Category Archives: We live in a rape culture

QotD: “Rise in popularity of anal sex has led to health problems for women”

Women in the UK are suffering injuries and other health problems as a result of the growing popularity of anal sex among straight couples, two NHS surgeons have warned.

The consequences include incontinence and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as pain and bleeding because they have experienced bodily trauma while engaging in the practice, the doctors write in an article in the British Medical Journal.

Tabitha Gana and Lesley Hunt also argued that doctors’ reluctance to discuss the risks associated with anal sex was leading to women being harmed by the practice and letting down a generation of women who are not aware of the potential problems.

In the journal, they said “anal intercourse is considered a risky sexual behaviour because of its association with alcohol, drug use and multiple sex partners”.

However, “within popular culture it has moved from the world of pornography to mainstream media” and TV shows including Sex and the City and Fleabag may have contributed to the trend by making it seem “racy and daring”.

However, women who engage in anal sex are at greater risk from it than men. “Increased rates of faecal incontinence and anal sphincter injury have been reported in women who have anal intercourse,” the report said.

“Women are at a higher risk of incontinence than men because of their different anatomy and the effects of hormones, pregnancy and childbirth on the pelvic floor.

“Women have less robust anal sphincters and lower anal canal pressures than men, and damage caused by anal penetration is therefore more consequential.

“The pain and bleeding women report after anal sex is indicative of trauma, and risks may be increased if anal sex is coerced,” they said.

National Survey of Sexual Attitudes research undertaken in Britain has found that the proportion of 16- to 24-year-olds engaging in heterosexual anal intercourse has risen from 12.5% to 28.5% over recent decades. Similarly, in the US 30% to 45% of both sexes have experienced it.

“It is no longer considered an extreme behaviour but increasingly portrayed as a prized and pleasurable experience,” wrote Hunt, a surgeon in Sheffield, and Gana, a trainee colorectal surgeon in Yorkshire.

Many doctors, though, especially GPs and hospital doctors, are reluctant to talk to women about the risks involved, partly because they do not want to seem judgmental or homophobic, they add.

“However, with such a high proportion of young women now having anal sex, failure to discuss it when they present with anorectal symptoms exposes women to missed diagnoses, futile treatments and further harm arising from a lack of medical advice,” the surgeons said.

NHS patient information about the risks of anal sex is incomplete because it only cites STIs, and makes “no mention of anal trauma, incontinence or the psychological aftermath of the coercion young women report in relation to this activity”.

Health professionals’ disinclination to discuss the practice openly with patients “may be failing a generation of young women, who are unaware of the risks”.

Claudia Estcourt, a professor of sexual health and HIV and member of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), backed the surgeons’ call for doctors to talk openly about anal sex.

“BASHH strongly supports the call for careful, non-judgmental inquiry about anal sex in the context of women with anal symptoms,” she said.

“Within sexual health services, women are routinely asked about the types of sex they have so that comprehensive assessment of likely cause of symptoms, investigations needed and management can be made.

“We find that by explaining why we are asking these questions, asking them in sensitive, non-judgmental ways and giving patients time to answer, are all key to providing the best care.

“We are highly skilled in assessment of women with possible sexually caused anal trauma, whether through consensual or non-consensual sex, and would encourage women with concerns to contact their local sexual health clinic or sexual assault service as appropriate.”

(Source)

QotD: “Pornhub: Judge rules Visa can be sued in abuse claim”

An abuse survivor can sue Visa over videos of her posted to Pornhub, a US court has ruled.

Serena Fleites was 13 in 2014 when, it is alleged, a boyfriend pressured her into making an explicit video which he posted to Pornhub.

Ms Fleites alleges that Visa, by processing revenue from ads, conspired with Pornhub’s parent firm MindGeek to make money from videos of her abuse.

Visa had sought to be removed from the case.

Ms Fleites’ story has featured in the New York Times article The Children of Pornhub – an article which prompted MindGeek to delete millions of videos and make significant changes to its policies and practice.

Her allegations are summarised in the pre-trial ruling of the Central District Court of California.

The initial explicit video, posted to Pornhub without her knowledge or consent, had 400,000 views by the time she discovered it, Ms Fleites says.

She alleges that after becoming aware of the video, she contacted Mindgeek pretending to be her mother “to inform it that the video qualified as child pornography”. A few weeks later it was removed

But the video was downloaded by users and re-uploaded several times, with one of the re-uploads viewed 2.7 million times, she argues.

MindGeek earned advertisement revenue from these re-uploads, it is alleged.

Ms Fleites says her life had “spiralled out of control” – there were several failed suicide attempts and family relationships deteriorated – then while living at a friend’s house, an older man introduced her to heroin.

To fund her addiction, while still a child, she created further explicit videos at this man’s behest, some of which were uploaded to Pornhub.

