Feminism, friendship and rape apologism

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My ex-boyfriend is a rapist

This post was taken down by Facebook for ‘violating community standards’. We are sharing it here for the safety of the community.

[Content note: rape, rape apologism, abusive relationships]


My ex-boyfriend James Goldthorpe is a rapist. Take this information seriously and share it. Protect yourself and protect your friends. I am not a victim of his sexual abuse, but he was violent around me in ways that frightened me. He was emotionally abusive in ways I’ve only recently begun to understand as such, but which I excused because of his depression. My experience is nothing compared to the violence he inflicted on another woman. She is incredibly brave and worthy of our respect, support and love. It goes without saying: I believe her. James must not be welcome in our community and he must feel the consequences of his actions. I will never speak to him again. I want everyone I know to see this, even if this might feel weird for some of you because our relationships are mostly professional. If you don’t know this rapist, you know others. They operate in all communities and they take advantage of the most vulnerable. Know who they are and call them out. I shouldn’t need to say this, but some people need telling: stop defending them. I don’t find it humiliating to share this story about someone who I made the mistake of going out with for two-and-a-half years. Speaking the truth is a source of power for me. I believe survivors.

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“As If!” with The Potentials, The Whatevers & FOMO, 20 August

Image of four 'potential' slayers from the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Image of four ‘potential’ slayers from the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, holding weapons.

We’re really excited to announce our next gig! Come hang out with us at the Audacious Art Space on 20th August, when we present:

AS IF: A celebration of valley girls, revenge, feminism, weirdos and outsiders FFO Clueless, The Craft, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Daria, Clarissa Explains it All, Blossom, My So Called Life…

The Potentials (London)
Buffy-inspired feminist pop punk

The Whatevers (Manchester)
Clueless-inspired concept pop group with 2/3 of Yiiikes!

FOMO (Leeds)
Anxious queer supergroup who sing songs about staying in and missing out. With members of Jesus & His Judgemental Father, Skull Puppies & Joyless Fucking

& 1 more tbc, like maybe

Expect outfits, eye rolls and puns.
No frat-bros puhlease

£5 donation on the door
Nobody turned away due to lack of funds
Bring donations for the foodbank

AND afterwards, stick around for the very first Pity Like! In their words:

‘Pity Like is a queer club night focusing on inclusion, talent n rejecting binaries. All and no gender identifications welcome.

Full line-up of DJs coming, but expect ~~~queer rap, future rnb, italo, techno, pop, trap, industrial pop, anything that sounds like a banger~~~’

We had such a great time at our last gig with the brilliant Dirty Girl, Molar, Pale Kids and Nachthexen. Hope to see lots of you in August!

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Statement on Disclosure of Sexual Assault by LaDIYfest Sheffield Organiser

Content note: sexual violence, rape, sexual assault

We would like to talk about a disclosure we received about one of the longstanding LaDIYfest Sheffield organisers, regarding a sexual assault. Our response is a work in progress and we would welcome advice from and discussion with others who have faced similar situations. This is an ongoing situation that is being shaped by the outcomes of meetings with the abuser and responses from the wider community.

It is a myth that most rapists are strangers and monsters waiting in alleyways to attack us. We are most likely to be harmed by someone we know: a friend, an acquaintance, a current or ex-partner or a family member. The people who harm us are all around us: at work, in our neighbourhood, in our family, our friendship circles and in our groups and communities. Yes, they are the people we love. Yes, they are in the groups and communities who self-define as radical, DIY, feminist, queer and anarchist. At one time or another, we are all guilty of assuming that people who play our shows, organise with us and fundraise with us cannot be abusive. But no community is immune.

Confronting abusers in our radical spaces can be especially difficult. The sense of belonging we get from being part of these communities can be a rare and hard-won thing. Many survivors fear losing or destroying their community by coming forward, and this fear has been exploited by abusers in order to shame their victims into silence. Abusers can also deny the harm they cause, for fear of being exposed and ejected from the communities to which they belong.

