Dear Clementine Ford. How I feel when you talk about me.

15 May




The following are extracts from Clementine Ford‘s recent article “What Cleveland tells us about the cycle of abuse,” on the kidnapping and imprisonment of three women and a child in Cleveland, Ohio.

There’s no doubt that the facts of the case are horrific, both those known and those yet to be revealed to the authorities required to know them. (Despite our general fascination with salacious details, even those we find emotionally difficult to bear, this is not our story; the women involved are at last able to shield themselves from invasion, and that includes protecting themselves if they so choose from the world knowing to what depths the humiliation was that they suffered.)

What happened in Cleveland is horrifying, yes. It’s incomprehensible. To imagine the reality of those 10 years would cause too much distress, so we hover around its dark edges, not quite daring to look beyond the borders with anything other than quick glimpses in case our eyes lock on something we can’t unsee. But we should resist the temptation to consider it different somehow to the violence expressed on a daily basis in homes on similar suburban streets occupied by similarly “normal” people, domestic matters in which we imagine we have no obligation to get involved. 

What I am questioning in this piece is Ford’s use of the words “our” and “we.” For whom does she speak? Who is the “we” on behalf of whom, and to whom Ford enunciates? When Ford writes “our,” with what audience does she imagine she is engaging?

As a woman who survived childhood sexual and physical abuse on a scale that I still, and always will find “emotionally difficult” to bear, I do not feel included in Ford’s “we” and “ours.”

For example. I do not share our “general fascination with salacious details.”  Such details would plunge me into places I do not wish to go, because I have lived many of them. Having lived them, I am immediately framed as “not our,” and “not we” in Ford’s narrative, whose point of view, it seems to me, is entirely that of a “we” and “ours” who have not endured monstrous events.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with this perspective. Not everybody has to suffer torment. But there is something terribly wrong when it is presented as the perspective, excluding those of us who have a very different experience of life, while simultaneously  making us the centre of the discussion. This inevitably creates a binary of us and them. It positions women like me outside of the centre, as represented by mainstream writing and reporting.

Women such as myself are absent in this piece of writing that is also absolutely about us. Without us, this text would not exist, yet our voices are silenced by Ford’s appropriation of our lived experience , an appropriation in which there is no place for our presence. We can be talked about. We cannot speak.

We are made the object of Ford’s, and her readers’ gaze, no matter how sympathetic and empathic that gaze may be. We are positioned outside the social order, as represented by Ford’s use of “we” and “ours.” Women such as myself cannot possibly envisage ourselves as belonging in, and to this “we” and “ours.” It is against this “we” and “ours” that women such as myself must struggle to find a place for ourselves in a culture that through no fault of our own, casts us as outside its linguistic parameters of belonging.

There is a barrier between those who’ve known violence and those who haven’t. Because of this barrier, we are forever outsiders. Our secrets set us apart. Dark knowledge taints us. We’re sullied, dirtied, spoiled by our knowledge and we struggle to rid ourselves of this legacy. We are not the “we” and “ours” who fear seeing what we can’t unsee. We have seen the unseeable. We have lived the unlivable. We are the aporia, we are that which cannot be contained within the structures and logics of texts such as Ford’s. We are, by our experiences, made other, and we are further othered by hegemonic writings that exclude us, except as objects of the sympathetic gaze.

Feminist thinker  and writer Hélène Cixous suggests that we should not think of women such as myself as “victims,” but rather as “subjects of suffering.” …human beings, she continues, try to live through the worst sufferings. To make humanity of them. To distil them, to understand their lesson. We do this, those of us who can. Many of us can’t. Many of us die. Many of us live lives of unimaginable difficulty. Most of us never have a voice. We must put up with hearing about ourselves and our experiences from others, who shudder at the horror we’ve endured. This serves only to further marginalise us. This makes us spectacle.

What happened in Cleveland is not “incomprehensible” to me, as it is to the “we” Ford addresses. It is all too comprehensible.

Unlike the “we” Ford addresses, there is no temptation for me to consider what happened in Cleveland as “different” from what happened for years in my outwardly “normal” home on an ordinary street, except in some of the specifics.

The call for the “community” to take action to prevent such ruptures as the Cleveland events, or indeed my own sufferings, seems extraordinarily naive to me. How are we to depend on a “community” whose prominent feminist spokespeople see us as other, however empathetically, and exclude us from their discourse?

To imagine the reality of those 10 years would cause too much distress, so we hover around its dark edges, not quite daring to look beyond the borders with anything other than quick glimpses in case our eyes lock on something we can’t unsee.

These are the words of the privileged, who can choose to avoid the distress, who can hover, salaciously, around the dark edges, lacking the courage to cross the borders and walk with those of us who’ve had no choice in the matter, and who can never fully return from that dark country to the land of “we” and “ours.”

Those of us “subjects of suffering” who have survived enough to speak have much to offer, weighted with the authority given to us by our lived experience. We could tell you, for example, that there is a universe of difference between sexual harassment, and the violence we have endured. You may not care to hear that, but we can tell you that is so.

Given the horrific statistics for violence and sexual violence against women in this country, there must be many of our number among Ford’s readers. Yet writing such as this excludes us all. There must be many others who, like me, read this piece and think, I am not of this ‘we.” I am not of this “ours.”  This is not written for and to a woman with a life such as mine has been. It is written about women like me, but it is not written with me. It does not walk with me. It does not take my hand. It does not acknowledge me as an equal. It is writing that distances itself from me, and me from it.

If we are to intervene in the cycles of violence that bring abject horror to the lives of so many of us, we are first going to need a new discourse with which to do it. That discourse will  not create a barrier between those of us who have suffered and those of us who have not. There will be no excluding “we” and “ours.”  We do not need sympathy. We do not need to be isolated in our suffering. We need those who will walk beside us, equals in our shared humanity, no matter how varied our experiences.

If feminism cannot do this for women, it is a failed project.

This is how I feel when you talk about me.


140 Responses to “Dear Clementine Ford. How I feel when you talk about me.”

  1. Rodney Chiang-Cruise May 15, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Jennifer. This was a powerful read. You expressed it perfectly. Thank you.


  2. Garpal Gumnut May 15, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    Thanks Jennifer, one of the most challenging and enlightening posts I’ve ever read anywhere. I’m a bit lost for words. Good on you for the post/article. In a way I am lost by listening to it as you must be as experiencing it. Lost for words and lost for the meaning of it all, and how to live ( I initially wrote “cope”, but deleted it ), as the subject. And it is a talking/listening post rather than a written one. I have learnt from your article.


  3. Marilyn May 15, 2013 at 6:39 pm #

    I feel it and can understand it only too well also. I suffered terrible abuse at the hands of my parents – in the small town I grew up in the topic of conversation on the 19th hole was about who screwed their own kids and how great the men that did it were.


    • helvityni May 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      Oh, Marilyn, my heart bleeds for you, and all that happening a small town, no escape…
      You can swear at me and at my posts as much as you like, I’ll remember your suffering, and I’ll understand your anger better…


      • helvityni May 16, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

        in a small town


  4. Elisabeth May 15, 2013 at 7:13 pm #

    This might well bring some of us out of the cupboard, Jennifer, those of us who have survived sexual abuse. But reading this I worry that we do not know Clementine’s story, her behind-the-scenes experiences. She may well be a survivor, too. It may not be as horrific as your experience or Marilyn’s if we were to compare notes. I take your point, though. The article can seem very much an ‘us versus them’ situation and it’s not one I suspect Clementine intends. I hope she reads this and can find her way to respond.


    • Team Oyeniyi May 15, 2013 at 7:55 pm #

      Jennifer, an amazingly brave article and I understand your perspective. I was going to say “totally understand” but realised no, I don’t totally understand – there is no way I can totally understand.

      I also agree with Elisabeth. I believe Clementine’s heart was in the right place, I think she will be horrified to find survivors feel excluded by her phrasing.

      Having said that, I agree with you: unless you are included in the dialogue you will feel marginalised from the discussion.


      • helvityni May 15, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

        I watched Clementine on the Drum, and she came across as a woman with right values. She writes on ABC Drum/Opinion, and I often misunderstood her…after seeing her and agreeing with her views, I actually ended up saying sorry to her for my previous somewhat snappy replies. I think she is also quite young, but I agree with TO that her heart is in the right place.


        • Team Oyeniyi May 15, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

          Young is a question of relativity! She is not as young as you might think. I have also met her and heard her speak and I agree, right values. I think perhaps a very safe life, but I could be wrong.


        • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

          3rd of May right?


