Women can be resilient.

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On the back of the tragic death of Caroline flack, It reminds me again how women are treated when it comes to the media and the criminal justice system. Caroline was vilified in the media for her actions more that some of her Male counter parts have been in the past. This is not unusual. I cannot judge and I was not involved. I am making no excuses for anyone, as assault and domestic violence is never to be accepted.

However, a trial by media and trial based on who you are, your gender and social standing continues to be an issue primarily for women.

I could bore you all with the facts and figures on this subject but I will give you a brief outline of why this happens all the time to women who struggle in areas not unlike Caroline.

In recent years the number of women in prison or on remand has been noted to have increased. This information had been gathered by a government report commissioned in 2011 ( lead by a woman! )

Women’s offending and the drivers behind it differ from men for the most part. In many cases they are related to their own experiences of domestic violence, sexual abuse, poverty, social exclusion and drug and alcohol misuse. It can be seen that women’s offending behaviour and their experience of domestic (physical and emotional) abuse, coercive control and sexual abuse continue to drive their offending behaviour. Women in prison have often been victims of much more serious offences than the ones they are being prosecuted for.

While many of the convicted woman are parents, there is still a strong element of misogyny and they are frowned upon in the media etc for committing such crimes instead of being a ‘focused parent’. When remanding these women without considering the reasons why they are committing these offenses they pull them away from their families and possible help and support.

I understand that this is not true of all woman who commit crimes and people have to be responsible for their actions. The law has to function to protect but we also have to look at looking after and protecting one another. There are changes being made. Services and groups have been developed to support woman and the issues that bring them to the point of offending. Some of which I have worked for.

I feel for so many who struggle to break the cycle and to find someone who will help or even just listen. They are scared to come forward for fear of being judged and making their situation worse. This stereotyping and fear of being judged is what stops women seeking help. In the same respects the stereotypes and old ideas of masculinity are what stop men from seeking help for issues such as their mental health.

I know its hard to see past the actions of those who commit these crimes. It is something that I have had to struggle with through out my career but the stereotypes and boxes the media and various institutions want to put us in are not helpful and drives us to put each other down and not lift each other up.

I am hoping with a more positive outlook with the likes of the empowered woman project we can focus on our strengths, how resilient we as women can be.

We all make unwise decisions and we never know what’s around the corner. I want to believe that people can change and their characters are not set in stone. As so many of the messages I have read since Caroline’s passing have said if you can do anything nowadays, just think of others and be kind.

 

Lesley @ TEWP x

Tips & Facts on Staying Safe Online.

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In the recent, tragic and completely preventable death of Caroline Flack I think now is a better time than any to evaluate the way we interact online and how to keep ourselves safe. A lot of information currently being circulated makes it sound like the online world isn’t much fun for people. But it can also be an amazing source of support, friendship and information. And pressure is on social media companies to tackle the problem. In the meantime, it’s just sensible to be aware of the potential downsides, though hopefully you won’t experience them yourself. And the good news is that there’s lots you can do to protect yourself and stay safe online.

The easiest way to protect yourself online is to think of the online space as if it were a real space – think of your social media accounts like your home. If you wouldn’t invite strangers into your home, don’t let people you don’t know access your profiles or accept their friend requests.

If you wouldn’t let a stranger in the street start flicking through the pics on your phone, don’t share images with someone you don’t know online. If you wouldn’t put up with someone shouting abuse at you outside your house then shut the door on them when they do it online too – block their account.

If a real-life stranger started contacting and following you you’d probably tell a trusted friend or someone who could help – you can do the same if it happens online.
If someone makes you feel unsafe by hanging around, following you from one place to another or harassing you, you can report them to the social media company as well as raising the alarm in real life. If they threaten to hurt you, or seem to be stalking you, you can also report them to the police. These things are just as illegal online as they are in real life.

The way you respond to online harassment is 100% up to you. If it feels powerful to respond or retweet, that’s okay. If you prefer to log off and take a break, that’s fine too. You don’t have to go online if you don’t feel like it – it’s OK to take breaks from social media. In fact, I’d advise it from time to time. If you spend too much time glued to the screen you start to go weirdly electronic and forget how to communicate effectively with real humans.

