On Friday 13 February 2015 Professor Liz Kelly CBE delivered a lecture in Adelaide on re-visiting the continuum of sexual violence in the 21st century.
I had the great privilege of attending this lecture by Liz Kelly earlier this year and I would highly recommend listening to this lecture.
She talks of her early work and research “Surviving Sexual Violence” (I would recommend the book too.)
I’m not going to pretend here that I can do any justice to her lecture or her work but wanted to highlight some of the important issues that she raised that struck me.
One of the themes throughout her talk was women’s voices – the importance of listening to women’s experiences, women’s feelings and understanding women’s everyday experiences of violence.
Liz Kelly’s work is conceptualising forms of violence as a continuum of violence against women. She explores the connections, for example, between sexual violence and domestic violence, asking questions about the categories we use; who decides what is abusive; what counts as abuse and the connections between them.
She also referred to the work with Jill Radford “Nothing Really Happened” : the invalidation of women’s experiences of sexual violence which analyses women’s experiences of sexual violence and how women name “unwanted sex”. They often didn’t want to name non-consensual or coercive sexual experiences as rape. There are no clear cut lines in women’s experiences.
“Everyday routine intimate intrusions that were so central to the idea of a continuum.”
Whilst women claim ‘nothing really happened’ they were intimidated, they were made to feel fearful. Liz Kelly describes this as a form of terror, in which the intention is to intimidate, to make women feel afraid, telling women that they “don’t have the same right to be in this space.”
And women learn to adapt – to the potential of male violence. This is the reality of women’s lives.
Liz cited Swedish law in which the underlying principle is that sexual violence is a violation of women’s integrity. It is therefore not located as force.
What Liz highlights is that many women’s experiences of violence are ‘everyday’, are perceived by society as ‘mundane encounters’ and yet they are the “fabric of women’s everyday lives”.
Which means that when we attempt to tally up the extent of violence against women we are not counting all violence against women. Our criminal system records violence in incidents rather than the “pattern of coercive control” which Evan Stark has examined.
There are wider concepts of harm which we need to look at from a human rights perspective.
Liz Kelly clearly highlights that male violence against women erodes women’s agency and fundamental freedoms – it constrains every woman’s agency.
This clip does not include question time but her response to one question was awesome: