morgan_dhu: (Default)

I was just interviewed by a crime reporter for one of Toronto's major dailies - The Sun, which is the more sensational rag, for those who know the media in this town.

It seems that a potentially dangerous sexual offender may have been transferred to a local halfway house to begin a 10-year period of mandatory supervision (I say may because the papers say he's there, but the authorities will not confirm the report). There's a story on the front page of The Sun today, and likely some of the other papers, and from what facts are given, there's little doubt that this person has some high risk factors for re-offending.

From the article:
Christopher Goodwin, 26, was moved to the Keele Centre yesterday after completing a 21/2 year lock-up in Kingston for the shocking assault of a 6-year-old girl in a Scarborough mall in 2003, sources said.

In October, the National Parole Board ruled Goodwin remains a "high risk for reoffending," despite having undergone intensity sex offender treatment.


In the 2003 attack at the Cedarbrae Mall, horrified shoppers were forced to pull a crazed Goodwin off the young girl after he pounced on her ... and attempted to sexually assault her after lifting up her dress, according to National Parole board documents.

After doing time for that brazen assault, Goodwin served a 150-day stretch for distributing child pornography, according to the documents.

In sentencing, the court also imposed a long-term supervision order of 10 years.

Goodwin also admitted to having sexually assaulted six children, the documents say.

"Most disturbingly, you have stated a number of times that you fantasize about holding a young girl prisoner as your sexual slave for a while and then killing her. You have indicated that you fear you may carry out these fantasies," the documents read.

So, yes, his fantasies are violent, he has offended in the past and not been caught, he thinks he may re-offend, and most studies of sexual re-offenders indicate that age is a factor - the younger the person, the more likely to re-offend, and he's only 26. He's not a person I would want interacting with anyone's children.

However, I do believe that I disappointed the dear reporter by not screaming for blood, or at least immediate re-incarceration in a maximum security prison, and, if that wasn't possible, dumping him in some community other than mine (ah, NIMBY, how easy it is to invoke you).

Because I know that unless we as a society choose to lock all sexual offenders up forever, there is no way to guarantee they will never re-offend.

And I know that sexual offenders who are slowly introduced into the community, with graduated supervision and on-going treatment and assistance in getting their lives in order - without the kind of stress that a media shit-storm creates - have a better chance of learning to modify their behaviour so as to reduce the chances that they will re-offend.

And I know that while every two or three years, the media gets wind of a sexual offender at the local halfway house and makes a huge media circus about it, in fact, every day of the year there's probably at least one sexual offender in residence there, and no one outside of the system has known they were there. Someone who didn't hit the media radar because their original offense wasn't considered newsworthy (maybe they only assaulted women of colour, or members of their own family, instead of pretty white strangers), or because no one told the media, or it was a busy news week and there were bigger fish to fry.

And I also know that for every person like this who has been identified and placed in the justice system and is being monitored (which means it's more difficult to commit another assault), there are several more who have never been caught or charged and are walking around unsupervised and untreated and are just as much, or perhaps more, of a danger.

So the reporter is wondering if I feel people, especially children, in this neighbourhood are being endangered by the possible placement of this one person who is known to the system and is under supervision in a halfway home near me? And I tell him that I'd rather see sexual offenders go through gradual supervised release into the community than being dropped back into it stone-cold at the end of their incarceration. And I don't want the papers plastering the worst possible picture of an offender all over the newswires, so that he will be under increased stress which will increase the likelihood that he will re-offend. and so that people will have their image of paedophiles as creepy-looking guys with long hair and poor grooming reinforced. And I don't think the one that we know about is any more dangerous than all the ones we don't know about.

Because, folks, the people who perform sexual assaults are always there, not just when they're in the news. They are your neighbours, your colleagues, your priests, your fathers and brothers and uncles and sometimes your sisters and mothers and aunts, too.

Anyone who thinks that their neighbourhood would be safe from sexual assault if all the known sexual offenders were ridden out of town on a rail, or locked up for life, knows nothing about the nature of sexual violence.

