The Incident Of Alex Faragher

Alex FaraagherWords by Billie Jenkins

Every so often I come across something which snaps me out of my feminist comfort zone. Just as I get cosy, and feel that although we have some way to go, the next generations will be working out only the finer details of the gender inequality arguments, I am hit with an incident that brings me back to reality. The incident of Alex Faragher is one of those incidents. Faragher was involved in a domestic violence dispute, which the police had been brought into deal with, when two of the officers assisting her case accidentally left a voicemail on her phone calling her a ’slag’ and a ’fucking bitch’. It is an awful case, yet there is something else implied, something wider than the offence against Faragher herself.

The specific use of the term ’slag’ is what cuts. The oversight of the officers has the potential to be unfortunate but forgivable had their exchange gone differently. But ’slag’? That men whose chosen job is to protect women like Faragher, or at least treat their appeals for support with respect, used a word so specifically degrading to women acts as an uncomfortable social marker. ’Slag’ implies a disposability and immortality in an area of life that is far from any relationship that the officers would have had with the victim. It is yet another sad eye opener on the way female victims, suffering from male violence are dealt with by the police and legal systems.

A few years ago a prominent detective working in a London police department designed to deal with incidents of rape revealed after they were raped they could not bring themselves to come forward due to the harsh treatment rape victims were submitted to in order to achieve convictions. Yet when cases such a Faragher’s arise it poses the question whether the prejudices connecting female sexuality with immorality play a more significant role in the legal systems treatment of victims than we would like to consider. Obviously all systems suffer the imperfections of those they are built of yet it is easily forgotten the extent of those imperfections that are kept out of the magazines, off tv and on the most part behind closed doors in comfortable settings. Whatever the motivation of the men to verbally attack Faragher, it seems clear that a man in the same situation would not have been portrayed in such a degrading manner, not least because there is no male equivalent for ’slag’.

Although I would love to sink back into my complacent state of mind that we are moving forward I hope that this most recent incident serves a reminder to myself and many that we have a long, long way to go. There is large press covering the shocking conviction rates in this area, yet before the prosecutors let down women with minimal guilty verdicts and very little jail time have the underpinning assumptions of those that build the evidence already written the conclusion?

Related posts: