Women Under Siege

Women Under Siege is an independent initiative documenting how rape and other forms of sexualized violence are used as tools in genocide and conflict throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

Victoria Jackson, who describes herself as an outspoken activist for the conservative movement, on Facebook, reacting to the Connecticut shooting

20 children have been killed in Connecticut, and six of their teachers, all women. All of the heroes are women: the school secretary who warned the other teachers and was shot, the principal who tried to disarm the shooter and was shot, the teacher who was shot when she put herself between the shooter and her students.

[The heroes of Sandy Hook Elementary School: Rachel Davino, Dawn Hocksprung, Anne Marie Murphy, Lauren Russeau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto.]

Mother Jones – A Guide to Mass Shootings in America:

Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. … Just under half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (11 and 19, respectively); the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases. Forty three of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman.

Victoria Jackson on the Connecticut shootings and President ObamaMass murder is overwhelmingly a crime carried out by men. And, more often than not, the victims of a mass murderer are girls and women.

Doctor Science at Obsidian Wings:

It is perfectly clear to me that the American Founders intended the right to bear arms to be the people’s bulwark against government tyranny, specifically the threat of a standing army. It is also perfectly clear that that is not how firearms are used.

Most firearms in America are actually used to make men feel better about their dicks — sorry, as symbols and reinforcers of masculinity. Men buy guns, telling themselves that they will use them in the masculine role of protector and defender. But in fact, guns are used to defend masculinity, first and foremost. Very occasionally, defending masculinity means defending others in your masculine role, but usually it means attacking other men for slights against your masculinity, or women for being uppity enough to disagree with you or reject you. Or children, for caring about anything other than Daddy. The god of masculinity is a very jealous god indeed.

Why else are gun defenders are so willing to water the tree of liberty with the blood of kindergartners?

When I started collecting links for this post, I meant to begin it with what I supposed would be the most awful part: the scale of prison rape directed against women in US prisons.

As of 31st December 2009, the number of women convicts in federal and state prisons in the United States was 113,462: the total estimated number of girls and women held in custody in local jails as well as state or federal prison – that is, including girls under 18 and those not yet convicted but jailed awaiting trial – was 201,200 – 0.13% of the female population of the US is in jail, or 129 out of every 100,000. The overall rate – people incarcerated per 100,000 of total population – is 730 for the US, higher than any other country in the world. But if counting male prisoners only per 100,000 of male population, the rate for the US is 1,252. Prison rape is almost universally discussed as a male problem (and all-too-frequently gloated over as part of the punishment for a criminal conviction).

From August this year:

Thanks to the war on drugs, and a general 30-year-long incarceration binge, the number of women in prison has increased by over 400%, to the point where America can now make the not-so-proud boast of having the largest female prison population in the world. The vast majority of these women are not only non-violent first-time offenders, they are frequently the victims of violence themselves, and their crimes are often crimes of addiction, either stealing to buy the substance of that addiction, or simply being caught in possession of it. Needless to mention, women of color are far more likely to end up in prison than their white counterparts.

Women in US prisons or jails, subject to male guards, may also be sexually assaulted by other inmates – there is virtual silence about that issue – but there is a very high chance they will be raped by a prison employee. Male prison guards who rape women inmates may lose their jobs if their victim becomes pregnant – since, whether she decides to have an abortion or have the baby, the fact of her pregnancy is impossible to conceal – but they’re unlikely to be charged with or convicted of rape. From the BBC:

“The guard told her when he took her in the room what he wanted to do to her and she said ‘No’. He told her: ‘Who do you think they’re going to believe – you or me?’ So she proceeded just to do what he wanted her to do.”

Robert says his cousin [Monica Washington] was too frightened to report the rape, but prison gossip meant she could not hide the pregnancy – or how it happened – for long.

A Montgomery-based NGO, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), investigated events at Tutwiler. Charlotte Morrison – an EJI lawyer representing Washington – says there are other cases involving the prison’s staff.

“We know of numerous pregnancies, including three since 2009. We interviewed over 50 women at Tutwiler [Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, Wetumpka, Alabama] – what we found was really disturbing.

“Every single woman we interviewed had been either sexually assaulted, sexually harassed or had witnessed another female inmate being sexually harassed or sexually assaulted.”

Part of the problem may be the attitude of law enforcement officials like Sheriff Larry Amerson (sheriff of Calhoun County, Alabama, for 37 years: with a record of violence against arrestees) who claims that prisoners lie about having been raped or sexually assaulted:

“I think they are greatly over-stated,” he says. “Do sexual assaults happen? Yes. Are some inmates in particular at risk? Yes. But in 37 years doing this job, I’d be surprised if it was 2% – unwilling participation.

“There is willing participation in sexual acts every day [in jails]. The question is – when does it cross that line?”

That may sometimes be hard to unravel in cases involving only inmates. But those implicating members of staff, especially when a baby has been born, are less ambiguous – aren’t they?

In Monica Washington’s case, there was a prosecution – but not for rape. The charge against the officer was “criminal sexual misconduct”.

Legally, prisoners in the US are entitled to access to family planning services, including abortion – but because of the Hyde Amendment blocking any use of federal funds to pay for abortion, like US soldiers, prisoners will have to find the funds to pay for their abortion themselves: the prison staff are required to provide an escort to a hospital for prisoners who need medical services that can’t be or aren’t provided by a prison hospital. Whether it’s made clear to all prisoners that they have the legal right to have an abortion or to get access to family planning services seems somewhat unlikely in state prisons and local jails where judges and sheriffs are elected representatives of the Republican Party, which tends to prefer to fund programmes that preach abstinence till marriage rather than provide help to rape victims.

Victoria Jackson on the Connecticut shootings and evolution

In Mothers Behind Bars, the 2010 report from the US National Women’s Law Center, Alabama got a D for its shackling policies for pregnant women and and F for pre-natal care in prison.

You will not find American prolifers protesting against the mistreatment of pregnant women in US prisons and jails: or campaigning for all pregnant women in the US to have prenatal care, or for all babies and children in the US to have free healthcare: rather you will find them praying and campaigning for what healthcare is accessible even to the very poor, to be taken away. American prolifers will campaign against sex-selective abortions in India and China, but are indifferent to the evils visited on girls and women in India – from birth to marriage to widowhood.

The Telegraph has been running a prolife campaign against women having access by choice to abortion. They have also been actively campaigning for the raft of Tory/LibDem legislation to deny people who are ill or disabled the welfare support they need, and feel like “scroungers”.

You would never find a letter like this in a prolife context:

I know that right now you probably aren’t feeling very strong and powerful. That’s understandable. But please believe me: you are powerful, and important, and special, and stronger than you know. We’ve never shared a cup of tea together, or laughed together, or hugged each other. I don’t even know what you look like. But I feel like I know you, because I know you feel the same way I feel about what’s going on in this country right now. What I want you to try to understand, if you can just hold on to one thing, is this: you are not a burden.

No human being is “just a burden”. You are not a burden on the state, and you are not a burden on your family, who, much as you might find this hard to believe, would be devastated to lose you. Your presence makes this country and your family a better place.

I can’t promise you that after you make the choice to carry on living, life will get easier right away, this week, or this month. But I can promise you that one day you will feel stronger, and better able to navigate with the darker, more painful rapids of life. I believe that one day life in this country will be better than it is now, for every person who is disabled and unwell. And one thing I can tell you for sure is that the most important political statement you can make right now is to believe – even if it’s hard to hold on to – that you are not a burden, that you are a precious, unique human person who is valuable in and of himself.

When society tells you that you are worth less because you are unwell, that’s society’s fault, not yours. They may be pursuing a doctrine of shame, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel ashamed. You have no reason whatsoever to feel ashamed. You are not a burden, and you are not a scrounger – you are just unwell.

In a comment on a recent post a prolifer claimed that he and his kind were also “human rights activists”: just with a different definition of human rights. A prolife definition that includes Victoria Jackson‘s comments about the children killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday – screencaps of her Facebook posts shown above:

  • My friend Jim Riley posted this today: “Wasn’t the Connecticut killer just doing what abortionists do every day? It’s a wonder we don’t have more 20 year old “dads” doing what women and doctors have been an accomplice to for years in America. When you forget the TEN COMMANDMENTS, people, THIS is what you get.”
  • Obama dramatically wiped a tear as he said, “The majority of those who died today were children — beautiful little kids … They had their entire lives ahead of them — birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own…”
  • TV News can’t figure out why all these 20 year olds are murdering. The school system taught them they are animals (evolution) for the last 20 years. Survival of the fittest. They’re just acting like animals.

And no, she’s not unique. On the Edinburgh Abortion Rights page today:

Tim Gledhill on the Connecticut shootings

  • Tim Gledhill: Your organization must be thrilled with the elementary school shooting in Connecticut. After all, 20 less children in the world! Oh, wait, the abortion industry didn’t make any money from the deaths of those children. Sorry, nevermind.

Reacting to yet another mass shooting in the US with concern for the easy availability of guns is an appropriate political response to 26 deaths. The Snowdrop Campaign was launched by families of the victims in the Dunblane shooting, as weeks after Thomas Hamilton killed 15 children and one of their teachers with legally-acquired guns, the gun lobby began to smooth over the instinctive human horror with assurances that their right to own guns ought not to be infringed upon just because legal guns had made it so easy to kill so many children.

It is not reasonable nor appropriate to react to the deaths of twenty children and six heroes who died defending them, with snarls of anger at people who want women to have access to healthcare (still less to get mad at schools for teaching basic science).

But it makes sense if your motivation for being against safe legal access to abortion – being prolife – isn’t, as you would claim, concern for the “unborn children”: people who are genuinely concerned for children don’t react the way prolifers have to the shootings in Connecticut. It makes sense if the prolife movement is an anti human rights movement: an anti-humanity movement. Prolifers in the US are a profound contradiction: pro-guns, pro-war, pro death penalty, anti-science, anti-healthcare, anti-sex. There is no love of life in that cocktail of hate and religion.


The reality is that so-called pro-life movement is not about saving babies. It’s about regulating sex. That’s why they oppose birth control. That’s why they want to ban abortion even though doing so will simply drive women to have dangerous back alley abortions. That’s why they want to penalize women who take public assistance and then dare to have sex, leaving an exemption for those who become pregnant from rape. It’s not about babies. If it were about babies, they would be making access to birth control widespread and free and creating a comprehensive social safety net so that no woman finds herself with a pregnancy she can’t afford. They would be raising money for research on why half of all zygotes fail to implant and working to prevent miscarriages. It’s not about babies. It’s about controlling women. It’s about making sure they have consequences for having unapproved sex.

Also, see: Surprising responses to the suggestion of a white male crime problem.


Filed under American, Education, Healthcare, Women

2 responses to “Women Under Siege

  1. arbitrarychoice

    This is AWFUL! A spree killing of primary school children is now a feminist issue!

    “Mass murder is overwhelmingly a crime carried out by men. And, more often than not, the victims of a mass murderer are girls and women.” More often than not, _people in general_ are women. You’re a majority. And you’re saying this is well thought out.

    “Most firearms in America are actually used to make men feel better about their dicks — sorry, as symbols and reinforcers of masculinity”
    Nope, no man-hatred here.

    Whilst the actions of the Columbine killers were inexcuseable, there is little question that they themselves had been massively victimised. But no, like every other issue on God’s green Earth THIS Is ALL ABOUT THE WIMMIN!!11!!!11!!

    Every person on Earth is some mother’s child. That does not excuse blatant politicising of a horrible tragedy. Look a mother of a dead boy in the eye and tell her this is all about hating women.

    • Tychy

      I’m trying to exploit the tragedy to attack the ban on smoking in pubs. My argument’s admittedly a little tenuous so far…

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