All the chilling things

I wrote an op-ed about the non-prosecution of the alleged rapists in the Roastbusters case, which was published on the Manawatu Standard. It’s not on the Stuff website, but it’s available on-line here: Roastbusters shows how society enables rape.

Every aspect of the Roasbusters story is chilling. There’s the sickening knowledge that a group of young men thought it was okay to target girls, get them drunk, pressure them into sex, and brag about it on-line. It showcases a disturbing culture among some young men, where women and girls are regarded as prey, something to “have sex with” and as a point scored in a game.

Click through to read more.

On the radio, talking about domestic violence

I was on Nights on Radio NZ earlier this week, talking about domestic violence. It was, as ever, a difficult topic to talk about.

You can find a recording of the talk here: Click on “Pundit: Feminist thought”

I talked about some of the myths about domestic violence, including the “myth” that women are violent too. This is not actually a myth, because it’s true. But, the scale is different. I’ve come across one study which has some reasonably good stats – domestic violence as reported by children.

Domestic violence as witnessed by New Zealand children

This is from the Dunedin longitudinal study. The researchers have been following an entire cohort of children, all the children born in Dunedin between 1 April 1972 and 31 March 1973. That’s a very powerful dataset. In this particular article, the researchers look at the children’s reports of domestic violence, c/f reports by perpetrators or by victims. Here’s what they found.

One-quarter (24%) of the sample reported violence or threats of violence directed from one parent to the other. Nine percent reported infrequent assaults while one in 10 reported more than five acts of physical violence. In violent families, 55% reported violence by fathers only, 28% by both partners, and 16% by mothers only.

I also talked about the testimony from Sir Patrick Stewart. It is compelling and distressing.

Patrick Stewart: the legacy of domestic violence

There’s more from Patrick Stewart here: Sir Patrick Stewart’s powerful message about domestic violence

If you are affected by domestic violence, then Women’s Refuge can help.

Or phone Women’s Refuge on 0800 REFUGE / 0800 733843

There was so much that we didn’t have time to talk about, such as the chronic underfunding of Women’s Refuge, and that women are in most danger as they prepare to leave or just after they leave which is why “she should just leave” is such a dangerous myth, or that it is widespread and occurs in all social groups.

And there was something that affected me more than almost anything. I put up a Facebook post, letting people know that I would be on the air talking about domestic violence. And immediately, some of my friends told me stories.

My daughter got out of her marriage physically unharmed on the whole, though her ex did blame bruising on her thighs on their then 3 year old son – he made an affidavit to the Family Court and they believed him FFS!! But the psychological battering was something else – she was either a useless wife and mother or a useless mother and wife.

Good luck Deborah, but the sector isnt positive. In Palmerston North since the Salvation Army closed its Womens Safe house last year due to lack of funding inhibiting its safe running, since then despite increased demand Palmerston North Women’s Refuge has gone from two safe houses that were well used to just one, have lost two staff members and are no longer able to run their children’s programme. The staff left have had their hours cut and are working the remaining hours on a voluntary basis, as well as now having to use their own cars. This leaves one safe house in the Manawatu/horowhenua district as PN womens refuge ‘area’ is the same as the DHB

Last year there were more than 90,000 domestic violence calls attended by police. It makes up 50% of their work. The form they (often called the Pol400) is 18 pages long, which accounts for the complexity of the relationships and the importance of getting the risk assessment correct. Despite all of this most police officers have no idea what happens to the Pol400 after it is filed.

We all know too much about domestic violence. And that tells you just how big a problem it is.

Memo from the blue gang: women aren’t citizens

The police have been telling us that they can’t proceed against the Roast Busters gang because they lacked evidence and formal complaints. If only women would come forward, then they could take action against the Roast Busters gang. But they were constrained because no young woman was brave enough to come forward. When questioned, police said that they had received no formal complaints.

They lied.

It turns out that FOUR! young women have come forward with formal complaints. And police did nothing. They allowed the young men to continue raping girls.

From the NZ Herald:

Police have confirmed they received four complaints by alleged victims of the Roast Busters group of young men, between 2011 and last year.

Until last night, police had said they had been unable to bring prosecutions against the young men because they were yet to receive a formal complaint by any victims.

Police had been monitoring the group for the last two years, who bragged online they would ply girls – some as young as 13 – with alcohol and have sex with them.

Their activities came to light this week with media reports, and the Facebook page they boasted on was shut down.

Police have now said four young women aged between 13 and 15 had come forward with complaints of a sexual nature.

There’s so much that’s wrong with what the police have failed to do in this awful case, from victim blaming, to pretending that they could do nothing, to outright lying.

And the message they are sending us? Women don’t matter.

This is deeply worrying. Our police force is an important institution in our society. We give up the right to pursue retribution and recompense ourselves, and hand it over to police, so that they will protect us. We have a contract with them, that saves us from a solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short life in the state of nature. They will act as an impartial group helping to ensure that strong people don’t prey on the weak, that each person is tolerably safe as she or he goes about their daily business, that each of us can live securely, without needing to shelter behind guns and hard fists and high fences. We live in freedom, as free citizens, because we know that our police pursue justice on our behalf, and work hard to keep us safe.

