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Posts Tagged ‘sexual violence’

Neil Cobb and Nikki Godden-Rasul, Campus Feminisms: Engaging the University with Feminist Agendas – A Conversation with Jess Lishak, Women’s Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union, 2014-2016 (free link to article in Feminist Legal Studies).

Neil Cobb, University of Manchester

As Shakira Martin is elected this week as the next president of the National Union of Students (NUS), it is clear that NUS has received some bad press of late.

Durham student Tom Harwood’s challenge to Malia Bouattia for the NUS presidency on an ‘anti-NUS’ platform is the latest in a line of attacks in recent years criticising the NUS for being “moribund” and unrepresentative of mainstream students’ interests and concerns.

These criticisms – levelled both within and outside the student movement – are said by the NUS’s opponents to reflect a broader disaffection among today’s students with the union’s progressive left agenda.

Much of this comment has tended to simplify the NUS’ work, as well as drawing attention away problematically from the organisation’s undoubted and significant achievements in a range of important policy areas.

For those who remain supportive of the NUS’ broad commitment to a progressive left concern for social justice there is a particular need to keep front and centre the organisation’s tangible contributions to equality and diversity concerns, including some real success stories in the sphere of feminism and women’s rights. (more…)

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks.

World’s first male rape centre

Aidan Bull, Durham University

A hospital in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, is believed to be the first rape centre for male sexual violence victims.

Sweden has the highest rate of rape in Europe, but this is partly because the country records allegations in a different way to most countries, tracking each case of sexual violence separately. For example, if someone says they were raped every day by their partner for a week, officers will record seven potential crimes. In contrast, many other countries would simply label it as a single incident. This wide reaching tracking system has helped to uncover the hidden statistics of male rape.  In 2014, some 370 cases of sexual assault on men or boys were reported across Sweden, according to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, although experts believe that the actual figure is much higher.

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medium-289375This is an excerpt from Professor Joanne Conaghan’s inaugural lecture at the University of Bristol on 19 February 2015.

Joanne has written extensively about issues relating to gender and law and is widely recognized as a leading scholar in that field, both nationally and internationally. You can follow Joanne on twitter: @joanneconaghan.

Read the full text of Civil liability: Addressing police failures in the context of rape, domestic and sexual abuse

 

Real lives, real people

Joanna Michael

 

 

This is Joanna Michael.

Joanna lived in Cardiff, a Mum to two young children, aged 7 and 10 months. In August 2009, she was murdered– stabbed multiple times – by her ex-boyfriend. On that terrible night, Joanna dialed 999 twice to call for police assistance; but for a number of reasons which the Independent Police Complaints Commission described as ‘serious individual and organisational failures’ help arrived too late. In her last 999 call, she is heard to scream just as the line goes dead. The nearest police station was only a few minutes away.

Worboys black cab

This is a London Black Cab – not any Black Cab – but the Cab used by John Worboys to sexually assault an unknown number of women during the first decade of this century. Remarkably, although well over 100 women filed police reports claiming to have been drugged and sexually abused by a London cabbie, their allegations were generally met with complacency, disbelief and a fair amount of sheer incompetence. That multiple allegations were producing a strong pattern of offence and offender profile did not even register on the police radar until picked up by a random computer check. According to Justice Green, giving judgment in the High Court last year, the police handling of the case was marred by: ‘a series of systemic failings which went to the heart of the failure of the police to apprehend Worboys and cut short his 5-6 spree of violent attacks’.

In other words, had the police acted more effectively, Worboys’ one-man campaign of terror against women might have ended much sooner.

Claw hammerThis is a claw hammer. This is what Gareth Jeffrey used to batter his ex-partner, Stephen Smith, leaving him with 3 skull fractures, brain damage, and ongoing physical and psychological harm. In the weeks leading up this horrific assault – Stephen had been besieged by Jeffrey with telephone calls, texts and internet messages containing frighteningly explicit threats such as

‘U are dead’;

‘Look out for yourself –psycho is coming’;

‘I am looking to kill you and no compromises’.

Stephen’s efforts to get the police to take seriously his concerns that his life was in danger fell on deaf ears, notwithstanding a previous history of domestic abuse. The facts again reveal a police stance of procrastination and complacency: they simply did not consider the matter a priority and took virtually no steps to ensure Stephen’s safety.

 

Want to carry on reading? Read the full text of Civil liability: Addressing police failures in the context of rape, domestic and sexual abuse.

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staystrongNikki Godden, Newcastle Law School

(Image from Stop Revenge Porn Scotland Campaign)

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has announced that the Government is ‘very open to having a serious discussion’ about the problem of revenge porn, in response to the call from Maria Miller, former Culture Secretary, for a change in the law to address the ‘appalling’ practice ( Justice Questions, House of Commons, 1 July 2014 : Column 745). This ‘appalling’ practice, whereby men (most commonly) distribute intimate and sexual images or videos of women (usually partners or ex-partners) on the internet without consent, is becoming more prevalent in the UK. And the effects of revenge porn upon its victims can be significant. Media reports highlight that victims have experienced personal and professional degradation and humiliation which have, in some cases, led to suicide.