  5. doug quixote May 15, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    Ford’s we and us fails to include you, but in a way, your reaction excludes everyone else.

    I am sure that is not your intention, and yours is a sub-set of humanity I’m glad I do not belong to; we the unabused at best can only empathise with your pain and angst.


    • paul walter May 16, 2013 at 2:57 am #

      This”we/us” shit is perhaps the most irritating trait of all amongst woman columnists.
      As for the rest, won’t comment yet. I sense some pain and I don’t want to clumsily add to it.


      • Miche May 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

        By referring to “we/us shit” as a trait of “woman columnists,” you have added to the pain. Thanks.


        • paul walter May 16, 2013 at 6:22 pm #
          • samjandwich May 17, 2013 at 10:16 am #

            That dazed expression and body language says it all!


  6. Anonymous May 15, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

    This is amazing Jennifer thankyou so much.

    It was only after enduring violence from an ex-boyfriend (and being in the dark place that brutalisation leaves you for months, years) that I realised that victimhood did nothing for me. I felt that the mainstreatm feminist discourse no longer resonated and for my own benefit, I just had to take charge, and take control over my life. Being a “victim” just made me feel weak and I refused to be one.

    Thankyou for writing this, it really touched me.


  7. gerard oosterman May 15, 2013 at 8:07 pm #

    I cannot fathom the horrific abuse suffered by those women but am also not surprised that over those ten years it wasn’t able to come to the surface. Despite all those reports of crimes happening, it ususally follows a non-questioning of how America and Australia house their people. I am surprised no one has followed this horror story up with the much predicted nonsense ‘ how lovely and close knit the community was.’

    Does anyone not question how those crimes were allowed to flourish unhampered and utterly hidden for ten years.
    Do we really believe that living in separated dwellings, free standing and fenced off we nurture ‘close knit’ communities?

    America and Australia and its suburbs are havens for hiddeness and isolation. When something horrific happens, the usual answer is often, ‘oh, we did not really see much of them,’ ‘they seemed nice’ or, ‘they kept very much to themselves.’
    Crimes happen and horrific sex crimes flourish where people don’t care or are not involved with each other. The price for an obsessive ‘privacy’. The blinds are shut, the curtain closed, our parcel fenced off.

    I don’t want to diminish the horrific abuse suffered by so many women but, please townplanners and architects, design something away from living in terribly isolating, spiritually dehydrated environments on endless stretches of suburbia.
    That is the real killer.

    My mum and dad after arrival in 1956 with her 6 sprouts bravely survived suburbia but had to just about knock down doors to be able to talk to neighbours, even then it was often standing in the kitchen only, didn’t know what really went on in the living room, let alone in bedrooms. One had to walk around the fence through the front gate and then up the concrete path and just hoped the door would be opened. The street was always empty, no people, dreadful. It was a form of abuse as well.
    It was very weird.
    It’s different in China or Indonesia.


    • Garpal Gumnut May 15, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      Jennifer and hg
      I apologise for the rampant thoughts following, right brain stuff, and self disclosure .
      Abuse also happens though in well connected communities. I grew up in a country which has had major “outing” of institutional predation and violence against young women and men, Ireland.
      I travelled daily on a bus to school for 12 years. It had a stop at an Orphanage, a Magdalene Laundry. Two , three or sometimes four girls would get on the bus over those years. They were conspicuous by the faded over washed uniforms they wore to school. They never talked to us , nor we to them. They were the other.
      We returned to our families each evening with the usual lower class camraderie that existed then, happiness and living in each other’s pockets, houses and dramas.
      Who knows what those poor girls faced.
      There was a Mr. Ferguson we avoided, we never knew why but we knew he should be avoided. He was “peculiar”.
      There may be much in family predation, but I would challenge that close knit communities as we were provide little protection against monsters.
      And this is mainly due to the presumption of goodness that we have towards others, and the recognition of the Mr. Fergusons of the world.
      When the Magdalene atrocities came out in the Irish judicial inquiries, I wept.
      For the atrocities that were committed.
      But also for the 12 years on that bus, that I never said to one of those girls. “hello ”
      And it still affects me greatly, that those girls were so abused but also ostracised by a supposedly “close knit community ”
      But that is in my opinion that they were dealt with by a “State” as happens now with the Family Services Industry in Australia.
      And as for the upcoming Investigations in to abuse in Australia I say go for it.
      And yes I agree and no I don’t with you hg, but mostly do.
      A great thread Jennifer.


      • Garpal Gumnut May 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm #

        Sorry should have been to Jennifer and Gerard Oosterman


      • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

        Sure, I’ve posted a few thoughts below, if there’s something you agree with then let me know what part and what you disagree with too I think we learn more together that way.


    • Maria May 16, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

      Your talking about externals here Gerard. Altho’ I respect that you experienced the isolation from your neighbors as abuse, I feel it is naive to put it alongside what Jennifer has so brilliantly exposed in her writing as a person who has endured, (as many do), horrendous family violence. People have the right to choose whatever boundaries are appropriate for them. It’s when they violate other people’s boundaries that is the problem. I really love & value my privacy & would hate to not have that choice. I think denial is the biggest problem,..when “the blinds are shut & the curtains are closed” in people’s minds. My understanding is that the crime of incest is alive & flourishing in Holland. I reckon all cultures & societies on the planet provide a protective environment for the most prevalent & most violent & hidden of crimes to occur in the context of family violence. Victims need an enormous amount of support, courage, effort & damn hard work to recover & function & an enormous amount of courage & effort & damn hard work to be lucky enough to find that support. Precisely bec. of what Jennifer says in her writing. A senior member of the Vic. Police force in Family Violence, (his name fails me at the moment), recently said that, “Family Violence really is the root of all evil”…now, I feel that’s beginning to get it right.


      • Maria May 16, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

        I might add that the word ‘evil’ is one that I am v. uncomfortable with & never use. However, I have to admit that it resonated powerfully with me in this context. Anyone have another word that would express what I think he wants to convey..?


        • Elisabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

          You’re right about sexual abuse happening in Holland- witness my father and his father before him in Holland – and I agree that evil is the wrong word to use here. The consequences may be evil but the person perpetrating such evil behaviour is more often than not deeply troubled.


          • Maria May 16, 2013 at 3:06 pm #

            I think you’ve misunderstood me Elisabeth. My intention was not to shift the focus from the suffering & shocking consequences of being a victim of sexual or any other horrendous family violence, to the problems of the rapist/abuser/criminal perpetrator/s, no matter how deeply troubled they are. My experience & astute observations have shown that rarely does a perpetrator ever take responsibility for their behaviour, rarely do they plead guilty. Rarely do they take action on their own behalf to stop what they’re doing…. unless they get caught they’re probably still raping, assaulting,..Most of them do it bec. they can get away with it & do. Our culture provides a protective environment for these abusers to have a field day. Jennifer has put the focus of empathy on the victims here in a way that I feel is ground-breaking & desperately needed. This is one area that I am unwilling to compromise.I find it diminishing to shift the focus to the needs of the rapists/abusers/thugs. And don’t get me started on innocent until proven guilty,..the law is probably the biggest colluder in protecting these worst of criminals, whose victims are usually the most vulnerable people in our communities.I don’t think anyone is all bad, & I’m not sure that violent punishment is the answer, but I am sure that unless the culture of denial, collusion & silencing prevails, family violence will continue to be root of so many cancerous consequences in our society.
            Where to begin.


            • Elisabeth May 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

              I was responding to what I heard you say about the situation in Holland, Maria and on the basis of my own experience to challenge that and also to take up the notion of evil. Gerard has since qualified his comment about Holland, and I expect there’s some validity to the statistics he provides.

              We tend to write from our own experience and so the perpetrator in my mind is not necessarily the perpetrator in yours. My father was genuinely sorry for what he did before he died. As I said he was not the same as other perpetrators, some whom I describe as psychopaths who from what I can understand are often incapable of recognising their behaviour as perpetrators.

              But I am in danger of generalising from the particular and I am wary of doing that. I also value Jennifer’s recognition of the plight of the person who suffers from abuse. I don’t condone the behaviour of the abusers but I think it’s important that we try to look at all sides of the equation, as well as reflect on the systemic way in which these things occur. I don’t think this was necessarily Jennifer’s point here.

              Maybe my comment is more relevant to the previous point about Helen Garner’s First Stone. Sometimes I find it hard to keep my ideas from spilling into one another. So my apologies if I misunderstood you.


              • gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

                If I am rabbiting on about Holland having the ‘happiest children’ as pointed out by in depth research articles from UNICEF, BBC and others it is that ‘happy children’ would likely to be much less inclined to become sexual monsters in the future. If we make children grow up into happy adults we will make inroads in preventing future sexual predators, rapists, child molesters etc.
                By the way, Dutch women are also the happiest, gee…it never stops, does it?


              • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

                I’ve just posted below, and I’m not alone in mentioning it, about the idea of psychopathy and how it seems to gel with a lot of what we’ve been considering lately over the pasts 3 or 4 articles on Jennifer’s blog.

                I’m told that Psychopaths lack empathy, and also that their highly represented within prison populations. But I’m also told that this does not prevent them from knowing right from wrong. They may not feel the strong emotional tug of empathy restraining them from using others for their own selfish purposes, but they know intellectually and rationally precisely when they’re transgressing.

                Maybe you know this already Elizabeth. I can tell, because when you think about it then it’s the only explanation that’s really consistent with your account.


              • Maria May 17, 2013 at 8:46 am #

                No need to apologize Elizabeth. The issue of family violence,.. is a volatile one for me & the life-long journey from trauma to self-validation to being heard to being hurt beyond belief to the losses to the grief to the rage to the euphoria to the suicidal fantasies to the shame, the guilt, the desperate & healthy need for reparation & never getting it.
                To spending most of your adult life having to relive the trauma thro’ therapy to be able to recover from it on & on it goes. Can drive you mad. And I consider myself one of the lucky ones. A big mouth, a healthy courageous spirit & the ability to fight. I know I don’t get it right sometimes & I am inspired by people like yourself & Jennifer who have also endured shocking violation by the ones you depended on to survive, the ones you trusted, the ones you probably innocently & unconditionally loved., & to have reached a point where you’s can think clearly, be in functional relationships, have a job, be independent & take everyone, into account in the equation. To be honest, I wish I could, but I don’t have the energy or the time, but I do try. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond with such understanding. Now, I need to make the 150th ph. call to find out how I can put a stop to a peadophile who used to rape a loved one 50yrs ago, has got away with it & still visits her home unannounced when he feels like it. Yes., the devil is in the detail alright.


                • Elisabeth May 17, 2013 at 10:06 am #

                  I agree, Maria. The devil is in the detail and I admire your preparedness to take a stand, especially in stopping pedophiles. The trouble is even after they’re dead they live on in our minds. Still we need to ‘out’ them, to stop them. We also need to help them if we can, if they can be helped- which is rare I suspect – too much damage done – and if we can’t we need to keep them away from other people.


            • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

              Where to begin when you ask questions like that may well be to look to better science in the future to provide us with some of the explanations that you seek. For example it appears that a good many of the abusers in question may be some way along the scale towards psychopathy.

              It has been instructive to look at some of the reflections that we’ve already entertained in terms of Jennifer’s previous post and referring back to Helene Cixous’ notions of “self” and “other” with respect to the topic of justice. I think that in recognising the value, perhaps even the necessity, of empathy with the “other” we should not be surprised to find psychopathy intimately associated with injustices.

              While it is hard to get consensus about all the definitions of psychopathy its prevalence or causes there seems to be at least some agreement that what is meant is not a deficiency of the rational mind so severe as to render subjects incapable of knowing right from wrong so much as a severe and pathological lack of empathy towards others.

              I strongly suspect that if we understood why the emotional capacity for empathy was damaged in some people then we might go some way to distancing ourselves from the righteous and highly judgemental responses that seem to have failed for the most part to control a lot of the abuse that goes on.


              • Elisabeth May 16, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

                From a psychological perspective there’s a great deal of research into why people become perpetrators, most often as you suggest, Hudsongodfrey because of their own experiences of sexual abuse and trauma in their families of origin. I sometimes think of someone like Hitler to help me to reflect on the cycle of abuse. He was horribly abused as a child and grew into the monster he became out of that abuse. This is not to condone his adult behaviour but to try to understand it better.

                It’s a complex process and clearly not everyone who is abused becomes an abuser. In fact many do not, but some do. Again the reasons tend to be idiosyncratic and circumstantial.

                If anyone can bear a quote that’s slightly off topic but to my mind also relevant, please read the following from Carson McCullers’ The Ballad of the Sad Cafe. Fiction can oftentimes reach at authenticity which nonfiction sometimes struggles with:

                ‘And love changed Marvin Macy. Before the time when he loved Miss Amelia it could be questioned if such a person had within a heart and a soul. Yet there is some explanation for the ugliness of his character, for Marvin Macy had had a hard beginning in this world. He was one of seven unwanted children whose parents could hardly be called parents at all; these parents were wild youngans who liked to fish and roam around the swamp. Their own children, and there was a new one almost every year, were only a nuisance to them. At night when they came home from the mill they would look at the children as though they did not know wherever they had come from. If the children cried, they were beaten, and the first thing they learned in this world was to seek the darkest corner of the room and try to hide themselves as best they could. They were as thin as little white haired ghosts, and they did not speak, not even to each other. Finally, they were abandoned by their parents altogether and left to the mercies of the town. It was a hard winter with the mill closed down almost three months, and much misery everywhere. But this is not a town to let orphans perish on the road before your eyes. So here is what came about: the eldest child, who was eight years old, walked into Cheehaw and disappeared – perhaps he took a freight train somewhere and went out into the world, nobody knows. Three other children were boarded out amongst the town, being sent around from one kitchen to another, and as they were delicate they died before Easter time. The last two children were Marvin Macy and Henry Macy and they were taken into a home. There was a good woman in the town named Mrs Mary Hale, and she took Marvin Macy and Henry Macy and loved them as her own.
                But the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach. Or again, the heart of such a child may fester and swell until it is a misery to carry within the body, easily chafed and hurt by the most ordinary things. This last is what happened to Henry Macy, who is so opposite his brother, who is the kindest and gentlest man in town. He lends his wages to those who are unfortunate, and in the old days he used to care for the children whose parents were at the café on Saturday night. But he is a shy man and he has the look of one who has a swollen heart and suffers. Marvin Macy, however grew to be bold and fearless and cruel. His heart turned tough as the horns of Satan, and until the time when he loved Miss Amelia he brought to his brother and the good woman who raised him shame and trouble.
                But love reversed the character of Marvin Macy.’

                And so it goes on. Note the words: ‘the hearts of small children are delicate organs. A cruel beginning in this world can twist them into curious shapes. The heart of a hurt child can shrink so that forever afterward it is hard and pitted as the seed of a peach.’


                • gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

                  Well put Elisabeth. We give back what was given to us. Some, however, use the dreadful events as a turning point to not repeat the cycle.

                  About Hitler and your claim he was ‘horribly abused as a child’. I haven’t read this in a quick summing up of his life in a couple of biographies. His father was strong-willed and did not like the way Adolf was not progressing at school.’Adolf failed to get into art schools and for a while lived a kind of bohemian life doing laboring etc.
                  His mother Klara thought he was an adorable child.


                • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

                  Wikipedia tells me that Walter C. Langer of Harvard University described Hitler as a “neurotic psychopath”

                  I doubt you needed much excuse to quote that passage. I’m sure Carson McCullers’ beautifully simplistic style must have been far from as effortless as it seems. And besides the quote is quite relevant to the topic and I think far easier to lift from the pages of fiction than to personally attest to. The author of fiction is able to imbue her characters with a mental state which she describes in a matter of fact fashion that testimony which relies on accounts of events can’t access.


                • gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

                  If it is true that abusers, were abused themselves when young, and, if it is also true that most victims of abuse are mainly girls and women; does it follow then also that the abused women are likely to follow that same path and become abusers themselves, or do only male victims become abusers? If abuse doesn’t differentiate between the sexes in becoming predators as a result of abuse suffered as children, where are the female monsters?
                  Or are only males capable of becoming monsters and evil and women victims just suffer endlessly and in silence ?


                  • helvityni May 17, 2013 at 9:04 am #

                    “Or are only men capable of becoming monsters….?

                    Interesting question, Gerard.


                  • liquid running May 20, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

                    Most male abuse survivors also do not go on to abuse.

                    As a (female) survivor of childhood sexual abuse I really am tired of the old “abused become abusers line”. It’s just not the case for the majority of survivors and I find it really insulting.

                    And not all abusers were abused.

                    Yes, environment is important, but it is very complex. An infinite array of choices, decisions, experiences.

                    @ Jennifer – thank you, thank you, for writing this.


                    • hudsongodfrey May 21, 2013 at 12:40 am #

                      From what I’ve read, which is by no means a comprehensive study of the subject, there is some statistical evidence that the abuse have an elevated risk of becoming abusers later in life as compared with those who have not been subjected to abuse. That does not indicate that most abused become abusers. It could be taken to mean that if one in ten abused go on to repeat a cycle of abuse and one in one hundred people will commit some kind of act of abuse in their lifetime then the factor is mathematically significant but nevertheless reasonably hard to resolve into a useful prevention strategy. It just means that you have to be careful with how statistics are read and understood before you either use them or discount them entirely.


                      This is an article I found on the subject. It is far from conclusive, but I think it makes a good case that the word most is indeed excessive.

                      However since nobody had claimed that it was “most” we have to go back and deal with the evidence that we have, such as it is. Environment, as you say, may well be a factor. The concern being raised I think is that people strongly suspect with some justification that if we lived in a society that basically permitted abuse then abuse would be more prevalent because of phenomena like the ones that are raised by the question of whether abuse begets more abuse from one generation to the next.

                      I don’t see anything inherently insulting in any of that once everyone clearly understands the quite limited sense in which any such claims are raised at all.


                  • helvityni May 21, 2013 at 9:31 am #

                    liquid running, Gerard asked an interesting question: do abused women become abusers?
                    Why is it insulting? People here write about abused men who sometimes become abusers. Why is it insulting to ask if some abused women become abusers?


                    • liquid running May 21, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

                      That is not what I found insulting. It’s the assumption that male survivors of abuse will go on to abuse. It’s just not the case for most survivors, male or female.

                      It hurts to hear if you’re a survivor, you’ll probably go on to abuse others. If you reveal you’ve been abused, especially if male, you feel other people’s suspicions. It’s an added pain to something already so painful.

                      As a survivor, I’m putting out there that this is how I feel when this assumption is made. I wish other people would stop talking about the abused as future abusers as a default position. It adds to shame and silence.

                      This does not mean it should not be talked about. It does mean being really careful in use of language, having sensitivity for the majority of survivors who do not abuse.


                    • helvityni May 22, 2013 at 8:22 am #

                      It’s also very important to read carefully. Gerard Oosterman is not claiming anything, he is saying IF it is true…does it follow….??
                      We are all survivors of something or other, that’s why I’m advocating civil behaviour on these blogs towards everyone.


                    • Elisabeth May 22, 2013 at 8:43 am #

                      When I was a child, Helvi, my mother, who took herself off to Al Anon in a bid to deal with her difficulties with my alcoholic father, began to repeat the following mantra: ‘Sons of alcoholics become alcoholics. Daughters of alcoholics marry them.’

                      Some expert had told her as much and my mother liked to repeat this mantra regularly to us her children, almost by way of warning. For me it felt like a injunction. This will happen to you.

                      I suspect that women who have been abused tend to seek out abuse unconsciously, and in so far as the cycle of victim and perpetrator, as in masochism, features two sides of the same coin, it’s not so much that women become abusers per se but they get caught up in perpetuating the cycle of abuse by being drawn to it, unless of course they get help or can otherwise stand up for themselves, as we see more and more of these days.

                      These psychic states are complex and are not helped by the systemic gender equalities that continue to flourish throughout the world where patriarchal attitudes which are still alive and well box us into fixed stereotypes that are hard to escape.

                      Of course there’s lots more to it than this.

                      I would have said my mother was not necessarily being abusive when she kept on with her mantra, despite my flinching, but years later from my adult perspective I can see something abusive and potentially self fulfilling in her words.


                    • helvityni May 22, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

                      Could not agree more with you, many of my girl friends who have come out of long abusive marriages are so devoid of self-esteem and confidence that their new relationships end up abusive as well.
                      They have learnt to believe they don’t deserve better.

                      Only if,when they have found someone who is kind, patient and generous, they have slowly come out of this repressed state.


                    • paul walter May 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

                      Missed this little exchange the last day or two and think it makes sense.
                      You can only work with your experience.
                      I saw very little affection between my parents and have never quite mastered the knack of happy relationships myself.
                      Gerard used the term “pathology” somewhere else, perhaps to do with something slightly different but in a sense that’s true also, but its a very loaded term in the connotation s it draws in conversation.
                      “Conditioning” sums it up, but I also agree it is not beyond some repair or adjustment, although it takes trust courage and a bit of work.
                      ” Stepping out in faith” is a term I recall, but is there ever meaningful gain without effort


                    • samjandwich May 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

                      Hello Liquid Running and others.

                      This paper gives a snapshot of our current understandings of the effects of child sexual abuse on later life – at least in a dry and data-based analytical sort of way.

                      It includes the statement: “It is important to note, however, that these findings indicate that most victims of child sexual abuse do not go on to offend sexually or in other ways, although the risks are higher than for those in the general population who were not sexually abused.”


            • Maria May 16, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

              oops, ,,,pls read as “but am sure if,.. (not unless)… the culture of denial, collusion & silencing prevails……”


        • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

          I wonder if the better word isn’t pathological or maybe even pernicious depending on what context you want to reference.


      • gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

        What was that again about Dutch children being the happiest in the world.
        It achieves that by, among many factors, by being far more inclusive and family orientated. They certainly are not obsessed by the Australian (Anglo) world of ‘privacy’ till the grave, with drapes and blinds, 3 meter ( Zinc alum) fences, nor by separate upbringing between the sexes. At least they try and give good education, including information about sex,and allow unquestioningly condoms to kids when they are having sex. Doctors are banned from virginity tests when birth control methods are asked for, no matter at what age. Hence Holland has one of the lowest unwanted teen pregnancies in the world.

        Of course incest and rape happens there as well but a lot less.


  8. Megan May 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    God, I am ripped raw by this. I am a survivor of child rape and sexual abuse and your articulation of the inescapable otherness of myself in these learned/academic/thoughtful discussions and dissections of ‘terrible’ things is a revelation. Especially with all the twitter chatter declaring your post ‘very thought provoking’ and ‘has given me lots to think about’.

    Unfortunately…”These are the words of the privileged, who can choose to avoid the distress, who can hover, salaciously, around the dark edges, lacking the courage to cross the borders and walk with those of us who’ve had no choice in the matter, and who can never fully return from that dark country to the land of “we” and “ours.”

    This is so beautifully expressed, but I don’t know how those that have not suffered this sort of abuse are able to understand. How can we ever walk together? By shining a light on what occurred? By listening closely to the words of those that survived? These men and women, good men and women, who have been given ‘lots to think about’, are trying, but how can they ever resonate with this?

    The compassion that the comment by Elisabeth shows towards Clementine is quite beautiful. Yes, she may be a survivor but… not wanting to know the details! Not wanting to look upon something you can’t unsee! That is the least she can do. If they/we/me had to live it then YOU can see it and hear it and think about it. The shame this engenders, has engendered in my life, protecting others from the horror of my experience. Why do I feel compelled to do that? That is the greatest insult of all. For so long, I wanted to scream it loudly in every public place I occupied “I was raped! I was nine! Can you fucking believe it!

    But I don’t, I am silenced. It is too much for people to bear.


    • Maria May 15, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      I hear you sister & believe me if you screamed it in public, pls know that I would be there for you. I hope you do have somewhere safe to SCREEEEAAAAMMM!!!!!!!! it as much as & as loud as you fuckingwell want to.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am #

      Thank you so much for making these observations. I don’t think people have to completely understand. I think acceptance, & willingness to engage with their hearts as wells as their minds is sufficient. Thank you.


    • samjandwich May 16, 2013 at 11:34 am #

      Yes thank you from me too Megan (and to Jennifer for her wonderful ability to evoke the sorts of depths rarely seen).

      Something that I find constantly challenging is precisely this question of whether it is possible to understand how it feels to experience the kind of abuse that you and Jennifer talk about. It isn’t something I have experienced myself, however it is true that many of the people most important and dear to me in this world have been subjected to such treatment, and as a result have been plunged into the sorts of lifelong sufferings that people like me can only get a small window onto. When I hear a story like yours, Jennifer’s, Marylin’s, Elisabeth’s, in not only makes me too unspeakably sad to put my feelings into words, but it also provokes in me a feeling of personal responsibility for the fact that it happened in the first place – and this is the case regardless of whether it happened to people I had no connection to, or in another country, or in fact before I was even born. I am part of this world, and as such I think it’s self-evident that I am partly responsible for what has happened to everyone who has been abused – and I acknowledge Gumnut below expressing a similar notion.

      For what it’s worth, I have decided to direct my “career’ towards trying to understand, prevent, and respond to interpersonal violence and abuse, especially that which happens to children. And it’s really useful for someone like me to have you question whether people who have not had these experiences can ever really understand. For my part, I don’t think I can, and I realise that my own sense of empathy has its limitations as well – and it’s good to have a reminder of that.

      I have met many people like myself who care very much, and want to be here for you, and who want to make life worth living for everybody. We do the best we can with what we have, and while it’s quite conceivable that it may never be enough, I think that the good things about this world do ultimately outweigh the bad. And in some sense, the fact that you are still here at all makes it seem like you have the same kind of hope that the future can be overwhelmingly good. And that is a very positive thought – if indeed it’s true?


      • samjandwich May 16, 2013 at 11:45 am #

        That’s er – I haven’t experienced myself – para 2 line 3. Important edit…


      • Elisabeth May 16, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

        Your compassion shines through, Samjandwich. Thanks. It puts me in mind of my five brothers, all sons of our father a sexual abuser of his daughter/s and wife. My brothers have a hard time of it. They do not have a half-decent father with whom they might identify. Needless to say they have all responded in different ways to their life’s circumstance, some are big on denial: one has become an alcoholic, another an artist another a recluse and the youngest more like you.

        I often think that in strange ways, at least in my family, the aftermath of our childhood proved preferable for the girls, and then again to varying degrees. But to be a witness to a predatory father in your own family as a child, whether girl or boy, and not be able to do a thing about it, as was my father as a child in his turn, is a tragic thing. We are all affected, the perpetrators, the victims and the bystanders. And not one of us can speak for another but we can speak for ourselves in whatever position we hold as long as we let it be known where we are coming from.


    • liquid running May 20, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

      Yes, protecting others from our experience. So often I’ve done that and have had others expect me to do that. So much privilege in being able to ignore the experiences of survivors. Your comment is awesome, Megan.


  9. hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    I thought that you might write more about that article.

    It’s hard to say whether those of us who lack experience of real violence and serious abuse in our lives are speaking almost from the standpoint of what we fear may happen if something isn’t done about the levels of violence that society seems willing to accept being too high. Noting that whereas “too high” is often meant rhetorically I don’t know that we can begin to reconcile that kind of ideology with the kind of reality that victims are actually faced with.

    I don’t think we can expect victims to relive their experiences, and certainly we can’t for our entertainment. Yet I’m reminded that occasional insights such as Catherine Manning shared with us are far more relatable than Clementine’s Ford’s best attempts to find the sliver lining in what I think remains a very dark and foreboding cloud indeed.


    • Garpal Gumnut May 15, 2013 at 10:49 pm #

      In my experience it never translates in words, written words. There is an important emotive element in all this, a gut wrenching, living discussion of the past, it’s effect on the present and real fears for the future, Whether they be for the self, or for family members or friends who may be vulnerable or at risk from predation, or not.
      Predation is random.
      We and the authors quoted and Jennifer herself, could post and write about it forever, but the somatic, the anxiety, fear, rapid heart beat, tears, anger, depression, disgust, hate and the injustice cannot be merely expressed in words.
      That is my experience of these matters.
      Although these conversations are the closest I have experienced in disproving the above.
      So please continue.


      • Elisabeth May 15, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

        Sadly, it’s not just in the past. Less that an hour ago my nineteen year old daughter interrupted my time on the computer to tell me that en route to her college rooms after a university tutorial her friend was dragged behind the bushes by an unknown assailant who put his hand over her mouth. Fortunately a security guard was nearby and heard the scuffle. My daughter’s friend is okay. It could have been much worse. Needless to say this friend is traumatised, as is my daughter and all of their friends. This happened tonight at 6.15 pm just after dark at Melbourne University. The police were called. I doubt it will make the papers. ‘No real harm done’, you might say. I say not.


        • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

          Harm indeed. And so many people writing about it who you just want to hope are okay, have had some help from somebody to come to terms with whatever harm has been done to them.


      • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 11:21 pm #

        “Predation is random”

        Maybe its opportunistic too, selective of vulnerability, calculated to keep dirty little secrets, and festering big one’s too.

        Don’t they say so many abusers are known to their victims and more often close to home than afar and predatory.


        • Garpal Gumnut May 15, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

          Agree hg, random and opportunistic. We need to educate our parents, not our children, to be alert.
          The danger is in risk aversion to the point of a breakdown in the normal social interactions between members of a community, generations, family and individuals.
          This is one of the reasons why I am firmly against “Family Services” and other government agencies tasked by “Big Brother” to maintain safety.
          It needs to be community up rather than government down, and the community is better educated and aware than they were 30 years ago.
          Still as Elizabeth has indicated by a random attack on her daughter’s friend, randomness comes in to it.


          • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 11:58 pm #

            There are times I’m rather glad we have the police though.

            So there’s a balance to be struck.

            And just out of very little else beside practiced caution in such matters, we don’t know nearly enough based on Elizabeth’s account to be assured the attack was either random or premeditated.


      • Maria May 16, 2013 at 5:53 am #

        Yes, pls do. I feel like someone has spoken to me in my own language for the first time in my life. A language I’d be happy to erase from my psyche forever, but can’t. A language that frees me & imprisons me at the same time. Jennifer, I’m going to say it again, brilliant writing, brilliant mind…


        • Jennifer Wilson May 16, 2013 at 6:47 am #

          Thank you, Maria. I’m so glad, and so sorry we have to meet in this language. But I’m glad we have met, as equals in experience and survival.


      • Miche May 16, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

        Predation’s not all that random.


    • Jennifer Wilson May 16, 2013 at 6:42 am #

      Language. It all comes down to language and whether that is intellectual, or intelligent with heart. Or something! Am inarticulate this morning


      • doug quixote May 16, 2013 at 7:32 am #

        Yes, language; all the great speeches are so much better because the speaker speaks from the heart, from personal experience, rather than merely from intellectual understanding. The same applies to articles like these. From the heart.


      • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 10:29 am #

        I’m always inarticulate in the morning, at least until the coffee kicks in.

        I didn’t say so earlier because I can’t lay claim to the suffering of others in the same sense, but certainly there have been any number of times I’ve read articles that I think are presumptuous in using what I think of as something approaching the royal “we”.

        It puts me in mind of the punchline from an old joke based on the Lone Ranger characters. Tonto says “What do you mean we white man?”


  10. Maria May 15, 2013 at 9:41 pm #

    V. powerful, brilliant, insightful,gutsy…to be honest words are failing me Jennifer. I felt great that you let Clementine know how you felt when she talks about you. I hope she can hear you.I felt great that you talked about me too . I have also endured & survived & still endure the horrendous consequences of sexual/physical family violence as a child, as have my beautiful, still v. vulnerable,traumatized, innocent sisters. My life has been consumed by recovery,..& still, (35+ yrs later), struggling to protect them from the abusers who are in denial, have never been bought to justice & continue to violate boundaries & excercise coercive control over them. The law/the system has a lot to answer for in colluding in the protection of the worst of criminals. I love the healing rage with which you speak/write. Because I think I totally understand why you say it the way you do. Despite being quite articulate, & assertive, (basically speak my mind),..I’ve also had a fucking gutfull of being silenced, patronized, (ugh),.not understood,.excluded, by so many women who have appropiated the role of representing female victims of violence. Most of them can’t handle what I’ve experienced . It must be lack of empathy. The one or two who could, I consider gems. I know the loneliness & alienation & despair & fear that that lack of empathy caused for me.Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you for having the compassion & courage to visit those places we wish we could close the door to forever. Thank-you for sticking up for a lot of us. am happy for you & inspired by your capacity to have so much passion for life.*


    • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

      I don’t often follow twitter, but it did happen to catch my eye that Clementine Ford to her credit has seen this article and to her credit, seeming to vindicate one of Helvi’s comments, took it as a positive criticism of sorts.

      Maybe Forrest Gump can link it if this doesn’t work……

      @mjleaver @scribble_dragon @noplaceforsheep Thanks for this Jennifer. Beautifully written and a good reminder about language.— Clementine Ford (@clementine_ford) May 15, 2013


      • hudsongodfrey May 15, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

        Yippee it did work 🙂


        • Jennifer Wilson May 16, 2013 at 6:48 am #

          Thanks for that, HG. I too was pleased that Clementine responded so promptly and positively. Its the discourse I want to change, not to silence anybody.


          • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 10:33 am #

            I didn’t want to jump on any bandwagons either way, but nor would I have thought it fair to turn this into a Clementine bashing session, she’s really not the worst person out there, as we know.

            Truth is I’m more concerned for the number of victims who want to tell their stories and have come forth already, most of whom still seem to be suffering in some ways. I really do hope that help is available for them.


            • Maria October 22, 2013 at 10:44 am #

              On reflection, as a victim/survivor myself, I haven’t experienced you as being v. empathetic at all. More concerned, obsessed with telling everyone where they haven’t got it right. I took a risk laying myself bare,..And one of the reasons I did this, was bec. Jennifer’s article resonated powerfully with me, spoke words which I’ve never heard spoken before & desperately needed to hear. Broke the silence,..Another reason, was to hopefully support other silenced, isolated, victim/survivors in validating theirs own truths & perhaps enabling them to take the next step toward recovery. How dare you dissect my traumatic experiences with your cold, intellectual answers to everything. I have given this a lot of thought & I don’t feel you have the right to dominate the discourse on this blog, which let’s face it, you do. Well, maybe you do, freedom of speech & all that, but I find it controlling, diminishing, silencing. You just have to have the last word, no matter.The best help you could give to victim/survivors is to let them have a voice. Think you could get that.


              • hudsongodfrey October 22, 2013 at 11:58 am #

                It’s been five months since the comment you’re replying to was made, so I’m struggling to put the context of our discussion back together or to find any way that I might have offended you with the comments I’ve made here.

                I only noticed your comment at all because WordPress flags it to me from other blogs etc., but if I’m permitted to suggest anything at all then it might be that you should probably pick out the comments where we disagree and respond to those.

                Otherwise I’ll leave it to others to judge my capacity to empathise. It isn’t something one can easily defend on one’s own behalf.

                Maybe you can speak to the tendency I find difficult to deal with in others who want to claim victim status gives them the right to exclude others from the conversation. Perhaps you will understand that at the point where some become radical voices for banning things or treating every owner of a penis who ever walked the earth as a rapist then that does affect me and I might have the right to say something about it.

                But look, I’m trying to understand some of the issues that are raised that do both interest and affect me, sometimes on a psychological level that you may not be interested in. So if those are the comments that concern you, then your choice is clear. You can either address the error of whatever bad psychology I may happen to have used, or you can simply assume that is part of a discussion I’m having with somebody else and choose to ignore it because it doesn’t interest you.

                Last but not least, if I have perhaps just offended you, managed to discredit or embarrass you as part of the discussion here or elsewhere in the past then please know that my intent was solely concerned with exposition of the issues and furtherance of the debate. That part of it has nothing to do with you personally when it is a discussion of ideas. Maybe I was unaware you’d come here looking for sympathy rather than conversation, but please understand that even the best of us isn’t likely to extend kindness towards you more than once if you choose to abuse us as you have me today!


          • Maria May 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm #

            And you’re doing a fabulous job of that Jennifer….I’ve grown a lot on a deep level since reading your articles, (brilliant writing, brilliant mind),…you give so much of yourself. Literally felt my brain expanding in the light of understanding.I haven’t come across anyone who challenges the elite, the so-called intellectuals, the so-called experts, like you do. Hope you’re enjoying your day. Now, it’s time for me to head down to the shops & indulge in coffee & cake.*..


  11. gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    At some stage while growing up, genitals will meet. How to be prepared for that event is what parents and society ought to be involved with. When I grew up in Holland I knew how to get out of tricky situations and so did most of my friends. Children were looked after not just by parents but by the neighbourhood. The nuclear family was unknown. We grew up with our own sex and the opposite ones. We went to schools together and regarded with respect others and differences. Sex wasn’t snickered at and mostly we were at ease with the subject.

    Last Friday at a popular Chinese restaurant three young couples with lots of young children entered and…, the men sat next to each other and so did the women. During their meals the men talked to each other and so did the women. At no stage did the men engage the women or vice versa.

    In Bowral where we live are several private boarding schools for young teens, all are for either boys or girls but not both, separated for years at the very time they should be together.

    Then we have the spectacle of pre-teens already dressing for adulthood. Eight year olds with lace- up boots and bikinis. At baby-time; pink for girls blue for boys.
    I could go on but won’t.

    It makes me want to scream at times as well!


  12. helvityni May 16, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    Maybe one day we can see each other as equal human beings, not as victims and oppressors…and we can all happily accept female leaders, or gay ones for that matter…

    I think we have a long way to go when a PM elect likes to send women to do the ironing…

    Do it yourself, I say 🙂


    • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      It probably bears mentioning that by according to some I’ve read many victims of abuse may be primed to later become oppressors.

      By some accounts we’ve already had at least one gay Prime Minister, and it begs the question whether it matters or whether we’re even entitled to ask?

      I also have theory that if men had to do all the ironing in the world then rumpled clothes would suddenly become fashionable 🙂


      • doug quixote May 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm #

        Billy McMahon? Camp as a row of tents. McEwen kept him out of the PMship for six years after Menzies left.

        “You can have any man you want, Sonia, any man you want” and she did. 🙂


        • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 1:27 pm #

          Twas rumoured and he wasn’t the only one, but does it matter really?


          • doug quixote May 16, 2013 at 2:23 pm #

            No; that was a different world where homosexual acts were still illegal in many jurisdictions. But that was the way “we” (older than 50 or so) got used to thinking about what was then current affairs and a racy scandal . . . especially when it involved a political opponent. 🙂


            • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

              Are you working you way back around to the Ashby thing again?

              I meant to ask should it matter as opposed to could it matter. Because I guess it could but I meant to rhetorically suggest that it shouldn’t 🙂


    • doug quixote May 16, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

      There is no “PM elect”, Helvi!

      Avert that that miserable lying two faced apology for a leader ever becomes one. We had Howard for eleven years and I detest the remote possibilty that his protege ever gets elected. He is Howard with the the addition of religion and without the competence.


      • Maria May 16, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

        ..must anything that is said be re-directed to a tirade about how much you hate the Liberals, ( I can’t stand them either),..I’m trying hard to respect your freedom of speech here, but really, surely you have the intelligence/compassion to sense that it’s inappropriate, insensitive, diminishing & quite honestly, v. boring this time.


        • doug quixote May 16, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

          Sorry Mistress Maria, I will try to do better in future. What do you want to discuss? Your coffee and cake, perhaps?


          • Maria May 16, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

            Can’t help yourself.


            • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 2:09 am #

              I’ll tell you where you are wrong, Maria.
              Today, Australian retailers refused to consider boycotting third world sweatshops of the sort where 800 people, many of them women, died not two weeks ago. Retailers pay much of the press and medias advertising, hence profits.
              Now, it may well be that abuse in our system is as serious a problem as slave labour elsewhere, but do you not think it peculiar that the columnists and their
              employers favour one issue over the other?
              Why do you think that is?
              Nothing to do with demographic-massaging?
              You say politics doesn’t matter?
              Politics matters far more than you will ever know, or


              • helvityni May 17, 2013 at 10:31 am #

                Paul, you are so right, everything is political, and the poor Bangladeshi woman under rouble for seventeen days did not have the luxury of going shopping and to have coffee and cake.
                What an amazing woman.


                • Maria May 17, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

                  Yes, you’re all sooo right & sooo goood & I’m so wrong & sooo selfish. Oh, & I feel sooo guilty that I indulge in coffee & cake once in a while, …give me a break folks..


              • Maria May 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

                Settle down,…no need to rant. I didn’t say politics didn’t matter. I said I was bored with DQ’s predictable line of comment. A bit disrespectful in the heat of the moment..?… Hey, I own it & admit it was a bit cheeky, but I don’t think it justifies the sarcasm & ganging up going on……


            • samjandwich May 17, 2013 at 10:14 am #

              What are you doing today Maria? Could I invite you out for coffee and cake?


              • Maria May 17, 2013 at 7:07 pm #

                And you want to make a career out of supporting survivors/victims of abuse, yet you jump on the bandwagon in attacking me for slipping up.


                • samjandwich May 20, 2013 at 1:34 pm #

                  I’m not attacking you. just I’m quite partial to coffee and cake – life has got to be enjoyable in order to be worth living after all – and I also think you’re interesting and I’d like to get to know you better.

                  I think you have a point about politics being boring and that there are much more interesting things to talk about – so please keep commenting here!


