Former child abuse detective supports #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – read her letter here

Today, I received another letter to support the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – this time, from a woman who worked as a detective specialising in child abuse. I now have 72 accounts of harm, 6 letters and 5 verbal accounts of CSE (child sexual exploitation) films harming children. Accounts come from children, adults, parents, psychologists, police officers, psychotherapists, youth workers, social workers and teachers.

Please stop using CSE films with children. I will soon publish every letter, every signature and every account in an open-access document. The document will be the first collection of evidence ever collected on the harm and trauma caused by practice using CSE films with children and families.

Thank you to Tamara who has chosen to give her full name and role details for this campaign.

Dear Jessica,

I became aware of your ‘#NoMoreCSEFilms’ campaign through social media, and I want to add my opinion as a former professional in the child protection arena.

I previously worked as a Police Officer on a Child Abuse Investigation Unit, and later as a Police Trainer for Detectives specialising in child abuse investigation and rape investigation.  As part of my own training (and the training I later delivered) we used a selection of these films – the two most popular being ‘My Dangerous Loverboy’ and ‘Sick Party’.  These films are notably graphic, and would sometimes result in adults (yes, even supposedly unemotional, robotic Police officers!) turning away or walking out.  To have to watch a realistic film of a young girl being repeatedly raped in a dirty shed by numerous men isn’t easy viewing for anyone.  This was several years ago when these films were fairly new, given the content I would never have considered showing them to a child – to find out that they are I find, quite frankly, horrific.

I have worked with victims of rape and sexual abuse.  I have interviewed numerous children who have been subjected to horrific crimes and can say that the Criminal Justice process, the constant questioning, the things that we HAVE to ask to make it ‘clear’ for a jury that the child knows what they are talking about, the way we MAKE them spell out every little detail so that there can be no ambiguity is traumatic enough.  Add to that the inevitable questioning by parents, peers, associated victim-blaming…the thought that one of these films would be shown to a victim who has been through all of this on top of the original offence is beyond belief.  Then, I also found that these films are being shown to children in schools…some children who probably don’t even know what rape is, and some who are victims we don’t yet know about…for the sake of education?  These films are not encouraging reporting.  They are encouraging shame and embarrassment.  Yes, the obligatory disclaimer could be added before the film, but what child or teenager is going to leave the room and draw attention to themselves?  Of course they aren’t.  Even adults don’t.  If children are suffering in silence the point is that they are scared to come forward for fear of being blamed or not believed.  So they will sit through it. 

Traumatised if they do, traumatised if they don’t. 

I am a parent.  My 11 year-old daughter is aware of what sexual assault is.  However, I would never dream of thinking these films would be appropriate to show her, even in the safety of our living room.  In fact, If I did show her such a film and then she went to school and spoke about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to get a knock on the door from children’s services.  They are THAT graphic. 

Showing these films is not educational.  It is not therapeutic.  It goes against everything we know about the treatment of trauma.  So lets’ stop, think about it, and find another way.

#NoMoreCSEFilms

Tamara Brabazon-Taylor

Former Child Abuse Investigation Detective

 

Please help me and hundreds of other professionals and parents to stop this practice in 2018. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Stop buying, using or recommending CSE films
  • Boycott organisations and companies that sell and make CSE films – ask them for empirical evidence, proof of testing, proof of safety and proof that the films have been ethically and independently assessed by experts
  • Ask your local schools to stop using CSE films
  • Write to your local social services or police and crime commissioner
  • SIGN THE PETITION! http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271
  • Meet with me or arrange a phone call to discuss how you can change your practice to remove all use of CSE films

 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Email: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Web: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

 

“My 11 year old daughter was shown a CSE film where a girl is raped and murdered…” #nomoreCSEfilms

Another letter came in this weekend, this time from a mother. Her daughter had been shown a film about a sexual homicide at school and returned home very upset. This campaign started because I was very concerned about our practice as professionals, but I had no evidence that the films were harming children – I just thought that we were being highly unethical and it was probable that we were harming UK children by showing them these ‘CSE films’.

