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Category Archive: Abusive Relationships

24-hour gender-based violence hotline to launch

Reprinted from capetownetc.com, by Kirsten Jacobs – 2020-11-24
South Africa is currently facing two pandemics: COVID-19 and femicide. Over the years, more and more women have become victims of gender-based violence (GBV). A new hotline hopes to help these women survive.

The National Shelter Movement of South Africa (NSMSA) will soon launch its own 24-hour toll-free shelter helpline – the first helpline dedicated only to issues of domestic and intimate partner violence. This helpline is created in the hopes of getting more women to the safety of shelters, away from their abusers.

The National Shelter Helpline for abused women and their children will go live during the 16 Days of Activism campaign, on December 2.

According to NSMSA’s Zubeda Dangor: “South Africa’s femicide rate is one of the highest in the world, and for many of these women, domestic violence was already part of the equation. In a recent speech, President Ramaphosa also highlighted that more than half of our country’s women have experienced violence at the hands of their partner. With the Shelter Helpline, we hope to play an even more significant role in helping women escape abusive domestic situations.”

NSMSA – an umbrella body representing nearly one hundred shelters for victims of abuse and their children, throughout the country – has been championing for shelters for more than a decade. A critical intervention in domestic violence, ultimately preventing more femicides, one of the NGO’s key issues continues to be the lack of funding and support, particularly from government.

“Daily, we receive calls, WhatsApp messages or are contacted through our website, Facebook and Twitter accounts by women urgently needing assistance with domestic violence issues. Up to now, this has had to work,” added Dangor.

“But now, with the support of the Ford Foundation, the National Shelter Movement is able to launch our own shelter helpline. Not only will we draw from our very specific knowledge and experience, but will also tap into our very credible network of partners, to ensure women in domestic violence situations receive the assistance they need to get to safety and begin their journey to recovery. Women in SA will now have a dedicated support team working around the clock, ready to help ensure they get to the safety of a shelter.”

Dangor says the helpline will assist with a host of issues, from getting advice about dealing with the South African Police Services (SAPS) when reporting crimes of domestic abuse to assistance with obtaining protection orders, to finding a nearby shelter.

Heading-up the project is the NSMSA’s Advocate Bernadine Bachar. She says, “Our goal is to ensure that every call from a woman in danger, must be answered. While the government has provided a GBV helpline of its own, this is not specific to domestic or intimate partner violence.

“On top of that, we have had many complaints – especially during the lockdown, when gender-based violence seemed to intensify – that many women found the service to be inefficient. They either did not get the help they needed quickly enough, or in some cases, not at all.”

The Shelter Helpline will be run by three social workers with substantial experience with shelters for abused women and a thorough understanding of the problems they face when trying to escape a domestic abuse situation.

If you have been affected by gender-based violence

SD Law is a law firm in Cape Town of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on an abusive partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing gender-based violence can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Reeva Steenkamp was murdered. Shame on the BBC for forgetting

The issue of abusive men – reprinted from the Guardian. By Sonia Sodha – 2020-11-01

Once again, a male perpetrator of violence is painted as terribly misunderstood

Reeva Steenkamp - murdered by an abusive man

Reeva Steenkamp: shot to death through a bathroom door Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images

Her name was Reeva Steenkamp. She was a 29-year-old model who was the face of an anti-bullying campaign and was about to return to her old school to talk to girls about gender-based violence. She was adored by her family. But on Valentine’s Day 2013 she was murdered by her violent, controlling boyfriend. He shot her four times through the locked door of a bathroom in his home, where she was cowering, petrified.

Her future was stolen by a dangerous predator with a history of controlling and abusing women; a former girlfriend has said he used to lock her in his house with no food for hours at a time, call her parents many times a day to track her movements and physically abuse and threaten her to the extent that she feared for her life.

That is the story of Steenkamp’s horrific murder by the Paralympian Oscar Pistorius. But it seems our national broadcaster disagrees. Last week, the BBC began promoting a new four-part documentary series, The Trials of Oscar Pistorius. It launched a trailer that did not mention Steenkamp’s name, but instead featured Pistorius’s “remarkable” sporting achievements, praise from Nelson Mandela and his lie that “he didn’t do it”.

Accompanying this was a sickening BBC press release that boasted of a series telling the “extraordinary story” of “an international hero who inspired millions” until “he suddenly found himself at the centre of a murder investigation”. “According to Pistorius, the event was a tragic accident, but his troubled past and questionable testimony cast doubt on his innocence,” the BBC tells us. Amid the gushing, his murder conviction is not mentioned once. You could read it and think he got off.

Although the BBC has since removed the trailer, a slightly amended version of the offending press release remains on its website. But what on earth did it think it was doing buying a series directed by a man who says “he’s still flip-flopping” on Pistorius’s innocence and who reserves more criticism for the press for daring to report his history of domestic abuse than he does for the murderer himself?

This is nothing less than the BBC allowing itself to be used as the propaganda outfit of a convicted murderer. Staff are furious; sources tell me that more than 100 journalists have complained to management about the way in which the promotional material minimises violence against women.

Abusive men - Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria

Oscar Pistorius in court in Pretoria, South Africa in 2016. Photograph: KIM LUDBROOK / POOL/EPA

This is a dangerous mistake by the BBC that compounds the dominant narrative about men who murder their partners. So often, the stories that get told are of upstanding citizens, loving fathers and respected colleagues who, having been provoked, lose control and lash out in a moment of madness. The tragedy is theirs, not of the women they kill, who are so often cast as the spurned lover or unfaithful temptress.

The truth could not be more different. Professor Jane Monckton Smith, an expert on intimate partner homicide, reviewed 372 cases where men killed their partners. She found almost all these killings shared an eight-stage pattern that began with a pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse, which evolved into a relationship dominated by coercive control and an escalation in control tactics such as stalking or threatening suicide.

Popular culture can play an important role in helping us understand these patterns. One of the most powerful accounts of coercive control I’ve seen was the Channel 4 drama I Am Nicola, starring Vicky McClure. BBC Three recently launched a documentary aimed at young people, Is This Coercive Control? But this positive work is more than undone by broadcasters who see no issue in glamorising the murder of women if they see it as ratings-friendly.

Societal minimisation of “domestic” killings matters. First, it feeds into the justice system via the police, prosecutors, juries and judges. Take the killing of Claire Parry, 41, a highly qualified nurse who worked overtime during the pandemic, and a devoted mother to two children. In his sentencing remarks, Mr Justice Jacobs said he was sure that her killer, Timothy Brehmer, 41, deliberately took Parry by the neck in a way that caused severe injuries, then, after leaving her hanging out of her car unconscious, “did nothing to try to help”, pretending he did not realise she was in distress.

Brehmer, a police officer, was described at his trial by a former intimate partner and fellow police officer as exerting “coercive and controlling behaviour over women”. Yet the jury acquitted him of murder. He was jailed for 10 years after admitting manslaughter.

This case is the latest in a long line where male killers have succeeded in having murder charges reduced to manslaughter by arguing that they did not mean to cause serious harm or that they lost control after being provoked. The irony is, of course, that for abusive men, killing their partner is the ultimate assertion of control.

Second, the BBC narrative obscures the real story of these men: the warning signals, the real danger these women were in. Not all domestic abusers will become killers, but Monckton Smith’s research shows that the vast majority of men who kill their partners are abusers.

Two women a week are killed by their partners in England and Wales. Their lives could be saved if they, their loved ones and the police were more aware that coercive control does not just constitute psychological abuse at that time, but could be a red flag for what might happen. Yet the popular narrative perpetuates the idea that these murders are surprising and unpredictable, so there is little we can do to proactively keep women safe from dangerous predators.

Shame on the BBC for glorifying a convicted murderer who shot his girlfriend to death. Shame on it for putting her mother through the torture of watching a trailer about her murder that did not even bother to name her. Say her name. Tell her story. Women’s lives depend on it.

Some links added by SD Law.

If you have been affected by coercive control

SD Law is a law firm in Cape Town of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive men and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on a controlling partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing coercive control can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email sdippenaar@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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Rape prosecutors in England and Wales given new advice over dating apps

Nude selfies and use of such apps should not be taken as ‘blanket consent’, says CPS

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Caelainn Barr – 2020-10-19

Dating apps like Tinder have come out on top of conventional dating websites like Match.com, at least among those under 35. As users exchange intimate photos and messages before even meeting, what does this mean for the concept of consent? In England and Wales, the Crown Prosecution Service has made it clear that exchanging nude selfies does NOT equate to sexual consent, as this article from the Guardian explains.

nude selfies are not consent
The updated legal guidance for rape and sexual assault cases comes into effect on 1 November. Photograph: Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

Prosecutors are to receive new guidance on common myths and stereotypes in rape and sexual assault cases, in an attempt to turn the tide on plummeting rape prosecutions in England and Wales.

Revamped advice from the Crown Prosecution Service will cover the use of dating apps and sending explicit photos, as well as the impact of trauma and striking the balance between privacy and a thorough investigation.

Prosecutors are to be told meeting people on hook-up sites and sending explicit photos should not be taken as “blanket consent” for sex, while details about how trauma can impact victims’ memories are to be addressed in greater detail

The guidance for prosecutors, which comes into effect on 1 November and is subject to a three-month consultation, contains updates on 39 rape myths and stereotypes including false statements such as “If you send sexual images or messages prior to meeting someone, then having sex is inevitable”, and “If you meet men online or through hook-up apps you want sex and should be ready to offer sex”.

Rape convictions in England and Wales have fallen to a record low. Prosecutions and convictions more than halved in the three years to 2019-20 despite an increase in reported rapes. Last year there were 1,439 convictions, although more than 55,000 rapes were recorded by police in England and Wales.

The guidance is an attempt to address conviction rates among 18- to 24-year-olds, which are among the lowest of any age group. In 2018 the Guardian revealed men aged 18-24 were consistently less likely to be found guilty than older men on trial.

Updated guidance to prosecutors
Updated guidance to prosecutors (left) is identical to that from the merits-based approach (right). Photograph: The Guardian

The guidance issued also reinstates elements of guidance outlining the “merits-based approach”, which were previously removed. The merits-based approach (MBA) means a prosecutor should treat evidence as if it will be heard by an unprejudiced jury, rather than the “bookmaker’s approach” where a prosecutor tries to second-guess a jury.

Women’s organisations have accused the CPS of quietly moving from a merits-based approach to a bookmaker’s approach, meaning they were less likely to bring a prosecution if they thought a jury could be prejudiced against a victim.

Updated guidance to prosecutors
The guidance contains updates on 39 rape myths and stereotypes. Photograph: The Guardian

A CPS spokesperson said: “Our approach to prosecuting rape has not changed. Our legal test for prosecution – the full code test – has never included a specific reference to a merits-based assessment because it is already an integral part of the evidential stage.”

Harriet Wistrich, director of the Centre for Women’s Justice said: “We welcome the introduction of new guidance which we hope will improve decision-making by police and prosecutors and begin to reverse the recent dramatic decline in the volume of prosecutions. We believe the decline was largely caused as a result of a retreat by the CPS from a robust approach informed by the ‘merits-based approach’ to decision-making.

“However, the guidance must be properly implemented, we have seen far too many decisions recently infected by the CPS risk-averse approach and a failure to follow existing guidance on rape myths and stereotypes, with the consequence that many victims have been denied justice and perpetrators have been left free to attack again.”

Earlier this year two charities, End Violence Against Women and the Centre for Women’s Justice, were granted a judicial review of how rape cases were being prosecuted by the CPS.

At issue is whether there has been a change in how the CPS prosecutes rape. The Guardian revealed the details of a training roadshow which took place in 2017, where prosecutors were advised that prosecution rates could be improved by taking the “weak cases out of the system”.

Siobhan Blake, rape lead at the CPS, said: “We share the public’s concern about the disparity between the number of rape and serious sexual offences reported and those cases getting to court, and are determined to make significant changes to improve that for survivors of these appalling crimes.

“Clear, up to date guidance is crucial to help our specialist prosecutors make fair and effective decisions and make sure that justice is delivered in every case for victims and alleged perpetrators.”

If you have been affected…

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, family attorneys SD Law have deep experience of helping women who experience abuse. If you have suffered sexual assault, and have been too scared to bring charges, we will support you through the process and help keep you safe. If you experience intimate partner violence, we can serve a protection order on your partner and  help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

Further reading:

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‘He wanted to control me completely’: the models who accuse Gérald Marie of sexual assault

Elite Models boss Gérald Marie was one of the most powerful men in fashion. Was he also a sexual predator? As French prosecutors investigate, four women tell their stories for the first time

Reprinted from the Guardian. A special investigation by Lucy Osborne – 2020-10-17

It is three years since the news broke about Harvey Weinstein and #metoo trended. Now former models, many of whom were just teenagers at the time, are telling their stories about sexual abuse at the hands of a Paris model agency head. What follows is a lengthy and in-depth article from the UK’s Guardian newspaper, containing disturbing revelations. We share it here because we believe it is important that predators such as Weinstein and Marie are exposed, as we continue to stand against gender-based violence, sexual abuse and exploitation of any kind.

Gérald Marie in his Elite Model Management office in Paris in 1991.

In the spring of 1980, Wendy Walsh and her mother flew to Paris from their home in a suburb of Toronto, Canada. Walsh was 17, a straight-A student who excelled at maths. She was also an aspiring model whose blond, blue-eyed, girl-next-door look had already got her noticed; at a local hairdressing event, a couple of stylists from a Paris salon had offered to send her headshots to a leading model agency, Paris Planning. Letters and phone calls had been exchanged, and Walsh was invited to Paris.

At the agency’s offices, Walsh and her mother, Ellen, were introduced to the charismatic 30-year-old boss, Gérald Marie. Marie offered to take them to lunch. “So we went to a little outdoor bistro in the Place de la Madeleine, around the corner from the agency,” says Walsh, speaking on the phone from her home in Los Angeles. “It was the first time I ever had a croque monsieur, and he was explaining what it was. I realise now it’s a fancy grilled cheese sandwich. And I remember distinctly him fawning over my mother, and this was surprising to me. She had been an extremely beautiful woman in her youth, but lupus had left scars on her face.

“He reached over and was stroking her hand, and something in my 17-year-old stomach was like, this is weird.” Later, in their hotel room, Walsh remembers her mother saying: “‘Oh, that man is lovely, he’s going to take care of you.’ I look back on it with adult eyes, and I believe this is the way that he groomed families. He lured girls in by convincing them that somehow he would be this very safe guardian of their teenage daughter.”

Two months later, in June 1980, Walsh moved to Paris. “I was young, I was naive, and I had stars in my eyes,” she says now. “I was not scared one little bit, because I trusted all the adults who were going to take care of me and make me a famous model.”

Walsh, who is now 58 and a respected US radio host, was one of dozens of hopefuls from across North America and Europe who made the journey to Paris in the summer of 1980. Over the following decades, thousands of young women went to work for Marie and other agencies there, desperate to make it as a model. But few became stars, and many were not taken care of in the way Walsh’s mother would have expected.

Within weeks of arriving in Paris, Walsh says, she was raped by Gérald Marie. A Guardian special investigation has found that she is one of eight women who allege they were sexually assaulted by Marie between 1980 and 1998. Four are speaking for the first time.

Like Walsh, Dodd spent the spring of 1980 navigating the Paris Métro, and attending “go-sees” set up by Paris Planning. But after several weeks, she started to rack up debts to the agency, who were not only charging her fees, but also billing her for a dingy hotel and her flight from California. After one long day of rejections, Dodd recalls crying on a street corner as it got dark, feeling exhausted.

On 23 April 1980, Marie asked Dodd, then 20, and her roommate out dancing. She felt hopeful: time spent with her boss could be good for her career. She had seen Marie send the girls he liked “straight to Vogue without even an interview”. At the club, she recalls dancing awkwardly, watching her boss in his black leather jacket. He was a confident dancer and she thought he looked sexy – a different person from the “moody” manager she’d encountered at the office. In the early hours, Dodd and her roommate went back to Marie’s apartment. When her friend left, she stayed on. Dodd says Marie kissed her and she remembers relishing the attention. “I’d only had one serious boyfriend at that time.” When Marie offered to run her a bubble bath in his marble tub, she agreed, and afterwards joined him in his bedroom to watch a John Wayne film. But “all of a sudden”, she says, Marie raped her. “It happened so fast,” she says. She shouted, “Stop”, but he did not.

In the days that followed, Marie told Dodd he wanted to be her boyfriend, and scribbled her a note (seen by the Guardian) saying: “I want you to behave when I’m away… don’t forget! Love, Gérald”. “I was so immature, and even though it was rape, I was confused,” she says now. “I was like, ‘Oh, he does like me! He’s so powerful.’”

Soon afterwards, Dodd says, she discovered that Marie had tried to have sex with her roommate; the former roommate, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, confirms this. She added that, months later, Marie tried again. This time, she alleges, he tricked her into being alone in a room with him; she felt the only way out was to perform oral sex. “This man had control of your life. So you make him think you’re enjoying it – then you get the hell out.”

When Dodd was invited to Monte Carlo that summer, she jumped at the opportunity to take a break from go-sees. On her first night, she went to a party where she was introduced by her Paris Planning booker to Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi billionaire arms dealer, then said to be the richest man in the world. The following day, Dodd says, she and the booker were invited to stay the night on his yacht, and offered their pick from a closet full of couture gowns for the evening. That was the start of a “relationship” between Dodd and Khashoggi: “I was basically one of his harem wives for almost two years,” she says now.

But it was a more transactional relationship than she knew. “It wasn’t until the end of our relationship that I found out that he had paid to meet me,” Dodd says. “I was chosen out of a bunch of pictures by Adnan.” She says she realised this when one of Khashoggi’s assistants came into their hotel room one evening with a portfolio of pictures of women. She says the assistant openly went through the photographs, asking whom he would like to meet, and discussing fees between $35,000 and $50,000. She says Khashoggi, who died in 2017, later admitted that he had paid Paris Planning to be introduced to her. “It was all a front. I had been manipulated and used.”

Ann Maguire was on her first modelling shoot, in Rome, when she was scouted by Marie. Maguire, from Virginia, was 5ft 11in, with striking blue-green eyes, high cheekbones and thick eyebrows; she was often likened to Brooke Shields. She had just turned 18, and was new to the world of fashion. “I was the jock, always sporty. I’d never even worn mascara before,” she tells me now. She says Marie showered her with compliments and made her feel “a million dollars”. He invited her to Paris and promised to get her work straight away. Maguire signed up to Paris Planning, and on 31 January 1980 moved into Marie’s spare room: she is one of several former models the Guardian has spoken to who were put up in his apartment. (While Maguire, Walsh and Dodd all worked for Paris Planning in 1980, they have never met or heard each other’s stories.)

Maguire, now 60, has decided to speak for the first time about what happened next. Initially, she says, Marie was charming. “He would play great music and fix great meals, all this kind of stuff… Then, as it grew into a friendship, he proceeded to abuse that.” She alleges she was raped several times by Marie while living in his apartment, and that at night he would ignore her pleas for him to stop and “crawl into bed with me”. She remembers him “flaunting” other models he was romantically involved with, kissing them in front of her, or joking that their toothbrush was in his bathroom. In her notebook at the time, which she still has, she scribbled: “Fight with Gérald” and “Too fat!”

Eventually, Maguire snapped. “I said, ‘Screw you, I’m going to get my own apartment.’” But after moving into an apartment with other models, she says her work stopped. She began busking with her guitar, and one day returned home to find a note from Paris Planning telling her she could no longer live there. She says all her shoes and her passport were missing, which she believes Marie took: “He wanted to control me completely.” She began sleeping on a bench in front of the Louvre.

A booker at the agency arranged for her to stay with another man, who she says also sexually abused her. Maguire wishes now that she had reported the assaults to the police, but didn’t consider it at the time “because I was afraid of not working again”. She explains: “I thought they would laugh at me. ‘You’re living in his house, what do you expect?’ I also didn’t speak French well enough to explain.”

On one of several phone calls with me, Maguire breaks down in tears; she tells me it is a time of her life she would rather forget. She returned home to Virginia and didn’t model again for at least another year.

Another former model, EJ Moran, says that when she was in her 20s, she was raped so violently by Marie that she feared for her life. Now 61 and an author, she is still scared of him, 40 years on. One evening in the summer of 1981, when she was turning 22, she was phoned by a booker at Paris Planning to say she had to attend a dinner with Marie right away. “I really didn’t want to go,” she recalls. “But I felt coerced into it [by the booker].” Dodd and Walsh say the same woman arranged their evening meetings with Marie, and sent them to parties they didn’t want to go to.

The booker “disappeared abruptly right after dinner”, Moran recalls, and Marie persuaded her to go up to his apartment, which was across the street, so he could show her promotional videos for the agency’s most famous models. “VCRs were a new thing in the 80s,” she explains. Moran remembers she was wearing “lavender-coloured pumps, a white blouse and a forest-green sweater”, as well as “mom jeans”. Suddenly, she says, Marie raped her. “Before I know it, I was thrown on the bed. He took his open palm and smashed my face into the bed.” He verbally abused her, in what she describes as “a terrible low voice”.

Afterwards, Moran says, the “debonair and charming” Marie returned, asking her to stay the night. She made an excuse about needing to change her contact lenses; she was scared that if she wasn’t polite, he would hurt her again. In the following days, she received a call from the booker telling her she had a well-paid catalogue job in Belgium and needed to get on a train. Moran says now that she believes this was “a message”: that if you “play this game and stay quiet, you’ll get all this work”. Other women who told the Guardian they were sexually assaulted by Marie remember being offered lucrative jobs in the days that followed.

Ten years later, by 1991, the modelling industry had hit its golden years, and Marie was firmly at its helm. The original supermodels, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista and Cindy Crawford, had signed with Elite Model Management, then run by Marie alongside Elite US president John Casablancas. Elite had offices around the world, from Tokyo to London; Marie now reportedly owned homes in Manhattan, Saint-Tropez, Ibiza and Paris. He had also been married to Evangelista for more than four years, telling an interviewer that he had left his previous girlfriend, American model Christine Bolster, “within the hour” of meeting Evangelista.

