Sunday, 24 June 2012

Unpicking the Assange myths, and how survivors of rape have rights too


Ok, so I know I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but I’ve had a really busy week and y’know, I’m editing my kid’s book…but here I am now, ready to blog about the latest step in what I’m billing Assange: the fight against justice and due process. 

This week Assange sought bail in the Ecuadorian Embassy, after the Supreme Court decided that, despite his appeal, he could still be extradited to Sweden to face questioning about two alleged sexual assaults against two women. 

Here’s a reminder of the defence team’s description of Assange’s actions. I say this every time but please bear in mind that this is his DEFENCE!!:

"AA felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … She did not articulate this. Instead she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … AA tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. AA says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly."

“'They fell asleep and she woke up by his penetrating her. She immediately asked if he was wearing anything. He answered: "You." She said: "You better not have HIV." He said: "Of course not." She may have been upset, but she clearly consented to its [the sexual encounter's] continuation and that is a central consideration.”

Every time Assange’s case hits the headlines, the same things happen. The same rape apologism emerges and the same Assange myths are parroted. Despite the fact that so many of these myths have been shown to be untrue multiple times since his arrest in 2010, they are still being repeated as though they’re gospel.

Firstly, we have the myth that what Assange allegedly did (as spoken by his defence) is not illegal under UK law, and so therefore he can’t be extradited to Sweden. It wasn’t rape, the myth goes, it was ‘sex by surprise’. 

Well, sex by surprise, however and whichever way you swing it, is rape. Penetrating someone when they are sleeping is rape, in the UK, in Sweden, in the USA – in fact in any country where rape is illegal. Blogger and lawyer David Allen Green has the info here about how the allegation is still illegal in the UK. 

Of course, Assange is innocent before proven guilty. It might be that when the evidence is presented, and he answers police questions, he didn’t commit any offence. But if anyone penetrates a woman whilst she was sleeping, as the defence describes, and if anyone physically coerces a woman into sex, as described, then that is illegal. No ifs, no buts. If a person is found guilty of doing either of those things in a court of law, then they are found guilty of rape and sexual assault. It isn’t just illegal in Sweden because they have a wacky ‘feminazi conspiracy government hell bent on repressing men’. It’s illegal because it’s rape, it’s sexual assault, it’s a gross violation of another person’s bodily autonomy. 

The idea that what Assange is accused of is not illegal in the UK has become incredibly embedded in the popular imagination of this case. I’ve spoken to a lot of people who I respect, who are really smart, who still believe that he’s only accused of some leftfield Swedish law, that what he did is perfectly fine in the UK. Not only is this hampering a lot of reporting around the case, but it’s also setting a very worrying precedent about what we understand rape and sexual assault to be. 

If we continue down a line where we’re openly saying that penetrating a sleeping woman without consent isn’t rape, then we’re creating a culture where we’re redefining what we mean by rape. There’s already a huge amount of confusion among young people about consent. When public figures defend Assange on TV, when they imply and say that what he’s accused of isn’t rape, they are perpetuating and encouraging rape myths that disempower victims and survivors, and silence their voices. They’re saying to thousands of women that what happened to them wasn’t rape. The impact this could have on women who are raped whilst asleep or unconscious is much more far reaching than they realise. They’re encouraging a culture where these women won’t be believed, and where the right we all have to name what happens to us is taken away. 

I think Assange apologists need to think about that. They need to understand that it isn’t for them to tell women who’ve been raped whilst they’ve slept that what happened to them isn’t really rape. It is. 

The other big myth in the Assange case is that if he’s extradited to Sweden, then he will be whisked off to the US of A and executed. 

Now, recently I’ve been doing a lot of research as part of my job in to the death penalty, and also on rendition. No-one at the moment is more cynical than I am about the often-appalling American justice system. 

But I simply find it very, very hard to believe that Assange will be extradited from Sweden. Firstly because Sweden will not extradite anyone to face the death penalty or for political offences.  (HT to Stavvers for that link, her blog on this issue is here). In fact, if Assange was going to be extradited to the US, well, the UK can do that. In fact, the UK government is so extradition-happy right now, we’ve been trying to send a suspected terrorist to Jordan, even though we know the evidence collected against him was gained by torture. If I was Assange, I’d take my chances in Sweden, who, as it happens also takes a pretty hard line against rendition. (again, unlike the UK). 