Not any more.

The loud, clear message that police have sent in the last few days in their words, and over the last two years in their actions, is that women don’t count. They count so little that even there is clear evidence of criminal activity, of young men who are over the age of consent “having sex with” girls who are well under the age of consent, they will take no action. Even worse than just taking no action, they will actively choose not to take action and leave even more young women to be raped.

The problem is large. This is not just one incident, not just one police station that has gone a little rogue. It seems to be systemic. We know this from the extraordinary difficulty that Louise Nicholas experienced in getting any kind of justice when she had been raped by police officers, and we know this from Dame Margaret Bazley’s Commission of Inquiry into Police Conduct, and we know this from the repeated reports from the Auditor-General finding that the progress of police in effecting culture change is slow (one, two, three). Slow beyond all reason.

Very simply, as far as the police are concerned, it seems that women don’t count. Women are not citizens in this country.

That gives us all reason to fear. As women, what the police are telling, through their actions and their inactions, is that we ought not to bother complaining to them if we are raped or sexually assaulted. Because we don’t count.

And through all this, we must remember the young women who have been targetted and raped by this loathsome group of young men in Auckland. They have been assaulted again and again. First by the young men. Second by the police, who would not hear their complaints. Third by the knowledge that their complaints mattered so little, that police would not even take action to stop the young men from raping, even if they weren’t going to prosecute them. And fourth by the systemic injustice of police towards women, telling women that they don’t count.

So what can we do? First, to the young women who laid police complaints: may you find justice. We believe you.

Second, Scuba Nurse has some excellent suggestions about what action we can take, ranging from the small gesture of not participating in rape jokes, to donating to Rape Crisis.

Third, change the way we rear boys. Luddite Journo has some suggestions, in Growing boys, not roast busters.

Fourth, a series of protests is being planned around the country. Keep your eye out on social media for details of rallies planned for Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch on the afternoon of 16 November.

Fifth, look after yourselves. Here are some suggestions from The Wireless: A really heavy week on the internet.

Shutting down rape culture, one election at a time

The Republican Rape Philosophers lost. (H/T Feministe)

Incumbent Roger Rivard (R), lost his Congressional seat to Steven Smith (D). Rivard was the chap who told passed on his father’s wisdom that “some girls rape easy.”

Todd Akin (R) failed to take what should have been a winnable senate seat for the Republicans. Akin was the chap who told us that if a rape was “legitimate”, then a woman could not get pregnant because her body would shut conception down.

Tea Party backed candidate Richard Mourdock couldn’t win what should have been a wide open race, giving the Democrats one more seat in the Senate. Mourdock was the chap who told us that pregnancy resulting from rape was something that God intended.

But why should we care, here in New Zealand, an ocean away from the United States?

Here’s why. We should care because the anti-women rhetoric coming from conservatives in the US travels down here swiftly. Rape culture is alive and flourishing in New Zealand, and concepts like “legitimate rape” and “can’t get pregnant from rape” and “some girls rape easy” and “God meant for you to be raped” play into it, and sustain it.

I am so very glad that voters in the United States rejected these men who endorsed rape. It’s a push back, a small step towards dismantling the narrative of hatred and contempt for women.

Cross posted

Liberal dudes: stop telling me being worried about my bodily autonomy is a “distraction”

No matter how much it tries to backpedal and reframe and rephrase, no matter how many soft words it puts around the conversation, the fact remains that this government, in the person of Paula Bennett, Minister of Social Welfare, has advocated adopting some sort of policy to prevent some women from having more babies. That’s the plain meaning of Paula Bennett’s words yesterday.

They scare the hell out of me.

What they suggest is a government that is happy to control women and to control women’s bodies. At present they only want to do it to “bad” mothers, people who have killed their children, or abused them so badly that the children have been taken away from them, or people who form new relationships with “bad” men who then abuse and sometimes kill their stepchildren. It’s all being done in the name of saving the children.

Of course we want to save children from harm, and of course, we can save them from immediate harm by ensuring they are not vulnerable to abusers, and of course, the easiest way to do that is to take the children away from the abusers, or scarily, to stop abusers from having children in the first place.

Therein lies the problem. This is the easy solution. The hard solution would involve trying to work out why people abuse and kill children. The thing is, we already have a fair idea about that. Aside from psychosis and revenge, it turns out that most killings occur when parents are down and out, when they have no hope and no resources, when they have given up, or been given up on, any hope of a life integrated into the structure of a community. A quick search on Google would have told Paula Bennett that. Reducing the number of children who are abused or killed won’t be easy. It will involve working closely with women and with families, helping women to become independent, ensuring that they live in meaningful and supportive communities, that they have secure incomes, that they can look after themselves and their children, trying to ensure that they are not under such stress and feel so hopeless that they take out all their problems on their children. But that would be hard work, and it would cost money. Much easier just to opt for the big stick of sanctions. This is a policy that fits all too comfortably with National’s policy on getting beneficiary mums and their daughters to use long term contraceptives.

