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Dear Editor (unpublished)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

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.

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>>

BULLIED INTO “VOLUNTARY” RETURNS

At a recent All African Women’s Group meeting, the chair asked whether any women in the group had experience of being forced to sign to return to their country of origin or knew of others that had been. What we found out that many women had been taken into back rooms, in detention or when they went to sign on, kept for hours, refused access to a lawyer and sometimes even to something to drink and bullied, harassed, threatened, lied to and abused to try to make them sign to return “voluntarily”. And we how women were determined, brave and creative in the ways they resisted.

Primrose: I was forced to sign. When I refused they kept me for so many hours. And I wasn’t well. I asked them to call my lawyer, but they said I’m not allowed. It was really depressing. After two hours of arguing the guy realised that I wasn’t well and he called his manager. They then allowed me to call my lawyer. The lawyer told them that she wanted to see the paper before I signed anything but the manager said “no it’s against the law”. They were arguing on the phone for so long. The guy was saying something different to the lawyer, and I was arguing in the background saying “that’s not what you told me, you were telling me that this is your “Voluntary” Return letter, but now you are explaining something else.” He said that I’m very rude and don’t want to cooperate, and just changed the whole story. Eventually the lawyer said “I’m putting it on record that you forced her to sign “Voluntary” Return”. The guy said “I don’t care, I’m just carrying out the rules.” I was forced to sign it. I got the lawyer through a charity organisation and the lawyer said that they shouldn’t have allowed me to go there. I feel bullied and the Home Office threatened me a lot. And then denied it.

Eliza: I applied for asylum and after four months, they sent me a letter for an interview. I went there and they said they just wanted to know if I’ve made up my mind to go. I said no! They detained me for six hours. The funniest thing was the guy who held me was an immigrant himself. He said, “so why do you want to tie yourself to a country that is not your origin”. And I’m like, “is this your country of origin as well?” Then he said “you’re very rude, you need to cooperate.”

I said “I don’t understand, I’ve got an appeal here and you’re asking me to return.” He said “but that’s what the country is saying”. And I said “well I’m telling the country I’m not going nowhere.”

I was really stressed out. When they released me, I was just walking on the main road and I was confused. I wrote to the Home Office about what they did to me, but they denied everything. They said that they were just asking me questions and I wasn’t co-operating. 

Hope: I went to sign and I was pregnant then. I went in and sat down and a lady came and was asking how long have I lived there. She told me that I have to sign this. And I said can I speak to my lawyer. And she said “no you are not allowed”. I said “wow, but I’m not going to sign anything I don’t know about. I don’t have my glasses I can’t even see, so I’m not going to sign it.” She said “okay that means I will be here today. I’m not ready to go home.” I said “Even in my condition?” She said “yes I don’t care, you are being stubborn.” So she left me. She came back with one man. The man was talking to me saying I know you are from Nigeria.” After more hours I fell on the floor, sick. I said I am pregnant and they got scared. They brought in a nurse and brought me some water. In the end they let me go.

Marie: I was locked in too. Not once, but twice. They were trying to force me to sign travel documents. You have to think what to do. They say to me “you need to sign this, you need to sign this”. I said “why would I sign travel documents when I have a passport?” They did it to me in the detention centre and they also did it to me when I went to sign on at London Bridge.

When I was in the detention centre, I said to the strict man “listen boss, I want to sign this for you, but I really can’t because I need to take it with me.” So I took it to my room and I said “I need a couple of days to think about it.”  So you’re showing them that you’re cooperating, but you’re not signing. You ain’t going anywhere.

In London Bridge, one officer was kind enough to say to me “do you have anything in with the Home Office? You need to put something in, because they’re serious about this. They’re going to try and deport you.” He was nice; he was trying to warn me.

Chair’s summary: There are times when you’ve cried, when you’ve shouted, and there are six people against you, and you are in a place where nothing can happen. I think it’s horrible. That’s what I went through. I was in a police cell for three days without any reason. It’s very sad, that the system can gang up against you. You feel like a block of bees are after you. Afterwards, I took time to really feel back. I don’t want anybody to go through it again.

That’s what we do in the All African Women’s Group. We have to document this. I always wanted to have the opportunity to do that, for everybody’s experience to be out there. Because it’s all hidden. Nobody would report this except us.

Now, we’ve got a statement against forced voluntary returns. We know it is a problem because they won’t tell you it’s forced, they will try to pretend that it’s one of the options. But it’s not. We heard how women were forced to sign to agree to go back. Remember, they have started closing detention centres, which could mean that there will be faster deportations. It means that the government is always finding an alternative, a different way to deport us. So we have a job to do, to ask people to sign this statement to help us, help my sisters, help my brothers to stop forced voluntary returns. Are we going to do that?

Chorus: YES

Observation from Women of Colour, Global Women’s Strike:

This is non-violent, direct action for self-defence. People talk about taking direct action, lying down in the road, stopping vans… and this is part of that. This is how we save ourselves. And these are good tips for all of us because when we’re poor they’re always after us for something. So we can use these tactics everywhere.

December 2018

Bakers Union launches sexual harassment campaign supported by our sisters at WAR

Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union announces launch of Sexual Harassment campaign supported by our sisters from Women Against Rape

Has the #MeToo movement helped workers in the fast food and hospitality industry to speak out about sexual violence at work and win protection?

Read WAR’s blogpost on the BFAWU website.

STOP PRESS: TWENTY ONE WOMEN RELEASED – HUNGER STRIKE SUSPENDED

The hunger strike of over 40 women in Yarl’s Wood IRC which started on Monday night in protest at eight women being taken from detention and forced onto a charter flight back to Nigeria, has been suspended.

Four women (and one woman’s partner) DID NOT FLY.  But shamefully the Home Office deported two women with severe walking disabilities in wheelchairs

Speaking to Black Women’s Rape Action Project which with the All African Women’s Group has been providing daily support to the hunger strikers, Mercy, one of the women said:

“We are suspending the hunger strike but will continue to protest and speak out. . . the pressure has not stopped –  another charter flight is being planned to remove our Latina sisters from tomorrow . . . the Home Office tell us nothing they just come for us in the night . . . they have many ways to torture us . . . the system is wrecking our health. . . they are trying to break us down and isolate from our support networks and lawyer . . .   We know people are with us and we thank everyone for their tremendous support. Every message helps us to keep our spirits up.”

Since the strike began national and international messages of support have poured in including from Maru Mora Villalpando, North West Detention Center Resistance and the Latino advocacy organisation a grassroots undocumented led movement in Washington State, USA that works to end the detention of immigrants and stop all deportations.

People will have seen the migrant caravan which has arrived at the Mexican/US border. But what is never mentioned is the US responsibility for destabilising countries – for example it backed a coup in Honduras against elected President Manuel Zelaya and the resulting persecution, poverty and violence forced people to flee their homes.

As ever women – the primary carers for children and loved ones — bear the brunt of unjust immigration policies.  Over 70% of women who contact us from Yarl’s Wood are victims of rape and other violence.  We support women’s demands to

  • Close all detention centres and release people so we can pursue our right to remain
  • Stop all charter flights – like the Windrush generation, many people are illegally deported when they still have ongoing cases
  • We demand to know what has happened to our disabled sisters and all who were deported on Tuesday night.  If five came back, maybe none should have been on the flight!

For more information or to interview women please call on 07456 525 227 or email us.

Black Women’s Rape Action Project 020 7482 2496  @bwrap1

1 December 2018

Sammy Woodhouse: Rotherham ‘rapist offered role in child’s life’

A victim of child sexual exploitation has called for a change in the law amid claims a man who raped her was offered a role in her son’s life.

It is understood Arshid Hussain, who was jailed for 35 years in 2016, was contacted by Rotherham Council about care proceedings heard last year.

His victim Sammy Woodhouse told the BBC she was “shocked” when she was informed of the council’s approach.

The authority said it had “no intention” of putting a child at risk.

Urgent efforts would be taken to “address the failings in this case”, The MoJ said.

Ms Woodhouse described Hussain as “a danger to myself and to other children”.

In a video posted on Twitter she urged the government “to change the law to ensure rapists can’t gain access to children conceived through rape”.

‘What about my rights?’

Hussain, known around Rotherham as Mad Ash, was one of three brothers behind the grooming and sexual abuse of more than 50 girls, including Ms Woodhouse.

She was just 14 when she met him.

Read more and see video, where Sammy says that mothers are forced to face their rapists all over the country in family courts, at

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-south-yorkshire-46368991