I now have a collection of letters, accounts, messages, signatures and a large following. I was tweeting about my #nomoreCSEfilms campaign recently when Marie*, a mother of two young daughters, read my tweets and realised that her eleven year old daughter had been shown a number of these films recently. She described what her daughter told her and I immediately recognised the plot and told her that the film was ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ – a film (amongst others) I have been campaigning against for months. However, the film has received awards, accolades and positive press coverage – leaving experts and academics struggling to voice concerns about the harm caused by showing children films of rape and murder.

Here is the letter from Marie:

My daughter has been shown several films in school. After one of them , which I now know was “Kayleigh’s Love story”, she came home visibly upset and anxious. I asked her what was wrong and she asked to talk to me in private (I have a younger daughter, and she didn’t want her to hear).

She asked me what rape meant.

I was a bit shocked, and explained. She said “I thought that was what it meant but I wasn’t sure”. I asked her how she’d heard the word.  She then told me that she’d been shown a film where a “Girl was raped and killed”. She said it was in assembly, and it was shown as a warning, to “keep us safe online”.

She was also worried as the film had stated at the beginning that it would have a 15 rating in the cinema. (I am pretty careful about ratings, and watch things through if in doubt about content). She was 11 at the time.

She’s gone up to school a year ahead, so her peers are a year older, but still well under 15 when they were shown the film. Other pupils commented to my daughter that they felt it was too harrowing. I don’t understand how schools can show children films rated 15 without consulting parents.

I don’t understand how anyone thinks that this is OK to show to a large group of children, some of whom will have surely experienced abuse, and I don’t understand how terrifying young girls is considered helpful. Surely there are other ways of teaching sensible behaviour online? If I’d been asked for my permission beforehand , and seen the film, there is absolutely no way I would have agreed to my sensitive, nightmare prone, deep thinking daughter being shown this film at 11 years old.

She has also seen other films. One of which she can’t remember much about, as she was so distressed she didn’t look at the screen and tried to zone out and not listen. She said it was about a woman considering suicide. Even talking about it now, a year later, she is still upset about the films. I showed her the beginning of Kayleigh’s Love Story, just the black screen with the opening text, to confirm that was what she’d seen, and she immediately confirmed it, and very much didn’t want to even glimpse any actual scenes (obviously I’d stopped the video anyway).

I am so glad that you are trying to get these films stopped. My younger daughter will be starting secondary in September and I don’t want her to see anything like this.

All good wishes, Marie

As I always say – despite the need for this campaign to be successful to protect children, letters like this hurt to read. This is a real child. A real parent. This is real harm. Harm we caused. An 11 year old child (which Leicestershire Police have admitted have been shown these films all over the Midlands despite the film being rated 15) went home to ask her mum what rape was – but was shown a film in which a girl was raped and killed. Why was this film shown to an audience that doesn’t even know what a rape is?

We keep being told that these films are used ethically and carefully with children, by experienced professionals who help the children understand what they are about to watch. But I have never seen any evidence of this type of practice.

Not only this, but who calls a film about the sexual homicide of a child ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’? This is not a love story. This isn’t even CSE. This is the murder of a child. There is no evidence this case was CSE (child sexual exploitation) – but these films keep getting crammed into these definitions to ’cause impact’ and ‘raise awareness’.

I would like to remind Leicestershire Police (who made and market the film) and every local authority using these films with children that it is not ethical at all, and could even be classed as illegal to show these films to children. Parents and carers have had action taken against them for traumatising children with footage and films that are inappropriate for their age. Adults who show children films of children being sexually abused (real or fake) are committing an offence. Can someone explain to me how a member of the public showing films of sexual abuse to children are a sex offender and a risk to children – but professionals showing films of sexual abuse to children are ‘progressive’ and ‘innovative’?

If you are a parent, please watch my YouTube series to learn more: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271

You can withdraw your children from these sessions and you can write to your school Headteacher to request information on the films and resources used to ‘educate’ children about sexual abuse.

