You are not going crazy: Your physical health after sexual trauma 

You are not going crazy: Your physical health after sexual trauma 

One place where I see my passions and specialisms intersect is the issue of women being diagnosed and labelled with psychiatric issues after experiencing sexual abuse and violence perpetrated by males.

Millions of women and girls who have experienced sexual trauma will also experience a wide range of trauma responses. Whilst these trauma responses should be seen as rational, normal and reasonable; they are often medicalised or misunderstood – not only by professionals but by the women and girls themselves. 

This blog is for any woman or girl who has unresolved health issues, symptoms they don’t understand, illnesses with no physical basis and a feeling of going around in circles with health professionals and even some mental health professionals whilst attempting to find the answer to their problems.

This blog will also be useful to those professionals who work with women and girls all over the world – either in physical or mental health.

Let’s talk about sexual trauma in females

When we talk about sexual intercourse, it is helpful to consider it within a radical feminist perspective. Sex has never been neutral for women and girls – sex has never been controlled by women and girls. Whether it’s a father controlling when a woman has sex, the myth of ‘losing her virginity’, the media hypersexualising girls as early as possible with fashion and make-up, women being made responsible for contraception or being denied contraception and abortion, men being celebrated for being increasingly sexually active with many partners and women being punished for sexual activity and more than a couple of sexual partners, men being taught that women engage in ‘token resistance’ to sex, so if she says no, just keep badgering her… the list could go on and on forever. Indeed, many authors and academics have tackled this issues in great detail, including myself in my forthcoming work. 

Sex is already wrapped up in so much power and control, so much expectation and rules and boundaries, so much shame and blame and honour. Women and girls are held up as sexual objects of desire and as chaste, pure virgins who should be sexually conservative; simultaneously. And these competing demands exist for women and girls having consensual sex with chosen partners. 

So then, what extra factors affect the women and girls who have been sexually abused, assaulted or raped? 

Sexual trauma from: rape myths 




All of the above, and so much more. The first point to make is that sexual abuse, assaults or rapes are rarely experienced as a form of sex. It is much more likely to be experienced as a form of violence, harm, suffering and fear. Despite this, many of the assumptions around sex are applied to rape, abuse and assaults. Women and girls are taught from an early age that they could have been ‘asking for it’ or they could have ‘enjoyed it really’. They are told that they shouldn’t have flirted, shouldn’t have been polite to the man, shouldn’t have accepted the drink, shouldn’t have walked home with them, shouldn’t have kissed them, shouldn’t have swapped numbers, shouldn’t have shared that taxi. In short, women and girls are made responsible for when ‘sex goes wrong’. Women and girls are made responsible for the abuse, assaults and rapes committed against them. 
These expectations leave women and girls with feelings of blame, shame and guilt for the crimes committed against them, which have a significant effect on their mental wellbeing. 



Sexual trauma from: change in world-view




Being sexually abused, assaulted or raped also challenges the world-view of most women and girls. The trauma of living through a rape, assault or a period of abuse can force a person to rethink everything they thought they knew. Maybe the person who attacked them was their most trusted friend, their boss, their parent or their partner. Someone they looked up to. Someone they were inspired to be like. Someone they told all of their secrets to. Someone they loved with all their heart. All of a sudden, their feelings of safety, trust and judgement are shaken. They consciously or subconsciously ask ‘Who is safe? Who can I really trust? How did I not see that coming? Are all humans going to harm me? How do I protect myself from humans? Am I a bad judge of character? Why did they do this to me? Did I do something to deserve their harm? What if this happens to me again? Do I attract this type of person?’
Their view of sex might change too. Memories of being raped or abused might change the way they see sex. Sex may become scary, dirty, horrible, painful or may feel like a violation of their body again. Sex might feel like the ultimate act of trust. Sex might come with new rules, new boundaries and new feelings. 
Women and girls might experience a change in their view of the world. A world that once held opportunity, excitement, adventure and a future might now start to look like an inherently dangerous and harmful place where no one is to be trusted and there is no future to look forward to. The world might have felt safe and filled with generally good people – but now feels like an unsafe place to live, filled with sex offenders ready to pounce. The world might have been a positive place to live where the person felt they had self-efficacy and power over what happens to them – but now feels like a negative or uncertain place where the person feels powerless and at the mercy of random acts of violence. 
The change in the world view of a woman or girl after sexual violence is often deep and long lasting – however, it is rational and reasonable. When we were evolving as a species, we encountered a new animal or a new threat and if it attacked us or harmed us in some way, we created a stereotype of that ‘thing’ and then we kept well away from it for the rest of our lives. We wouldn’t have lasted this long as a species if we simply kept going back to the harm in the belief that it would be different this time. When a woman or girl has been sexually abused, assaulted or raped, they process the features of the person who did it to them or the situation it occurred in and they often avoid those features whilst in trauma – and some avoid them for the rest of their lives. 
Sexual trauma: physical harm and physical responses 




Much has been written about the five Fs of trauma – the physiological and psychological responses to extreme stress (fight, flight, freeze,friend, flop), so I won’t labour this theory here. However, it is important to discuss the physical ways the body responds during and after sexual assault, abuse or rape. This is very personal and variable. Part of this is based on acknowledgment, which I write about in my forthcoming work. Acknowledgement is whether or not the woman or girl knew they were being assaulted, raped or abused at the time of the offence. For example, a woman might think that she has no rights to say no to her husband so she must comply with his demands for extreme sex acts despite them hurting. Or a girl might have been sexually exploited for 5 months and not realise it until she is in her thirties. In contrast, a woman might be violently raped whilst she cries and begs them to stop. Acknowledgement is at the heart of the response and the trauma – where someone has no idea they were being harmed, their physical responses to the crime will be delayed until they realise what happened, whether that is the next morning or five decades later. This is also why some people (including child abuse victims) can develop physical and psychological sexual trauma responses years after sexual violence. 

So what physical symptoms am I referring to? 




In line with the work on physiological trauma responses in the body and brain, I am talking about the urgent release of noradrenaline which causes the increase in heart rate, blood pressure, the change in blood flow, the change in priority of blood supply to organs, muscles and extremities, the feeling of dizziness, the banging headache from the surge in blood pressure, the fainting or collapsing during or after the assault, the slowing of digestion whilst the body concentrates on keeping the person alive, the tingling of the skin, the sudden focus on their heart beat, the come down from the adrenaline leaving them shattered and unable to move, talk or focus on tasks.

These are just some of the common ways trauma can affect the body. These symptoms are not caused by an underlying medical problem. The person did not suddenly develop a serious medical problem in the weeks or days after being raped or assaulted. But this is what this blog is all about: the incredible ways that sexual trauma can impact on the body – and the wide lack of understanding in professionals which leads to women and girls being tested for obscure medical issues, being prescribed medication for health issues they don’t have and then, after years of searching for answers; being diagnosed with some catch-all psychiatric disorder or broad physical health issue that can only ever be ‘managed’. 

Over my years in this field, I have become aware of some of the most common complaints from people who have experienced sexual trauma.

Common complaints




Palpitations such as suddenly being aware of the heart beat, the heart pounding, racing, fluttering or slowing 

Chest pains such as a stabbing sharp pain in the chest or a perception of ‘heart pain’ 

Muscle pains anywhere on the body 

Headaches and migraines ranging from tension headaches to days of severe migraine 

Fainting and collapsing which could include falls, losing consciousness momentarily, feeling faint but not actually fainting

Digestive issues such as IBS 

Neck pain and shoulder pain 

Dizziness 

Tingling limbs such as fingers, arms, legs, feet, sometimes even one-sided in the face or lips 

Jaw aches and pains 

Pressure in the face or head

Vertigo feelings 

Visual issues such as vision shaking, vision blurring, vision going grey

Hearing issues such as losing hearing or everything going echoey before passing out 

Whilst these symptoms sound terrifying, they can all be linked to or directly caused by the anxiety and trauma responses following sexual abuse, assault or rape. What makes this more complex and often even scarier for women and girls experiencing any of these symptoms is that they are often also linked with very serious physical health conditions such as stroke, heart attack, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, brain tumour and other rare conditions. 

What this often leads to in the early stages is women and girls seeking urgent medical help (which all medical advice would advise for a lot of these symptoms, in order to rule out life threatening conditions) but getting nowhere. They get their clean bill of health from a confident medical professional who is sure that the symptoms are not life threatening and sent on their way. In fact, this clean bill of health is not the reassurance the woman was seeking and it often triggers health anxiety and incessant googling of alternative diagnoses or the percentage of error in medical professionals. They get a clean bill of health whilst their symptoms spiral out of control and even develop into new symptoms. The medical professionals are confident that the symptoms are not life threatening (and they are correct) but they don’t necessarily have any of the patient’s trauma history, the knowledge to piece together the puzzle, the time or the resources to figure out that these symptoms are psychosomatic – and the person ends up on everything from beta blockers to proton pump inhibitors to treat the apparent ‘symptoms’. The sexual trauma is never addressed and the symptoms become embedded outlets for the anxiety, stress and trauma of their experiences. 

All of the symptoms above can be directly caused by high levels of stress, adrenaline and can therefore be linked to sexual trauma. Many of the symptoms are caused when the body is shoved into that ‘fight or flight’ mode day after day. High levels of cortisol and adrenaline increase blood pressure, heart rate, slow digestion, cause tingling in skin and limbs, change perception of pain and sensation, change visual processing and perception, change the priorities of the body and leave the person feeling like they are constantly on the ‘edge’ – some describe it as a constant impending feeling of doom or as if something terrible will happen at any given moment. 

Muscles become tense and often take the brunt of trauma responses – commonly the neck muscles, shoulder muscles and the connecting muscles all across the head and face are tightened for days at a time, leading to searing headaches, pressure in the face, pressure in the temples, stiff neck, pulled shoulders and even jaw pain. 

Fainting can appear serious – and due to the links with medical issues, it often leads to a trip in an ambulance (or ten). However, fainting after sexual trauma or at times of stress is a normal response for some people when they react to high levels of adrenaline in the body. As an example, I actually fainted whilst making a 999 call for someone else who was seriously injured. I was so stressed from hearing them scream in pain that I fainted whilst trying to tell the ambulance where we were – a lot of good I turned out to be! There is no other medical reason why I would have fainted in a circumstance of extreme stress other than the extreme stress itself. 

When women and girls who have experienced sexual trauma begin fainting, this is a sure symptom of stress. The body and brain has a very complex and amazing relationship – meaning that there is debate as to whether the ‘mind’ shuts the body down to protect the person from further psychological trauma or whether the brain shuts down the body due to a sudden surge of adrenaline causing the momentary myopia. 

When we put all of this information together, with the knowledge of experienced professionals who can recognise trauma responses after sexual violence – we can see that it is likely that hundreds, thousands or millions of women and girls (the most likely victims of sexual violence due to sex-based oppression) will experience diverse trauma responses and may never find the professional who can help them to understand that their medical mysteries and boxes of unneeded medication are really due to completely normal, rational and common stress responses in human beings. 

The final stage of searching for the answers seems to be diagnosis with a psychiatric disorder or a catch-all illness or disorder where the woman or girl is made to feel defective or ill. Alternatively, women and girls find a medical professional who dismisses them and says ‘it’s all in your head’ – making them feel ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘wasting medical time’. 

It’s been a long one, this blog. It’s a big topic. Even bigger than this blog. But please take these messages away from my blog and share them with others who have experienced sexual trauma: 

1. You are not crazy – your symptoms are real and they suck. However, you are not physically ill and you can find support to help you work through your trauma responses in a healthy way 

2. Your trauma responses are completely normal and very common – for an idea of just how common, have a look at the anxiety charity support forums in the UK 
3. Trauma responses are not mental health issues and you do not need a psychiatric disorder or label to get help for trauma responses 
4. Your experiences of sexual trauma will not define you or control you forever 

5. I won’t tell you not to google because I know you’ve googled your symptoms to death and that’s cool because you want answers – but be careful if you can tell your googling is making you feel worse 

6. Try this mantra as a starter: “I have had these symptoms before, and they don’t last. I didn’t die. I didn’t have a rare disease. This is my body telling me to look after myself.” Mantras like these can break the spiralling thoughts of impending doom. 

7. Give yourself permission to respond to your trauma however you need to and just allow it to pass naturally in its own time

8. Some people respond to trauma in psychological ways – some people respond in physical ways – right now, your trauma is being expressed through physical symptoms. 

You can do this. 

You are not alone

Written by Jessica Eaton

Email Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet @Jessicae13Eaton

Visit http://www.victimfocus.org.uk 

“Mum, what things do you have to do to be a sex offender?” Answering big questions from small children

“Mum, what things do you have to do to be a sex offender?” Answering big questions from small children

It was Saturday afternoon, the kids were in the back of my car when I turned the key and my stereo suddenly came on full blast. 
Kanye West sang out:

“She found pictures in my emails. I sent this bitch a picture of my dick. I don’t know what it is with females. But I’m not too good at that shit.”

I turned it off. I made a decision to never use misogynistic language ever again when I was in my early 20s so I cringe when I hear the word ‘bitch’. Not only that, but he was singing about sending dick pics to a woman. 

My six year old son asked, “Mum, is Kanye West a sex offender?” 

I pulled the handbrake back up, took my seatbelt off and turned around to my sons, six and eight years old (although my eight year old would want me to be crystal clear about the fact that he is, in fact, nine next month). 

“What makes you ask that?” I asked, genuinely intrigued by his use of language and his ability to identify Kanye’s voice seeing as I refuse to listen to any of his music after College Dropout. 

My six year old explained, “He sent a girl a picture of his dick. So, I’ve heard you saying before that people who send pictures of their private parts to women are sex offenders.” 

I am a firm believer in frank, open, honest conversations with children when they ask a question or require information. Not only that, but my sons both know that their Mummy is a national specialist in the psychology of sexual violence. In fact, my eight year old recently made a little poster which said “I love my mum because she does amazing speeches about a lot of stuff!” They know what I do and they were both taught about sex, relationships, abuse, puberty and bodies when they were around five. Because it was never made a taboo, they ask whatever they want, when they need to. We don’t have any ‘off-limits’ topics; and over the years they have taught me that young children comprehend far more than we ever give them credit for. I’ve taught my kids and primary school children about everything from nuclear weapons to porn to atheism and I’ve never had a problem. Children are extremely sophisticated learners and as long as our language is age appropriate, they won’t struggle with any concepts, no matter how complicated you think they are. This conversation was one of many and I replied the way I always do; calmly and openly. 

“Oh right, okay. Good question. Well, that would depend on whether she asked him to send her a picture of his penis, or whether he asked her permission, and how old she is,” I explained. I need to protect my sons from growing into men who do this stuff but I simultaneously need to ensure that the concepts of consent and pleasure are interwoven into my answers. The last thing I want is to create a taboo around sex being negative just because in my job, it is. However, my kids have ears everywhere and my eight year old instantly gave an example from a few months back.

“You’ve had men send you stuff before and it made you really angry. Were they sex offenders?” He asked. 

“Technically, they are a sex offender; although they probably don’t feel they are one. They broke the law and committed a sexual offence; they chose to take a picture of their private parts and send it to someone they didn’t know, without permission.” I explained further. 

My six year old then interjected, “Mum, what things do you have to do to be a sex offender?” I smirked at how this question from an innocent child sounded like the equivalent of ‘What things do you have to do to become a vet?’ No matter how strange our conversations might seem to others, I would never change them.

“A sex offender is someone who uses sex or sexual acts, touching, pictures, videos or words for violence. So, if a person forces someone to have sex with them, touch their body, look at their body or show them something sexual – they are a sex offender. They could use sex to scare someone, control them, threaten them, make them do stuff they don’t want to do or to hurt them. Sex should be fun and feel good for both people involved and they should both be old enough to have sex. Sex offenders use sex as a weapon to hurt others.”

My eight year old son pondered. “So, if one day, I took a picture of my balls and sent it to a girl, I’d be a sex offender?” 

My six year old burst out laughing, “Haha! You said balls!” 

“Shush you, I’m asking Mum. You said dick and I didn’t laugh!” 

I let them calm down for a few seconds and then answered his new question.

“If you were a child when you did it, I and hopefully other people would tell you it was wrong but would help you and the other child – you can get into a lot of trouble for doing that before you are 18. If you were a grown up and you sent it to another grown up you were in a relationship with and you liked taking pictures with each other then that would be totally your private business. Lots of grown ups like doing that. But if you were a grown up and you sent pictures to another grown up without their permission, or did anything else to them without their permission, then that would be a sexual offence and the other person would be very upset.”

“But there are some sex offenders that do stuff to kids aren’t there?” My six year old asked me.

“Yes. So if a grown up sends a picture of their breasts or penis or testicles or bottom to a child, they are a sex offender. If a grown up ever asked to look at your bodies or touch you – or asked you to look at them or touch them, they are definitely a sex offender. If a grown up asks you to meet them or talk to them, lie about them or keep anything a secret, you can tell us straightaway.” I explained to both of my boys.

My eight year old looked at me and said, “That conversation was a bit awkward but it’s okay cos it was with you.” 

“It’s okay, some of this stuff can be awkward but your brother asked a question about the song lyrics and then you got to ask some questions and now we are all done. That’s all there is to it. If you don’t ask, you never know. Come on, seat-belts on, let’s go.” 

Why have I sat down to write this story? You might wonder.




I have some tips and advice for the parents reading my blog, who may read this and think ‘Why would you tell your kids that!?’ 

1. Your kids are growing up in the most sexualised society there has ever been – even more sexualised than when kids were actually being married off and used as sex slaves in British history. Your kids are surrounded by music videos filled with semi naked women, people dry humping each other, Justin Bieber singing about make-up sex, little mix singing about faking orgasms, clothing with sexual slogans on, baby romper suits that say ‘TITS MAN’, padded bras for 7 year old girls, Disney channels filled with series for children about dating and cheating, advertisements encouraging gender role stereotypes, kids magazines with tutorials on having anal sex and over 28% of 11 year olds are watching porn. 

2. You cannot ignore the environment your kids are growing up in. You must learn to be their source of real information and honesty in a world that is selling them bullshit. Be the person they look up to and think ‘I’m gonna ask Mum/Dad/Carer later, they’ll know the answer!” 

3. When your kids ask a question about their body, sex, relationships or abuse – give them an honest and appropriate answer. You know your kid best, if they can handle quite a comprehensive answer, go for it. If they are very young or have a disability, you may need to amend your answer for now, but as long as it is correct and honest; you’re doing just fine.

4. When they ask you a question, you might feel shocked, scared, embarrassed or nervous. Try your very best to remain calm and talk to them like you are talking to them about what they are having for dinner. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, adults are the creators of taboo. Kids don’t know what taboo is until you impose it. If you react with embarrassment, they’ll learn embarrassment. If you react with shock, they will learn that asking you something about their bodies is bad or shocking. 

5. If you don’t educate your kids, porn will. If you have daughters, it is imperative that you do not allow porn to educate them about the sex they will have. If you have sons, it is imperative that you do not allow porn to educate them about the sex they will have. See what I did there? Men and women are harmed by porn. We have kids as young as 13 copying BDSM and anal from porn and we have some of the highest rates of porn-related erectile dysfunction in teenage boys we have ever seen; argued to be due to boys being so visually stimulated by perfect porn bodies and extreme porn sex that when they have real sex, they cannot get aroused. A forensic psych colleague told me last week that her GP friend is seeing around 7 teenage girls a month for fisting injuries. You read that right. Teenagers, some under the age of consent, are copying fisting from porn and causing internal injuries to girls. 