“While MindGeek profited from the child porn featuring Plaintiff, Plaintiff was intermittently homeless or living in her car, addicted to heroin, depressed and suicidal, and without the support of her family,” Judge Cormac J. Carney’s summary of her allegations says.

MindGeek told the BBC that at this point in the case, the court has not yet ruled on the truth of the allegations, and is required to assume all of the plaintiff’s allegations are true and accurate.

“When the court can actually consider the facts, we are confident the plaintiff’s claims will be dismissed for lack of merit,” the company said.

The Judge ruled that, at the current stage of proceedings, “the Court can infer a strong possibility that Visa’s network was involved in at least some advertisement transactions relating directly to Plaintiff’s videos”.

But Visa argued that the “allegation that Visa recognized MindGeek as an authorized merchant and processed payment to its websites does not suggest that Visa agreed to participate in sex trafficking of any kind”.

It also argued, according to the judge’s account of its position, that a commercial relationship alone does not establish a conspiracy.

But Judge Carney said that, again at this stage of proceedings, “the Court can comfortably infer that Visa intended to help MindGeek monetize child porn from the very fact that Visa continued to provide MindGeek the means to do so and knew MindGeek was indeed doing so.

“Put yet another way, Visa is not alleged to have simply created an incentive to commit a crime, it is alleged to have knowingly provided the tool used to complete a crime”.

A spokesperson for Visa told the BBC that it condemned sex trafficking, sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse material.

“This pre-trial ruling is disappointing and mischaracterizes Visa’s role and its policies and practices. Visa will not tolerate the use of our network for illegal activity. We continue to believe that Visa is an improper defendant in this case.”

Last month MindGeek’s chief executive officer and chief operating officer resigned.

The senior departures followed further negative press in an article in the magazine the New Yorker, examining among other things the company’s moderation policies.

Mindgeek told the BBC that it has:

  • zero tolerance for the posting of illegal content on its platforms
  • banned uploads from anyone who has not submitted government-issued ID that passes third-party verification
  • eliminated the ability to download free content
  • integrated several technological platform and content moderation tools
  • instituted digital fingerprinting of all videos found to be in violation of our Non-Consensual Content and CSAM Policies to help protect against removed videos being reposted
  • expanded its moderation workforce and processes

The company also said that any insinuation that it does not take the elimination of illegal material seriously is “categorically false”.

(Source)

QotD: “Infiltrate after-hours economy to bring predators out of the shadows”

In a restaurant in Manchester last Wednesday my phone began to vibrate so often that I thought it was in meltdown. Minutes earlier I had posted a message on Twitter reacting to the findings of an inquiry into the grooming and abuse of young girls in Telford.

The message read: “Hard to understand why Telford scandal is not front of every paper. 1000 children.” It went viral and was eventually viewed two million times.

A three-year independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in the Shropshire town had uncovered child abuse lasting decades. So why were the media not shouting about it in every newspaper, radio broadcast and TV bulletin? Was it apathy? Concern at media outlets over how to report on the culturally awkward subject of Asian men, largely of Pakistani heritage, abusing scores of children? Or are we so fascinated by the power struggles of Tory politicians that we don’t care about life in towns and villages far away from London?

Halfway through my starter, I asked my lunch partner, Nazir Afzal, the former chief prosecutor for northwest England who brought down the Rochdale child sex abuse ring, what he believed.

He blamed apathy. Fatigue. We’ve seen it all before. “At first everybody was reading about the Ukraine war and talking about it. But that has started to fall away. It’s the same with the child sex gangs,” he said.

The blitz of stories about grooming gangs has felt endless. Court cases. Council reviews. Police watchdog reports. Last month a report by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), called Operation Linden, found that South Yorkshire police let down 1,400 abuse victims in Rotherham — enough children to fill a decent-size secondary school.

The same month, Greater Manchester’s authorities published their own review of historical child sex abuse, which found children had been left exposed to sexual exploitation because of “serious failings” by the police and Oldham council. This included a council welfare officer convicted of 30 rapes.

Child sex gangs have been rooted out in Newcastle, Oxford, Halifax, Keighley, Derby, Peterborough, Bristol, Huddersfield, Manchester, Coventry, Middlesbrough, Burton-on-Trent, Bradford, Birmingham, Nottingham, Hull, Sheffield … I could go on, but you get the picture.

“They’re in the news for 24 hours, then it’s gone,” Afzal said. “It’s today’s newspaper, but not tomorrow’s.”

And after each scandal nothing seems to change. Like the police and social services, we move on, and lurch to the next scandal of mass rape in a post-industrial town. That’s the problem. But how do we fix it? Be more proactive, Afzal argues. He makes a good point.

Victims often feel criminalised and made to believe it is their fault — that they chose a certain lifestyle and are paying for it. These young girls are so traumatised by their abuse that they are rightly suspicious of the authorities.

They find it hard to trust social workers and detectives. Children like that are not going to easily approach such people, so you have to go out and find them.

Roughly a decade ago, there was a scheme in Greater Manchester in which social workers would go out at night and visit the staff and customers of the night-time economy – the takeaway shops, pool halls and taxi ranks. This is an economy that, for whatever reason, has a disproportionately high number of Asian men.

It is in the dimly lit streets and litter-strewn pavements of the night-time economy that the perpetrators meet their victims, luring them in with gifts of food, cigarettes, booze and free rides. A victim’s mother once told me her 14-year-old daughter was performing oral sex in exchange for a bag of chips or a box of chicken. She cried to me on the phone. The whole family is broken.

The 14-year-old met her abusers in a chicken shop. Local authorities, like all public services, are firefighting, with budget cuts due to austerity and holes in their finances due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Money is stretched thinly – and proactive work is always the first to go. But police and social services must recognise this repeating pattern and disrupt it. Set up teams of community police officers and social workers. Get out there and target the night-time economy. Find those victims and earn their trust. Break the cycle.

David Collins

QotD: “Telford child sex abuse went on for generations, inquiry finds”

Obvious evidence of child sex crimes in Telford was ignored for generations leading to more than 1,000 girls being abused, an inquiry has found.

Agencies blamed children for the abuse they suffered, not the perpetrators, and exploitation was not investigated because of “nervousness about race”.

The inquiry was set up after the Sunday Mirror revealed gangs had been abusing girls in the town since the 1980s.

Chairman Tom Crowther QC said the abuse had thrived unchecked for decades.

His report makes 47 recommendations for improvement by agencies involved. West Mercia Police has apologised “unequivocally” for past events as has Telford & Wrekin Council.

The report found agencies dismissed reports of child exploitation as “child prostitution”.

Mr Crowther said: “The overwhelming theme of the evidence has been the appalling suffering of generations of children caused by the utter cruelty of those who committed child sexual exploitation.

“Victims and survivors repeatedly told the inquiry how, when they were children, adult men worked to gain their trust before ruthlessly betraying that trust, treating them as sexual objects or commodities.

“Countless children were sexually assaulted and raped. They were deliberately humiliated and degraded. They were shared and trafficked. They were subjected to violence and their families were threatened.

“They lived in fear and their lives were forever changed. They have asked, over the years: how was this allowed to happen?”

Other key report findings include:

  • Teachers and social workers being discouraged from reporting abuse
  • Offenders becoming “emboldened” by the absence of police action, with abuse continuing for years without concerted response
  • Exploitation was not investigated because of nervousness about race, that investigating concerns against Asian men, in particular, would inflame “racial tensions”
  • Even after an investigation leading to seven men being jailed for child sex crimes West Mercia Police and Telford & Wrekin Council scaled down their specialist teams “to virtual zero” in order to save money

The investigation was known as Operation Chalice and saw two Telford brothers among those jailed. A court heard the brothers sexually abused, trafficked and prostituted, or tried to prostitute, four teenagers between March 2008 and December 2009.

The report found the most common way children were exploited was through a “boyfriend” model, where a child would meet a man, who would persuade them to become his girlfriend.

Perpetrators, it said, sought out “vulnerable” children and would begin giving them lifts, buying them food, alcohol or cigarettes which led to the children becoming involved in sexual activity with the men as a “favour” as payment for the gifts.

Most of those responsible for the abuse did not use contraception and “pregnancies were expected to be (and in many cases were) terminated.” Some of those abused went on to bear the perpetrator’s children.

In several cases, victims received death threats against them or their families if they tried to end the abuse.

The report references the case of Lucy Lowe, 16, who died along with her 17-year-old sister and mother in a house fire started by Azhar Ali Mehmood, 26, the father of her daughter. She had become pregnant at 14 to Mehmood.

The report continued to say children were often abused in nightclubs and takeaways with witnesses also describing a “rape house” in Wellington, Telford, to which young people were taken.

Within schools, it said, there was a “reluctance” to report concerning activity without “concrete proof” which was an “overly cautious approach”, while “obvious” indicators like absences and changes in behaviour went unremarked by school staff.

The report said, in the most recent figures from the first six months of 2020, police received 172 referrals related to child exploitation.

The “dreadful, life altering crime has not gone away – in Telford or elsewhere,” the report said.

It also outlines recent police evidence of “an unacceptable, and quite frankly offensive attitude”, towards child abuse victims, with “disparaging language being used”.

In his statement, Mr Crowther said he looked back as far as 1989 to draw his conclusions, but had heard from victims exploited as long ago as the 1970s.

“I saw references to exploitation being ‘generational’; having come to be regarded as ‘normal’ by perpetrators and inevitable by victims and survivors some of whose parents had been through similar experiences,” he said.

He urged agencies to accept the recommendations made in the report and hoped the report “goes some way” to giving a voice to the survivors.

Mr Crowther recommended the formation of a joint review team to publish an annual report on child abuse in Telford.

Following the inquiry’s publication, survivor Joanne Phillips, who gave evidence said: “Victims were being identified as child prostitutes. Once you have been convicted that label will never leave you.

“Prosecutions are damaging to your life.

“Some children went to prison for not paying the fines. Convictions should be completely expunged.

“Today I feel incredibly proud of the girls in Telford….I cannot express enough how proud I am for seeing this through and their resilience and bravery.”

Lucy Allan, the MP for Telford, who has been campaigning on the issue since 2016, said: “Today is a very important day for victims and survivors of CSE, not just in Telford but right across the country because this report is damning, it is devastating.

“There are clear patterns that existed well before this report was commissioned that people knew about CSE, we had had high profile court cases in Telford and we should have taken learnings from that and we quite clearly didn’t.

“The saddest thing is that victims and survivors, their voices weren’t heard, they weren’t taken seriously and that should never have happened.”

The report’s recommendations should be adopted by local authorities around the country, she said.

Telford and Wrekin Council has said it “apologises wholeheartedly” to the victims.

“Child sexual exploitation is a vile crime that disgusts us and all right thinking people.

“The independent inquiry acknowledges we have made significant improvements in recent years.”

It said it was working to provide support for victims and it was already carrying out many of the inquiry’s recommendations.

Assistant Chief Constable Richard Cooper, of West Mercia Police, said he would like to say sorry to the survivors and all those affected in Telford.

“While there were no findings of corruption, our actions fell far short of the help and protection you should have had from us, it was unacceptable, we let you down. It is important we now take time to reflect critically and carefully on the content of the report and the recommendations that have been made,” he said.

He said the force now has teams dedicated to preventing and tackling child exploitation and works better together with organisations to safeguard children.

West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner, John Campion, said victims and survivors had been let down.

“I cannot say with absolute certainty, just because lessons have been learnt, that it will never happen again.

“However, my drive as PCC remains resolute to ensure the system, that is there to keep people safe, continues building on the progress that has been made.”

Shropshire Council, which neighbours Telford & Wrekin said these crimes are “happening right across the country”.

It said awareness of the crime is now “far greater” and it has “safeguards” in place to help people living in the area.

(Source)

QotD: “Spain to criminalise paying for sex”

Amelia Tiganus is a sex-trade survivor, originally from Romania. She has been campaigning to introduce laws to criminalise demand – the men that pay for sex – for a number of years. This week saw her wish come true, when the Spanish parliament voted in favour of clamping down on pimping and introducing criminal penalties for men buying sex.

Until now, prostitution has been tolerated in Spain, with many brothels operating as hotels or other lodging establishments, although sexual exploitation and pimping are illegal.

Tiganus was prostituted in Spain, where she still lives. She has long been involved in a campaign to end the sex trade, working since 2015 with Feminicidio as coordinator of its online training platform and projects for the prevention and awareness of prostitution, trafficking and other forms of violence against women. She is currently documenting the number of murdered prostituted women in Spain.

Tiganus has published several articles on the sexual exploitation of women and girls. In the past two years, she has given more than 100 lectures and workshops throughout Spain and Argentina. I spoke to Tiganus about being trafficked and abused in state-sanctioned brothels, and about her life and activism after escaping prostitution. Here is her story.

Julie Bindel, continue reading here

QotD: “Sex abuse and racism rife on ‘Tinder for teens’ used by millions of British children”

It is dinner time on a Friday evening and a teenage girl is sitting in her bedroom facing the camera on her laptop.

On the other end of the screen, boys are telling her to take her clothes off. “Your tits look heavy, do you want me to hold them?” a boy says. “I’d still dog you darling,” another replies.

Later on a boy asks if he can call a girl, who is black, a “dirty little slave”. Another group livestream is titled “n***a lynching clubhouse”.

The conversations are all happening on a social media app called Yubo, which is known as “Tinder for teens” and allows children aged 13 to 17 to match with potential dates as well as to join “lives” where they are encouraged to interact with about 100 other teenagers.

An undercover investigation into the app, which has 3.6 million UK users, has found children are subjected to sexual harassment, racism and bullying.

Schools have sent warnings to parents telling them that Yubo may not be safe. Head teachers have shared a newsletter saying that “due to the nature of this app, your child may come across content that is not appropriate to them”.

James Loten, deputy head at Harwich and Dovercourt school, in Essex, told parents he was concerned it could be “exploited by adults for nefarious purposes”. Kingsley primary school, in Co Durham, said children should be stopped from downloading it.

Our undercover reporter spent ten days on Yubo, posing as a 15-year-old girl called Anne. No age verification was required, with the journalist able to use profile pictures of her 20-year-old self.

