During my years online in various “places” I have been subjected to various tirades misogynous. I’ve been told I have a fetid c**t, should be euthanized, crawl under a rock, have a good hard c*ck up my arse, shut the f*ck up, have my genitals mutilated and all variations in between. However, not once have I reported this to the police. Why not? Because I know, in my situation, it would be pointless. Nothing would be done; no one would take it seriously. I have no public profile, no influence and therefore there is no reason for them to act as if it matters. The same reasons prevented me from reporting it to the police when I was raped. There was no way I was going to put myself at risk when protections for my safety and those of my children would not have been guaranteed. Maybe you believe I’m simply disillusioned and cynical and only have myself to blame. Alas, I think it’s important to remember that the culture which breeds the pervasive behaviour of online, and real life, misogyny and bigotry is the same one where we are supposed to seek support. Our culture is one where women and minority groups are not respected. It is a culture which actively blames victims for the crimes committed against them. God help any person seeking justice following sexual assault if they had previously given consent, had a drink or worn revealing clothing. It is a culture where the seriousness of rape has been categorised by Ministers along victim blaming lines and where most rape cases fail to result in justice. It is a culture where a man can rape numerous young people and yet only be given a 15 month (changed to a whopping 30 month) prison sentence simply because they’re old and it happened in the past. It is a culture where even once a rapist has been found guilty his sentence (and therefore suffering) will be minute and completely disproportionate to the suffering they inflicted upon their victims. If I’m disillusioned it’s for good reason.
I’m sure many would argue that if I actively reported these cases of abuse to the police it would help to show that this behaviour won’t be tolerated. I won’t argue against that. All I can say is that my experiences have been so repetitive I doubt I would have the time, and be labelled a trouble maker by the police and as I have no faith this would lead to any justice it is a course I am choosing to personally refrain from. This is also the reason why I believe a “report abuse” button on Twitter would probably entirely fail to help the victims and would instead be misused by those wishing to silence those of us who are attempting to speak out against inequality and hate groups. Many groups already use mass misuse of the “report spam” button on Twitter to have accounts suspended, and with frequent success. Relying on a “report abuse” button on Twitter also falls foul to the same issues raised above; those subjectively deciding which accounts to suspend/ban will be a part of the same culture as those choosing to be abusive in the first place. One need only look at the comments of any article concerning feminists to realise that misogynist abuse is all too frequently able to pass the moderators. It’s a viable concern that a button will lead to people self-censoring to an extent that freedom of speech becomes seriously hampered, leading to a sterile environment on Twitter. Additionally, once these accounts are barred the holders simply open up another account in another name and so it continues. It doesn’t prevent us from experiencing the abuse in the first place and simply leaves us with a false sense of security in believing we have somehow beaten these cruel people. Has the level of misogyny and bigotry on Twitter forced us to simply fire fight? A report abuse button appears to me as a sign that we’ve become caught up in treating the symptoms and not the disease.
We are in desperate need of fundamental change. We need a justice system which properly works to protect vulnerable people including victims of rape and violence. We need more people to speak up about how these attitudes are not okay and will not be tolerated. We need urgent change in the discourse of rape and violence where we put an end to victim blaming. We need to challenge papers not to report about how many drinks a woman had or what she was wearing when she was raped. We need all acts of violence, particularly against women and other vulnerable people to be taken seriously, and this includes groping in bars amongst other acts which have been accepted as normal. We need change on a systemic level so that the message goes out to men (and women) from a young age that all people need to be respected regardless of gender, sexuality, race, disability and religion. We need changes in our courts, our schools, our media and our homes.
Perhaps Twitter could start working on a “cultural shift button”?.