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Let the healing fountain start…

23 Nov

Image by Quint Buccholz

I went to St Michael’s Collegiate School in Hobart, at a very different time from Grace Tame. Grace’s story and in particular the references to the school, have stirred memories I thought no longer had the power to move me. I want first to acknowledge Grace’s experiences and her steadfast telling of them, and have it noted here that the recounting of her story by a woman can sometimes break through the defences of those of us who have survived, and in turn free our voices. 

When I was at St Michael’s, or Collegiate as we called it, the school was run by the Community of the Sisters of the Church, a group of Anglican nuns. I was sent there not because my family was particularly interested in high Anglican ideology, but because it was a school with a strong reputation for educating girls and apart from that, I needed to be got out of home and it was a boarding school.  My story is also one of childhood sexual abuse, not by a teacher but my stepfather. 

We lived in the small east coast village of St Marys, where my stepfather was the local doctor. He was also a lay preacher in the Methodist church where he played the organ on Sundays. He was a much-liked, even revered figure in the community. Many years later, in one of the confounding synchronicities life can occasionally present, I met Gwynneth, who was a nurse at the small hospital in St Mary’s when my stepfather worked there. We established that Gwynneth knew me when I was a child. She visited our house for dinner, though I do not remember these occasions.  What was I Iike I asked her, as this was the period when the rapes had just begun and I have no memory of myself.  You were quiet, she said. Shy. If I’d known what was happening I would have stolen you. 

What was he like, I asked her. We thought he was a very good doctor, she told me. He let us do things nurses weren’t supposed to do. He encouraged us. 

I hated her for a moment for speaking well of him.

St Michael’s was for me a sanctuary, a refuge from a home where there was no peace to be found, no respite from fear, a house of life-threatening violence and unpredictable adult fury.  At St Michael’s I slept safely in the knowledge that I would not be disturbed either by the sounds of heavy footsteps thudding down the hallway and my mother’s screams, or my stepfather pulling back my bedcovers to slip in beside me. At the dining table at St Michael’s I was permitted to leave food I could not eat. I was allowed to like and dislike. The only times I knew fear were when I received the fortnightly notes from my stepfather telling me which day he would visit to take me out for a drive.  Then it would start again, the cold in my belly, the wakeful nights, until the visit was over and I knew there’d be respite until the next time.  It felt like happiness, after it was over. The euphoric relief, I thought it was happiness and this misunderstanding distorted my perception of how things should be between people for a long time.

This situation continued for some five years. In my fifteenth year, something gave way in me. I had for many months imagined how it would be to tell someone of my secret life. I knew whom I would choose. Her name was Sister Elizabeth May. At this time the nuns wore full black habits with white wimples, we saw neither their hair nor their ankles and their waists were bound with wooden rosaries. I never found them intimidating, though I expect it would be quite difficult to intimidate a girl who knew as much as I did about the terrible things that can be done by adults. 

I experienced only kindness from these women. Though they knew nothing of my story, my distress expressed itself in sleep-walking, nightmares, and a complete inability to learn, though obviously I was not stupid. Children aren’t stupid, despite what some adults may think. The only thing I could do with any confidence was play the piano, which I had been learning since I was five from, confusingly, my stepfather who proved to be an excellent teacher. Sister Elizabeth May used to sit with me of an evening when I was practising. She sat near the piano, knitting black mittens for the winter. She suffered terribly from chilblains. I’m quite sure she knew something was badly awry. 

One evening I said, what happens if you forgive someone seventy times seven and they still do something wrong?  Who are you forgiving, she asked. So I told her. Everything. 

And was believed. 

Which in itself was quite remarkable for the times, which were before these things were spoken of. Before mandatory reporting, so Elizabeth May did not have to go to the police with my story. Instead she went to Sister Jessica, the headmistress, a formidable figure we girls did not know well. I was called to her office. Elizabeth May came with me. I cannot remember Jessica’s questions, I remember only her gentleness and how much I wanted her to take me on her lap. She didn’t, of course, but she did stroke my hair and pray for us all.

Later, I learned that the sisters took their dilemma, and what a dilemma it was at that time, with no framework of regulations within which they could seek guidance, to the Dean of Hobart, Michael Webber. The Dean was a frequent visitor to the school, we knew him well. Between the three of them they formed a plan to confront my stepfather and mother. Yes, my mother knew of all this from the start. But that’s another story. They decided to brief a lawyer who also attended the confrontation. I have no idea what passed between the four of them, but I do know that not one of them ever questioned the veracity of my story. 

I was believed.

On the day of the confrontation it was decided I would be sent to spend the afternoon with one of the secular teachers who had a house in the school grounds. They wanted me safe and out of the way. I spent the day in terror. I was afraid he’d find me. I was afraid he’d kill my mother if he couldn’t find me.  

I was afraid of breathing. 

I can’t remember anything of that day apart from the feelings. At some point, Elizabeth May fetched me from the house and took me to see Jessica. Together they told me my stepfather had admitted the truth. I would not have to go home again, they said. I would not have to endure anymore. I remember the relief. I remember I cried because I didn’t have a home. I remember I feared he would kill my mother and my baby sisters because of what I’d done. 

Many years later they told me they’d given him an ultimatum. Either he gave the nuns charge of me, or they’d report him to the police. Of course, my parents agreed to relinquish me.

In retrospect, this seems a remarkably sophisticated way to deal with a situation that was bizarre for its time, not in the sense that it didn’t happen often, because I am sure it did, but because nobody ever did much about it, especially not the churches. I don’t know if they made the right decision or not, or even how to gauge that. I only know they loved me when I was lost and alone, and full of terror.  

And so St Michael’s Collegiate School became my home, the Sisters of the Church my guardians. In the holidays, other girls would invite me to stay with them. Nobody knew why I couldn’t go home, and I invented a story of parents travelling overseas. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to friends’ homes because I couldn’t reciprocate, and then the nuns would let me stay at school. They took me out with them on picnics and trips up Mount Wellington. I had a record player, books, and a lot of pianos all to myself.  At night, Elizabeth May or Jessica would bring me warm milk and sit with me until I fell asleep. I was free to roam all over the school and the boarding house and I was, for brief intervals, happy. 

Grace Tame, with her fierce courage and her shining spirit, freed in me these vivid remembrances, and for that I am deeply grateful.  Today, for the first time in many years I’ve cried for my Jennifer, and her plight at that time in our life. 

This is what we can do for one another, those of us who survive. 

I believe the nuns saved my life. I believe they taught me truths I would never have known, were it not for their influence. If I could speak to her I would tell Elizabeth May that I still play the piano. I would tell her of my granddaughter, Mabel Jane, who is the child most like me, and whose young life is full of promise and safety and love. I would tell Jessica I have learnt that our children and their children can heal us in ways we could never have anticipated. 

I would tell them that though once I was without both family and home, through their love and care they gave me the chance to grow into a woman who could make for herself her own home and family, and live in profound contentment. This, I would tell them, is what you gave to me, and to Mabel Jane, and I will be grateful for this all of my days.

How do religious beliefs affect politicians’ decisions about women?

1 Apr

This post is written by #ThisIsNotJournalism, a social media account that looks at the reporting of mainstream Australian media, particularly on stories relating to politics at both state and federal levels
They are constantly dismayed at what they see
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Follow them on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StopLyi58491572

Las Vegas Strip on a Saturday night.

Can we please talk about a significant issue currently affecting Australia? The Prime Minister is a member of a cult and its influence is pervading our society. No, this time I am not going to talk about Prosperity Theory and how evident it was during JobKeeper and the “snap-back” to the incredibly generous $44 per day, now that most businesses are on their feet and Gerry received a squillion dollar bonus. This is about women and why improving the lot of 51% of our population is diametrically opposed to the religious beliefs of Mr Morrison and a disproportionate number of his inner circle.

Firstly, let me be clear. I am an atheist but 100% respect the right of others under law to have faith. It is also imperative to note that Mr Morrison has stated he does not consider the Bible to be a “policy handbook” 

Mr Morrison has often spoken about how important his faith is to him and his family. Who could forget his belief in miracles acceptance speech? Miracles are a central tenet of Pentecostal belief and his religion, in fact, is central to who he is. He has frequently spoken about how he prays for us, whether during the Covid pandemic (when he seemed to compare himself to Moses), the droughts or floods. There are also fairly regular calls for the blessings of God.