She was propositioned for sex and frequently asked to send nude pictures. A message from a 17-year-old boy said: “Let me rail [have sex with] you”, while others on a livestream told girls they would “strip you naked and rape you” and “choke you”.

A black 16-year-old was told by another user: “I’d let you pick my cotton any day.”

Self-harm and suicide were frequently discussed. Our reporter saw a group of boys trade explicit images of girls they knew while others chanted “get your wrists out” to a female user. Others were told to “f*** off and kill yourselves” during a discussion about feminism.

Many of the conversations happened as teens were finishing school and doing their homework, with some parents shouting up to bedrooms about coming down for dinner.

MPs and campaigners said the investigation raised significant safety concerns. They also questioned whether children would be sufficiently protected by the new Online Safety Bill, which could be presented to parliament within weeks.

The Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said the findings were “deeply shocking, both for the parents and children involved, and also for educators across the country”. “The Online Safety Bill is a welcome step in the right direction but much more needs to be done to keep pace with the ever-evolving technology,” he said.

Chris Philp, the minister for tech and the digital economy, said: “What I have heard about this site is sickening. Apps designed for and marketed at children should be safe for them to use. The government will not allow this kind of thing to continue threatening children and that is why we are strengthening the Online Safety Bill to put a stop to content harmful to children once and for all.”

Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis, one of England’s biggest academy trusts, with 52 schools, said the site was dangerous and must be made safer “to stop lives being lost and futures ruined”.

Young people have contacted the charity Childline asking for help. “A guy saved my nudes on Yubo. I eventually got him to delete them but he said if I don’t send him stuff tomorrow he’ll get the pictures back and spread them,” one girl said.

Ian Critchley, in charge of child protection for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said sites such as Yubo were being used to “commit some of the most abhorrent acts”.

“These platforms are multimillion-pound companies. They take large profits and they have the moral and legal responsibility to make sure the communities they have created are safe communities. There is much more they can do.

“The findings from your report highlight the role they must play in being proactive in seeking to stop child abuse where perpetrators are seeking to groom children,” he said.

Sarah Parker, from Catch 22, an agency that works with police and schools to combat child exploitation, said Yubo had been mentioned in a “flurry” of recent cases.

The new Online Safety Bill is supposed “to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online”.

Under the new rules social media companies will have to show a “duty of care” to users by removing illegal content and ensuring children are not exposed to inappropriate material.

If they do not meet these responsibilities, tech giants could face fines from the regulator Ofcom and senior managers may be held criminally liable.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes, a former education and digital secretary, said: “No teenager should be exposed to the harmful content that you found … just because Yubo or any other platform can’t properly police their sites. Those running Yubo and similar sites need to be held accountable.”

Yubo says its moderators check profiles and monitor messages for inappropriate content, yet chats with names such as “pissing on dead n**gs” appeared to go unnoticed.

Rules on the discussion and consumption of drugs, which it also claims to enforce, were consistently broken.

Our reporter heard a drug dealer telling a 15-year-old girl about ketamine and acid. As a teenage girl appeared to snort cocaine, a male user said: “Would you do a line off my wood [erection]?”.

Yubo, which is based in Paris and was previously called Yellow, has been linked to a string of criminal cases involving teenagers being groomed.

Last week Rhys Stone, 21, was jailed at Cardiff crown court after he locked a 17-year-old in his car and subjected her to a sexual attack as she screamed and begged him to stop.

He had met the victim hours before on a Yubo livestream.

Dewan Gazi, 22, was sentenced to 12 years in October 2019 for raping a 12-year-old and sexually abusing a 15-year-old. Over a period of 12 days, he had messaged 95 teenagers on the app.

Detective Sergeant Jinnett Lunt, from Greater Manchester police, said: “What this case showed was Gazi’s apparent intent on using Yubo with a view to making contact with as many young people as possible, before moving them on to other platforms where he would then commit his offending.”

Last month pupils at the Jewish Free School in north London revealed that younger children were using Yubo, where bullying and harassment were rife. The school was placed into special measures last year by inspectors after the death of a 14-year-old girl.

In a report Ofsted told of widespread “sexual bullying including via social media” at the school, which has 2,000 pupils and where three students are thought to have taken their own lives in the past four years.

Assemblies on sexting were held, with parents given advice on supervising their teenagers’ phone use. The school has since improved.

A spokeswoman for Yubo said the safety of users was “our foremost priority”, with safety practices developed on a “constant” basis. They added that the site cared “deeply” about the wellbeing of its users.

Yubo said it had an extensive range of safety tools in place to “safeguard our users at every stage of their journey within the app”, with moderators who “intervene in real time”, and has an age verification process.

