Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.

21 Oct

Chris Kenny


It’s profoundly concerning that Abyan, the Somali refugee currently living on Nauru and victim of a rape that left her pregnant, was forbidden to see her lawyer and denied adequate counselling for her trauma and her plight.

But now we hear that Rupert Murdoch’s minion Chris Kenny of The Australian was not only the first journalist in eighteen months to be granted a visa to enter Nauru in the last few days, he was also escorted by local police to Abyan’s accommodation, where he confronted her about her situation.

Human Rights Commissioner Professor Gillian Triggs has been denied a visa to visit Nauru, so Kenny is indeed privileged.

Kenny’s first account of his interview with Abyan, which you can access by clicking the link on Kenny’s tweet in The Guardian report above, seems to contradict Immigration Minister Peter Dutton’s claims that Abyan refused an abortion and was therefore returned to the island, and instead substantiates her own claims that she did not refuse an abortion, she asked for some time, and appropriate help. Neither the time nor the appropriate help was forthcoming, and she was deported after being refused contact with her lawyer.

The likelihood of us ever knowing the truth of the situation is slim, however, no matter how you look at it, Abyan has been treated in a most despicable manner by both governments, and their agents.

Dutton has belatedly diarised appointments allegedly made for Abyan, with and without interpreters. However, there is no way at all of verifying Dutton’s claims that these appointments were in fact made, and that Abyan was offered the medical attention he claims.

I have no idea why Abyan was then subjected to further traumatisation by having to endure Chris Kenny’s pursuit of her after she was returned to Nauru.  But everywhere I look in this situation I see an extremely vulnerable young woman, stripped of all power and agency, subjected to the interrogation and control of powerful men intent on furthering their own interests. The demonstration of male power & dominance over women that the Abyan story illustrates makes my blood run cold.

In his latest report from Nauru, Kenny stresses that Abyan has not reported her rape to the Nauruan police. The implication is clear: if she didn’t report it, perhaps it didn’t happen.

There are a staggering number of sexual assaults in this developed country that go unreported. The majority of rapes that are reported don’t make it into court. Reporting sexual assault to police is a harrowing experience, even when the police concerned are highly trained and care about you, and share your language group. I had a sexual assault counsellor with me when I did it a few months ago, as well as evidence, and a great deal of loving support. With all that, it was an horrific experience from which I still haven’t recovered. Reporting sexual assault if you are a young, pregnant Somali refugee woman condemned to life on Nauru for the indefinite future, must be an almost impossibly daunting prospect.

And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.

And let’s not forget that Dutton only agreed to offer Abyan an abortion in the first place because public agitation forced him to.

There is a recent pattern of unrelenting traumatisation of Abyan by men who have descended on her, for one reason or another, like vultures on a wounded animal. Most of them are white and middle class. Their actions are validated by an entirely brutal government policy that condemned Abyan to Nauru in the first place, a policy initiated by Julia Gillard and Nicolo Roxon. I wonder what these two women now think of where their policy has led us, or if they consider it at all.

An aside: a link to an interview with Nancy Fraser, Professor of Philosophy and Politics at the New School on why the “leaning in” brand of feminism actually means leaning on other women. Quote:

For me, feminism is not simply a matter of getting a smattering of individual women into positions of power and privilege within existing social hierarchies. It is rather about overcoming those hierarchies.

Yes. Indeed.

In an uneasy corollary with Abyan’s situation Nauru is a subordinate state (read feminised) dominated by and dependent on Australia. Australia sends women and children it does not want to Nauru, where they are raped and abused. Australia, however, claims this is none of our business as Nauru is a sovereign state and we cannot intervene in its legal system, or what passes for a legal system in that lawless nation.

White, privileged, and apparently having suffered nothing more traumatic than being the butt (sorry) of a Chaser’s joke concerning sex with a dog, Chris Kenny feels he is entitled to pursue and interrogate the traumatised Somali refugee because, well, he is white, male, privileged, and works for Rupert Murdoch. He has no expertise in the matter of trauma and sexual trauma. If he had the slightest idea, and any compassion, he would not have subjected Abyan to his inquiries, and he certainly wouldn’t have arrived at her home with a police escort.

The bodies that matter are firstly, white. Then they are male. Then they are the bodies of women of calibre. They are bodies that belong to our tribe. I think, almost every day, what would the man who sexually assaulted me do if his daughter had been treated as he treated me? He observed more than once that I was “not of his tribe,” a comment I found ridiculous at the time, but with hindsight I see that his perception of me as other allowed him to behave towards me as if I was less vulnerable, less hurtable than women who were “of his tribe.”

Multiply this a million times when the victim is a Somali refugee abandoned by Australia to fend for herself in Nauru, and it isn’t hard to understand why there were difficulties reporting the rape.

The headline “Rape Refugee” says it all. Written on the body. Written on the body that does not matter, by the body that does.




