suppressed conversation about domestic violence in America.

In interviews for the film, Hughes’s lawyer recalls that, because Mickey had been asleep, “I did not think that I could convince the jury necessarily that she was not guilty because she was defending herself. So I used the temporary-insanity hook.” He invoked an idea that would come to be known as “battered-woman syndrome,” a term coined by the psychologist Lenore Walker, based on her research with abused women in the U.S. and the U.K. Walker identified an assemblage of psychological symptoms—fear, guilt, and denial—that occurs in victims of intimate-partner abuse. This combination, which has since been classed as a form of P.T.S.D., can make discerning the level of risk in a given moment amid an ongoing pattern of trauma difficult. The defense worked: Hughes was acquitted, in an unexpected victory for her and for the feminist movement.

The film follows the legacy of Hughes’s case, focussing on the ways that, despite changing the national conversation about domestic violence, her acquittal is still very much an outlier—the vast majority of women who kill their abusive partners are not acquitted. The documentary moves forward to 2005, when a Black Ohio woman, Thomia Hunter, was charged with the murder of her boyfriend. (Black women are abused—and incarcerated—at higher rates than white women, and those who fight back against their abusers face an uphill battle in the courts.) Hunter pleaded self-defense, having stabbed her boyfriend while he was choking her. But she was found guilty and sentenced to fifteen years to life in prison, her history of abuse hardly addressed at the trial.

In interviews for the film, the prosecutors in the two cases—both white men—make similar arguments: abuse is horrible, but women have “options.” This claim reflects the view that people in abusive relationships can simply leave. The truth is more complicated, and the perspective of Hunter’s lawyer, Tiffany Smith, who represents ten women who are incarcerated survivors of domestic violence, offers a corrective: “A woman doesn’t go on a first date, get punched in the face, and stay with this person. What happens is very calculating, very slow.” For many women, the decision not to leave is another, paradoxical form of self-defense, Smith points out, and evidence shows that women leaving an abusive partner are “more likely to be killed immediately upon leaving than any other time.”

Last year, Hunter was granted clemency and released, after serving fifteen years. Since the late nineteen-seventies, the number of women in the prison system has grown by more than eight hundred per cent—twice the rate of increase for men—and a majority of them have been victims of domestic violence. Yet the options available to women for legally defending themselves remain dismally limited: as Elizabeth Flock demonstrated in this magazine earlier in the year (“How Far Can Abused Women Go to Protect Themselves?”), Stand Your Ground laws should, in theory, apply to women who kill their abusers; in practice, however, such cases are far more difficult for women to win than men. Mary Anne Franks, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law, argues in a paper titled “Real Men Advance, Real Women Retreat” that Stand Your Ground laws mostly benefit white males with guns (as in the case of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed Trayvon Martin). Men are seen as acting courageously and rationally when they use force. Women’s self-defense, on the other hand, remains reliant for justification on the battered-woman syndrome that saved Hughes four decades ago. Women who defend themselves, Franks says, are still treated “as if there is something wrong with their brains.”

But awareness of how abuse can escalate is not pathological: three women in America are killed by a partner every day, and male partners are responsible for nearly half of the murders of women in the United States. With these figures in mind, it is safe to assume that, for many women who kill their abusers, the alternative was to be killed themselves. Toward the end of “The Burning Bed,” Hunter tells the filmmakers that she is sure that this would have been her fate had she not picked up a knife off the countertop and used it against her alleged abuser: “I definitely take full responsibility for my actions,” she says. “The only thing that I do know is that if I didn’t defend myself that night, it would have been me, not him.”

(source)

QotD: “A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill”

A ban on killers using the “rough sex defence” in England and Wales is set to become law after MPs supported an amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill.

The bill now rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm.

The wide-ranging legislation will also place a duty on councils in England to provide shelter for victims of abuse.

It has been broadly welcomed by campaigners but some said it failed to protect groups such as migrant women.

The bill, which covers England and Wales, has passed its final stage in the Commons and will now be debated in the House of Lords.

It was introduced with cross-party support by Theresa May’s government in July last year but its passage was delayed by December’s general election.

The government said the bill would ensure that children who saw, heard or experienced the effects of domestic abuse would be treated as victims under law.

It would also introduce the first legal government definition of domestic abuse, including economic abuse and coercive or controlling non-physical behaviour.