A spokeswoman said: “We are saddened to learn of the journalist’s experience and can only apologise for the way she and others have been impacted during this time on our platform. We’re taking the investigation by The Sunday Times extremely seriously and have instigated an immediate review of the safety features and how they may have failed. Our users and their safety always have, and always will, come first.”

(Source)

QotD: “Goodbye Cressida Dick — and good riddance”

Cressida Dick, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, has just been forced to resign by Sadiq Khan. I first became aware of her when my partner, Harriet Wistrich was representing the family of Jean Charles de Menezes. He was an innocent man, but police shot him dead in London in a case of mistaken identity. Dick was the officer in charge of the operation, but did not face any consequences for her role in the tragedy.

During the case, I got to know some of de Menezes’ family members, including Maria Otoni de Menezes, Jean Charles’ mother, who I interviewed after the 2008 inquest. I still recall her distress at the fact that Dick had not just kept her job following her son’s death but had been promoted through the ranks.

Cressida Dick is an out lesbian and the first woman to rise to the top of policing ranks — an impressive accomplishment. That she has made monumental and catastrophic errors should not serve as an excuse for the offensive banter I often hear, including childish skits on her name. It is possible for a woman to be both the victim of bigotry and at serious fault herself. Both of these things can be true at the same time. It is possible that in order to survive and thrive in such a male-dominated profession, Dick protected her officers rather more vehemently than she should have done. But the fact is that her primary loyalty should have been to Londoners, not officers.

During Dick’s tenure, the public has been deluged with stories of sexual and domestic violence committed by serving police officers; a failure to police such crimes among civilians; and clear evidence of appalling racism, misogyny and homophobia among officers of all ranks. As a result, faith and trust in the Metropolitan police is at rock bottom. Why Dick did not use her tenure as Met Police Commissioner to begin the process of root-and-branch reform? Instead, under her command, whistle-blowers were either silenced or punished. Her most shameful moment surely was in her description of Wayne Couzens as a ‘bad apple’.

After the Savile scandal in 2011, victims and their families accused the Met of ignoring or covering up allegations of abuse, and in doing so failing to prosecute one of Britain’s most prolific sex offenders. In response, the Met instituted a policy of automatically believing victims who report sex crimes. But in 2018, Dick announced that the Met would be abandoning this policy. She has presided over mounting evidence of multiple allegations of abuse and police failures to tackle violence against women and racism, but nothing has changed.

Who will take her place? Is there anyone that has the genuine desire and ability to tackle the rotten culture at Britain’s largest police force, and to bring about real change in the institution? I can’t say that I’m holding my breath.

Julie Bindel

QotD: “The Met’s misogynists are untouchable”

When Andrea, a Metropolitan Police constable, was summoned into a room by her inspector he stood up, she assumed, to greet her politely. Instead he lunged, grabbing her breasts and forcing his hands into her underwear. She froze, then aimed a kick at his groin and fled.

Andrea hadn’t intended to report him — “you shut up and put up with it. If you speak out, you’re finished” — but she confided in a colleague who did. Compelled to pursue a complaint, a 30-month ordeal began which ended in her dismissal for discreditable conduct in 2020. The inspector kept his job.

Speaking to Andrea about her 20-year police career answers key questions about the Met. Such as, why were no red flags raised about Wayne Couzens, nicknamed “the rapist” because he loved violent porn, used prostitutes, unnerved female colleagues and indecently exposed himself, long before he murdered Sarah Everard? Or why did Deniz Jaffer and Jamie Lewis take selfies with the bodies of sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman to share with colleagues for a laugh?

Why did a policeman feel entitled to have sex with a vulnerable woman in Charing Cross police station? The subsequent investigation has brought to light WhatsApp messages between officers of sickening misogyny. To a female colleague an officer wrote: “I would happily rape you . . . chloroform you . . . if I was single.” Others discussed how beating women keeps them loyal. One remarked about his girlfriend: “Swear to got [sic] I’m going to smack her.”

Such attitudes are shocking, but not for Andrea. The inspector lied to investigators that she’d given him oral sex in her car, that she was a stalker out to destroy his career and marriage. She was threatened with a charge of perverting the course of justice. Her union rep sat in silence as her character was trashed (she had an impeccable record) while senior officers referred to her assailant chummily by his first name.

A year into the inquiry, despairing that no one believed her, Andrea attempted suicide. Regardless, she was then brought back for another brutal seven-hour interrogation: “If my sister hadn’t been with me afterwards, I’d have thrown myself under the Tube.”

Almost daily in the Met, Andrea witnessed what in any other workplace would bring a visit from HR or even instant dismissal. She was paired with an officer who liked to park near secondary schools to ogle teenage girls’ breasts; colleagues constantly watched porn on their phones; a PC, convicted of gross indecency for masturbating on a train, kept his job; men would return from domestic violence scenes saying the victim was mad and deserved a slap.