23 Responses to “Bodies that matter. Bodies that don’t.”

  1. Marilyn October 21, 2015 at 8:09 pm #

    I was raped at 19 as I have said before, and that was after years of sexual abuse by my father, grandfather and two uncle as a child. I did not report it but the cops found out anyway and because the man was a known rapist with a pregnant 18 year old victim walking around town denied an abortion they beat the living crap out of the arsehole.

    Some 30 years later I noticed with great joy that the bastard had been sent to prison for being a serial rapist.

    I was as powerless as Abyan, I had not family around, no money, no home, nothing so I took 50 Panadol and landed in hospital beaten and half dead.

    To get to some family who might help me I lied to the bus company for free bus travel back to Adelaide from Whyalla.

    This horror inflicted on this poor powerless girl is literally making me ill and Turncow the racist coward sends a know refugee hater to infringe further on her rights.
    How much more do we have to do to this girl whose ”crime” was to escape rape and torture by Al Shabaab criminals only to be repeatedly raped and done over by this fucking arsehole of a place with it’s rogue parliament who are no better than Al Shabaab by choice and legislation CONTRIVED BY TWO FUCKING WOMEN.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jennifer Wilson October 21, 2015 at 8:31 pm #

      It’s making me ill, Marilyn and I’ve heard quite a few other women say the same thing.


  2. saraharnetty October 21, 2015 at 8:28 pm #

    This post made me so angry! Off – shore processing is an absolute disaster and both Labor and LNP both equally to blame!

    Jennifer and Marilyn, I’m so sorry for what you’ve gone through.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hudsongodfrey October 21, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    It absolutely disgusts and angers me that neither Gillian Triggs, Sarah Hanson nor even the UNHCR inspectorate can get into these facilities and yet some yellow press shill can! It so looks and feels like the work of the Ministry of Truth that we shudder to think what kind of mind it takes to steer such a course.

    Here quite possibly is the worst part: You see I don’t know what’s going on with this woman any more than the next person. She was apparently brought to Australia then sent back with the claim being made that had a change of heart and declined a termination. That’s where for some of us it becomes more difficult given that, supporters of choice though we may well be, none of us with a shred of conscience wants it on our hands that we’d force her to undergo the procedure against her will. We’re then in a position that’s probably no different than many other things going on behind that veil of detention secrecy, we know bad things are happening, we just don’t know what or how bad they are.

    It feels to me like this poor woman is being raped not once but twice. The first time for the usual reasons we absolutely condemn and the second for reasons that because they are so premeditated so and so unjustifiable take the violation of another human being to level beyond any I ever imagined leaders in this country would stoop to.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson October 22, 2015 at 7:28 am #

      HG, I think this situation is the inevitable outcome of state secrecy and the decision to allow one minister absolute power sans any accountability.

      How we have got to this place is one thing: how we get out of it an entirely other.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hudsongodfrey October 23, 2015 at 12:56 am #

        We might understand were there to be reasons for secrecy on occasions when a convincing case can be made for national security such as in time of war. Similarly the use of confidentiality in private matters is entirely understandable if seldom held to the governmental standard of accountability in the public interest.

        I think when it comes to detention of refugees it has been obvious for some time that what they’ve privatised outsourced and assiduously striven to conceal is the deliberate and methodical harming of others in furtherance of a deterrent that does not and can not excuse brutalisation and denial of human rights.

        So yes, the officious pursuit of state secrecy and democracy are uncomfortable bedfellows, but this goes beyond that to stand in open opposition to human rights. We shouldn’t even bother to call it unaccountable or suspicious because there can be no nuanced argument or good agenda behind it. There’s nothing being done in our name that we’ll feel buoyed by in years to come when this chapter of our history can be spoken of openly. Just bad things being done for bad reasons, none of which have the slightest basis in promoting our security or any other greater good.

        Quite a few of the reasons for it may relate to a lack of moral grounding and abject bipartisan capitulation to bigotry that’s already turning out to be very ill advised indeed. By all accounts we’re forced to play host to Mr Wilders and fend off resurgent neo-Nazi groups, because in the race to the bottom its brown shirted turtles all the way down……


  4. kristapet October 22, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    Thank you for your writing again – clear thinking and powerful writing, your thought provoking questions, and well formed arguments and for food for thought

    I sigh because I have too many words at the sickening awfulness of this.
    My father made me the subject of a court case when I was 4 or 5 years of age. because I was raped by a native boy on Manus Island in early 1950’s.
    Then Manus Island was an Australian Naval Base and under the supervision of the Australian Government
    I occasionally still have nightmares about it.
    It makes me feel the torment of this woman and others that are put under the microscope because of the wrongful actions of others