If you are a professional, please read my other blogs and watch the YouTube series too. We have gotten this practice very wrong. We are making huge assumptions about what these films can achieve and we are harming thousands of children in the process. This must stop now.

Please sign the petition here: https://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/lHMraCPq#/0

Written by Jessica Eaton

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

We: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

‘I had my first ever panic attack watching a CSE film at school’ – another letter for #nomoreCSEfilms

Tonight, I received another letter from a young person harmed by CSE (child sexual exploitation) films and productions.

We have already heard from Faye* who was harmed by the unethical showing of CSE films after she was abused: https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/i-was-shown-a-cse-film-after-i-was-raped-i-harmed-myself-that-night-another-letter-supporting-nomorecsefilms/ 

And we have heard the story of Kate, who was harmed by the unethical and blaming use of CSE resources: https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/you-showed-me-a-cse-film-when-i-was-13-years-old-this-is-how-it-affected-me-a-letter-to-support-nomorecsefilms/ 

I am compiling evidence from all over the UK that the showing of films containing rape and abuse of children, to children and adolescents in their thousands – is abusive and oppressive practice. The campaign is under #nomoreCSEfilms on twitter and google searches.

I have said before, that whilst this campaign is incredibly important to me, it always gives me a hollow, sinking feeling to read accounts like the one in this blog. Like the ones that have gone before it. Like the 90 I have already collected. Like the one I received this weekend from the mother of an 11 year old girl who was traumatised by a film showing the rape of a child in school.

I implore professionals, parents and policy makers to stop this practice immediately and to stop the making, selling and buying of these products with immediate effect.

Please read this letter from Josie* and think about the harm we are doing to thousands of children.

***************************************************

Dear Jessica, 

So when I was little, I was abused and trafficked. It started when I was 5, and continued until I was in my late teens. It was violent and systematic. I never told anyone, and that is partly due to the CSE resources I was shown growing up.

 

The first time I ever saw a CSE resource, I was eleven. It was a drama production performed by a travelling company that came into schools. A young teenage girl was depicted as being groomed and eventually raped by an older man. I was so confused. We had never had a lesson on sex education, much less consent, and while I knew what was happening to me was wrong,  I had no idea how to explain it.

 

The atmosphere in the school hall we were shoved into could’ve been cut with a knife. They hadn’t singled any of us out as being ‘at risk’, but it definitely felt like it. I don’t think I breathed the whole time I was sat there. My eyes didn’t move from my lap, and my hands were red raw from wringing them so tightly, trying anything I could to distract from the scene unfolding in front of me. And I wasn’t the only one. Across the hall were other girls having the same trauma response. From those staring at the ground wanting it to swallow them up to others glancing from door to door looking for the closest exit. I didn’t meet anyone’s eye for fear that my dirty secret was about to be uncovered in front of my whole year.

That was the first time I had a panic attack. I wasn’t sure why at the time but I felt the need to run as far and as fast as possible. Things that I’d tried so hard to forget were flashing in front of my eyes.

 

Towards the end of the assembly, a well meaning teacher stood up and told us we now knew the signs to look out for, and with that, we’d been officially ‘educated’. She sent us off to our respective classes with a smile , but it felt like she was looking right into my soul.

 

The girls story in the play was different to mine, she had been given gifts and money where I only knew threats and violence, yet somehow it still felt like through her acting she was telling my story, and revealing it in front of everyone.

 

No one picked up on it though. A group of terrified little girls in a middle school hall, the ones who ran to the bathrooms and threw up straight after, who didn’t look anyone in the eye for the rest of the day. The ones who showered in scalding hot water trying to wash away shame and the ones who covered their bodies at every opportunity, hiding away deep wounds and old scars reading ‘whore’ that littered their skin.

 

I was eleven and this was already my life. No support was offered then, or any year thereafter, when we were sat down and made to watch a film of the same ilk. Some protested that we already knew it, and some of us hung our heads in shame, believing more and more with each viewing that we did know the signs, and consequently everything we were living and breathing and surviving each day was all our own fault.

 

Everything those films and productions and other resources told me, was not that I was brave or strong or clever for protecting a tiny spark of light, but that I was dirty and tarnished, that every one would think badly of me, and that it was all my fault. Those films may seek to educate on warning signs, but for someone already stuck in a cycle, they only ensured that I would never find a way out.

Josie*

To parents: This is happening in every local authority area in the country with children as young as eleven. You can withdraw your children for their own wellbeing. You can meet with the Headteacher to discuss this practice.

To professionals: This is not the impact we want on children, is it? When professionals told us to show these films, when companies and charities sold these films to us, when local authorities were told it would ‘help protect children’… was this the impact we wanted?

Please sign the petition, tell your colleagues, tell other parents, tell your children, write to your local schools and social care, write to your police and crime commissioners – please join the hundreds of people trying to stop this practice with me.

We cannot continue to show unethical, untested resources, films and drama productions to children. We are causing harm. This is no longer a matter of my professional opinion, this is a matter of real children, real harm, happening right now all over the country.

I have meetings with leading politicians in February and can confirm that three local authorities have already withdrawn ALL CSE FILMS from practice in their areas. We can do this if we work together.

Sign here: https://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/lHMraCPq#/0 

Watch my YouTube Series on #nomoreCSEfilms here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Website: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

“I was shown a CSE film after I was raped. I harmed myself that night.” Another letter supporting #nomoreCSEfilms

In summer 2017, I started the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign, to stop the use of traumatic, untested and unethical practices with children who have been sexually abused. This campaign is against the showing of films that depict the rape, abuse, grooming and murder of children as false ‘preventative’ methods and as ‘interventions’ and so-called ‘direct work’.

I now have over 200 signatures and professional accounts and 8 accounts from children harmed by CSE films. This rises every day.

I first started receiving letters in Autumn 2017. Letters from young adults. Letters from parents. Letters from professionals. I then spoke to 5 children who had been harmed by CSE films.

Here is one from Kate, now 22 years old who wrote to me in November 2017: https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/you-showed-me-a-cse-film-when-i-was-13-years-old-this-is-how-it-affected-me-a-letter-to-support-nomorecsefilms/ 

This latest letter was sent to me through my website http://www.victimfocus.org.uk on the 7th January 2018. Nothing has been edited, except for her name and her location.

Hello Jessica, I have recently seen your campaign on Twitter #nomoreCSEfilms and would like to share my personal experience of this.

As a child I worked with an organisation in XXXX and was shown the film ‘Sick Party.’ I remember the worker coming to my home, she brought her laptop and set it up on the dining room table.

We began to watch the DVD. I remember it being approx half an hour long, during this time I became very upset and panicky. She paused the film several times so I could ‘compose myself until we could continue.’ At the end of the film I was extremely upset and the worker seemed shocked how upset I was. She ended my visit earlier to ‘leave me to calm down’ and said she’d come see me next week, then she left.

I vividly remember feeling so confused, embarrassed and ashamed. At that time what I had just seen made me feel so angry at myself that I’d not kept myself ‘safe.’ I felt stupid that I hadn’t ‘seen the signs.’ I know I self harmed that night, the shame felt unbearable.

Obviously as an adult I now know I am not to blame and that film should never have been shown to me, in my own home and I certainly should not have been left so upset. I wondered if you knew about other ‘tools’ being used?

I specifically remember being told I would see a worker for 6 weeks and each week we would have a specific ‘topic’ to work on. This was set in stone with no negotiation. It was a set plan they worked from with children they supported. One week, she brought some cards. Each card had a ‘scenario’ on it, I then had to match up whether I thought this was ‘Okay’ ‘maybe Okay’ or ‘not okay’.

One scenario that I remember was along the lines of ‘I’m going to take and send a nude photograph’ another was ‘I am going to meet an older man after school.’ The point of the exercise was to look at ways of ‘keeping myself safe in the future’ – like it was my responsibility as a child that had already been abused to prevent it happening again.

