Stop blaming sex workers for their murders

abstract comparison.3 by foxrosser,CC BY-ND 2.0

News that yet another young woman has allegedly been murdered by a man in New Zealand made for a sombre start to 2020.

Bella Te Pania was 34 years old. Media reports stated that she had been working on the street as a sex worker at the time of her death, and that the man who has been charged with her murder allegedly attacked her while she was out working. 

Countless women have been murdered by violent men in New Zealand in recent years – though our shamefully high rate of violence against women is a trend that goes back much further.

Te Pania, along with all women who have died in this way, deserved to be safe.

Violence against women is endemic in our society and while campaigns such as #MeToo have shifted our societal discourse to some extent, the murder of a sex worker (and specifically women who work on the streets) often provokes a particularly insidious form of victim blaming.

Continue reading Stop blaming sex workers for their murders

Pornography and Panic

Samantha Keene

Contemporary pornography is immensely popular, accessible and mostly free via pornographic ‘tube’ sites such as Pornhub, Xvideos, Youporn and live webcam sites such as LiveJasmin. The colloquial rules of the internet suggest that the internet exists for pornography, and that if pornography of a particular genre does not currently exist, then it soon will. Pornhub.com is one of the biggest and most popular online pornography tube sites. In 2018 alone, it reported a record 33 billion site visits, which amounted to 207,405 videos viewed every minute. As has been the trend in previous years, Pornhub’s annual year in review data for 2019 will likely show increased numbers of site visits, increased hours of content viewed, and increased numbers of videos uploaded to the site.

The front page of Pornhub has over 10 million videos to search from, as well as offering a selection of ‘hot porn videos in New Zealand’ and the ‘most viewed porn videos in New Zealand.’ It allows viewers to search for content from what seems to be an endless menu of sexual behaviours, acts and themes. Of course, this is perhaps not news for most – we know that New Zealanders feature in the top 30 countries in the world by capita for viewing frequency on Pornhub. Whilst pornography is often thought of as a man’s activity, we also know that Kiwi women are increasingly viewing pornography, making up 40% of New Zealand’s viewing audience.

Various claims are made about pornography and its impacts. Pornography is labelled dangerous and harmful for children, especially regarding their sexual development. It is labelled aggressive, misogynistic and degrading to women. It’s situated as a causal factor in the perpetration of sexual and physical violence. It’s claimed to affect intimacy in adult relationships, to be ‘addictive’ in nature. These claims encourage us to panic about pornography, and calls are often made to regulate, or ban, access to pornography.

Continue reading Pornography and Panic

Water Harms

Creative commons, by fourteenzerozero

“It was bullshit. The whole thing was bullshit. And even to this day now it’s still bullshit.”

Those are the words of one of the Havelock North residents struck down by gastroenteritis in the 2016 campylobacter outbreak in the town as a result of contaminated drinking water.

It was sheep shit, not bull, that is thought to have been most likely responsible for the contamination, which led to four people dying, 45 being hospitalised and an estimated 5,500 – a third of the town’s population – falling ill.

But the bullshit comment reflects the ongoing sense of injustice I encountered when I interviewed more than 40 people who lived through the incident and became ill, cared for someone who became ill or bore witness to events.

The interviews – with 21 males and 20 females aged 17 to 84 – were prompted by wanting to know the stories of the people behind the numbers so frequently cited by media and in announcements related to the official inquiry into the contamination.

I heard of intense physical pain and hardship, in many cases lasting long after the outbreak itself. There was anger about how the crisis was handled, scepticism about several aspects of official accounts of it, and feelings of grievance over what is seen as a lack of accountability.

Another reason for the interviews was to develop our understanding of environmental victimisation.

Continue reading Water Harms

We need to go to war – against our cars

In this well-constructed report, Roger Brooking uses an eco-global criminological lens to explore the problem of our greenhouse gas emissions from personal vehicle use. His findings are nothing short of startling!

This report focuses on the environmental harm caused by road transport emissions in New Zealand. Using an eco-global criminology perspective, it points out that these emissions contribute to greenhouse gas emissions around the world (now over 400 parts per million) and analyses the devastating impact this is having on the climate and the environment, including in New Zealand.

According to StatsNZ (2016), the most damaging greenhouse gas emissions emitted in New Zealand are carbon dioxide (43.8%), methane (42.8%) and nitrous oxide (11.6%). Combining the global warming potential of these gases into one formulation, the Ministry for the Environment reports that in 2017, the country emitted 80.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-e) – an increase of 23% on emissions in 1990. Even though our emissions are increasing, New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions make up only 0.17% of the world’s total emissions (Greenhouse Gas Inventory, April 2019).  Our tiny contribution seems to underlie the National Party’s approach to climate change which is to not take the issue too seriously and avoid “shutting down businesses here, only for them to go offshore to less environmentally friendly places” (National Party website, n.d.).

There’s another perspective on these statistics which is far more concerning. Although our total emissions are small, New Zealand emits 18 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person every year (Fyers, 2018).  Per capita, that makes New Zealanders the 21st biggest contributor to global warming. Out of 43 developed countries with international commitments on climate change (Annex I countries), this makes us the seventh biggest contributor per person (Ministry for the Environment, 2017).

Continue reading We need to go to war – against our cars

Blame, Shame and the Murder of Women

Grace Millane

Violence against women is one of New Zealand’s most significant and pressing social issues. Every day police respond to hundreds of family violence incidents, and women continue to die as a result of men’s violence. In December 2018 New Zealand recognised the severity of a specific offence – strangulation – and implemented legislative reform to address its pervasiveness. Five arrests for strangulation were reported a day in February 2019 . I mention all of this because of the Grace Millane murder trial.

On 21 December 2018 she was strangled to death while visiting New Zealand. Her body was later found in a suitcase, buried, in the Waitakere ranges in Auckland. The man accused of her murder claimed her death was the result of consensual rough sex that had “gone wrong”. After a three-week trial, a jury of five men and seven women found him guilty of murder after less than six hours of deliberation.

While a guilty verdict has been established, this does not detract from the distressing nature of this murder trial – distressing for myriad reasons: distressing because a young woman lost her life in a country where she should have been safe; because it quickly became a trial about a young woman’s sexual history and interests instead of the actions of a violent man; because while the defence said Millane was not to blame for what happened that night, the case it built suggested she was somehow blameworthy.

Continue reading Blame, Shame and the Murder of Women

‘Plural policing’ should come at a cost

Trevor Bradley

‘Policing’ is increasingly falling to private security and citizen-led initiatives. Yet the wages and the training don’t match the responsibility. So what can we do? 

The popular 2003–2015 British crime show New Tricks, repeats of which appear regularly on New Zealand television, is about a trio of detectives brought out of retirement and attached to a London police squad to help investigate unsolved crime.

It’s an entertaining premise—but it’s no longer as fictional as it once appeared.

Earlier this year, Essex Police advertised for civilian volunteers, including retired officers, to work alongside detectives. This followed the Home Secretary’s 2015 proposal to give stronger powers to police volunteers to take witness statements and even detain suspects.

The reason is austerity. Since 2010, some UK police services have experienced budget cuts of up to 25%. The result has been a dramatic reduction in officer numbers: From 144,353 in 2009 to 122,859 in 2017. One MP observed ‘it’s the thinnest blue line I’ve seen in my life’.

Though widely interpreted as desperate populist posturing, Boris Johnson’s promise to recruit 20,000 new officers won’t make up for those already lost, nor the additional number required to match population growth since 2010.

It’s little wonder that many Chief Constables have identified volunteers as a solution. As of July 2018, 40,000 police volunteers were operating in England and Wales, adding an estimated £75-80 million of value.

In the United States, volunteer policing is also growing. There reserve citizen officers operate with full police powers—including authority to use firearms – a practice that can be traced back to the deputising powers of the local sheriff, and which originated in the Posse Comitatus and ‘hue and cry’ of medieval England.

Such developments might sound a long way from New Zealand but in fact are already here—albeit in more limited forms.

Continue reading ‘Plural policing’ should come at a cost

Cops with guns will make us less safe

The new trial of Armed Response Teams (ARTs) in Counties Manukau, Waikato and Canterbury involves sending at least three armed police officers out in patrol vehicles to be constantly available to respond to crimes involving firearms. Currently, police do have armed offender squad officers, but they are dispatched from base to respond to serious firearms incidents rather than being continually present in the community.

The police commissioner has given two justifications for this trial of roving armed cops in cars: community safety and the safety of police officers themselves. The second reason is the real driver, but it will inevitably come at the expense of the first. Cops in cars with guns makes communities less safe, not more. Let’s look at the evidence. Continue reading Cops with guns will make us less safe

The Joker’s Lessons on Male Violence

On Friday night, I sat down to watch a film that some critics have suggested that we should fear and stay away from. It’s called ‘Joker’. This film was pre-emptively labelled as “dangerous”, “right-wing”, ”irresponsible” and even “Incel-friendly” by online critics (Abad-Santos, 2019; Ehrlich, 2019; Thompson, 2019). Several commentaries suggest that the film panders to Incel culture – supposedly at a risk of inciting and celebrating murder, especially mass murder perpetrated by ‘lone’ white men who perceive themselves as marginalized. In a climate where this violence accounts for the clear majority of solo mass murder events, I can understand why there was a heavy police presence at cinemas around North America. I also understand why, in the weeks prior to the film’s release, US military were instructed to be on high alert for potential mass-shootings at film screenings. However, I think the fear response may cause us to overlook an opportunity to understand the social and systemic causes for such violence.

Incels (Involuntary Celibates) are an online group of men who perceive themselves as the losers in the genetic lottery. They self-describe as ‘beta males’ who cannot find a sexual partner, yet desire one. Self-proclaimed members of the group have engaged in horrific acts of violence, particularly aimed against their perceived oppressors: women. Incels are bound by a fundamental set of beliefs known as the ‘Black Pill’ that unites a wider online anti-feminist ‘manosphere’. The Black Pill represents beliefs of hopelessness, fatalism and biological determinism rooted in a selective representation of evolutionary psychological theories. Zack Beauchamp (2019) describes the Black Pill as “a profoundly sexist ideology… that amounts to a fundamental rejection of women’s sexual emancipation, labelling women shallow, cruel creatures who will choose only the most attractive men if given the choice.” Media scholar Debbie Ging (2017, p.12) highlights that such superficial interpretations and recycled theories are used to support Black Pill claims such as “women are irrational, hypergamous, hardwired to pair with alpha males, and need to be dominated”. In my upcoming Master’s thesis, I describe the Black Pill as a philosophical and ideological device used to both explain Incel’s lack of sexual and social success, as well as a radicalisation tool to ‘Black Pill’ other young men. The overall ‘aim’ of the Black Pill philosophy is to reassert a so-called ‘natural’ order of a hierarchical system of racial and gendered oppression. Continue reading The Joker’s Lessons on Male Violence

Banging the Crime Drum

John Buttle

As local elections loom large in our immediate future and politicians scramble to identify a cause to endear them to the public, it is likely that someone is going to start banging the drum about crime. It’s not new, it’s not original, and it’s ultimately detrimental to the politician’s career when their stale and unoriginal ideas, such as boot camps, fail to have any impact.

One of the reasons why the noise created by politicians about crime often appeals to voters is that people are more concerned for their safety than they are actually at risk of being victimized. In other words, many people believe crime to be a larger problem than it actually is. Despite the fact that overall national crime rates have been decreasing at a steady rate since the mid 1990s, in the Ministry of Justice’s Public Perceptions of Crime 2016 survey report, 71% of people expressed the belief that crime was on the increase. However, these same people also believed that their local neighborhoods were safe and relatively crime-free, with only 38% saying there is a local crime problem.

Stuff’s ‘Your Place 2019’ survey asked “Do you feel safe walking, running or cycling after dark in your local area?” and 58.4% responded that they felt safe while 41.6% indicated that they did not feel safe. When asked “Have you been the victim or witnessed crime or anti-social behavior in your area in the past year?” 40.5% replied yes. Given that these two questions focus on people’s perceptions of the local area, the findings of this survey are in line with previous research demonstrating that many people expressed the perception that their local areas are relatively safe.

However, a word of caution needs to be made about these latest findings. The survey asked if people feel safe walking, running, or cycling after dark, but respondents who answer the question as walking might do so for different reasons than those for running or cycling. Someone who is concerned about walking after dark may be concerned about being mugged, while an after-dark cyclist may provide the same response but be concerned about not seeing a pothole and coming off their bike – so the survey does not distinguish between fear of crime and fear of potholes. Continue reading Banging the Crime Drum

Drug Reform Bill: Glimmer of hope or ‘get tough’?

The Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill has passed its final reading and will come into law in the near future. More than anything, I want to join in the chorus of positive sentiment around this bill, particularly because people and organisations I admire and am inspired by have encouraged it through its at times rocky ride in parliament. But I just can’t be wholly positive about the changes the bill will engender.

Let’s also be crystal clear that the bill does not decriminalise all drugs, as some online enthusiasts have suggested; it legalises police discretion in deciding whether to prosecute and directs police to use a health-based rather than a criminal approach.

This is not the same as decriminalising all drug use. And herein lies one of the problems – embedding discretion further into our justice system will deepen existing inequalities. The use of discretion will continue to over-police already stressed and marginalised communities often subject to the harshest policing practices.

Most of the proposals in the bill add to the failed, outdated Misuse of Drugs Act 1975 and the ineffective “war on drugs”: the reclassifying of AMB-FUBINACA and 5F-ADB as class A drugs; the creation of temporary class orders, all enacted as “get tough” measures to address the harms from synthetic cannabinoids.

Unfortunately, these kinds of measures do not work in effectively addressing or reducing the harms from drug use, nor do they effectively reduce or address the demand for drugs like synthetic cannabinoids. “Getting tough” on drugs and those who supply them has not helped us in over four decades of the “war on drugs” – it has filled prisons with low-level users and dealers, often suffering from addictions themselves. Continue reading Drug Reform Bill: Glimmer of hope or ‘get tough’?

Whale Oil

Review: Margie Thompson (2019) Whale Oil Nelson: Potton and Burton ($39.99)

The line ‘Whale Oil Beef Hooked’ brought a snigger among sixteen-year-old schoolboys when I was one, and perhaps it still raises a laugh among a certain diminishing demographic where Irish jokes seem clever. Certainly Cameron Slater, whose once highly subscribed right-wing blog is thus named, has been known to deal in racism and would cast himself as a fearless opponent of political correctness. Self-promotion and marketing are part of the product that he purveyed. The rest is lies, quarter-truths, voyeurism, scandal, scuttlebutt, and subcontracted political spin, as this book amply shows, though Slater has few customers for that any more.

Margie Thompson’s book, Whale Oil, a surprisingly riveting read, assiduously researched, is only partly about Slater (those interested in the ‘principles’, ways and means of this character should read Nicky Hager’s (2014) Dirty Politics, also published by Potton and Burton, a work that inspired Thompson in her remarkable endeavour). The cover of Thompson’s book, by Darryl Sean Parsons, has a marvellous caricature, showing not a whale, but another sea creature, a many-tentacled bottom-dweller that squirts ink, an ugly octopus-like monster of uncanny resemblance (‘Here be monsters’ warns Thompson on p.119). Whale Oil, however, is more about the long-term determination and courageous standing up to this bully and his paymasters, at enormous personal cost, of the book’s main protagonist, businessman Matt Blomfield.

Once an investor in, and driving business-plan force behind, the then highly successful Hell Pizza chain, Blomfield fell out with his former business associates when he would no longer do dirty work for them. Someone then set out concertedly to destroy his personal and professional reputation, and ruin his life as well as his business, feeding Whale Oil the hacked and stolen means, and motivation. Slater’s hireling defamation blog lied that Blomfield was a paedophile, pornographer, thief from a charity organisation, fraudster, illegal drug-user and more. That this was lies in its entirety was eventually, insistently and painstakingly, proven in courts by Blomfield, as Thompson’s book sets out in gripping narrative. Yet ink, like mud, sticks. The book is a tale of redemption, but Blomfield’s painful (and expensive!) recuperation of his honour is a work in progress. Continue reading Whale Oil

Reducing Climate Harms

By David Tong – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org

Submission on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

This submission is from Professor Elizabeth Stanley and Dr Sarah Monod de Froideville. We are criminologists from the Institute of Criminology, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Victoria University of Wellington.

We support the intent of this Bill to mitigate the impacts of climate change by reducing New Zealand’s level of greenhouse gas emissions. We acknowledge the progressive elements in the Bill, including the establishment of an independent commission and the commitment, outside of this Bill, to achieving economy-wide reductions at a maximum level possible.

However, there are many elements in the Bill that are of concern. Specifically, the Bill does not appear to have considered the risks of climate change associated harm. Continue reading Reducing Climate Harms

Nothing less than a Crisis

NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio, Key and Title by Eric Fisk [Public domain]
This submission on the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill urges the Government to get real about climate change and call it what it is – a crisis. Written by Roger Brooking from the Honours Programme at VUW. (Submissions close July 16)

Submission on the

Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill

The Problem with the Bill

In June 2018 the Ministry for the environment published a 61-page discussion document titled: Our Climate Your Say: Consultation on Zero Carbon Bill.  There is no mention of crisis or emergency in any of the 61 pages.   The nearest it gets is to state that The Zero Carbon Bill proposes a plan to: “better understand the risks and to plan for how we adapt to climate change.”

The Zero Carbon Bill in its present form does not acknowledge that New Zealand, let alone the world, is facing a crisis. The Bill does not mention the word crisis or emergency even once.

(Instead, it talks about establishing “a framework by which New Zealand can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies that contribute to the global effort under the Paris agreement to limit global average temperature increase to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.”

It contains different sections on providing independent expert advice to the government through the establishment of a Climate Change Commission, setting emissions reduction targets, stepping stones towards those targets and processes of adaptation. Continue reading Nothing less than a Crisis

Rape victims deserve radical justice changes

By surdumihail, commons.wikimedia.org

Incrementalism will only take us so far, as the ‘system of injustice’ for sexual violence victims requires a transformational approach.

Back in the mid-1990s a New Zealand judge, the Hon Justice E. W. Thomas, wrote an article slamming the lack of justice accorded rape victims by the very system in which he held office. Rape, he said, is “the most vicious and reprehensible crime in the criminal calendar”. Our courts failed such victims, he asserted, a reprehensible occurrence since “the violated woman should not be victimised a second time”. The law changes announced this week by under-secretary to the minister of justice Jan Logie are, he would be pleased to see, oriented towards “ensuring fairness and safety for victims of sexual violence in the justice system”.

The changes proposed include giving sexual violence victims the right to choose by which means they give their evidence in court, training and supporting judges to intervene to protect complainants from inappropriate or aggressive questioning, and ensuring the availability of specialist assistance for witnesses who need it in order to maximise their ability to understand and respond to questions. Changes will also be made to ensure rape complainants can trust that they will not have to share the same waiting spaces and bathrooms as defendants and their family/whānau while attending trials.

These moves deserve to be roundly applauded. They are evidence-based initiatives that should help to prevent some of the most brutalising aspects of the existing system. However, much of what is being mooted could be viewed as basic rights that should have been recognised years ago. When it comes to rape, our justice system still languishes in the dark ages. It is also difficult to comprehend that many of the changes articulated were not introduced by the previous government, given the extent of the information they were provided with from the Law Commission and other sources urging the dire need for reform. Continue reading Rape victims deserve radical justice changes

Let’s be Pragmatic about Drugs

Fiona Hutton

I had the good fortune recently to attend a symposium to hear international experts João Goulão and Eric Costen from Portugal and Canada talking about the transformative reforms to drug laws in their respective countries. It was excellent to see how successful these have been, although Canada is admittedly only six months into its reform agenda. It was equally interesting to hear the concerns some people raised around drug law reform – concerns many New Zealanders and politicians have thought about.

Firstly, that legalising cannabis will make cannabis more available, particularly to vulnerable groups like young people. In reality, a liberalised regime where cannabis is easy to get hold of by all kinds of people, including vulnerable groups, is the position we are in now with prohibition and our current drug laws. The biggest myth of prohibition is that drugs are not available in our society – about 275 million people worldwide, roughly 5.6 per cent of the global population aged 15–64 years, used drugs at least once during 2016, according to the 2018 World Drug Report. A regulated cannabis regime, which is what is being proposed by reformers for New Zealand, would protect young people and other vulnerable groups by making cannabis harder for them to get hold of. The ‘product’ would also be quality controlled, standardised and have strength/dose information – something unavailable in the current illegal market. Drug law reformers are also concerned about the unregulated use of some drugs by vulnerable people and seek reform to protect those groups (as Canada has done). Cannabis law reform will not be a chaotic ‘free for all’. Continue reading Let’s be Pragmatic about Drugs