    I sigh because of the intractability of this government holding onto a policy and “solution” that is spiraling out of control daily and causing unquantifiable damage to all it’s inmates in their Detention Centres.
    I sigh and cringe because of the spin that they spinning, the hoodwinking and deceit to cloak and control and safeguard the secrecy of their unspeakable actions.
    I rile at the shutting out of everybody that should be involved and letting in of pipsqueaks from Murdock Press to add more ‘insult and injury’, in a remorseless, insensitive manner on to a defenseless young rape victim.
    Then there is Dutton and Co acting in self interest and devoid of human wisdom and who are blatantly avoiding helping Abyan and trying to cover up their dereliction of duty of care because it might just weaken their control over Border Protection.But it alright for them to continue and condone abuse towards women, men and children.
    It is beyond shameful.
    I sigh, and I am sickened, because this stubborn, ‘final solution’ is not being shut down and the inmates are not being resettled, or assisted in a humanitarian and productive ways;
    and because the NLP are not listening, and because, these cranky, self righteous men of this government are intransigent in their creating of “sacrificial lambs” and “pawns”, in the name of Border Protection and flexing their government muscle
    I hope Abyan gets justice and help very soon
    I also hope, so hope, that with persistence, everyone’s collective sighs, stomach twists and turns into a hurricane like the ” flapping of butterfly wings ripple effect” and smashes this government and their asylum seeker policy travesty to bits and ends it

    Liked by 2 people

  5. olive October 22, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    But why did she let him in to her room ?????????????Ahe asked him to leave and he didn’t , so why did she then speak with him and then allow him in the room after all that she has been through ,? This doesn’t make sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson October 23, 2015 at 9:13 am #

      It makes a lot of sense, given Abyan’s history, and her current circumstances. The world is a different place and so are the people in it, after severe traumatic experiences. .


    • The Nurdler October 24, 2015 at 9:47 am #

      It doesn’t make sense because it was a lie, Pamela Curr from the Asylum Resource Centre made up this lie, refugee advocates are just doing damage to the whole situation.
      Chris Kenny treated ‘Abyan’ with complete respect, I feel so sorry for this vulnerable woman who is being used as a pawn by these advocates, they should just fuck off and leave her alone, lambasted Chris Kenny has done a sterling effort to get the real story out here, never ever trust these advocates again, they are political assholes who dont give a shit about the humans involved.


      • Jennifer Wilson October 24, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

        You sound very upset, Nurdler.


        • Steve L Roberts October 26, 2015 at 8:46 am #

          Rightly so…
          If Kenny is guilty of inference about the rape not being reported, so is this an inditable inference “And then there is Abyan’s history, including rape and genital mutilation in her home country.”
          Are you inferring that Abyan was raped in her home country and also subject to genital mutilation?
          I am really bothered that people who supposedly care for the plight of refugees, can use this unfortunate woman for their own ends, the facts are sketchy, she needs support not constant speculation, Kenny has opened the door to other people being allowed a visa to Nauru, he was nothing but respectful with her, and in fact conveyed the message that she just wanted more time to decide what to do….
          One critical point here is, How did that liar Pamela Curr get a phone to Abyan? Who else is provided with these phones? What implications are there regarding these phones?
          Surely the pressure that needs to be applied is in relation to the safety of women as they enjoy the freedom of moving out in the local community. Our government needs to apply the pressure to Nauru and it’s authorities to investigate and pursue those reponsible for stalking and harrassing the refugees.


          • hudsongodfrey October 26, 2015 at 9:59 am #

            I think making it someone else’s problem by design if bullshit and demonstrably so.

            I say what our government needs to do is admit that mandatory offshore detention in its current forms falls short of meeting its protective responsibilities to these applicants for asylum, violates their human rights, and is generally all round unconscionable.

            There are other conversations we need to have about whether it is working, depending upon how you define “working”. Retracing some of the steps that led to the race to the bottom over the past decade or so would in my view be instructive. I’m not in the least given to euphoric delusions of a borderless planet.


            Cases like Abyan’s, if we fail show the will to respond compassionately, chip away at our collective conscience to an alarming degree. It seems that we’re unwilling to draw the line anywhere on the abuse dished out to refugees! I pity what we are become.


          • Jennifer Wilson October 26, 2015 at 5:16 pm #

            No, I’m not inferring Abyan’s history – it’s on the record. She was granted refugee status because its too dangerous for her to return home.

            Abyan lives in the community, not detention. She is perfectly entitled to have a phone. Anyone could have helped her obtain one.


  6. samjandwich October 22, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

    Shamefully I don’t know enough about Judith Butler to make a sensible response, but it seems pretty obvious that we’re not being told the truth about what’s going on here, and that Abyan’s experiences are being used for political purposes. ugly ugly ugly.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Nurdler October 24, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Unfortunately the passage of time has revealed parts of this that are not true, that Pamela Curr from the Asylum Resource Centre should be ashamed of herself, disgraceful liar!!



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