If Andrea failed to laugh at such banter, colleagues would ask: “Are you on your period?” If she left her notebook lying around she’d find a penis drawn inside. Older women were “Dorises” or “white goods” (ie domestic appliances). When a young tourist disappeared, men gathered around the computer to gawp at her photograph, one saying: “She’s locked in my sex dungeon at home.” When the station carpet was treated for a flea infestation they joked: “It’s for Andrea’s crabs.”

Only a third of Met officers are women, well below the national average, and Andrea often worked in otherwise all-male teams. Having trained in a more diligent home counties force, she was shocked by the impunity in the sprawling, disparate, unaccountable Met. Above all, she knew that to report what she saw, even via the anonymous complaint line, marked you out as a traitor, a grass. “Even if you’re moved, everyone knows everyone.”

WhatsApp groups, she says, “are the worst thing to happen in policing”. Every station has one; officers can share things too gross to say out loud, entrenching, even amplifying, racist and sexist attitudes. Plus a group can deliberately exclude someone like Andrea and plan her demise.

When the Centre for Women’s Justice (of which I am a trustee) first lodged its super-complaint on failure to address police-perpetrated domestic abuse it had 19 cases, mainly wives and girlfriends of police, with some female officers like Andrea. The women found their menfolk were investigated by officers they knew: evidence was “lost”, cases dropped, the women themselves were threatened with arrest. “Who’s going to believe you?” one was told. “There are lots of us.” After the CfWJ went public, it was flooded with calls: it now represents 163 women.

The College of Policing and the police inspectorate will decide whether to take up its recommendations in April, which include abuse being investigated by a neighbouring force. CfWJ also asks the home secretary to expand an inquiry into Couzens to encompass the broader culture of the Met.

Let’s hope it does. After the Charing Cross revelations, Sadiq Khan has put Met chief Cressida Dick “on notice”. A poll shows women’s faith in policing has tumbled since Everard’s death. Soon another Met officer, David Carrick, will go to trial, charged with 23 sexual assaults including 13 rapes, with potential for even more reputational damage. Dick clearly lacks the strength or courage to take on the old boys, the locker room culture, the vested interests in her force. Only a tough, clear-sighted outsider will do.

Women are half the electorate, half the taxpayers funding police salaries. What a dismal service we receive. If we are raped, there is now only a 1.6 per cent chance our attacker will even be charged. It should be those police who think sexual assaults are a joke, that domestic violence victims had it coming, that they have licence to grope female colleagues who are forced to hand over their warrant cards in disgrace. Not women like Andrea.

Janice Turner

Jeffrey Epstein Was A Pimp Like Any Other

Part of the reason that Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of girls and women fascinates is that he belonged to such a remote, rarefied world. Private jets, princes, billionaires, the daughter of a media magnate to act as his madam. For those who would like to believe that the powerful and wealthy exist in a state of ultimate corruption, here is ample material.

But the truth is that beyond the vulgar surface glitz and the celebrity names, grooming and trafficking is always only grooming and trafficking. Always only rape. Swap Mar-a-Lago for a care home. Swap the Lolita Express for a minicab rank. Swap the private island for a grey industrial estate. The differences are superficial. The underlying exploitation of female bodies is much the same.

It starts when the exploiter finds a person he can exploit. Sometimes, that means someone who’s already been abused: Virginia Giuffre, the Epstein victim who is currently pursuing a civil suit against Prince Andrew, has said she’d gone through “so much abuse already” before she met Epstein. Sometimes the vulnerability is love. Sammy Woodhouse, one of the victims of the Rotherham grooming scandal, believed that the man in his twenties who started raping her when she was 14 was her boyfriend.

Power is fundamental to all sexual abuse. Epstein’s power was most obvious in his money and connections, but it was also inherent to his sex. For the abusers of Woodhouse and all the other girls like her—the ones in Rotherham and Rochdale, the ones we know about and the ones we don’t—power consisted simply in being male. Their victims, being girls, were of no value. The police would look right at them in the passenger seat of an adult man’s car and ask no questions.

The fact that men as a whole have more power than women as a whole is the most unfashionable intersection. On the left, it is easy to talk about race, about sexuality, about gender identity. Sometimes, social class is even brought into the picture. But if sex is brought into the picture at all, it’s usually done dismissively. What about Maxwell? (Well, what about Maxwell? There have always been female pimps, acting for men and against other women and girls.)

White women as a group are discussed in terms of their privilege—so-called “Karens,” up to their necks in complicity. The oppression of  black women can be acknowledged, but only in terms of their race, and often as a means of undermining “white feminism.” The injunction to remember that sex is not the only axis of oppression is applied to mean that, in effect, sex is not a real axis of oppression at all.

By the time one has worked through the liturgy of all the ways a woman might have advantages over a man, any sense that women might share a common social vulnerability has long been dissolved. This has depressing consequences for almost every aspect of politics regarding women’s lives, but it has a particularly egregious effect when it comes to the discussion of sexual exploitation.

Without an understanding of men’s power in general over women in general, it becomes impossible to make sense of an Epstein, a Rotherham, a Rochdale. It is impossible to make any sense of the sex industry as a whole: it simply becomes a baffling patchwork of people (who happen to be mostly female) providing services (which happen to be sexual) to other people (who happen to be almost exclusively male). No structural forces here, just arbitrary and individual choice.

That’s if the buyers are brought into the discussion at all. Usually, conversations about the sale of sex are conversations about the people—the women—who sell it. The men simply melt away into the background, undiscussed, unmentioned, too unremarkable to draw comment; a strange, faceless inevitability. The vast majority of research on prostitution focuses on the prostituted rather than the punters.

Perhaps that’s because most research into prostitution starts from the ideological position that “sex work is work,” and so examining the character of the men who drive the industry would be an obstacle to normalising it, as the researchers want to. Buyers are not the only sources of harm against women in prostitution, but they are a significant one: the UK 2020 Femicide Census recorded the killings of 32 women involved in prostitution, 18 of whom were killed by clients. Research into men who buy sex has found they score highly for sexual aggression, and (unsurprisingly) lowly on empathy for women in prostitution.

We don’t know whether the act begets the attitude or the attitude begets the act, but it seems plausible that the influence runs both ways. What’s interesting, though, is that when such a man is brought into public view—a man like Epstein, who used girls and young women, and passed them around his friends, if not for direct financial gain then for social advantage—he is seen, rightly, with revulsion.

To exploit another person for your own pleasure is a grotesque thing to do, and a thing that can only happen under a terrible mismatch of power. We can talk about a woman’s “choice” to sell sex, but it is a choice that can be made only when a man decides to buy it. Epstein was not extraordinary. He was any pimp and any punter, and his wrongs are the wrongs of the entire trade in women.

Sarah Ditum

QotD: “New ID check plan to block children from porn sites”

Ministers are preparing to introduce laws to prevent children accessing online pornography.

Plans to bring in age verification for adult sites, which were shelved in 2017, are now being looked on with approval by Nadine Dorries, the culture secretary, and Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary.

Their support follows work by Dame Rachel de Souza, the children’s commissioner, who has sent a report to ministers recommending that age verification becomes compulsory on all porn sites.

Today she reveals that in meetings with porn providers she found them willing to introduce age verification measures as long as they were imposed industry-wide.

Studies show that half of 11 to 13-year-olds have seen pornography at some point. This rises to two-thirds of 14 to 15-year-olds and four in five 16 to 17-year-olds, according to De Souza. She is also pushing for the big tech firms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to do much more to prevent children from seeing porn and other damaging material on their sites by accident, although ministers are not expected to back full age verification for these platforms.

The eight big tech companies have been summoned to a meeting on Wednesday hosted by the two ministers and De Souza to thrash out how they stop children stumbling across porn or harmful material on suicide and eating disorders.

De Souza, a former head teacher, said she had seen the hugely damaging effects of pornography on children, including a young girl who took her own life. “Kids are seeing things that warp what they think real sexual relationships are like,” she said. “I’ve had girls say to me that during their first kiss with their boyfriend he’s tried to strangle her because he’s seen it on a porn video. Girls are filming themselves in their bedroom and sending it to boys who are sharing it. These girls are being pestered ten or more times a night to send naked images of themselves. I’ve had boys traumatised because they are in big WhatsApp groups, seeing things they don’t want to see.”

The tougher rules are expected to be written into the forthcoming online harms bill, which had been due before Christmas but has been put on hold until the new year after Boris Johnson told the House of Commons liaison committee that he wanted to see it strengthened. Dorries has also told MPs that she wants it to go further.

Theresa May’s government passed the Digital Economy Act in 2017, requiring commercial providers of pornography “to have robust age verification controls in place to prevent children and young people under 18 from accessing pornographic material”. However, it was never enacted after privacy campaigners claimed that it would force users to hand over their identities to porn sites.

De Souza said that technology now existed that will allow users to prove their age online using a passport or other identification in a way that they secure an access code. “Technology is so much better now and the privacy issues are no longer a concern,” she said. “Third parties can do age verification and get rid of that information straight away.

“I met with some of the biggest porn companies and challenged them on age verification. As long as all adult sites have to have age verification put on them, they would be comfortable to go forward with that. They basically said, ‘Make us do it’. I was pleased with that.”

Ministers are examining how to introduce age verification using biometric data and “age assurance” measures, whereby sites can use artificial intelligence to identify children by the way they they behave online or interact with a device, including the language they use.

Senior government sources said officials were considering whether to write changes into the published draft of the bill or whether to amend the legislation when it goes before parliament in the spring. The bill is expected to become law by the end of next year.

(Source)