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.


1 That is, nobody asks to be raped seriously. The words might come out of people’s mouths from time to time, but that’s what we adults call roleplay, and involves the fetishisation of a fear, and not an actual lack of consent. The word rape when used in any other context implies lack of consent for a reason.

2 You’ll notice I use both the words “victim” and “survivor” in this post- partially because I’ve been doing a bit more reading and discussion on the difference between the two, and even I am human and in need of education and enlightenment on some issues. While I have all the support in the world for people who have survived rape and determined that they don’t want to feel like a victim any more, sadly not all people who have been raped have that chance- and in a purely non-psychological sense, all survivors are victims, but not all victims are survivors.

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2 Responses

  1. Whew. Thanks.

    For my (un-published by Salient, who commissioned it) piece on sexual abuse survivors, go here:
    http://blogs.myspace.com/anarkaytie
    then scroll down to the post dated 1 Dec ’08.

    It’s where I post most of my feminist/radical/activist stuff.
    And the book reviews!

  2. Hey Katie- thanks for sharing. Sorry I took so long to approve you, but you got caught in the spam filter where I don’t get emails to check up on the comments.

    You should be able to freely comment here now. 🙂

    Part of what you’ve written on your livejournal gels with my experience with mental illness in general. (Not to entrench that whole “being raped scars you for life” meme or anything, just acknowledging that many people who are raped suffer from PTSD, so being raped has some overlap with mental illness)

    I’ve actually wanted to do a post on our negative attitude to mental health in New Zealand for the last few weeks and the way that rape victims also suffer from this… but I’ve just been using up most of my spare time de-stressing from what I’ve been doing out in the real world. 😉

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