Challenging the Government over Rape Culture

By   /   November 14, 2013  /   6 Comments

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The Minister’s position exemplifies the lack of leadership by the National Government on this issue. Her recent rhetoric does not change the facts. It was this Government that cut funding for front line services throughout the sector in 2009.

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There has been much written and discussed about the appalling behaviour of those who name themselves “Roast Busters”. There is no excuse that can be made for this behav- iour and it is concerning that people who fulfil a role that is in the public eye feel free to ex- press their personal views which questions their very suitability for any role that allows them to influence public opinion.

But there is an underlying concern about how the victims have been dealt with and why our institutions have contributed to the trauma that the young women have endured.

The Minister of Police has referred police action or inaction to the IPCA and there may well be some lessons to be learned from that process. But there are some more deep seated questions that need to be addressed in order to increase confidence that the justice sys- tem will deal appropriately with incidents of rape and sexual abuse.

Justice Minister, Judith Collins, has expressed her view about Jackson and Tamihere’s misogynist comments on air and has undertaken a campaign of writing and speaking in support of better prosecution of offenders charged with sexual offences. This recent stance does not stack up with the Minister’s rejection of the recommendations of the Task- force for Action on Sexual Violence and the Law Commission’s recommendations for changes to trial processes for prosecution of sexual offences. These recommendations for changes to trial processes were aimed at reducing the distressing impact on victims and survivors and addressing the significant under reporting of sexual offences in New Zea- land. It has long been accepted that 90% of sexual offences go unreported.

The “Roast Busters” episode highlights the importance of protection and safety of victims in order to encourage prosecution. The fact that the Minister considers that she personally does not support alternative processes is irrelevant. The Taskforce and the Law Commis- sion – comprised of experts who have undertaken extensive research – all recommended changes. Judith Collins predecessor, Simon Power, favoured the changes and had in- formed himself by visiting Courts in Europe. But the current Minister has confidence in her own opinion over that of 15 Taskforce members, submitters to a Ministry discussion paper, Law Commissioners and a former Minister who observed practices and informed himself.

The Minister’s position exemplifies the lack of leadership by the National Government on this issue. Her recent rhetoric does not change the facts. It was this Government that cut funding for front line services throughout the sector in 2009. Now the reintroduction of some services is being lauded as an appropriate response to the issue. We still do not have the same services in place as we did prior to the funding cuts despite the surveys and reports that clearly stated urgent action was needed at that time. A year ago the HELP Foundation cut it’s 24 hour rape crisis helpline because this Government refused to provide $200,000 funding. And then in July this year this Government announces a “fund- ing boost” for sexual violence crisis services, including HELP Foundation. And so they cut funding, create a crisis in this critical area and then expect plaudits when they take steps to counter their cuts. And it was this Government that withdrew $6.1m pa of counselling support for sexual violence victims from 2008 to 2011. Announcements talking about re- viewing and restructuring counselling services do not undo the harm of over 4 years of in- activity and withdrawal of services that are so necessary to prevent and deal with the high levels of sexual violence and sexual offending we experience as a country.

The Minister of Justice has had the opportunity to act on the recommendations of the Taskforce and Law Commission. She has chosen not to do so. Instead she has tried to justify her rejection of what can only be an improvement to our current system by stating that her Victims of Crime Reform Bill is going to make sure that victims of sexual offences are better supported in the Court process and that there will be a resulting increase in the prosecution of sexual violence offences. Such an assertion is disingenuous. That Bill does nothing to address the shortcomings that have been identified in our system since the 2006 Crime and Safety Survey. It does nothing to implement the Taskforce recom- mendations and it does nothing to address the recommendations of the Law Commission.

This is an issue about priorities. Addressing the issue of victims of sexual offences and ensuring prosecution of offenders in a system that is comprised of specialist judges, pros- ecutors and jurors, that is supportive and assists the victims has been ignored and dealt with by the current Minister of Justice in the most cavalier manner. At best one might say that this Government is at least recognising the errors they have made in under resourcing the sector by starting to reinvest in the sector. But the cost has been great – and the fact that these “Roast Busters” have existed throughout a period when 24/7 helplines have had to curtail their operation, counselling support has been cut and alternative Court processes have been rejected by a Minister who knows better than especially established Taskforces raises serious doubts about any statements recently made by a Minister who tries to con- vince the public that she and this Government are committed to providing better support for victims of sexual offences and increased prosecution. Those statements are not sup- ported by the Governments actions in cutting resources and it’s lack of action in imple- menting the Taskforce and Law Commission’s recommendations. People should be judged on what they do not what they say.

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6 Comments

  1. mary_a says:

    The government doesn’t care about rape victims. Judith Collins is simply mouthing platitudes, because she is one of the cronies of the old boys club in parliament, toeing the National party line! She has to be seen saying something, anything to justify her position!

    The disgraceful comments in the link below says it all about the attitude towards rape victims. It supports the sinister rape culture prevailing in this country. Nothing to be proud of.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/crime/9397528/Rape-victim-could-have-closed-legs-says-lawyer

    Until this issue is taken seriously and addressed, NZ will remain in a very dark place!

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    • Ovicula says:

      How does a lay person make a complaint about that lawyer? What I would really like to do to the creep is not publishable, but a lawyer, supposedly part of the intellectual elite of society, should be held to account when they spew that sort of crap. It is nowhere near as easy for a rape victim to close her legs as for a piece of shit lawyer to close their mind, and this creep has closed his like a bear trap.

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      • mary_a says:

        @ Ovicula – The lawyer in question is obviously very much part of the “old boys” establishment I’d say, given his contemptible comments!

        Absolutely sickening!

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  2. Keith Stewart says:

    “People should be judged on what they do not what they say”.

    Really? So what has been the role of those critics of Jackson and Tamihere for daring to perform like the talk show hosts they are paid to be by Radio Live. Note the title. its a talk show, and apart from the listeners employed by politicians, none of the protagonists of this attack heard what they said, because they are not their audience.

    Misogynist is an easy tag to apply, but difficult to substantiate when the work of these two in support of their communities (including women) is considered. Genuine support for rape victims, or for better community attitudes will no more be advanced by silencing Willie and JT than it will be by leaving Sean Plunket on air.

    Maybe those women who claim to be Maori leaders should provide support for Willie and JT when their leadership in support of their communities in compromised by the actions of a group acting in concert with corporate interests.

    That has been no more than an old fashioned witch hunt, one that the women in the Labour Party should be deeply ashamed of supporting, especially those who pose as whaea toa.

    It is easy to score points by slagging of the political opposition, but harder to act like rangatira and provide tangible support for real community action against the roar of the crowd.

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  3. Crunchtime says:

    witch-hunt??? Hell no.

    It’s simply about a zero-tolerance line against anyone even suggesting that getting raped has ANYTHING to do with what the victim was wearing or doing.

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  4. Max Thomas says:

    Good article on the loss of funding and the consequence of that. Similar to withdrawing funding to mine inspector numbers and then seeing a dangerous mine and /or practises kill miners.
    But with regards comments; the continuation of the gender war or the more minor gender slanging off will never resolve these issues. This government is not some good ole boys club it is a tool of neo-liberal capitalism and in this it has no regard who it screws as long as they feed their own. It is a class and economic ideology struggle. The divide and rule of us ordinary humans is a tactic familiar to all empires in human history. You when stoking gender ill will along are playing their game!
    JT and Willie were fools to spout sexist stuff in this day and age. however they are not the only ones to spout such bigotry and offensive comments on rape…look no further than many of the sexist-misandry comments written by women with regards their views of the so-called rape culture. Being a sexist fool on this occasion, and possibly other times does not negate the contributions both of these individuals have made and continue to make in the socio-political scape especially as a counter to the excesses of Key and his ilk.

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