Act Against Rape

1a rapists

Roast Busters– How do we move from outrage to real change? 

By Prue Hyman

We’ve now had two weeks to ponder the Roast Busters affair, culminating in Saturday’s strongly supported marches protesting against widespread ‘rape culture’ in New Zealand and a lack of justice for survivors.

Another key slogan was: ‘Don’t lock up your daughters – educate your sons.’ The organising group saw the national day of action as a step towards change, ‘but for change to happen, our powerful institutions need to hear us.’  

Nearly 100,000 people have signed Jessie Hume’s petition at https://www.change.org calling for sexual violence to be taken seriously in Aotearoa.

I was one of them, giving as my reasons:

  • ‘Because it is so hard to get a successful prosecution in these cases (and there are systematic things which could be done to change that, but aren’t),
  • Because Judith Collins cancelled Simon Power’s HRC research project on how to make things better for the young women testifying,
  • Because it is so hard for the brave young women who try to have it stopped and be survivors, not victims,
  • And because neither the government nor the police do much more than shed crocodile tears on this issue as yet.’

Stronger Govt. action essential

The petition, like the marches, demands far stronger government action.

Hume claims that the huge groundswell of pressure has largely been responsible for the new investigation into police handling of the case. 

She also criticized the Prime Minister’s weak reactions – while open to looking at further law changes, he has followed past governments in ‘failing to commit to any real change or the extra funding needed to fix the system that’s failing rape survivors.’

The social media have had a huge role in this issue, for good and for ill.

It seems amazing how few of us, unlike the police, knew of the Roast Busters website when it was up for two years. And when it came to light, it exposed in full force the appalling and criminal behaviour of some young men and their boasting about it, instigating welcome outraged responses not only from young women in danger and feminist groups, but also from many individual men and corporates.

The withdrawal of advertisers from Radio Live in protest against John Tamihere and Willie Jackson’s disgraceful interviewing of one of the young women involved was at least partly due to Giovanni Tiso’s approach to the advertisers and his Twitter going viral. Radio Live’s response had been grossly inadequate until they were attacked in their pockets.

I wondered on National Radio whether this social media led outrage, the largest reaction to ‘rape culture’ yet seen in New Zealand, would lead to real change.

Real change ahead?

Past experience is not promising – the Louise Nicholas case, numerous reports and promises of change from police and government.

Will it be different this time with a major shift in policy responses, police practise, the judicial system, and the education, socialization and behaviour of young (and older!) men?

An interesting column by Phil Taylor casts light on when social media campaigns have real impact – see http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11157945

Alan Tristram heard my comment and asked me to expand. I was reluctant – I’m not a parent or grandparent or an expert. I realise it’s an incredibly hard job to help young people grow up to have respect and integrity in their relationships in a world full of pornography and group pressures to conform to stereotypes and bravado – hard for both parents and teenagers.

 But hard as it is, we all have to be responsible for creating a world where objectifying young women and seeing them as sexually available objects is unacceptable.

We can start by reading some of the excellent analyses published recently including many on the marches – here are a few earlier ones:

Feminist academic Nicola Gavey on misogynist sexual culture at

http://www.sexualpoliticsnow.org.nz/roast-busting-and-the-revival-of-misogynist-sexual-culture/  

Te Wharepora Hou Maori Women’s Group critique (signed by
Dr Leonie Pihama and Marama Davidson) at http://tewhareporahou.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/open-letter-to-john-and-willie/

Wellington Sexual Abuse HELP Foundation Helen Sullivan’s discussion of victim blaming and prevention  at https://www.facebook.com/TOAH.NNEST/posts/555451017866291

 Marianne Elliott’s discussion of her own teenage experience at http://marianne-elliott.com/2013/11/there-is-a-reason-i-was-afraid-to-get-drunk-at-rugby-parties/.

‘We have to act’

And then we have to act in every way we can including supporting the key organizations in the field.

Maybe that’s enough to give the Kapiti feel Alan wanted. After all, we’re an area where there has been calamitous alcohol fueled violence from young men – and this can often be directly linked to sexual violence.

The actions under way here to counter this are a start – we all need to think what else we can do.

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I think this has always gone on in some form or other. Our drinking culture has a lot to answer for. The Student Union president welcoming freshers at VUC way back in 1945 made it clear that women students were there as sexual prey. As an ignorant girl from a single-sex boarding school, I was horrified. Fear of rape limited my tramping to day outings. The goings on at some of the parties would make your hair curl … drunkenness, predatory males who always seemed to be in charge. I think the only difference today is that many males are stupid enough to brag about it on social media.