Genevieve, 33, was sexually abused by men when she was between the ages of 2 and 16 in New South Wales. Bred by her father specifically to be abused, she has suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), dissociation, flashbacks, and an eating disorder. Many times she wanted to end her life. Last year she almost succeeded.
Charlotte, 27, has also suffered for years as a result of childhood abuse for more than ten years, beginning when she was 2, at the hands of her father, uncle, family friend and strangers in Queensland. She has endured PTSD, dissociative disorder, eating disorders, anxiety and depression. More than once she has made attempts on her life.
Ally Marie, 44, was sexually abused throughout her childhood by men in her adoptive parent’s church. She has spent years in and out of mental hospitals in New Zealand and Western Australia; she abused drugs and alcohol to numb her pain and also struggled with suicidal thoughts.
What these three women have in common – in addition to histories of sexual abuse – is a deep grief and profound horror that another victim of abuse, a 20-year-old Belgian woman, was killed by lethal injection after medical professionals determined this was a suitable treatment to end her suffering. (Her death took place last year, but the Dutch Euthanasia Commission has only recently released its report.)
The young woman had been sexually abused between the ages of 5 and 15. She suffered PTSD, severe anorexia, chronic depression, hallucinations, suicidal mood swings, self-harming tendencies and obsessive compulsive behaviours. Her psychiatrist declared that there was no prospect of recovery. Doctors believed the woman to be “fully competent with no major depression or mood disorders affecting her thinking” that she wanted death – which makes no sense, given her many diagnoses.
“I’m horrified,” says the mother-of-one Genevieve from Queensland, who I met recently.
“It’s abominable. She was only 20! No 20-year-old with sound mind says ‘I choose euthanasia over living’. Yes, it’s a failure of the medical profession. It’s also a failure of humanity. The decision to kill her says to the rest of us: there is no hope, your life doesn’t matter! You are beyond repair, we have nothing to offer you. It tells us we are leeches who should be eradicated.”
A nursing graduate hoping to work in acute mental health care for young adults, Genevieve has first-hand experience of how difficult it is for survivors to get the specialist trauma care they need. She pays $200 a fortnight to access the specialist medical help she needs through the private health system, which she can’t get through public services. She says survivors are made to feel like burdens:
“Instead of finding alternatives and offering real hope, this decision says ‘let’s just eradicate this person, it will cost less’. Doctors don’t have to deal with what caused this person to become like this in the first place. If society says ‘This is OK’, it becomes acceptable. There is no longer a deterrent to ending your life. Our suffering makes us feel isolated and lonely. It’s taboo to talk about what happened to you. We are made to feel we are too hard. But we need to hear there is hope, keep going, things will get better. We need people who will come alongside and say ‘We can do life together’. We need a community, a network, so we don’t feel like an island.”
Genevieve, Charlotte and Ally Marie feel strongly that the 20-year-old lacked these necessary supports. And like many others on the long journey of recover from abuse, they know that if euthanasia – the medicalised killing of another person – had been legally available, they themselves may not have been with us today to stand as survivors. If their community and the medical profession had offered death as a compassionate resolution to their suffering, they may well have stepped from suicidal ideation into death.
I know Charlotte as a contributor to Prostitution Narratives: Stories of Survival in the Sex Trade – so many child abuse survivors end up in the prostitution industry. She was distressed when reading about the end of life of another abuse victim. While the intensity of suffering echoed her own wounds, she says she has been encouraged to live, not die, helped through regular therapy, the support of loving friends, her teaching studies and her dog. As she writes about overcoming a desire to end it all:
“the knowledge that I came so close to dying fills me with sorrow. I am very lucky and grateful to still be here today. There are so many beautiful and wonderful things in life that I would have missed out on, and it is those moments which make recovery that little bit easier … No one should ever be made to feel as though suicide is an option.”
Ally Marie also recalls a childhood destroyed by sexual, physical and emotional abuse. She has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals much of her life. “Had someone given me a needle back then to end it all I would have gratefully accepted,” says Ally Marie, who now has nine children as well as running her own business helping women reach their goals.
“Thank God they didn’t. Thank God I am alive to share my story. Because now I am grateful as I look at my beautiful family I created, as I look around at the lives I can change with my story … What happened to this girl is murderous. Who are you to anticipate what her future holds? I was this young girl but I found my way and pulled through.”
The Belgian woman is not an isolated case. Among psychiatric patients receiving euthanasia in the Netherlands, most are women. A study published this year showed that PTSD and anxiety were prominent in such cases between 2011 and 2014. Four women were cognitively impaired, some had eating disorders, others prolonged grief. More than half were lonely and isolated. In one case, the report says, “The patient indicated that she had had a life without love and therefore had no right to exist.”
Sydney academic Katrina George has analysed criminological data from around the world to show that euthanasia of women is overwhelmingly at the hands of men. Patterns of assisted death in women reflect that of violence against women. The data simply doesn’t support the tidy theory of autonomy, choice and control put forward by euthanasia advocates.
Two of the most heartbreaking cases reveal how the cause of euthanasia becomes more important than the lives of women. A young Indian woman, Aruna Shanbaug, was brutally sexually assaulted 40 years ago and died last year. She became the inspiration for euthanasia laws, rather than for a campaign to fight violence against women, “a cause much more bitter than passive euthanasia.”
Nathan Verhelst was born as Nancy, a Belgian girl unwanted by her mother (“If only you had been a boy”) and sexually abused by her brothers from the age of twelve. Later in life, as a transsexual, Nathan underwent hormone therapy, a mastectomy, and failed surgery to construct a penis. He was euthanised at his own request in 2013. “I did not want to be a monster … I had happy times, but the balance is on the wrong side,” he said in an interview hours before his death. “I was the girl that nobody wanted.” His close friend Marisol later said, “If his family didn’t hurt him so much, he wouldn’t have wanted [euthanasia]. I don’t like the idea that you give your life because other people broke your life.”
If death is sought/offered to escape the pain of sexual abuse, incest, rejection, loneliness, what kind of choice is that?
Reforms to allow euthanasia in Tasmania, South Australia and Victoria are likely to be debated this year, and Senator Leyonhjelm and the Greens want to give the Territories the power to legalise euthanasia. While suicide itself has long been legal throughout Australia – attempted suicide attracts no penalty or consequence – they want medical killing legalised.
Troubled teenagers will not be eligible (though Philip Nitschke continues to promote his suicide bag for them) but patients with “intolerable” psychological conditions might be. Already, Australian teens and young adults are increasingly taking their own lives with the drug recommended by Nitschke’s euthanasia groups.
In the Netherlands and Belgium, the laws were originally very strict and limiting. But over time they have relaxed to include those people without a terminally ill condition: teens; children; babies; abused, lonely, isolated women.
It is no stretch to imagine that a young woman with PTSD, a survivor of sexual abuse, might qualify for euthanasia in Australia in the future especially in an environment of over-stretched and under-funded mental health systems.
Aside from system failures, we need to look more closely at our own attitudes. There is a subtle discrimination in favour of able-bodied people – ableism – so well described by Shakira Hussein. The able-bodied cannot imagine living with a permanent physical or psychological disability.
The response from the online blogs and forums of people recovering from abuse and PTSD challenge these attitudes. Most have condemning the killing of this young woman. Like Genevieve, Charlotte and Ally Marie, they have shared how glad they are not to have been tempted with a death-inducing injection:
“I’m still alive and I can think and feel and love and do all the things I thought I’d never be able to.” (Jenn Selby)
“As someone who suffered severe depression throughout almost two decades (on and off), but who is now free from it through learned insights and changes to core beliefs, and has the tools to prevent myself ever getting to that place of no hope again, I find it very alarming that people are condoning assisted suicide for sufferers of mental illness. I believe it is an illness that is curable, therefore helping someone end their life before they may have found the tools, insight, help they need to help themselves out of the hole, is tragic. While it may have taken me 17 years to get to where I am today, and while I used to believe I would continue to suffer through, and have to manage my depression, for the rest of my life, I am now in a very different place. There were a number of times that I got so low, for so long, that I wanted to end things, but taking the next step to actually do that yourself is a big step. If society’s perception was that it’s normal to end the suffering, and they could assist me in doing so, easily and painlessly, then I probably would have taken that option and wouldn’t be here today. Which would mean I would have missed out on another 50 – 60 years (hopefully) of life, free from that level of debilitating depression. That would be a tragedy.” (Alison – posted privately on Facebook; quoted with permission)
“In my wildest dreams I never imagined that I could recover from a significant PTSD diagnosis. It took years and a chance meeting with a psychiatrist who was able to offer me the therapy I needed but had been unable to access before that time. In my 20s, any option was a good option to break free of the exhausting battle. I remember feeling deflated that I woke up in ICU, a failure even in trying to end my life. In my 40s, I thank God for not having been offered help to end my life and always encouragement that others depended on me to live and live well. Now, I have beautiful children, an incredibly patient and loving husband and LIFE. Once, I never thought I could say that. I have life and am more than my damaged mind. I am terribly sad that this young woman, whose living hell I am not trying to minimise, did not have the opportunity to know that there was more.” (Gabrielle – on the Women’s Bioethics Alliance Facebook page)
“At my worst, I remember feeling an almost ‘logical’ desire to commit suicide … Now I see that thinking as one of the tricks that PTSD plays on you, that you start to think suffering is the only path and death doesn’t seem so bad … For three decades this option would have been a gift to me, not a punishment. I’m immensely grateful that this was not an option because I’m starting to enjoy living.” (“RuthieJujube”)
“PTSD is not a ‘mental illness’ we are born with. You take a perfectly healthy person/child and expose them to unspeakable horror and they develop PTSD. We were each born healthy and we owe it to ourselves to find the way back to our core self – before we were hurt. Call me whatever but I still have hope for each and every one of us. We deserve it. Suicide lets them win … What heals PTSD sufferers is connection, safety, and community.
“The world needs PTSD survivors. Yes, I contend that it needs us. Think about a world where people could be traumatized and then get help to end their lives as a solution to the deep wounds and costs of that trauma. That’s not good for society as a whole … Many movements to end traumatic things on this planet were started, if not led, by people who had survived trauma and were forever changed by it … But by making it legal for doctors to help we would be sanctioning it as a society and saying ‘this is ok’ and we can’t afford the deep cost of sending that message. It’s not just about adults who have been traumatized, but kids too. They need to grow up in a world where we will fight to protect them, not send the unintentional message that their life is not worth living if they are shaken to the core by trauma. We need to send the message that their life matters, period.” (“Justmehere“)
The suffering of women and children is perpetrated in a culture which too often overlooks the violence against them. The State, rather than dealing with the offences, properly punishing abuses, providing every care for survivors, instead may offer them an individual way out of a problem it has helped tacitly to facilitate. It becomes a personal rather than a collective problem. How is it that so many men can continue to abuse so many little girls in a global avalanche of sexual abuse? How is this not everyone’s problem?
Is death the best we can offer? Genevieve, Charlotte and Ally Marie and the many others like them need to hear: Stay here with us. We will help you, not with a needle, but with everything you need to become well.
The Para Hills West Soccer Club in Adelaide seems to have missed the memo.
By Coralie Alison
With a new focus on objectification of women, abuse, violence, sexism and misogyny, Para Hills West decides not only to host a ‘Men’s Night’ fundraiser – but advertise it at the club for all the junior boys to see.
Para Hills West is making sure boys learn early about what women are good for. It seems to have ignored amateur soccer’s own code of conduct.
Boys may wonder if their dads and coaches who they look up to, will take up the invite. (it’s just lads banding together to show their support for the club right?)
Not only does its display contribute to a culture that treats women as objects but it also normalises a behaviour that contributes to violence against women.
Sporting clubs have to work hard to turn the tide in sexist attitudes towards women. The culture of sexism in men’s sport is deeply entrenched. For this reason the AFL players association has partnered with The Line, an initiative under the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010 – 2022, delivered by Our Watch to combat sexism and promote respectful relationships.
Our Watch explain in their submission to the Inquiry into Domestic Violence and Gender Inequality that:
“Sexist and stereotypical ideas about masculinity and femininity may increase the probability of violence against women because they… can cast women as targets for exploitation, based on the idea that women are ‘naturally’ passive and submissive, combined with objectified and sexualised identities….”
Make the link, a Gippsland Women’s Health initiative, states on their website that:
“Violence against women is based upon a foundation of unequal power between men and women, something that has been embedded historically in our society and in our relationships. We see this imbalance acted out in many ways, even today. It is in the jokes we tell, the language we use and in the way that men and women are represented in all types of media. ”
We no longer subscribe to the old phrase ‘boys will be boys’. Our boys deserve better than that. Schools across the country are rolling out respectful relationship programs to help young people to have healthy, respectful and equitable relationships and address gender based violence. The actions of this club undermine these efforts.
It also makes women and girls feel excluded. What message does this event send to the women and girls involved in the club? We know that hyper-sexualised representations of women in advertising are directly associated with a range of consequences for girls, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, eating disorders, and even self harm. These factors will not lead girls to participate in sport themselves but rather avoid it.
“Respect the rights, dignity and worth of every person, regardless of their gender, ability, cultural background or religion”
Women already face sexism in sport. This culture of sexism breeds in clubs that facilitate events such as this. How can we create an environment that is welcoming for all when sexually objectifying posters are plastered around the venue?
The sexualisation and objectification of women is the wallpaper of society, from billboards, to magazines, to music videos. This fundraiser means the club is endorsing this treatment of women. The club has an opportunity now to send a strong message to the community that this type of treatment of women is not okay.
Surely there are alternative avenues for sporting clubs to fundraise in ways that are respectful to all people in the community. The Para Hills West Soccer Club has a long history. Does the club now want to add sexism to that history?
Rape victim Katrina Keshishian says she ‘couldn’t believe my eyes’ when she read about a ‘simulated’ rape project
MTR comments on Melbourne artist who filmed her ‘rape’ for art installation
Australian writer and advocate for women, Melinda Tankard Reist, told news.com.au the project is “commendable” but “misguided”.
“She humanises this appalling human rights violation by turning some impersonal statistic into a real human face — it’s hard not to humanise her when you are staring into her face for three minutes,” she said.
“But I have some concerns and feel the project was misguided. Rape survivors may well ask: ‘What woman orchestrates and choreographs her own rape for an art installation? Is any art project really worth physical and emotional injury and life-long trauma?’”
She said the fact that she orchestrated and planned it also is not realistic.
“As a side question, if she had a camera that was visible could the man have considered it ‘consensual’ and acting out a fantasy? Also how would this be perceived if she ever wanted to press charges? It’s hard enough already for women who were raped not only to report but to see justice.”
She said the project has the “potential to reinforce the myth” of stranger rape.
“This kind of rape plays into rape myth that rape is when a stranger attacks you. By setting it up this way, inviting a stranger into her home, it plays into myths that women fantasise about being raped.”
Governments and regulatory bodies continue to ignore the culture drivers fueling sexist attitudes and behaviours
This week we’ve had big name global clothing companies General Pants, Calvin Klein and Queensland fast food eatery, Burger Urge, in our sights. GP and CK are repeat offenders. It’s the first time this slimy burger chain has come to our attention. The only urge we now have is to expose the lot of you for your sexism and women hatred.
This time they have released a video and poster campaign called “Fit in” to advertise their new denim range.
What is most obvious from the in-store posters and the accompanying video is the way the women in particular are sexualised (one is even topless) while the men appear mostly fully clothed.
What makes matters more unbelievable is that General Pants recently partnered with White Ribbon selling ribbons and wristbands in-store and online to raise funds for the anti-violence campaign. This is ironic considering objectification of women, sexist jokes and language are all contributing factors to violence against women… Read full article and take action here
General Pants seems to think it can white wash its sexism by flogging a few white ribbons
I’ve seen some pathetic responses from corporates in my time. This would have to be in the top five.
This doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen in future by you stand by it? Have you thought of taking up a course in ‘Logic for Dummies’?
If you want to be inclusive why not stop objectifying half of humanity?
Trying to capitalize on its relationship with White Ribbon, General Sexism, sorry, General Pants, issued another statement Friday. Nice try, but you’re still not excused. And this is hardly a ‘singular’ example. You have an entire culture of sexism shown through repeated sexual exploitation of women which we’ve been documenting since our formation.
White Ribbon needs to take a strong stand and dump General Pants as a partner. As my colleague and Collective Shout’s director of operations Coralie Alison pointed out, the anti-violence organisation expressed concern about General Pants late last year.
General Pants can’t white wash its sexism by flogging a few white ribbons.
Calvin Klein’s Sexist Billboard – Men Make Money, Women Seduce
It’s 2016. Yet companies all over the world continue to push the toxic message that women are only valued for their sex appeal. We’ve spoken out about Calvin Klein before for their ‘gang rape’ billboards which thankfully at the time were ordered to be removed after complaints to the Advertising Standards Board.
Now they have come out with this:
The text accompanying the image of the woman says “I seduce in #mycalvins” and the text accompanying the man says “I make money in #mycalvins” suggesting that while men can be successful in business women are only there for their sex appeal. There is an obvious contrast between the way the two images are styled and posed.
One successful businesswoman, Heidi Zak, who is a CEO of ThirdLove, the company she founded, saw the Billboard and decided she was going to do something about it….Read full article and take action here.
Burger Urge Delivers Sexism
Brisbane-based restaurant chain Burger Urge says “We Deliver!” It sure does – delivering sexism with this new ad campaign. A woman, spread legged and reclining as though giving birth, delivers a big juicy hamburger into the hands of a waiting man. Mocking the profound act of birthing a child, the woman is treated as a piece of meat delivering meat.
This is one of the most sexist burger ads we’ve ever seen. And unfortunately there have been a few…
Collective Shout founder Melinda Tankard Reist says that this is just one more example of the “sexist, backward, misogynist advertising” that we are being confronted with every day.
“You wonder if these companies realise it’s the 21st century,” she says.
“We’ve all had enough of this, we’re not buying it, we think women should be treated as women not as objects.”
Tankard Reist notes that the Burger Urge ad is just one of a barrage of sexist ads that have become the wallpaper of our society.
“The cumulative effect of this sort of sexism creates and contributes to sexist and misogynist attitudes which in turn create sexist behaviour that ultimately hurts women and girls,” she says. Read full article here.
Let Burger Urge know what you think of them on their FB page. And urge your friends to do the same.
Or call their QLD outlets: (07) 3254 1655, (07) 3844 8777, (07) 3839 2187 and ask to speak to management.
Thousands of people have joined a group calling for the boycott of Wicked Campers after a Byron Bay man was threatened with prosecution because he sprayed over an obscene slogan on the back of one of the company’s vehicles.
The company’s vans with their lurid spraypainted slogans, some even promoting, if not inciting rape, are popular with young tourists travelling around the northern rivers.
Byron shire grandfather Paul McCarthy told media he had a ‘brain snap’ when he saw the slogan ‘A b..w job a day beats an apple’ on the back of a Wicked Camper vehicle recently and spray-painted over the offending word (blow).
There’s a new petition calling on the QLD Attorney-General to take action. Please support it.
Brooke, 21, survived a year of abuse at the hands of her porn-fuelled boyfriend who bashed her if she resisted the porn inspired acts he demanded. Last Tuesday Brooke and I shared a platform at a breakfast gathering of civic leaders, teachers, police domestic violence & social welfare workers in Toowoomba, to discuss the relationship between pornography and violence. Bravely sharing her story for the first time, Brooke moved the room to tears. She is a living expression of the direct suffering women endure at the hands of men living on a diet of pornography. Here’s what she said at the event (slightly edited).
MTR with Brooke at City Women community breakfast
My name is Brooke, I’ve lived in Toowoomba for two years. I have been involved in a domestic violence relationship and this morning I’m going to share more about this so called relationship. I first met John when I was 18 years old we both lived close together and soon became great friends.
It wasn’t long after becoming friends with John that we both started dating, I was overjoyed that I finally had someone who loved me for me but I soon came to realise that this wasn’t the case. A month into the relationship he had beaten me twice, mentally abused me about my weight and looks. He couldn’t go anywhere with me as I was too ugly and didn’t fit into the size of clothing that he wanted me to.
So I was left at home stuck with his abusive step father who loved John and would do anything to stop me from being happy. Soon before I knew it, I couldn’t eat. I was allowed coffee and smokes, that was all. I developed an eating disorder.
No longer allowed around my friends, I couldn’t call anyone if I wanted to see anyone it had to be with John and when he wanted to leave we had to leave then and there. I soon lost my friends my personal trainer had started to notice the bruise and cuts but I couldn’t say anything in fear she would be hurt. I was alone scared and lost.
John was addicted to porn. He would watch porn on TV, his phone and had videos saved to his iPod. It didn’t matter where he was, if he wanted to jerk off he would pull out his mobile and go for it. If I refused to have sex with him, he would sit there doing his business while telling me what I was missing out on, how pretty these girls were, if only he knew them I real life. His mind had been filled with this image of what pretty woman had to look like and I was supposed to look and act like them.
One night I refused to have sex with him. I was hit, kicked in the gut and nearly lost my life all because he couldn’t get internet, his phoned had gone flat and I refused. His girlfriend wouldn’t give him sex but my best friend did. We were at his auntie’s house for a birthday party the weekend before my 19th birthday.
My 19th birthday wasn’t a birthday I want to remember, but I do. I was told I wasn’t allowed a small cake as it would make me even fatter and he couldn’t have that. As a present I was beaten three times that day and punched 20 times by midnight. I was too sore to fight him anymore. I wanted my life to end then and there but I couldn’t do anything so I asked him to kill me instead.
The police had been called for a domestic between John and his mum not long after and I was hidden in the bedroom too scared to come out. I could have been free that night but I stayed in fear. He was fine, he watched porn again that night like nothing happened.
I don’t know why but I asked a friend to meet with me knowing the risk. I had I told John I was going to the gym but instead packed a bag of clothes taking nothing but one bag with me to this friend.
After meeting my friend we went to her friend’s house where the next day I was taken to Goodna Youth Service and put on to D.V connect. I was moved that day to Brisbane where he found me, then moved to the Gold Coast where he once again found me. I was so desperate for him to just leave me alone that I tried to kill myself but survived. Why, I’m still working that out. After being released from hospital I was transferred to Toowoomba.
Since moving to Toowoomba, John has found me but I have decided not to run anymore. I can’t keep doing it as I have a life here. I now live in a safe supportive family, I’m currently studying and looking for part-time work and volunteering at The Base soup kitchen.
If porn was not in John’s life, I believe I would have been treated correctly as a woman who had feelings not an object to be tossed away like it didn’t matter.
If you know anyone in any sort of bad relationship or come across someone wanting help I beg you to help them. You don’t know their story but you can be the one to save them.
“[I want] better education regarding sex for both boys and girls [and] information about pornography, and the way it influences harmful sexual practices.”
These are the words of Lucy, aged 15, one of 600 young Australian women and girls who took part in a just-released survey commissioned by Plan Australia and Our Watch. The survey, conducted by Ipsos, gathered responses from the girls and young women aged 15-19 in all states and territories.
In the survey report, entitled Don’t send me that pic, participants reported that online sexual abuse and harassment were endemic. More than 80% said it was unacceptable for boyfriends to request naked images.
Sexual bullying and harassment are part of daily life for many girls. Young people are speaking out more and more about how these practices have links with pornography – and so they should, because they have most to lose.
Pornography is moulding and conditioning the sexual behaviours and attitudes of boys, and girls are being left without the resources to deal with these porn-saturated boys.
My own engagement with young women over the last few years in schools around Australia, confirms that we are conducting a pornographic experiment on young people – an assault on their healthy sexual development.
If there are still any questions about whether porn has an impact on young people’s sexual attitudes and behaviours, perhaps it’s time to listen to young people themselves. Girls and young women describe boys pressuring them to provide acts inspired by the porn they consume routinely. Girls tell of being expected to put up with things they don’t enjoy.
Some see sex only in terms of performance, where what counts most is the boy enjoying it. I asked a 15-year-old about her first sexual experience. She replied: “I think my body looked OK. He seemed to enjoy it”. Many girls seem cut off from their own sense of pleasure or intimacy. That he enjoyed it is the main thing. Girls and young women are under a lot of pressure to give boys and men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, with their bodies being merely sex aids. Growing up in a pornified landscape, girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.
Asked “How do you know a guy likes you?,” a Year 8 replied: “He still wants to talk to you after you suck him off.” A male high school student said to a girl: “If you suck my dick I’ll give you a kiss.” Girls are expected to provide sex acts for tokens of affection. A 15-year-old told me she didn’t enjoy sex at all, but that getting it out of the way quickly was the only way her boyfriend would settle down and watch a movie with her.
I’m increasingly seeing Year 7 girls who seek help on what to do about requests for naked images. Being asked “send me a picture of your tits” is an almost daily occurrence for many. “How do I say ‘no’ without hurting his feelings”? girls ask.
As the Plan Australia/Our Watch report found, girls are tired of being pressured for images they don’t want to send, but they seem resigned to how normal the practice has become. Boys use the images as a form of currency, to swap and share and to use to humiliate girls publicly.
Year 7 girls ask me questions about bondage and S&M. Many of them had seen 50 Shades of Grey (which was released on Valentine’s Day). They ask, if he wants to hit me, tie me up and stalk me, does that mean he loves me? Girls are putting up with demeaning and disrespectful behaviours, and thereby internalizing pornography’s messages about their submissive role.
I meet girls who describe being groped in the school yard, girls routinely sexually harassed at school or on the school bus on the way home. They tell me boys act like they are entitled to girls’ bodies. Defenders of porn often say that it provides sex education. And it does: it teaches even very young boys that women and girls are always up for it. “No” in fact means yes, or persuade me.
Girls describe being ranked at school on their bodies, and are sometimes compared to the bodies of porn stars. They know they can’t compete, but that doesn’t stop them thinking they have to. Requests for labiaplasty have tripled in a little over a decade among young women aged 15-24. Girls who don’t undergo porn-inspired “Brazilian” waxing are often considered ugly or ungroomed (by boys as well as by other girls).
Some girls suffer physical injury from porn-inspired sexual acts, including anal sex. The director of a domestic violence centre on the Gold Coast wrote to me a couple of years ago about the increase in porn-related injuries to girls aged 14 and up, from acts including torture:
“In the past few years we have had a huge increase in intimate partner rape of women from 14 to 80+. The biggest common denominator is consumption of porn by the offender. With offenders not able to differentiate between fantasy and reality, believing women are ‘up for it’ 24/7, ascribing to the myth that ‘no means yes and yes means anal’, oblivious to injuries caused and never ever considering consent. We have seen a huge increase in deprivation of liberty, physical injuries, torture, drugging, filming and sharing footage without consent.”
The Australian Psychological Society estimates that adolescent boys are responsible for around 20% of rapes of adult women and between 30% and 50% of all reported sexual assaults of children. Just last week , Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs argued that online pornography is turning children into copycat sexual predators – acting out on other children what they are seeing in porn.
A 2012 review of research on “The Impact of Internet Pornography on Adolescents” found that adolescent consumption of Internet pornography was linked to attitudinal changes, including acceptance of male dominance and female submission as the primary sexual paradigm, with women viewed as “sexual playthings eager to fulfil male sexual desires.” The authors found that “adolescents who are intentionally exposed to violent sexually explicit material were six times more likely to be sexually aggressive than those who were not exposed.”
I have asked girls what messages they might like me to pass on to boys. So far, these messages include: “Stop telling us we are wet,” “Stop commenting on our bodies,” “Stop demanding pictures,” “Rape jokes are never funny” and “Sex before the age of consent is illegal.”
The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible. Sexual conquest and domination are untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection. Young people are not learning about intimacy, friendship and love, but about cruelty and humiliation. As a recent study found:
“online mainstream pornography overwhelmingly centered on acts of violence and degradation toward women, the sexual behaviors exemplified in pornography skew away from intimacy and tenderness and typify patriarchal constructions of masculinity and femininity.”
It is intimacy and tenderness that so many girls and young women say they are looking for. A young woman told me that on dating sites she lists under “fetish” wanting to stare longingly into someone’s eyes and to take sex slow. She said if she didn’t put these desires in the “fetish” category, they wouldn’t warrant a second glance.
But how will young women find these sensual, slow-burn experiences in men indoctrinated by pornography? Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says of young men: “They don’t know the language of face to face contact … Constant arousal, change, novelty excitement makes them out of sync with slow developing relationships – relationships which build slowly.”
It is wrong to leave sexual formation in the hands of the global sex industry. We need to do more to help young people stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography.
Fortunately, the ill-effects of the pornographic experiment on relationships and sexuality are being named out loud. A groundbreaking Australia-first symposium on the issue was held at UNSW last month, to a standing room crowd, and a current Senate inquiry is gathering evidence of the distorting harmful impacts of porn on our young people.
Most importantly, it’s young people themselves demanding change. Josie, 18, is quoted in the Plan Australia/Our Watch report:
“We need some sort of crack down on the violent pornography that is currently accessible to boys and men. This violent pornography should be illegal to make or view in Australia as we clearly have a problem with violence and boys are watching a lot of pornography which can be very violent … This is influencing men’s attitude towards women and what they think is acceptable. Violent pornography is infiltrating Australian relationships.”
The ground-breaking symposium ‘Pornography and harms to children and young people’ held at the University of New South Wales in Sydney last Tuesday has been declared a major success.
Hosted by Collective Shout, the Australia-first event brought together leading academics, researchers, educators, psychologists and youth and child advocates to examine the harmful impacts of early pornography exposure. Emceed by Andrew Lines of the Rite Journey, speakers including Dr Michael Flood, Maree Crabbe, Dr Joe Tucci and Susan McLean, unpacked the global research as well as examining local experience, to a standing-room only audience.
I also addressed the symposium on ‘How girls are harmed by porn-conditioned boys’ (pic above). I unpacked how girls and young women were affected by porn-using boys in their everyday lives. From my introduction:
The proliferation and globalisation of hypersexualised imagery and pornographic themes has led to destructive ideas about sex and makes healthy sexual exploration almost impossible.
Sexual conquest and domination becomes all important, untempered by the bounds of respect, intimacy and authentic human connection
Young people are learning about f—ing but not about making love.
Young men are being conditioned and shaped by the messages they imbibe from pornography, given a sense of entitlement to the bodies of women and girls. Viewing porn often reinforces the idea that girls are always available for sex.
Girls are under extreme pressure to give men what they want, to adopt pornified roles and behaviours, their bodies merely sex aids. Girls learn that they are service stations for male gratification and pleasure.
I drew from stories girls themselves relayed to me in schools around the country, including demands for naked selfies, boys sending them ‘dick pics’ and porn videos uninvited (including to girls as young as 12), inappropriate touching, sexual harassment, comments about their bodies, being ranked in comparison to porn stars, demands for porn-inspired sexual acts, boys not respecting denial of consent, being mocked or having rumors started about them for resisting unwanted sexual activity.
After canvassing the research on how boys and young women socialized by porn act out on women and girls, I looked at ways forward so that girls can stand up against warped notions of sexuality conveyed in pornography and seek relationships based on mutual respect and care.
I quoted Tiffany, 15, who wrote to me through Facebook:
Hi Melinda. I was really touched by what you had to say and you opened my eyes to what sort of world we live in and as a 16 I’m disgusted and amazed and what girls my age have to go through. You said something about being asked for nudes and that and personally I didn’t know what you meant by that as I haven’t been asked to do that… Until today. To tell you the truth I wouldn’t of known what to do about it if you didn’t speak about it and I’m very grateful to you. The boy asked me for a photo or video and I said no that’s when he called me lame but I immediately told him I am more than just my body and you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat and instantly blocked him. Thank you for telling me that and I hope I have done the right thing and myself and other girls are taking part in taking action on this case and we want to make a difference. I want to help girls feel like they are worth something…
MTR on ABC QLD
There was a great deal of media interest in the symposium, with many speakers giving media interviews throughout the day. Here’s an interview I did with Steve Austin of ABC QLD.
Symposium to hear evidence of online porn harms to children
Sydney – Leading academics, educators and child advocates are set to gather on Safer Internet Day February 9, at the University of New South Wales to discuss the harmful impacts of early pornography exposure on children, including medical problems, emotional harm, abusive mind-sets and risky sexual behaviours.
The ground-breaking symposium will hear a growing body of evidence that children are increasingly being harmed by premature exposure to graphic sexual content online.
The Australian-first symposium will discuss the latest findings from a diverse range of multidisciplinary stakeholders including researchers, child protection experts, psychologists and sexologists. Speakers include:
Associate Professor Dr. Michael Flood (University of Wollongong) on pornography and masculinity
Maree Crabbe (Project Coordinator Reality and Risk) on violence and pornography
“Cyber Cop” Susan McLean (Cyber Safety Solution), on the problem of pornography in schools
Psychologist Dr Joe Tucci (Australian Childhood Foundation), on the links between exposure to pornography and problem sexual behavior including children acting out on other children…
Symposium spokesperson Coralie Alison of Collective Shout, said the community rightly expected children, who were being exposed at an unprecedented rate, to be protected from unsuitable content.
“However, despite the best efforts of parents and teachers, the reality is that children today are just one click away from a deluge of violent, degrading, aggressive content – much of it showcasing the abuse of women.”
According to the research to be presented at the conference:
“There is growing evidence that this is a public health crisis, with a generation of children on the frontline.”
Other speakers include Liz Walker (Youth Wellbeing Project), Dr Caroline Norma (RMIT University), Dr. Helen Pringle (UNSW), Dr Lesley-Anne Ey (University of South Australia), Holly-Ann Martin (Safe4Kids), Hugh Martin (Man Enough), Collett Smart (Psychologist) and Melinda Tankard Reist (Author, Collective Shout).
Yesterday, American “pick-up” artist and “executive dating coach” Jeff (Jeffy) Allen had his Australian visa revoked by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
Allen’s tour – part of a Real Social Dynamics (RSD) global roadshow – was billed as “Meet Jeffy.”
Those concerned about rising rates of violence against women and the callous mistreatment of young women and girls, reflected in groping, street harassment, unwanted sexual demands and all the other manifestations of everyday sexism, decided the only “meeting” Jeffy should get was with fierce opposition.
When Julien Blanc – the big name RSD instructor – known for his choking-girls-around-the-world hashtag – came to Australia in 2014, he didn’t last long. A massive campaign (#takedownjulienblanc) saw him booted out of the country. A number of other countries also refused to let him in.
But then Blanc’s side-kick, Jeffy Allen, arrived to finish what Blanc had started.
Questions of due diligence must surely be raised: how did a man who was in breach of our character tests get in? (Many women see the activities of RSD as warranting the same approach as accorded to terrorists.)
The tour was originally slated to make its way to Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane over the coming months. However, due to pressure from activists – including a 67,000 signature-strong Change.org petition and getting Vibe hotels to cancel two bookings (RSD misled the hotel by using a different name) – tour dates are now off the RSD website.
Allen fled the country before the retrospective visa cancellation, but not before he had passed on RSD’s toxic teachings at one Sydney “boot camp” last Thursday. The image of these men in this Sydney hotel room being taught the art of seduction by Allen, was taken by a young man by the name of Josh.
Pictures of Josh on his Instagram profile show he is young, most likely not out of his teens. Josh is just starting to make his way in the world. He’s learning about masculinity and sexuality and women and how he should treat them. His tutoring now includes the L.A dating company – billed as the world’s biggest dating hub for men – which evangelizes men with the ideology that men are “beasts” and women are “whores.”
Josh, along with other young men like him, were indoctrinated into the world of the dominant RSD alpha male. Allen drives a van – which he fondly calls his “rape van” – for picking up women. Decals representing women are glued on the van door for every “whore” he’s bedded in it. (You can see him talk about it in a video here, along with other video evidence of the raw contempt for the right of women to be treated as something other than a live “f–k doll” – including Julien Blanc’s infamous routine of grabbing the heads of random Japanese women on the street and shoving them into his crotch).
In RSD “boot camps,” men dominate and women must be made to submit.
All this at a time when there is more focus on the need to address violence against women; when we have come up with a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women; when our Prime Minister says violence begins with disrespect. It is remarkable to me that, in the current climate, the RSD cult-leaders are allowed in the country in the first place.
These snake oil salesmen cannot help boys like Josh develop healthy respect-based relationships with women. He won’t learn how simply to enjoy a woman’s company, her conversation, her friendship. He won’t learn about care, empathy, how to give and receive love. He will learn how to get into her pants then add her to his total score. Such conquests are marks on the virtual bed-heads of RSD’s online forums.
RSD doesn’t bring men and women together – it breeds suspicion. For many women, who experience harassment and unwanted attention from men almost daily, RSD will only make them more suspicious about male intentions. In this environment, every man comes to be seen as a potential pick-up artist.
Fortunately there are men speaking out. Dr Matthew Berryman helped lead the charge against Julien Blanc in the 2014 campaign. He too is tired of the limited and increasingly toxic messages we send men and boys about masculinity. I asked him why he got involved:
“If you think that being a creep and/or actually abusive to women in order to sleep with them is a good idea, then you are not only being unnecessarily disrespectful to others, you’re actually missing out on having an actual, meaningful relationship, with all the rewards it brings.
“The tactics adopted by Real Social Dynamics and other ‘pick up agencies’ are not only harmful to women, they harm the ability of all men to be taken seriously as actual, decent people (and it’s that that will help you meet women and form relationships). Men need to have a healthy approach to themselves and to others. To do otherwise diminishes us all.”
Another, of course, is Matthew Jowett, who initiated the Change.org petition against Blanc. When I asked him why he did it, the 29-year-old IT worker replied:
“Being raised by a single mother and living with a father who was abusive to his spouses, and seeing my sister be abused by successive partners all also shaped an interest in opposing domestic violence and supporting women’s rights. But most fundamentally it comes down to my very strong desire to equality, which I think grew from the seed my mother planted with the often repeated axiom ‘treat others how you’d like them to treat you’. It seems painfully obvious to me that the only way to achieve a society with any real measure of equality is from a culture where everyone is valued and where respect for others is a central pillar.”
Let’s hope that Josh and other young men like him are persuaded by this philosophy and these examples, rather than by RSD’s warped view of women.
The group is renowned for lying to avoid consequences (surprise fkn surprise, right), so many were concerned that they were still conducting their seminars in secret.
However, today, author Melinda Tankard-Reist sent a tweet to Vibe Hotels, who were hosting the seminars. They responded saying that the functions were booked under a false name, and they had cancelled all of RSD’s events.
Julien Blanc was deported. Why are his mates allowed in?
Remember the time in 2014 we combined to get U.S ‘pick-up’ artist Julien Blanc booted out of Australia for promoting violence against women? We’d succeeded in persuading venues who had booked him to cancel. He then sneakily tried to hold his nasty little seminar on a boat off the St Kilda pier in Melbourne. My mate Kirsty Mac found out about it and activists swarmed down to the pier and prevented the boat from leaving, even holding onto the boats ropes and blocking its departure.
I described the action:
Last night a bunch of would be Julien Blanc clones – unable to find a venue on land which would host them – went all-aboard the SS Sexual Assault, RSD pimps having fooled the Melbourne cruise company into thinking this was something other than a ‘My Dick Rules’ training session. But their floating boot camp, run by Max the Menace (Julien Blanc apparently in hiding somewhere – certainly not the Bayview Hotel which had thrown him out after this warning went around ) was ’sunk’ by protesters. It was a great night to be an on-line activist. I barely left my desk, glued to the live streaming twitter action led by those at the protest…
That same night, following our appeal to the then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison pointing out how Blanc was in breach of visa requirements because of his behavior, and the double-standards in having a National Plan of Action to Address Violence Against Women at the same time as handing our visas to men who profit from it, Blanc was kicked out. Other countries followed suit, denying him entry. It was one of the craziest, most adrenalin-fueled campaigns we’d ever been part of and remains one of our all-time favourites. It was a victory for women everywhere (and for men who care about them). View Collective Shout storify here.
Jeff Allen making fun of disability to score women. ‘Can you make him stop rubbing his boner on me?’
But we’ve just learned that somehow, another big name Real Social Dynamics (RSD) ínstructer’ Jeff Allen (Jeffy) has been allowed into the country to take up where Blanc left off. If you want to truly understand the quality of this man, take a look at this video published as part of a piece on my blog by Dr. Matthew Berryman on the tactics of RSD artists.
Yes, this is the man teaching our men and boys how to treat women and girls, right at this very moment.
It’s needs to be remembered that Allen is not acting alone. He is representing his movement – RSD. And RSD promotes rape culture.
“They dream about this. They wanna be tied up and fully succumb to your aggressive masculinity. They want you to push them against the wall, rip their clothes off, put her in a submissive position and call her bitch, slut, whore until their skull can’t take it anymore…”
“See as much as women wanna be raped, they also want to be made feel beautiful.”
And here’s RSD boss Owen Cook on how forcing yourself on women is such a hoot (this video is not on Your Tube anymore but you can see it here).
The ‘tactics’ Julien and his team teach include ‘choking’ women and calling them ‘deadbeat whores’ in order to shock them into submitting to his dominance. Now Julien Blanc’s associate, RSD instructor Jeff (Jeffy) Allen has been granted a visa and is back in Australia to teach men this disgusting, vile violence against women.
They call themselves “pick up artists”, but are nothing more than promoters of sexism and violence against women.
Julien Blanc tried to preach these tactics at ticketed events around Australia in 2014. Fortunately you all stood up and said “hell no” – Australia very loudly said no to violence against women. Then Immigration Minister Scott Morrison revoked Blanc’s visa. This was great news!
But now Julien Blanc’s bro Jeff Allen from “Pimp by RSD” is back – running events which promote and profit from violence. He’s touring Australia right now teaching young Aussie men to choke women and treat them like garbage to assert dominance over women and essentially psychologically abuse women until they submit to these men. Sign here.
There has been some confusion about which RDS instructor was in the country. This Instagram pic taken by a young man by the name of Josh shows Jeff Allen addressing a group of men at a Sydney hotel at the opening event in Sydney last Thursday. (How depressing to see so many men absorbing RSD’s message of disrespect, manipulation and exploitation of women).
Company slammed for aiding sexual fantasies for young girls
On Tuesday night, young Melbourne supporter (and kayaking buddy) Verity Thompson sent me a link through Facebook messenger, to the website of Chemist Warehouse, which featured a disembodied ‘virgin pussy’ – a replica vagina of a young girl with ‘realistic hymen’ just waiting for a man to ‘pop’. Many people send me links to horrible things most days and while I (and Collective Shout) don’t have the resources to action everything, this product demanded a response. I shared with my activist colleagues and, within hours of us taking to social media about it, the product was removed from Chemist Warehouse’s site. While this once again demonstrates the power of collective action, we have to ask: why did Chemist Warehouse think this product was OK for them to flog in the first place? Where are its corporate ethics? And where is the Pharmacy Guild in all of this?
Here’s how News.com, Daily Mail and Smart Company reported on our win.
Chemist Warehouse pulls Virgin Pussy Palm Pal ‘realistic hymen’ sex toy from its website after backlash
Campaign group Collective Shout slammed the retailer for stocking the product.
“Since when have chemists become defacto sex shops? Chemists are supposed to be selling products with medicinal and health benefits, not promoting pedofilic fantasies and eroticising young girls for profit,” Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout, told news.com.au.
Ms Tankard Reist said she had seen similar sex toys before, including a “Lolita Teenage Vibrating Vagina” and “realistic” sex dolls made to look like nine-year-olds, but never at a chemist.
“We see a lot of horrible things in our line of work as you can imagine, but this is incredible. For a company that might want to be seen as having corporate social responsibility, this seems like a radical departure,” she said.
“Don’t they care about the wellbeing of girls in the community? Why would they want to contribute to these fantasies of young girls existing to be ‘popped’ or ‘deflowered’?”
Chemist Warehouse removes virgin sex toys following social media backlash and activist campaign
Caitlin Roper from Collective Shout told SmartCompanythis morning the product sexualises girls and was clearly inappropriate for a chemist to be selling.
“We come across some pretty awful things in the course of some of our other campaigns, but I think with this one I was really genuinely surprised to see this item sold by a chemist under the guise of sexual health,” Roper says.
“I thought, what does aiding men in their sexual fantasies for children have to do with their health or wellbeing? We have campaigns to shed light on this epidemic on child sex abuse in schools and churches, but as a culture we continue to sexualise girls and present them as sexually appealing and even available.”
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.