Letter on arrest of Julian Assange

Dear Editor (unpublished)

Whether or not Assange is guilty of a sexual offence, it is shocking that 70+ MPs calling for his extradition to Sweden in the name of justice refuse to take position on his possible extradition to the US and the torture and even death he may face there. (Give priority to Julian Assange rape claim, home secretary urged, 13 April 2019)

We agree with Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott: Assange’s current detention is not about “the rape charges, serious as they are, it is about WikiLeaks and all of that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military and security services that was made public.” And so it was from the beginning.

Chelsea Manning (currently re-in prison despite President Obama’s pardon) was able to use Wikileaks to expose the extensive cover up of rape, other sexual violence and murder, including of women and children, by the US military in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Iraq. Do these victims not count?

At the time of the original allegations against Assange, we pointed to the unusual zeal with which he was being pursued. (Guardian 19 Dec 2010 and 23 August 2012) The UK low conviction rate – 6% of reported rapes, and falling – resulting largely from negligent and biased investigations, speaks volumes about how rape is generally downgraded.

The MPs letter claims that Sweden dropped their investigation because of Assange’s ‘unavailability’. Untrue. We and others urged the Swedish authorities to question him at the Ecuadorian embassy so his accusers would not be denied the investigation they were entitled to and justice could be done. They refused until December 2015 when they finally did. They then dropped the case. No charge was ever made. [But Sweden recently reopened the investigation.]

Where is the letter demanding justice for the rapes and murders Wikileaks exposed? Who will speak up for these victims if whistle-blowers are silenced? In 2004, together with Black Women Rape Action Project, we wrote to women MPs about the war crimes and torture, including rape, that were being committed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We received no reply.

[Since this letter was submitted to The Guardian, the US government has initiated extradition proceedings against Assange.]

Yours sincerely,

Lisa Longstaff, Women Against Rape

Universal Credit split payments given to only 20 claimants

DWP ignoring the needs of vulnerable claimants at risk of domestic abuse, says SNP.
Posted By Steven Preece

This article appeared at https://welfareweekly.com/universal-credit-split-payments-given-to-only-20-claimants/?fbclid=IwAR0gEzakL4W4ab3LLltYC90D7bBjKTQrS0wND_EZeFe-qARP2cBtJmm0d0I

March 17, 2019

The UK government has been urged to make split payments the default for Universal Credit, after figures showed the DWP system of split payments on request is severely limited, and could leave vulnerable people open to domestic abuse and financial control by abusive partners.
Figures have revealed that just 20 claimants were in receipt of split payments across the UK – despite almost 1.3 million claimants of Universal Credit, including 120,000 in Scotland.
Not one person in Scotland received a split payment of Universal Credit last year.
The DWP currently pays Universal Credit for couples into a single bank account, and current guidance stipulates that split payments are only available in very exceptional circumstances, despite domestic abuse being a common occurrence.
Women’s groups argue that the current system could isolate victims and make it financially difficult to leave abusive relationships, with 85% of domestic abuse survivors agreeing that a request for split payments could trigger more abuse, according to a report from Women’s Aid.
The Scottish Government has committed to introducing split payments but as Universal Credit is entirely reserved, needs the agreement of the DWP.
Shona Robison MSP said: “Financial abuse affects one in five women and the current system, of paying Universal Credit into one bank account per household, can make it easier for perpetrators of domestic and financial abuse to exert control over their victims and further endanger partners at risk.
“The concerning fact that just 20 claimants had Universal Credit paid into separate bank accounts last year – and shockingly, none in Scotland – simply shows the severe limitations of the system of split payments on request.
“It is yet another example that Universal Credit is deeply flawed system.
“It is unacceptable for the UK government to side-line this issue. With Tory welfare policy forcing people to food banks, reducing household finances and leading to increases in child poverty, something must change.
“With over 3 million people expected to migrate to Universal Credit over the coming years, it is vital that split payments become the default position.
“This will not only prevent abuse of vulnerable claimants, but will ensure that universal credit correctly reflects modern working life and gender equality principles.”
Disclaimer: This is a press release from the Scottish National Party (SNP).

To Woman’s Hour: parental alienation interview, 26 April 2019

30 April 2019
Dear Woman’s Hour
We object in the strongest possible terms to Woman’s Hour’s sexist broadcast on 26 April about ‘parental alienation’.
Woman’s Hour’s website says it is ‘the programme that offers a female perspective of the world’. This interview offered the perspective of a men’s organisation which attacks women, represented by two female professionals – a lawyer and a psychotherapist.
‘Parental alienation’ is the discredited theory of Dr Richard A. Gardner, an American misogynist psychiatrist who dismissed domestic violence as lies, defended paedophilia, and argued that children who objected to seeing violent fathers should be forced to have contact anyway. Soon after a family case where he gave such ‘expert’ evidence, one of the two teenage sons forced to visit his dad committed suicide.
(See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/dr-richard-a-gardner-36582.html)
As organisations that have worked with victims of rape and domestic violence for decades, we are horrified that a programme for women would promote such views. Jenni Murray didn’t pursue them on the facts that rape and domestic violence are a key issue in many marriage break-ups, that two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners (often despite multiple calls to police for help), or that over 50% of rapes reported to the Met Police are committed by a partner.
We are sickened by seeing violent men repeatedly attack their partners with impunity while women are denied help, protection and resources to escape. And if they manage to escape, they are often pursued by their violent ex through the family courts, and men take the children as the ultimate act of punishment and control.
Working on family law cases for several years, we’ve have seen how ‘parental alienation’ is increasingly invoked by aggrieved fathers who suddenly became interested in their children when their wives left them.
We have witnessed domestic violence repeatedly dismissed by judges (men and women) in ways that are blatantly sexist. Judges could no longer express such views in the criminal courts. Family courts operate in secret and so escape the discipline of public scrutiny, and this has protected them from having to change in response to women’s pressure to take men’s sexual and domestic violence as the violent crimes they are.
A single judge makes a factual ruling on whether or not they believe you suffered violence, and if they choose not to believe you, as they often do, they can take your children and forbid your raising the violence again under threat of cutting all contact with your children.
We see mothers’ efforts to protect their children from a violent father dismissed as ‘parental alienation’ even when the man has a criminal record for violence. Family courts assume contact with any father is better than no contact and often ignore or breech protective measures laid down by other courts or by the police who advise no contact for safety’s sake. At least 19 children have been murdered by fathers as a result (Women’s Aid).
The overwhelming majority of mothers who come to us because their children have been or are at risk of being taken by Social Services, are women of colour escaping rape and domestic violence (including asylum seekers).
Family courts remove children from their mother who is blamed for causing the child ‘emotional harm’ by witnessing domestic violence, while the father who committed the violence is considered a good enough parent to get residence. Now they are using ‘parental alienation’ as a pretext to give him the children – ’parental alienation’ is considered abuse from the mother, while domestic violence is not abuse from the father.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware of the public campaign by Rotherham rape survivor Sammy Woodhouse just before Xmas whose convicted rapist-torturer was invited (while in prison) to be a party to proceedings over their child born of rape when she was 15? This was not an isolated case, but part of a national pattern. There are hundreds if not thousands of mothers who are trying to defend their children from violent men, not only children born of rape.
Is Woman’s Hour not aware that there is a mass movement of mothers and children traumatised by unjust separation and forced into contact or residency with violent fathers?
These Woman’s Hour guests were invited onto the programme a day after a Families Need Fathers (FNF) march promoting ‘parental alienation’. Why is WH inviting guests who echo the FNF agenda that mothers are often hostile to fathers for spurious reasons, and that such hostility is abusive to the child?
FNF is a notoriously sexist men’s organisation hiding behind respectability as a charity. They campaign for fathers’ rights to trump mothers’ and children’s rights. As long ago as 1994, during a debate on the Child Support Agency, MP Glenda Jackson reported in Parliament that FNF advised fathers who were not allowed access to their children to ‘kidnap them. If that failed and nothing else could succeed, it advocated the murder of the mother.’
FNF dismiss domestic violence as false allegations. They claim that ‘False and unfounded allegations poison proceedings when a non-resident parent is seeking parenting time with his children. Judges need to make findings of fact as soon as possible and to take false allegations into account when determining the best interests of the child.’ FNF claim that ‘there is widespread abuse of men and boys in the context of the family courts’ and accuse women of ‘making allegations’ as ‘a motorway to obtaining legal aid’.
What on earth is Woman’s Hour doing airing this blatant misogyny? We must have the right to reply to such bias.
Yours sincerely,
Cristel Amiss, Lisa Longstaff,
Black Women’s Rape Action Project Women Against Rape
bwrap@rapeaction.net war@womenagainstrape.net

See other complaints to the programme from others at supportnotseparation.blog

New police disclosure consent forms

Update:

See Lisa Longstaff of WAR interviewed on SKY News, 1 May 2019

Good account by anon survivor who went through three trials:

Giving my phone to police after my rape left me in limbo feeling violated

And another survivor’s account:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/sexual-assault-case-dropped-refused-police-phone-rape

Also, see good article by Dawn Foster here:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/apr/29/rape-victims-phones-police-guidelines

WAR’s comment:

There’s a lot in the news today about the new ‘national consent forms’ victims of rape are being asked to sign authorising the police to trawl through their social media – phone, internet, computer, etc. – when investigating the rape. The CPS threatens to close any cases where the victim wants to put restrictions on what material they can access. We were interviewed on TV Sky News at 12.10pm.

This is closely related to the established practice of trawling through medical health records, school records and any records of sexual behaviour/sexual history. This irrelevant information is commonly used to discredit allegations and stop the case going to court or to trash you in court when you give evidence. Rape survivors already refer to their trial as a second rape – authorising new indiscriminate social media evidence will make it even worse. Some victims are calling it a ‘digital strip search’.

The gathering of evidence should focus on the violence which has been reported between x and y, not on who you slept with or sent texts to in the past, or whether you were assaulted as a child.

The police and Crown Prosecution Service can’t be trusted to judge what is ‘reasonable intrusion’ or ‘reasonable lines of inquiry’ when their record shows how sexist they are – that is why rape convictions are at an all time low (6% of reported rape) and falling.

Police and CPS have a duty to disclose information to the defence, including where it undermines the prosecution. That some cases may have collapsed because they didn’t disclose information which should have been disclosed is no reason to institute further trawling of irrelevant material which will inevitably be used by the defence to discredit victims.

We don’t see victims of other crimes (like burglary which also often happens in private without witnesses) treated with this assumption of suspicion, so why us?

We have campaigned for years for rape and sexual assault to be taken seriously; this is a throwback to police treating victims as suspects (without even the protections granted to suspects) and blaming us rather than their biased investigations for the low conviction rate. They want to put us back in our boxes and stop us reporting and getting justice.

This measure (like the proposal to bring in anonymity for rape suspects which crops up regularly) must be defeated.

For more info see: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/apr/29/new-police-disclosure-consent-forms-could-free-rape-suspects and most of the other national papers.

WAR’s 40th anniversary marked by Cambridge British History Sub-Committee

Cambridge University hosts a panel discussion in 2017 which marked 40 years since the founding of the group Women Against Rape (WAR). In these decades, WAR has campaigned consistently to combat rape culture and end the marital rape exemption in English law. Utilising a number of strikingly innovative methods, such as holding a ‘public trial’ of senior judges and politicians in Trafalgar Square in July 1977, WAR first caught the attention of the national press in the 1970s, but has only attracted the attention of historians within recent years. This year, Adrian Williamson published his article ‘The Law and the Politics of Marital Rape in England, 1945-1994’ in Women’s History Review, which was followed by a witness seminar on the subject, in which WAR representatives took part.

Though they have begun to be recognised as a group of significant historical interest, no concerted effort has been made to look at WAR in its own right. This event seeks to do just that. In particular, it aims to examine and discuss:

The emergence of WAR, and the group’s early years;
-The activism and methods of the group, from its establishment in 1976 to the present day;
-The emphasis which WAR placed on marriage (as an institution of rape), and to discuss the group’s engagement with the concept of marriage more broadly;
-Black Women’s Rape Action Project (BWRAP), with whom WAR still works, and of how WAR engaged with race. This event also marks BWRAP’s 25th anniversary;
-WAR’s current campaigns, activities, and the impact of austerity on their work.

This event will take the form of a panel discussion. Chaired by Dr Lucy Delap, the panel will boast activists past and present from WAR and BWRAP, the legal historian Adrian Williamson, and other experts in the field.

The event will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, generously supported by the MPhil Modern British History sub-committee, whom the organisers wish to thank, and will take place on Tuesday 7th February 2017 to coincide with Sexual Violence Awareness Week.

Read more Cambridge University event

WAR on Mayday march, 1 May – join us

Meet Clerkenwell Green from 12.00 march to Trafalgar Square. https://www.londonmayday.org/

We will highlight our campaign with the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union to end sexual harassment in the fast food and hospitality industries. Poverty wages, zero hour contracts, benefit cuts, insecure immigration status and the threat that we can lose our job or that social services can take our kids if we report sexual violence are making women more vulnerable to attack.

We will be marching with the English Collective of Prostitutes and a “A Very British Brothel”, in support of their #makeallwomensafe campaign for decriminalisation. The criminalisation of sex work must end. Why should the law make any of us unsafe by calling us criminals? Why should any of us be discouraged from reporting violence and demanding justice and protection for fear that police will arrest us instead of our attacker?

More info on #makeallwomensafe:
The ECP’s campaign #makeallwomensafe raises sex workers’ safety. A short film directed by Bafta nominated Charlotte Regan starring Lyndsey Marshal, highlights the injustice that while sex work is legal, it is illegal for women to work together for safety. Women are forced to choose between risking arrest by working with others or risking being attacked by working alone. A government petition calls for implementation of the Home Affairs Recommendation to decriminalise sex workers on the street and in premises. Support has come from celebrities such as Sarah Solemani (Bridget Jones’ Baby) and Amnesty International. See media coverage: The Guardian, Vice, Refinary, The F Word and Huffington Post.

International Women’s Day – Strike

Friday 8 March protest 12-2pm at Royal Courts of Justice WC2A 2LL:

We invite you to join and speak out at the International Women’s Strike event this Friday.

We’ll be highlighting sexual violence including:

-Putting the family court on trial for removing children from their mother after they report rape or domestic violence;
-Our campaign with the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union demanding an end to sexual harassment, zero hour contracts, starvation wages and benefit cuts;
-Putting the government on trial for detention, destitution and deportation of rape survivors seeking asylum.

More info here https://www.facebook.com/GlobalWomensStrike/
Tel: 020 7482 2496
Please share in your networks.
Twitter #IntWomenStrike2019

All women, children and non binary people welcome.

2.30: SOAS Cloisters – Decolonising Our Minds and Payday men’s network hosting the Strikers with food, exhibits, film screenings. SOAS University of London, Bloomsbury, London WC1H 0XG. Everyone Welcome.

Government announces scrapping of ‘same roof’ rule

This government press release was published on 28 Feb 2019, a victory for all those who campaigned against the discriminatory rules of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/access-to-compensation-scheme-for-victims-who-lived-with-their-attacker

The ‘same roof’ rule had been used to deny compensation to anyone who had been sexually attacked before 1979 by someone living in the same house (for attacks after that date the rule had been set aside, but continued to be applied retrospectively to cases before 1979).

After years of legal challenges, a woman’s case in 2018 was won, establishing that this rule was unjust.

The government has been forced by this case and weight of public opinion to finally concede that this rule must be scrapped. They are now suggesting that victims reapply, or apply for the first time. They are also in the process of a wider review if the scheme, and will release the results later in the year.

Union launches campaign against sexual harassment in hospitality

Published in The Caterer

THURSDAY, JANUARY 10TH 2019, 10:07
WRITTEN BY: EMMA LAKE

The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) has launched a campaign against sexual harassment in the fast food and hospitality industries.

The union has joined forces with Women Against Rape to launch the campaign. The charity said: “Sexual violence in the hospitality industry is much more common than we all think. We don’t exactly know how common because most people don’t tell anyone. Abusers count on the victim being afraid to report it, scared that she may lose her job if she is not believed, or even if she is.”

BFAW hopes the campaign will encourage victims of sexual violence to report abuse. The two groups have said those in low-paying roles, on zero-hour contracts or with insecure immigration status may be particularly vulnerable and fear coming forward.

Woman Against Rape added: “Things are changing. Decades of campaigning by organisations like ours, individual women and other survivors who fought back, and the advent of social media have enabled global movements like #MeToo. This has encouraged workers in the hospitality industry to come forward.

“But it is hard to speak out if you don’t know your rights and you don’t know if your union is going to back you or you don’t have a union. The BFAWU has come to Women Against Rape because it wants to ensure that workers can report any abuse, win justice and stop any further violence. We are very glad about that and want to support in every way we can.”

More details of the campaign, and advice on how to report an incident, can be found here.

Men behaving badly: how to protect your staff from harassment>>