Saturday, 19 October 2019

Navy tackles sexual assault: 'banter' and buns


This is a straight lift from an article in Metro, 16 Oct 2019. 
Sex-charge sailor ‘poked hair of his female colleagues’ by Annabal Bagdi. https://www.metro.news/sex-charge-sailor-poked-hair-of-his-female-colleagues/1760038/
I have added sub-headings for readabilty, as well as links to related cases. 
A surprising amount of sexist behaviour still exists within this 30,000-strong organisation, in which women are 10 %. 
Since 1990 the UK Royal Navy has officially been hot on supporting respect and equal opportunities. The Merchant Navy's record is poorer. 
Women either tackle the matter informally, leave their jobs, or - in most cases - keep quiet. https://twitter.com › hashtag › whyididntreport




Court martial


"A SAILOR has been accused of sexual assault after allegedly poking the hair-dos of female colleagues.
   PO Patrick Bennett made lewd jibes while repeatedly touching the women’s bun hairstyles, a court martial heard.
   He is said to have shrugged off the remarks as ‘office banter’, telling one woman at the Royal Navy Air Station in Yeovilton, Somerset, that she would have a short-lived military career unless she played along.
   The woman told Bulford military court in Wiltshire that on one occasion the serviceman, based on HMS Diamond, grabbed her wrist and pulled her hand towards his groin.
   She recalled ‘snatching’ her hand away and managing to only touch his trouser material.

 
PO Patrick Bennett RN: Yeovilton

'Banter' and PMT


She told the court martial: ‘He said once “if you don’t take banter, you’re not going to get very far in the Navy”, and once asked if I was in a mood because I was on my period.’
   When interviewed, Bennett said he never intended for his comments to be taken as innuendos and apologised when asked to stop.

 
'Hairy bun hole'


A second woman said Bennett had poked his fingers into her hair bun up to 20 times while working at the air station and made comments about her weight.
    ‘When you have your hair in a bun, it creates a natural hole in the middle, and he stuck his finger in the centre of that bun,’ she said. ‘He would say “how’s your hairy bun hole?”’
   She denied fabricating the allegations to ‘get back at’ the serviceman and rejected claims she disliked him.
   Prosecutor Maj Lindsey Jones said: ‘This was not banter — this was uninvited, it was unwanted and it was sexual assault.’
   Bennett denies four counts of sexual assault. The trial continues."



Recent related cases in UK Navy


HMS Vanguard, Wikimedia Commons

2016. In August 2016 Lt. Basil Purdue was sacked in disgrace following a court martial. He had groped a junior's breast aboard submarine HMS Vanguard. (pictured)
The  woman said  “I am constantly battling to show women are equal in the RN but they are not."
 https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/08/01/royal-navy-officer-sacked-in-disgrace-after-groping-female-sailo/

2018. There were 65 courts martial of naval personnel. Six of these were for alleged sexual offences. Four of the six were found not guilty. Of the two found guilty, the lieutenant from Northwood convicted of rape and attempted sexual assault was give a seven-year sentence. https://tinyurl.com/GOV-courts-martial-2018


US and UK Navies


US Navy policy tries to prevent sexual assault.
In 2011 the policy was found to be inadequate.
https://www.stripes.com/dod-oversight-of-sexual
-harassment-policies-inadequate-gao-finds-1.158790.
In 2016 in the US Navy there were 1403 cases of sexual assault reported. Under-reporting is common. 
https://www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2017/august/nobody-asked-me-sexual-assault-not-our-navy

288 reported cases occurred in the Royal Navy in the years 2017 and 2018 combined. 
Investigators found a further 60 cases that were not reported.
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-48993201

Thursday, 10 October 2019

The black cook, the cross-dressed wife, and the ship's hot kitchen 1852

Here's a little fragment for Black History Month, though it's mainly about a white woman who  worked her passage from New York to Britain. Her mate - but seemingly not her accomplice - was a 'man of colour.'
The emotional element is absent from this tale, which appears in The Bradford Observer, 26 August 1852.  (I am grateful to John Ellis for drawing the article to my attention. )

New York 's East River, 1848. Public Domain, 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=126718


On Good Friday 1852  'a respectable female from Spilsby' (Lincs)  married a Mr Bealby. He turned out to a ne'er -do-well. 
He was supposed to be opening a grocery shop in Boston, Lincs. But instead he booked them onto a ship from Liverpool to New York, telling his wife they were going to Scotland for a few days to see friends. 
When they got to New York on this unnamed ship, he wasted their money in idleness then wanted to go on to California. At that time it was seen as a land of opportunity, including for gold prospectors. 
But 'his wife having no faith in him, refused to accompany him and decided to return to England.' 

 

Trousers for safety

'To accomplish this, having no funds, she donned  a garb that would insure her from insult, and obtained  an engagement as a cook's mate on board a vessel bound for Old England. (The cook himself was a man of colour.)'
Black, brown and disabled seamen, especially those with peg legs, were often employed as ship's cooks at that time. real versions of Long John Silver were assisted by able-bodied boys. 

See this poem and image about Billy Peg-Leg's fiddle, by Bill Adams (https://allpoetry.com/Billy-Peg-leg%27s-Fiddle)

I've a pal called Billy Peg-leg, with one leg a wood leg,
And Billy' he's a ship's cook and lives upon the sea;
And hanging by his griddle
Old Billy keeps a fiddle
For fiddling in the dog-watch
When the moon is on the sea.

She arrives intact

There is a somewhat happy finale to Mrs Bealby's trip. She ended the voyage 'in the exclusive possession of her secret'. After walking 57 miles she and arrived 'in her sailor attire', at her parents’ house at 2 a.m..  We can only imagine how traumatised she must have been.
This saga feels a very interesting combination to me: Mrs Bealby and the cook sharing a galley, and presumably a sleeping space.  It was extremely rare for women to be allowed to be ship's cooks at that time, except on very small family-run vessels. 
Of course I want to know what happened. 

The questions

1. What was it like to be cooped up together 24:7 producing food for perhaps hundreds of people? They were trapped in a tiny space. They worked side by side for maybe 35 days (It can reasonably be assumed that they were on a sailing ship. Steamships did not really start on that route for another decade. The voyage took 7-10 days)


Galley of HMS Warrior, as built ten years later and in more pristine condition than a working merchant ship would have been. Wiki Commons


2. As such precise details about her marriage were available surely Mrs Bealby, and therefore the cook, could be tracked down? 
No such luck. Census returns and directories show that there are Bealbys in the area but none that fits this picture. No wedding record exists.
We are left with a story of a stigmatised seaman (the cook)  working in a mixed-race team with an upset person who withheld a major secret from him  for five weeks.

3.So did the cook know? Did he side with Mrs Bealby in deceiving the ship's officers? We cannot know if he ever guessed her sex, or even, perhaps, her distress? 

4. Did the cook - and crew - ever find out later? Probably not, because the newspaper report revealed no details about the ship. And maybe Mrs Bealby used another surname while on board, anyway.

5. Was this the first black person she had met ( as she didn't live in seaport or big city)? And what did she learn from the encounter, in a working environment which is often hot and irritable? We can only guess how that proximity affected her attitudes to race.


This is one of those stories that needs to developed into fiction. I hope someone enjoys the process.