Shorter Karl Du Fresne

So, I made the mistake after returning from town today of opening the newspaper, and was within minutes of getting to the B section of the Dominion Post assaulted with the misogyny and rape-apology of a piece from Karl Du Fresne, which fortunately for those of you who haven’t read it, is not online.

Here’s the “Shorter Karl Du Fresne”, or for those unfamiliar with internet memes, a one sentence summary of his article: “ACC is a welfare agency because it offers counselling to rape survivors.”

Firstly, I am going to assume that Karl is neither a rape survivor himself, nor has he consulted any in the construction of his article, given that he shows all the sensitivity of a rampaging rhinoceros. I was going to stay off the ACC “controversy” on G.Blog (and definitely here) because it’s being covered enough by pan-left blogs, but this forces my hand right here, political hot potato or not. (As this blog is intentionally non-partisan I promise not to touch the wider political issues of whether ACC is viable as-is 🙂 )

Firstly and foremost: Rape victims are victims by accident. Nobody asks to be raped1, nobody entices someone to rape them, and nobody deserves to be raped because their rapist or someone trying to excuse their rape thinks the victim2 is a tease. There is a definite theme in Karl’s piece that people (he specifies women- although we should keep in mind that it’s possible for men, especially very young men, to be raped) who don’t press charges are not really victims or survivors of rape, and that nobody is to blame for what might have happened to them because they aren’t willing to have the matter brought to court. There is a very good reason why most rape cases are never even reported, and those that are rarely result in convictions: People like Karl try to shift the blame from (alleged) rapists to rape victims, and wield the word “alleged” like a proclamation of innocence. I have some news for the Karl and anyone out there who think that rape is not a real workplace injury unless a trial has taken place: Innocent until proven guilty is a system we use to prevent the state holding a kangaroo court, not a denial that victims can ever exist without laying charges.

Furthermore, even if, as Karl implies, there are women out there who are trying to dupe the system… well, firstly, they would need that counselling anyway, and secondly, any decent counsellor is pretty good at identifying attention-seeking behaviour and differentiating it from other psychological problems. If someone really is using rape as an excuse, then they have a personality problem that needs to be dealt with before they can be taken seriously by their employer.

Between this and the issue that rape trauma can be debilitating and seriously turn around lives for the worse, ACC’s no-fault system is actually a great way to fund recovery and return to regular life and work for victims who want to become survivors and learn how to deal with the work environment again, and is well within its mandate of insurance for high-impact incidents, whether in our working lives or private lives. Karl’s note at the end of his tirade against this much-needed help is that:

Interestingly enough, an Auckland survey of women being counselled for sexual abuse found that 30 per cent had undergone 100 or more ACC-funded sessions of therapy. Despite that, many expressed disappointment that they were not getting enough.

Instead of perhaps taking from this that rape can induce real and sometimes debilitating long-term trauma, with many survivors having their memories of the event “triggered” by even tangential reminders let alone direct discussion of rape in general, Karl seems to want to imply that this is a waste of money that the state should not be paying for.

I disagree: when the state is an active participant in combating rape and rape-apology, and men raping women becomes as rare as women raping men, then maybe- maybe we can start labelling the cost of supporting rape survivors as “welfare”, at least in the sense of improving the welfare of our society. But when we as a society stand by and let this sort of thing happen, obstruct bringing the perpetrators to justice, glorify objectification and the suggestion of rape in our culture, and don’t even know that partner rape is a bigger threat than street rape, then we are certainly dealing with the occupational cost for women and other rape victims of working or even just living in our rape-friendly society, where women are still viewed by some as property that should not be taken from its proper place.

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Would the other ex-partners please stand up?

So, I’m going to issue an ultimatum here: I don’t care whether Pauline Hanson really was photographed nude by an ex-boyfriend or not, and it has nothing to do with her being from over the ditch. But what I do care about is this: How is it not trying to dismiss her career because she, at one point, may have dared to have sex while being female?

Politicians, even ones you or I don’t like- are entitled to have sex lives, especially if we want to be able to vote for people who have stable long-term partners or children. Sex lives are almost always a necessary ingredient there. We cannot then turn around and try to make our (or Australia’s) representatives ashamed of one of the parts of their life that makes them so able to understand our lives as citizens and voters. Being a politician certainly exposes you to embarrassment, but if we as a society agree that sexy times need to stay in the bedroom, (or at least, behind closed doors) then we have to afford the same level of consideration to our representatives- at least so far as they’re willing to stay out of our own bedrooms. That’s the case against this sort of tabloid “journalism” in general: that it attacks people who are living ordinary lives to pander to our prejudices.

But what else causes me to be dismissive of this bitter popularity grab to discredit Pauline Hanson is that no ex-partner of any male politician has ever pulled this sort of crap. (Partly, this is because women and gay men don’t tend to think as much that they own anyone they’ve seen in a sexual relationship before, while some straight men definitely do think that way of all their partners) I don’t think it even matters if those photos are of her or not: there’s no reason to pay attention to them in a world where only women can have their careers sabotaged by the papers when they are caught having sex. We can talk more about the general moral consequences of sexy photos if it’s Kevin Rudd or John Key next.

edit: Looking around the interwebs, QoT reminded me of yet another thing that pissed me off about the coverage that led me to write about this, which I had forgotten overnight: TV3 doesn’t get to excuse showing nude pictures of someone who may be Pauline Hanson because she’s willing to wear lycra, unless being caught wearing tight jeans on TV somehow turns me into a male porn star. (In which case, I better start avoiding cameras…)