Speaking in the Commons, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said one of the most “chilling and anguished” developments in recent times had been the increased use of the “so-called rough sex defence”.

Moving a new clause which would ban the defence in England and Wales court proceedings, she said: “We’ve been clear that there is no such defence to serious harm which results from rough sex.

“But there is a perception that such a defence exists and that it is being used by men, and it is mostly men in these types of cases, to avoid convictions for serious offences or to receive a reduction in any sentence where they are convicted.”

[…]

Campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants to make it the expectation that murder charges will be brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex, has hailed the amendment as a “victory”.

The current law says that if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone, while to murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice, described the bill as “a landmark piece of legislation”.

However, she said there were “some very important omissions”, including protections for victims of domestic violence who committed crimes in the context of being in an abusive relationship.

Other campaigners have said the legislation needs additions to better protect migrant women.

Gisela Valle, director of the Latin American Women’s Rights Service, said the bill had no provision for safe reporting mechanisms, meaning migrant women who reported abuse to police could be questioned about their immigration status and even detained.

Additionally, some immigrants with an insecure status cannot currently access public funds or housing and refuge support.

Ms Phillips also raised the issue of victims of domestic abuse who are migrants and have no recourse to public funds.

She told the Commons “it cannot be right” that “humans, who when they have been raped, beaten, controlled and abused, before we ask them how we can help, first we ask what stamp is in their passport”.

Ms Atkins said the government was launching a £1.5m pilot fund to support migrant victims of domestic abuse who are unable to access public funds.

(source)

QotD: “The clause added by the government rules out ‘consent for sexual gratification’ as a defence for causing serious harm”

The amendment outlawing the “rough sex” defence will be added to the Domestic Abuse Bill today, as it enters its Report Stage in the House of Commons. The clause added by the government rules out “consent for sexual gratification” as a defence for causing serious harm, in England and Wales.

Labour’s Harriet Harman, who led calls for the law change, has told the BBC a serious review of cases dropped because of the “rough sex” defence is an “incredibly important” next step for the justice system.

“I’m seeking a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions because they’ll need to issue new guidance for cases going forward. I think they should look back – there’s enough evidence of cases where [the CPS] have taken as read the rough sex gone wrong defence and therefore not prosecuted.

“The whole system is failing victims. Rape is such a serious crime, a violation of a woman both physically and mentally, it is important defendants are brought to justice.”

The opportunity to have their cases retrospectively reviewed could result in a new wave of justice for victims whose cases never made it to court.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This campaigned for the “rough sex” defence to be outlawed. They found that over the last decade, 60 women in the UK had been killed by men who claimed in court the women were “consenting” to the violence. In 45% of these cases, they found the defence led to a lesser charge such as manslaughter or no crime at all.

While the “rough sex” defence has typically been associated with the murder trials of women, like the killing of backpacker Grace Millane, it also includes assaults involving serious harm.

BBC Three has found four cases in 2020 so far where “consent to rough sex” was claimed in court to charges of rape and sexual assault. And 17 cases over the last five years.

We Can’t Consent To This thinks the justice system will be unable to tell how many cases have been dropped because of the “rough sex” defence. Moving forward they want the CPS and police to start collecting this data and report any failings. “It can’t be left to us”, they add.

[…]

The Centre for Women’s Justice say if the government requested the CPS and police review all sexual violence cases dropped because of the “rough sex defence”, this would grant the “exceptional circumstances” needed for victims to appeal their decisions.

Anna Mazzola, a human rights solicitor for the Centre, says “we’re increasingly seeing the CPS refusing to bring cases, even when they appear to be strong cases.

“It would be very helpful if the review was ordered – there is certainly mileage in looking at all of the cases where the CPS or police have decided not to prosecute on the basis that the defendant might claim the rough sex defence and working out whether those cases were correct.

“We’re aware of some very concerning decisions, but those are only cases that have come to us, so it’s quite possible that lots of these cases are going under the radar.”

The CPS said claims a victim had “consented” to an assault does not stop them from prosecuting: “Tackling violence against women and girls has long been a CPS priority, and one we remain strongly committed to.”

Full article here

QotD: “Inequality isn’t something that exists in the outside world. It lives indoors, part of the everyday”

Before lockdown, we were already being sold various Mrs Hinch-type versions of housework as somehow competitive and fun. If women want to polish the bars of their own cage, let them. But to save you watching any of these cleaning “influencers”, let me simply tell you that the answer to any cleaning problem in their world is one word: vinegar.

In mine, it’s also one word: men. Some may wipe down the worktops and do a bit more, for which we must applaud them. Get the pom-poms out. The fact is, though, Covid-19 has taken women’s roles back to the 50s. Women are home schooling, working and doing huge amounts of domestic work. The answer to 50s-style problems may be some 70s-style consciousness raising about gender roles. “Women’s domesticity is a circle of learnt deprivation and induced subjugation: a circle decisively centred on family life,” said Ann Oakley in 1974. If that’s a little too hardcore for you, have some Betty Friedan: “No woman gets an orgasm from shining the kitchen floor.” Damn right, Betty.

But, instead of discussing how gender roles are regressing; how the virus has derailed women’s careers; how childcare is falling apart; how female workers will be hit hardest by the recession; how female academics have turned in far fewer papers than their male counterparts; how, at the end of furlough, redundancy will affect more women; how the gender pay gap is rising – in other words, all the pre-existing inequalities that have been exacerbated by Covid-19 – what do we talk about?

Two things. We continue to have a conversation around gender, which emphasises it as a set of feelings rather than being about often mundane lived experience; and we have, on social media, a ridiculous row over cleaners. Various bright young things declare their sainthood. Either they don’t have cleaners or they pay them the GDP of Venezuela. Only bad women, Karens, boomers, like me, have cleaners, whom we probably abuse. Some of us have been cleaners, but no matter. Working women pay others to look after our children and to do some of the domestic work or we could not do it. Just as men do. And always have done. But men are not attacked for this. Ever.

Ineptitude in the domestic sphere is something that men actually boast about, as if it proves their competence in every other sphere. Isn’t it hilarious? Those men who don’t even know if there is a washing machine in the house. I have interviewed rock gods like this. I much prefer the Joan Collins approach. Apparently, when asked at airport check-in if she had packed her own bags, she answered: “The very idea!”

But the serious part of domestic labour being invisible and somehow personal has huge implications. The absolute tragedy of this crisis is that underpaid care workers in homes have died because care in our own homes is not valued. We are run by people who don’t respect those who do such care in our society, because this is the lowest-status job. Women do it. Immigrants do it. Childcare and the opening of schools has not been a priority because, well, like the laundry, other people do that.

Inequality isn’t something that exists in the outside world. It lives indoors, part of the everyday. A glowing showerhead is not the route to happiness. Yes, lockdown has meant pleasure in the domestic sphere for some, and well done to those who have gussied up their homes and gardens. Yet, with months until all children are back to school, many women are exhausted and will be unemployed by the winter. It is terribly old-fashioned to talk about the domestic labour debate I know, the part about how unpaid work keeps capitalism functioning. Well, it keeps us all functioning. This is why a former prime minister can joke about never having to do it. It’s a sign of power.

How we laugh as we lie back and think of descaling the kettle. How many prime ministers does it take to change a lightbulb? Don’t ask me. How many prime ministers does it take to change the reality of women’s lives? We were on the double shift: work and housework. Now many are on the triple shift: work, housework and schooling. The lightbulbs went out some time ago, and, if we are not to go back to the dark ages, then someone better get some bright ideas and replace the duds quickly.

Suzanne Moore

QotD: “Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming”

Whenever I agree to write about porn, it’s followed by an immediate plummeting of my soul: oh God, I’m going to have to look at PornHub now. PornHub is the second biggest website in the world for adult content by traffic, but in terms of public profile, it’s far and away the leader. And PornHub is horrible. For example, I just checked in on the homepage and was greeted by multiple clips promising mini-versions of Flowers in the Attic. Ugh. Why am I here? Oh yes, to find out if PornHub will let me search for racist porn.

Not that I really have to search. In the homepage thumbnails, everyone is white, unless their race can be sold as a kink. Japanese wife. Chocolate. In the sidebar, I can click on the category “interracial”, because this is 2020 and apparently two people of different skin tones getting down is still as niche an interest as “babysitter” or “smoking”. “Female orgasm” is also a category, for that subset of men who are interested in whether a woman actually enjoys it. Have I mentioned, I hate PornHub.

But I am a brave journalist, so I press on. (Is this sex? Do people like this? Are women people? No, we are sluts and milfs and bitches, according to PornHub.) Will PornHub let me search for racist porn? Spoiler: it will. I put the word “racist” in the search bar, and am served multiple videos, all of which are definitely racist.

Some of them, though, have a veneer of woke, which is very heartwarming. I search for Black Lives Matter: I get a video tagged “black cocks matter”, and one “ebony slut”. All this should be a surprise, because PornHub was recently vaunting its progressive credentials. “Pornhub stands in solidarity against racism and social injustice”, the company tweeted, along with links to Black Lives Matter-adjacent campaigns that followers could support. It’s not a surprise, though, because PornHub is horrible.

If I wanted to be chippy, I would call this a perfect example of the indulgence model of modern liberal mores. Pay your tithe to the bail fund as directed, get back to whacking off over racism with your conscience salved. But actually, I would probably be being both chippy and incorrect, because does anyone really feel bad about their porn? The generally agreed position is that porn exists somewhere outside morality. Things which, at a tenth of the strength, would be instant cancellation offences in any other medium are granted licence in porn because someone, somewhere got an erection from them.

The porn industry’s success in positioning itself beyond petty questions of good and bad is one of the great marketing triumphs of modern times. If it feels good, watch it. Heck, watch it at work if you want to. Here, I run into some tricky terrain, because what happens in the dark between our own heads and hands is really no one’s concern but our own, and if you want to think about that particular woman bent OTK in a lace chemise then what does it have at all to do with me. Hectoring our fantasies seems a spectacularly fruitless endeavour.

But porn is not fantasy. Porn is business, and a profoundly exploitative one. I don’t mean that in the no-doubt tiresome feminist sense that it exploits women, although it does. I mean it in the sense that, in its modern form, pornography is an industry where the capitalist rinses out the worker, then puts up a blogpost to mark International Sex Workers’ Day, which aims to “honor sex workers” and “push for better working conditions”. The fact that PornHub is a major driver of those working conditions is, well, wouldn’t you like to look at some tits instead of thinking about it?

PornHub belongs to the conglomerate MindGeek, which also owns multiple other “tube” sites for watching free porn. Where does this porn come from? From production companies, many of which are also owned by MindGeek. In many cases, if a performer wants to defend their royalties on a clip, they’ll need the help of the copyright holder, which just happens to also be the company drawing down a profit by serving it for free, so good luck with that. Another group of people have also struggled to get PornHub to remove content that violates their rights: victims of “revenge porn”, whose abusers upload their images to the “amateur” category.

At this point in the argument, people like to say: but what about ethical porn? Here’s what’s about ethical porn: it doesn’t matter. It makes up such a tiny proportion of the industry, it’s like putting a chicken in your back garden and claiming you’ve fixed factory farming. Apologies to those who twist themselves into astonishing shapes to produce the kind of porn they think should exist, but at best all they’re doing is providing a talking point for people who want to stall the discussion by saying “what about ethical porn?” so they can get back to their vertically integrated faux-incest.

If you want to talk about ethics in porn, let’s discuss why the industry has yet to have its #metoo moment. There was a possibility of one in 2015, when the performer James Deen was accused of on-set assault by multiple female costars; but the reckoning failed to come. (Deen denies any wrongdoing.) Journalists with an interest in the porn industry proved surprisingly incurious about following these allegations up. For example, writer Emily Witt met Deen during a set visit for an article published in n+1. The abuse claims emerged while she was revising that piece for inclusion in her 2016 book Future Sex: rather than address them, Witt cut him from the copy.

Now another porn celebrity has been not just accused, but charged: the performer Ron Jeremy faces three counts of rape and one of sexual assault. And perhaps this will, finally, be the occasion for a conversation about the attitudes inculcated by an industry which makes a show of brutality against women. Probably not, though. The porn industry could hardly survive if it went in for any self-reflection at all. But, then the hollowness of PornHub’s ethical credentials is obvious. It’s the credulousness of porn’s defenders that’s the really shocking thing.

Sarah Ditum

QotD: “‘Rough sex’ defence will be banned, says justice minister”

The so-called “rough sex gone wrong” defence will be outlawed in new domestic abuse legislation, a justice minister has told MPs.

Alex Chalk said it was “unconscionable” that the defence can be used in court to justify or excuse the death of a woman “simply because she consented”.

He said it would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill that it was not acceptable.

The bill, for England and Wales, is due to become law later this year.

Jess Phillips, Labour’s shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, spoke on an amendment proposed by Labour MP Harriet Harman and Conservative MP Mark Garnier to the legislation, to prevent lawyers from using the defence, but withdrew it following assurances from Mr Chalk.

The campaign group We Can’t Consent To This, which wants the defence outlawed, said the minister’s response was “a big step forward”.

The group says the “rough sex” defence can result in a lesser sentence.

Campaigners want to make it the expectation that murder charges are brought against those suspected of killing a person during sex.

As it stands, if someone kills another person during sexual activity they could be charged with manslaughter alone. To murder someone, there needs to have been an intention to kill that person or to cause them grievous bodily harm (GBH).

We Can’t Consent To This has collated 60 examples of women “who were killed during so-called ‘sex games gone wrong'” in the UK, since 1972.

The group claims that 45% of these cases ended in a “lesser charge of manslaughter, a lighter sentence or the death not being investigated as a crime at all”.

There are also 115 people – all but one of whom were women – who have had to attend court where it is claimed they consented to violent injury, the group has said.

The violence used in the non-fatal assaults included waterboarding, wounding, strangulation, beating and asphyxiation.

Speaking to MPs at the Commons’ Public Bill Committee, Jess Phillips said: “The law should be clear to all – you cannot consent to serious injury or death, but the case law is not up to the task.”

She said when a woman is dead “she can’t speak for herself” but any man charged with killing a woman or a current or former partner could “simply say she wanted it”.

“This is why we must change the law,” she said.

Alex Chalk, replying for the government, said: “It is unconscionable for defendants to suggest that the death of a woman is justified, excusable or legally defensible because that woman had engaged in violent and harmful sexual activity which resulted in her death, simply because she consented.”

He said that would be made “crystal clear” in the Domestic Abuse Bill but he was concerned the wording of the amendment would allow defence lawyers “wiggle room”.

He said the government’s approach would be set out by the report stage – the next stage in the bill’s progression through Parliament. Ms Phillips said she was satisfied with this assurance.

The We Can’t Consent to This campaign group said what had happened in Parliament “was genuinely a big step forward”, adding: “We should know within weeks what their proposals are and if they’ve gone far enough.”

Earlier this month at Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP Laura Farris said the government had taken a lead on tackling domestic abuse, but said there was “an ugly dimension that remains unresolved” on the issue of the rough sex defence.

In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We are committed to ensuring that the law is made clear and that defence is inexcusable.”

(source)

QotD: “Family court judges given power to intervene in domestic abuse cases”

Judges will be empowered to intervene in cases of domestic abuse to prevent the complainant from being re-victimised by aggressive lines of questioning, as part of a new raft of legal changes announced today.

Victims will also be provided with separate entrances to court buildings and given their own waiting rooms as well as protective screens to shield them from former partners.

The reforms have been announced as the domestic abuse bill goes through its report stage in the Commons on Thursday. Some changes will be incorporated into the legislation.

The additional powers for ‘investigative’ or ‘inquisitorial’ judges to direct the course of hearings rather than following the adversarial approach of British justice will initially be developed in pilot programmes. Judges are being urged to adopt a more continental-style in the way they conduct their courtrooms – intervening and directing lines of questioning rather than merely letting lawyers for each side present their case.

There will also be trials of a “one family, one judge” system where family and criminal proceedings are combined to avoid victims having to relive traumatic experiences on multiple occasions. Judges will also be authorised to ban abusive ex-partners from repeatedly dragging their victims back to court.

An expert panel from charities, the judiciary, family law practitioners and academia have been advising on the reforms. They spoke to more than 1,200 individuals and organisations for a report, “Assessing risk of harm to children and parents in private law cases”, which is also published on Thursday.

Introducing the changes, the justice minister, Alex Chalk, said: “Every day the family courts see some of the most vulnerable in society and we have a duty to ensure they are protected and not put in danger.

“This report lays bare many hard truths about long-standing failings, but we are determined to drive the fundamental change necessary to keep victims and their children safe.”

