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?

Law Commission reports back

A quick note: The law comission has reported back on its review of whether previous convictions should be disclosed to the jury in some cases.

For those of you not up to speed, this inquiry started in response to the fact that Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum’s previous rape convictions were withheld during his trial.

They’ve decided that the rules should stay the same for now, but fortunately have called for a wider inquiry into the way rape and sexual assualt trials are handled.

I have mixed feelings on this issue- on the one hand, I think generally speaking it’s good that people with previous convictions cannot just be picked up by police and be cast in a highly suspicious light during a trial because of previous crimes. It makes it much more difficult to frame people. On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that in case of crimes that often take a serial nature- like rape, assualt, abuse, and murder- it might actually be quite relevant to the case whether they’ve had a previous conviction for that same crime.

Of course, I am highly pleased to hear Sir Geoffrey Palmer saying the current trial system for rape and sexual assualt victims has “disturbing features”. Recognition of the fact that defense in rape trials often involve accusing the victim rather than establishing alibis and witnesses that protect the defendent is good to hear. Quite seperate from the panic of not being believed is the feeling that going to trial is essentially being sexually attacked again in a different context.

In which consent is clarified

I mentioned earlier when I covered social attitudes to rape that meaningful consent has to be “explicit and free”. Many a man interested in exploring the murky deeps of gender politics from a male perspective dives into the issue of consent in straight sex, which I find almost painfully simple, and comes out with some sort of slippery slope argument attempting to deconstruct the basis of consent because they don’t really want to understand it, because that would mean serious evaluation of the concept from a female perspective, which like, defeats the whole point of my college newspaper article, man.

What makes consent explicit? Well, essentially it’s saying that she has to be clear in her desire to go ahead. There should be no doubt. If she says “mmmm, okay” and doesn’t start jumping on you, then she hasn’t given explicit consent. She’s probably just engrossed in Scientific American Mind, that glossy magazine she’s reading, and hasn’t heard you. If she says nothing and sits still, not engaging at all in whatever you’re trying to do to initiate sex, then she’s not consented. If she says “no” clearly, but continues to do something that really gets you going, she’s still not consented, and under certain circumstances you may be authorised to complain about teasing. If she does some stupid hollywood stunt where she says “no…” softly and then starts with the passionate kissing, she’s probably a fan of chick flicks and/or romance novels. If that scares you, I recommend you get to know a nice girl-racer instead. Continue reading

Police ignore sexual misconduct

Idiot/Savant over at No Right Turn has an excellent piece on the fact that police have ignored the recommendation that they include guidelines on power abuse and other sexual misconduct in their Police Code.

Shame on the police- writing something like this into their code is an extraordinarily easy commitment to meet, and could have wide effects on the police culture. The police spokesperson contended that sexual misconduct ought to be covered by their general guidelines on respect for people and property, (which one covers women, do you think? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) but they seem to be missing the point that explicit mention of sexual misconduct and the steps taken to avoid it when entering a potentially imbalanced relationship are very necessary to remind officers of their responsibility.

People do not connect general statements about principles like respect and proper conduct as relating to specific examples- it’s just a sad reality of the way people think. Try telling a five-year-old that they’re not to open a door, and you’ll start seeing them try to get their siblings to open it for them ๐Ÿ˜‰

More likely to be raped than shot

Feministing has a creepy plug into an article about sexual assault on female soldiers. The article is bad enough on its own, especially with the fact that over 90% of these sexual assaults are being dismissed with little more than slaps on the wrist, but if you check out the reactions to it, there’s an awful lot of rape rationalisation going on here.

Say it with me, dudes: “Rape is not okay, ever”. That’s all we need to know and this subject, and the fact that it’s not okay is why it’s called rape in the first place. Men can and should control themselves, whether they’re in the army, politicians, or just your average joe. Rape is not “yet another reason women should not be in the army”. Continue reading