6. When your kids are trying to ask you something about sex or relationships, don’t interrupt to correct them. You will notice that I didn’t immediately correct my six year old on his use of the word ‘dick’ when I prefer them to say penis. He was using the language in the song to ask me his question and it would be unhelpful if I was to cut him off at that point to tell him off for swearing or corrected his language. Allow them the space to express themselves in the language they have and teach them alternatives later on in the conversation. 

7. It’s very important to teach your children the right names for their anatomy (vagina, vulva, penis, testicles, nipples, breasts, anus among others) because there are so many sexist and offensive slurs mixed in with meaningless infantile terms for their genitals that it’s a wonder kids ever figure out what they have or how to talk about their bodies when they need help (fairy, flower, tuppence, penny, minge, pussy, cunt, cock, dick, snake, winky, rack, tits – and much worse depending on where they are getting stuff from). 

8. Sexual abuse is extremely common. Some estimates of the proportion of people who will be abused in childhood sit at around 1 in 3 females and 1 in 8 males. When the CSEW (our national crime survey) is conducted, around 1 in 5 adults report that they were sexually abused in childhood. That’s millions of our population. That could mean up to 13 million people in the U.K. have been or will be sexually abused. In your kids’ class, that’s around 6 of them. Whilst it is a fallacy to argue that teaching your kids about abuse and sex will make them immune from abuse or sex offenders, more knowledge will give them more knowledge. Some research suggests that children with more knowledge can disclose earlier or easier because they have the language to do so – but this is currently in need of much further research.

9. Sexual abuse is extremely common. With those statistics up in number 8, you might well have thought ‘but that would mean millions of sex offenders’ – and you would be right. The majority of all sex offences are committed by someone the person knew – in their family or close support network. By that logic, we have millions of sex offenders in our population. Talking to children about sex, abuse, power, control, pleasure, offending, harm, relationships and so on may one day play a part in influencing our next generations to understand sexual offending so much more that they change their own society. Some of our kids will grow up to be sex offenders, some will become police, some will become lawyers, some will become counsellors, some will become teachers, some will become jurors, some will become social workers and some will become victims. If parents all over the world started the process of deconstructing taboo, myths and stereotypes about sex and relationships and started challenging harmful messages coming from porn, media and music – we could make a huge difference to future generations and future societies. 

10. Try not to be scared about the prospect of teaching your kids about sex, abuse, relationships, porn, bodies, puberty or indeed any other social issues – there is no evidence that children go out and ‘do’ whatever you explained to them. The countries with the highest and most comprehensive levels of sex education have the lowest levels of teen pregnancy, STDs and have higher average ages of first sexual experiences. 
Give your kids the gift you were never given: honest, frank, open communication about sex. 




Written by Jessica Eaton 

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet @JessicaE13Eaton 

What do you know?

What do you know?

What do you know?

I had a realisation today that no matter what stage of my life or career I have been at, I have always been asked

“What do you know?”

I have thought about all the times I have been asked this question by someone attempting to discredit or belittle my views, skills or knowledge and laughed to myself at the prospect that maybe, there will never be a day when people stop asking me this.

Let’s start from the beginning:

 

“What do you know? You’re only young!”

I often say when I am public speaking, that British culture does a very strange thing to young people. It constantly rushes them to grow up, take responsibility, be more mature, become independent, make their own decisions and make their own way in life – whilst simultaneously belittling them for being immature, too young to understand, poor decision makers, born yesterday and not old enough to do any of the things we pressure them to do.

I was very young when I started my career, in a lot of people’s eyes, I still am. Maybe that’s why I’ve come up against so much criticism whenever I have something to say – because I’m old enough to say it but not old enough to be taken seriously. I am 27 soon and have been in this field since I was 19 years old. Not a month has gone by where someone hasn’t commented on my age.

I was 21 years old when I managed 2 crown courts and 5 magistrates courts and I was forever being challenged as ‘too young’ to manage the CJS, ‘too young’ to manage a large team, ‘too young’ to do my job well, ‘too young’ to teach others how to ensure vulnerable and intimidated witnesses were protected and empowered. I thought that as I got older, it would get less and less, but it hasn’t stopped yet.

It’s also worth mentioning that throughout my years as a trainer, I was forever being asked ‘What do you know? You’re only young!’ too.

A delegate once put their hand up whilst I was teaching about harmful sexual behaviours and the theories of development in children; and said “Excuse me, how old are you?”

For what felt like the thousandth time, I told them my age was irrelevant, laughed it off and carried on teaching for the day. I remember thinking ‘One day, when I am older, these dumb questions will stop…’

I have also watched people silently work out my age when I speak about my children. Looking at me, considering the age of my kids, counting backwards and then saying

“But you can’t be over 25? How have you got a 9 year old? How have you been in this field for as long as you say you have? That’s impossible…” Stranger things have happened, carry on with your group activity.

Maybe when I’m 30 or 40 or 50 I’ll be old enough to do my job? When will I be old enough to have the knowledge and skills I already possess?

But because I am young, what do I know?

 

“What do you know? You didn’t even finish school.”

Like lots of young people, I was not in a position to finish school. I wish I was, because I was as academic as I am now and I found education easy – it was much easier than life. I did rock up for my GCSEs a year after leaving school, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, having worked 40 hour weeks at 16 years old for a dodgy hotel chain and revised on my breaks and I still came out with 12 B grades – I remember being so pissed off that I didn’t get a single A grade but seeing as I hadn’t attended school in months; I now see it as some form of wizardry.

I remember trying to apply for jobs as a teenage, single mother. I knew my limits. I knew I would never be offered any of the dream jobs I wanted because I didn’t do any A-levels or go to university. My academic abilities were not matched with qualifications or training. Every time I had an idea or tried to express a view on something in my jobs as an accounts administrator or a waitress, I was asked “What do you know?”

But because I never finished high school, what did I know?

 

“What do you know? You’re just a practitioner!”

I’d worked so hard to become a practitioner in the criminal justice system and in sexual abuse counselling services. I was doing a degree part time around my full time jobs and my toddlers. I was so proud of myself. I had made it. I was trained up and I was studying psychology. I was doing a good job. 

