Women still have to worry speaking up about their abusers will cost them their lives

Earlier this month the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted a statement on the social media site Weibo accusing Zhang Gaoli, a former vice-premier, of sexual assault. Peng’s post acknowledged that she didn’t have evidence to back up her accusations against the powerful former politician, but she was determined not to stay silent. “Like an egg hitting a rock, or a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you,” Peng wrote.

Less than half an hour after the post went up, it disappeared. Searches for Peng’s name seemed to have been blocked, as were searches related to “tennis”, and her Weibo account was hidden from searches. Then Peng herself disappeared. The former doubles world No 1 hasn’t been heard from in more than two weeks.

While there has been growing international concern about Peng’s wellbeing, Chinese media have stayed silent on the matter. The only formal mention of the tennis star was a Twitter post by the state-run English language broadcaster, CGTN, screenshotting a supposed email from Peng in which she says she’s totally fine (just chilling at home!) and the allegation of sexual assault she’d made wasn’t true. Weirdly, people weren’t convinced. I don’t know what has happened to Peng, but she is clearly not just chilling at home.

Peng’s circumstances may be extreme, but they are by no means unusual. When women speak up about sexual misconduct they tend to be punished for it. Speak up about sexual harassment at work and you may find your career suddenly starts to stall. You may find yourself being ostracized; being branded a troublemaker; threatened with the terms of draconian NDAs. Speak out about sexual misconduct at your university and you may find yourself being treated like you’re the one who did something wrong. You may get quizzed about how much you drank, what you were wearing, how many sexual partners you had. Speak out about the popular kid in your town? Your house might get burned down.

That last example isn’t hypothetical – it’s what happened to Daisy Coleman. In 2012 14-year-old Coleman and her 13-year-old best friend Paige Parkhurst were assaulted at a party. After they accused the high school football star both girls were subjected to horrific bullying and harassment. The Colemans had their house burnt down, and mutilated dead rabbits were put in Parkhurst’s car. Daisy’s mother was fired from her job and the family ended up leaving town. Daisy died of suicide last year. Her mother took her own life four months later.

Women who speak up about popular or powerful men will almost inevitably find their histories being scrutinized, their reputations sullied, and their lives torn apart. If you think I’m being dramatic here then just remember what happened to Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. Weinstein allegedly hired an “army of spies” to intimidate his accusers and stop women from going public with sexual misconduct claims. After the New Yorker published a report about Weinstein’s use of spies, the actor Asia Argento wrote on Twitter: “Why didn’t I, @rosemcgowan, @RoArquette [Rosanna Arquette] @AnnabellSciorra spoke [sic] up earlier? We were followed by ex-Mossad agents. Isn’t that terrifying? Very.”

I could fill pages and pages with examples of women who have been subject to abuse and harassment after speaking out about sexual misconduct. And those examples, of course, are just the tip of the iceberg. Many victims don’t speak out because they know there is a very good chance they’ll be accused of lying; they know they risk their lives turned upside down. “Like … a moth to the flame, courting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you,” Peng wrote. She knew what was going to happen to her and she spoke up anyway. Her story is a chilling reminder of how women still have to worry that speaking up about their abusers will cost them their lives or their livelihood. And yet you still find men complaining that “#MeToo has gone too far.” Tell that to Peng, why don’t you?

Boris Johnson’s sister really should have kept this extremely weird thought to herself but she decided to publish it in the Spectator instead. One imagines the British prime minister wasn’t thrilled with this: Johnson outlines how she once saw “shiny glamazon” Maxwell resting her high-heeled boot “on my brother Boris’s thigh”. “Glamazon” is certainly one way to say “associate of a convicted sex offender who is on trial for sex trafficking children, perjury and the enticement of minors”.

English TV presenter Melanie Sykes has announced that she’s been diagnosed as autistic at the age of 51. “Finally, so many things make sense,” Sykes said. Sykes is part of a wider trend of women being newly diagnosed with autism in adulthood as awareness grows that autism is not just a “male condition”.

Turns out buying supercheap sex toys online is about as safe as you’d expect it to be.

According to a 2020 report by the United Nations Population Fund “between 2013 and 2017, about 460,000 girls in India were ‘missing’ at birth each year”.

Apollo Carreon Quiboloy, a pal of President Rodrigo Duterte, is accused of running a sex-trafficking operation that threatened girls as young as 12 with “eternal damnation” and physical abuse.

A Chinese food livestreamer known as Mr Kang claims to have been banned from an all-you-can-eat buffet for eating too much. Mr Kang apparently ate 1.5kg of pork trotters during his first visit and 3.5kg to 4kg of prawns on another visit. He is not pleased with his ban and has complained it is “discriminatory” against people who can eat a lot. My gut tells me Mr Kang’s bowels are the real victim here.

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