Speaker: Not even a statistic
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What I see reassures me that letting a rapist escape charges was the best thing for me.
This. This was also the decision I made, again on multiple occasions, that I would be putting myself through hell for absolutely nothing. And would I advise my daughter to lay a rape complaint with police, no matter what the circumstances? No. I would not, and it breaks my heart to say that.
(I will happily cover moderation on this thread for Russell while he's out, and I will have a very low Bullshit Threshold for it.)
Somehow we, all of us, need to change. This isn't the only story like this. That there is even one story like this is a mark of shame for all of us in this country. That there are likely many more like this should be a national scandal. It is a catastrophic failure of our society.
Why is this not an election issue? Why are there not blue or red or green billboards around town proclaiming the intent to be "rape-free by 2020"?
No. I would not, and it breaks my heart to say that.
I understand. What would you advise?
Emma Hart, in reply to
I understand. What would you advise?
Things that are entirely focused on her. Counselling, absolutely. Her home being a safe place, where she could talk about it, or not talk about it and watch a bajillion episodes of Castle instead.
If, for her recovery, it was important to her to lay a complaint, we'd do that, but with a firm grasp of the realities that most complaints don't go to trial, and of those that do, the conviction rate is 13%. And absolutely not "If you don't lay a complaint, he'll do it again," which is "If he rapes somebody else, and he probably will, it's your fault." I have seen people do this with the absolute best of intentions, and Please Stop.
Bart Janssen, in reply to
“If he rapes somebody else, and he probably will, it’s your fault.”
If he rapes again it is the fault of every single person in NZ. It is the fault of the police, it is the fault of the lawyers, it is the fault of the legal system, it is the fault of the politicians, it is the fault of his parents, it is the fault of his mates, it is the fault of the newspapers, it is the fault of the whole news media, it is the fault of The All Blacks, it is the fault every single person and organisation in NZ. It is his fault.
WE allow this.
That a parent, rightly, gives this advice to their daughter, brings me to tears.
I served on a jury where a seedy middle aged man was charged with repeated rape of a child aged 12 to 15. He video-ed it and we sat through 90 minutes of ghastly video where she held a pillow over her face while he raped her. Even with the video, getting a conviction was a close-run thing. "She didn't protest very hard," said one juror. "If it was rape, she'd fight more" said another. "Did penetration actually take place?" asked another couple (the perpetrator had an erectile dysfunction issue).
Without the video, we would NEVER have convicted. The victim was grilled in the witness box over many hours. The accused declined to give evidence.
The victim had not initiated the prosecution with a complaint. A third party had found the video and handed it to the police who decided to charge. I was traumatised by the four day trial and I was just a juror. What about her? I still wonder, even after five years.
As much as I would like to see this be an election issue , I have no real idea of the impact that making it one would have on those who have survived experiences described by Katrina.
I once sat as a foreman on a rape trial, and from where I sat the experience of giving evidence in that environment is something that I wouldn't wish on anyone. I will be honest; I don't fully understand the definition of rape culture. From little I understand is that it isn't just a culture perpetuated by men. I found the attitude of my fellow jurors to be the personification of it. The way in which the defence framed the case, painted the complainant, and the attitudes of the fellow jurors exasperated me.
Every now and then I have to drive past the location of the crime and it overwhelms me, I can understand why no one would want to go through the experience of seeing "justice" run its course.
This shouldn't be an election issue, this should just be something that everyone wants changed.
Emma Hart, in reply to
I will be honest; I don’t fully understand the definition of rape culture. From little I understand is that it isn’t just a culture perpetuated by men.
One of the most useful phrases I’ve run across to describe it is “You’re soaking in it.” It’s such a pervasive and omnipresent thing that it’s very easy to not see it until people start pointing it out. And women are soaking in it just as much as men are.
These myths about what “real” rape looks like, and how “real” rape victims would behave also get inside the heads of women. Women will deny their own rapes, if they sufficiently deviate from that picture.
There’s also an element of buying into magic thinking: if I don’t dress like that, if I don’t walk down dark streets by myself, if I hold my car keys a certain way, that will somehow ensure that I don’t get raped. And if that other woman didn’t do that, if she didn’t perform the right rituals, then it must be partially her fault. To admit that it’s not her fault, that there’s nothing you can do, is to admit that you can’t protect yourself, and that’s terrifying.
Thank you Katrina, I found your testimony very valuable.
One of the things that I have long resented is the fact that when the paedophile on our commune was discovered, the adults decided not to report it to the police. They said that they made that decision to protect us girls from the sort of treatment they expected us to receive from the police and the legal system.
When I much later reported the abuse to the police, the police were (mostly) good. Certainly the woman who took my statement treated me as I would want anyone else to be treated. I developed the cynical view that the real reason the adults had been reluctant to report the paedophile back in 1981 was that they didn't want their way of life put under the spotlight.
Histories such as yours help me to accept that many of them may in fact have decided not to report for exactly the reason they gave, and with good reason; and also to accept that even if some made that decision for the wrong reason, the outcome was likely better that way.
As for me: when I reported in 1991 (or maybe early 1992? I forget now) the police were excellent. I reported in Palmerston North. The woman officer who took my statement did so with respect and civility. She didn't respond emotionally, which I appreciated, as I didn't want sympathy, I wanted action. She described the paedophile as a "sick unit", which I also appreciated.
The case was then forwarded to Auckland. Our case officer was also excellent, and never treated me poorly. Once, when he was away, one of his colleagues gave me an earful for phoning them too often wanting to know when the sick unit would be arrested. That upset me a lot. But that was the only bad behaviour I experienced from the police. There were two years between my first report and the arrest, but there were four other complainants to collect evidence from, not all of them in the same city, and a lot of evidence to collect. And when they did finally arrest him, the case was sufficiently strong that he admitted guilt almost immediately.
So I didn't feel I had to be brave. The worst bit was first making the decision to report, which I made alone, and with real fear of what would come next. But after that, I was well supported.
The major difference I note is that I was reporting historical sexual assualt on a child, rather than recent rape of a teenager or adult. Later, there was also the advantage of having five complainants and adults to whom he had admitted the abuse when first discovered; and the boxes of photos of us on the beach without clothes on that they found under his bed would have helped too. But that first officer in Palmerston North didn't know that that's how it would be when she first took me in to take my statement, and that's the point when it probably most mattered.
Would I advise my daughter to lay a rape complaint with the police? Yes. No matter what the circumstances? OK, possibly not.
It wasn't until I met Emma that I started to rethink my own rape. It was in the early 80's, I eventually gave in, I never thought of it as rape.
The framing is not important, what is important is that we continue to try to change this culture in whatever ways we can.
And Katrina, you have my love. Thank you for telling this part of your story. You never know where words will land, and on whom they will have an impact. I trust that your words will have impact on many.
Daniel Wilton, in reply to
One of the most useful phrases I’ve run across to describe it is “You’re soaking in it.” It’s such a pervasive and omnipresent thing that it’s very easy to not see it until people start pointing it out.
I will quote this in the real world next time it comes.
A certain speech by an opposition MP caused this conversation to be front and centre amongst my circle of friends at the moment.
thanks for the useful words
To "Katrina", such courage to speak out with such clarity. Thank you, and may you find healing.
To Abbie. If there was video evidence of an assault of a sexual nature on a child....under the age of legal consent...why in god's name was there a trial? Surely, in a civilised society, such evidence would be sufficient to spare the victim from inquisition? Again, we look around for someone to blame for a travesty like that...the lawyers on both sides? The Judge? The police?
To Emma. "To admit that it's not her fault, that there's nothing you can do, is to admit that you can't protect yourself, and that's terrifying."
You CAN protect yourself. The Crimes Act specifically allows it. Teach our daughters to defend themselves...permission to go into beserker mode if threatened. Pull out every weapon at their disposal. Teach our daughters that they are in control, teach them to be stroppy and staunch. If the attacker holds a gun/knife to you...and 'cooperation' is unavoidable, teach our daughters to remember every little detail that could potentially lead to a conviction. Then ensure that the FIRST port of call for any woman raped or assaulted is a victim focussed support organisation....before they enter the possibly victim hostile police system.
I put the responsibility on we mothers/aunties/ grandmas/sisters, because sure as hell the system is NOT going to change.
Enough men are not going to change.
When rumour ran around my high school in the early 90s that one student had raped another, I remember trying to decide whether I believed it. I still bitterly regret that despite being raised an ardent feminist, I'd absorbed enough of the prevailing myths that I considered the sluttiness of the rumoured victim to be a factor in whether I believed her. I grew out of it fast enough, but the wrong lesson still managed to get in there somehow. If we want women and girls to be believed, we need to change that narrative, challenge it wherever it grows. And we need to do it from a young age.
I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility I have towards my daughters and their peers in that regard. The old script of staying safe by not being the one that the rapist picks isn't good enough.
Being legally permitted and being capable of effective resistance in real life are two different things. We're not talking about women who've gone to jail for self defence here, we're talking about kids, pregnant women, people who are much smaller than their attackers and perfectly capable of remembering what they look like.
Hebe, in reply to
And Katrina, you have my love. Thank you for telling this part of your story. You never know where words will land, and on whom they will have an impact.
Katrina, Jackie says it well. Thanks for your courage.
To understand Rape Culture a simple place to start is David Lisak's portrait of undetected rapists (pdf).
Next are the extremely powerful SCRIPTS of how to talk to a Rape Culture man and his friends.
I've also blogged about being a Lucky Male Feminist.
And I never read the Rape Culture whaleoil blog though I admire those with the guts to stomach this sick sad individual and his Rape Culture bullies.
Megan Wegan, in reply to
You CAN protect yourself. The Crimes Act specifically allows it. Teach our daughters to defend themselves…permission to go into beserker mode if threatened. Pull out every weapon at their disposal. Teach our daughters that they are in control, teach them to be stroppy and staunch.
So, if you don't do those things/aren't stroppy and staunch...what then?
Alice Ronald, in reply to
Sure, it's legal to defend yourself against an attacker. But at that point, you're being attacked. The point of most of the magical thinking is to ensure you're not a target for an attack, and that's something that you can't always prevent, because it's the result of someone else's decision making. It's out of your hands.
It's also far more likely that an attacker will escalate violence if the victim fights back. Teaching girls and women self-defence skills and coping mechanisms can be a good back-up, but all too often, those are the only things that get focussed on.
Bart Janssen, in reply to
why in god’s name was there a trial? Surely, in a civilised society, such evidence would be sufficient to spare the victim from inquisition?
This is a very good question. The simplistic answer is that we have a legal system that dictates that all crimes will be dealt with under an adversarial system where all evidence is treated as suspect. You can think of it as a very large and complex hammer that lawyers use to deal with all crimes. To this hammer all things look like a nail.
Yet rape does not fit well with this system. The victim is already traumatised, yet the legal system cannot, will not, adjust itself to achieve justice. Instead lawyers and the entire legal system sit back and admire their hammer regardless of the fact that it fails to achieve justice for rape victims.
The lawyers will argue that their system, while flawed, is the best system possible. For me, it's simple, what we are doing now does not work. If we need to change the legal system to make it work, then I don't care and really neither should the lawyers if they really believe in justice. And to be fair there are many lawyers who seriously question the system.
Lilith __, in reply to
Pull out every weapon at their disposal.
There is a subset of rapists who are in a desperate state of mind and likely to badly beat or even kill their victim. You want to introduce weapons into this situation?
Craig Ranapia, in reply to
You CAN protect yourself. The Crimes Act specifically allows it. Teach our daughters to defend themselves…permission to go into beserker mode if threatened. Pull out every weapon at their disposal. Teach our daughters that they are in control, teach them to be stroppy and staunch. If the attacker holds a gun/knife to you…and ‘cooperation’ is unavoidable, teach our daughters to remember every little detail that could potentially lead to a conviction.
I totally get and respect your point, Rosemary, but how you do it can be really tricky, and (however unwittingly) perpetuate a major rape culture enforcement tool “She didn’t fight back so…”
I’d also argue we’ve also got to be really mindful and respectful of the reality that disassociation is the way a lot of people deal with profound trauma, and it’s really dangerous to put the message out there that people who don’t remember every detail of abuse are failing in any way.
Katrina, thank you so much for sharing your story, it’s a terrifically brave things to do. I’m so sorry that these things happened to you, and that the police who should have helped and protected you added yet more trauma.
So important that we hear the voices of survivors. They should be the ones advising how to reform the justice system.
Sofie Bribiesca, in reply to
but all too often, those are the only things that get focussed on.
How about, if possible name names. A friend of mine in the supermarket one day noticed a man who had raped her many years before. I think she needed to say something , anything, at that moment, so, she told her 15 year old daughter who was with her. She pointed him out and told her what he did. She then moved down an aisle (feeling shame) and her daughter was so angry to hear about her mum, walked straight over to him and at the top of her lungs pointed out that he, had raped her Mother and gave him a piece of her mind and warned others within hearing to be careful of the rapist. She returned to her Mum. They finished their shopping and my friend said she felt so proud of her daughter's strength. It was cathartic all round, so much so she told us at the pub and we all applauded her and her daughter. If only one person heard that and knew that man, it was good for someone.
How much of the police response is cultural and how much is due to training? I can see a police officer having good intentions when advising a teenage girl(or indeed anyone) to not press the issue. What are the police advised and/or trained to do in this situation? Is it up to the discretion of the individual receiving the complaint?
It strikes me, the best way to serve a complainant would be to provide support where support can be reliably given. Recording the complaint must be taken seriously. Do police even consider acknowledgement of crime as in their sphere? It seems that they don't want it on their books unless it will be a path towards a conviction.
Even if a complainant has little chance of a prosecution, Some steps could be very beneficial to the complainant.
Listening to them, telling them that, yes, what happened did actually happen, it was a crime, and it wasn't their fault.
If the complainant wishes there to be a record, record the event, Inform them that the record will provide relevant information to further complaints.
Allow for anonymous recording of complaints that, while not, usable for prosecutions, enable a view of the problem at a national level and can be used for informing future policy*.
*I can already envision this policy printed on a patronising 60x150mm piece of cardboard, handed to complainants after their report [sigh]. I mean actually use the information, not just record and forget,
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