Content Note: This is a heavy-going post, dealing with child sexual abuse and exploitation amongst other things.
I found myself rather triggered last night a couple of nights ago. There’s a lot of horrible, horrible stuff going on in the internet at the moment, and if you follow women geeks in gaming even slightly, you’ll have heard about it. Suffice it to say that there are a lot of nasty, entitled, invulnerable-feeling, angry men in the world who don’t like it when women rightly critise their toys and ways of operating. And instead of listening and taking it on board, they feel like that segment of the population is out to get them and ruining their fun. Therefore these guys are running a co-ordinated, vicious, harassment crusade in order to get those pesky wimminz to shut the hell up. To the extent of driving them and their families out of home because their home isn’t *safe* any more. It’s awful and I can only imagine what it must feel like. So my heart goes out to those affected but I cannot read any more aboout it.
However, that’s not the only thing that’s been getting to me. I was reading a book about child slavery in Haiti, and yes it’s awful , not light reading, but there was one scene that was a graphic scene of sexual assault/rape of an 11 year old girl by her female owner and a group of women, as seen through the eyes of a 12 year old boy. Ugh. It was only half a paragraph but still. *shudder* The other thing I read that was deeply traumatic was the official Report on the Rotherham child sexual exploitation epidemic. Bascially, there’s been over twenty years of child sexual exploitation going on in impoverished, mostly ethnic minorities’ communities in and around the area that Child Services and the Police were aware of but didn’t take seriously. There were massive failures of process and government at many levels, reports weren’t followed up on etc., and kids and teenagers were allowed to “slip through the net” essentially because people with power and responsibility didn’t want to exercise either of those things, preferring to maintain the status quo. Some poor person had to sit and read through case files and police reports for maybe twenty to thirty cases from the last 10-15 years, up to the present day, detailing the horrific assaults, rapes and grooming that preceded it, and summarised them in the official Report. If you really want to be depressed/encouraged, go read It’s Mothers Work.
Preadolescent and teenage girls were groomed by men showering them with gifts and attention in circumstances where the child had already experienced neglect and poverty in the hands of their families. The girls said things like “I’m special to him, I know he loves me, even if he does have all those other girlfriends too”. The men groomed them then assaulted and raped them, and lent them to other groups of men so they could do the same. If the girls tried to escape their clutches they were threatened and beaten, and their younger sisters were threatened and their families harassed. One lass had petrol/gasoline poured on her and they threatened to *light it* if she didn’t co-operate. I mean, fucking hell. Can you imagine? That girl was maybe fourteen. I can’t even begin to describe the horror of that.
Nevermind the awfulness of the child sexual exploitation, the consequences were equally bad, including homelessness, school absention, and drug abuse. Others were put into “care”, secure children’s homes and fostering etc, often away from the area in which they lived. Sometimes this helped, sometimes it left them even more vulnerable to exploitation, and the gang involved would use them as a means to get to other, even younger, kids within the “care” system.
Victim blaming, police negligence and a macho office culture also had a massive role to play. Kids under the age of 16 were accused of leading the men on and asking for it by being “provocative”, nevermind that they had been “groomed” (and I am only just beginning to understand the real meaning of that word), and had often suffered neglect, poverty and racism (because a lot of the girls were of Pakistani heritage), and child abuse. Everything you’ve ever read about systemic oppression, sexism, racism and others combined in that thing called “intersectionality” to make everything so much worse. These girls were told by the combined actions of many that they were worth nothing, and even if to their families they mattered, if their families were also threatened, they couldn’t expect the police to help. A couple of fathers got *arrested* for trying to rescue their daughters from houses and hotels where they were being abused and exploited, while the perpertrators got off without even a caution.
I can’t even. This is the country I live in. I lived in the next city over from Rotherham for three years and had no idea this was going on. Is still going on. I am so isolated from these horrors and travesties by the priviledge of being white, middle class, from a stable, loving family and extremely well educated. And at the same time, I can see how, if my circumstances were different, it could so easily have been me.
I have my own terrible stories* of things that happened to me as a teenager and young adult, that at some point I am going to talk about on here, if only because I still have not reconciled myself to them. It took me ages to get to sleep last night because those previous incidents were on my mind, courtesy of all the horrible stuff I’ve been reading about. I have memories from over a decade ago that I can still call up perfectly vividly, if I so wish, and even when I don’t wish. And it sucks. And I know I am not the only one, not by a long shot.
So I am going to be pruning my blog feed for a while because I need to look after myself and I need to be getting on with PhD things. If you have any recommendations for light hearted, fun, pleasant stuff to read, that would be most excellent. Failing that, I am going to order a whole lot more YA fantasy novels. For refernce, I love Tamora Pierce and Trudi Canavan. I may also dig out my Enid Blyton collection. Please, take care of yourselves, it’s a difficult time.
*Nothing on this scale or level of abuse, but sexual stuff with boyfriends that I did. not. want? More than enough of that, nevermind the pervasive street harassment.