Hard News by Russell Brown


Rape and unreason

The jury's decision in the case of Troy Clements -- and the trial judge's weird attempt to rationalise it -- said quite a lot about where we're still at in New Zealand with respect to rape and the safety of women in general.

Clements was convicted of the aggravated robbery of two 18 year-old German tourists in Albert Park last year. But the jury that convicted him also acquitted him of a further charge of indecent assault, perhaps, ventured Justice John Priestley, because:

" ... a combination of the foolishness of your two victims, venturing out alone at night in a park in a strange city, dressed as they were, and the total absence of any DNA evidence, led to the jury collectively entertaining a reasonable doubt on the two indecent assault charges."

So the jury accepted the two young women's evidence that they had been robbed in the park -- and dismissed Clements' claim that he was in fact the victim of the assault and robbery and the two young women had "roughed themselves up" in order to frame him after the fact -- but somehow decided that their evidence of being sexually assaulted (one of them was made to disrobe at knifepoint) did not reach the standard for a conviction.

No one would ever say that the two women were to blame for their own aggravated robbery -- that would be insane. And yet, the jury was apparently able to entertain the idea that in the course of being robbed at knifepoint they were somehow complicit in or contributed to their own sexual assault. In a case where, as the prosecution put it, it was a matter of "two stories", they seemed to have a bob each way. On the face of it, it's a completely irrational verdict.

Which means, of course, that it's meat and drink to a certain sort of man. John Tamihere bloviated about the decision on Radio Live, and in today's Herald, Bob Jones writes an irrational and offensive column, full of the kind of bogus certainties with which Jones sustains his place in the world.

Jones berated barrister Catriona MacLennan ("Grow up, girl"), for asking in the same paper why women shouldn't be able to walk safely through a park at night.

The answer is because you might be raped, or, alternatively, assaulted, robbed or murdered. It's nothing to do with being women, the same danger faces men who in fact, rape excepted, are by far the greatest victims of unprovoked assaults.

Uh-huh. And yet the attacker was convicted of robbery. Just not of indecent assault, even though the victims were clearly (and understandably) believed over their attacker on the matter of the robbery charge. Is Jones really so distanced from reality that he can't see the problem here?

Well, yes he is. The rest of the column is largely taken up with Jones' ceaseless and wearying need to infantilise women (which seems to be a function of his own arrested adolesence) and willingness to simply make up data to suit himself. There's also a particularly unpleasant sentence where he calls someone an "implausible rape victim" (too ugly, you see, ha ha).

It's a worthless screed, the kind of thing no one should bother reading. Di W has a post identifying Jones for the somewhat pathetic figure he is and suggests ignoring him en masseAnd yet, here we are, talking about him.

It's a pretty common principle in online newspaper publishing that a "controversial" column will garner you many more page views than a reasoned one, but Jones' effort this time went beyond his usual unreason. He made two young women complicit in their own sexual assault, and he essentially drew up the proposition of deserving and undeserving rape victims. I'm sure that many Herald journalists won't be proud to have their work published alongside Jones' crap. Perhaps it's time to ask whether they should have to.

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