Sexual abuse
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Our culture of abuse has never screamed louder; we should start listening

The third article I wrote for The Boar was called “Facing Sexual Harassment: ‘My Body, My Choice.’’” I wrote it after receiving a fearful phone call from a close friend as she was followed home on campus one night after Pop!. I wrote that article as a Fresher in May 2015. Now, coming to the end of my four-year degree, I find myself coming full circle and writing about the very same topic of abuse.

Reading the article about the heinous group chat has left me fighting the urge to cry. Although I know many women at Warwick who have experienced sexual violence, in my day-to-day life I feel safe on campus. It is deeply distressing and disturbing to be reminded that women are not immune to violence here. What I find so distressing, and why I am having such a visceral reaction, is seeing brutal evidence of rape culture. Indeed, men never cease to shock and horrify me with things they are capable of saying and doing. It is incomprehensible to me that someone could say, “What do we do with girls? RAAAAAAAAAPE.” To me this is indicative of an incredibly toxic and potentially violent attitude towards women.

Vera Papisova attended a festival to report on sexual harassment, and was groped 22 times whilst there

This article is trying to unpack something about what I will call a “culture of abuse”. Not only are women sexually and verbally abused and harassed, but we must face similar abuse when we report it or about it. This incident comes to light three weeks after Vera Papisova’s Teen Vogue article about sexual harassment at Coachella. She attended the festival to report on sexual harassment, and was groped 22 times whilst there. This article went viral and received a lot of attention online. Much of that was abusive and dismissive.

I follow her on Instagram, and she documented the abuse she endured. You can see that here under her saved story, “Coachella”. It included similar sentiments from the chat reported on, for example, suggesting a woman is not attractive enough to be harassed; an absurd idea that suggests that sexual harassment is a compliment.

People clearly desire “proof”, but what lies at the heart of this is a fundamental distrust of women’s testimonies

What terrifies me the most is how unwilling many people are to admit these realities. The repercussions of which are the endangerment of women’s sexual safety and lives. People clearly desire “proof”, but what lies at the heart of this is a fundamental distrust of women’s testimonies.

This begs the question, why do we not believe women when they talk about abuse? I think this is the crux of the matter, and we need to change the pubic discourse about believing women. A common refutation to women’s testimonies is the suggestion that she is lying or has some ulterior motive. But why do we assume that women might be lying, whereas men are taken at their word? Why do we uphold stereotypes that women are intrinsically deceitful? These questions must constantly be asked when situations of sexual abuse occur. We must recognise the internalised misogyny in our reactions, and actively combat that.

What is so fundamental about the Boar’s article is it provides empirical truth that cannot be denied. Women do not always have the luxury of proving the abuse they endure. While we must unpack why people demand that, it offers the veracity some people clearly need.

It seems fitting that I will conclude my time at the Boar as I began, however depressing the circumstances

Currently the individuals involved are under a precautionary suspension while the investigation is ongoing. Undoubtedly concerns about how this might embarrass the University will arise. But that is beside the point. This is not a Warwick University problem. This is a societal problem. What would be embarrassing for the University, would be failing to adequately punish those involved or take the protection the female students of this campus seriously. We await the conclusion of the investigation.

It seems fitting that I will conclude my time at The Boar as I began, however depressing the circumstances. I am four years older but not necessarily four years wiser. I am ruminating on the same issue, but I don’t know if I have a solution.

However, I believe we are in a ‘moment’. Since the Harvey Weinstein scandal, we have seen a surge in movements trying to change the conversation about sexual violence and believing women (#TimesUp, #MeToo). I am proud to be part of a paper participating in this discourse and I can only hope that in exposing this, we can start to make changes in our community.

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