In the name of pragmatism, and easiness, this government takes the shortcut of asserting control over women’s bodies.

What next? Is the government going to suggest that women on the DPB should be sterilised? Maybe women who drink while pregnant will have their babies removed at birth. Perhaps if you have a student loan, government will tell you that it isn’t wise to have children now, and it will “help” you to avoid having any.

And that’s exactly where the danger lies in this sort of policy that attempts to control women’s bodies. Today it’s women who harm, or allow harm to come to, their children. Who is it going to be tomorrow?

And that’s why, liberal dudes, I am so tired of hearing you say that this is all just a distraction. My bodily autonomy is at stake here, and you tell me that I should get to the back of the queue, because it’s just a minor matter, designed to get people to take their eye off the government’s woes in other areas. Because at the end of the day, women’s rights are always tradeable.

Thank you so very much.

And let’s not forget the racism underpinning this. We know that killing and abuse of children (‘though not sexual abuse, which seems to be classless) is much more common among the least privileged socio-economic groups, and we know that socio-economic groups are highly race marked in New Zealand. This is another move towards stigmatising people with brown skins, and controlling them, and worst of all, taking away their children. And we all know how well that kind of policy has worked in the past.

And a genuine thank you to @gtiso, and again.

Update: One of those liberal dudes has since posted on the matter: A rancid style of politics. I think he’s right about the convenience of Bennett’s announcement. Many thanks for your post, I/S.

Quickie: the same old story

Don’t walk or jog alone, Whanganui women warned

I could write an extended post about victim blaming, and who is being held responsible for women being raped (hint: it’s not the rapist), and who has to change their behaviour in order to reduce the chances of a rape occurring (hint: it’s not the rapist), but you know what, I’ve done that before. Right here: Because the victim is responsible for not being raped.

One day, some police officer somewhere is going to talk about someone who is preying on women who are out jogging or walking, and NOT tell them that they ought to be careful. Instead, she or he will tell the perp that he or she must stop doing this horrible thing.

But alas, that day has not yet come.

Rape culture, ladies and gentlemen. You’re soaking in it.

Cross posted

Dangerous women and “the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals”

Cross posted

People that the Vatican thinks should be disciplined and silenced: nuns who work on poverty and social justice issues.

CHICAGO — A prominent U.S. Catholic nuns group said Thursday that it was “stunned” that the Vatican reprimanded it for spending too much time on poverty and social-justice concerns and not enough on condemning abortion and gay marriage.

In a stinging report on Wednesday, the Vatican said the Leadership Conference of Women Religious had been “silent on the right to life” and had failed to make the “Biblical view of family life and human sexuality” a central plank in its agenda.

It also reprimanded American nuns for expressing positions on political issues that differed, at times, from views held by U.S. bishops. Public disagreement with the bishops — “who are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals” — is unacceptable, the report said.

People the Vatican promotes and places in positions of authority: priests who actively lie and cover up for other priests who rape children.

The Catholic primate of all-Ireland has said that he will not resign as Church leader despite revelations in the BBC’s This World programme.

It found Cardinal Sean Brady had names and addresses of those being abused by paedophile priest Brendan Smyth.

However, he did not pass on those details to police or parents.

Not only did he not pass on the details to police or children, but he actively coerced the children into staying silent. And he has LIED about the support the children were given.

Sean Brady’s role in the affair became clear in 2010, when it became known that he had been present when the abused boy was questioned.

He claimed, however, that the boy’s father had accompanied him, and described his own role as that of a note-taker.

However, the BBC This World investigation has uncovered the notes Cardinal Brady took while the boy was questioned.

The child’s father was not allowed in the room, and the child was immediately sworn to secrecy.

The story about Sean Brady will make you sick. And he’s still making excuses. He says that he wasn’t the only one who knew. In other words, it was someone else’s responsibility. And he claims that he had no power to do anything in any case.

“The commentary in the programme and much of the coverage of my role in this inquiry gives the impression that I was the only person who knew of the allegations against Brendan Smyth at that time and that because of the office I hold in the Church today I somehow had the power to stop Brendan Smyth in 1975.

“I had absolutely no authority over Brendan Smyth. Even my Bishop had limited authority over him. The only people who had authority within the Church to stop Brendan Smyth from having contact with children were his Abbot in the Monastery in Kilnacrott and his Religious Superiors in the Norbertine Order.

He is completely wrong about that. He always had the ability to go to the police, instead of participating in covering up a crime, and enabling a rapist to carry on raping children.

And he is now a Cardinal in the Catholic church.

So on the one hand, all those wretched women who dare to spend their time and effort working on issues of social justice are dangerously out of line and need to be reprimanded and controlled, and on the other, a man who participated in covering up the rape of children and is still making excuses for his behaviour, is given a position of high authority in the church. He is an “authentic teacher of faith and morals.”

I do not think that phrase means what the Catholic hierarchy church thinks it means.

Previous posts on the Catholic church and its protection of men who rape children:
Out of touch
Can the Pope be impeached?
They could always turn themselves in
Chanting the script from Rome
Sez it all.