In light of Nicky Hager’s book Dirty Politics, you wrote a blog entitled ‘Some changes on Kiwiblog’ and you suggested it was time to tighten up ship on your website, saying “I want to improve trust in myself, Kiwiblog, and perhaps the wider blogosphere.” I am sure this seems like a commendable sentiment at the moment, given you are good friends with Cameron Slater who is at the centre of the firestorm of Dirty Politics. You know what they say: like attracts like.
But let’s leave Dirty Politics out of this letter I am writing to you, as I am sure you are sick of hearing about it – most right-wing leaning people are. And let’s talk about Tania Billingsley:
David, in your blog you said you felt “traumatised” by having you emails hacked by the anonymous hacker who leaked your information to Nicky Hager saying: “While some will take huge pleasure in what has happened, let me say that it is genuinely traumatic to have hacked e-mails to and from yourself”. Do you know what else is traumatising, David? Having some guy follow you home, enter your house, attempt to rape you and then steal items that belong to you from your home.
You must know who I am talking about? In your blog you also spoke about ‘that one time’ when you did not speakup publicly in defence of Tania Billingsley who survived a sexual assault at the hands of a foreign diplomat – who then allegedly burgled her home. Have you ever heard that saying “silence is complicity”, David? You wrote:
“On the recent case of Tania Billingsley, I said [David Farrar] in a phone conversation [to Slater] that I didn’t think speculating on her motives was a wise thing to do. I made contact after a friend of Tania’s asked me to have a word. But I accept that having a direct conversation doesn’t mean I shouldn’t also publicly say when I think something is wrong. So in future I will more often. One can be friends, and say I think you are wrong with what you are doing. And yes we are friends. When I had some health issues a couple of years ago Cam was there for me in a big way, and on a personal note, I know he will remain there for me, and I will for him. But again, it doesn’t mean I can’t say I think you are wrong and shouldn’t do it, just as he regularly calls me out for being a pinko, or the such!”
Is this the part where I fall on my knees (as a feminist) and say “thank you David, for feeling bad about not publicly challenging the vile words Slater wrote against Tania”? But hey, the billion women who have survived violence and rape in this world should just be happy that you went to Slater privately and gently let him know it might be a bad move to make wild accusations at Tania. Accusations which stem from a culture that constantly blames the survivors of rape for their own rape.
Being called a pinko is super offensive, maybe Cam is not such a great friend after all? Real friends do not name call each other, at least that is what I have always thought. I feel it is worth mentioning to you what survivors of sexual assault get called by friends and the general public: “fucking whore”, “bitch” ,“slut”… The list goes on.
A few years ago my cousin was brutally raped and sodomised – and when her rapist was done he called her a “fucking animal” and told her to “get the fuck out of my room”. There are many other dehumanising and violent names women are called when they refuse to stay silent on the abuse they have endured, but let’s leave it there for today.
It is nice Cam was there for you when you had “health issues”. You know what happens to people who speak out about surviving sexual assault? They lose friends. Because so often people would rather pretend rape and sexual assault does not exist then face it front on. Out of sight, out of mind.
But it is great you had support in your time of need. I am so happy for you. Meanwhile thanks to National’s cuts to funding of women’s refuge many are now struggling, and recently Christchurch had to shut the doors to their only rape crisis centre because they no longer could afford to stay open. I wonder where women who have been raped or sexually assaulted will go for support in Christchurch, now? But it is great, David, that you got the support you deserved in your time of need – I am so happy for you.
When I discussed your blog with my male friend who is a feminist ally he had this to say in reaction:
The post in question comes across as pretty humble. But it got me thinking… Farrar mildly regrets Slater’s public obnoxious attack on a survivor of sexual assault. Slater simultaneously attacked a community service in Wellington that is devoted to supporting women who are sexually assaulted. Farrar admits all this, and in the same breath calls Slater his friend. What kind of person is happy to be friends with that kind of slime?
Don’t get me wrong, David, it is great you have come to the realisation that you should have publicly called Slater out on the disgusting way he treated Tania. But your realisation does not exempt you from your failure to speak out in the first place. Slater staged a public hit job on Tania, in which he accused her of “baiting her attacker” – also known as putting yourself up as ‘rape bait’– victim-blaming Tania and publicly ridiculing her. And you, David, said nothing – other than a phone call in which you indicated it may have been a “bad idea” to assume what Tania’s motivations were. This one phone call does not get you off the hook. It does not pardon your failure to act.
So here is your chance, David Farrar, to make it right. You indicated you regret not publicly speaking out about how Slater treated Tania Billingsley.
Well, I am telling you it is not too late. Why don’t you write the blog you should have done over a month ago? Why don’t you stand with Tania and the thousands of other rape survivors in New Zealand? Why don’t you publicly call out Slater for his abhorrent and shameful treatment of Tania – of all survivors of assault?
It takes conviction and bravery to stand up as a man against rape and violence, and against sexism – especially when it is your friend you are standing up against. We need to create a climate in our culture where when men behave in sexist and violent ways they lose status. You, David Farrar, can begin to do this by calling out Cameron Slater’s sexist and victim-blaming mentality that he has shown time and time again against survivors of assault and rape – this behaviour that was epitomised in his treatment of Tania.
If you find the courage of your convictions and choose to write this blog, you need to know there will be consequences for your words. There is always a backlash, regardless of your gender, when you publicly speak out against sexism and violence. These conversations are polarising and make so many people feel uncomfortable; often they threaten those who benefit from the established order of things. It is likely you will face negative and abusive diatribes from people – this is one of the consequence of speaking out.
But I want you to know David, I will have your back if you write in defence of Tania and in opposition of Cameron Slater’s treatment of her. I want you to know I will stand with you and stand up to those who will attack you for raising your voice against the brutalities of our world – our New Zealand rape culture.
We all make mistakes, David, but what truly defines a person is how they go about fixing them. The time is now. Be brave. Make a stand. Please, be that guy.
Yours hopefully and sincerely,