Posted: August 13, 2010 at 8:31 am | Tags: community, gossip
I’ve found yet another culture of silence I just don’t understand. This one has nothing to do with physical violence against others, nothing to do with racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic behaviour, and nothing to do with rape apology. This is all to do with gossip and rumours… which really thrive in a culture of silence.
Some context would probably be useful here. I’m a member of a community that is relatively close-knit and some would say incestuous… but it is full of people who are polyamorous, so that second label is understandable. Given the interlinked relationships, friendships and the like there is a certain amount of disclosure about people, but it is usually safe, sane and truthful. It is useful, after all, to know your partner’s partner’s STI status, who else they are involved with, etc. Honesty is valued in poly relationships because it is just impossible to trust a group of people (tribes is the terminology I tend to use) without being very honest with them and having them be very honest with you.
So when someone joined this community, and spent some time in it, started talking about negative experiences with others, given the constant reinforcement of honesty as a necessary part of polyamory, we trusted that she was at least telling as close as she could to her version of the truth – so it may have been hurt or anger with someone, but she was being honest at the core.
And we did not talk to those she said bad things about. I think this is a common thing regardless of the community you are in. Typically gossip is passed on to others and not the victim, which sadly means that the victim can be ostracised, isolated or subject to other forms negative of behaviour because something which may be untrue or taken out of context is believed by others and the victim is not given a chance to defend themselves, or if they are, it is usually far too late.
So why don’t we talk to the person the gossip or bad-mouthing is about? Sometimes I think it’s because you want to believe what the other person who is gossiping to you to be true. There were some things that were told to me by the aforementioned person which I could have believed to be true, whether that was because there was a grain of truth in them or because I was already biased against the person being gossiped about. Sometimes I think it is because you instantly dismiss what the gossiper is saying because you don’t think it is true or you don’t care one way or the other. The aforementioned person told me some things about people I was friends with which either did not fit my knowledge of that individual or were completely irrelevant to me.
It was only as we began as a wider group to start unravelling the lies that were told to us and found out the lies that were told about us that we realised the harm that this one individual had caused to our wider circle and community. We have since cut all ties with her and I am of the understanding that she has now left the community, but that still does not solve the main problem… that of the culture of silence.
Maybe it’s an Australian thing to not disclose negative and hurtful information that you overhear to the person/s that it is allegedly about. Maybe there are other places in the world that handle this openly and far better. I’m going to try and find some way to deal with gossip I overhear by approaching the victim and effectively tattling on the gossiper. Though it can be hard when you don’t know whether something is true or not to start with… If my partner’s partner tells me that their new partner does/has/wants X, do I go and talk to them and tell them what I was told? Where can I draw the line?
It is a very tricky thing to deal with, which is why I suspect I don’t ever deal with it well until it is too late, or when things are bad. I don’t know what would have happened if I had confronted the gossiper (and outright liar) that has most recently harmed my tribe, earlier in the piece. I suspect I would have been turned upon and maliciously attacked to others.
Some of the people who thought that they were going to be able to stay out of this have discovered that things were even said about them, things that were untrue that I dismissed as either irrelevant or unlikely to be true, and it wasn’t until we were debriefing about the situation that I passed those things on. One friend was deeply shocked to have had lies told about her – even though in my estimation those lies were so irrelevant and meaningless. Another friend who had had lies told about him did not seem to be bothered, even though the lies told about him seemed to be more serious than the other friend’s.
Debriefing has been incredibly useful but there is still serious damage that has been done. Several members of my tribe are afraid that their ability to judge people is skewed, and their ability to trust has temporarily taken a beating. There is a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal. And of course the big question, “Why would someone do this?”
This post has been cross posted to my poly blog: Only More So
Posted: April 16, 2010 at 6:18 pm
This morning, while I was sitting at my PC enjoying the last bits of my toast, I heard a car stop and then a guy start yelling. Being a neighbourly nosey parker, I pulled back the curtains to see a harried young woman being yelled at by a young man. I wasn’t particularly impressed. I kept an eye on the couple and she scurried into the drivers seat, where he started yelling louder and then aimed a kick at the door of the car, which I heard impact. It was at that point that I ran outside to find out if I needed to call the cops or not. When I got there, the guy was rolling around on the ground whimpering because he’d injured his foot, quite badly. I asked if I should call the police or ambulance, and was told by the young woman that she was ok, and she thanked me.