This same organisation documented in my notes on discharge that I was ‘low risk’ of future CSE as I had ‘built resilience in sessions’… ‘I now understood the dangers and can make more informed choices in the future.’ It also states that because I came from a good family home, that my parents both had good jobs and that I didn’t present as ‘over sexualised’ I was low risk.

Unfortunately my abuse continued. When I was 18 I was diagnosed with ‘personality disorder’ by the NHS – I was also referred back to the same organisation who had shown me the film for more support. They wouldn’t accept me on the grounds the workers are not ‘mental health qualified.’ They refused to offer me any support as they weren’t a ‘mental health service.’ I find this completely wrong – as my mental health issues ie. low confidence/self esteem were a direct result of the CSE.

 If my experience can help with your campaign in anyway please let me know. I really hope no other child has to feel the upset I felt on the day I saw that film, it fills me with disgust this is allowed to happen.

It’s been refreshing to share it with you, many thanks.

Faye*

I am sure that every practitioner, professional and policy maker in CSE would agree that the aim of direct work with children is not to make them feel silly, confused, embarrassed, ashamed, to blame – and then lead to self harming when you have left. These films are far too graphic, uninformed, based on anecdotal theory that showing children abuse will help them to understand what happened to them –  and finally, completely unethical.

I am disappointed to have to say that the film is still being used with children all over the UK. In fact, here is a photograph someone sent to me this week, to ask me whether this DVD is safe for children who have been sexually exploited. They had seen this poster and thought to contact me first, thankfully. I have highlighted in blue, the most concerning elements of the marketing.

sick party poster 2018aa

 

 

As you can see, the DVD is still being marketed as ‘essential viewing’ for children and young people. Essential viewing? For a child who has been raped and exploited? A ‘must have’ DVD if you work with young people?

The evidence is mounting. CSE films such as this one are unethical and untested. None of these films have an empirical basis and efficacy has never been tested. The films have never been evaluated and there is no data available to show us the impact of these films on children. Thousands of practitioners have been misled, and genuinely believe that showing a child a film of a child being abused and raped will help the child. I have set out advice and tips for those thinking of using or making a CSE film here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/blog/4593418266

I would like to take this space to thank Faye. Thank you for writing to me. I stand beside you and I completely agree that you should never have been shown this film, never have been assessed using completely untested CSE risk assessment toolkits on children to make decisions about their care and service provision (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321779703_We_need_to_talk_about_child_sexual_exploitation_CSE_toolkits)

I understand from talking to many people affected by CSE films, resources and risk assessment like this that the realisation that our professional practice harmed them, instead of helped them, is really difficult. They were told to trust us. They were told we were safe. They were told we wouldn’t blame or judge them.

I have said this before and I will say it again:

You can show these films to children now, and they might not protest. They might not understand. They might not have the power or strength to tell you to turn it off. They might not know they are having a panic attack. But one day, they will. Mark my words, one day, these children will be adults and they will look back on your practice. Please think about this.

Showing a DVD of a child being raped, after she/he has been raped – is child abuse.

This account from Faye is not unique or uncommon. Over 55,000 children were shown just one film in the Midlands in 2017 (Leicestershire Police) . Thousands of copies of Sick Party, My Dangerous Loverboy, Kayleighs Love Story and many others have been shown to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of children across the UK.

This practice has to stop now. I’m not shutting up about this.

Dr Nina Burrowes, Professor Liz Kelly, Catherine Knibbs, Dr Alec Grant and 185 other professionals in the field of psychology, social care, psychotherapy and policing are ready to oppose this practice and reform the way we respond to victims of CSE.

Are you?

Sign the petition and watch my films here:  http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271

 

Written by Jessica Eaton, with special thanks to Faye for her experiences.

@JessicaE13Eaton

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

 

Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port. 
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that. 

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls. 
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation. 

Example:
Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen 
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men? 


Example 2
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse 
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent either, you know! 
Pam: I was 9. 
(Haha) 

Familiar with that? Yep? Thought you might be. Sometimes reminds me of gaslighting. 
Okay, so back to the rage. Rage that I need to put in context for this blog to make a jot of sense. 