There is something frustrating about the field of social care and support in which leaders constantly harp on about how the service couldn’t run without the time and skills of the frontline practitioners, but woe betide you if you, a measly frontline practitioner, point out failings, problems or issues in the service or in other professional practice. Don’t you even dare suggest improvements or present evidence to the contrary. I remember questioning safeguarding cover-ups, lies about clients, the framing of counsellors for failings of management, poor practice with victims and witnesses of child abuse trials in my courts and I was often knocked back down to my station, “What do you know? You’re just a practitioner…”

I remember thinking “One day, when I have my degree and I have much more experience, no one will ask me that question…”

The other angle to this one is the ache I used to feel when a client would say “What do you know? You’re just a professional. You’ve never been where I’ve been.” I am a firm believer in non-disclosure to clients and I have never crossed that boundary where I have told a person experiencing trauma that I also have a long history of cumulative trauma. There were many times when I wished they knew that I was not the empty, soulless, jobsworth frontline practitioner they probably thought I was. I wish they knew I wasn’t like their perception of ‘all the rest’ and that I was going to fight for them all the way through the CJS and their recovery from abuse.
But because I was just a practitioner, what did I know?

 

“What do you know? You’re just a trainer!”

As my career developed, I realised that the only way to change the things I saw and to improve the experiences of thousands of victims of sexual violence – was to leave the field as a practitioner and to write and teach practitioners how to be better. But all of a sudden, the perception of me changed. I was no longer getting asked ‘What do you know? You are just a practitioner!’ – I was being asked ‘What do you know? You’re just the trainer!’ I designed, wrote, tested and taught training materials in sexual violence for 4 years and an assumption developed that I had never worked with real people, that I was a stereotypical trainer who teaches on a wide range of issues with shallow knowledge

I have had numerous incidents of people saying:

“Not being funny love but we actually do this job, working in sexual violence, day in day out. You are just a trainer, what do you know? What could you possibly teach us?”

I remember thinking “I am not about to launch into my years of frontline work… how do I answer this challenge? Maybe I’ll have to add an introduction about my career…”

That’s when I started doing a quick 2 minute introduction to my career history whenever I trained people – in an often unsuccessful attempt to convince them that I had years of previous and ongoing experience in the field of support and psychology. It’s also the reason I have a page on my website with a timeline of my achievements and awards.

I have a track record of excellent delivery and training all over the UK, with thousands of people following my work, hundreds of emails a day – so I must have taught them something.

But because I was just a trainer, what did I know?

 

“What do you know? You’re just an academic.”

Here I am, 10 years since the GCSE results, coming to the end of my PhD Forensic Psychology and widely regarded as a specialist in my topic areas. I have finally got to the level of knowledge that I thought would stop the dumb questions, asked only to attempt to silence me or belittle me – and yet I am now getting a new question. ‘What do you know? You’re just an academic.”

In fact, only a few weeks ago, I was told I was ‘too academic for the field of CSE…’ because someone didn’t like my critical thinking skills very much.

Too academic? What does that even mean? 

I was delivering an invited keynote speech this month at a very large conference and I was discussing the most pivotal issues facing the field of CSE and the lack of evidence for much of the practice. At the end, there was a Q&A. A woman made a comment:

“With all due respect, you don’t even work in this field. You’re just an academic. What do you know? You don’t know what our practice is like, you don’t know how to work with young people.”

But because I am now an academic, what do I know?

 

Hmm…

I’ve been a young person. That’s not enough.

I’ve been a person in difficult circumstances. That’s not enough.

I’ve been a service user. That’s not enough.

I’ve been a practitioner. That’s not enough.

I’ve been a manager. That’s not enough.

I’ve been a trainer. That’s not enough.

I’ve been an academic. That’s not enough.

What do I know?

 

What I do know

I know how to write excellent materials in the field with a considered and sophisticated evidence base taken from peer reviewed studies

I know how to design, set up and run a large mental health service from scratch

I know how to perform ethical, impactful and focussed research and how to interpret findings

I know how to write tenders and win large bids my charity, The Eaton Foundation (£500,000 in the last 4 years)

I know how to secure, renovate and build a mental health centre from a derelict building

I know how to develop, validate and test psychometric measures in forensic psychology

I know how to write accredited, national training for tens of thousands of professionals

I know how to teach children about social issues

I know how to support people experiencing trauma

I know how the police and CJS works from front to back in sexual and domestic offences

I know how to inspire teams to be the best in the country

I know how to public speak to large crowds

I know how to advocate for victims and survivors of sexual violence and to ensure services put them first

I know how to hold my ground when I know I am right and I know when to learn from people who know much more than me

I know how to support people through the most distressing and life changing traumas

I know how to perform complex statistical and factor analysis on huge datasets in psychology

I know how to evaluate service delivery and outcomes for real people

I know how to challenge poor practice, whistle blow and know to never put myself before a client

I know how to talk people down from suicide attempts and self injuring

I know how to support someone in escaping a relationship where their life is in immediate danger

I know how to talk stakeholders, government and funders from all over the world

I know how to influence people, services and huge systems to be the best they can be

I know how to explain very difficult concepts to a wide range of people, including very young children

I know how to write charity constitutions, policies and legal documents

I know how to negotiate large contracts for property, tenders and services in the charitable sector

I know how to teach at every level from primary school to doctoral programmes

I know how to take a calculated risk in my practice to get the best outcome for a client

I know how to teach children how to public speak and teach others

I know how to use my incessantly critical, quick thinking to assess evidence and challenge bias

I know how to write about, speak about and perform excellent research in forensic psychology

 

What do I know?

I know my quality of work speaks for itself.

I know my thoughts and views are shaping the field.

I know my squishy little brain will make a massive impact in my lifetime.

 

And one last thing:

This is an inherently female issue. Males are not questioned the way young, successful women are. Research tells us that men are more likely to be successful at job interviews for jobs they are not even qualified for just because men are always seen as more competent and more authoritative than women in the workplace (which unsurprisingly, has links to the pay gap).

 

If you’re reading this as a female professional or academic and thinking ‘OH MY GOSH, THIS IS ME!’ then get in touch with me for a rant and a chat – and maybe some cake if you’re nearby. Remember that you are awesome.

 

And when people ask you

‘What do you know?’

Look them in the eye, keep a straight face and say

“Nothing really. I just make it up as I go along, mate.”

 

 

www.victimfocus.org.uk – My work in forensic psychology and sexual violence

www.theeatonfoundation.org.uk – My work in male mental health and wellbeing

@Jessicae13Eaton       jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Please, stop using all CSE resources. Here’s why… 

Please, stop using all CSE resources. Here’s why… 

Sometimes, when you have been saying something important for a long time, you yearn for validation. However, as I recently found out; sometimes that validation is much harder to hear than I thought it would be. 

I have been warning professionals for years to stop using CSE resources with children who have experienced CSE for a number of obvious reasons which include inducing panic attacks and feelings of fear, retraumatising the child and teaching the child that they are to blame for what happened to them by using the resources to ‘teach them to do something differently in the future’. 

Before I tell you where and how I got my validation, let me explain my core arguments against the use of CSE resources with children.