In 1991, the couple were among the celebrity guests at the final of Look of the Year, Elite’s annual international modelling contest, in New York. Evangelista wore her hair in a striking red bob with a heavy fringe, and towered over Marie, who wore a black suit and tie, his hair slicked back. Evangelista joined Naomi Campbell to present a prize, while Marie sat with fellow judges Casablancas and Donald Trump in the audience.

Canadian schoolgirl Shawna Lee was a 15-year-old Look of the Year finalist the following year. In the weeks leading up to the 1992 contest, she was sent by Elite to Paris from her hometown outside Toronto to build up her portfolio. She had already visited in the spring, staying in Marie and Evangelista’s flat while they were on holiday. “She was my idol,” Lee says now. “I was walking around her apartment and seeing these shoots she’d done with [Vogue photographer] Peter Lindbergh, so it was obviously pretty exciting.” This time, she was put up in an apartment with other models; but after an evening out at the nightclub Les Bains Douches, Lee ended up back at Marie’s apartment where, she says, he raped her – an allegation published as part of a Guardian investigation into Look of the Year in March. Speaking more recently from her home in Toronto, where she works as a makeup artist, Lee adds: “What is grossest is him asking me to put Linda’s T-shirt on to sleep in, then pouncing on me.”

Evangelista divorced Marie in 1993, after separating from him the year before. Speaking exclusively to the Guardian, she said: “During my relationship with Gérald Marie, I knew nothing of these sexual allegations against him, so I was unable to help these women. Hearing them now, and based on my own experiences, I believe that they are telling the truth. It breaks my heart, because these are wounds that may never heal, and I admire their courage and strength for speaking up today.”

At the time, Lee confided in a fellow model, and this got back to Marie. She says he took her into his office and berated her for “going around saying I raped you”, suggesting her career would be on the line. She says he told her: “What else are you going to do? Go back home and flip burgers?” Other staff at the agency found out: “It was just understood that it was in my best interests to brush it under the rug.”

At least five women the Guardian spoke to say they experienced sexual misconduct from other men who worked with or for Marie. Lee says that after Marie raped her, a Paris Elite scout and friend of Marie told her that the two men had been competing over “who was going to get your virginity”. She says the scout was “kind of mad that he [Marie] got it first.”

Lee, then 15, went on to have a sexual relationship with the scout, which at the time she thought was consensual. As an adult, she’s not so sure: “It was definitely an abuse of power.” The Guardian has spoken to two other former Elite models, then 15 and 17, who allege they were sexually assaulted by the same scout, and one, then 19, who says he raped her.

Swedish model Ebba Karlsson, who was 20 in 1990, alleges she was raped that year by a different Elite scout, and that, days later, she was introduced to Marie. Karlsson says that when she arrived at his office, the first thing he did was lower the blinds. “There was a window between his office and other people in the agency,” she explains. She says Marie then took her through the portfolios of famous models he represented and asked her if she knew what they did to become successful. Then, she says, “Suddenly, his hand was inside my vagina. It was so quick and abrupt, I totally froze.” After the meeting, she sat down on the “first available bench” and cried, feeling “ashamed and in shock”.

On another occasion, Karlsson agreed to go to a “casting” at Marie’s apartment. He had told her she had a lot of film potential because she spoke several languages. The other models there looked younger than her, she says, perhaps 16 or 17, and some were living in his apartment. “Some were sick, they had colds or something, and did not look great.” She and the others were told to take off their clothes, don high heels, then walk and pose for Marie and two other men. “They wanted to see our boobs. And I don’t know if that was the common practice, but it was like a meat market. It was horrible.”

A movie never materialised, and Karlsson went back to Sweden as soon as she was able, returning to her job at the Body Shop. “Marie took my power away,” Karlsson says now. “I was powerful before, I could protect myself. But after that, I was just a shaking leaf.”

In 2011, the supermodel Carré Otis published a memoir, Beauty, Disrupted, which included claims that she was repeatedly raped by Marie when she was 17. In an interview with the Guardian, Otis says it started around 1986, the year Paris Planning merged with Elite. She was staying in Marie and Evangelista’s apartment; it was the early days of his relationship with the supermodel. “Linda was maybe a little bit older than me,” Otis recalls. “She was soaring, she was already a star in the sky.” But when Evangelista was out of town, “he attacked me in the middle of the night”, she says. “I was sick and I had a fever. That was the beginning of many such attacks.”

Otis went on to become an enormously successful model, and was married to the actor Mickey Rourke, her co-star in the 1989 film Wild Orchid. But in the mid-1980s, like the other women interviewed for this investigation, she was still pounding the pavements looking for work. In her book, Otis writes that Marie told her she needed to drop more weight, giving her “a small brown glass vial of cocaine every day… this was the key to model weight management”. She says now: “It was made very clear that, if I wanted to make it, I would have to deal with his advances. That continued until I actually did say no, and then my work stopped.” Otis is one of the four women whose complaints triggered the French investigation, along with Karlsson, Dodd and journalist Lisa Brinkworth.

Otis says she was also abused by others connected to Marie or his agency. She alleges she was raped in her hotel room by a hairdresser on a shoot arranged by Elite. She believes that Marie and other Elite agents were making money by sending models on trips where there was “no actual work”, or to parties with wealthy men who had no connection to the industry. “I was definitely pimped out,” she says. For Dodd – who says she was sexually assaulted at a party she was sent to by Paris Planning, and by another man on a shoot arranged by the agency – this was “out in the open” in 1980. “There were all these offers of, ‘If you go on this trip, you have to sleep with the photographer,’” she says. “It was talked about out loud.”

It was just such a trip – to Monte Carlo – that Wendy Walsh had refused to make, back in the summer of 1980. Instead, the 18-year-old Canadian wrote to her parents from Paris, a letter they kept and which she now has. Reading it now, her disillusionment is clear: “I refuse to hang around in their social circles, and act like a prostitute to get work,” she wrote in what Walsh describes as her “swirly, little-girl handwriting”. “Unfortunately, as much as I wish it weren’t so, I have discovered that this business operates on a totally social level. If you don’t cooperate, you get stepped on.”

Marie Anderson, who worked for Elite between 1983 and 1990, says that to understand how Marie was able to get away with his alleged behaviour, one has to grasp the “complete control” model agencies had during this era. “It was like a cult mentality,” she says. Anderson, who worked for Elite Chicago, first as a booker and later as vice-president, says she remembers at least six different models telling her that Marie had been sexually inappropriate with them, but they swore her to secrecy, “terrified” that they would stop getting work if they complained.

She recalls overhearing Trudi Tapscott, an executive at Elite in New York from 1984 to 1991, and another agent, tearfully pleading with Marie and Casablancas to stop sleeping with underage models, some time in the late 80s. Anderson says she could only warn others against working in Paris: “I wish I could have done more.”

Tapscott, who is still a model scout, began working for Elite at the age of 23. She says: “I was only a little bit older than the models, and also taken in by the glamour. We didn’t have the language then to know that this was wrong, and even if we did, who would we report it to? We were like a family and there was no HR department; this was the culture that protected these men. I have tremendous regret about not doing more at the time.”

Most of the models who spoke to the Guardian did not tell their agents about their alleged abuse, for fear it would get back to Marie. Walsh talks in terms of “psychological shackles”. “I was trapped by the fact that they’d gotten me into debt right away,” she says. “And then you had your parents at home with stars in their eyes going, ‘Send us pictures, honey, tell us how it’s going, we want to tell everybody about our famous little girl!’ And you just didn’t want to let down your parents. You didn’t want to be a failure. What a horrible catch-22 to put a teenager in.”

In 1999, it looked as if Marie’s alleged behaviour had caught up with him when a BBC investigation reportedly filmed him saying he hoped to seduce the contestants at Elite Model Look (the new name for Look of the Year), as well as offering an undercover journalist money for sex. In the wake of the allegations, he was suspended from Elite; in an interview at the time, he said: “I’m destroyed… I’m finished.”

But Elite launched a libel action against the BBC, arguing that the report was “dishonestly edited”; the agency successfully made the case that Marie had been set up by the crew. The case was settled, the BBC apologised and conceded that its portrayal was unfair. The film disappeared and Marie was reinstated, continuing to run Elite Model Look for many more years.

After years of financial mismanagement, Elite was forced into bankruptcy in 2004, splitting into two separate agencies, owned by different corporate entities, which still operate today. Marie is believed to have continued working with the New York division of Elite, Creative World Management, until as recently as 2011. The company declined to comment, but a spokesperson told the Guardian in March that it condemns the kinds of “deplorable behaviour” alleged to have taken place at Elite in the past.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Elite World Group said: “We find these alleged criminal acts egregious and abhorrent. Gérald Marie’s contract with Elite Model Management ended in December 2010, and the company was sold in 2011 to its current owners Elite World Group, for whom Marie has never worked. Elite World Group is committed to providing a safe environment for our models, and does not tolerate any form of abuse, harassment, discrimination and/or gender bias.”

In 2012, Marie joined Oui Management, a prestigious Paris agency whose models front Louis Vuitton campaigns and Vogue magazine covers. He remains an investor in Oui, which is registered in the UK: company documents filed in August this year state that Marie continues to be a “person with significant control” over Oui Management Ltd.

Although Marie has claimed he is retired, industry insiders who work with Oui Management say that until recently he had a “hands-on” role. One source has shown the Guardian emails that indicate Marie was accompanying models on castings with photographers as recently as last year. Marie’s LinkedIn page, which he recently deleted, had listed his responsibilities at the “thriving newcomer” agency as scouting for and managing talent. Oui Management has told the Guardian that Marie is not currently an employee.

Now married to a Russian model, Marie splits his time between Paris and his home in Ibiza, which according to a local paper has “the best French wine cellar on the island”. Responding to the new allegations put to him by the Guardian, his lawyers said that he was “extremely affected by the accusations made against him, which he contests with the utmost firmness… He intends to actively participate in the manifestation of the truth within the scope of the opened criminal investigation.”

Is the predatory culture of the modelling industry in the 1980s and 1990s a thing of the past? Both Anderson and Tapscott say that there is still a pressure to “stay silent” – one that applies to agents, too. Anderson says: “I can’t get a job in the modelling business any more, because I’ve been ostracised for talking out about this stuff.” She adds that it “speaks volumes” that Marie is still involved with an agency today. “It is living proof that the cult-like mentality still exists, and the code of silence remains.”

Meanwhile, the eight women who spoke to the Guardian say that, even 30 to 40 years after their alleged abuse, the impact on their lives has been lasting. Walsh, Dodd, Lee and Otis all battled eating disorders as a result, and several accusers went on to experience problems with alcohol or drugs.

Otis left Paris in 1987, moving to a farm in northern California for several months to get as “far away from [modelling] as possible”. But when her money started to run out, she approached a small agency in San Francisco and got a few jobs. “It felt safe and stable and normal,” she says. “You knew you were going to get off at five.” From there, her career took off. In 1988, she did an American Vogue cover shoot with Evangelista, the first ever to feature two models, in which they posed together on a Greek beach in matching jumpers and black caps, smiling and laughing. (There is no suggestion that Evangelista was aware of the allegations against her husband at the time.) In 1991, Otis became the face of Calvin Klein and joined Evangelista as one of the world’s most recognisable models; unlike many other women the Guardian has spoken to for this investigation, she found success without Gérald Marie.

Dodd, who is now 60, became a successful businesswoman (she is the founder of the surf brand Roxy) and lives with her husband and three children in the north Californian countryside. “I made it out,” she says, although she stresses that the years that followed weren’t easy.

Walsh remembers crying down the phone to her parents in 1980, asking them to get her home for the summer, and then back to school. “I was sitting in my mother’s basement, suffering from depression, not knowing what that was at the time,” she says. “I was just eating and crying.” She says she is coming forward now, “because I believe this is still a problem for girls in the industry today, and it needs to stop.”

After gaining a degree in journalism and later a PhD in clinical psychology, Walsh became a successful broadcaster. In 2017, she was the first woman to go public with sexual harassment allegations against Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Walsh told a New York Times investigation that, when she was a regular guest on The O’Reilly Factor in 2013, he reneged on a verbal offer to secure her a lucrative position after she declined an invitation to his hotel suite. He was later sacked by Fox after it emerged he had paid five women tens of millions of dollars to settle various sexual harassment lawsuits. At the time, O’Reilly said there was no merit to the allegations. “I never mistreated anyone,” he said, adding that he had resolved matters privately to protect his children from publicity.

Walsh is now a qualified psychotherapist and hosts the Dr Wendy Walsh radio show. “People say, ‘How were you so brave to just go, “No”, to this powerful man who offered you a major job on television in America?’” she says. “And what I said in all the press conferences is that I’m a woman of a certain age, I’ve had some life experience. But what I really meant is, I learned the hard way. What happened with Gérald Marie prepared me for what happened with Bill O’Reilly, 30 years later. What I learned when I was 18 was to never go to the private quarters of any powerful man, whether he held your paycheck or not.”

Do you need help to escape an abuser?

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article, family attorneys SD Law have deep experience of helping women escape abusive relationships. If you have suffered sexual assault, and have been too scared to bring charges, we will support you through the process and help keep you safe. If you experience intimate partner violence, we can serve a protection order on your partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

Further reading:

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“I co-parent with my ex, but he threatens me and expects sex”

It’s time to free yourself from your manipulative former husband, says Mariella Frostrup

Reprinted from the Guardian – 2020-09-06

This reader’s dilemma from the UK’s Guardian newspaper caught our eye. It is not uncommon for divorced co-parents to continue in an emotionally dependent and unhealthy relationship. The constant contact of raising children can make it hard to sever the ties completely. This counsellor gives sound advice.

co-parenting with a manipulative ex
‘Our son is tired of the situation and so am I, but I can’t see a way out.’ Photograph: Azat_ajphotos/Getty Images/iStockphoto

 

The dilemma I split with my husband when my son was three – he was selfish and did not enjoy being a father. But we parted amicably and agreed to co-parent our son. I hoped for another relationship and another child.

Twelve years later and I have had one relationship, which caused my ex-husband to threaten suicide. He has constantly been in and out of my life – at first I thought he wanted to reconcile, but I realised he wants to cherry-pick the parts of marriage that suit him (mostly sex) and then go to his own house when he “needs space”. Whenever I put my foot down he threatens to take our son away. Even going to a solicitor didn’t help.

 

I feel like his mother. He turns up whenever he wants advice, and I help him (to my own detriment, as he is very depressive and pessimistic). He is on the autism spectrum and his family really don’t care about him. Other times he turns up for the evening with alcohol, wanting to stay the night and I let him, to save another argument. Our son is now 15 and my ex is still trying to get him to live with him, despite the fact that he works shifts and is out of the house for hours. Our son is tired of the situation and so am I, but I can’t see a way out. How will I ever have my own life?

Mariella replies It sounds simplistic, but where many of us go wrong is in refusing to take agency of our own lives – instead allowing others to make subservient our personal desires. It’s very hard, stuck in one form of reality, to conceive and create another, but it’s important that you dream up a vision for the future that’s realistic and achievable.

Your husband has maintained control over both you and his son for more than a decade, cynically placing his emotional needs and desires above both of yours. As you observe, it’s high time that you freed yourself from that bind, but this sense that you are doing it for your son is really a cover for your fear of taking your life in your own hands. Desperately holding on to your boy is neither necessary nor the answer. And I can reassure you that no court is going to significantly alter custody arrangements just because you put your foot down about your ex-husband’s overnight stays. Any fears over the custody of your son can be addressed through family mediation (try the Family Mediation Council or National Family Mediation).

I’m sad to hear that you haven’t found another partner or had the second child you desired, but you have to see how the perpetual helicoptering presence of your ex will have put people off.

While this situation continues you’re not free or available. Instead, you’re enabling your husband to stay in the driving seat of your life. I’m glad that you’ve managed to co-parent with him amicably, but at what cost? It really does sound as if your husband is a manipulative presence who has ensured that you’ve never enjoyed the freedom that should have been yours when you made the hard choice to move out.

Up until now he seems very much to have had his cake and eaten it with little opposition from you. He can’t take your boy away – that is an empty threat – and, very shortly, your son will be able to make his own choice. If he decides to hang out with his dad through his A-levels, good luck to him! You need to stop loading the responsibility for your entrapment on the fragile shoulders of your teenage son. What will make him want to stick around is the sight of you grasping your life with both hands and freeing him from his confusing position as a prize in a competition between his parents. You can get help in escaping from your husband’s manipulative behaviour – organisations such as Women’s Aid (womensaid.org.uk) or Refuge (refuge.org.uk; 0808 2000 247) can advise you over what is, essentially, a kind of coercive control. And it goes without saying that if you are concerned about his threats of suicide, start a dialogue with him and suggest he seeks help (stayingsafe.net).

Your ex has used you as an emotional crutch, handy booty-call and as a way to access his son without any responsibilities. Why would you give so much away for so little return? These are questions you need to ask yourself because, without understanding your impulses, you are unlikely to be able to change them.

The bargaining chip in all this seems to be your son, and your ex will have been aware of that. In three years he will be free to strike out on his own and if you and his father are still locked in this dance, he’ll want to put as much distance between himself and both of you as possible.

Now is your last chance to enhance his still formative life experience by making some adult choices – ideally together with his father. A clear position and a voice at the table are the least he should be equipped with as he steps towards his own destiny.

 

We can help

SD Law & Associates are experts in divorce and family law and have dealt with many types of parenting issues. If your ex makes contact visits difficult, we can help you manage the situation, with a protection order, parenting plan, or other relevant intervention. Contact us on 086 099 5146 or 076 116 0623 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za. Your enquiry will be dealt with in the utmost confidence.

Further reading:

Contact numbers:

  • GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
  • Persons with disabilities, SMS ‘help’ to 31531
  • Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
  • Childline: 0800 055 555
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Joburg Mayor Makhubo calls for stern action against GBV culprits

Reprinted from joburg.org.za – 2020-08-19

The City expects law enforcement agencies to take stern action against perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), all the while guaranteeing protection for victims.

COJ urges action against gender-based violence

It is incumbent on law enforcement officials to create safer conditions that ensure female victims reporting cases of violence against male perpetrators are not re-victimised.

These are the sentiments of Cllr Geoffrey Makhubo, the Executive Mayor, who decries the deplorable state of femicide in the country.

Cllr Makhubo says August, as Women’s Month, allows the City to evaluate its contribution towards eradicating sexism and fostering a truly non-sexist and anti-sexist society.

“GBV and femicide demand a collective response because they threaten our beliefs, first encapsulated in the Freedom Charter and now in the Constitution, that South Africa belongs to all its people – women and men; black and white – regardless of their sexual orientation,” the Mayor explains.

Cllr Makhubo recently unveiled the City’s Women’s Month programme, which aims to address gender-based violence and femicide (GBV&F) under the theme “Generation Equality: Realising women’s rights for an equal future”.

The programme is rolled out in phases:

Women Empowerment week (17 – 22 August 2020) seeks to reflect on existing societal roles and to explore opportunities to question gender divisions in skills development and the labour market.

The City will roll out a series of stakeholder consultations on the review of the municipal Gender Policy through webinars targeting female councillors and municipal employees.

The month-long programme will culminate in a Women in Leadership week (24 – 29 August 2020) aimed at accelerating women’s economic empowerment by providing affordable, usable and responsive financial and non-financial support to women-owned businesses and providing business-related information to those aspiring to participate in entrepreneurial activities.

Black women are encouraged to enter the property industry as the sector is still male-dominated. The weeklong programme will also encourage sustainable, balanced, inclusive growth and improve the representation of women in political leadership positions.

“Through this initiative, the City hopes to showcase the wealth of wisdom and leadership invested in women and tap into their insight in crafting a society that is fair and just for generations to come,” Cllr Makhubo explains.

Further reading:

Alcohol not the sole cause of gender-based violence

Covid-19 has gifted us a chance to end gender-based violence. We must take it

Security company helping the fight against domestic/gender-based violence

Locked down with an abuser?

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It is ‘all men’, to varying degrees: men’s violence against women is a systemic crisis

This article was written by the executive director of White Ribbon Australia, part of a global social movement working to eliminate gendered violence. Replace “Australia” with “South Africa” and everything he says is equally true of our society. Inequality is so deeply embedded structurally that men and women alike see nothing wrong with mother-in-law jokes or quips about women drivers. For every man who says, “But I’m not like that; I respect women,” this article is for you. Most of us do not behave violently towards women, but, “We have been taught – either subtly or overtly – that because of our gender we deserve a special kind of respect.” Let this be a wake-up call. 

Reprinted from the Guardian, by Brad Chilcott – 2020-0-07

As White Ribbon’s new executive director, I believe it’s worth mobilising the movement towards meaningful action

Handgesture - Stop violence against women
 WRA executive director Brad Chilcott: ‘We need to take ownership of the ways we create the environment that allows men to believe they are entitled to a greater share of power in society and relationships.’ Photograph: Golib Golib Tolibov/Alamy Stock Photo

“Why?” has been the most consistent response when I’ve told my progressive friends that I’ve taken on the role of executive director of White Ribbon Australia for its next chapter. They didn’t miss the organisation that had first become publicly synonymous with ending family violence and then famous for problematic ambassadors and financial ruin. As a volunteer White Ribbon supporter myself, I agreed with much of the criticism – and yet I continue to believe it’s worth mobilising the tens of thousands of Australians who constitute the White Ribbon movement towards meaningful action.

Gender inequality is structural violence. It creates the space for acts of gendered violence by normalising disrespect as it socialises the idea that one gender is more valuable or capable than another.

It is clear that men’s violence against women is an ongoing systemic crisis – from the murder of more than one woman a week, to Australian police responding to family violence once every two minutes, to the sexual harassment experienced by women in the workplace – and when we know that approximately 80% of women who experience violence don’t report their abuse we begin to comprehend the vast scale of this emergency.

Gendered violence begins with the idea that you are entitled to obedience, sex, authority or a different set of freedoms because you are a man. That you have the intrinsic right to treat someone else in a way that you would not be treated. It is expressed in coercive control – exerting power over your partner’s finances, social life, clothing, career or otherwise reducing their individual agency.

I grew up in a religious environment that taught that men were the head of the house, that women couldn’t perform certain rituals, weren’t able to teach men or take leadership positions. When I was a child, my default image of engineers, pilots, football players and prime ministers was male. I said “policeman” instead of “police officer” and assumed my doctors would be men and my nurses would be women.

None of these things automatically turn me into a man who uses violence in my intimate relationships. But they demonstrate that many men in Australia – religious and otherwise – have been raised in cultures that share a history of entrenched gender inequality. We have been taught – either subtly or overtly – that because of our gender we deserve a special kind of respect. We have been raised with a certain expectation of male power and to have control of our homes, partners, children, faith communities, sporting clubs and workplaces. To believe that men have a right to decide what happens to women’s bodies.

Many of us have had this perspective role modelled to us, and indeed have seen the violence – whether physical violence, emotional manipulation, sexual exploitation or spiritual abuse – that men have used to dominate, control and harm women. We have seen men desperate to hold on to their power as they grow insecure in a changing society. We might say that not all misogyny leads to violence but that all violence starts with misogyny.

So yes, “all men”, to varying degrees. Therefore, our first responsibility in responding to this national crisis is to reflect on our own beliefs and attitudes, our culturally acquired perception of gender norms and to consider and change the ways these translate into our behaviour. We need to take ownership of the ways we create the environment that allows men to believe they are entitled to a greater share of power in society and relationships – and often exercise that power to harm others.

The abuse of power is violence – whatever form that takes.

If you’re monitoring your partner’s phone, telling them what they’re allowed to wear, if they have to ask your permission to spend time with friends or family – that’s not equality, it’s an abuse of power.

If, because you’re a man, you think you have the right to be obeyed, to make all the decisions, to be the head of a house, to have an unequal share of power – or indeed to be paid more, have more social freedoms, that your opinion is more important – then you are promoter of gender inequality. If you use any form of coercive control over your partner to enforce that privilege, then you’re a perpetrator of gendered violence.

How do we respond? Perhaps understanding that aspiring to be a good male role model is about much more than controlling aggression. It’s a man who is willing to listen and learn. Who is aware of their power and privilege – and chooses to utilise them towards cultural and political change. It’s someone who is determined to share power in their relationships and hold on to their privilege loosely, knowing we all benefit when everyone is equally valued, included and given the opportunity to flourish.

In some quarters it seems controversial to say that men have a role to play in eliminating gendered violence and advancing gender equality. What is certainly problematic is placing men on a pedestal for not using violence or not acknowledging the decades of tireless campaigning by women that built the foundation of awareness and positive change that male advocates stand on today. However, as it is men that need to stop being violent and to break the cycle of generational misogyny, they must be part of the solution.

Certainly, the men who hold on to the majority of the political power in Australia have not responded to the terror and suffering experienced by women in Australia in a manner commensurate to the crisis, nor with the magnitude of money and commitment expended on their self-identified priorities. A willingness to listen to and learn from women – and then act not only decisively but also proportionately – would go a long way towards creating safety for women now and pave the way for equality into the future.

 Brad Chilcott is executive director of White Ribbon Australia

Links added by SD Law.

Contact Family Lawyers Cape Town for help

As family lawyers, our job is to protect the vulnerable members of a family. Both women and children are at risk from structural gendered violence. If you are experiencing gendered violence, whether physical abuse, emotional manipulation, or coercive control, Cape Town Divorce Attorneys can help. We now offer online consultations. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email  simon@sdlaw.co.za today, and we’ll call you back to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing.

Important contact numbers:

GBV Command Centre: 0800 428 428 / *120*7867# from any cell phone
Women Abuse Helpline: 0800 150 150
Childline: 0800 055 555
SAPS Crime Stop: 0860 10111 / SMS Crime Line: 32211
GBVF-related service complaints (SAPS): 0800 333 177/complaintsnodalpoint@saps.gov.za

Further reading:

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Five urgent and effective measures to curb the abuse of alcohol

Last week we shared some sentiments from Les Da Chef about the causes of gender-based violence in South Africa. While acknowledging the role alcohol plays in domestic abuse, he expressed his view that violence against women in our culture has much deeper roots than alcohol abuse alone, a view we share. But that doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t a factor that needs to be addressed, along with other determinants such as the socialisation of boys. We wholeheartedly support this initiative from the DG Murray Trust, recommending that the SA Government adopt the advice of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in an effort to curb alcohol abuse, as one means of getting gender-based violence under control.

Reprinted from DGMT.co.za. 2020-06-10

In his speech to the nation on Wednesday 17 June 2020, President Ramaphosa stated that, “we will also need to look at further, more drastic measures to curb the abuse of alcohol”.  We now call on the government to draw on the best international evidence, follow the advice of the World Health Organisation and implement those measures which have been shown to be effective in other countries.

These measures are to:

  1. Ban advertising of alcohol (except on the site of sale, where it should not be visible to those under 18 years).
  2. Increase the price of alcohol, both through excise taxes and by introducing a minimum price per unit of pure alcohol in liquor products.
  3. Reduce the legal limit for drinking and driving to a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or below.
  4. Reduce the availability of alcohol, especially in residential areas (by limiting the density of liquor outlets, shorter trading hours, and ending the sale of alcohol in larger containers like 1-litre bottles of beer).
  5. Intensify the availability of counselling and medically assisted treatment for persons struggling with dependence.

The extent of alcohol abuse and its link with violent crime is without equal in Africa and should be a source of deep shame to all South Africans. “There is a dire need to protect women and children from alcohol-associated harm”, says Dr Glenda Gray, President of the South African Medical Research Council”.

This view is shared by all signatories below. “It is now time to put the rights of women and children first – those who are, or will become victims of harmful use of alcohol, and there is global evidence of what needs to be done now.” says Dr David Harrison, CEO of the DG Murray Trust. “While social drinkers may feel that price increases and other restrictions are unfair on them, it is time to face up to what ‘unfair’ really means for women and children. We reiterate the President’s view that if we don’t act, we are all complicit in these crimes.”

Although only a third of adult South Africans drink alcohol, 60% of those who drink, binge-drink (more than 5.4 standard drinks per day). Binge-drinking is strongly associated with interpersonal violence, motor vehicle accidents and risk-taking behaviour. The measures described above have been shown to significantly reduce the societal harm of alcohol. The World Health Organisation and comparative studies across the world have shown that banning of advertising, limiting consumption through higher prices and reducing the legal drink-driving limits and the availability of alcohol are all highly cost-effective measures.

These measures must be supported by other interventions shown to be effective, including raising the legal drinking age to nineteen years and enforcement of public drinking by-laws.  Furthermore, we need to ensure that product tracking and tracing is in place to close the supply routes to illegal vendors. These provisions are included in the Draft Liquor Amendment Bill. We call on the government to proceed with the implementation of this Bill and other stalled legislation aimed at reducing alcohol harm such as the Control of Marketing of Alcoholic Beverages Bill.

Signatories

Prof Glenda Gray,  President
Prof Charles Parry
South African Medical Research Council

Prof Richard Matzopoulos,
South African Medical Research Council and UCT School of Public Health

Prof Lukas Muntingh
Dr Laurine Platzky
Ms Undere Deglon
Ms Lizanne Venter
Members of the Board of the Western Cape Liquor Authority

Dr David Harrison, CEO
Ms Carol-Ann Foulis                                                                                                                                                   DG Murray Trust

Ask for help

SD Law has always been outspoken against gender-based violence. We have helped women escape abusive relationships and we can help you secure a protection order or escape a narcissistic partner. As family lawyers, the interests of you and your children are our first priority.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence. If you can’t get out, or prefer not to, we now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing

Further reading:

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Alcohol not the sole cause of gender-based violence

‘The level of violence against women is beyond just alcohol consumption,’ says Les Da Chef

When lockdown began and the alcohol ban was announced, we expressed reservations. While done with the best of intentions, we were not convinced it would curb the widespread incidence of domestic violence, despite the known links between alcohol and gender-based violence. It gives us no pleasure to be proved right.

Reprinted from TimesLive, by Kyle Zeeman. 2020-06-14

Lesego "Les Da Chef" Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.

Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has spoken out on femicide in the country.
Image: Via Lesdachef’s Instagram

Celebrity chef Lesego “Les Da Chef” Semenya has weighed in on gender-based violence in SA, claiming that SA’s issues run deeper than just alcohol consumption.

Gender-based violence and femicide have dominated headlines this week after the deaths of Tshegofatso Pule and Naledi Phangindawo reignited calls for the government to take action.

Tshegofatso was found hanging from a tree in an open veld in Roodepoort on Monday after going missing last week. She was eight months pregnant.

Naledi was attacked while attending a cultural function over the weekend in KwaNonqaba, Mossel Bay.

The murders also sparked a debate on whether alcohol was to blame for the violence.

Lesego took to Twitter to claim that “the level of violence and hatred for women is beyond just alcohol consumption”.

He said that men around the world drink, but they do not murder at the rate SA men do.

“Men all over the world drink alcohol but they don’t go out and kill women on the levels we do in SA. The issue isn’t booze, this thing in SA runs much deeper and needs serious focus and strategy,” he said.

He called for a separate investigations unit to be set up to deal with gender-based violence.

“A separate section on the same level as the Hawks, independent from cops but legally backed by laws and government, solely focused on this issue. Where women will feel safe and know they will be heard. Where whistle-blowers will be listened to. We need proper structures,” he explained.

He also shaded the ministry of women, youth and persons with disabilities, asking what power it had.

We can help

SD Law is an outspoken advocate against gender-based violence and the toxic socialisation of boys in our society. We have helped numerous women escape controlling and abusive relationships. We can help you secure a protection order or escape a narcissistic partner. If you are locked down with an abuser or suffering violence or abuse of any description, even if you’re not ready to go on record, contact us today and we will help get you to safety. As family lawyers, the interests of you and your children are our first priority.

Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za to discuss your case in complete confidence. If you can’t get out, or prefer not to, we now offer online consultations. We’ll call you back, to schedule a meeting at a time that suits you, on the platform of your choosing

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Coercive control – here’s what it looks like

We’ve written about coercive control previously. If you’re still unsure what behaviours can be classed as coercive control, this article from the UK Guardian tells one woman’s story. Sally Challen was convicted of murdering her abusive husband and sentenced to 18 years’ imprisonment in 2011. Last year her conviction was overturned. Her son, David Challen, tells the story of 40 years of coercive control. Please note this article is from the UK, so references to legislation do not apply here. 

After Sally Challen, we now have a chance to tackle coercive control

The domestic abuse bill offers a once-in-a-generation chance to change our approach says the son of the woman whose conviction for murdering her husband was quashed

By David Challen, 2020-06-07

David Challen with his mother Sally

The day my mother’s conviction for the murder of my father was quashed marked a turning point – for our family and for society. Yet why, a year on from the landmark case that recognised the abuse my mother suffered, are we still failing victims of coercive control and seeing her story as unique?

My mother, Sally, 66, is now discovering life as an independent woman for the first time since the age of 15, free from the coercion and control she experienced for over 40 years from my father. Watching her learning to make her own decisions while slowly unshackling from his spectre have been moments to cherish. Our journey has not been without difficulties – we’ve had to learn how to acknowledge a life lost in my father and how to rebuild our relationships.

My mother’s story represented one of the worst cases of coercive control reported. She was only 15 when she met my father, who was 21. He was charismatic, funny and charming, and young love bloomed. However, early on, my mother challenged him about seeing another woman. He responded by dragging her down the stairs and throwing her out of the door. For the rest of her life she was scared to confront him in case he did it again. A culture of fear and dependency followed over the next 40 years. He bullied and humiliated her, isolated her from friends and family, controlled who she could socialise with, controlled her finances and restricted her movements.

Coercive control, which was added to the statute book in 2015, is no longer a new offence. Extensive training has been provided to police forces in England and Wales, yet we are still failing to correctly record it. Following recent reports of disparities between forces, Clare Walker, a domestic abuse consultant, said: “The police record domestic abuse wrongly. I know they do from reading their logs … name-calling and the like are not logged as domestic abuse.”

Coercive control offences doubled in the year ending March 2019, from 9,053 to 17,616. Considering that coercive control is the bedrock of domestic abuse, these figures show gross under-reporting. They represent a fraction of the 1,316,800 domestic-abuse-related incidents recorded by the police the same year.

Calls to domestic abuse helplines have increased by up to 700% during the lockdown. Rachel Williams, who was shot and severely injured by her violent partner in 2011, says the government doesn’t understand coercive control. “Government needs to recognise coercive control because at the moment the impact to them of [physical] violence seems to be more severe, but when you speak to a victim they will tell you the mental torture far outweighs the physical. It certainly was for me,” she says.

This failure to raise national awareness and correctly record offences of non-physical forms of abuse such as coercive control and economic abuse not only silences victims, it abandons them. Furthermore, the sustained mental impact on victims can raise the risk of suicide or – as in cases like my mother’s – cause people to lose control and strike out at their abusers.

It is a reality that my mother’s case is not unique and that there are more women still in prison whose abuse has not been properly explored. The Centre for Women’s Justice is currently supporting 13 women serving murder sentences and two serving excessive manslaughter tariffs where their abuse has not been taken into consideration. The charity plans to publish key research later this year on what is and isn’t working within the justice system for women who kill in situations of abuse.

Opportunities to better understand and tackle domestic abuse consistently present themselves in the voices of survivors and specialist services. Time and again these voices seem unheard and the urgency to tackle this epidemic is absent. The long-awaited domestic abuse bill, now at the committee stage, offers a once-in-a-generation chance to change our approach. Not only do we have an opportunity to better tackle domestic abuse, but to provide strategies and awareness to tackle its very heart: coercive control. Through relationship education and by including amendments that cover post-separation abuse (something my mother was subjected to), the chance to do this is now.

Not being able to see my mother on the first anniversary of her freedom has been difficult, much as it has been for many families at this time. But, it has been a stark reminder of the near-decade she spent in prison. It has served as a reminder, too, of the many victims who remain isolated with their abusers, and the women in prison whose abuse has not properly been explored.

David Challen is a domestic abuse campaigner; davidchallen.com

If you are affected by these issues:

SD Law is a firm of family attorneys with deep experience of helping women escape abusive relationships and find peace and dignity in a new life. We can serve a protection order on a controlling partner and help you initiate divorce proceedings, if appropriate. We will connect you to relevant support services and make sure you and your children are safe. At Cape Town Divorce Attorneys, we understand how deeply distressing coercive control can be, and we will handle your case with discretion, empathy and compassion. Contact Simon on 086 099 5146 or email simon@sdlaw.co.za for a confidential discussion. We can call you back on a safe number.

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