Adversarial procedures in the family often worsen conflict between parents, re-traumatising victims and their children. Family court hearings sometimes enable abusers to continue hounding their victims through the courts.

The report says: “In reality, [family court] proceedings are brought by one parent and, especially where allegations of domestic abuse or child abuse are denied, are conducted on an adversarial basis where the court has to adjudicate between the two opposing parents, each trying to win the case.”

The Ministry of Justice is also to review the pivotal presumption of ‘parental involvement’ in care cases which encourages a child to maintain relationships with both parents, unless involvement of a parent is deemed to put the child at risk. The review will examine whether the correct balance is being struck between the risk of harm to children and their right to have a relationship with both parents.

The report said many experts involved in the family courts reported that the “pro-contact culture of the courts” coincided with what some see as a “systematic minimisation or disbelief of abuse, and … acceptance of counter-allegations without robust scrutiny”.

Nicki Norman, acting CEO at Women’s Aid, said: “This report marks a major step forward in exposing what women and children experiencing domestic abuse have been telling us for decades.

“The culture of disbelief identified by the panel is a barrier to courts making safe child contact arrangements in cases of domestic abuse. The result is that, all too often, survivors and their children experience the family courts as failing to effectively protect them.”

Nicole Jacobs, the UK’s first domestic abuse commissioner, said: “Problems in the family court are the single most common concern raised with me … and I am glad to see this report published in time to implement its recommendations through the domestic abuse bill.”

Dame Vera Baird QC, victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said: “This panel of experts has dug deep to understand, and address, the serious harm to domestic abuse victims and their children caused over many years by the presumption of contact, and the intensely adversarial process present in the family courts.

“With children’s voices rarely heard in these proceeding and even more rarely heeded, victims and children are in need of better protections from abusive perpetrators.”

Sir Andrew McFarlane, president of the family division of the high court in England and Wales, said: “We are keen for judges to be fully involved in trialling reformed processes for family cases which involve allegations of harm. We hope that parliament will be able to allocate the recommended resources which are identified by the MoJ expert panel as necessary to implement the proposals.”

(source)

QotD: “German lawmakers call for buying sex to be made permanently illegal”

Coronavirus has caused Germany’s brothels to close their doors, but some politicians want the ban to become permanent. “Sexual activities are not compatible with social distancing measures,” they wrote to state premiers.

Prominent German politicians on Tuesday called for brothels to be closed indefinitely, extending their temporary closure due to coronavirus restrictions.

Sixteen lawmakers from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right CDU party and the center-left Social Democrats wrote a letter, seen by German media, to the premiers of the 16 German states warning that [prostituted women] could become “super spreaders” of the virus.

Prostitution is legal in Germany, but different states and cities enforce different limitations on where and how [commercial sexual exploitation] can operate. All brothels have been closed since restrictions on public life and social distancing measures were introduced in March.

“It should be obvious that prostitutes could become epidemiological ‘super spreaders’ — sexual activities are, as a rule, not compatible with social distancing measures,” the letter reads, according to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur.

Among the signatories are former health minister Hermann Gröhe of the CDU and Social Democrat trade unionist Leni Breymaier, as well as practicing doctor Karl Lauterbach.

Could Germany adopt the ‘Nordic model?’

There are about 33,000 officially registered [prostituted women] in Germany, though the government estimates the real number may be as high as 400,000. While legislation introduced in 2002 aimed to improve conditions for [prostituted women], many of these [women] still live and work in poor conditions and are also the victims of human trafficking or modern slavery.

In their letter, the German lawmakers express hope that the closure of the brothels could be a good opportunity to improve opportunities for [prostituted women] in Germany.

“Re-opening the brothels will not help these women,” the letter says. “Instead, they need apprenticeships, training or work in a secure job.”

The letter calls for Germany to take the opportunity to adopt the “Nordic model,” under which paying for sex is illegal but selling sex is not. Under this model, [prostituted women] are offered help and services to leave the sex industry and offered education, for example language courses. In Germany, many [prostituted women] come from eastern Europe.

As long as social distancing regulations remain in place in Germany, brothels are expected to remain closed.

(source)

QotD: “Coronavirus lockdown ‘perfect storm’ for abused children”

The coronavirus lockdown has created a “perfect storm” for many children isolated with their abusers, ex-home secretary Sajid Javid has said.

Writing in the Telegraph, he said this will contribute to a “surge” in cases.

He said he will lead a new “no holds barred” inquiry into child sex abuse in the UK with the Centre for Social Justice think tank.

The inquiry will examine organised child sexual exploitation and the abuse of children online.

It comes after Home Secretary Priti Patel announced last month that the government will publish a paper “later this year” on research into group-based child sexual exploitation, which was commissioned by Mr Javid when he was home secretary in 2018.

Mr Javid told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that something that “weighed the most heavily on him” during his time as home secretary in 2018 and 2019 was child sexual abuse and its “true scale”.

He said he was “particularly concerned” about lockdown because “children are left to isolate alongside their abuser and they will therefore suffer severe long-term damage and this kind of thing isn’t reflected in statistics just yet, but it will be, and I’m very concerned about that”.

The former chancellor said the investigation into will look at organised child sexual exploitation, including gangs and on-street grooming.

The second part of the inquiry will examine how child sexual abuse “happens today”, with a focus on online abuse and live streaming.

Of the gang-based exploitation, Mr Javid said: “We know that of all these high profile cases when there have been convictions, a disproportionate number of people are from Asian heritage, particularly Pakistani heritage, my own heritage and that both saddens and angers me.

“People from my heritage, many of them disproportionately responsible for what we’ve seen and I want to know know why.”

He said in the past there had been an “ignorance” of this in some authorities.

Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Javid said: “The surge in child sexual abuse happening right now won’t be reflected in statistics until later this year.

“As appalling as those numbers will be, however, they’ll still only scrape the surface of what’s been occurring under our noses for decades.”

Andy Cook, chief executive of the Centre for Social Justice think tank, said it was “highly courageous” of Mr Javid to “speak out on the issue, which has been difficult to confront and too often neglected”.

Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barndardos, said it was an “important warning” from Mr Javid that some children are trapped at home with their abusers.

In 2018, in his role as home secretary, Mr Javid ordered research into the “characteristics and contexts” of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.

He said he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave “no stone unturned”.

The review came after grooming gangs were convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.

Due to be published later this year, the paper on this review “will outline the insights gained” and will “focus on how agencies can learn lessons from the past to tackle group-based offending and safeguard vulnerable children”.

(source)

QotD: “A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead”

A Canadian teenager is facing the country’s first “incel”-related terrorism charges in connection with a machete attack at a Toronto massage parlour that left a young mother dead.

It is believed to be the first Canadian terror case not tied to Islamic extremism and could mark a turning point, experts say, as the authorities crack down on the misogynistic incel or “involuntary celibate” movement, which has its roots in online chatrooms.

The 17-year-old suspect, who as a minor cannot be named, is accused of entering an erotic massage parlour in Toronto in late February and killing Ashley Noell Arzaga, 24.

He also allegedly stabbed the shop’s owner as she wrestled the machete from him. Reports of the incident suggest another man was injured before an arrest was made.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially charged him with first-degree murder and attempted murder but upgraded both charges to include “terrorist activity” on Tuesday in light of new evidence discovered by Toronto police. The suspect was in attendance at court via video link.

“Terrorism comes in many forms and it’s important to note that it is not restricted to any particular group, religion or ideology,” the RCMP said in a statement.

Incels — usually indignant, sexually frustrated men — blame women for their inability to form romantic relationships. Some openly call for violence against women, or “Stacys”, and “Chads”, the men they date. The RCMP now class it as an “ideologically motivated violent extremist movement”.

Almost 50 deaths have been linked to incels across North America in recent years, prompting calls for such attacks to be classified as domestic terrorism. Suspects tend to be lone wolves using easily accessible weapons, such as knives and vehicles, and lack ties to specific organisations, all of which hinder police efforts to stop them.

The authorities have declined to level terrorism charges in similar cases, including a 2018 attack in Toronto where ten people were killed and 16 injured when a van drove into pedestrians on a busy road.

Even though the suspect, Alek Minassian, allegedly told police that he identified as an incel and hoped to “inspire future masses” to join his “uprising”, he was not charged with terrorism.

Minassian was allegedly inspired by Elliot Rodger, who is believed to have perpetrated the first incel-related attack in 2014 when he killed six and injured 14 with a knife, gun and car in Isla Vista, California.

(source)