Mils Muliaina, rape culture, and sharpening my pitchfork

The news that a former All Black had been arrested in connection with a sexual assault case did not surprise me in the slightest.

It cannot surprise anyone who pays the slightest bit of attention to professional sports. Whether it’s rugby, league, soccer, the NFL, it’s seems there’s never a week without a player, a group of players, or an entire team being accused, and sometimes convicted, of assault or rape.

There are almost no details of the charges against Muliaina so far. But that hasn’t stopped people rushing to pre-judge the case.

And no, I don’t mean me and my merry band of evil Twitter feminists.

This is the thing with high-profile rape and assault cases: you don’t actually see people saying “oh he definitely did it” (unless, you know, he admits to doing stuff which is quite clearly rape). But you might see people pointing out that this kind of thing happens a lot. And you might see people like me pointing out that the rate of false reports is very low. Or that the public response is usually antagonistic towards victims. And that this antagonism makes it incredibly difficult for other victims to step forward.

We’ll probably say those two words which are a red rag to a misogynist bull, “rape culture” – which is really nothing more than a way of summing up all the above.

We don’t say a thing about Mils Muliaina, whether he’s guilty or innocent.

But we’re obviously the people doing the pre-judging of the case.

Not the people who say the accused is “a gentleman and a family man” but the complainant is “probably a gold-digger”. Not the journalist in the story linked above who talks about what a “great job” Muliaina has done. Not the people who accuse feminists of “getting out their pitchforks”.

Before we even know the slightest detail, the framing has already begun. He’s a hero. No one could possibly believe he’d do it. He’s a great man. Everyone likes him. Pillar of the community. Role model for young men. There’s got to be an explanation for this, and the only credibly one involves him being completely innocent. There are clearly two sides to every story (and we will only discuss his one!)

And the unnamed, unknown complainant is at best written off, and at worst already being castigated as a villain intent on bringing Our Man Mils down.

Maybe this is mistaken identity. Maybe this is a mix-up. Maybe Mils Muliaina is as pure as the driven snow, and maybe this is the incredibly rare case of a malicious false complaint.

It’s far too early, and we know far too little, to say yet.

So why are so many people – people on his side – already jumping to conclusions?

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