He said/she said: Aaron Smith

Part one of a probably-eternal series where Rob and Stephanie each share their thoughts on a topical, annoying issue.

[Content note: discussion of assault and non-consent]

Rob says:

Oh for god’s sake rugby union. You just don’t get it do you? It’s not sex that’s the issue – even airport toilet sex – it’s misusing power and ignoring non-consent.

If anything this business with Aaron Smith shows you haven’t learned a thing. Regardless of how Jersey Shore consensual sex in an airport toilet is, it’s consensual.

And disciplining a consenting adult for having sex with another consenting adult is ridiculous.

Honestly, mistaking feminist (actually humanist) concern for abuse of power (ie what happened with the Chiefs) for some kind of Victorian prudishness only shows how dangerously out of touch and unqualified to provide role models to young men like my son, you are.

Maybe you should take a deep breath and have a cup of tea:

Stephanie says:

I started off yesterday, hearing about the Aaron Smith incident, rolling my eyes. Of course NZ Rugby was going to respond far more immediately and drastically to a dude having consensual sex in a public bathroom than they ever would to a group of players being accused of outright assault against a stripper.

But, you know. “Obviously it was silly of him to do that, what was he thinking?”

By the end of the day? I was saying “you have all the bathroom sex you like, mate.”

Because the headlines – WHAT THE WITNESS SAW! SMITH’S PARTNER ASKS FOR PRIVACY, HERE’S A PHOTO OF HER ON OUR FRONT PAGE! OUR CAMERAS INVESTIGATE THE TOILET IN QUESTION! HAVE YOU HEARD FAMOUS PEOPLE HAVING SEX? CONTACT OUR NEWSDESK – were so prurient and predatory that I felt like I’d been transported directly into the pages of the defunct News of the World.

Yes, it’s incredibly shit to misuse accommodations provided for people with disabilities. And if Smith were cheating on his partner at the time, it’s awful for her to have this played out in the media.

But you know what? As a nation, we’ve completely lost the right to cast aspersions on anyone else’s lack of judgement.

Support Wellington Rape Crisis this week

(Full disclosure: I’m a member of the WRC governance group on a voluntary and unpaid basis.)

This week is Wellington Rape Crisis’ annual appeal. Despite being an organisation which provides vital crisis and ongoing support services for survivors of sexual violence and their loved ones, most of the agency’s day-to-day running costs are paid for by public donations.

Government grants typically cover specific types of work or distinct projects, and have to be reapplied for regularly (usually annually). The administration involved in all those applications is a significant cost in of itself!

As well as support work, Rape Crisis is the lead agency in the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network, which runs courses in schools, bars, government departments and professional organisations about consent, healthy sexuality, and how to be aware of and step in to stop sexual violence.

If you’re out and about on the streets of Wellington this Thursday and Saturday, look out for WRC collectors, or right here and now you can make a donation to WRC online – details at their website.

Every donation makes a huge difference.

Deborah Russell on Jane Austen, rape culture and John Key

Great feminist minds do think alike – back in January I posted a classic quote from Pride and Prejudice which shows just how entrenched the idea of “a woman says “no” when she means “yes” to lead men on” is in our culture.

The amazing Deborah Russell has used the same quote to highlight a slightly different issue: the way men don’t even bother assuming a woman is playing games; just refusing to hear the word “no” at all.

The connection to John Key’s sexual harassment of Amanda Bailey should be obvious – but head over to Deborah’s and read the whole thing. It can’t be said enough.

Roastbusters second report: surprising yet no surprise

[Content note: sexual violence, police inaction]

Other bloggers have already posted pretty comprehensive reviews of the second IPCA report into the Roastbusters debacle. As summarised by Danyl at Dim-Post:

Seven different complainants came forward and named same same three attackers, which is supposed to trigger something called a ‘Mass Allegation Investigation’ to address serial abuse by the same offenders or groups of offenders. Instead the police just looked at each case on an individual basis, decided it wasn’t worth prosecuting – because they didn’t understand the damn law – and then went around assuring each other that none of the victims wanted to lay a complaint – which was false – and that officers had talked to the boys and their parents, which none of them ever actually bothered to do.

Idiot/Savant at No Right Turn notes:

“At-risk sexual behaviour, alcohol abuse, and parental supervision” is apparently considered grounds for a CYFS referral in girls, but not boys. That’s a toxic mindset right there.

And through all of this, there’s an obvious question: if the police were so crap at investigating these cases, are they also crap at others? How many other rapists are going free because police just can’t be arsed doing their jobs properly?

And of course all the officers involved have kept their jobs.

Melulater covers the report, its implications for our societal attitudes to sexual violence, and the urgent debate in Parliament yesterday in which many women MPs spoke very well and every male MP except the responsible Minister decided to take a long lunch break.

… as a society, we fail these girls if this report is allowed to languish on a dusty shelf in parliament’s library.  As a society we have to demand action from our law makers and law enforcement to ensure that victims are supported and protected and further harm is not inflicted.

I thoroughly endorse her link to Rockstar Dinosaur Pirate Princess’ illustration of consent using a cup of tea.

The thing that gets me really angry about where this case has gone – beyond the fact that a pack of predatory little shits were allowed to assault people with impunity, beyond the fact their victims will probably never get any kind of justice, beyond the fact that this happens again and again exactly the same way and we never seem to make any progress – is that once again, even in the face of an utterly damning report which criticises the police’s handling of this case at every level … effectively, nothing happens.

Despite the fact that trained, specialist detectives whose one job was to investigate the abuse of children were apparently less capable to do so than anyone who’s watched a half-dozen episodes of Law & Order. Despite the fact that anyone in New Zealand with an internet connection could find the evidence of the young men bragging about illegal activities with a two-minute Googling.

Those cops go on with their lives. We’re left in the dark as to how many other rape and abuse cases were mishandled, how many other bragging predators were not only allowed to walk free, but got a clear message: you will not be punished for your actions. We don’t care what you do to underage girls. They’re not even important enough for us to take notice when they want to make complaints.

The NZ Police’s latest recruitment campaign uses the tagline “Do something extraordinary.” Unfortunately, it seems like it really would be extraordinary for them to do their goddamned jobs and investigate rape properly.