Photo by Mike Kemp
Artillery Row

Prisoner of conscience

Ceri Black faces prosecution for tweeting that child rapists and their enablers should be stopped

Two years ago, I was living a quiet life as a suburban mum. Today, I’m living under the threat of prosecution for nothing more than tweeting that child rapists and those who enable them should be stopped. If that sounds incredible, and you want to see for yourself the tweets which brought the police to my door, you can find them here. They are difficult to read and strongly worded, but I stand by them.

Predatory males will become anything, to get access to children

In March 2020, I set up a twitter account, @femmeloves, and started making forays into the gender debates. I read detransitioners’ stories. I watched women being eviscerated for saying “biological sex is real, and it matters”, or “fully intact males should not be in women’s changing rooms”. I watched with horror as porn-sick males in dresses and eyeshadow claimed not only that they were lesbians, but that lesbians who did not want to sleep with them were bigots.

The final straw for me was the Wii Spa incident. A male, who turned out to have a history of sex offences, went into the women’s changing room and exposed his penis to women and girls. A woman complained about him; she was subsequently vilified on social media, called a transphobe and a bigot. But she was fierce, and she was right. I know, from my own bitter experience of childhood sexual abuse, that predatory males will do anything, pretend to be anything, become anything, to get access to children.

Child molesters have trained as teachers and priests; they have become celebrities, run marathons, raised millions for charity. Framing this debate in terms of the difficulties trans people face in changing rooms seemed wrong. The actual issue is this: “but I’m a transwoman” has become a complete defence for a whole range of sexually predatory behaviours. This is not about dysphoric people and their struggles, but about how predators can use “I’m trans” as a weapon against anybody with safeguarding concerns. I reached out to my trans friends, and was surprised to find that many of them felt as I did.

I politely declined their interview. They threatened me with arrest

To shed light on these issues, I found my courage and wrote a series of threads about the sexual abuse I suffered as a child but most of all, about recovering. Ever since, my inbox has been full of messages from survivors, who tell me that they have read my threads, and that they feel seen, heard, believed, less alone. That they have gone to therapy, that they were finally able to tell somebody. That I’ve helped them take steps out of the darkness. My most cherished messages are from the mothers of children, who have recognised their youth leaders or new boyfriends in the words I have written, and have taken action to protect their children.

Unfortunately, one of my threads was read by Scottish actor and twitter activist David Paisley. He initially threatened me with libel on DM, unless I deleted a tweet that he felt triggered by. Not wanting the hassle, I removed the tweet and hoped it would blow over. But then, a month ago, I got a call from the police. Paisley had reported me for transphobic hate crime, homophobic hate crime, harassment, misuse of an electronic communications network and who knows what else. The police wanted to talk to me about it.

I politely declined their interview. They threatened me with arrest if I didn’t attend. I told them, at a speech in Belfast, to come and arrest me if they were so inclined. They decided instead to pass the case to the Public Prosecutions Service of Northern Ireland (PPSNI). Last week, my therapist wrote to the PPSNI to ask them to hurry things up, but they didn’t have a case in my name. Confused, I tweeted at the Police and the prosecution service asking them what was going on.

If the justice system wants me in prison, I will go with my head held high

The next morning, approximately twelve hours after my tweet, two policemen knocked on my door. They apologised to me, read me my rights, and told me they were referring “this matter” to the prosecution service (PPSNI). They will then decide whether to proceed to prosecuting me for (and every time I write this, I feel utterly incredulous) the crime of tweeting out that children need to be protected, that child rapists are evil, and that those who blur boundaries around child protection should not wade into debates they do not understand.

Paisley has a history of resorting to the police in his disagreements with women — his response to me is a follow up to what he did to Marion Millar in Scotland. I don’t think he’s a predator. But he knows nothing about safeguarding, and his boundary blurring interventions in the debate about the Wii Spa incident were unhelpful, to say the very least.

I hope that the PPSNI make the right decision on this and conclude that I have no case to answer. Two days after they came to my door, they announced that they will review their membership in the Stonewall Diversity Champions Scheme, and maybe I had something to do with that. If the justice system does want me to go to court, or to prison, then I will go with my head held high. I stand by every word I have written. The further they push these nonsensical charges, the more people will be made aware of safeguarding issues, and the more survivors will read my threads and feel safe, protected, less alone. More mothers will realise the truth. More children will lie safe in their beds tonight, because I was just a little bit brave. In that knowledge, I will sleep soundly, even if I have to do it in a cell.

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