It was actually really satisfying to see him whimpering… though annoying that she didn’t a) drive away and leave him to whimper to himself (and hopefully learn a lesson) and b) she comforted him and cheered him up. By the time I left for work they were both laughing, though I suspect he won’t be kicking anything for a while and his weekend is somewhat ruined.
Posted: April 7, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Tags: edumacations, Feminism, rape
Today survey results from a study conducted by VicHealth for the Australian Federal Government, into attitudes regarding violence against women. The full reports and stuff from VicHealth are here, the ABC coverage of the report is here.
This is the first such survey since 1995, so its been a while since the last one and this survey covered a broad spectrum of the Australian population. The disturbing findings (“challenges”) as listed in the fact sheet are below:
Fewer people in 2009 believe that slapping and pushing a partner to cause harm or fear is a ‘very serious’ form of violence than in 1995 (from 64% in 1995 to 53% in 2009).
So although the percentage of people who think that slapping and pushing a partner to cause harm or fear has dropped, it is still stupidly high.
22% of people in 2009 believe that domestic violence is perpetrated equally by both men and women compared with 9% in 1995.
This is better I suppose. Domestic violence is perpetrated by both genders, even if one gender features higher in statistics of domestic violence, but the number is still low, meaning that men who are victims of domestic violence are unlikely to be able to get the help or validation they need.
34% believe that ‘rape results from men being unable to control their need for sex’.
This feeds back into rape culture and the fact that men shouldn’t be held responsible for their actions in relation to sex, because it is an overwhelming thing that just destroys their minds…. or something. Seriously although someone may crave sex, they can just masturbate versus raping someone.
One in four people (26%) disagrees that ‘women rarely make false claims of being raped’.
To put this in perspective, 26% of the people surveyed believe that women cry rape for fun. Seriously people what is wrong with you? Why would someone falsely claim that they were raped by someone else? This is such a damaging claim, it detracts from everyone who has ever been raped and forces victims to go further than they need to to prove that they have been raped. This is one reason why so many victims don’t go to the authorities after they’ve been raped, because who would believe them?
13% of people still agree that women ‘often say no when they mean yes’ and roughly one in six (16%) agrees that a woman ‘is partly responsible if she is raped when drunk or drug affected’.
This again is pure rape culture. The one at fault for raping someone is the rapist, and not the victim. Victim blaming does not reduce rape culture, does not help the victim and if someone says “NO”, then that’s pretty clear. When I say “No”, I do not mean, “Please come by and rape me later, it’d be fun.” Thankfully there are some good rape prevention programs being launched around the world.
One in five people (22%) believes that domestic violence can be excused if later the perpetrator regrets what they have done.
“Oh, I’m so sorry I punched you in the face and gave you a black eye. I didn’t mean to fracture your eye socket, I was having a bad day.”
Does that work for you? Do you feel better now about that black eye and fractured eye socket, having to wear makeup to hide the bruising? Probably not. Domestic violence should not be excused, it is assault, it is a crime and no matter how sorry to perpetrator feels afterwards, that does not excuse what they did. You may choose to forgive them, but that doesn’t wipe the slate and make what they did acceptable.
Eight in ten people in the general community say it is hard to understand why women stay in violent relationships and more than half believe a woman could leave a violent relationship if she really wanted to.
Thanks to the Family Law Center I have the perfect answer to this (yay the internet!).
Simply asking the question “Why do women stay in violent relationships?” is blaming the victim. People don’t seem to ask nearly as often, “Why do men batter?”, a question which places the blame with the perpetrator. It is easy to blame the victims in battering relationships. Often, those outside the relationship will think that if she really wants to leave, she can. However, abuse is never the victim’s fault, and there are often many psychological issues affecting abused women and their ability to leave an abusive relationship.
