Dear readers, I want you to know that I sweat through most of my clothes, and denied myself sweet sleep, so that I could meet up with speaker, author, researcher, and general badass, Jessica Eaton, in Birmingham, England, last month. I wanted to meet her, talk shop on anti-sexual violence, and interview her for my humble, little blog. As you may realize by now, this past week was hot, flaming garbage where sexual violence rhetoric was concerned, and I type this, still rather rip shit. I had a whole Sunday where I sat, and stared at old reruns on TV, unable to be useful. I had hit my limit on rage, and zoned out entirely. Hence, this post is tardy.
While I was zoning out, Jessica was an ocean away still dealing with the unjust and inexplicable actions by Twitter to put her in Twitter jail for her (measured) responses to misogynist trolls who wrote disgusting things to her because she dared to call out an imposter who is trying to lead training and discourse on child sexual abuse. Never mind the fact that she is doing groundbreaking work on the dynamics of victim blaming and child sexual abuse, no, the keyboard cowboys had to SHOW. HER. that she can’t threaten what THEY KNOW, except that, they don’t actually know anything. Minor detail.
Another detail? Jessica is not fooled by these attempts to derail her from people who can’t face or accept reality. She’s too busy laughing all the way to her PhD, and her book The Little Orange Notebook, and her VictimFocus mastery, and… you get the point. Still, being the recipient of disgusting, toxic language is tiresome, and, infuriating, especially when they attack her appearance and her gloroious, distinctive fringe.
I saw this tweet from @itsJeffTiedrich, and it made me think of Jessica: “Women are showing great restraint in not burning everything to the fucking ground today and I don’t know how they do it.”
Part One – In that way you go into an interview wanting to ask specific questions, and then it just becomes an easy conversation, most of my notes originate from this one question. So, that’s where we’ll start.
Why do you focus your work on victim blaming?
“While I was working in the criminal justice system and managing the Crown Courts, I’d watch the most ridiculous victim blaming. The defense attorneys will try anything to blame the victim… I started becoming really interested in why professionals and the public are so hellbent on holding women and girls accountable for the actions of men.”
Jessica, who has written previously about the sexual and physical abuse she suffered as a child from ages 11-17, says she experienced this phenomenon herself when she came forward about what she had been through, at age 18. She said, “I was blamed by absolutely everyone. My family, the police, my friends. I couldn’t understand why everyone was so angry with me. It was the hardest time in my life. I was called a ‘trouble causer’ and discounted.”
Even more troubling than being accused of being a ‘trouble causer’, was the trend she witnessed in the courts of “borderline personality disorder” diagnoses of women and girls who had been raped, from psychologists who mainly work with perpetrators/offenders.
“It’s a form of psychiatric victim blaming to call [victims[ ‘borderline’ and to downplay their anger when they have every right to be angry,” she said. “We are so obsessed with assigning blame to women and girls.”
Through a comprehensive literature review, and original research for her PhD which included creating a new psychometric measure of blaming women called the BOWSVA Scale, Jessica dug in on this and other fascinating elements of victim blaming. And she was able to create a clearer picture of what kind of person victim blames, how victim blaming seeps into our everyday discourse and media exposure (a topic close to my heart) and what can actually be done, if anything, to improve circumstances for victims.
Super interesting, right? Good. I will attempt to delve into more specifics in Part Deux of my Jessica Eaton posts. Stay tuned for what she says about her research findings, the #MeToo movement, and what she has experienced in academia.