Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Eavesdrop #7

A man is waiting to order at a coffee shop near Paddington Station. The young woman at the counter speaks with a strong Spanish accent. She's been working very hard.

Man              Latte. Half strength

Woman         I'm sorry?

Man              (louder) Latte. Half Strength

Woman         What is "have streff"? I'm sorry, I don't understand.

Man              A half strength latte. What's the problem here?

Woman         I don't know what you mean. Can you say it another way?

Man              I don't know how else to fucking it say it, love. I want a latte, ok? But half the strength of a normal  one, yeah?

Woman         I make you a latte, yes?

Man              What is the matter with you people!!!

Another customer tries to intervene

Customer       (to woman) I think he means that he wants the coffee to be weaker than normal. Less strong.

Woman         Ah, ok.

Man              Stupid bitch

The young woman makes the latte

Woman         Here is your weaker latte. I think you are a shit and really a bastard.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Eavesdrop #6

A man is outside making a call on his mobile telephone:

Alright Dave, it's Dave. No, no Dave. No, Dave, it's Dave! No, oh for fuc..


Tuesday, 8 November 2011


S is an 18-year-old woman. She lives in a safe house with her baby.

S ran away from home when she was 12 years old. Her step father was sexually abusing her without her mother's knowledge. S says that her mother would never have believed her if she had disclosed the abuse. She slept rough for two or three months before being picked up by Social Services and placed in care.

S had a bad time in care. She was placed with a foster family but was sexually assaulted by one of her foster father's friends at a party one day. This friend continued to come to the house to abuse her. After a while, S stole £60 from her foster mother's purse and left the house. She got on a train and went as far away as she could.

S slept on the street with some other rough sleepers. She started taking a bit of speed. She liked the way it made her feel; 'like floating and sinking at the same time'. By now she was 14 years old. Some of the older women kept an eye on her. Most of them were sex workers. They weren't all rough sleepers but they hung out in the same area.

There was a man called Jo who would come by in his car and talk to the women. He was the boyfriend of one of the sex workers. S's first memory of Jo is watching him kick one of the other rough sleepers repeatedly in the head for a laugh after the rough sleeper had overdosed from snowballing (injecting a mixture of crack and heroin).

S wanted to impress Jo. She would snort speed in front of him and insult passers by when he was in earshot. She wanted him to think that she was grown up and fearless; that she had done things. Jo started to acknowledge S. He would tease her and give her the odd cigarette. Some of the other women told her not to talk to him.

S was offered heroin by one of the rough sleepers. She was told to smoke it at first. After a few months, she was injecting nearly every day and smoking crack regularly as well.

One night Jo came by to look for his girlfriend but she wasn't there. S was standing away from the others trying to hide from some nearby police officers. She was high on crack and she'd just stolen a handbag from a cafe. Jo told S that her tits looked nice. And then he took her to his car and raped her. After he'd raped her, Jo told S that she wasn't getting paid for it because she was too young. And then he said he was joking and he gave her £10. S was sick in her lap. Jo gave her a cuddle and told her he was sorry but that he couldn't help himself because she was so pretty and so grown up.

Jo's girlfriend found out what had happened and beat S up. S left the area and hitched to a different town.

By the time she was 15, S had a regular crack and heroin habit and was having sex for money to fund it. She would tell punters she was 17. Some would guess that she was underage but would have sex with her anyway. S would sometimes be approached by outreach workers who would try to encourage her to engage with their services. She would sometimes talk to them but she didn't let things go any further. She didn't trust anyone.

S found out she was pregnant when she was 17. She was fairly sure that the father was one of her regular punters who insisted on sex without a condom. She decided to get clean and ask the local authority for help with housing. She was placed in a B&B and referred to Social Services.

S's baby was born addicted to heroin and crack because S wasn't able to get clean during her pregnancy. The baby stayed  in hospital and S returned to the B&B.

The baby's father had seen S around while she was pregnant and had asked people where she was staying. He paid S a visit one day. He asked S if he was the father of her baby and she told him that she was almost certain that he was. He raped and beat S to within an inch of her life. She was in intensive care for three weeks.

S was placed in a safe house. She is still there. She has not used crack, heroin or speed for nearly three months. She says that it's early days in terms of her recovery but that she's determined to get clean and lead a better life for her baby.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Comment is Free

A recent article by Barbara Ellen in the Guardian's Comment is Free focused on Eamonn Holmes' clumsy interview with rape survivor Hannah Cant on an episode of This Morning. Ellen writes that Holmes repeatedly made references about the fact that Cant hadn't taken a taxi home and that the inference was that she should have done in order to avoid being raped.

At the end of the interview, Holmes offers some advice to Ms. Cant and says, "I hope you take taxis now, everywhere you go, coming home at night." Ellen, quite rightly, goes on to argue that, "taxi or not, it is never the victim's fault that a rapist strikes. Odd how, even now, rape victims are perceived as somehow enabling their own attacks, in a way that would seem ludicrous when applied to other crimes? "Why did you buy a nice car – when it could be stolen?" "Why were you wearing that expensive watch – you must have known you'd be mugged and knifed?"

And lo, the comments stream in. A great deal of them are, at best, depressing. Most of them rely on the all-too-common argument of, 'Don't get me wrong, I hate rape as much as anyone but, you have to admit that, while no one has the right to come into your house and steal your belongings if you leave your door wide open, you do make it more likely that someone will if you do.' Many of the comments defend Holmes and argue that he was simply offering some 'common sense' advice to Cant and other women.

These arguments are offensive, lazy and meaningless. We have got to get away from the ridiculous notion of rape as something that only happens at night, in dark alleys to tipsy women who are walking home on their own. Rape happens everywhere; it happens in broad daylight, in nice houses, at the office, at weddings, in bed, in front of other people. It happens in taxis too. And it does not happen because of anything that women do.

It is men who are most likely to be attacked (by other men) when walking home alone at night. Also, (why don't we know this by now?) most women who are raped know their attackers. So, knowing this, what 'advice' should we give to women? 'Don't, whatever you do, get to know any men'; 'don't go out in broad daylight'; 'don't go to work if there are men there'.

Women don't need advice about how to behave or act in order to 'avoid' being raped. This is because rape has nothing to do with a woman's behaviour and everything to do with the misogyny of the perpetrator.