Ok, so to take this back to the title of the post. I’ve been a long believer in the fact that sex education in Australia is completely inadequate to prepare people for not just sex but also relationships with the people they’re having sex with. Teenagers muddle along in relationships, possibly basing them on what they’ve read, other relationships they’ve witnessed (good and/or bad) and the media. If the education system actually had proper discussions about types of relationships, what was good in a relationship and what could be bad or problematic, that alternate relationship styles (BDSM, polyamory, etc) were ok and that alternate sexualities were also ok, then suddenly we have a system that can start preparing children and teenagers to have good relationships. If we throw in good communication skills; an understanding of why honesty is important with your partner; proper discussions of domestic violence and sexual assault; and discussions of STI testing, and we’ve moved to providing a world class educational model for the next generation.
If this is done well, then maybe we’d reduce the number of people who think that victims should be blamed, reduce rape culture and get that tricky issue of consent sorted out.
Posted: April 3, 2010 at 5:11 pm
I gave two men money for their accommodation the other night. They were both homeless, but had secured night by night accommodation at a backpackers, and were attempting to raise further funds, separately, to have a room for the night. Since then I’ve thought about begging and homelessness and all the messages I have been given about homelessness, whether from my peers, the media or our politicians.
Pretty much all of the messages that go with homeless people are pretty awful. They’re losers, they want to be homeless, they’re drug addicts, alcoholics, dirty, helpless, ill or diseased. I personally cannot imagine too many people who would want to be homeless, and who would want to be homeless in Melbourne with winter approaching, or really in any city. Although sleeping outside in balmy weather is a nice thing to do on occasion, imagine doing it every night, in doorways, under bridges or in the park.
Tony Abbot recently misused the bible to justify not acting on homeless people. Abbott quoted from the Gospel of Matthew: ”The poor will always be with us,” and referred to the fact there is little a government can do for people who choose to be homeless. It is this type of attitude that needs to change in relation to thinking about homeless people. Surely as a society we should be caring for those of us who stumble over misfortune in their lives.
And if people living on the streets are self medicating or are alcoholic, is that any reason not to help them when approached? I think it’s horribly judgemental to believe that someone asking you for money a) has to justify what it is to be used for and b) has to fight through a whole lot of prejudice regarding whether or not that money will be used for what they claim it will be. I know I’m far more likely to give money to people who ask for it humbly, and that’s something that just pushes my buttons, they have every right to ask for it as forcefully as they need it, though unlikely to achieve much success. Begging is, by its very definition, something that is done in a supplicating manner, so to ask requires a certain deference, which is also unfair even if necessary.
I have had people demand money of me, and that makes me feel threatened. I’m far more likely to refuse money to someone who I am afraid of. This of course ends up with homeless people often being powerless and with them being voiceless and invisible generally. I get charity spruikers pushing their charity in my face far more than I get homeless individuals who would need my money more.
Yes, there are charities that exist to provide services to the homeless, and universally they are beyond their capacity with more homeless people to cope with than funds to manage them. If someone needs money and I have some (and am in the right frame of mind, etc), I’ll give them money to find a room, find a meal and to have a little more comfort for the evening. I’ve decided to reject society’s messages about homelessness and the helplessness of those who are homeless. I’ll help where I can, including by donating to organisations that work with homeless people, and by helping homeless people themselves.
I also support the Big Issue which is set up to help the homeless and long-term unemployed by employing them as vendors and providing them with support. The Big Issue also provides education to school students to help them “break down stereotypes surrounding homelessness and encourage tolerance and empathy towards all people.”
So is there a point to this post… not really. Its just a collection of my current thoughts on homelessness. I haven’t even touched on issues of gender, disability and age in relation to homelessness, how homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless are targeted by unscrupulous boarding home operators, and how the homeless often remain invisible and silent when it comes to politics.
Posted: October 27, 2009 at 3:45 pm | Tags: assult, Feminism, rape
After a gang rape at a school dance in the US:
“‘‘Obviously we’ve had some breakdowns. Obviously, it was not safe because this happened,’’ said Charles Ramsey, a West Contra Costa school district board member. ‘‘Should we have had higher awareness, should we have been more vigilant? Probably.’’”
No… that last world should be YES.
If people felt that gang raping a 15 year old girl was ok, there are a lot of things wrong with that school. I don’t really know where to begin with the list of things that are wrong either… apart from EVERYTHING. At least the police are actively investigating the rape and assaults and hopefully the judicial system will not use the “oh but she asked for it” line.