The gender dimensions to revenge porn cannot be ignored. First, revenge porn is typically not an isolated abusive incident in a relationship but rather is one – albeit relatively new – method of control and violation in a wider context of domestic violence (see Scottish Women’s Aid’s Briefing Stop Revenge Porn on this point). Secondly, the fact that it is by far more common for men to distribute images/videos of women and girls contributes to and entrenches the sexual objectification of women, the sexualisation of young people, and gender inequality more generally. As such, it is important that the Government address this growing problem. It seems that the way it will do so is to consider creating a new criminal offence, or amending existing sexual offences to capture all instances where pornography is distributed without the subject’s consent. However, while further criminalisation may be helpful, the focus should be on preventing revenge porn by better regulating internet behaviour, which is a dimension of resolving this developing problem that has typically been absent from public discussions and proposed responses. (more…)

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iPhone_apps11Nicole Westmarland

Professor in Criminology, School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University

Can mobile phone apps help to protect women from domestic and sexual violence? A recent study suggests that they might do more harm than good, as Nicole Westmarland explains.

(Reposted from Trouble and Strife with permission and thanks.)

At Durham University’s Centre for research into violence and abuse, one of our recent research projects  looked at the use of ‘apps’ in relation to domestic and sexual violence (a link to the full report is at the end of this post). When we present this research or talk about it with students, it’s often the more ‘extreme’ rather than the more mundane, everyday examples that get the audience’s attention and the gasps of disbelief. The biggest gasps come when we talk about apps that have been developed specifically to track and harass women, most notably the ‘Track Your Wife’ app which has over 10,000 downloads and enables men to add a tracking device to their partner’s phone and track them in real time anywhere in the world. But, horrible as the existence of this app is, it is not the focus of my blog post or even the focus of our research.  We were more concerned about apps that claimed to be helping to keep women safe. (more…)

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IB imageSnapshots of law, gender and sexuality news from the past couple of weeks

Abusive Treatment of Indigenous Women in Canada

Gita Keshava, Durham University

On January 30, 2014 representatives from Human Rights Watch testified before the Special Committee on Violence Against Indigenous Women in the Canadian House of Commons. They urged the government to set up an independent national inquiry to investigate the current violence experienced by indigenous women and girls, in order to create a system that will ensure greater accountability with regards to police misconduct, and ultimately hold them responsible for their actions or lack thereof. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch published a report specifically investigating the protection of indigenous women and girls in northern British Columbia (BC). It highlighted the fact that police continue to use excessive force, and physical and sexual assault against indigenous women and girls. In order to target these issues, Canada needs to ensure that there is a police complaint mechanism, that oversight procedures are in force, and that there is a requirement for independent civilian investigations into reported incidents of police misconduct. In addition, the government needs to establish a commission to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women and the link that these events have with police mistreatment, especially in relation to the Highway 16, now commonly known as northern BC’s “Highway of Tears.” These concerns, although specifically relevant to Indigenous women and girls, remain a serious issue for all women in British Columbia and in Canada more generally.

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HFsmlHelen Fenwick is a Professor of Law at Durham Law School. This post is also published at Human Rights in Ireland.

 This post concentrates on Article 8 ECHR to argue that it can be viewed as sympathetic to feminist goals since, due to its particular ability to impose positive obligations on the state in relation to creating respect for private or family life, it can require the state to create curbs on the actions of non-state actors particularly adverse to women (eg. in relation to domestic violence: Hajduova v Slovakia) and ensure the efficacy of services that women in particular might need to access, such as to abortion (P&S v Poland). Women are, it is argued, more at risk than men from the actions of non-state actors within the private and family sphere (see intervention of Equal Rights Trust in Eremia and Others v Moldova on this point), so Article 8 has a particular pertinence for women, and unlike Article 14 (the guarantee of freedom from discrimination), which has not proved to have a strong impact as a means of advancing the interests of women due to its reliance on furthering formal equality (see eg Dembour Who Believes in Human Rights, Ch 7), Article 8 can address the substantive concerns of women, without the need for any reliance on a comparator.

Other ECHR Articles are also relevant. Article 3 would also support recognition of positive obligations, (see McGlynn, Clare (2009) ‘Rape, torture and the European convention on human rights’ ICLQ 58 (3)) including in the contexts considered below, although the harm threshold is obviously high. Article 8 currently may be the gateway to Article 14, the freedom from discrimination guarantee (bearing in mind that the UK has not ratified Protocol 12). In other words, if Article 8 is engaged but no violation is found, a violation of Article 14 might nevertheless be found of the two read together (Van Raalte v Netherlands).

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