Almost 5 years ago, my father in law died after we had tried everything to help him and begged every agency and service for help. We got the dreaded phone call from police to say they had found a body. It was his. We had to go and identify him. He was a very vulnerable adult struggling with addiction, homelessness and a very complicated trauma history. 

At his wake, my Husband and I decided to set up a charity for male mental health and well-being and we named it ‘The Eaton Foundation’ (TEF).

(Someone once laughed at me, ‘Bit narcissistic of you isn’t it, naming a foundation after yourself?’ and then went every shade of red whilst I told them it was my late Father in Law’s name.) 

So in 2013 we founded the charity, of which I am still the Chairperson. The charity only supports adult men. We grew exponentially. I mean – from like 10 men to 150 men in one year. In the second year of operation I managed to secure over £270k of funding and funded the renovation of a huge old derelict building which we turned into the first male mental health and well-being centre in the UK. 

My husband runs it on the day-to-day, along with his staff and volunteers. We now employ 6 people and have a further 9 volunteers. We see hundreds of men a year who benefit from completely free, lifelong support including counselling, benefits advice, food parcels, housing advocacy, legal advice, IT suite, music and band practice, employment clubs and training courses, fitness clubs, art therapy and so on. Some guys have been coming every day for years. Our clientele is between 18 and 85 years old from every walk of life you can imagine. 

Why am I telling you this? 

Because in those 5 years, I have NEVER received the amount of abuse and ‘whataboutery’ that I get for my work and research with women and girls. 
Most of you know me for my work with women and girls and my controversial tumble into CSE. My PhD focusses on the victim blaming of women and girls in society which includes one of the largest ever literature reviews of every factor in society that supports victim blaming of women and girls (I do mean every factor I could find evidence for – from porn to Hinduism). 

I have a career history in rape centre management and criminal justice management of vulnerable and intimidated witness programmes, which is where I built my experience and knowledge of sexual violence, homicides, trafficking and other serious crimes across my courts. 

I launched a study last year, exploring the many different forms of victim blaming women and girls can experience. Over 700 people responded. My other recent studies have included interviewing women who have been blamed for rape and abuse, interviewing therapists and support workers who work with women who blame themselves for being abused or attacked and a complex study in which I developed and validated a new psychometric measure of victim blaming of women. 
I honestly cannot express how much whataboutery I get. 

Here are some real examples: 

‘Don’t you think you’re being sexist by only writing about women in this article?’

‘This article is good but where are your studies on men?’ 

‘I don’t condone murder but don’t you think you are gender biased, only caring about the murders of women?’ 

‘You can tell the psychologist who wrote this study is a sexist bitch who hates men’

‘This study was ridiculous. All you care about is women! What about men?’

‘You should have your PhD removed. This is so sexist. None of your research is about men.’

‘By only caring about women, you basically say that all men are rapists.’

‘This is great Jessica! But I wonder if you can now build one of these for boys and men and why they aren’t included in the first place?’

‘Why do you only focus on women? Men can get abused as well, you know!’

‘What about men, cunt?’

Honestly, I could go on forever and ever. 

In fact, I did one study where there was a free text question at the end and a whopping 9% of respondents chose to use that box to criticise me for not researching men. I say whopping because the free text box didn’t even ask them a question about that and 63 people still managed to use the box to whack in some ‘whataboutery’. 
Not only that but a further 14% (over 90 people) left comments that were just plain nasty or abusive. One guy told me that my work was shit and he hopes I fail my PhD. And then left his full name and job title. He was an academic at a university. In my field. He even put some kisses on. 
And what perplexes me about all of this, is that I have no such experiences of running TEF. 

I can’t tell you about the hundreds of messages or tweets we get asking ‘what about women?’ – because it’s never happened. 

I don’t have any stories about the times we got sent a tonne of abuse when we conducted research with general public in the community about male mental health stigma – because it’s never happened. 
I can switch over to the TEF twitter account right now and write literally anything about men and nothing bad will ever happen. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers and we never get threats, abuse or whataboutery. 

Fair enough, my Twitter is currently at about 4.5k followers but my teeny tiny Facebook page is only on a few hundred followers and I get between 10-20 abusive messages and comments a week – almost exclusively comments about me focusing on women and girls – which usually results in me being called a ‘fat, ugly feminist cunt’ or something along those eloquent lines. 


Recently this has all caused me to reflect. 

Why don’t I get any abuse when I speak and write about men and boys? 
Why am I hailed? 

Why did we win 6 charity awards and over £300k in the first 18 months of operation? 

Why did I end up on every TV channel and radio in the UK? Why can I launch studies and campaigns and videos and appeals for TEF about male mental health and receive ZERO whataboutery comments?

And why do I get shouted down if I even dare post one tweet about violence against women or rape statistics or murders of women by partners? 

Why do I get hundreds of messages and tweets every week asking me:
‘But what about men?’ 

And actually, this isn’t rocket science. This is uncomfortable but it’s real talk:

Women are socialised into their gender roles (gender roles are harmful, narrow, stereotypical characteristics and expectations assigned to males and females to conform to a societal norm) to not even possess a shred of the sense of entitlement that men have. Women do not read a campaign about male mental health or male abuse or male cancers and furiously tweet back ‘what about women, you cunt?!’ because they didn’t think about themselves when they read it. They didn’t see the campaign as two fingers up to women.

Perfect example: Movember. 


Have you EVER in your life seen women kicking off that Movember is sexist? Or that the campaign should include women? Or that focusing on testicular cancer is exclusionary? No. Have you fuck. 

Second perfect example: Male suicide rates. 

We know that the leading cause of death in young men aged 18-35 is suicide. This is the strongest symptom of a patriarchal society where emotionless males struggle to cope with trauma and feelings, can’t open up, don’t feel safe to talk and become completely overwhelmed by emotions they are taught are ‘feminine’, which further induces shame and stigma. 
In all my years I have never seen women jump on those campaigns yelling ‘women commit suicide too, you know!!’ Or ‘what about women?’ 

Switch it over. Women’s marches. Pussy hats. IWD. Counting dead women. VAWG strategies. Women’s health screening. Women’s reproductive health. Women’s mental health. Rape campaigns. #metoo. 

There is ALWAYS someone saying ‘what about men though?’ under all of those issues. It’s as sure as taxes and death. 

Like a depressing new catchphrase nobody wants:

There’s only three things you can be certain of in life: taxes, death and some randomer yelling ‘what about men?’ every time you talk about women’s issues.’



‘Whataboutery’ comes from a place of misogyny. An arrogant, derailing technique used to respond to a campaign, video, research study, intervention, organisation or communication that screams ‘I don’t care about women, talk about men!!’ 
And the proof is in the pudding for me. Because when I do all those things with a focus on boys and men, I’m a fucking hero. But when I do all of those things and focus on girls and women, I’m a fat, ugly feminist cunt. 

So I need to explain something else. This is not about equality. ‘Whataboutery’ has nothing to do with equality. It’s not about reminding us that men suffer too. Social issues aren’t equal. 

When I write a tweet about women being murdered or raped, I didn’t forget men. I didn’t forget they could be murdered or raped. I didn’t accidentally miss them off my tweet. I simply CHOSE to talk about the experiences of females. It is not helpful, or clever, or promoting ‘equality’ to write to a researcher specialising in women’s studies and tell her in three paragraphs why she should focus on men. 

It is not useful to ‘send a gentle reminder than men can get raped too, you know’. 
If you’re reading this and you know you have done this to someone, please think twice before doing it again. It’s not helpful. It’s derailing. 
We do not need to centre men in every conversation we have. Women and girls are valid entities, independent from men.
We need to get to a point where we can talk about women’s issues and get the same level of respect we get when we talk about men’s issues. 
Until then, your ‘Whataboutery’ is unwelcome here. 


What about that? 




Written by Jessica Eaton 

@JessicaE13Eaton 

My free videos at http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

My new book is out in September 2018 – go to http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/thelittleorangebook for the teaser!