Rape isn’t the problem. Rapists are.

Seven years ago today a man raped me. Violently, and horribly, and he was someone who used to tell me he loved me. I woke up this morning feeling ill and depressed and with a weird sense of impending doom, wondering what was wrong with me, until I remembered the date. And then it hit me, because trauma never really leaves you. Something else hit me too.

I don’t hate my rapist anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t entirely view him with forgiveness and compassion either; I’m not a saint. But I no longer feel either terrified or furious when I think about it. I just feel sad.

Do you know what does terrify me? What does make me furious?

The way we talk about rape.

It would have been more usual for me to start this post with ‘seven years ago…I was raped’. Putting the onus on me, the raped. On the rape itself. But rape is not a natural disaster, a misfortune, a case of bad luck. Rape is a crime. Someone commits it. Someone – overwhelmingly a man – does the raping.

And more likely than not, he gets away with it. Sometimes after a long legal battle during which the survivor will be questioned as to her (sometimes his, but I’m largely talking about male on female sexual violence here) morals, her background, her sexuality and whether she fought back hard enough. Thus traumatising her  even more. ‘Why did you wear that dress?’ ‘Why did you go in his house drunk and alone?’ ‘Why didn’t you scream?’

No-one seems to be asking the man ‘Why did you rape?’ ‘Why didn’t you do the decent thing and NOT take advantage of a drunk girl?’ ‘What the hell does her dress have to do with it?’ If he offers a reason, it will undoubtedly be her fault. Rarely will a rapist honestly say; ‘Because I thought I could get away with it’ ‘Because I get off on abusing people’ or the most worrying one of all ‘Because male culture tells me its okay’.

America just elected a President that brags about sexually assaulting women. Its okay because its ‘locker room talk’. No; its rape culture. Rape carries one of the most lenient sentences of any major crime in the UK. Why? Because its not considered a major crime in the UK. Not really.

We do something similar with domestic violence. We talk about ‘battered women’ rather than ‘men who batter’. See the difference? We take the perpetrator out of the equation.

We won’t stop, or start to understand, rape until we stop talking about rape as an entity all on its own and start talking about rapists and a culture that encourages them and then fails to hold them accountable. And instead of targeting young women with self defence classes and rape alarms and safety concerns, we need to start talking to young men about rape culture and machoism and how their sisters, mothers and girlfriends have a one in four chance of having someone who looks just like them assault them.

So I didn’t start with ‘I was raped’. Because it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t ask for it. I can’t even remember what I was wearing but I do know it would have made no difference whatsoever; he turned up that day with the express intention to rape me. Also because having been raped doesn’t define me.

No, I started with ‘he raped me’. Because it was his crime. And as long as rapists are born and made in a society that does nothing to truly deter them and in fact implicitly encourages them, they will rape again.










Going to the Dogs: Diana Orgain, Nancy Martin, Michelle Kelly

Auntiemwrites Crime Review-Mystery Author M K Graff

Dogs featured in various ways in several of the recent books Auntie M has read, so she thought she’d group a few cozies together for your interest. First up is Diana Orgain’s Yappy Hour, which takes readers to the small California town of Pacific Cove.
This light=hearted humorous cozy has a hint of romance and a mix of quirky characters that are canine and human. Maggie has relocated to the area from her New York life as a financial advisor to restart her life and be near her Great-Uncle Ernest, whom she and her sister, Rachel, call Grunkly. Rachel owns the The Wine and Bark, a dog-friendly wine bar.

Maggie is eyeing a position on a cruise line as a purser when Friday rolls around. That means the Roundup Crew will head to Rachel’s bar for Yappy Hour with their dogs in tow. Then Maggie gets an urgent text…

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Royalties for Eyes Wide Open to go to Beyond the Streets

image c/o littlebitsandpieces.com   Eyes Wide Open 30-11a

I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the hard-hitting topics that my most recent crime novel, Eyes Wide Open, covered, even writing an article on the recent failure of Amnesty International to protect trafficked women. I was aiming with this novel to bring some awareness to the issues faced by the female characters within the book, namely exploitation within the sex industry. As a follow-up to this I’ve decided to donate my royalties from Eyes Wide Open, for the next year, to an organisation called Beyond the Streets.

In their own words, Beyond the Streets is a UK charity working to end sexual exploitation. Here is their manifesto…

Our vision is to see a world where people are free from exploitation, and where those involved in prostitution have the option to pursue genuine alternatives, free from constraints such as drug use, abusive relationships and poverty.

The sex industry is an ever expanding arena for sexual exploitation. Street prostitution, off-street prostitution, sex tourism, strip clubs, lap dancing, international and domestic trafficking and pornography are some of the venues where sexual exploitation against women, children and men happen every day. We are working towards seeing an end to the sexual exploitation of those in prostitution, many of whom have been trafficked. We believe that sex trafficking and prostitution overlap in fundamental ways and that there is an inequality of social and economic power between those exploited and those who exploit. The sex industry is a theatre for gender power dynamics to take the stage.

It is unknown how many people are working in prostitution in the UK – but what we do know is that it affects people in every town and city in the UK.

Prioritising the involvement of those exploited by the sex industry we seek to move….

Beyond Prostitution

We believe in life beyond prostitution and understand that change becomes sustainable when a person is empowered rather than simply treated as a passive victim.

Beyond the Limits

We believe that people exploited by prostitution and sex trafficking deserve access to genuine and attainable alternatives. Campaigning alone is not enough; alternatives have to be provided.

Beyond the Label

We believe that it is vital to look beyond the terms ‘prostitute’ and ‘sex worker’ and treat with respect and dignity the person behind the label.
– See more at: http://www.beyondthestreets.org.uk/#sthash.QOxGsqUW.dpuf

Creative Writing as Addiction Therapy

transformative art

Creative Writing as Addiction Therapy –  an article by Jennifer Bowden

image c/o littlebitsandpieces.com image c/o littlebitsandpieces.com

The nature of addiction has been debated for as long as addiction has been recognised.  Addiction has been viewed as weakness, mental illness, physical illness, crime and a symptom of past trauma. It is now understood that addiction occurs when a substance – or indeed behaviour – leads to a pleasure reward when neurotransmitters in the brain are triggered. The person involved repeats the action to repeat the reward, soon a tolerance for the substance is acquired and more must be taken to keep receiving the reward. Eventually the substance no longer gives any pleasure but the addict keeps taking it in order to avoid unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.  Even with this much knowledge there is much about addiction which remains mysterious; it is not possible to accurately judge who, from a group of people, are likely…

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Eyes Wide Open shows insight into how victims become victims in the sex industry…

One of the reasons I chose the subject I did for ‘Eyes Wide Open’ was to give a voice to victims of sexual abuse, albeit in a fictional way. Just received this lovely review on Goodreads… ‘Sexual victims are most always victimized many times more, threats of violence towards themselves and their families, plus the shame of what had happened to them, creates a wall of silence

Art always reflects culture and sex trafficking is the reflection of the horror that is happening all over the world today. Eyes Wide Open speaks for these victims with a strong a voice that leaves readers chilled and aware that this can happen anywhere.

Matt is a detective Investigator with his own troubled past. When an underage girl Kitty is killed with ties to a past case on sex traffic ring that never came to justice, Matt is determined to find justice for Kitty. Fighting his own demons, he uncovers that a young girl and another potential victim may have been the last to see her alive. Matt is lead to Rachael a young woman that was an advocate for sexual crime victims and for the Kitty as well. Rachael is hiding in her own silence-will Kitty’s justice be her justice?

Very intense read with a real understanding how victims become victims in the sex trafficking industry. Was at the edge of my seat on this one.’

Eyes Wide Open 30-11a

Writing About Addiction; Blurring the Line Between Fact and Fiction

Eyes Wide Open 30-11a

As an addict in recovery, it was inevitable that these themes were going to creep into my writing sooner or later. In my recent crime novel Eyes Wide Open, sequel to the internationally bestselling When I Wasn’t Watching, two of my main characters are struggling with addictions of different kinds; one to a substance, one to a behaviour. Inevitably, there is always something of the authors own experiences in any novel, even if that only goes as far as how a particular character is drawn, but this one was probably both the most difficult and the most cathartic to write.

It was also the first book I had ever written entirely clean. Relying on caffeine (which I rapidly discovered is an addictive drug in itself) and self-discipline rather than Class As and manic creative bursts was harder than I thought. A lot more self-doubt crept in. And I experienced writers block on a whole new level. Now, I’m intensely proud of this novel.

But it begs the question; is fictionalising ones addiction story a healthy way of coming to terms with ones own experience? Now that the book has finished, I would certainly say so, but during the process of writing it I must have run the gamut of every emotion from anger, remorse, shame and ultimately gratitude.

The therapeutic benefits of creative writing for addicts in recovery has been well documented, and having a platform to tell our stories forms the backbone of many recovery programs. With this in mind and the help of the local drugs services and local council funding, I will be teaching a creative writing course for addicts in recovery, focusing on both literacy skills and the therapeutic benefits, exploring forms such as poetry, memoir and the short story. Finished pieces will be published in a not-for-profit anthology by Greenstream Publishing.

You can read a free extract of Eyes Wide Open here.