1. It’s not okay to show children films of children being raped
 

I know right? Shocker. Come on people, think about this logically and ethically. We sit around tables moaning that young people are watching Geordie Shore and brain-numbing, hypersexualised (and often violent) bollocks like that because of the ‘impact on the young person’ but we can’t see the hypocrisy in repeatedly showing them films of young people being groomed, intoxicated, raped and blackmailed? Where is your moral outrage then? 

It is absolutely inappropriate to sit a child down who is being groomed or being sexually abused and make them watch films and resources in which other children are harmed in some half-arsed, non-valid and untested attempt to teach them about abuse or, god forbid, their ‘risk-taking behaviours’… 

We have absolutely no evidence that this approach works and yet all over the UK, local authorities, LSCBs and education providers are commissioning teams and individuals to show films like Kayleigh’s Love Story, My Dangerous Loverboy, Sick Party, Exploited, Exposed, Think You Know (all of which I publicly opposed) to thousands of children, packed into assembly and sports halls hundreds at a time. No thought is given to the impact of showing harrowing materials to hundreds of children in large groups – and you know why? Because professionals are becoming obsessed with ‘shock-tactic’ education. I have heard professionals triumphantly announce that the children were shocked into silence and maybe now they will understand how their behaviours will lead to being abused. 

Statistically, around 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 20 boys out of those kids have been or will be sexually abused in childhood. Professionals have shown them a film of a girl being raped in all different positions in a grubby locked shed or a girl getting her head smashed in with a brick after being groomed online and then they send them back to maths. Am I the only one who feels that this is abusive?


2. These resources are pretty much guaranteed to retraumatise victims
 

So, aside from the swathes of kids in assembly halls and classrooms being forced to watch these highly stereotypical and often inaccurate resources, there are individual children who have been recently raped, trafficked and seriously harmed; being prescribed six sessions of these resources with a misguided professional who thinks that it will make the child see the dangers and change their behaviours. 

Most professionals have a basic understanding of trauma – the impact of and response to stressful and harmful events on a human. They understand that the things that were done to that child over a period of time will have a large impact on their life in a number of domains including physical and psychological health, social experience, economic role and mobility and interpersonal relationships. Most professionals also argue that children should not watch materials that contain extreme violence or sexually graphic content because it is inappropriate for them. 

So if we add all of these things together:

Traumatised child 

+

Large impact on their life 

+

Extreme violence in films 

+

Sexually graphic materials 

Then you generally get a CSE resource.

How is it that when the child has been harmed and abused, we would ignore all of the guidance, theories and boundaries in place to keep children safe from harm and do the exact opposite? Why would we choose this moment in time to show a child a film containing such traumatising scenes? 
Why would we deliberately collect DVDs and resources filled with trauma triggers, scenes of abuse and rape, scripts containing manipulative and threatening adults and then show them to highly traumatised children? 

Would you show a load of footage of earthquakes to a child who survived a serious natural disaster? 

Would you sit a child down and get them to watch DVDs of graphic car accidents after they were involved in a car accident?

Would you force a child to watch footage of domestic violence after being admitted to a refuge with Mum because she was battered by Dad last week in front of the kids?

None of this makes any sense at all. And it may leave you wondering what the rationale is…


3. The undertone to these resources is to teach the children to change their behaviours so it won’t happen to them again 

This is easily my biggest issue with these resources. They are actively marketed and described as being ‘preventative’ and used to ‘increase awareness’ or ‘reduce risk taking behaviours’ or ‘inform children of risks’. The plenary questions used in these resources tend to be along the lines of:

“What could the young person have done differently at that point?”

“If this was your friend, what would you tell them?”

“When should they have told an adult?”

“Why shouldn’t they have talked to a stranger online?”

“Why shouldn’t they have sent pictures of themselves to their girlfriend?”

These types of questions are seeking answers from children which frame the problem and the ‘mistake’ within the young person who is victimised by a sex offender in the film. Rather than teaching children that the sex offender had ultimate control and was targeting and manipulating the child so they never could realise what was about to happen, the plenary questions are looking for children to say that the young person should have told an adult, shouldn’t have spoken to a stranger online, shouldn’t have sent that picture. This, my friends, is a slippery slope. 

We are raising a generation who are being trained, by us, to victim blame. Not just each other, but themselves. All we do with these resources is teach children that the decisions they made led to them being abused or harmed – which eliminates the powerful role of the child sex offender and places all of the responsibility on of the harm on the child.

So, where did this validation come from and why was it so hard to hear?

After years of people refusing to listen to what I am saying about resources, you would think validation from real young people would have been a brilliant moment. Instead, it was one of the saddest and angriest moments of my whole career. 

Some of you might know that I have recently written a programme for young people who have been sexually exploited where I am teaching them how to public speak and how to train professionals all over the UK in how to respond to abused children. Last week, we were chatting in between exercises and their public speaking practice and they began talking about the way professionals use films and resources. 

The conversation I watched between four young people of different sexes and ages is here: 


YP1
: You know what I hated? Those stupid films about girls being exploited that they made me watch over and over again. One social worker said to me that it would inform me about abuse and make me realise that my rapes weren’t as serious as the girl in the film. Felt like punching her. She kept saying it would inform me. So patronising. 


YP2
: Oh god yeah I remember them. Like that one where that girl goes to that party and they drug her up and rape her? I kept saying to them ‘why do I need to watch this? It’s already happened to me?’ 


YP3
: Did you lot see that drama thing that came round all the schools where the girl is convinced she’s gonna be a model but they rape her and sell her and lock her in a flat? I BEGGED them not to make me watch that. No one listened to me. I was terrified I was gonna have like a massive mental breakdown in a row in assembly sat on the floor with hundreds of people around me and I wouldn’t be able to get out. They made me watch it like 3 times and one time I was so upset they let me sit at the side of the hall in case I had another panic attack and then loads of people kept asking me why I was sitting there and whether it had happened to me and I was mortified. 


YP4
: One time, when I was really down, yeah, I was sat down at school and told I had to watch three films about self harm and suicide and I really didn’t wanna watch them but they told me I had to so I did. Two of the films were about self harming cos the school knew I cut right, but the last one was about a girl who hanged herself and then it was like interviews with her family about the impact in had on them. It was so upsetting. Not gonna lie to you, I went home and cut really bad. 

Is this the validation I wanted? Is this what I wanted to hear? 

Is this the impact you were hoping to have on these kids? 

No. 

This is my worst nightmare and this should be your worst nightmare too.

This is exactly what I was scared of.

Please, stop using these CSE resources with children. 