In fact, one country I wouldn’t be taking my chances with is Ecuador. A country that is, after all, pretty anti freedom of expression. You know, that thing that Assange is supposed to be an ambassador for. The reason he has so many fans in the first place. Does he not care that his new Ecuadorian government buddies clamp down on journalists that disagree with their work? Has he so thoroughly abandoned his principles that he seeks asylum with a government that are so completely opposed to the one-time ethos of Wikileaks? Did he have any principles in the first place? 

The final myth is that the only reason these allegations are being taken so seriously is because governments across the world want to bury and discredit Assange. And you know what? There may well be some truth in this one. Rape accusations, on the whole, aren’t taken very seriously. In fact, the Met have recently revealed just how un-seriously they took scores of rape allegations as they falsified reports and hid evidence. The estimates are there that between 80,000-100,000 women are raped in the UK every year, and still we only manage to convict 6.5% of those cases. So perhaps the Assange case was taken more seriously, was chased more thoroughly, for political reasons. But you know what? It doesn’t matter. Because the point here is that ALL rape allegations should be taken seriously. All of them. Every woman who goes to the police and reports a rape should be listened to, heard and taken seriously. It doesn’t matter why this was the case in December 2010. It matters why this isn’t the case for every woman. 

In the end, in the middle of the media circus that has seen women like Jemima Khan stump up bail of £1000s for a man accused of rape, are two women. Two women whose voices have been ignored, silenced, belittled. Who have had unfounded and wicked accusations made against them in the court of popular opinion. Two women who simply want their day in court, who want to see due process and justice. Assange has rights. He has the right to claim asylum, he has the right to innocence before proven guilty. But what’s so often forgotten in this is that survivors of rape and sexual violence have rights too.


Richard Brennan said...

Excellent and very true post. Disgusting how some people on the left forget their principles and smear Assange's accusers.

sian and crooked rib said...

thank you. i've been particularly disappointed in Naomi Wolf and John Pilger. It's really puzzling.

Dan Jackson said...

Jesus. That's his *defence*? Isn't that an admission of guilt? As I understand British law, it is.

I don't understand why this man is such a deal, and why what *he* wants to happen regarding his court case is important. He's accused of a crime, he needs to stand trial. Otherwise he's crushing this woman's rights *again*.

And despite the face I thought I was following this story, I've never heard the details of his defence before. I'm quite shocked that the media hasn't reported this more widely.

gaptoothmusic said...

I've largely stopped participating in debates on this case as the level of apologism from people on the left just makes me so incredibly angry. I've seen so many people saying that it can't have been rape because the women seemed fine about it immediately afterwards and only reported it much later. This shows a total lack of understanding of how rape affects people and how survivors often deal with it.

I've also seen people raising the fact that the Swedish authorities didn't take the case very seriously when it was first reported and only really started looking into it after the huge wikileaks/cables scandal. That might well be true and there may be political reasons for it, but if so, that's not the women's fault. Hell, even if they were connected with the CIA, that still wouldn't make what his own defence says he did to them okay. It would still be rape, and no one deserves to get raped.

It's frightening how far people will go in twisting logic and morality in order to cling into their 'heroes'. Surely every cause has to be bigger than the individuals involved. It's perfectly possible to believe that Wikileaks has done some positive things whilst also thinking that Assange himself is seriously morally flawed.

sian and crooked rib said...

It's shocking isn't it! the quotes are taken from here:

which i should have included.

I would really love to see a news report on this case that actually speaks to a feminist activist or someone who is involved in the fight against VAWG. All too often it's pilger or an Assange supporter - we never get to hear statements from a woman's or feminist perspective. It seems like such biased reporting to me.

diana brighouse said...

Very good post. However.... first, let me make it entirely clear that I am not an apologist for Assange. I will fight the cause of rape victims and victims of sexual assault all the way. The UK has an absolutely shameful record on this. Rape is not taken seriously by the majority of men, and by far too many women. The idea of 'grades of rape' is common.
So I condone nothing to do with the sexual assault charges, and if Assange is found guilty he should go to prison.
However, although Stavvers is right in theory about Sweden's non-extradition on political grounds or to countries using the death penalty it is not that simple. The right wing Swedish premier has agreed to all US extradition requests since he has been in power. Also all the US have to do is agree not to demand the death penalty and to lock him up for life instead. They are determined to get him because they are furious about wikileaks. Look at how Manning has been treated. The chances of him commiting suicide in jail are very high. It seems likely that he has been tortured.
I have been raped, and of course did not report it at the time. I have two daughters who are at risk of rape just by being UK students. Sadly, if I were given the choice of prosecuting my rapist or protecting free speech and democracy (which I believe is what wikileaks is about), then I would see free speech as a higher priority. As a feminist I have no chance of changing the laws of the country that I live in without free speech.
It's a shitty choice, and there should be some way around it that brings Assange to justice and keeps him out of the clutches of the Americans.

sian and crooked rib said...

Gaptooth - well said

Diana - thank you for your comment. I am truly shocked by the treatment of Manning - another area that has kind of been skirted over by media reporting and by Assange's supporters.

gaptoothmusic said...

While we're on the topic of Manning - this is another example of many on the left overlooking facts which might feel inconvenient to them. She actually identified as female, prefers to be called Breanna and expressed a wish to have SRS after leaving the military. The transcripts of her discussions with one particular informant show that she said the idea of going to prison bothered her less than the idea of pictures of her as a boy being plastered all over the media ( Yet this aspect of her story has barely been mentioned in media coverage, with the result that she's continually misgendered even by her supporters. In fairness, most of them problem don't even know. But I wonder how many do know and have chosen to just ignore it because it doesn't fit in with their narrative of 'Bradley Manning' the young hero.

sian and crooked rib said...

absolutely. I had heard that she identifies as female but have never seen anything about that in the media or in supporter narratives. I wonder that too...

Steff said...

Assange is a rapist - his own defence confirms this - and he should stand up and face the charges in Sweden.

If he is at risk of deportation to the US over Wikileaks - well that is not anyone's problem but his. After all, if he hadn't raped anyone he wouldn't be in this predicament would he?

Britain should have kicked him out a long time ago.

HerbsandHags said...

Brililant post,Sian, it all comes down to misogyny in the end. Left wing men are as a group, no better at rooting out their misogyny than right wing men are and when it comes to rape, they believe women who accuse men they don't like or don't politically agree with, but automatically disbelieve women who accuse men they like, respect or agree with. It's all about the men and the women are absolutely nowhere in that debate, because they don't matter.

In the end, the assumption is that Julian Assange (or Roman Polanski or Dominic Strauss-Kahn, or Ched Evans or whichever other rapist or alleged rapist you want to take) is so much more important and valuable to humanity, than the women or children they rape, that they should not have to answer for their crimes. Because men are more important than women and so the collatoral damage represented by a female rape victim, is irrelevant when set against the importance of the rapist.

Jamesk said...

It's a bit sad that articles like this one & Nick Cohen's in the guardian even need to be written.

Yes, wiki leaks did something important & necessary, but that doesn't give assange a free pass to sexually assault anyone

It's been frustrating seeing the knots some people are tieing themselves into in supporting him. Especially the commenter on the guardian who said that the women involved were a) lieing & b) it wasn't really rape anyway!

It just makes me angry when people are so stupid and self-deceiving

The Road Warrior said...

My reaction to his defence can be summarised in two words:


Matthew Smith said...

I gave up on John Pilger (and the others of his stripe, like Robert Fisk) a long time ago, at least as far back as the Iraq war. I read his columns and it was obvious that he was playing to the gallery without any regard for the facts, often including obvious ideologically-motivated lies. The Bush-era pro-war bloggers often very gleefully tore apart their articles, hence the term "fisking". Their hostility to anything that would look like an extension of American (or even British) power blinds them to anything else, and it's often been observed that they don't mind dictators as long as they're anti-American. That they would support their anti-western hero over anyone who challenges their status is entirely to be expected.

Ray Filar said...

Ugh, it's all so awful. Great blog Sian.

V said...

Oh I feel nauseous.

Not that anyone has been charged of rape.
Not that the 'victim's' testimony has been tested for veracity.
Not that Assange has refused to undergo questioning.
Not that Sweden's judicial law border's human rights
Not that its been confirmed there is a U.S. sealed indictment awaiting Assange once the questioning "under judicial confinement" has played out
Not that rape victims are partial to fabricate for a multitude of reasons.

