Tag Archives: Sexual Violence

Freedom from Lockdown

Sarah Monod de Froideville

Just another two business days, she said. Well, actually, the weekend and the day following it too (for Anzac Day). As Jacinda Ardern announced we’d remain at level 4 until the morning of Tuesday 28 April, I swear I could hear the collective groan.

Everyone wants to get out of lockdown. The boredom, cooped-upness and trauma in discovering just how design challenged one’s colleagues truly are (I have a friend who describes Zoom meetings as a form of intimate assault).

Well, I don’t want it to end. I have found a freedom in lockdown, but in sharing it I have to make a confession. I, like the Health Minister, nation’s surfies and thousands of others, am a lockdown offender.

I didn’t plan on it, but have been doing my daily walks a little bit outside my local neighbourhood, and mostly at night. I’ve been walking and walking for long periods in the dark because, for once in my life, I feel like it’s safe to do so.

It is remarkable to be in the outdoors at night and just be; without having to walk briskly, keys in hand and cellphone at the ready, having to cognitively identify every sound.

When we reach level 2, it is not likely I—or any other woman—will ever have the same opportunity again. Every woman understands the effort we put into being hypervigilant in a world that doesn’t promise us our security.

Continue reading Freedom from Lockdown

The Problem of Rape

Movie Mogul Harvey Weinstein has been convicted of rape. But the problem is much bigger and more insidious than a few bad men.

In May 2017, New York Times journalist Jodi Kantor had a conversation with Hollywood actress Rose McGowan that began the downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who was on Monday convicted of sexual assault by a New York jury and faces further charges in Los Angeles.

Following Kantor’s article, the producer of multiple successful films from Kill Bill to The English Patient was under watch for sexual predation against women ranging over three decades.

What McGowan imparted was clearly bigger than her own experience of sexual assault. All the studios paid out money to silence women, she said, and no actress wanting a future dare speak out. In her case, Weinstein’s team quickly moved in with a US$100,000 payout conditional on her silence, money she said she donated to a rape crisis centre.

As more of Weinstein’s history became known, many wondered why women had not spoken out. Even more puzzling, why hadn’t all those around the producer who knew of his exploits exposed him?

Continue reading The Problem of Rape

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

Still Silent Objects

On Tuesday 16 April 2019, Professor Jan Jordan and colleagues launched the results from a three year Marsden study at a symposium in Wellington. The work – encompassing significant police file analysis, media analysis and interviews – examined women’s representations, contemporary pornography, and criminal justice responses to rape.

The symposium was live-recorded. You can watch all the main talks here – just click on the title of each talk below.

Please be advised that much of the material is challenging and deals directly with issues of sexual assault and objectification. Continue reading Still Silent Objects

Sexual Violence is (or should be) an Election Issue

trigger warning

Last week, I was honoured to represent Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP at the launch of Thursdays in Black Aotearoa’s report, In Our Own Words.  Thursdays in Black is an international student-led movement focused on building a world without rape and violence.

In September and October 2016, Thursdays in Black Aotearoa undertook a nationwide online survey of 1400 tertiary students, asking about their experiences of sexual violence both prior to and during tertiary study; their experiences of sexuality education during secondary study, their access to sexual violence support services at tertiary level, and so much more.

In Our Own Words is a stunning piece of work. While the authors take care to note it is not a prevalence survey, the sample size is large enough to draw some very telling conclusions. Continue reading Sexual Violence is (or should be) an Election Issue

‘Grooming’ and Racialisation Politics

In the wake of 9/11, contemporary Islamophobia has become globalised, especially in the ‘West’. In turn, ‘a global stock of clichés, stereotypes and folk myths about the Muslim ‘Other’’ are frequently drawn upon to inform common sense about local circumstances and local events. These processes can underpin ‘a seemingly never-ending series of moral panic spirals in which the perceived deviance of Muslims is amplified’.

In recent research, Waqas Tufail (a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University) and Scott Poynting (adjunct Professor at the University of Western Sydney) have traced how Muslim communities became demonised following a case of ‘grooming’ and sexual violence in Rochdale, UK. Continue reading ‘Grooming’ and Racialisation Politics

Rape and Patriarchy

By Hughillustration, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week in Wellington saw two incidents from separate schools in which teenage boys demonstrated their entitlement to make sexually derogatory comments about girls and women on Facebook pages.

Some of those seeking to explain the boys’ behaviour have sought to minimise their culpability by claiming these were boys with good values who must just be joking.

The “can’t you take a joke” refrain features as a key display item in the women’s movement’s museum of feminist backlash memorabilia.

Rape is no joking matter. It is profoundly disturbing that boys in 2017 might consider it still to be so. How do we explain the fact that boys whose entire lives have been lived in what some would term a post-feminist era come to not only hold such views but seek peer esteem through sharing them?

There are many clues to this so-called mystery. The most useful starting point lies in acknowledging the tenacity of the patriarchal footprint on our culture. Continue reading Rape and Patriarchy

Constructing Rape

What can the Scott Kuggeleijn rape case teach us about how we think about sexual violence?

New Zealanders love sport. Cricket and rugby are two sports in particular that are afforded considerable status and occupy a position of national prominence. However, while our professional athletes are revered for their impressive sporting talents, they don’t always all behave in exemplary ways, as some of the evidence presented in the recent trial of Cricketer Scott Kuggeleijn suggests.

The acquittal of Kuggeleijn on rape charges and the discourse surrounding the trial reveals a lot about how we think about sexual violence, the narratives that frame our societal understanding of it, and raises important questions for the future if we are to move toward a safer society for women in particular. Continue reading Constructing Rape

A Woman’s Words: What are They Worth?

lipno2New Zealand newspaper reporting on rape presents some grave concerns in relation to how women as victims are discussed, objectified, and silenced. The 2016 trial of ‘Northern Districts’ cricketer Scott Kuggeleijn has showed this all too clearly.

Kuggeleijn took to the stand after a woman alleged that he raped her, at her Hamilton flat in May 2015. Comments from The New Zealand Herald and Stuff showed little progress from sexist attitudes towards women, and the abhorrent culture that surrounds rape and sexual violence in this country. Stating that the complainant was dressed “very provocatively” with her “breasts out” and “quite revealing with a short skirt and pink top” (Feek, 2016) only serve to remind us that women, and their appearances, are, in some way to blame for rape (Feek, 2016).

Kuggeleijn’s defence lawyer suggested that the cricketer acted as any other man would when he tried to have sex with a woman after she had earlier said ‘no’: “If I said to you that 100 men who have been in that situation and tried again you would have a forest of hands. There’s nothing horrible about that, it’s just a reflection of life really, and what was Kuggeleijn other than one of these men?” (Akoorie, 2016). Continue reading A Woman’s Words: What are They Worth?

Intimate Partner Sexual Violence: The ‘Real Rape’ Stereotype

With thanks to Jehane, who made this photograph freely available with a Creative Commons licence.
Photo: Jehane. Republished under a Creative Commons licence.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have the worst rates of sexual violence perpetrated by intimate partners in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (NZ FV Clearinghouse, 2011). But, despite this shocking statistic, a dangerous ‘real rape’ stereotype exists. This stereotype is a mainstream perception that sexual violence can only be perpetrated by an armed stranger in a dark alleyway. Continue reading Intimate Partner Sexual Violence: The ‘Real Rape’ Stereotype

Rugby, Violence and Athletic Privilege

rugby-violence3We need to talk about NZ’s sporting cultures

Despite the numerous on-field successes for New Zealand rugby, the behaviour of some of its players and officials off the field has raised tough questions about our country’s sporting culture. Cases of violence towards others and mistreatment of women by some of New Zealand’s rugby players have led to limited repercussions. A national conversation regarding why these events occurred, and how they may be addressed, is long overdue.  Continue reading Rugby, Violence and Athletic Privilege