YOU ARE YOUR GREATEST RESOURCE

YOUNG PEOPLE DON’T WANT CSE FILMS, THEY WANT YOU TO CARE ABOUT THEM AND LISTEN TO THEM. 

Jessica Eaton

Www.victimfocus.org.uk

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

@Jessicae13Eaton 

Why being sexually exploited is nothing like playing on a motorway 

Why being sexually exploited is nothing like playing on a motorway 

Why being sexually exploited is not the same as playing on a motorway.
By Jessica Eaton

You know it’s bad when you have to stand up in front of 40 experienced professionals and explain why being sexually exploited is absolutely nothing like playing on a motorway. 

I have this thing where my face reveals exactly what I’m thinking, even in professional environments. Those of you who know me will know how true that is. Gets me in lots of trouble and interesting conversations. 

So imagine my face when I am away working in London, explaining to a group of experienced professionals that children are never to blame for sexual exploitation; and a woman puts her hand up and says:
“I’m sorry but I totally disagree with you and I think what you are saying is irresponsible. You’re stood there trying to tell us that children are not to blame for being sexually exploited and you are saying that their behaviours do not lead to them being raped and abused but you are wrong. You are ignoring behaviours that children show that would make them more likely to be abused.”

I asked her to clarify what she meant and reiterated my position that no child is ever to blame for being sexually abused no matter what ‘behaviours’ they showed. 

“Sexual exploitation is like kids playing on a motorway. The kids running in and out of traffic on a motorway are much more likely to be ran over by a car than kids playing at home in the garden. If the kids playing on the motorway were hit by a car, you cannot argue that they are not to blame. Loads of kids that are sexually exploited do things that mean that we cannot argue that they are not to blame. If those kids weren’t on the motorway, they would be ran over. If the kids who are being sexually exploited didn’t do the things they do, they wouldn’t be exploited. It’s wrong to say that they are never to blame. They have to take responsibility for their actions. They need to be taught about their risk taking behaviours so they are not sexually exploited.”

I am not going to lie to you, my face must have been a picture. However, I have worked in sexual violence long enough to have heard this argument many, many times. I’ve heard it tied up with ribbons in fancy language about risk taking behaviours and neuropsychological development – but I have never heard it explained with such a confident analogy. 

My responsibility at this point, as a lecturer – as an expert – is to use this challenge as an opportunity to improve the understanding of the professional who used the motorways analogy – but also the ensure her and the other 39 professionals staring at me, waiting for an answer; do not blame children for sexual abuse.

“Hmmm interesting analogy.” I started.

“Whilst I agree with you that children playing on a motorway would be likely to get ran over, and would be much more likely to be ran over than children playing at home, I don’t agree with your analogy to CSE. Actually, I don’t see any logical comparison between your analogy and CSE at all.”

‘Pick your words carefully, Jessica. Use your airtime to teach and persuade’ I think.

“I would argue that the motorway is a constant, physical but non-motivated danger to humans. When children are playing on a dangerous road, drivers are not purposely, meticulously, carefully trying to run them over from miles away. The car is not motivated to hit them to achieve some sort of pleasure or satisfaction. The child is aware of the dangers of the motorway and understands the speed and velocity of a car travelling at 70mph. The child doesn’t want to be hit by the car and the child has not been groomed and manipulated by the driver to think that they want to be ran over and should enjoy being ran over. The child has not been bribed or blackmailed to be ran over using things they need or want. Do you agree that all of this is true?”

She nodded.

“Would you also agree that no matter how much you taught your children about the dangers of roads, the green cross code and how to stay safe; you still could not blame them if a dangerous driver who wanted to harm children swerved towards them, mounted the curb and ran them over?”

She nodded.

“Child sex offenders are not the physical, constant, non-motivated dangers like the motorway that you can tell kids not to play on. They are the dangerous driver who swerves, mounts the curb and runs over the child, who cannot predict it will happen and cannot protect themselves from the impact.” 

She nodded and the other delegates all began to comment, agree and discuss.

And that’s why being sexually exploited is not the same as playing on a motorway. 

Jessica Eaton

Www.victimfocus.org.uk 

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

@Jessicae13Eaton 

A poem for the women: I am not who you want me to be and I hope I never will be

A poem for the women: I am not who you want me to be and I hope I never will be

I am the shape that is not deserving of the spotlight 

My shape should be cleverly disguised at all times 

Until my lazy, fat ass can conform to their preferences 

I am just ‘asking for’ their slurs and their hate crimes.

I am the eyes that look straight through them 

My short clumped eyelashes flutter for no man 

These eyes scowl, scrunch up and stare at them 

My feet froze to the spot, but my mascara ran.

I am the untoned arms covered by capped sleeves 

My arms are strong but they are marked forever 

The same arms that can fight his heavy body off me 

Are the same arms that can cradle my children together.

I am the ass that is just never gonna cut it

My ass will never be perfect enough for their lace 

This ass will be groped, slapped and grabbed

They want to feel my flesh but never see my face. 

I am the breasts pushed up, pushed out and reshaped by their bras 

My breasts will never live up to porn expectations 

These breasts will be measured, judged and mused upon

But they will be censored if they are shown for lactation. 

I am the mouth that will make intolerable noise 

My mouth will shout and swear inconvenient truths 

This mouth, that they said was only good to suck their dick,

Will not be bound by their oppressive ideals of beauty, sex and youth. 
A poem by Jessica Eaton

Tweet @Jessicae13Eaton
Web: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

When you write about misogyny, prepare for more misogyny. 

When you write about misogyny, prepare for more misogyny. 

I don’t usually write so personally but recently, it has been ROUGH. It’s in capital letters. That means it was proper rough. 

In the last two months, I have experienced four personal attacks, all of which were caused by talking about sex based oppression or sexual offending. I don’t know if anyone else gets this amount of abuse but I am writing about this to expose the misogyny of hundreds of people responding to my work and my thoughts. 

Two months ago

Around two months ago, I was watching a long conversation about gender politics and gender ideology when I came across a term I had never seen before ‘TERF’. I was confused. The tweets said ‘die TERF scum’ ‘all TERFs should be killed’ and so on. I clicked on trusty Google and searched for it.  ‘Trans exclusionary radical feminist’. I stared at the screen and still wanted more information. The same people preaching freedom of speech and freedom of thought were putting up relentless tweets telling these women to die, get killed, get raped. So I carefully composed some tweets asking what this term meant and why it should be seen as okay to send death threats to these women. 

Within an hour, I had received over 500 tweets, messages and comments saying the most vile and disgusting things to me. Some of them included rape threats and jokes about me being raped and killed. That I should have my head smashed in. That they wished they knew where I lived. That I should be struck off. I hadn’t actually said anything to them. I had asked about why the term was being used to justify violence online. 