 

So here is my Top 10 Tips for Staying Safe Online:

  1. Privacy Settings – All social media accounts come with privacy settings – have a look at them and make sure they are set so that strangers can’t access and view your information. This doesn’t mean your friends won’t be able to find you, but it means you are in control of who sees your stuff.
  2. Pictures – You can usually set individual privacy settings for pictures too. Remember, once a picture is posted online there’s no stopping it. Even if you delete a picture it could already have been copied and shared by someone else, so the only way to completely control what pictures are out there is to think carefully about what you put up in the first place and what privacy settings you put against it.
  3. Passwords – A ‘strong’ password is one nobody else could guess – so don’t use family names or dates of birth etc. Adding numbers and/or symbols also increases strength and keep your passwords separate so you have a different one for each online account – that way even if someone hacked into your email or Facebook they wouldn’t be able to access your online banking or your Twitter.
  4. Personal Information – Never put out your address, phone number, what school/university/college you go to or any other personal details online. Don’t give them out to anyone who contacts you online either. ‘Why could you possibly need to know?’ is a solid question to ask here.
  5. Two-Step Verification – This is a nifty setting available on most email and social media accounts. It’s a bit of a faff but it’s worth it if you want to stay extra secure. You add a phone number to your account and when you access your profile from a new computer you get a code texted to you to verify it’s you and not someone else trying to get in.
  6. Reporting – Social media companies are running a business just like anyone else and they have a responsibility to keep their users safe. If someone is harassing, abusing or trolling you online or sending abusive messages, take a screenshot, block their profile and use whatever reporting function is available. If harassment, abuse or trolling is a regular occurrence, repeat as many times as needed until action is taken.
  7. Stranger Danger – Remember anyone can set up a social media profile using photos they’ve stolen from elsewhere online and all is not always what it seems. This means being wary of people you don’t know who befriend you online – remember, they may not be who they say they are.
  8. Keep It Online – Don’t agree to meet someone offline unless you already know them in real life.
  9. Think Before You Post – As with most advice on this list, this sounds pretty obvious but as recent history shows, plenty of people still need to be reminded. The internet has done this weird thing where it’s taken away the feeling that we’re talking to a real person and the time we had in the good old days to think before communicating with them. As a general rule, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face in real life you probably shouldn’t day it online. In fact, saying something out loud before you post it is a brilliant way to see whether it sounds completely ridiculous or harmful or just plain rude before you click that button and it’s too late to take it back.
  10. Help Is Available – You’re never alone. If anything goes wrong or feels scary online, it’s probably best to talk to someone about it, just to set your mind at rest. Talk to a friend or someone you trust, and if you don’t feel able to talk to someone you know, there are great organisations which can provide support over email, phone, Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook. I’ll list some fantastic resources at the end.

All of this is fairly easily done, and the occasional downsides shouldn’t put you off using social media if you want to. If we were all a bit more diligent, responsible and kind to one another, the internet would be a safe place to be. The circumstances that Caroline Flack found herself in were unenviable but we don’t have to let history repeat itself, it’s time for change, let’s all be a part of that.

Caroline Flack 1979-2020

Lauren @ TEWP x

Dear 16 year old Allie…

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Isn’t it mad how something can be the end of the world for you at one point in your life and seem so small at another? Now writing this as the person I am, it genuinely baffles me how one horrible boy could have ever influenced me in such a way that I would want to end my life.

I love my life. Well, most days I do but isn’t that what life is? My crazy life.

My life at 23 is in no way perfect, but it is mine and I am so lucky to have it.

If only I could tell my 16-year-old self that eventually none of those things I was so focused on would matter in 7 years because they didn’t even matter in a year from then. If only I could’ve told her that three months later she wouldn’t have to cry in a toilet cubicle during classes and crawl into her mums bed after school to get some rest from the sadness she felt so deeply.

The boy she thought was the love of her life will make her stomach curdle when she accidentally comes across a picture of him years later. He is insignificant and doesn’t deserve a sentence in her life story.

In only a few months she will be strong again and the good days will overlap the bad days. There will be bad days, do not mistake that. There will be bad days, and worse days but there will be so many good days to make up for it.

If only I could’ve told her that she should be alive to see all the good days, maybe she wouldn’t pull down her sleeves so quickly when she caught someone looking at her arms or cover the top of her thighs when the sun shines on her scars.

As much as I wish I could have told her all of this, 16-year-old me must’ve known all along because she’s now 23-year year old me.

What would you say to 16 year old you?

Allie @ TEWP x

Life of a square peg.

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As a first time blogger it’s hard to know where to start and you wounder why anyone would actually want to read what you have to say. That being said I’m going to write this anyway. Even if it is just for me.

I’d always fancied writing a blog, but didn’t really think I had anything to talk about. Then I was sitting with Katie, my therapist going over things we have discussed for almost a year now of my childhood and my disabilities and other things I’ve came through and she made me realise, Maybe I do.

So, here it is my first post!

I won’t bombard you with everything in one go, I’ll try to add an Eastenders type cliff hanger to each post to make you want to come back lol. Just kidding. It won’t be that type of blog.

Mostly this will be a place where I’ll talk about me, my disabilities and the struggles this causes me day to day but I’ll try and talk about more lighthearted things to like my business or how I found that restaurant we went to at the weekend.
For now, this is just in introduction a little hello this is me to easy you in..and me.

My name is Jaki. Yes I like to spell it weird. wait till you see my full name.

I’m 31 years old and identify as a cis female living in Glasgow. I’m also disabled and have been since birth, My disabilities though are hidden and unless you really looked or asked like a normal person you would probably never even know I wasn’t “normal” I’ll get into all my little hidden gems on a later blog but for now all that needs to be said is that my disabilities effect me day to day and lack of support from employers lead me to start my own business last year.

I have a partner who helps look after me, he probably won’t see it that way but he does. If it wasn’t for a lot of the things he does I would really struggle to live the life I do. My mum and dad are still around and I have 3 brothers who probably don’t really understand things like I wish the did or give me credit for the hard times.. maybe they will read this? Hi hello!

Over the years I’ve struggled to accept who I am for …well who I am. I’ve tried to hide things or play things down, pushing myself to limits just to try and fit in with it never really working out and me always being left hurt.

That’s where I came up with my blog name (with the help of my partner Chris…I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t say he helped lol) I’ve always been a square peg trying to fit in a round hole. I’m not in a one size fits all situation here and I’m hoping this blog will reach others in the same slightly deflating boat. I want us to help each other re-inflate our boats, put a big ol’ plaster over the puncture and sail off into the sunset of empowerment and acceptance!

One of the reasons for starting this blog is being involved with The Empowered Woman Project @theempoweredwomanproject #TEWP – This is a community encouraging us to come together be more supportive and accepting of each other, no matter what your back ground. We celebrate all kinds of women (and men) doing extraordinary things or for even just being you. In this current time with social media, online bullying and just life being a difficult place to live we need this kind of support to be more main stream and more out there. We need to be supporting each other, listening to each other, believing each other and loving each other.

More than ever I feel I’m now in a place where I’m ready to talk openly about what life is really like for someone like me and how support from others helped me get through the hard times along the way.

I’d love for you to join me on the journey!

Hope to see you next time

Jaki @ TEWP x

@lifeofasquarepeg

xo

Lauren’s story.

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One day in the winter of 2017 I was having a perfectly ordinary Saturday. I’d woken up in the morning, taken a diet pill, washed it down with a Slimfast smoothie, and forced myself out into the cold to make sure I burned off all the calories from last nights dinner. Two hours later, I was passed out on my bedroom floor exhausted and reaching for my phone so I could find pictures of bodies I needed mine to be exactly like; to validate my reasons for constantly putting my body through hell.

While sifting through what I believed to be people celebrating #selflove, I found something different. A woman writing about loving her body as it was. In her own words, she was body positive, and she was daring to be visibly happy in a body that we’ve all been told we weren’t allowed to be happy in. There she was embracing all the parts of herself that I’d spent my whole life hating myself for – her soft stomach that rolled when she sat, the cellulite that covered the thickness of her thighs, the jiggle and sway of her arms as she moved.

I had never realised that was an option. Nobody had ever told me that shrinking my body didn’t have to be my ultimate goal in life. I’d only ever been told that ‘self-love’ would come once I looked like what society told me I should look like.

So two and a half years ago, I walked into my local library, searching for @bodyposipanda’s new book and I was anxious to get my hands on a copy. As I headed towards the ‘Self-Help’ section, I braced myself for the usual diet detox and lose-weight-fast books but the bright pink cover was the first thing that caught my eye, and I picked it up.

As I caressed the pages and looked down at Megan’s beaming smile I thought about some of the things that had led me to this point. I remembered being 8 years old at school, standing in line waiting to go back to class after morning break and having a boy the same age telling me he didn’t like me and a couple of other girls because we were fat. I remembered the time 10 years later in my first year at university when I decided to shut myself away instead of going on countless nights out with my new friends because nothing looked ‘right’ on my fat body. I pictured myself at many points in the years that had passed since then, at my fluctuating weight and many dress sizes. Then I snapped out of it because I realised in that moment, if I hadn’t found happiness hiding away from all the amazing opportunities life was throwing at me because I’m fat, then I was never going to.

So I decided to take a leap of faith. I immersed myself in Megan’s book and once I’d finished, the online body positivity community. Since then my whole life has changed, I’ve engaged both online and in real life with discussions surrounding body positivity which have branched out into other areas – feminism, sex positivity, periods, LGBTQIA+ ally-ship and much more that hopefully through working with @theempoweredwomanproject, I’ll be able to talk more about. And lastly, I hope that something I write about in the coming months will resonate with every single one of you and help you to make that leap wherever you need to, to reclaim your happiness and to take your power back. Because life is simply too short not to be happy!

Lauren @ TEWP x

(@missmethven)

An ode to dating apps.

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A couple of weeks ago, I found myself single once again. The ‘you’re dumped’ text came through, and within the same second, bumble and hinge were downloaded. (Not tinder – I received a hefty 25yr ban after an incident with sending my pal my other pal’s only fan account, which counts as selling sex for money)

Really, I should’ve learned my lesson by now – all three of my boyfriends I found through dating apps, and they’ve never really been successful. Granted I was with one of the boys for nearly three years, but time doesn’t equal a success does it? So why do I keep going back? (Even after my nana begged me on the phone this weekend to stop meeting boys off of tinder.

Number one – the absolute inability to reply once you mention anything about a traumatic past. So I was sexually assaulted three years ago, a truth I’m very comfortable with, so much so, that most of my writing opportunities came from me being so open about it. Turns out when you match with a guy on bumble, and within the first ten messages you’re talking about how you’re passionate about the safety of sexual assault survivors, you either get a message like ‘oh’, or even better, no reply at all. It’s like a filter; here are the three boys left who aren’t scared of reality.

Number two – Is it partially an addiction? Yes. There is no better feeling than swiping right, and it resulting in a match. Not for romantic reasons, it’s just a massive ego boost isn’t it?

Number three – Like Emma and Mr Knightley, (but far less romantic) a small dream of mine is to fall for a richer, older man, which is why I have my age setting 22-33. There’s nothing more settling than knowing a guy has a job, and is no longer a man child. However, if they have their settings as low as 22 should probably be a massive red flag, but where’s the fun without them.

Number four – the premium content. See Exhibit A, B and C

Dating1                                Dating2Dating3

 

Number five –the witty anecdotes that will inevitably be part of my repertoire when I eventually turn to comedy as a coping mechanism. After a second date with a boy from Bumble (a very small part of me thought he was my future husband), and four ciders, I bit the bullet and confidently went in for the kiss. Not only did he take a large step back when I went in, but I was so embarrassed I had to physically run away. The next day I received a text from the guy saying he still had feelings for someone else. If this wasn’t a slap in the face enough, after returning to Hinge, I get notification saying ‘here is Fred (we’ll call him Fred), you two are extremely compatible. You two should meet’.

Number six –most of the girls that were in my year are either moving in w their boyfriends/getting engaged/getting married or having children. I know that shouldn’t be a reason for using dating apps, but at least I acknowledge that fact, and realise what I’m doing is wrong. Will it stop using it? Most likely not. Whilst my pals are shacking up with their long-term boyfriend, I’m getting a messages at 1am, saying ‘tell me, what is your opinion on pineapple on pizza 😊’, or ‘you up?’.

With all joking aside (not about the addiction, I’m definitely slightly addicted), I know I don’t need a boyfriend. I’m good enough by myself, and I know this because I’ve seen my rendition of ‘all that jazz’ in the mirror, and any guy would be incredibly lucky to date me.

Amy’s story.

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When you’re struck with a life changing, debilitating illness and disability, it’s a tough pill to swallow, knowing that going forward, your life will never be the same ever again. For me, cushings disease has caused a multitude of further illnesses and problems, which I don’t really talk about, some of them, I’ve been a bit embarrassed by.

Due to the aforementioned, I find it difficult to live a ‘normal’ life, life hasn’t exactly been normal since I was in my late teens, sometimes, I struggle knowing this. Needing to readjust to a body and mind that does not work the way it used to can leave you reeling, leave you grieving a life that is limited in comparison to before. So many suffer in silence, faced with stigma in a world that idolises health.

Living with a chronic illness and/or disability means that each day you wake up, not knowing if you will be able to find the energy to even deal with the smallest of tasks. If you choose to go out, you know that you are sacrificing the next few days, if you go out, you may have to go home earlier than expected because of pain, fatigue, anxiety etc. Do you even want to go out anymore? Do people think I’m not sick if I go out and put a bit of make up on? The sad reality is that yes, so many people judge and assume that because you’re doing something for once and have made some effort with your hair and make up, that you must be miraculously better. I sincerely hope that those people are reading this, that those people open their minds and try to understand.

Amy Bojar

These photos were taken days apart. The photo on the left with the puffy red face is the aftermath of simply visiting relatives and doing a little bit of shopping.

The most frustrating and upsetting thing after being struck with something so debilitating and life changing is seeing others do things that you desire to do. You are constantly in a battle of guilt and worry; do people see you as lazy? Are your friends and family seeing you as unreliable because you cancelled those plans again?

A lot of those who suffer, including myself, constantly worry about the impact on the people you love. You may lose contact with friends and family over your illness, which may increase your desire to be ‘normal’ again. However, your true friends and family will understand how your illness is beyond your control and will ride the waves with you. One of the hardest things to accept is that you may have to rely on others more and this involves learning that, actually, it’s ok to allow someone else to love and care for you when you need it.

A huge lifestyle change is often needed and it can be incredibly limiting and will often teach you the importance of self care and listening to your body. It may feel like the illness is controlling your life, but changing your mindset to realise it does not define you is freeing. Life isn’t fair, it really isn’t but, with any chronic illness or disability, you can still play the best game you can with the cards that you’re dealt.

Cushings and Adrenal Insufficiency have completely changed my life, I’ve opened my eyes and I don’t take anything for granted anymore. I am still grieving my old life in some way. I wish that I could work a regular Monday to Friday 9-5 job, go out every weekend with husband and my friends, plan days and nights out weeks in advance, not thinking if I’m going to be well enough or not. I grieve my old body, I definitely grieve my old mind, before I had my brain surgery, before my brain changed shape, causing cognitive impairment that is likely to turn into early dementia, I had an offer of an MA Scholarship in the USA and a dream job in Dubai. I wish more than anything that I could have taken those opportunities. However, I am so incredibly grateful for my second chance. Most of the time, I try to remain positive and make the most of life, as I most definitely now see it as a precious gift.

The words I share above can hopefully help those who are isolated, I am trying to give a voice to those who persevere through chronic illness and disability each day. Everyone has their own unique life and no two journeys are ever the same. I want people to feel less isolated and even empowered knowing that you CAN lead a life of fulfilment, despite limitations.

More information on cushings and AI can be found on my website – shouldifallbehind.com

Amy @ TEWP x