Several weeks ago, a survivor came forward and told one of us that they had been sexually assaulted by a longstanding LaDIYfest organiser at a queer feminist event. Since then, without the abuser present, we have been planning how to respond to the situation in a way that would be supportive of the survivor and confront the abuser.

First of all, to the person who came forward: thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to tell us what happened. We believe you. You asked us to keep you anonymous and wanted the abuser to be supported in any attempts they may make to reflect on their actions. We will do our best to honour your wishes.

We (the LaDIYfest collective) have had discussions about how to best respond to this in the short-term whilst in the long-term working to build awareness of sexual violence in our communities. As with any group of people, we have different views on what to do. For some of us it stirred up some difficult experiences and struggles in our past. We know that even though we’ve tried to put a lot of research, thought and care into this matter, some people will disagree with what we’re choosing to do. There is space to talk about your reactions, beliefs and feelings, but we ask that you please respect that our decision was not taken lightly.

For the sake of transparency, here is a short list of some of the issues we talked about:

  1. Even though the survivor did not request that their abuser be publicly named, do we still have a responsibility to protect the community by identifying them?
  2. If we choose not to name the abuser, what are the risks and consequences for the community and other survivors?
  3. What can we do as a small group to make our community safer and the abuser accountable?
  4. What do we put in place in the future to stop it happening to somebody else?
  5. What are the limitations of our contributions here, given that we do not have specialist training in rehabilitating abusers, and as people with a connection to the abuser?

We have decided that at this time, we’re choosing not to publicly name the abuser, but instead have challenged them in private to ask them to step back from organising with/as LaDIYfest, identify and access support and recognise the extremely serious and ongoing impacts of their abusive behaviour on others. This person will no longer have access to LaDIYfest email or social media accounts and will not be attending future LaDIYfest events in accordance with our safer spaces policy. We will also be making contact with other organisations and spaces to inform others in our community about what has happened.

We believe that creating spaces for survivors to name and disclose harm is a core responsibility of a feminist collective.

For some of us this also involves making opportunities for abusers to recognise and reflect on the harm they have caused. If there is a situation where we can offer support to abusers, it is their responsibility whether or not they choose to engage. We are not and cannot be responsible for rehabilitating and making abusers ‘safe’ again.

The rest of LaDIYfest Sheffield will pull together to host the remaining events and keep our responsibilities towards performers and those who have made plans. These events include:

  • Friday 24 June: Dirty Girl, Molar, Pale Kids & Nachthexen at The Audacious Art Experiment
  • Saturday 20 August: The Potentials at The Audacious Art Experiment

We will be having ongoing conversations about the future of LaDIYfest Sheffield and about setting up different projects and collectives.

It is time to discuss the truth that abuses of power occur within our activist communities and it is up to us to support survivors. We will be discussing this issue more in the months to come, but for now we want you to know that we are here, we are listening, and we will respect your needs. If you want to divulge your identity or remain anonymous; if you want to go to the police or not; if you want to publicly name your abuser or keep their name private, all of these are your decisions and we will be there in any way we can to help you.

If you have experienced sexual violence within our community and want to talk about it with us, please contact us at ladiyfestsheff@gmail.com.

If you want to talk about it with a specialist support service, please contact:

Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre (SRASAC) (All genders)

Helpline: 0808 802 0013
Opening times:
Monday: 10am – 12noon
Tues and Thurs: 1 – 3pm then 6 – 8pm
Web: http://www.sheffieldrapecrisis.org.uk

Ashiana (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic & Refugee-specific)
Helpline: 0114 255 5740 (24 hours)
Email: info@ashianasheffield.org
Web: http://www.ashianasheffield.org

National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans Domestic Abuse Helpline

Phone: 0300 999 5428 or 0800 999 5428*
Opening times:

10am – 8pm Monday
10am – 5pm Tuesday**
10am – 5pm Wednesday
10am – 8pm Thursday
1pm   – 5pm  Friday
**1pm-5pm Tuesday is a trans-specific service.

Email: help@galop.org.uk
Web: http://www.galop.org.uk

If you think you may be causing or have caused harm, or you are struggling with being called out in your community, please check out this article and talk to someone. The support services for abusers and people who have caused harm are very limited, but they do exist. To talk to someone and find out about available services to help you change your abusive behaviour, please contact:

Helpline 0808 802 4040
Opening times: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
Web: http://respectphoneline.org.uk

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Bookfair, We Are Very Disappointed In You

[CN: This relates to our previous post on Julian Assange, sexual violence and rape apologism]

Following our recent statement about the Festival of Debate (FoD) event with Julian Assange, we contacted the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair (SAB) collective, who are hosting their annual Bookfair on Saturday in collaboration with the FoD. We asked SAB to take a look at our statement and consider showing their public support and solidarity. They responded to say that they appreciated us bringing this issue to their attention, and that they had decided to put out a statement of their own. This is their statement (as yet unpublished):

‘Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair Collective have been made aware of a statement put out by Sheffield LaDIYfest in relation to a separate event organised by the Festival of Debate.  That statement is available here [link].  The Bookfair Collective share many of the concerns expressed in the statement.  Our involvement in the Festival of Debate does not entail endorsement, or indeed prior knowledge, of any other individual event taking place under the umbrella of the Festival of Debate (our only involvement is in the actual bookfair taking place this saturday and the fundraiser for that bookfair that took place on 15th April).

The main motivations behind the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair are to increase radical political debate, to enable people to inform themselves and others, to meet, discuss, organise and take action. We welcome the contributions to wider political debate in Sheffield made by both the Festival of Debate and Sheffield LaDIYfest, whilst not necessarily supporting everything that either group does.

In order to enable wider critical engagement with the decision by Festival of Debate to include the event with Julian Assange, we are offering space and facilitation at the end of the bookfair on Saturday (5pm-6pm) if LaDIYfest would be willing to contribute to an open meeting to discuss why this decision is so problematic and the wider related political issues.  We do of course extend this invite to the Festival of Debate if they would like to participate in this discussion’.

We are incredibly disappointed with this statement. Although we appreciate that SAB may not have had prior knowledge of the events taking place at the FoD, we cannot agree that their involvement in the festival is entirely without endorsement. For example, the Anarchist Bookfair is named as a partner of the event on the publicity material, alongside its corporate sponsors, and there was a huge Festival of Debate banner at the fundraiser on April 15th.

Therefore it falls on the SAB collective, like any other group or organisation supporting the event, to make their position on the inclusion of Assange clear. While we did not ask, or expect, that they would pull out of the events altogether, we hoped that the bookfair collective would take this on board by publicly expressing support for the statement we issued, or to condemn Assange’s inclusion themselves. We don’t believe that hosting a meeting with FoD, as the SAB collective have suggested, would be productive, or is anything like a strong enough stance on this issue. In our original statement, we made it clear that in previous discussions with the FoD team we found them unsympathetic and their defense of Assange was inexcusable and quite shocking.

We understand the need for critical engagement around many issues, but we do not believe rape and sexual assault is one of those. As anarchists and, we would hope, feminists, how can we possibly pose the inclusion of a man accused of sexual assault as a point of discussion? To strive for critical engagement with an issue such as this is a privilege very few of us can afford, and a huge insult to anyone who is a survivor of sexual assault or rape.

We’re not convinced that the Bookfair would, for example, continue to support without statement, an event that included a talk by the CEO of a notoriously unethical corporation, or somebody who had been accused of acts of violent racism. We do not see how accusations of rape – one of the most violent and pervasive demonstrations of abuse of power – cannot be enough for the SAB collective to take a stand against the FoD board, who have chosen to press on with the event despite the resultant outcry.

It is vital for activist communities to show that we have a zero tolerance approach to sexual violence and rape apologism. We feel that the SAB’s statement reinforces, rather than challenges, these existing power structures. The Julian Assange case is a high-profile example of something that happens in the everyday of activist cultures. As this is such a persistent problem in our communities, more discussion and action is needed, and, at times like this (and always!), we need to condemn it in the clearest possible way. We had hoped that the SAB collective would stand by us in our opposition to this event and that together, alongside other aligned groups, we could fight for a Festival of Debate that, like so many before it, strives to be as inclusive and safe as possible. We hope we can still do this.

We offered to be on hand to discuss revising the statement but the collective have not taken us up on this offer. As a result, we want to make it clear, prior to the annual bookfair itself tomorrow, that the Bookfair collective is openly refusing to join the call for safer, more accessible spaces.

LaDIYfest Sheffield

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Open Letter re: Julian Assange Event / Festival of Debate

CN discussion of rape, rape apologism

We were troubled to find out about an event at the Sheffield Students’ Union hosting Julian Assange, which is being held as part of the Festival Of Debate (FoD). (https://www.facebook.com/festivalofdebate/posts/1721558878111934) / http://tickets.sheffieldstudentsunion.com/ents/event/9317/

Julian Assange continues to evade allegations of rape, unlawful coercion and molestation in Sweden. While prosecutors have now dropped their investigation into one accusation of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they ran out of time to question him, one outstanding allegation of rape is not due to expire until 2020. Assange has been hiding in the Ecuadorian embassy to resist arrest and extradition for trial since June 2012 – a timeline of the events surrounding the allegations can be found here. The UN arbitrary detention working group voted in February that Julian Assange is in ‘arbitrary detention’. This ruling has attracted outrage and is currently being challenged by the UK, with a decision on this appeal due soon.

The FoD event takes the form of an ‘in conversation / Q&A’-style discussion via video link, but it fails to recognise or explain the reasons for the video link – his choosing to take ‘political asylum’ in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The event description lauds Assange for the work he has done with Wikileaks, with absolutely no suggestion that the event will have a critical element. We believe Assange should not be offered opportunities to act as an authority on political issues without discussion of the rape allegations that so blatantly frame the manner in which the ‘debate’ is being held. The allegations must be central to the debate and cannot and must not be ignored or minimised by simplistically celebrating Assange.

We are angered that this is yet another public opportunity for Assange to evade accountability using his position of power. By overlooking these allegations entirely, the FoD event implicitly contributes to the silencing of rape and sexual assault survivors. It also lends credence to an overestimation of false rape allegations and the societal myth that women ‘cry rape’ with malicious intent. We believe that it is not a contradiction to recognise the work done to bring state surveillance to public attention (e.g. Wikileaks and anti-state whistleblowers, such as Ed Snowden and Chelsea Manning) whilst also prioritising the accounts of people who have survived sexual violence over those who have perpetrated it, and holding those who cause harm accountable. We are also concerned that this narrative plays into the over-simplification that anyone who does not stand with Assange must stand with the states and oppressive structures that would see him imprisoned. Women’s bodies and issues have long been mobilised by states to justify imperialist invasions and expansions of the prison industrial complex. We refuse to allow this to happen without the voices, needs and experiences of women who have experienced gendered violence. Instead we push for more open debates and discussions about sexual violence, possibilities of transformative justice and what constitutes meaningful social change for survivors.

LaDIYfest has previously collaborated with FoD and attended many of their events and believe that it has been a really positive thing for the city. While we realise that the festival’s focus on debate means that we should not expect to necessarily like or agree with every event, we feel that any ‘controversy’ in this case lies with the allegations of sexual violence perpetrated by Assange, rather than his work as a whistleblower and hence these must be addressed.

There is a persistent problem of acknowledging and responding to sexual violence in activist groups and communities on the Left. Sheffield Students’ Union and Festival of Debate have a responsibility to take a stance against rape culture.

We contacted Opus, the team behind the FoD, and met with two representatives to discuss our concerns. Those of us who attended the meeting found this a very difficult discussion.  One of the FoD organisers repeatedly defended Assange, claimed that it was ‘highly unlikely’ the allegations against him are true, painted Assange as the victim of these allegations, and showed a definite lack of understanding of the arguments we made and awareness of the information available.

FoD have invited LaDIYfest to submit a question for Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the interviewer, to pose to Assange. However, we feel that the question could be used by Assange and his team to reinforce his position and attempt to regain credibility. We believe one question at the end of a long conversation with Assange still minimises the importance of the allegations. We are also aware that on previous occasions, Assange was reported to have given dismissive and sarcastic responses to questions on these issues, and in some cases ‘repeatedly refused to answer questions’ altogether. Therefore, we have decided it will be in our best interests to remain uninvolved in the actual event.

While we are not organising anything specific ourselves, we want to create awareness and build solidarity around the issues we have discussed in this blog post. We want a critical response to this event, whether in the form of protest, petition, further co-signatures to this statement, or something else entirely. We also want those involved in organising FoD to recognise their responsibility not to perpetuate rape culture, and to take the concerns of those who have legitimate reservations about the political implications of their actions seriously. While we appreciate that FoD met with us to discuss the issues involved, the tone taken by some members of the organisation, along with the inaccurate implication that the activists involved had not done enough research, does not contribute to an amicable and frank exchange of views, or a ‘Festival of Debate’. Due to all the reasons covered in this statement, we will not be working with FoD, or associated organisations, until they have fully recognised our concerns. We urge you to do the same: if you are in agreement with us please get involved and help us show FoD that debate happens on the streets as well as in controlled environments!

LaDIYfest Sheffield

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Sample letter: Sheffield Council, renew Spearmint Rhino SEV licence

We support the dancers at Sheffield’s Spearmint Rhino, whose jobs may be under threat due to objections to the renewal of the club’s Sexual Entertainment Venue licence. If you’d like to write to Sheffield City Council to express your support for the renewal of the club’s licence, we’ve put together a sample letter which you can use. Edit away – your letter will be stronger if you make it your own. Letters or emails must be received by April 7th.

Email: licensingservice@sheffield.gov.uk

Write to:
Head of Licensing, Licensing Section
Block C, Staniforth Road Depot
Staniforth Road
Sheffield S9 3HD


Suggested email title: I SUPPORT the renewal of Spearmint Rhino SEV licence

Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing in support of the application for renewal of a Sexual Entertainment Venue license for Spearmint Rhino at 60 Brown Street, Sheffield, S1 2BS.

I believe that the venue does not violate the conditions for a renewal of its licence. The clientele of Spearmint Rhino do not increase levels of crime and disorder in the area, or disturb residents with noise pollution and anti-social behaviour. Standard bars and nightclubs in the city centre cause much greater inconvenience for local residents. Spearmint Rhino does not present concerns on the grounds of public nuisance or public safety.

The venue is not close to a school, nursery, place of worship, or hospital. Its late hours of operation mean that customers are not in the area at the same time as students of Freeman College or University Technical College Sheffield. The Spearmint Rhino premises are of neutral appearance and do not feature conspicuous advertisements. I do not believe the presence of this venue has a negative impact on the character of the city’s Cultural Industries Quarter.

Sheffield City Council has “statutory obligations in relation to disability race and gender”. Refusing to renew this application would have a disproportionate effect on women, who make up the greatest proportion of employees at the club.

I ask that you grant this application. Thank you for considering my letter of support.

Kind regards,


The following is from one of our letters:

‘I live less than five minutes from Spearmint Rhino and have never been bothered by its clientele. I do not feel nervous in the proximity of the venue and do not take different routes to avoid walking past it during the day or late at night. I have suffered harassment, groping and sexual threats in Sheffield, but not in the area surrounding Spearmint Rhino. I have been involved in feminist activism in Sheffield for many years and do not feel that the existence of the venue has a negative impact on women and non-binary people in the city.’

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