I shall have to read the paper tomorrow to see how badly my opinions have been presented. Or if I've just been edited out because my views weren't sensational enough.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

Sexual violence is often cast as something that men do to women. I think it’s probably true that more men commit sexual violence than women, but I’m not prepared to say that’s because they are men. Rather, I would say that it’s because they have power, or think that they deserve power, or are afraid that their power is being threatened. Patriarchal societies are far more common than egalitarian or matriarchal societies. Thus, men are more often in the position of being seen as those who have, or ought to have, power, while women are more often seen as powerless. But sexual violence is a complex thing, and it is not just about men controlling women through the fact, or the threat, of sexual violence.

Sexual violence, and the threat of sexual violence, is widely used to humiliate, intimidate and control oppressed groups. We have all recently seen the evidence of this in the reports of abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. If ever anyone thought that women do not commit sexual violence against men, they need look no further than the actions of Lynndie England, Megan Ambuhl and Sabrina Harman, performed under the command of Janis Karpinski, for clear evidence that women are just as capable of such acts as men are, when they are in positions of power over others.

It is important to work toward an end to sexual violence, but we will never do so until we make it very clear that it is about power and control, not sex – and that because it is about power, it is not something that is endemic to one gender. In fact, it is even too simplistic to say, as many, including myself, have said, that it is only something the powerful use against the powerless. It is true that the powerful – or those who think they should be powerful - use it to reinforce their sense of power and to intimidate and control those who are powerless, or who they think should be powerless. But it is also true that those who lack power sometimes use it, when they can, to humiliate and bring down the powerful.

In short, we cannot point to any group of people and say “these people are responsible for sexual violence,” nor can we point to any group of people and say “these people do not commit sexual violence.” In speaking out against sexual violence, it’s important to remember that when we point a finger at someone else, we also point at ourselves.

No pity, no shame, no silence, yes. But also, No More.

morgan_dhu: (Default)

No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.

The other night I watched a film called “Prey for Rock and Roll.” Not a great film, but one scene was very powerful, at least for me. In an all-woman band, one of the band members has been raped. Another band member writes a song about rape. They sing it. The song is:

Every Six Minutes

Every six minutes, someone says "no"
Every six minutes, she gets ignored
It's not what you're wearing, it’s not where you've been
The fact that they think so tells you somethin' bout sin.
Every 6 minutes, a woman cries
Because every 6 minutes, her pleas are denied
No one's asking for it, it's no woman's secret desire
The fact that they think so is a man-made lie.
The passing of time brings you closer to me
Cause I've got love and justice keeps you free
I've got .38 special reasons at my side
Face the ultimate "no" big boy, this time I'll decide
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes
If I had a bullet, for every six minutes
I know just where to put it, every six minutes

By Cheri Lovedog and Grace Chapman
(lyrics incomplete)

The song hit me to the core. Even though I abhor violence, even though I believe that revenge is never the answer to violence, even though I don’t want anyone running around with a gun for any reason. Deep inside me, something roared “Yes!”

And yesterday, I found that [ profile] misia’s powerful statement about sexual violence, and people’s responses to it, had migrated to the small corner of Ljland that I inhabit.

So now many people around me are writing about sexual abuse and sexual violence. It’s a hard topic to start writing about, I find. Do I talk about my personal experiences with it? Or its history? Its sociological meanings? The different kinds of sexual violence? Who does it, who has it done to them, and why? The way sexuality and violence mixes together that makes so many blurred edges? The questions of fantasy versus reality, of consensual sex and power play versus the violation of the will that is rape. So much to talk about.

Back in the sixties and seventies, when some of us first started saying things akin to “no pity, no shame, no silence,” we also used to say that the personal is the political. And politics is about power. And so is sexual violence. So here’s the personal:

In my own life I can think of at least half a dozen occasions where a man, or a group of men, have tried to block my path, encircle me, trap me, prevent me from getting away from them, while they made sexual comments or threats of violence, mostly sexual, to and about me. One of these times, it was a groups of about five adolescent males in a car, who made several moves as if they were going to run me over if I didn’t stop and let them say, and possibly do, whatever they wanted to me.

On several more occasions, a man has followed me on foot or by car, making sexual comments or gestures whenever he got near enough to me.

Once I was stalked by a man for several weeks. I first became aware of him when he started a perfectly normal conversation with me in a public library, and then asked me out. I declined politely. He kept showing up at the library whenever I was there, and kept approaching me. I started being very careful about the path I took going home from, always going a round-about way and making sure he wasn’t following me. Eventually, I stopped going to that branch, even though it was the closest and one of the best in the city for my interests.

Two or three times a man has grabbed one or both of my arms and tried to hold onto me or pull me somewhere while making a sexual threat or suggestion.

Once, when I was 12, I took a short-cut one summer evening through an overgrown area by the river that ran through the city I lived in. A man started following me. He moved faster and faster. So did I. It was dark, I was scared. I tripped and fell. I don’t remember much more about it, other than his hands around my neck – interesting that that’s the one physical detail I recall so clearly. Maybe he was holding my throat so tightly that I blacked out – I’m not really sure. I do have fuzzy memories of pulling my clothes together, getting to my feet – he was nowhere in sight – going home and taking a long, long shower and throwing out the clothes I'd been wearing. My mother was away for a while on business, and so was her husband (of whom I will shortly say more), and I was alone for several days after that. I told no one for years afterward, not so much out of shame as because there was no one I could really think of to tell.

In most of these situations, no physical harm was done to me. Nonetheless, I believe all these things count as sexual violence. Certainly, the way I felt after each incident - the combination of fear, disgust and rage - wasn't all that different from how I felt the time I didn't get away. Some would probably say that's because I was stranger-raped at the age of 12, and these situations from later in my life bring back those original feelings. But I believe that words and gestures can be violent. Threatening sexual violence is an act, and a violent one.

I’m not sure that I consider child sexual abuse and sexual violence to be the same thing – or perhaps, it’s more that child sexual abuse, while never right, is not always sexual violence. Certainly, my feelings about being a survivor of sexual violence are different from my feelings about being a survivor of child sexual abuse. I remember my mother’s husband exposing himself to me, and getting me to touch him and fondle him, many times, beginning when I was seven or eight and continuing until he and my mother divorced when I was almost 13. I told no one about that for a long time, either, because even though I didn’t really like what he asked me to do, he treated me a lot better than my mother did (but that’s another story for another time). I don’t carry quite the same kinds of wounds. I think this is possibly because, twisted and sick though it was, there was an element of relationship. Sexual violence made me angry. Sexual abuse made me distrustful. Not saying one experience is any more or less harmful or wrong, just that they may sometimes have different dynamics – partly, I think, because sexual violence is power and control expressed through sexual acts, and child sexual abuse is, I think, more about sexuality expressed in a context of power, control and sometimes violence.

I wonder what it says about us as a species that sexual violence is so common among us. My guess is that, by my definitions of sexual violence, most women and at least a quarter of men are survivors of sexual violence. Sexual violence, as both an individual and a cultural means of exerting power and control and evoking fear, is directed not just at women but at sexual, ethnic and faith minorities. Wherever we look, we can find it - in homes, on battlefields, and everywhere in between.

Survivors of sexual violence have been talking about it for decades now. I know that speaking out can help the survivor to heal, and sometimes help others in their healing as well. So far, I’m not sure it’s done much to heal the human race of whatever dark knot is coiled inside, waiting for the time and place to strike. Maybe that’s just because there’s still not enough of us talking.

No Pity. No Shame. No Silence.

Addendum: It’s curious – when I began writing this entry, I considered putting some of my comments after an lj-cut, but decided not to, because concealment is so often associated with both shame and silence. I know that the cut is used for many reasons having nothing to do with concealment, and that many people will argue, with justification, that material about sexual violence could be very uncomfortable, even painful, for some. And if what I’ve written here has caused pain to anyone, I am sorry that this has happened. But I’m not ashamed about anything I’ve spoken of, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been silent about any of it. And in the current context, I think it all belonged right out front.

September 2017

24 252627282930


RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 25th, 2017 01:25 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios