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Citizens’ Assembly Submission

There are over 4,500 submissions to the Citizens’ Assembly. I am worried my story, my voice will be lost in the mass. I want to be heard; I want to be valued. I want to #repealthe8th

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I am writing to tell you my story as an Irish woman living in Ireland who needed an abortion. I would like to attach my name to this as I am not ashamed; however I am now a mother to 2 small daughters and I cannot afford the risk to my family of the potential jail sentence for having needed an abortion in Ireland using the abortion pill.

It was 2010. I was 26 and studying for my Masters. I’d gone back to college when the recession hit to reskill. I was in a quite new relationship with a man I’d known for some time and had been seeing off and on for a while, and finally both of us were living in the same place and we began going out seriously. He was working in a call centre. Those jobs have no security and don’t pay well. He worked with a man who was fired for being less than 5 minutes late 3 times in 2 months – at the start of those 2 months he’d just become a father.

2 months into that new relationship I realised I was pregnant. My period was late, I was feeling sick. I took a test. It was positive. I knew immediately I wasn’t ready to remain pregnant and eventually have a baby. A large part of why I knew I wasn’t ready was that I knew we were not in a position to be able to afford to have a family. I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree and get employment.. His salary wasn’t enough to support us all. Rents were already starting to rise; we weren’t living together, we were renting rooms separately in shared houses and couldn’t have afforded our own place. I didn’t want my life, my partner’s life and the lives of the children I did eventually want to have with him to be trapped in the grinding poverty that they would have been if we had continued that pregnancy. I checked out what we would have been entitled to in state support and social welfare. It wasn’t enough to get by on. Looking at the friends I know now who are trapped in situations of relying on those payments I know that if anything I overestimated how much we would have been entitled to. I find it very emotionally difficult to think about the financially stressful and for me, misery-stricken life we would now have; it brings me to the point of tears. I think it is very likely we would now be among the huge amounts of homeless families in Ireland today.

I told my partner about the pregnancy and that I knew that wanted an abortion. He said he would support me in whatever I chose. He also said that he had personal struggles with abortion and that while he would never feel he had the right to force someone to go through with a pregnancy against their will he would find this very difficult and asked me to think about it for a few weeks. I of course agreed. I knew about the existence of Women on Web and said that I would contact them anyway so we would have that option there. I knew we wouldn’t be able to afford all the costs of travel for it. I researched the cost of childcare, wanting to be able to continue in college – I knew there was a creche on-campus that took children of students at a reduced rate. I looked up the fee for students. It was still €680 a month. That was considerably more than the rent I was paying at that point. There was absolutely no way either of us, or even both of us together could afford that. We looked at it all the ways we could. There was no way we could afford to remain pregnant. I know now that childcare costs in Ireland are the second highest in the world.

I filled out the consultation form for Women on Web. I used the address of a friend of a friend in the North to get them sent to. Customs here will seize them and then send you letters threatening to prosecute you. There was a bit of a panic there as his housemate signed for the package on delivery and then forgot to tell him about it, and the pills are time-sensitive for use – you can only use them if you’re under 9 weeks, and I was 7 weeks at this point. You’re counted as being 4 weeks pregnant from the time you miss your period so it’s really not very much time at all. We eventually got that sorted and got the pills to us.

I took them when I was 8 weeks pregnant. The embryo I was pregnant with was the size of a kidney bean. I took them in my bedroom of the rented house I was living in at the time with my partner there to look after me. I wasn’t ready for how painful it was. With what I know now, I would genuinely compare the pain of it to fullblown labour. Without any access to any medical reassurance, any support from midwives, any medicine to ease it or anyone who knew what was going on and could tell me and my very worried partner that I would be okay and that this was within the bounds of normal. We were fully aware that what we were doing would be punishable by a potential life sentence if we were caught. (This was 2010, before the PDLPA which now means that I’m ‘only’ liable to 14 years.) There was no way I would feel safe presenting to a hospital or calling a doctor if something went wrong. I knew the pills were very safe and I knew I would almost definitely be fine but I also knew that if I weren’t I would either have to risk my health on my own or risk pretty much the entire rest of my life with medical support.

I am sure there are some of you who are reading this who think that I deserved everything I went through for daring to want to end a pregnancy rather than continue it regardless of the personal cost to me and my partner. That I deserved to be frightened and alone with my partner during that abortion, that I deserve to be locked up for choosing not to continue to grow the pregnancy, for wanting an abortion at all. That because my pregnancy was the result of consensual sex rather than rape I should have been forced to continue it against my will; that because my pregnancy hadn’t been diagnosed with a fatal abnormality I should have had to go through the entirety of pregnancy, birth and motherhood regardless of the fact that my country, who would have forced me into it, would not support me through it and would see me and the resultant child trapped in a lifetime of poverty because of it.

I do not think I did. I do not think that I do. I do not think that the many women like me who need to self-administer in Ireland every day deserve it either. I am quite open about my experience on social media and as a result am frequently contacted by women who need to find out how they can access the abortion pill. There is not enough room in Irish jails to hold us all, believe me.

Since completing my Masters and finding secure employment, my partner and I have had 2 daughters. We are now married and in a considerably more privileged position than we were during that first pregnancy and yet it has been the most difficult time of both of our lives. Parenthood in this country is isolating, impoverishing, and unsupported. I have had postnatal depression after both of my children which is only starting to resolve now. I also nearly died when I was 13 weeks pregnant with my second daughter from a pregnancy complication, pulmonary embolisms, which I would be at high risk of again in any subsequent pregnancy. I chose to continue that pregnancy regardless of the risk to my own health because we as a family were in a position to have that child. I would support any other woman in her decision not to. I do not think that should I become pregnant again and the risk to my life and health become even greater, if say it does not respond to medication this time, that I should be forced to continue that pregnancy at the risk of leaving my existing 2 daughters without their mother and my husband without his wife.

I think it is beyond barbaric that Ireland forces people, particularly those women who are least able to access abortion, poor women, migrant women, disabled women, into motherhood and then leaves them high and dry without any meaningful social support or attempt to integrate society around families. The cuts to lone parents allowance and the ongoing attempt to financially coerce lone parents (who are 86.5% mothers) into leaving their children who are 7 or older at home alone by cutting off their lone parents’ allowance and pushing them onto jobseekers is not only horrendously cruel to those mothers but dangerous and discriminatory to their children. 60% of all lone parent families live in deprivation. Why is it, if Ireland cares so much about babies and children that it must force us to remain pregnant at any cost to ourselves, that it cannot even adequately fund a decent standard of living and of care for those babies and children once they are born?

Even if you are of the opinion (as I hope you are) that Ireland should do that, it is completely beyond the scope of the Citizens’ Assembly to enforce or even recommend that. I really hope that you want to stop criminalising those like me, stop us being forced to listen to ‘debates’ on this that paint abortions like mine for ‘social reasons’ as selfish and flippant and something we would indulge in because we have a holiday booked (I cannot count the amount of times I have heard this on the radio and it gives me a knot of stress and rage in my stomach every time), stop women with no resources being forced into continuing pregnancies motherhood they can’t afford and which will trap them in poverty for the rest of their lives. I hope that you do not believe that a woman pregnant with an 8 week pregnancy like I was should be forced to continue gestating that regardless of her opinions on the matter, and regardless of the knock on effects on her life; that the potential baby that might result from that 8 week pregnancy (1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage anyway) is far more important than anything else.

Most of all I hope you do not believe that you know better than me or than any other woman, any other person making that decision what is best for us. I hope you can understand that I am an adult human being capable and competent of making my own decisions for my own wellbeing and that it should not be up to you or anyone else who doesn’t even know me and has never walked in my shoes to override them. I hope that you do not think that my small daughters, should they ever as adults find themselves pregnant with a pregnancy they cannot continue, should have to endure what I did and be criminalised for it as I am.

I want to end this by pointing out that a recommendation to repeal the 8th doesn’t mean that you personally would choose an abortion in every circumstance that a woman who has chosen abortion would. It just means you don’t think you have the right to stop us.

On ‘whataboutery’, echo chambers, freedom of speech and playing the devil’s advocate – or: Why can’t we all just get along?

Originally posted on Linnea Dunne’s blog – reposted with permission

As someone who is regularly accused of hiding in an echo chamber of angry feminists patting each other on the back, I thought I’d write to those of you who accuse me of that, who think that I’m not doing feminism right. If you’ve ever thought that I’ve been too angry, that I’ve been wrong to disengage myself from a discussion, that I’ve overreacted to a seemingly innocent statement, that I haven’t tried hard enough to convince the other side – this is for you. Please read it.

First of all, I want to highlight that all of the below has been written about beautifully and powerfully and poignantly many times before; but that’s the thing with the echo chamber, isn’t it, that those important articles may well have hit a wall somewhere along the line and never made their way to you. But the beauty of the echo chamber is this: it helps pick people up, it is safe when the outside world feels too scary, and it helps us make sense of those difficult debates we want to deal with but can’t while being shouted at by a nonsensical Twitter troll. What I’m writing here is nothing new – yet it so badly needs to be written again and again and again. So here’s my first point: it’s only an echo chamber if you allow it to be. If this is somehow new to you, chances are it will be to your echo chamber friends too – so share it.

Point two, which is related: you need to take responsibility for your own learning. Inside your echo chamber or elsewhere, there will be people who get something that you don’t get, and if getting it requires you to check your privilege it’s likely that explaining it to you would be really draining and exhausting and maybe even triggering for those who do get it. They get it because they’ve experienced it – ‘it’ being rape or emotional abuse or racism or transphobia or cultural appropriation or a life of being monitored and kicked at by patriarchy – and you can be sure that they are forced to justify their feelings and reactions and sheer existence to mainstream liberal discourse day in and day out without you adding to their workload. And here’s the thing: that’s not their job. You might think that you’re being nice by asking – ‘Tell me again why I shouldn’t use that word you claim is so offensive?’ – but don’t you think it might be nicer for them if you say that you hear them, that you trust them, and then go off and figure out whatever it is you don’t get using your search engine of choice? Be that enlightened liberal you window dress your Facebook feed with and go read the voices of oppressed and minority groups. Then share them widely.

Point three – again, related: stop playing devil’s advocate. Just stop it. People who spend day in and day out talking about and reading about and writing about and experiencing oppression in some shape or form don’t need your assumption that you, a person who doesn’t talk about it quite that much and who’s never really experienced it, have just thought about this one aspect they’ve failed to cover, which will blow their entire argument to pieces. You know, it might happen. You just might be that guy. If that’s the case, you definitely will get your fifteen minutes of fame at some point and that argument will fall; but most likely – just trust me on this one – they’ll have heard your unique insight a thousand times already and somehow managed to still feel how they feel, despite them constantly and persistently wishing that feeling away. So when that devil inside you raises his voice, turn the other cheek and play devil’s advocate with yourself instead: why is it that it would be so incredibly difficult and uncomfortable for you if their experience was really real and their argument truly held up? Is it maybe possibly plausible that seeing and acknowledging and committing to scrutinising your own privilege is just really, really hard?

Next – let’s talk about that anger. I snap sometimes. Someone writes something on Facebook or makes a joke somewhere or shares a funny YouTube clip that – shocker – I don’t find funny. And it seems so innocent to you, yet I turn into that feminist killjoy and snap. Why can’t feminists just chill? The truth is that many of them can, and I admire that in them, but remember this: we’re in this all the time – day and night, wherever we go, since the moment we were born. It’s not like an annoying person at work or a bus route that is consistently unreliable; it’s not even like that unspoken, ever-growing mountain of irritating, hurtful words and comments and insinuations in a toxic relationship that keeps nagging at you until you want to scream at the sheer thought of it and can’t even begin to try to explain it without bursting into tears – worse: it’s relentless in the most literal and vicious sense of the word. So when people don’t bother reading up on stuff and you are patient enough to take all those conversations, when they keep playing devil’s advocate and refusing to check their privilege, and then they go and share that seemingly innocent yet so fundamentally damaging video clip – you snap. Because you’re exhausted, and you’re sick of not being heard, and yes, you’re angry because you are constantly made to feel small and insignificant and untrustworthy and meaningless, day in and day out, by a constant stream of supposedly innocent clips and jokes and comments and devil’s advocates. Perhaps ask yourself this: why is it that your discomfort with the anger and tone and shrillness of it all must blind you to the very reasons behind them?

Next – also on tone policing – logic. I’ve been in conversations where I’ve been trying to understand something and I’ve brought my very Scandinavian consensus-seeking reasoning to the table, and somehow it’s gotten me nowhere. (I quote Björk: “I thought I could organise freedom; how Scandinavian of me.) I’ve been trying to reason out the different sides of the argument using logic, plain and simple logic, because one and one is two and no one can argue with that, so why can’t we understand each other if we put all the cards and facts on the table? Ideological hegemony is why. What was logical to me – a privileged, white, middle-class Swede – was very much logical to me because of the norms of the society I grew up in, the worldview I inherited, the experiences I’d had, and the rules of the world we live in. Really, truly checking your privilege involves shedding layers of truths and logic the way they’ve been handed down to you – yes, even via some of those red-brick university reading lists – and daring to listen to voices you’ve never previously understood. Sometimes they’ll sound shrill, other times their logic will seem flawed. But if you want to understand them, you have to try to read their logic and trust that they’re speaking the truth, their truth. Solidarity is about more than passive tolerance. Real change doesn’t happen in comfort zones.

Now a word on ‘whataboutery’ – because it’d be nice to get it out of the way so that I don’t have to go through this every time someone what-abouts me and I refuse to engage and they think I’m being a hypocrite. I find it acutely frustrating that my feminism is taking up as much of my time and energy as it is. If I could un-see the oppression I see and stop taking the arguments and worrying about the consequences and struggling to enjoy mainstream films, I would – I would hand it all back for just a bit of peace and quiet and a laugh and a chance to engage with some other kind of activism for a while. Because when I see my male peers share stuff about this issue and the next, seemingly informed about everything from immigration policy to global warming and macroeconomics, I feel jealous. I care about that stuff too, but everywhere I look I see the effects of patriarchy and that fire in me comes to life again and I can’t see beyond it. So when I talk about women’s rights and you ask what I’ve done for starving children, I don’t hear sympathy for how I’m feeling – I don’t hear you say ‘hey, I bet you wish you could campaign about this stuff too’. I hear a refusal to talk about women’s rights. I don’t expect of you to read every article I read about reproductive rights, and I don’t expect of you to feel as passionately as I do about body positivity and the domestic division of labour – but I think that’s all the more reason for you to listen to me when I talk about it. What about the men? the internet echoes every time a woman mentions the patriarchy. But why is it that we hear so little from these same voices about toxic masculinity and extended paternity leave until we start talking about women’s rights? And why is it that we’re asked to carry that issue too? Do we not seem burdened enough? Truth be told, I don’t think the whataboutery is all that much about men’s rights. I don’t hear these people stroll up to Greenpeace demonstrators asking ‘What about the men?’. I don’t see them below articles calling for an end to direct provision, commenting to point out that men have rights too. Let’s not play the RTÉ game – let’s not talk masculinity purely for the sake of balance. We all deserve better than that.

Last point before I wrap up: free speech. You have a right to your opinion, and you have a right to voice it. You do not, however, have a right to any given platform, nor to the shoving of your opinions down anyone’s throat – especially not if said opinions border on hate speech. So when someone talks about not getting Katie Hopkins on The Late Late Show and someone else cries freedom of speech, they’ve got some catching up to do. It takes a lot to silence a privileged public person with column inches in one of the biggest UK tabloid papers and a huge social media following; refraining from inviting her onto an Irish public service prime time chat show will have little or no impact on how loud her voice is and how far her messages reach. If we’re really interested in the right to be heard, we would do well to ask ourselves why feminist friends of mine have been dropping off the internet like never before, slowly but surely, one after the other, since Donald Trump was elected. These people whose only platform is social media, who are suddenly faced with twice the misogynists and trolls and devil’s advocates and just can’t put up with it anymore – I don’t hear anyone crying freedom of speech when they stop talking.

Finally (and if you’ve made it this far, thank you!), a disclaimer. You might think I’m placing myself on a pedestal, all self-righteous in what a brilliant co-feminist I am. Trust me, I’m not. For the sake of argument, join me for a moment as I recall the year of 2001: I had dreadlocks and a turban (yes, both – simultaneously!) and was singing backing vocals with a reggae band, the singer in which put on a fake Patois accent, and if you had told me about cultural appropriation I would have laughed. There – you’re welcome. I’m highly flawed, but I’m learning. Can’t we all just admit we’re flawed, check our privilege and learn?

A LETTER TO MY SISTER, THE DOMESTIC ABUSE APOLOGIST

Several years ago I had just found the courage to leave an abusive relationship. By this stage I’d been receiving help from the Domestic Abuse services for over a year, having been ready to leave a year earlier only to find out I was pregnant. The D.A counsellor advised me not to leave until my baby was born, so I stayed. Even though the man I was with was financially and emotionally abusing me. He was also neglectful of my physical needs, leaving me without food or water for over 24 hours when I was to sick to walk, and he would mock me when I complained of the pain that caused me to have to use a walking stick for the final 2 months of my pregnancy.

I had a Skype conversation with my closest relative, my sister, then  living on the other side of the world to me. During the call my sister was very dismissive of my concerns about the relationship with Sean. After I got off the call she sent me the following email.

I felt the email exchange was worth putting in the public arena (with names changed) as since this time I have supported many women who have been in similar situations to me and in EVERY single case at least some members of the woman’s family have reacted in what I would consider to be a fairly appalling way to the news that their sister/daughter/niece has been a victim of domestic abuse.

Here’s what my closest relative had to say to me:

“Hello darling, I’m feeling very sad after our conversation and wanted to write to say that I hope you are not upset.  I felt like I had to say something to you about how concerned I am about you, but I understand that this is a very difficult thing to talk about, especially as I am not there.  I have been worried about you ever since you started talking about domestic violence in your relationship with Sean, initially because the example you used (which was about how he spoke to you when he brought you soup in bed one day when you were sick) was so far removed from my understanding of domestic violence.  Since you brought this issue up I have looked a little into domestic violence, and while I don’t know as much as you or (obviously) someone who works or is trained in domestic violence, I am still concerned that the situations you talk of as domestic violence aren’t domestic violence.  I believe that you believe Sean acts abusively towards you but even from the most basic look into what constitutes verbal or emotional abuse, the situations you have told me about do not meet my understanding of such.  I know that the counsellors at the clinic have told you that it is a situation of domestic violence, so perhaps there is more to the abuse than you have told me, but I also don’t think you would have gone to a domestic violence support service if there wasn’t some part of you that already believed you were in a domestic violence situation.  I think that part of why I doubt whether the situation is domestic violence is that, for example, all of the books you have read except one do not support your claims of domestic violence, but the one book you have chosen to believe is the book that supports your idea.

Despite that, I think if you believe you are being abused then something is terribly, terribly wrong in your relationship and I am so happy that you have left the relationship and moved out on your own.  I have wanted to say something to you for a long time but decided to wait until after you had removed yourself from living with Sean before I said anything because I didn’t want to add to your stress, and I think moving out is a very good thing, and I also don’t want to be one of the people in your life who does not believe you.  This is the most serious of situations and you know that I love and support you no matter what.  The only reason I am writing this, and telling you what I think, is because I am worried about you, worried about your wellbeing and your relationship with Sean.  The repercussions of saying something to you are too severe for me to say any of this without having thought long and hard about it, and there is no-one in my world who I love and trust more than you, or want better for.

I don’t know what to do from here.  I would like to talk more with you about it but I understand that you might not trust me to talk to me about this any further.  Again, I am only expressing these concerns because I am worried about you.  It has nothing to do with not wanting to hear it or denying that it is true – it just genuinely doesn’t seem like domestic violence to me, and I am worried that these allegations could cause serious harm to you or your kids or Sean.  If there is more than I know, I apologise so very much for doubting you, but I hope you will take these words with the love and concern that they are intended with.

Lots of love, Cass xxx”

My response:

“Of course I am upset. I am extremely upset and I’m also very, very  angry.
When someone comes to you to say they are being abused how irresponsible and how arrogant to not take that extremely seriously. Added to that you have not even read the material I asked you to read. You then questioned my sanity after not bothering to find out more information or read the book.
I have repeatedly told you about Sean’s treatment towards me, the financial pressure he has put on me (which is financial domestic violence), the continual disrespect, the physical and emotional neglect, and the emotional abuse. None of these things were isolated incidents, they have been the hallmarks of our relationship since the very start. You said in our conversation earlier that you believed that some of the things Sean had done were abusive. If you believe that some of the things he did were abusive, then it stands to reason that he is an abuser, and therefore I am being abused.

The level of disrespect in our relationship is extremely high. In order for there to be disrespect there has to be a belief in inequality and a belief in inequality is the basis of domestic violence.
The DV services state that emotional abuse is worse than physical violence as there are no outward signs. I am unable to show you the deep wounds to my psyche from being continually disrespected, from being called lazy and useless, from having my work and contributions constantly devalued, from severe physical neglect, from the cruelty I have experienced. I am sorry I never got a punch so I could take a photo or file a police report so that you would believe me. I would rather have been punched than have what has happened to me over the last few years as from a victim’s point of view it is the more subtle forms of abuse that are harder to pick up on – there is nothing so obvious as a fist to let you know you’re being abused. If I’d had a punch in year one I’d have known and been the hell out of the relationship.
If you genuinely don’t believe I have suffered emotional/mental abuse then I would ask you what is it exactly that you think emotional/mental abuse is? What has to happen for you to believe it is abuse? How have you lowered your standards so much that you cannot see that his behaviour towards me is abusive? This attitude you have is indicative of a very big problem with the general population’s ignorance about DV. You think that these very low standards do not constitute abuse. This makes me worried for you, about the kind of relationships you have had/may have if you cannot see that this is abusive. How can you protect yourself from abuse when you have such a poor understanding of it? How can you be a responsible member of society without a knowledge of abuse?
I have consulted more than one domestic violence service and been told that I am a victim of domestic violence so my belief is based on professionals who work in this area, who work with abused women every day combined with the book they recommended I read, Lundy Bancroft’s book. It is Lundy Bancroft who is asked to speak and provide information to Domestic Violence services here and in America, not the authors of the other books I bought from Amazon (not from the recommendations from trained professionals).
I went to the domestic violence services after picking up one of their leaflets and reading the checklist and seeing that I was able to answer yes to some of the questions they use to determine if a relationship is abusive. I did not believe I was in an abusive relationship but having explored every other angle I thought I would go and see them, even though the whole thing made me feel very uncomfortable. I told the counsellor why I was there and relayed experiences I had had during my relationship with Sean and I was told very early on that I was most definitely in a relationship with an abusive man. You have stated in your email that you have looked a “little” into Domestic Violence. I would like to ask what books have you read or professionals have you talked to? And why did you not read the book I recommended? (the book that was recommended to me by trained professionals, and the book that they told me to ask my friends and family to read).

You made it sound as if you believed I had a desire to believe that I was in a DV relationship. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am also wondering if you think I am making up or embellishing stories for the DV services to validate my so called ‘desire’ to be in a DV situation. I really don’t know what I’m being accused of, but it feels very sinister as well as being incredibly upsetting and unsupportive. Consider the possibility that I am right and you are wrong, how awful, how sinister would it be to discredit your own sister in this way?
I find it really shocking that with your limited knowledge on abuse you still feel it’s ok to question the validity of what I’m telling you, this despite the fact that Sean himself is able to see that he has been abusive and that I have seen various professionals with years of experience in this area who say the same thing.

I am going to go through your email bit by bit.

Hello darling, I’m feeling very sad after our conversation and wanted to write to say that I hope you are not upset.

How inhumane to not think I’m going to be upset by your distressing take on my situation. How could you have such a high level of detachment to not think I would be upset when you yourself say you believe that I believe I’m being abused. It would be impossible for anybody in my situation to not be upset. How can you have such a lack of judgement about what will upset me?

I felt like I had to say something to you about how concerned I am about you, but I understand that this is a very difficult thing to talk about, especially as I am not there.  I have been worried about you ever since you started talking about domestic violence in your relationship with Sean,

This is very condescending and patronising  language. Also I am distressed by your use of the phrase “ever since you started talking about dv”  as if  a woman is not supposed to talk about dv. You should be concerned that I’m in this situation, not that I’m talking about it. The motto for the DV services is “break the silence” there is a very important reason for this. What use breaking the silence though if when you do people don’t believe you?

initially because the example you used (which was about how he spoke to you when he brought you soup in bed one day when you were sick) was so far removed from my understanding of domestic violence.

What exactly is your understanding of dv? Someone with a knowledge in this area would know that that situation re the soup was a perfect example of a person with an abusive mindset. It was not even a very subtle example, it was no small thing.  My physical needs were forgotten about and I was spoken to very rudely when I was in a vulnerable situation and unable to look after myself. The whole situation that day showed Sean’s lack of humanity, he was not even remorseful about his behaviour. As my sister I would have thought that you would have been shocked and distressed to hear that I received such a poor level of care when I was so ill. How much worse could he have treated me for you to agree that his behaviour was abusive. I experienced a high level of physical neglect that day. I am the one with a lot of  knowledge in this area and yours is the naive and crude understanding of what the reality of what dv is. If this is your level of understanding you need to learn more, for your own sake at the very least.

Since you brought this issue up I have looked a little into domestic violence, and while I don’t know as much as you or (obviously) someone who works or is trained in domestic violence, I am still concerned that the situations you talk of as domestic violence aren’t domestic violence.

How can you make this judgement that it is not domestic violence when you agree yourself that you have only looked a “little” into the subject. How arrogant of you to assume you know more than people trained in this area. The main person I have been seeing has been working 15 years as a counsellor and 15 years as a Domestic Violence counsellor, I am certain she has more knowledge in this area than you.

I believe that you believe Sean acts abusively towards you but even from the most basic look into what constitutes verbal or emotional abuse, the situations you have told me about do not meet my understanding of such.

Why would you even say this? Of course I believe what I’m saying! Why would I say it otherwise. How patronising! What made you think that having a basic look at something allows you to make a judgment about it (especially one so serious and with such serious repercussions!) Also there is no such thing as a basic look at DV, it is a complex subject that requires assimilating a lot of emotionally difficult information.

I know that the counsellors at the clinic have told you that it is a situation of domestic violence, so perhaps there is more to the abuse than you have told me,

“Perhaps”?? This word in this context carries detachment and it is also incredibly patronising. I’m getting the impression that you are speaking as if you know more than I do about this and speaking down to me.
You need to learn more about how to support people in a dv situation. You are being patronising and condescending. Are you aware of this? It is very disrespectful to communicate with me in this way, especially when I’ve told you that I have experienced significant disrespect in my relationship. would you not be trying to be incredibly respectful and careful in your communications with me given the experiences that I’ve had?
The information I have already told you about my relationship should have been sufficient to convince you of the abuse. When you don’t understand DV you don’t think that information is sufficient.  Also I would ask why you did not enquire about if there was more to it? If you felt there was even the possibility that there was other things happening you didn’t know about (which of course there was) then you should have asked. Instead you have made judgements based on small amounts of information.

but I also don’t think you would have gone to a domestic violence support service if there wasn’t some part of you that already believed you were in a domestic violence situation.

You state this like it’s an accusation? What is it I’m being accused of exactly? Having a suspicion that I may be in an abusive relationship? What would be wrong if I did???  Are you suggesting that I ‘wanted’ to be in an abusive relationship? What is the subtext to what you’re implying? Are you suggesting that I am trying to create this in my life because I believe it and not that I believe it because it is a reality?????

I think that part of why I doubt whether the situation is domestic violence is that, for example, all of the books you have read except one do not support your claims of domestic violence, but the one book you have chosen to believe is the book that supports your idea.

As stated above the one book I’ve “chosen to believe” is the book that was recommended to me by the domestic violence services. They only recommended that one book as there is a lack of good books on the subject available. To put this statement in this way is really offensive. Can you not see that? You are questioning my sanity and my ability to think logically and rationally. You show a gross lack of awareness in respectful ways of communicating. You are talking down to me. If you read up about dv you will see how detrimental this is to a victim as you are hitting me with the same stuff I’ve been living with. You are crossing boundaries and you are giving me hidden motives.

Despite that, I think if you believe you are being abused

you are constantly saying “I don’t believe you”

then something is terribly, terribly wrong in your relationship

If you really believe me that something is terribly terribly wrong would that not be a big warning sign of the possibility of abuse????

and I am so happy that you have left the relationship and moved out on your own.  I have wanted to say something to you for a long time but decided to wait until after you had removed yourself from living with Sean before I said anything because I didn’t want to add to your stress, and I think moving out is a very good thing,

So patronising. really offensive.

and I also don’t want to be one of the people in your life who does not believe you.

And yet you are.

This is the most serious of situations

and yet you are not taking it seriously.

and you know that I love and support you no matter what.

If this is not your intention I do not feel supported by you. I do not feel that you are being very loving either. I told you of a situation where your sister was sick and unable to care for herself that her partner did not give her food. When he finally came to the room after leaving me for 24 hours without food or drink and I asked for food he went to the shop and when he came back he told me he forgot to buy me food. When he said he’s make me soup and I said I didn’t want to be any trouble and I’d just have toast I was criticised and spoken rudely too. He did not apologise for his treatment of me or show any remorse. This situation is a perfect example of abuse and yet you cite this story as being of no consequence.

The only reason I am writing this, and telling you what I think, is because I am worried about you, worried about your wellbeing and your relationship with Sean.  The repercussions of saying something to you are too severe for me to say any of this without having thought long and hard about it, and there is no-one in my world who I love and trust more than you, or want better for.

I think you should be worried but for different reasons than the one you are.  Imagine the possibility that I may be right and think that you may have been concerned because you thought your sister was losing her sanity rather than being concerned because your sister was being abused.
I am glad that you realise that when you accuse someone of being mad when they say they are being abused that they will be upset. and there will be serious repercussions. You are right on this front.
I do not believe you thought long and hard about this as if you had you would have done more research and read the book I asked you to read to arm yourself with more information if you have a gap in your information you need to get the resources to find more information.
You did not need to think about it at all, as your thinking on this subject is erroneous. It is also very arrogant to think that all you had to do was a bit of thinking about it, as if you have all the knowledge.
You’re not doing any asking here – you are showing a marked lack of humility. You did not do this, you did not take care in how you dealt with this situation.
Exactly what do you mean by trust in the above statement? You have shown no trust in my judgement. I am very concerned if there is no one in the world you trust more than me when you do not trust me.
If you genuinely want the best for me would you not acknowledge the wrong in a relationship where I am not even given food when I am ill.

I don’t know what to do from here.

read the book

I would like to talk more with you about it

not until you read the book

but I understand that you might not trust me to talk to me about this any further.

Good, I am glad you have some awareness of the impact of your patronising and naive ways.

  Again, I am only expressing these concerns because I am worried about you.

Can you please start considering the possibility that I am in an abusive relationship before you jump to the conclusion that I am mad.  What is more likely?

  It has nothing to do with not wanting to hear it or denying that it is true

even though you are denying that it is true.

– it just genuinely doesn’t seem like domestic violence to me,

that’s because you have very little knowledge of dv.

and I am worried that these allegations could cause serious harm to you or your kids or Sean.

It is not the allegations that have caused the harm, it is the continued exposure to abuse that has harmed us all. In a really big way. This statement contains a subtle threat, it is the most sinister thing you have ever said to me I think. It is another attempt to silence me, why do you not want me to talk about the abuse I have suffered? This will have serious repercussions for my family if I don’t deal with this. How irresponsible of you to try and silence me talking about this when it is so big and will have such an effect on all our lives. You are accusing me of possibly causing harm to my children, which is a really serious accusation to make. Do you realise that? All because I am trying to speak out about what has happened to me.

  If there is more than I know,

what you know should be enough, and would be enough if you had done more research. These are not conditions that any woman should not see as serious.

I apologise so very much for doubting you,

Do you know what doubting a person who comes to you looking for help with abuse does to that person?
When you have raised your awareness sufficiently to understand the enormity of what you’ve done then come to me with an apology that fits the crime because the apology you’ve just given would technically be seen as a non apology.

but I hope you will take these words with the love and concern that they are intended with.

If you haven’t read the one book that I asked you to read before you spoke out you have shown little love and concern for me.  You started to doubt my sanity and expressed that to me before doing any research. How is that loving to question someone’s sanity? That is not loving. I’m telling you I’m being abused, I’m being bullied and you don’t believe me. Would you not think you needed to check that out? Would you not ask lots of questions about what’s happening and arm yourself with information? That would show concern for me.”
I wanted to share this as so many women are not believed or their concerns are dismissed when they speak out about the abuse they received from an intimate partner. And when you’ve just left an abusive relationship you’re often re traumatised by the responses of loved ones. I call it the second punishment. We are punished for speaking out about what happened to us. We are silenced, mocked, dismissed and ignored. Even women I know who have had bruises to show have been treated like this after speaking out about their abusive ex partners.

It takes courage to tell someone you’ve been abused.

If someone shares their story of abuse with you, please, please believe them. 

 

By an Anonymous Survivor.

(Recommended reading: “Why Does He Do That?” By Lundy Bancroft).

Looking from the outside In: Why Mothers are outside the door of the feminist agenda?

Mothers Artists Makers Ireland

Lately, I have been getting some strange looks when I go out to public events like gallery launches, theatre symposiums, or conferences. I even occasionally get ‘looks’, quiet ‘tut-tuts’, and even shushes accompanied by glares. I look around, wondering what manner social faux pas I appear to have committed. Then, looking over my shoulder, I see a small child strapped to my back.

Why am I getting this reaction? What is the social or behavioural expectation I am transgressing?

I was an activist, theatre maker, and ardent feminist before I had kids, and my passion for equality and desire to work towards a fairer and more equitable society has only deepened since I have become a mother. If have a toddler with me, it’s not because he is an adorable fashion accessory (he is of course, everyone says so), or that I cannot bear to be separated from him (love…

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Rest in peace, Invisible Woman

Originally posted here by Linnea Dunne – republished with permission.

Five people die in Cavan, and in the days to come, Irish newspapers are full of questions. “Why did he do it?” asks one national daily, picturing a man and his three sons. “How could he kill those poor boys?” asks another.

It is almost immediately clear that the father, Mr Hawe, has stabbed the other four to death: the mother and the three sons. He has then killed himself. And in search for answers, we are told what an honourable man the murderer was: “a valuable member of the community”, “very committed” and “the most normal person you could meet”. Soon follow the calls for increased funding of mental health services.

Two days have passed since the tragic news broke, and today the Irish Times ran a front page reading “Wonderful children who will be missed by all who knew them”. “Killed in their pyjamas by father in frenzied attack,” goes one Independent headline alongside a photo of the boys. It is almost as if we’ve already forgotten: they were a family of five. Rest in peace, invisible mother.

The picture of the man who killed her, however, is becoming more multi-faceted by the day. Mr Hawe was “quiet and a real gentleman”, says one representative of the local council. His brother goes on to talk about his big passion, handball: he’d “won a number of titles”, “played from about eight years of age” and used to play “with his brother and his cousin”. A neighbour offers more praise: “He was the sole person who would do anything for anybody at any time of day or night. He was very obliging.”

It makes sense to draw the conclusion that the man must have been carrying some very dark, difficult secrets, that he must have been mentally tortured somehow. Why else would such a lovely man kill his wife and children before taking his own life? (There’s a study in here somewhere, comparing the reporting of events like this with the discourse surrounding abortion and mental health, with women being labelled murderers for ending pregnancies, stopping the growth of sometimes near-invisible clumps of cells, regardless how mentally tortured or suicidal they are.) But while a note found at the house suggests that Mr Hawe had been in “a vulnerable state of mind” at the time of the murders – and while I wholeheartedly agree with calls to end the stigma around mental illness – there is a different and important narrative for framing these events.

We hear about tragic killings like these every now and then. Nine times out of ten (I don’t have statistics, but my hunch is that the figure is far higher), the perpetrator is a man. Lots of people, men and women and non-binary people, struggle with mental illness, but it takes more than mental torture to brutally murder your own children. There is a patriarchal narrative that runs through this entire story, from the act itself to the reporting of it, and we need to allow ourselves to see it if we are to find a way to prevent similar events from happening again.

As Paul Gilligan of St. Patrick’s University Hopsital points out, killing a child requires a certain view of children, an idea that they must be controlled and managed and, in the case of murder suicides, that they cannot go on to live without the murderer. This ideal of control is part of the same patriarchal worldview that refuses to label domestic violence for what it is; that insists on publishing praise for a man who has just brutally murdered his wife and three children; that almost entirely omits the one woman from the story.

“Killed in their pyjamas by father in frenzied attack – before mother-in-law found note,” reads another headline. The narrative, of course, is from the viewpoint of the murderer: she was his mother-in-law. She was the children’s grandmother, the murdered woman’s mother. The murdered woman, then, is most often referred to as the murderer’s wife – relevant only as what she is in relation to the man who killed her. Her name is Clodagh.

A man murders four people in Cavan, and we are fed questions and statements of disbelief alongside praise of the murderer as a community man. On the front pages, we see the man and the three children he murdered. Two days in, Clodagh has all but become invisible. And you ask why feminists are so loud and angry?

The 8th

Posted on

Guest Post by Lauren Foley

It was maybe the third time you’d done it. It took easier than the first (you vomited), no worse than the last (DVDs in bed). You’d completely forgotten all three times (and the fourth, then the fifth), but just now there was this article on your Twitter feed.

You remember the rush of sexiness, that floaty semi-arousing pre-menstrual flood. Alarm of hormones. Then blood after saccharine tugging below just your navel. There’s a taste to a chemically-induced period like NutraSweet® in your bloodstream, epidermis, sweat glands; and you do kind of want to lick your forearm the way cats do lick theirs thinking your skin might taste of Diet Coke. The blood is lighter, clearer, brighter – a pop of red cherry. Like how we’re made to think it would look if it was red on TV, and not the brilliant blue it’s made be. The pain is synthetic, manufactured and claws as if from behind a curtain (wherein lies a great and powerful Oz).

You never think on them as abortions.

The third was only twenty-eight hours into seventy-two.

You’d normally ‘double dutch’ it. Condoms and the pill.

But, you’d gained ten pounds on the progesterone injections and your boyfriend had been around a good long while …

You still used condoms, insisted—the Catholic in you—except that one night after the 1920s party when you were both too drunk to fuck but somehow managed to come. He took that as a future freedom like the American guy in Catastrophe who impregnates Sharon Horgan. You agree with her it was a bit bad of them.

And just like this article linked now on Twitter, your abortion did you no harm, you’d completely forgotten about it (the fourth, the fifth).

The eighth.

#

Lauren Foley is Irish, and Australian (enough). Her short story, ‘Squiggly Arse Crack’, appeared in the 2014 Margaret River Press Anthology. She was shortlisted for the Overland Story Wine Prize, and Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award, 2015. Lauren won the inaugural OverlandNeilma Sidney Short Story Prize 2016. She was also awarded a 2016 Varuna Residential Writer’s Fellowship for her short story cycle in progressPolluted Sex. She lives in Skerries. 

laurenfoleywriter.com

@AYearinSouthOz 

A pro-choice voter’s guide to the Stormont elections

We are happy to share this communication sent to us yesterday:

Just wanted to let you know that some NI pro-choicers have compiled a spreadsheet of MLA candidates and their stance on abortion in the run up to #AE16.

We’re keeping our names anonymous in the public sphere but there’s an email [in guidelines] if people want to get in touch.

Here’s the spreadsheet. And the spreadsheet guidelines are here.