Excuses aren’t apologies, and no men are monsters

I briefly covered Veitch’s apology in my criticism of the Herald, but I wanted to come back in more detail here and mention what really bothered me about the way he issued it. Veitch as a presenter ought to know about the power of words, and his apology was not the words of a man who has faced up to what he has done. They were the words of a man who has tortured himself about it and never properly closed off the matter.

While he obviously wants to move on from the incident and seems to have resolved to not do anything similar again, (as much as it is possible to do so) he is still excusing his own behaviour1, even though he clearly knows it was wrong because he said just one sentence beforehand that his behaviour was “inexcusable”.

Veitch also talks as if his ex-partner was hardly even present at the time. There is little mention of the impact on her, it’s well buried into his statement, and he does not discuss the extent or facts of his violence.2

Many have questioned whether Veitch should be employed in broadcasting at all. I think that the apology is good evidence that he’s just not ready for a high-profile career yet, and has work to do with his demons. While I firmly believe that men who have been violent in the past and regret it deserve a chance to build a good life for themselves, just like all people who commit crimes or make poor choices in life, I think that the best way for them to do that is by working to mitigate the effects of domestic violence or even trying to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Women’s Refuge seems to agree.

I sincerely hope Veitch will use this as an opportunity to really face up to what he did, not just avoid it the way he has for the last few years. I hope he’ll remind men that violence harms the perpetrator, not just the victim, and that’s why self-control is so important. And I hope he’ll let men know that even men who dislike violence in general can still lash out at people they care about. We all have a darker side to us that we have to control. Every man has within him the potential to be an abuser, a rapist, a repressive and controlling partner. Or we have the potential to teach others the self-control, sympathy, empathy, care, and understanding they need to avoid those mistakes. Veitch’s statement made it clear that he lost control because he didn’t didn’t know how to deal with extreme feelings without lashing out. Many men don’t, and that’s a problem we as a society need to put urgent work into.

I’ve touched on this before- but one of the good things to come about from this story will be increased awareness that men who abuse women are about as “normal” as you can get. Veitch might have been a high flier, but he clearly had no psychological imbalance, doesn’t seem to have any exceptional anger problems- all he had to compel him to this course of action was the male privilege of being bigger and stronger, and of not being constantly pressured to control your urges to physically harm in the same way women are. And sadly, that is enough.

1Being stressed, exhausted, and perhaps upset or emotionally tired after a breakup is no excuse for the level of abuse that Veitch has been accused of. It certainly explains something about the nature of what made him do what he did, but it’s nowhere near an excuse.
2Probably for legal reasons.

Disempowering the victim

Rosemary McLeod has a largely wonderful article about chequebook justice. It’s nice to see her say within this article that she is willing to accept that a woman would not want to go up against international rugby players during a rape trial, and is the closest thing I’ve seen to reason on this whole debate thus far.

But her qualified objection that she thinks it’s unfair to deny the rugby players their chance to a fair trial is ludicrous and soured the rest of the article for me. The important thing to remember is that no trial on this matter would be fair. Despite being big fans of huge drinkups, controlling their tempers incredibly poorly, and being celebrities in an enormous position of power over their fans, can anyone name me one rugby player that has been successfully convicted of rape in New Zealand? Especially a rugby player at international level who has the support of their teammates and sports organisations? I’ll be interested to hear if so.

The fact of the matter is that sports are about the only area in New Zealand where the male gender card trumps all. In such an environment, a teenager accusing a wealthy individual with the support of wealthy organisations to a trial heavily effected by the price of your lawyer and the view that sportsmen can do no harm is most definitely not a fair trial. No trial at all is much better than that, especially given some of the tactics that have pervaded the media: such as anonymous “witnesses”, slut-shaming, and the equally ludicrous claim that this was some sort of sabotage cooked up by NZ rugby to discredit the english team.

The Herald continues the disempowerment of victims with another mixed-bag story. While I am really, really pleased to see that not even a news source with such a blatant conservative bias as the Herald can no longer ignore or excuse domestic violence after our heated ยง59 debate, this article is still noticeably a Herald story with all of the implicit sexism and insensitivity to the victim this implies. Like most of the stories I’ve seen about the abuse of Kristin Dunne-Powell, the story focuses far too much on what’s going to happen to Veitch, and only spares a paragraph for what his victim suffered. It focuses on how the police could lay charges, despite the fact that the victim seems to have no desire for her day in court. It does get credit for coming out relatively strongly against him though, and for stating that hush-money is not uncommon in these cases. Why is it that the Herald can sometimes manage to come so close to balanced coverage only to fall juuust short?

The Conspicuously Absent Word

Has anyone else noticed that the word “rape” is missing in action from the news lately? (both one and three on the TV, I have no clue about Prime, and the Dom is also suffering from a bout of rape-avoidance)

Not once have they described Josef Fritzl, who drugged, imprisoned, neglected, repeatedly impregnated, and essentially treated his own daughter as a sex slave as either “abuse” or “rape”. Not even with the qualification that it was “alleged”. Or even in reference to his previous conviction.

Just because a word is emotionally charged (like “murder”, which makes the news all the time) doesn’t mean you can never use it. It merely means you need to reserve it for extreme cases.

If this is not an extreme case, I would like to see what is.