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  1. Politics
9 October 2018

“I am no victim”: Rebecca Humphries’ statement shows how women are taking control of the narrative

Social media allows women to reclaim their stories, unmediated by press reports and media framings.

By Sian Norris

After images of the Strictly Come Dancing contestant and stand-up comedian Seann Walsh kissing his dancing partner, Katya Jones, emerged, both Walsh and Jones apologised for their behaviour, which they blamed on a drunken night out.

Walsh’s statement failed to mention his girlfriend, however. It was the belief that his narrative “missed a couple of crucial elements” that prompted Rebecca Humphries to write her own. 

In her statement on Twitter, Humphries states that “I am not a victim” and accuses him of controlling behaviour during their relationship. She then claims how, when she voiced her suspicions that he was cheating on her with his dancing partner, he called her a “psycho/nuts/mental”.

“Believe in yourself and your instincts. [This behaviour] is more than lying. It’s controlling,” she declares.

Walsh, who issued his apology on Twitter, is yet to respond to the claims, but Humphries clearly struck a nerve with the women of Twitter. Many who have been in controlling or coercive relationships reached out to share their experiences, saying “I had a bf like that […] the gaslighting was exhausting” and “I’ve experienced exactly the same thing when a controlling person is challenged”. Myleene Klass tweeted: “A situation recognisable to so many of us”.

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Humphries’ statement and the subsequent response is an illustration of how social media has given women experiencing abusive or unpleasant behaviour from men a space to present their own narrative.

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Despite being offered the chance to “sell my side of the story”, Humphries instead chose to tell it “on my own terms” via Twitter. Through her statement, she could share her experience, express her feelings, and explain her intentions independent of anyone else’s framing – and without being dismissed as “psycho” or “mental”.

Taking back control is one of reasons why #MeToo, and projects such as @EverydaySexism, have been so powerful.

Because when women start telling our stories – from schoolgirls to farmworkers to journalists and movie stars and comedians – we have the chance to reclaim what has happened to us. We are able to define for ourselves the impact and legacy of violence, abuse, and controlling behaviour – rejecting victim blaming myths and stereotypes about perpetrators and survivors of gender-based violence.

Furthermore, social media is a global platform where we can stand up, be counted, and connect with one another.

The responses to Humphries’ statement show exactly this – as other women come forward and say “this happened to me”. Women who once felt alone or isolated with their experiences of abuse or violence are now looking around and seeing their own experiences reflected back to them.

When that happens, whispers become shouts. Our stories grow and swell, and so do our demands for change.

A friend of mine once said to me that, despite the fact we are overwhelmingly targeted for abuse and harassment online, women don’t hate the internet. This is the reason why. Because while we have to endure a lot of hassle from misogynists determined to shut us up, social media has amplified our voices. It has allowed us to write our own stories and demand they be heard.

That’s what made Humphries’ statement so powerful.

Most women reading her statement will understand what it means to have had our control taken away. Many women will recognise that sense of having your suspicions or your version of events trashed, undermined, and destroyed – of being gaslit, or ignored, and not listened to. It’s destabilising and confusing and it can feel like we have no weapon with which to assert ourselves – to demand our narrative is respected.

When that control is taken away, social media becomes the space where we grab it back.

Through her statement on Twitter, that’s what Humphries did. And through our own social media accounts, despite the many men trying to shut us down, that’s what women the world over will continue to do.