Stalking>Victim Blaming>Police

Stalker

Earlier this week the Police and their treatment of stalking cases hit the national news. This extract is from the fictional novel Casual Nexus in which we see the accumulation the pressures of the main character Sal being constantly stalked.

 

The art school was open to the public for the two weeks of the degree show. The busiest evening had been the opening last Friday, after that there was only the odd person wandering around. Many were potential students looking at courses or former students looking at what was going on in the tower of creativity by the central ring road. Quite a few people who had known Sal from the bars where she had worked had been there for the opening night and a few of her neighbours had popped in to look around on their way back from the town over the last few days. As the second coat of the prescribed ‘Pink’ dries, she cleans the spray gun and ensures the nozzle runs clear, she decides to go and ensure her exhibition space is tidy.

In walking into the studio, come, make-shift exhibition venue she encounters an individual she is becoming weary of beyond reason. Jumping out at her, the figure, as always dressed in the anonymity of greying black, lurching forward. Head held forth, arching off the helm of his inclined shoulders. Vision led, his upper body runs from Sal’ face, down through her shoulders, around her breasts. Covering her torso, through her baggy denim-clad legs then slowly back up the same route to her face.

Sal begins to shrink into herself, everything is getting too much for her; frustrations over her artwork, ongoing arguments with Tex, the approaching one-year milestone of the attack in Maine, and now the avid attentions of her stalker. Too exhausted to explode in combustion of stress factors, emotionally she felt herself crumble from head to toe. Herself, becoming simply remnants, grain pilled into a human size knoll.

The course leader had placed himself only feet behind Sal, he had come through when he had heard a whisper about the stalker. Recognising the character instantly from the glimpse he got of him from the office window earlier in the year. On encountering the stalker he had tried to engage him in some kind of conversation, but as usual, the grey/black adorned personage was unable to vocalise any form of structured sentences. His next move had been to talk to Kelly and Claire, they confirmed he was Sal’ stalker, then he checked to see if he had been untoward in regards to them:

‘No, he’s just like that with Sal.’

replied Kelly, Claire added:

‘Yes, it’s the way he looks at her, it’s obsessive. No, he isn’t interested in anyone else, just Sal.’

Progressing, to see if any of the other girls could be of benefit. Be-Be was almost in tears with fear, running into the ground, draining down her body, a wet blanket soaking on the ground. Digressing, he had turned his head away in disgust as Kate began the rhetoric of blaming Sal:

‘Her fault…he could start following me…..things like this are always happening to her….’

As standard, there was no logic to her chain of thoughts, a stream of resentment filled consciousness following from self-obsession embedded in her thoughts. Next, he chose to wait for Sal to make an appearance to gauge how bad this situation was through his reaction to Sal.

As Sal stood there, body crumbling the course leader stepped in:

‘Sal can you come through to the office please, I have some paperwork to go through..’

She needed no further encouragement, escape from the status quo, to get away from the stalker, to remove herself from everything and everyone. Strapping her crumbling emotions together, she managed to walk through to the Office and began to answer questions over how avidly he had been following her around.

In the office, Sal sits on one of the staff swivel chairs. Although this would normally feel like a luxury to a student, her mood could not stretch to appreciating the soft upholstery of the rotary form. Head looked down, she was not fully aware of the dialogue she was expressing in response to the details being requested. Fatigue has taken over, months of weariness accumulated, the stalkers appearance was the pinnacle of all her impediments. His appearance was the devil’s version of James and the Giant Peach landing on the Empire State Building. Sal wished she was the same age as James again, that everything that was happening around her was in a book she was reading. If only she could return to her adolescence, tucked up between pure white sheets with her brother Jack safely away on camp, reading the words of Dahl and engrossed in the images of Blake.

The course leader began to probe all the information he could out of Sal, gently but confidently easing out the information compressed in her memory. He had seemed to have started following her around last summer before she had gone away to the States, but it had become more obvious when she returned and he had found her new digs. Lingering about waiting for her to set foot outside the front door most days, except Tuesdays. This appeared to be because the rubbish was collected on this day and it looked like the bin men battered him as there was a persistent void in his presence on this day. Sal talked amiably about the bin men and had stated how great they were. It amazed the course leader how many people Sal knew in this city. Most students had no idea who their refuge collectors were, Sal was on conversational terms with the crew.

Sal held back her tears as she poured out her annoyances over the stalker, his repeated appearance, ‘You again!’ rapping on her brain. After the flow of distress, she became quiet and still, almost childlike as she composed herself. A peg doll, cut short and pressed into the upholstery of the desk chair.

Sal is oblivious to what is happening around her as the plastics lecturer swerves into the office carrying several off-cuts of acrylic;

‘Who is that guy in grey wandering around?’

She inquires brashly as she enters, the Course leader whispers towards her:

‘He’s the stalker that has been following Sal around.’

Sal’ mind is occupied by a place far outside the office, the city or perhaps even the Universe. She hadn’t noticed the presence of the plastics lecturer, she had not heard the question spoken.

Sal’ head and hearing ranges returned to that of the Art School Office as the plastics lecturer slams down the sheets of perspex. White molecules of dust from the workshop shoot into the air and begin the linger before the inevitable descent:

‘Oh great, now he’s going to start following me around!’

she screeches in wretchedness. Looking towards Sal, holding her fully accountable for his presence. The resentment she felt towards this student, running through the glare she directed down towards the distressed girl. The course leader and Sal looked directly back towards her, their gut reaction of utter disgust penetrating through the stale air of the internal office space. Not only did she have to cope with the continual presence of the stalker, but Sal was also now footing the blame for his potential to stalk others. Not only was it improper to blame Sal, but it was also equally invalid. The stalker was clearly fixated with Sal, he had no eyes or thoughts towards any of the other women, she was his sole focus, his desire, his obsession.

The Plastics lecturer looked back at the two faces of anguish looking directly into the aura of self-obsession which encased her white machine coat. Her next move was to leave, neither the Course Leader or Sal were prepared to tolerate any more of the extremities of her vileness. After shutting the door and walking back along the corridor she began to rant isolated mutterings. A torrent of thought about how Sal should never have been given a place, ‘Her fault’ and ‘Me’ focussed rhetoric.

Her thoughts fell into chimes with Kate’s, ‘Me’ mutterings resonating around the studio. Her eyes inquired towards the fear-soaked form of Be-Be. Someone she could use, she began to debate returning to the office, insisted that Be-Be’s fear was due to Sal putting her in danger from the stalker, then she could try and push the vulnerability of the sheltered fool draining in front of her eyes. She remembers the anguish on the faces in the office, she decides against any more confrontation and makes her way back to the workshop.

In the Office Sal and the course, leader looked at each other. Both were speechless in regards to the levels of self-orientation paraded by the plastics lecturer through the encounter. The course leader began to think on his feet, he told Sal he would phone security to escort him off the premises. In this directing Sal to stay in the office until he had gone. His next thoughts were to see how he could stop him for following Sal around the rest of the time. The Police was an option, ‘Stalking’ had recently been made an offence, perhaps the Officers of the Law would be able to do something. Relief ran through Sal’ body, he had made her feel safe again.

 

It emmergies throughout the novel that Kate is employed by the Police. Her character represents self obsession, narcissism and, most promonently, victim blaming culture within the Police Force.

A second character is reveal to be working for the Police: Be-Be. She highlights how extremely weak and feeble the women the authories recruit can be through their actions. We are presented with a girl who would never be capable of doing anything to protect anyone or anything being assigned a public protection role.

The plastics lecturer highlights the failing of Higher Education Institutes to take positive actions in regards to dealing with sexual predators.

Casual Nexus is looking to be published later in 2019.

 

I

Artist Talk: The Female Suspension

Legs one image copy

The Female suspension is an installation which addresses a world of sexual violence. The lower bodies and limbs of numerous women who have been raped are suspended by chained, hooks penetrating their groins. Meat like, a waste product, violated then disposed of like an animal carcass meat still to be stripped from the bones.

This will be the fourth installation to take over at 5 Bold Place as part of the art in windows project. Art in Windows is a small organisation that works with landlords and artists to commission and curate temporary and permanent artworks for display in empty windows in and around Liverpool. Windows have varied from those in empty shops in the city centre and on local high streets, to empty units in shopping centres and even in houses on residential streets. Art in Windows’ displays range from a single installation for two weeks, to a series of different installations across many months.

The form is a female abdomen and legs extending down to the feet. Each represents a rape victim, The World Health Organization (WHO) estimate:

Global estimates published by WHO indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

(WHO, media centre, Violence against women, fact sheet, updated November 2016)

The charity Rape Crisis England and Wales respond to an average of 3,000 calls per month from women who have been raped. In April 2017 there were 422 recorded violent and sex offences recorded in Liverpool alone. It is estimated that only one in every ten incidents of rape are reported to the Police: the actual figure is projected to be much higher.

Polythene and shredded paper are used to create each of the sculptural works, red toned papers are used around the groin area to reflect the pain suffered from the attack. Wire wool is used to represent the pubic hair, this demonstrates resistance from the violation. The lack of upper body and stones in the feet show a woman who was unable to oppose the onslaught. The hook is driven through the groin area, this enables us to reflect upon the extreme violence used in sex attacks. We view to forms suspended in a warehouse environment, infinite in number and we are given the impression that more will simply be added to the collection.

Alison Little, the artist behind the Female Suspension, she has been North -West based for the last decade and worked on commissions from the Superlambanana trail to the Penguins. Her most recent conceptual works are SV: Sex by Violence, a series of four animated sculptures which show the different stages of a sex attack. They were exhibited in a solo show at zauhause gallery, Gostins Hanover Street (Liverpool City Centre) in July of 2017. In the months prior to this, she curated a group show ‘Shatter the Silence, Violence against women’ held at the Quaker Meeting House, School Lane (Liverpool City Centre). ‘Life from the Waist Down’ is the fourth of the series, representing the recovery process it was exhibited at Unit 51, Baltic Triangle (Liverpool) for 2016 Mental Health week. On the previous year she showed Brainscape as similar human head form and in 2014 Bipolar B was created for the celebrations at the Williamson Gallery in Birkenhead. In 2016 she worked on a commission for the race equality centre in Derby where a polyethene figure and a broken wheelchair were created to draw attention to race hate crime. Her first work relating the sexual violence was in 2014 for the Speaking Out exhibition at Embrace Arts, University of Leicester. The work was exhibited and Alison attended the Speaking Out conference where she addressed the delegates on the thought processes behind her work. Prior to that, she ran a successful funding bid and project managed the prospering ‘Rags Boutique’ as part of the ‘Shops up Front’ scheme from Liverpool City Council. This was an exhibition space and workshop venue was the use of found object was utilised to maximum effect. Alison helps Organise the Reclaim the Night March held in spring in Liverpool annually. The intentions behind the exhibition as a means of activism against sexual violence and to play its role in her campaign work.

The Female Suspension which will shock, inform, evoke debate and lead to social reform in direct regards to Rape crime.

Exhibition runs from the 5th of March, 5 Bold Place, Liverpool, L1 9DN

Free view from Street location.

Artist Talk to be held on International Women’s Day, Thursday the 8th of March from 6.30-7pm. Talk starting at Bold Place then either being held inside or to be moved to another location possible to be provided by John Moores Uni. Details to be confirmed, to book:

Free Ticket

Art in Windows

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