Not that people are stupid enough to latch on to an expressed sentiment whether it has any basis in truth whatsoever and then absorb this sentiment as self evident fact.

What on earth is wrong with you people? It's ok I understand, unfettered access to globally accessible media is the seed of proliferating rumour which is moulded into fact by the prejudices of the author.

Oh look! this comment has to be approved .. what a surprise. Doubt this will appear. A feminist on the emotive topic of rape; what did I expect.

You know its worthy to have a principle but you erode integrity when you pontificate.

sian and crooked rib said...


sian and crooked rib said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jenny said...

Great Post. Cannot believe his 'defence'. And that people think that is not rape by UK law. But then sleeping beauty is a story of a woman unconscious in bed a strange man climbs through the window sexually assaults her and they live happily ever after.
We must stop telling these stories to our children.

gaptoothmusic said...

This isn't pontification, it's what Assange's own lawyers say he did, which is presumably based on his own description...

sian and crooked rib said...

of course, could spend time explaining all the faults, untruths and hyperbole in that comment, not least regarding how no where in my post do i say anyone has been charged with rape (seriously - do these people read??) but i cant be arsed. it's all in the original post anyway,

sian and crooked rib said...

gaptooth - exactly!

jenny - i've never thought of that!

holyroller said...

Can't say I agree with much on this post.

The likelihood that Assange will be extradited from Sweden is high because they've agreed to every extradition request so far, including of two men extradited to US then flown to Egypt for torture.

Assange co-operated with the Swedish authorities whilst in Sweden and left once they'd decided there was no case to answer.

Assange has been available for questioning at all times, he's been under house arrest don't you know.

Sweden V's Assange = New York V's Dominic Strauss Kahn i.e. no case to answer.

sian and crooked rib said...

ach well, i don't agree with much in your comment, so i guess we're even.

you do know that DSK has now been accused of two more incidences of rape plus involvement in a prostitution ring since Diallo? and is facing a civil lawsuit from her?

holyroller said...

Assange has been available for questioning for quite some time, under house arrest.

Charges which only came about after the cables release, subsequently dropped after questioning Assange. Charges resurface after questionable judicial process.

Assange always open to questioning, but unwilling to travel again to a country with a record on extraditing people who go on to be tortured.

Bradley Manning imprisoned in conditions amounting to torture (according to US).

America is looking to get their hands on Assange, many would like to see him summarily executed but the thrust of your post is on the why's and wherefores of something which will never be truly proven. Did she still want a physical encounter despite the fact no condom was worn.

This would never be rape in the UK, or even any lesser charge.

holyroller said...

Sorry, I'm confused by how your blog takes comments so you can feel free to delete either my first or second as you wish.

I can't say I was surprised by the DSK prostitution ring allegations, Bunga Bunga all the way for men in power and women who want their money. Oldest profession and all that.

sian and crooked rib said...

This is the description of what happened, as delineated by his defence team:

"AA felt that Assange wanted to insert his penis into her vagina directly, which she did not want since he was not wearing a condom … She did not articulate this. Instead she therefore tried to turn her hips and squeeze her legs together in order to avoid a penetration … AA tried several times to reach for a condom, which Assange had stopped her from doing by holding her arms and bending her legs open and trying to penetrate her with his penis without using a condom. AA says that she felt about to cry since she was held down and could not reach a condom and felt this could end badly."

“'They fell asleep and she woke up by his penetrating her. She immediately asked if he was wearing anything. He answered: "You." She said: "You better not have HIV." He said: "Of course not." She may have been upset, but she clearly consented to its [the sexual encounter's] continuation and that is a central consideration.”

Please see this blog for info on why what he is accused of doing is still rape under English law:

the issue is two allegations of rape and sexual assault. Not international conspiracies to silence wikileaks.

thebigsisterhouse said...

Mr. Assange isn't above the law - although he seems to think that he is. Like many people, power seems to have corrupted him. Whatever good Wikileaks has done is being challenged by his refusal to face up to his alleged actions. His supporters apppear to have been hypnotised by him, speaking up for free speech while ignoring the rights of others. He is beneath contempt and his faithful supporters will, I fear, find themselves besmirched with his mud.

sian and crooked rib said...

bigsisterhouse - i agree. some of his previous supporters are deserting him too.

arbolioto said...

This is absolute bullshit masquerading as clever clogs. If you think States (UK, US, Sweden) are Little Red Riding Hood in peril of Wolfman Assange, aske 200,000 Iraqis & 100,000 Afghanis what they think about it. Of course you can't do that because they are dead. And they will never have their case in theCrimes Against Humanity court because guess what: they run it!

HerbsandHags said...

"Not that rape victims are partial to fabricate for a multitude of reasons."

What does that even mean?

Women (presumably women) rape victims are likely to lie? Are male rape victims also likely to lie for a multitude of reasons and are they the same ones?

And what makes them so prone to lying? Being raped? Does being raped suddenly make someone honest, into someone who lies? Or is it just women rape victims who suddenly become liars, while male rape victims remain as honest as they ever were?

Or do you mean that women lie about rape and pretend that they've been raped when they haven't? If so, can you provide any reputable evidence for this? Because the Stearn report, which is the most recent research into rape, estimates false allegations at about 4-6% and non-reporting of rape at about 85-90%.

The lie that women tend to lie about rape is just that - a lie. A rape myth. Men lie about rape a hell of a lot more than women do. They lie when they pretend they haven't raped women when they have.

Well over 90% of rape allegtions are true. So Assange, along with all other men accused of rape, is 94%+ likely to be guilty.

Stop repeating the lie that women lie about rape. Men do. Much more.

corrections said...

The defense was based on the record provided by Swedish authorities. In other words, the court takes the allegations at face value in determining whether or not extradition is appropriate. Assange and his attorney's were not allowed to argue against the facts as alleged by Swedish authorities, or to introduce new facts. The only defense allowed in this extradition hearing was to say that even if all the facts alleged were true there is no crime.

This is a matter of legal procedure, which you clearly don't understand. The defense is not claiming that these are the true facts of the case. They have not been allowed to introduce their own side of the story at this stage of the legal process. They have been forced to take the allegations at face value in disputing the extradition, and they are making the best defense they can given those constraints.

It is totally unfair and inaccurate to claim that the statements you have quoted are Assange's admissions as to what actually happened. You should have studied the legal procedure and the disposition of the case before making defamatory claims, and your claims are defamatory.

As for the question of whether extradition to the US from the UK or SE is easier... All the more reason for Assange to seek asylum from Ecuador. The truth is that while the UK might extradite, the process for extradition to the US could take years, and the US would have to promise that the death penalty was not going to be used. The Swedish, on the other hand, have shown themselves willing to bypass rule of law in rendering prisoners to the US, when they cooperated with the CIA to render completely innocent people from their country to be later tortured. This action is notorious and was widely condemned by human rights groups; Google it. At least the UK has some process that they will use, while the Swedes and the United States have demonstrated that they are willing to use extrajudicial processes.

sian and crooked rib said...

Did any of the assange cheerleaders commenting on this blog actually read what I wrote?

Because it really doesn't look like it.

Sophia said...

I just wanted to say, *applause* for this line. 'Stop repeating the lie that women lie about rape. Men do. Much more.'

Perfectly sums it up. I'm going to start quoting that at people.

cim said...

holyroller: Assange has been available for questioning for quite some time, under house arrest.

1) For someone under "house arrest" he's been doing a lot of wandering around in public. What he's actually under is "bail conditions", which are considerably looser. If he was actually under "house arrest" (or "conventional arrest") he wouldn't have been able to run off to the Ecuadorian embassy.

2) The Swedes wish to do final stage questioning, which may involve asking Assange to view and comment on evidence they have gathered. This is not something they can necessarily do over the phone: taking the evidence out of the country just for the convenience of a suspect is hardly a commonplace feature of legal systems.

And since when has the suspect ever been entitled to dictate the terms on which they may be questioned? This is not a novel feature of the legal system invented just for Assange - it's entirely typical treatment for suspected criminals.

corrections: The only defense allowed in this extradition hearing was to say that even if all the facts alleged were true there is no crime.

1) Assange's own legal team raised several other defenses. The courts rejected them all as inapplicable or inadequate, but they were entitled to raise them and did. (There were also some possible defenses that they did not raise)
2) "Even if I had done it, it wouldn't be illegal", while a defense against extradition, is not a defense that one is required to use, nor is it appropriate in every case. Given how clearly the described actions are rape, any attempt to argue that they are not is appalling (and bad legal tactics, besides).
Perhaps recognising this, Assange's legal team did not attempt to use this defense at the appeal stages.

Seth de l'Isle said...

So are you lobbying Sweden to promise not to extradite him to the US? Are you lobbying the US to promise not to request his extradition from Sweden?

If these promises had been made, Assange would have no more arguments, Ecuador would have no reason to entertain his request and Assange would have to go to Sweden for questioning.

sian and crooked rib said...

Herbs and Hags - well said. 100 times well said!

sian and crooked rib said...

Corrections - this post isn't about legal procedure. it is about how assange's supporters have been attempting to redefine what we mean by consent, rape and sexual assault to the detriment of survivors. The whole concept of 'sex by surprise', the belief they spout that penetrating a sleeping or unconscious woman isn't rape - these are very very dangerous and harmful statements that silence and invalidate the experiences of women who have been raped and sexually assaulted.

Not you, me or the gate post knows if Assange is guilty or not. What we do know is that his supporters who deny that what he is accused of is rape under English law are trying to redefine consent. that is the issue here, that is the problem.

sian and crooked rib said...

Cim - well said!

sian and crooked rib said...

From Nick Cohen's excellent Observer piece:

'Assange is the first asylum seeker to claim persecution at three removes. He wants to renounce his Australian citizenship and become an Ecuadorean because (and you may have to bear with me) the Australian government failed to help him fight an attempt by the British government to extradite to him to Sweden, whose government may, at some undefined point, extradite him to the United States – or maybe not, because there is no extradition request.

More pertinently, Greenwald and the rest of Assange's supporters do not tell us how the Americans could prosecute the incontinent leaker. American democracy is guilty of many crimes and corruptions. But the First Amendment to the US constitution is the finest defence of freedom of speech yet written. The American Civil Liberties Union thinks it would be unconstitutional for a judge to punish Assange.'

HerbsandHags said...

seth, if you want to lobby the swedish govt, you go right ahead, I'll support you but I reserve the right to focus on the issues I feel are more urgent - the rights of victimised women - before those most of society considers more important - the rights of predatory men. Don't tell women to focus on everyone else's rights before their own.

sian and crooked rib said...

well said again herbs and hags :-)

biff-tannen said...

While I agree with the most of what you say about the treatment of this case and the assumptions and statements made by many about rape allegations in general, it doesn't help that you have massively misrepresented Assange's appeal against extradition.

'corrections' actually pointed this out in an earlier comment, but you merely said that “this post isn't about legal procedure”. The problem is that you emphasize in the intro that your quotes are “the defence team’s description of Assange’s actions” which is simply untrue. His defence team were going over what the allegations were and whether there is any case to answer.

Though I still agree with the broad thrust of your arguement it undermines your point to start with such a massive misrepresentation.

sian and crooked rib said...

this, by david allen green, is the best blog i've seen on the legal procedures and why the offence Assange is accused of is still illegal under UK law

sian and crooked rib said...

nickleberry said...

This is slightly off-topic but...

I've been peripherally involved in the Free Manning campaign and gaptooth's comment above is the first I've heard about identifying as female. I followed the link but couldn't see anything conclusive. Can you give more sources? This is important and I'll happily follow it up but I need some authenticated info before I can do that.

sian and crooked rib said...

Hi Nickleberry - no probs.

Here's what feministing have to say about it:

Which includes a link to Global Comment:

Hope those are useful.

nickleberry said...

Sian, thank you for the links. I have read several things on this issue now, but was particularly struck by a comment from "I am Bradley Manning" at this thread:

I'll copy (the relevant part of) the comment below. I'm very concerned that this issue is dealt with properly, and I think there is too much murkiness in the publicly-available facts for it to be clear how Manning's supporters should refer to him/ her. As such it would be good if people like gaptooth desisted from using this issue as a stick to beat Manning's supporters - as if they're deliberately avoiding the transgender question out of some kind of bigotry. This doesn't help Manning. I don't care if Manning is man or woman, I just want him/her free for s/he has done nothing wrong. Let's start with that as common ground and then seek to move forward as best we can.

****Pasted comment follows****

I think this is an instance of a community wanting a person to be something that either at this moment they do not want to be, or their legal situation forces them to not be. And the community I’m talking about here is not the “Free Bradley Manning” community at large, but some in the LGBT allied community, including the author of this article, Emily Manuel..

Nobody is aware of the defense strategy in this case, and the defense of the person charged, by any name, is paramount above any political issue. Should this person publicly self-identify, then that is another situation. Thus far, only in alleged private chat logs to which the defense has to the best of my knowledge NOT stipulated authorship, has a person supposedly identified. I would point out further to the author that at that and other moments in the alleged logs, Manning was told by Lamo that their conversations were so private as to be protected by law, and doubly so, because Lamo represented as a priest and a journalist. Manning did not and has not publicly represented as transgendered. Emily Manuel should read that sentence again a few times and let it sink in.

Manuel writes, “despite this mounting evidence,” referring to transgender claims. Who has appointed a committee to judge Manning’s genderin the public sphere, and how did Emily Manuel and this blogger JR Worsement come to lead the investigation?

If and when Manning or appropriate spokespersons PUBLICLY express a gender identity other than what stands, I’m all for supporting that in every manner possible. But trying to force a person to carry the banner of any cause against their will is an act of violence.

It is fine to discuss the what-ifs surrounding gender identity and politics in this and any instance. But to dare cast aspersions at Manning’s supporters, as if they have abandoned their movement’s figurehead, and accuse them of knowingly and willingly parading around photos and using a name and gender identity opposed to Manning’s wishes? Well that is just insane. Return to reality, Emily Manuel. Manning has not chosen to pick up the mantle of the transgender movement. Maybe Manning will. Maybe not. That is Manning’s choice, not yours or anybody else’s. Unless and until that changes, Free Bradley Manning!

sian and crooked rib said...

I don't think Gaptooth was using it as a stick to beat Manning supporters with, i think most people support Manning and want to see him/her released from solitary, safe from harm. I do think it is important though that we respect identity - however each individual chooses to identify themselves. I don't know enough about the issue to know more than this.

nickleberry said...

OK, Sian, you're probably right. Rereading gaptooth's initial comment, I've probably overstated the case. Nonetheless in other areas of the internet (e.g. the links you give above) there is a clear implication that supporters of Manning are wilfully ignoring gender issues because of their own bigoted self-interest. That is unfair I think...

Gary Matthews said...

It seems the liberal media, commentators in the Guardian and Independent are all to willing to pillary and vilify Assange so nothing new here. What happened to the presumption innocence, Sian?

Both women said they had consented to sex with Julian Assange until a politican, Claes Borgstrom intervened, whom when told that both woman had said the sex had been consensual replied "Ah, but they are not lawyers".

I suggest you google "Incinerating Assange - the liberal media go to work" an excellent commentary by David Edwards of Media Lens.

sian and crooked rib said...

It's funny you mention the presumption of innocence Gary considering I state very very clearly how Assange is innocent until proven guilty.

But don't let what I actually write and say get in the way of you leaving comments, or anything.

And has everyone forgotten how it was the guardian that published all the wikileaks cables, working with rather than vilifying Assange? duh!

sian and crooked rib said...

None of this post has been about Assange's guilt or innocence. It is about how his supporters are happily re-defining what we mean by consent, rape and sexual assault to say that what he is accused of isn't illegal in the UK.

It's not hard to understand!

If anyone penetrates a woman whilst she sleeps then that is rape, whoever does it. We cannot continue with this myth that it isn't rape, because this has a huge impact on how we understand consent. It is disrespectful to survivors and could negatively impact on women's and girl's confidence in reporting what happens to them as rape.

sian and crooked rib said...

HerbsandHags said...

"Both women said they had consented to sex with Julian Assange until a politican, Claes Borgstrom intervened, whom when told that both woman had said the sex had been consensual replied "Ah, but they are not lawyers".

Gary you are making the mistake that rapists make, of assuming that if a woman consents to sex once with a man, under certain terms, that implies that she consents to sex with him all the time under completely different circumstances.

Society has no problem whatsoever in understanding that if you agree to buy a car from someone at £1,000 and s/he then changes the price to £2,000, the conditions in which you were going to buy that car have changed and therefore, you are no longer consenting to buy the bloody car. With sex however, their seems to be a completely different understanding of what consent means.

Both women consented to have sex with Assange under different circumstances to the ones in which the rapes actually took place. One woman consented to sex with him while she was awake: this does not mean that she consented when she was asleep and that means that that penetration of her body, was no longer sex, but rape. The other woman consented to have sex with Assange if he wore a condom. He refused to allow her to reach a condom, so he was having sex in different circumstances to the ones she had consented to; that is rape.

It really isn't difficult, unless you believe that once a woman has given consent to sex with a man, that's it, she then has to have sex with him for the rest of her life in whatever circumstances she finds herself in.

The reason those 2 women did not know it was rape, is because society assiduosly tells women that when we are raped, it wasn't rape really, it was just us overreacting.


sian and crooked rib said...

well said again!

Gary Matthews said...

Hi Sian, I would just like to state that I agree uneqivocally that if anyone penetrates a woman while she is sleeping or physically coarses a woman into sex it is rape and that it is illegal under U.K law. as defined in the 2003 sexual offences act section 75. I trust you've read it?

However your account of Assanges Legal defence is misleading. Assanges barrister Ben Emmerson is describing what is alleged to have occurred in AA and SW witness statements that they made on the 20th and 21st of August 2010. Yet you describe this as "the defence teams description of Assange's actions" which it categorically is not.

Another point I want to make is that you quote a part of AA's witness statement that is most incriminating, which describes Assange restraining AA, holding her down and preventing her from reaching a condom. Your description ends with "AA felt about to cry since she was held down and thought this could end badly" You then say she was physically coerced into sex "as described" leaving anyone who hasn't read AA's witness statement in full to assume he then rapes.
I trust you've read AA's witness statement in full?
AA's statement then says Assange asks what she is doing, he releases her arms and puts on a condom she gets for him.

To your credit you do provide a link to the coverage in the Guardian's live blog on jul 12th 2011.
You state twice in your piece that Julian Assange has the right to be presumed innocence, though I suspect you are only paying lipservice to this right.

sian and crooked rib said...

Gary Matthews

Nope, not paying lip service. We all have the right to the presumption of innocence.

This post, as i have said heaps of times, is about how Assange's supporters are attempting to redefine by saying that what he is accused of is not rape or sexual assault under UK law. It isn't about guilt or innocence but about our understanding of consent.

Rob said...

It's mind-boggling to me how supposed progressives check all their ideals at Julian Assange's door. And when I say "all their ideals," I mean more than their willingness to overlook the FACT that Assange has admitted raping a woman. No ifs, ands or buts, according to his defense, he raped a woman.

What I've also found greatly troubling is how some fauxgressives seem all too eager to abdicate everyone's rights to privacy to Julian Assange Why? Because they agree with him. Well, what happens when Julian does something you don't agree with? Who's to stop him (or anyone else) from destroying someone based on a personal whim?

After all, the fauxgressives have now ceded Julian Assange unfettered power. Except the new boss answers to no man. He's above the law because the people who should be speaking up about this instead fawn over Assange like he's some kind of saint, when, in fact, he's a dictator with the ability to compromise anyone's right to privacy. Why? Because he's Julian Assange.

And leaving aside Greenwald, this was a piece I wrote about Salon's Justin Elliott who actually made a rape joke about the Assange case. Progressive my ass.

Is it objective? said...

The passage you say is Mr Assange's defence is a summary of the prosecution allegations. It is not a defence to them.

You can find the same passage in para 74 of the High Court Judgement, with almost identical wording.

Whoever first lifted that quote and claimed it was the defence ignored the context, where the defence said: "even if Mr Assange accepted all of this as true..." and then went on to make a legal argument.

Judgement here:

Oh, you made a factual mistake too: Mr Assange isn't wanted for questioning. The High Court Summary states the situation very well: he is wanted for criminal proceedings and could NOT be extradited for questioning.

Other than that, I think you got it pretty much accurate. Though (given the tone of your post) I was surprised that you failed to mention Mr Assange's assertion that his alleged victims had "got in a tizzy".