Dr Julie Carter



I’ve just come back from North West Scotland—it was heartbreakingly beautiful. But I’m not going to tell you about the ever-changing mesmerising colours of the sea, and the beautiful acres of rough mountain rock we toughened our hands on, and the sea eagle who came to watch as I cooled of in the waves after a hot day on the crag, and dolphins that wheeled through the water as we carefully climbed the sea-cliffs above, and seals basking in the sun, and the diamond painted adder who politely waited on the path while we stepped by, and the light, oh my goodness the light up there—surely this is heaven.

Mind you—best not to mention the midges, the clegs, the ticks, the inconsiderate drivers, the one who ripped our wingmirror with no phone number left to apologise. Better to mention the wonderful woman in the Laide Post-Office who replaced our gas, lent us a spanner, made us coffee and let us use the internet.

I wasn’t really wanting to tell you about any of these because there is another kind of story to tell.



A Midsummers Evening on a Scottish Campsite

It happened in a flash, under the mountains, by the sea,

the couple next to me, her on the ground, hands raised, cowering while he ripped off his shirt in a gesture of stag-rage, moved forward, lifted his kicking boot.


My voice was steady, and strong. And so very calm. And I wondered where this calmness came from—was it from the ocean lapping beside us?

I talked to him; in broken English he asked me for a cigarette I did not have.

I talked to her, sat near her; broken, she silently gestured for me to leave.

I talked to their two male friends; “Don’t worry. It is normal for this couple.”

Sick and scared I left. I left. I did not call the police and neither did anyone else.

It was too remote, too far to come, they wouldn’t take it seriously, it might make things worse.

“It is normal…”




Sometimes my friends, as often women as men, take issue with my “feminism”. Taking things too seriously by calling out the small acts of everyday misogyny we are conditioned into tolerating. But look—the moment something serious happens I did something useful at first, but then I backed off, afraid and confused. I understand why I didn’t call the police; but I also understand that it was it a mistake. And for all I know a very costly one. I thought long and hard about writing publicly about this incident. I’m not writing to admonish myself or to achieve any catharsis of my guilt. We are a society; we are all implicated. It’s easy to victim blame. From a vantage point of autonomy and safety it’s so easy to look at a situation like that and wonder why she does not just leave, but then we all know it isn’t easy at all for someone who is manipulated and vulnerable. And many domestic murders happen during attempts to leave.

According to the charity Women’s Aid: “There are no reliable prevalence data on domestic abuse but the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) offers the best data available. According to these data, for the year ending March 2020, an estimated 1.6 million women aged 16 to 74 years experienced domestic abuse in the last year (ONS, 2020).” There are many reasons to think that this is most likely a gross underestimate.

There are many different definitions of feminism. Some say it’s about equality of men and women. Others say a world in which women were not oppressed would be wholly different; that it’s not about women having opportunities to be like men but about all people having opportunities to be themselves while respecting and refraining from exploiting each other. Which would mean an end to the sex trade, and to exploitative porn, and to the normalisation of women being strangled during sex by men—in short, an end to the humiliation inflicted by one gender upon another—amongst other things. One definition of feminism which strikes a chord with me is from one who understood all about the power of language. Virginia Woolf said that “A feminist is any woman who tells the truth about her life”.

And yet —is telling the truth enough? —it doesn’t feel like it. Every night in Scotland I slept to the sounds of the soothing sea but I doubt that the woman I told you about could appreciate the lullaby of the waves. It doesn’t feel like telling the truth is enough but it is necessary. So, I’ll leave you with a poem which is a testament to my own mother. It speaks some of the truth of what she endured and is written in her North-Eastern voice.


Is It Serious?

Eee, will you give uz a hand wi’ the dishus pet? There seems to be a lorra washin-up tunite.

Anyway, that lad ya seeing—is it serious? I mean, well, yu no, wu divunt want any awkward surprises, de wu?

Well anyway pet, tak ya’ time—-that’s my advice, yu divunt want te marry the wrong bloke.

Did ye say you’ve done ya homework? You’ll be alright, an intelligent girl like you.

But divunt, yu no, get shoved into out yu divunt want, an, yu no, tak precautions.

Anyway, eee, that tea towel’s manky gerra clean un out.

Ye should marry a bloke, yu no, well at least yu fancy ‘im.

I mean I love you bairns but when ee forces uz, that big fat belly pushin uz down—eee, the pain. Never mind.

Why haven’t yu wrung that dishcloth oot? Get to sleep early tonight pet, before ee comezin.

Mind, we’ve had a nice chat, haven’t wu?