                  • Maria May 22, 2013 at 8:55 pm #

                    Oops, got you all wrong samjandwich. One thing I’ve learnt about Social Media is that it’s so easy to be misread, to misinterpret & be misunderstood. I appreciate your kind response. I’d also like to say that I was wrong when I said that a hardly a word of acknowledgement & empathy was shown to Megan. On re-reading the responses I feel that you expressed a lot of genuine compassion & validation, which I found quite moving & hope that Megan found some comfort from. Have been really enjoying my coffee & cake rituals lately despite life’s challenges of late. If you’re offer still stands send me your e-mail address &, perhaps we can enjoy some together?…(coffee & cake that is)…Cheers


                    • samjandwich May 24, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

                      Oh, only just noticed your message Maria…

                      Well to be honest I was probably intending for this to be a figurative invitation, but why not?Are you in Sydney by any chance?


        • helvityni May 16, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

          Maria, may I ask you something, have we perhaps met before on some other blog, maybe on Drum Opinion; your writing style and sentiments seem oddly familiar…familiar in the same fashion as Hudson’s and DQ’s posts or even Gerard’s (Oosterman) talk of blinds and fences. I’d recognise their posts without their names on them.

          It was your comment to DQ that made me think of this.


          • Maria May 17, 2013 at 11:48 pm #

            No place for sheep…just wolves in sheeps clothing.
            Ready to “go after”, (well said HudsonGodfrey), anyone who says a word out of line. And all this talk about compassion & empathy & human rights, blah, blah, blah & hardly a word of understanding, comfort, validation, or support for Megan, who by the way was speaking to you right here, personally, ..not in Bangladesh. Jennifer, given that your article is a lot about the enraging humiliation of being diminished, excluded & silenced as a victim/survivor of horrendous violation & you spoke so openly & courageously about your own experience, surely you expected other victim/survivors would identify with what you bought to light & want/need to give voice to their own pain/experience. On reflection, I feel your response to Megan seemed a bit cold, curt & dismissive. Still feel you write really well. & have valuable insights. Something about murky boundaries going on that I’m not comfortable with.And as a survivor I really don’t need HG appropriating every fucking thing I say under the guise of wanting to help. “Takes your voice & leaves you howling at the moon” alright. Just fuck off Mr. Know-it-All,don’t want or need it. All the best everybody.


  13. samjandwich May 16, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Just me again…

    I’ve always found this website very useful, and affecting:

    It’s a photo project that started in the US, where people who have been raped can submit photos of themselves, holding handwritten posters of words said to them during the attack. it’s a very confronting read, but what I find most striking about it is that the things the attackers have said are so utterly mundane and senseless, and completely lacking in a sense of responsibility. Stark contrast from their effects.

    I’ve had this quote from someone who wrote into the site stashed in my drafts folder for a little while, but I thought it might be good to put here:

    “Not talking about sexual violence and just looking at statistics allows society to forget survivors are still human and still sitting next to you in class, in church, on the bus, at dinner and in your office. Our humanity may have been taken from us, but we are fighting to get it back every single day. That fight becomes a little easier when the struggle is recognized as real and met with love and support; not completely swept under the rug or met with skepticism and attitudes that shame and blame us for what happened. If we want to drastically reduce the numbers surrounding sexual violence, we have to change the culture in which it proliferates. We have the power to begin to erase the culture of silence and shame that allows perpetrators of sexual violence, not the victims, to feel comfortable and supported. We must start shifting conversations about sexual assault from simple statistics to the very real impact of sexual assault on the very real survivors, listening to their experiences, and supporting them as people deserving of the same love, understanding and compassion as anyone else. We have to realize, recognize and understand that no one asks to be sexually assaulted and everyone reacts to trauma differently and there is no script for a victim to follow. When we allow survivors to be human, we might begin to understand the deeper cultural implications of seemingly harmless “rape jokes”, see how using a phrase like “legitimate rape” is more than just a political gaffe, and recognize how normalized and embedded both victim-blaming and rape apology are in our society when journalists on major news networks make the tragedy of rape about what will happen to the rapists because they were found guilty and will be held accountable for their actions instead of about the rape itself. (Hint: the tragedy isn’t the perpetrators’ conviction; it is the crime they committed when they sexually assaulted another human being.) This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is a start.”


  14. jo wiseman May 16, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    This is such a powerful wake-up call. Claiming to speak for “us” is always dicey and so often no more than a cheap trick, but in this case it causes harm. I particularly like that you didn’t go hard after Clementine Ford who was being thoughtless, not malicious, but just put out there the way it is.


  15. gerard oosterman May 16, 2013 at 2:33 pm #

    Researchers of the World Health Organization indicate that a few things stood out in their surveys of Dutch children and teens that they believe explains their happiness and wellbeing:
    •They report that Dutch children/teens reported more often than respondents in any other country that they regularly eat breakfast with their family. We all know that eating breakfast is important to get a good start to the day. Children who eat a healthy breakfast perform better in school and show fewer behavioral problems. Eating breakfast with the family is also a great opportunity to spend time together and bond, before each family member goes out to fulfill their responsibilities for the day.
    •The second thing they found, was that Dutch families and schools tend to put low pressure on children to perform academically, and that students tend to enjoy going to school and report an intrinsic motivation to learn. The lack of pressure to perform does not translate in to lower achievement – in fact, international data consistently place the performance of Dutch children in the top ten or fifteen of countries world wide in all content areas. My theory is that generally Dutch students do not work hard in school to please adults, instead, they work hard simply because they love to learn!
    •The study also found that Dutch children and teens tend to get along well with parents. Teens in particular, reported that they are comfortable discussing sensitive topics with their parents. It is not surprising that close relationships between kids and their parents is associated with happiness and wellbeing!


  16. Ray (novelactivist) May 16, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Bravo. Very nuanced. You are right. It is comprehensible because it fits a pattern. I think one of the responses people have to such deliberate cruelty is to push it way into the ‘incomprehensible’, but as you probably well know, the psychopathology of abuse is actually fairly well known.


    • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

      Well said.


  17. QT May 16, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

    so in a nutshell a commentator can only use “we” if they’re referring to your experience of they should avoid use of the first personal plural pronoun.

    This is more about your ego than a legitimate debate about semantics.


    • hudsongodfrey May 16, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

      No it’s not really about ego. Okay maybe the dent to one’s ego that happens when one is patronised, but that’s the source of a valid grievance in this case.

      If a victim wanted an ego boost then exposing their victimhood isn’t usually the way they’d go about it.

      Clementine tried in her article with the best of intentions to find the silver lining in a very black cloud. She did so by questioning the relationship that we have with the social pathology of abuse in many more and smaller ways. It was an attempt to make a decent point, but because it broadens the scope from the figure of the individual attacker in a specific case to any number of cases involving victims numbering as many on some accounts as a third of society then the language we use needs to shift away from speaking to them in almost patronising tones.

      Too many of “us” and “we” aren’t in the dark about the existence of these problems for the oft made generalisations about our relationships with the reality of abuse as something that happens elsewhere and to others to be upheld.

      So this was about inserting the victims’ voices into the conversation. I’ve been privileged to hear a few of them and often, perhaps more often than not, those who’ve made the best fist of picking up the pieces and getting their shit back together have the least condemnatory and most informative things to say about the subject of abuse in their experience.

      Why did you write that comment?


      • paul walter May 17, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

        Nasty little buggers, aren’t they Hudgod.


  18. Tyson U. Roman May 23, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    “The Emperor has no clothes.”

    You have correctly identified the hypocritical shortfall of Ford’s populist journalism. In the name of feminism, this very vocal commentator is crusading for self recognition. Along the way, there will be many that are alienated as others are rallied into action.

    The cause is therefore not important, neither are the many that are marginalised, hurt or repulsed by the message or the way that it is phrased. In fact, those that vocally oppose the message are assisting in raising the profile of the issue and adding public attention to the mix.

    For this reason, inflammatory and polarising words are chosen over moderate words to drive home the message and encourage response. It is a journalistic style that may not be fair, inclusive or even accurate but at least it promotes readership.

    As a man, I am often alienated and offended by this ugly style of feminist journalism. Generalisations that are made about men and society paint a picture that is not inclusive of the entire group that she is writing about. But as I am not in the target audience demographic, I am therefore not important in her world and can be happily ignored.

    What is sad in this case is that the writer has alienated a very vulnerable group of the community on a very sensitive topic by what appears to be the clumsy use of words. What the community needs to understand though is that this is not the first or even the sixth time this has been done. Reinforced by the publicity outcomes, this is now carefully managed outrage by design, not by accident.


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  24. paul walter April 12, 2014 at 1:35 am #

    A while since we have done a Ford Watch.

    Just reading her article in the SMH entitled, “Is this the most misleading Dove campaign yet” and wonder if others may consider a comment also, if it they have read it.

    She is still doing the bullshitty “we/us” stuff, but gee it also seemed to be the writing of a maturing writer getting a fix on some thing worth discussing and she seems to have worked out Unilever for what it is.

    Read the Peter Hartcher latest also if you are masochistic, and ask which is the better or more relevant writing.


    • hudsongodfrey April 12, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      Find us the links if you can. I’m commenting blind since I can’t find the articles online.

      But Ford’s right up to a point even if her language does tend to be partisan at times. I think I’ve seen the Dove ad she’s referring to, it’ll be the one about patches, only on YouTube because it’s a few minutes long. and I watched it because after you’re forced to view the few seconds before the skip button appears then if you’re like me you’ve guessed the outcome, but you still need to satisfy that curiosity. It’s clever competent advertising, but I also think the women shown were most likely actresses, and the point of the thing wasn’t to sell any specific product but rather the idea that beauty is intrinsically linked to self esteem. Which it is in our society, and maybe it shouldn’t be, but I’m sick to death of hearing “fat is a feminist issue”, when what’s really presented to us is a marketing campaign that doesn’t really pretend to be much more than brand advocacy and can therefore be interpreted as such. So basically in wanting to go in to bat for “we” feminists on this what Ford might be saying to the sisterhood is something like, “you’re all too dumb to deconstruct advertising for yourselves”. My response to that would be that if she’s merely offered her interpretation of the ad without too much groupspeak then maybe she’s pitched the message better.

      Either way some people will probably be somewhat taken in by it and as such it is a piece of marketing that begs further analysis. I’m guess in the guys over at the Gruen Transfer are going to have a few minutes on it shortly.


      • paul walter April 12, 2014 at 4:54 pm #

        You got the gist of it, HG.

        An not sure it’s a cynical pitch tho- Clementine struck me as intense rather than phony at uni.
        I thought it genuine although the “den mother” bit is as there as usual for afficiandos of these sections of commentary.

        The article is current, altho my linking skills are bad. Hidden in their lifestyle/womens section section, or “Daily Life” as they euphemistically call it.


        • paul walter April 12, 2014 at 5:24 pm #

          I’ll just add, I agree there is a danger that talking about the sort of expensively researched subceptional campaign that Unilever is the past master of, plays into the there hands.

          The message in not beauty, whatever that is, but “Duv”, delivered at a certain timed (the patch gimmick) aesthetic pitch and intensity that intends to locate the product strategically within the perceived cognitive frame of reference of the subject..their campaign relies on conversation citing the product name for reinforcement

          I think Ford was aware of it this time and did her best to link it to social theories of commodification, to make it relevant, given that it turns up in a certain zoned off section of a commercial newspaper yet makes known a sense of the underlying sterility of a type of outlook and thinking more akin to SS officers or Morlocks than supposedly civilised people.

          Unilever has always regarded its various markets as subjects for conditioning (brainwashing), rather like the lab animals it tests its various forms of toxic junk on.

          And don’t tell me advertising doesn’t “work”, our now-moronised society is fine evidence of where consumer capitalism leads, given the mindset of so many of its subjects out there in “Home Improvements” Hanson Mac- land.

          Why else would mega corporations like Procter and Gamble or Unilever continue to spend so much money on it, over such a long time?


        • hudsongodfrey April 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

          I didn’t mean to infer cynicism on her part, but that being said I find that righteousness can be far worse.

          To make a link you just cut and paste the text out of the address bar into the window where you’re typing here.


          • paul walter April 12, 2014 at 8:00 pm #

            HG, Interesting thing thing,
            may be pertinent to your earlier post.

            The whole Unilever thing seems to have been disappeared.

            Not a trace unless I’ve been confounded by the SMH’s complex indexing system.



          • paul walter April 14, 2014 at 4:47 am #

            Sorry mate.. cut and paste according your directions work as well for me as it has all the other times.


            • doug quixote April 14, 2014 at 2:46 pm #

              Cut and paste? Yes, but how do you get a neat link like Jennifer’s? 🙂


              • paul walter April 14, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

                Well, there you go!

                The directions have been offered by different people at different times and numerous efforts on my part have failed.. Perhaps it’s the computer, the techie once said there might be a flaw.

                All I know is when I follow directions offered by others on this it never works and yes its a sore point.

                Now, off for a walk in the sun and some appointment business with the skin quack….,F..Ford, F.. computers, F… sheep and a whole heap of other shit, enough..


                • paul walter April 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

                  Anyway, I wanted the article up, not a bibliography.


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  27. paul walter April 21, 2014 at 10:36 pm #

    Very interesting take by Paul Barry tonight on Media Watch, concerning something called “native advertising” which relates somewhat to my comments on Unilever and Ford’s “Dove” critique, above. I DO hope people take the time for a glance at this week’s MW.


  28. Quinn May 25, 2014 at 6:27 am #

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  29. Analise Gisbert June 13, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

    Clementine ford is a lowlife scumbag piece of shit cunt – no two was about it


    • paul walter June 13, 2014 at 6:12 pm #

      Nah! I think you are being way too harsh..

      Consider the opening lines from Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony”:

      ” ’cause it’s a bittersweet symphony, this life,
      Try to make ends meet
      Your’e a slave to money, then you die
      I’ll take you down
      the only road I’ve ever been down..”

      Clementine “Claribel” Ford is youngish and still on her travels in the metaphorical sense, but a good wine will mellow out with time in the bottle. She knows quite well that most of us are circumscribed, but am not sure if she understands that certain processes apply to her, too.

      Someone like Clementine Ford speaks for and too a certain demographic, but it is the only road she’s been down.. she can’t see things from the viewpoint of an aging blue-collar grumpy like me and much of what she writes on is stuff I cant to relate to either.As for you Annalise, I dont know your background and how that influences your fairly emphatic judgement down upon her.

      But having said that, I have to say that seeing things from my trajectory means I miss some things she’ll see and vice versa.

      Apart from her social and cultural background, she has a place in the system that straight-jackets her from writing in more considered ways.. the people who read her want to read what she writes in the way she writes it, because to do less personalised more in depth stuff would not suit the commercial interests of the newspaper chains she writes for, or the imperatives of conservatism/ patriarchy/ capitalism she possibly dislikes as much as us but hasn’t quite figured out how to subvert or transgress in a really nuanced way, as an interlocutor.


  30. Trini July 1, 2014 at 1:59 am #

    You do not count-Ford is a media slut-‘ugly chick bitches about men’-yet this would never be her problem (as no men with touch her).
    Ugly,fat girls count-you do not.
    The fat bearded men on the left are none to fussy.
    If Carmen Lawrence can get laid,there is hope for Clementine.


    • paul walter July 1, 2014 at 8:10 am #

      What about Gina Rinehart?


  31. paul walter July 3, 2014 at 1:54 am #


    Tim Blair warns, “Beware, Attack of the Fright-Bats”.

    Blair has laid hands on a secret list of ten- the Terrible Ten “frightbats” (eg progressive female activists or writers) most likely to end civilisation as we know it, and bring Decency and Christendom crashing to its knees. Having looked at the list (under strict security) I’ve wondered two further things.

    a) Why isn’t Wilson on the list
    b) In what way does a list of relatively thoughtful women who from time to time raise uncomfortable truths, threaten democracy?
    I think democracy is more threatened when people like this are publically abused, dont they persecute dissidents in totalitarian states?

    The list included NO right wing women- some of these ARE “frightbats”, Albrechtsen, Bronwyn Bishop, Miranda Devine and the ilk, with their hatred of democracy and freedom of speech and fear and loathing campaigns against “others” of the same sort as Blairs.

    Are there no male frightbats out there screeching THEIR hysteria into the public mind?
    Alan Jones, Blair, Blot etc?

    I know parliament has shut down for winter, but the Telegraph needs to do better than add yet more conspiracy theories to substitute for real news in their newspapers, radio shows etc.


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  34. John T August 28, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Don’t fret dear Clementine you are to ugly to rape.
    {ps: do you wash-the stench coming off in Ubud was vile}
    {pps: have you declared your income from the f##k Abbot t-shirts?}


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  1. George Pell. “These people.” Language. Yet Again. | No Place For Sheep - May 28, 2013

    […] people” means people who are not like me, or us. Once again, as I pointed out in this piece on Clementine Ford’s use of “we” and “our” when discussing survivors […]


  2. Links Post | Hoyden About Town - March 16, 2015

    […] Wilson at No Place For SheepDear Clementine Ford. How I feel when you talk about me. I also need to note that Clementine has responded on Twitter to Jennifer and apologised. (TW for […]


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