I turned off the notifications and tried to retreat from the twittersphere for a while. I waited for it to blow over which took about 2 days. 

This was my first experience of being relentlessly bullied on twitter for days at a time and I was shocked that my naive question about threatening to kill women online had warranted such a massive response. Many would say I was lucky to have had a twitter account for so many years and only recently experienced such hatred. 

One month ago 

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was excitedly analysing the data from my study on the blame of women who have experienced sexual violence. The study aimed to validate a world-first psychometric measure of victim blaming of women which I had invented as part of my PhD. Each one of the 670 participants answered a matrix of psychometric items on sexual violence and assigned blame to the woman or the man in each scenario. As it was the first time it was ever tested, I also gave each person the option to leave anonymous feedback or comments on the study, so I could learn from their experience of taking my study and their thoughts about the victim blaming of women…

“You sexist bitch”

“The academic is clearly a man-hater”

“The researcher has exaggerated the problem of sexual violence for her own gain”

“Feminazi”

“Clearly doesn’t care about male victims of sexual violence”

“This author wants everyone to believe that  all men commit sexual violence”

“Not all men are like this”

As sad as it sounds, I had expected these comments. Whenever I speak or write about women in the UK, there is always ‘whataboutery’ about men – like we cannot possibly focus one study on women only because men were not included. Like I cannot focus a study on male violence because it’s somehow discriminatory despite the majority of all violence (sexual or otherwise) is committed by men. I note that there is no similar uproar from women when a study is conducted about male victims of sexual violence or female sex offenders. In fact, the feminist movement wholly supports men who have experienced sexual violence – without the feminist movement, those men would still have no services at all.

But the one that really stood out was from Richard. 

“This study is a disgrace. My undergrad students can write better than you. You are clearly biased and sexist and should never have been allowed to study for a PhD. I hope your study fails and I hope you are taken off your PhD course. Good luck, you’ll need it. Love, Richard XXX :)”

I must reiterate that the entire study was anonymous. This man chose to include his name and imply his role as an academic supervisor. My study was shared all over the UK so I have no way of knowing who he is.

I was pretty gutted with some of the negative comments. Don’t get me wrong, I had hundreds of positive and amazing comments which will all form part of a separate publication – but the amount of people who were absolutely fuming that the study focussed on women was overwhelming. 

Personal comments claiming that I hated men also angered me because I founded the first male mental health centre in the UK and have been giving my time and expertise to our charity for 4 years, this year. I spoke to my psych colleagues about the abuse I had received and just decided to move on, chalk it up to experience.

(For those of you wondering, the scale has been proven to be valid and reliable and I am extremely excited to be writing the handbook at the moment ready for publication!) 

Three weeks ago 

It was maybe less than a week later that I spotted a conversation occurring on twitter between a group of men who self identified as paedophiles. Clearly intelligent men, having an in depth conversation about their sexual preference for small children. Twitter is a strange place at times, and creates space for all kinds of people to anonymously discuss many issues including those that would be classed as illegal or controversial. 

I watched in awe as they performed incredible mental acrobatics to convince each other that P should be added to LGB. They wanted their ‘sexuality’ recognised as ‘pedosexual’ and added to the other recognised sexualities. Perplexed, I tweeted about this phenomena and asked if anyone in the LGB community were taking it seriously. At first, the tweet attracted a few paedophiles who were fairly measured in their responses and were explaining their point of view. 

However, a few hours later, a couple of extremely aggressive people picked up the thread and did not leave me alone for three days solid. I blocked 42 people that weekend and every time I did, a new account would pop up and carry on the abuse. 

Not only this, but a very famous psychologist joined in, telling me I was full of shit, should have my PhD removed, made comments about my appearance and actually tagged more and more paedophiles  to get involved in the abuse. I was so shocked at his behaviour that I contacted a colleague who knew him to ask whether this was out of character for him (as I suspected it was a troll account). My colleague reassured me that it was not him and I confidently stated that the account was a troll and ignored him. However, from that moment, the abuse became much more personal and I had to block the vile and disgusting tweets within a few minutes. 

At this point, I was absolutely exhausted from the abuse – mainly because it was so quickly becoming about my appearance. 

One guy cut my head off of photos of me and sent me pictures of myself with no head and said he would fuck my body but my face ruined it for him. 

Another account sent me gifs of violent rapes and gifs of women being beaten and gang raped using a number of different accounts. 

Three days ago 

This week, the abuse began again. This time, I had written a quick tweet on the train about the way women were hypersexualised on the covers of men’s magazines to sell magazines, therefore objectifying them and dementalising them. 

It was shared thousands of times and then a large social media account retweeted it and wrote an article about it. I’ve had my notifications turned off ever since. Here is why: 

















So anyway, the list of vile tweets goes on. These are the ones I could screen shot before I finally turned off the notifications. 

I received just over 6000 notifications in one day. I can honestly say that by about 6pm, I was in such a distressed state that my hands were shaking, my heart rate was way too high and I was pretty sure I would be sick if I ate. I started with a painful headache and then had a series of severe panic attacks. 

I knew I couldn’t process this level of abuse earlier on in the week but now, I can. I’ve taken a few days to care for myself, spoke to some people, got support from people who care about me and then went back to the grindstone in my job as a self employed researcher, writer and public speaker in sexual violence and forensic psychology. 

There is a clear pattern, however.

If you are female and you talk about misogyny or sexism, you will receive misogynistic or sexist responses. The irony is deafening. 

The men on twitter who attacked me for talking about misogyny and the sexualisation of women responded with comments comparing me to other women, claiming I was lesbian, commenting on my attractiveness and how much sex I was getting (which they thought they had a lot of information about, for people I have never met). When I then pointed out that their responses were case in point, the responses became more personal and more aggressive. 

Today 

I don’t have anything clever to say. I don’t have any theories to draw upon in this blog,  although there are many – and it’s fairly clear what the greats (Brownmiller, Burt, Long, Gay, Bindel and others) would say about this pattern. I don’t have any words of wisdom, as I am currently depleted of all wisdom or useful musings. 

What I do have, is amounts of resilience that some people could only ever dream of.

What I do have is an annoying stokie accent that will keep travelling all over the world talking loudly about sexual violence and misogyny until my dying breath. 

What I do have is a defiant ambition to explore and then reduce victim blaming of women experiencing sexual violence.

What I do have is a sharp mind and a level of integrity that will be my legacy.

What I do have is a huge following of people who support my work and my voice. 

What I do have, is something to say. 

And they are going to listen.

I’m not going anywhere.
Www.victimfocus.org.uk

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk