Friday, 21 September 2012

Crowd Fooled and perpetrators

Battered women and domestic abuse are really sexy, right now,  so sexy in fact that Home Secretary Theresa May is even finally paying attention and has widened the definition of domestic  violence to include honour killings, forced marriages, financial exclusion , power players,  etc.

Two young men Richard Wheatcroft and George Horne, are allegedly employed and promoting their charity from up north of Camden somewhere (Leicester?) and they  are camping outside the Apple store in line for the new iPhone 5 or whatever ( I am not interested in gadgets, they bore me and tend to make my life  more complicated). They  wanted to sell their seats  at the front of the queue to the highest bidder to secure the first iPhone sold in London and raise the awareness of their crowd funding campaign to create a  boutique bakery (couture cupcakes?)  to train up vulnerable women and survivors of abuse.  Do people really do this stuff? Is it people who have nothing else to do who want to sleep outside in the street and feel virtuous about it?  Fuck's sake, give your Sealey posturepedic sprung divan to a homeless person who lives on the street and give up your gap year delusions of thinking you are the best thing since sliced bread. 

Not surprising really that people are coming up with all sorts of innovative ways to grease the wheels of enterprise (nothing wrong with that at all) and try and raise the profile of the plight of these vulnerable  women. However, throughout the course of yesterday evening I watched their definition of vulnerable women change from prostitutes, to homeless women, to women who had experienced DV and  I realized the lack of any gendered analysis of the problem and the way that all abused women were being thrown into one murky female  fish pond to be plucked out and rescued at random, by putting them  in some sort of baking finishing school where they could come in for a chat and a cupcake, was not only demeaning it  had the potential to be extremely damaging.     At one point they tweeted about how they were helping raise the profile of women who had been raped and I wondered if they had downed some MDMA on that long line on Regent Street.  Poor poppets, out in the cold, surely mummy would be bringing a flask of Horlicks soon and relieve us of the torture...sadly not.

Someone asked me why they shouldn't be allowed to tweet about rape and what about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with this. Protecting vulnerable women and not allowing traumatic experiences of rape to be commercialised,  are more important than someone's right to tweet to allegedly raise the profile of  a very sensitive subject which opens wounds in scores of women.  As a survivor of rape and someone who deals regularly with women who are trying to get over the lifelong emotional trauma inflicted by rape, I find it disgusting that they can take this issue and  spin it for some muddled and damaging PR.  It made me physically ill last night. 

I was  sent the link to them on twitter, the scourge of modern living and I asked the person who manages our social media for the company at which I am director and where we procure decent homes   primarily for vulnerable women leaving prison, on license or existing gang violence, refuges and supported housing to find out  some more and we exchanged a few benign tweets with @crowdfuelled , two  photogenic young white boys. I am not being racist, I am making an observation. However, realistically,  your chances of suffering DV in the UK are substantially higher  if you are a black or ethnic minority woman than if you are a young white guy. I believe services around domestic violence and indeed any kind of trauma inflicted on women should be designed, deployed and delivered by WOMEN. Of course men can be champions of a cause and without men, (where the power inequality lies and is furthered), we won't get too far. No rocket science there then. When asked about their business model, a bakery, to offer training and "become a top chef" and safeguarding policy, they went  quiet and huffy.

By now, my back was up and the hairs on my arms were prickling with alarm and I decided to look into this myself a little more closely. They claimed to be a charity, then they changed that to be a social enterprise. they claimed to have a building in London for their Hope Boutique Bakery (yukk, I know) and then it was going to be  a pop up in various London markets run by different charities. Had they formed partnerships with any charities? Had they even spoken to anyone? I contacted some of the well known refuges we work with and Eaves and of course NO ONE had heard of them and no one knew anything about them.  The website content has   been changed  today to reflect the New Truth.

They have no discernible links to any womens orgs. They are behaving like perpetrators,   violence against women is not just  physical, it's also financial, sexual, emotional, through exploitation,  and to me the prospect of all sorts of abuse  through this completely ill thought out PR stunt had the potential to manifest. What if they said they were raising money  for starving kids in Africa but didn't know what country / what charity / NGO or who  would benefit from their fundraising? Why  is this ok, now that there is money being thrown at the EVAW sector  to come in and say and "do" these intangible "ideas" when there is no chance of  longevity or success? Why do we tolerate it as women? If it was starving African Kids, you'd have Trading Standards and possibly the fraud squad all over them.I know if I did it , I would be writing to you from Holloway Prison right now.

Two young men, with no understanding of the deeper issues around violence against women and its systemic and inherent  nature and how it is established in all our institutions and furthered by women who should know better. What do  they think,  these little boys and their little camping expedition for an iPhone on the back of abused women. And who are these abused women Crowdfuelled claim to be helping, are they prostitutes, women who have suffered violence or  abused women? This isn't one huge pool of damaged women to fish in, the treatment of the symptoms, the psychosocial interventions and resettlement and recovery needs of each  group, and also of each woman, is completely different. But hey, check out one of those forecasting almanacs and cupcaked and DV are right up there.

Start ups are great, the buzz around and from getting loads of publicity is also great, I've been there and know it well and am asked almost weekly to  be profiled or do something to raise the plight of women who have suffered violence or resettled  as ex offenders successfully. I don't do it,  because I have to check my own agenda against the greater one, which is about confronting situations like Crowdfuelled, against the instant hit of publicity, when photo ops or eager journalists approach me.  All the research says that services lead by women for women, designed and deployed by and for women are much more successful than those run by men allegedly for women. There is a huge risk of abuse being heaped on these women AGAIN by male lead services. There is no gendered analysis in  the way a man will design a service for a woman and there is little understanding of the longstanding and far reaching effects of multiple exclusion and trauma specifically faced by women. To me, these guys are frankly scary amateurs with the potential to do a lot of harm.

I have been working on a report with Imran Khan (human rights lawyer), Flo Krause ( leading female criminal defence barrister)  and Julia Gibby (Senior research fellow at Kings College London) in response to the Justice Committee's call for evidence into women in the criminal justice system. Stats show that 87% of women who have been to prison have suffered some sort of violence or been abused. Our report reflects on the lack of provision for women who have suffered trauma and violence  who end up in prison, and asks for systemic change in the way services are designed and delivered in order that they suit women's needs, not men's needs to superimpose their will on women.

I have 3 simple questions fro the founders of Crowd Fooled:
What is their training model? How will they recruit?
What kind of safeguarding has been put in place  to protect their female staff and service users?
What is their referral route? No charities I spoke to today (we work with most of the refuges and shelters across London) had ever heard of them.

And where is my locus standi in this? As an ex offender who had to put up with shitty services run by men and was almost raped in one of them, I have  a personal issue with male perpetrators fronting as something else. Poppetiesques,  I noticed you changed your website and took away all the guff about the bakery, so what is it then? A great idea or a PR stunt?

And if you want to support a crowdfunding venture, please support  this  and you're most welcome to come and check out what we do.



  1. There's nothing else I can add to this - would also be VERY interested to hear the answers to those questions.

    Consider this a co-signature to calling out this bullshit.

  2. I fully support this. I have also asked them
    Are you genuine?
    Are you trained in domestic abuse?
    Are you linked or working with women's aid or refuge?
    No reply!
    The scars of violence against women run deep and need specialist support and safeguarding.
    I sign this in the hope that this is taken as seriously as if someone had done the same for Cancer victims, children who'd experienced sexual abuse or indeed children in Africa

  3. Very well put article. I work to raise awareness of violence against women and to challenge male attitudes that enable the rape, abuse and murder of women by men. This could be an ill-conceived 'social enterprise' - but seems to me a dangerous and cynical ploy that is riding on 'fooling' the 'crowd' who support vulnerable women. I hope that something can be done legally - I agree that there would be mass outrage if this was for another type of vulnerable group!

  4. Seems to me these guys are just trying to make a name for themselves. Thoughtless, immature and selfish, and as you say potentially involving real risks to survivors. Hope they will think better of it.


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