I suspect that most of us have a vague understanding of the core beliefs of Pentecostalism, as perhaps we do of fundamental Judaism or Islam (Pentecostals are not fundamentalist Christians BTW). Vague understandings can be dangerous as often they are tinged with bias both conscious and unconscious. Let’s look at a few of the actual beliefs and why I feel they matter in relation to the advancement of women in Australia.

Firstly, let’s consider the fact that, by nature, Pentecostal Christians are socially conservative. They tend to view issues like abortion, same sex attraction and single parenthood as something to be frowned upon at the very least as their belief is what was considered normal during the times of the New Testament should still apply today.

That anyone could believe we should have the same standards today as we had 2000 years ago is tough for me to accept but this obviously should be seen as a significant concern for the women of Australia if you’re viewing it through a prism that recognises that massive steps are not only required but are being demanded both here and around the world. It’s interesting to note that Mr Morrison himself abstained from the #SSM vote.

Next is Pietism, or the belief that someone’s personal relationship with God guides their life path. This is entirely at odds with strong legislation designed to promote women above where they find themselves today, often due to policies that amount to structural disadvantage. Matters such as abortion or addressing the significant problems around provision of greater childcare as well as methods of equalising superannuation opportunities (rather suggesting women withdraw theirs to escape domestic violence) could well be hamstrung by such strong, and many would consider archaic  beliefs.

It’s little surprise that, at least financially, women are proportionately worse off post-lockdown than men. Despite the rhetoric around job figures, close examination of the facts show that average earnings per participant in the workforce per hour have decreased and that many of the industries most affected are more likely to be staffed by females. The recent debate around and gutting of the proposed changes to IR law was also seen by many a demonstrably damaging to female workers over men.

Finally, Evangelical Christians adhere strictly to certain passages of the Bible including Ephesians 5:21-25, which calls for a woman to submit herself to her husband’s will “as she would to God”. Unfortunately, there are many cases where this has resulted in both sexual and physical violence within the household.

Again, I reference the LNP policy of women accessing their superannuation to escape domestic violence situations and the apparent lack of support for both social services for the many women caught up in such situations but also the lack of action in provisions for domestic violence leave in the workplace. 

Interestingly, the Church seems to have a similar underrepresentation of women in the ranks of the hierarchy as does the LNP

In the 2016 Census, 1.1% of Australians identified as Pentecostal. There are now several in Cabinet meaning there is a massive over-representation of people whose belief system includes the above examples. If, like the Prime Minister, their religion defines who they are, these views are simply not in line with broader Australia. Neither are they about to progress equality and equity for women in this country.

You can have as many women in the Cabinet as you like and even a Prime Minister for women but unless they passionately believe that we need to see real change, it’s simply not going to eventuate under the Morrison government. 

There was a time, not so long ago, where mainstream journalists not only turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct in Canberra, in some cases they actually enabled it or were directly involved. This has partly contributed to the “Toxic Culture” we are now hearing about within the walls of power. Will their reticence to discuss religion also have an equally negative effect on the women of Australia? 

I fear it may

Photo credit Jane Bronotte.

Morrison (inadvertently) admits he knew?

28 Mar

The following information was reported by Channel Nine news on the evening of Friday March 26, and has so far escaped the attention it deserves.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison states in this interview that when Brittany Higgins expressed her intention to resign from the office of Michaelia Cash in January 2021, she was offered the opportunity to speak with him before her allegations of rape by a senior staffer in Parliament House were aired in the media. 

“At the time just before she departed she was offered the opportunity to come and speak with me with Minister Cash,” he says. 

The Higgins story broke on February 15 2021. Morrison has steadfastly denied that he knew anything about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins until that day. 

Ms Higgins left Cash’s office on February 5 2021, ten days before the story broke. 

Why would the Prime Minister offer to meet with Ms Higgins prior to her departure from Cash’s office, if, as he has maintained for the last two months and stated several times in Parliament, he knew nothing about the alleged rape until it was aired in the media? 

Facing intense questioning on the involvement of his department and himself, Morrison instructed Secretary Phil Gaetjens to conduct an inquiry into when the PMO knew about the alleged rape, and who had been informed. This inquiry has since been halted, though Morrison did not notify Parliament of its cessation, leading the House to believe it was still underway. 

Senator Cash has denied that she knew the “full details” of the allegations until Ms Higgins indicated her intention to resign at the end of January. 

Why would Cash consider accompanying Ms Higgins to a proposed meeting with the Prime Minister if Cash believed Morrison knew nothing about the alleged rape and indeed, had only just found out herself? 

Ms Higgins, by the way, says she was never informed of this invitation from the Prime Minister. 

It’s not clear if Cash was ever informed, either. 

Morrison has gone to extraordinary lengths to convince Parliament and the general public that he was ignorant of the rape allegations until the story appeared in the media on February 15. He claims his office was unaware until February 12.

In one sentence, the Prime Minister has done irrevocable damage to this narrative. He has also exposed the unreliability of all other accounts that have been tailored to support his own, accounts from ministers, senators, senior public servants and staffers.

Morrison’s one sentence has the power to bring the entire dysfunctional edifice crashing down, if the press gallery will follow it up. 

If the Prime Minister didn’t know, why would he extend an offer to meet with Ms Higgins in January? 

If the Prime Minister did know, he’s been lying to Parliament and the public. 

Either way, he’s a liar. 

Doxxing the Whistle Blower

27 Mar

On Monday, March 22, Peter van Onselen, working with Channel Ten News and The Project, broke a story provided to him by a whistle blower that revealed more of the culture surrounding workplace sexual activity in Parliament House, Canberra. 

The story concerns a Liberal staffer masturbating on the desk of his female boss, videoing his performance and sharing it with his friends, including the whistle blower who was at one time in a relationship with him. The whistle blower claims that male sex workers were/are brought into the House for a former and a current MP. The so-called prayer room is allegedly used for sexual assignations. 

Naturally, the story holds considerable interest for the public at a time when we have over the last few weeks learned of the alleged rape of Ms Brittany Higgins by a senior staffer in Parliament House; the alleged rape of a sixteen-year-old girl by Attorney General Christian Porter when he was seventeen; the sexual harassment of several other women by the same Liberal staffer, and a myriad of other sordid revelations of sexual harassment, assault, assorted sleaze and cover-ups perpetrated by Liberal MPs, Senators and staffers. The list of those involved in some way is too lengthy to unpack here, but includes such Liberal luminaries as Eric Abetz, Alan Tudge, Michaelia Cash, Linda Reynolds, Marise Payne, Andrew Laming, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as senior public servants and staffers in the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and the Department of Finance.

Today, Saturday March 27, the Sydney Morning Herald published an article by Chip le Grand, currently chief reporter at The Age, late of the Australian where he worked for twenty-five years. In this piece, le Grand names van Onselen’s whistle blower. 

This practice is known as “doxxing,” that is, revealing information about someone who has chosen to remain anonymous, that can lead to their identification. It’s a dangerous practice that can result in serious harassment of the doxxed individual, sometimes to the point of death threats. It entirely contravenes the ethics and practice of journalistic principles with regard to whistle blowers. 

The doxxing of a Project and Channel 10 source by the SMH is a startling turn in Australian journalism. It sends a powerful signal to would-be whistle blowers that there are journalists who cannot be trusted to respect your role as a source, and the reasons for your anonymity. It is a long way from journalists’ traditional protection of their sources.

Indeed, can we be confident that such protection exists any longer in Australian mainstream media after today? 

The whistle blower was not doxxed by van Onselen, but, alarmingly, by another media outlet altogether, bringing into question the capacity of well-intentioned journalists to protect their sources at all. 

What does this mean for investigative programs such as Four Corners, for example?  How can any journalist guarantee the safety of a source, if their colleagues are willing to dishonour the traditional commitment to protecting them? 

Le Grand has attempted to argue that the whistle blower is not, in fact, a whistle blower. Let us look at the definition of whistle blower. A person who informs on a person or organization regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity, is a whistle blower. It isn’t complicated. 

I don’t know if ejaculating on your female boss’s desk is illegal, but I’m going to stick my neck out here and call it as immoral. Likewise, the provision of sex workers to the Parliament House workplace for assignations in the prayer room may not be illegal, but I don’t think I’m entirely prudish to consider it immoral. What the whistle blower has done is to disclose workplace practices that are entirely unacceptable, and reveal to an appalled public yet another level of abuse in an inherently abusive culture. 

That there are, apparently, no boundaries to the gratification of male desire in Parliament House, whether that desire is for sex, and/or power, demonstrates just how abusive that environment is.  

In return for this disclosure to the public, in our interests, the whistle blower has today been doxxed by Chip le Grand, who has described his disclosures as a “hit job” against the government.  Le Grand also does a good job of maligning the whistle blower in an attempt to discredit him. 

It is not a huge stretch to speculate that le Grand and the Sydney Morning Herald under the chairmanship of former Liberal treasurer, Peter Costello, are acting in the interests of a besieged LNP government, and not the public.

Regardless of your personal opinion of the man, there can be no doubt that he acted in the public interest in taking his story, with videos and texts as proof, to van Onselen. Whatever his other motives are, and is there one among us without complex motives for much of what we do, he acted in the public interest, which is all that need concern us as citizens struggling to deal with the outrages visited upon us by a government entirely bereft of all morality. 

The damage Morrison has done to survivors is incalculable

12 Mar

Warning: discusses rape, child sexual abuse, and sexual assault. 

It is damnably difficult to single out any aspect of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s response to allegations that his attorney general, Christian Porter, anally raped sixteen year-old Kate in 1988, as particularly heinous. All his responses have been appalling.

However, for mine, Morrison reached a nadir (bearing in mind the matter has not run its course, there is still plenty of opportunity for him to go lower) when he declared that Christian Porter is “an innocent man under the law.” 

Morrison made this declaration while simultaneously boasting that he has not read the statement left by Kate, in which she details the offences Porter allegedly committed against her. 

This sorry state of affairs will be familiar to many survivors of sexual abuse and rape, both in childhood and as adults. Many of us have known similar injustice, when our words have been ignored or denigrated, while the word of the man who assaulted us is unquestioningly accepted. To find ourselves witnessing this yet again at the highest levels of government, is a bitter and re-traumatising experience that inevitably evokes profoundly disturbing memories and emotions.

I learned early that nothing I said would be believed. Over time, I told several adults what was being done to me by my stepfather, who was a doctor. Perhaps I’m wrong and someone did believe me, however, nobody helped me. It wasn’t until I was fifteen and the rapes had been a regular occurrence for five years that I finally found someone who heard me, and took action. 

I have no idea how I managed to keep on telling people. I have no idea either, how I managed to keep silent.

My matter never went to police, and so according to Prime Minister Morrison’s very personal interpretation of the law, my stepfather went to his grave “an innocent man under the law.” 

Morrison aims to confuse the presumption of innocence with his declaration of innocence, and his base will more than likely unquestioningly accept this spin. Christian Porter, like any other accused person, is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He remains, and will always remain, an alleged rapist entitled to the presumption of innocence. He cannot, however, be declared innocent, particularly by those who have not even read the allegations made against him. 

As far as I’m aware, a Prime Minister does not yet in this country have the power to declare accused criminals innocent or guilty.

Of course Morrison, in declaring Porter innocent, is also declaring his alleged victim Kate to be a liar, or delusional. Without reading her statement. This is not an unusual situation for victims of rape, csa, and sexual assault to find ourselves in. On top of the physical, emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual damage we sustain through the assaults, we all too often must then face the disbelief and contempt of people unable to deal with our stories. There is the original violence done to us, and then there is the secondary violence done to us by those, like the Prime Minister, who will not listen.  

Morrison has told every survivor this week that he will not listen. He’s told every survivor that we will not be heard and we will not be believed. He has told every rapist who doesn’t face court that he’s an “innocent man.” The prime Minister has done untold damage to survivors, and set us back decades as a society.

In refusing to have an inquiry into the rape allegations against Porter, and his suitability to hold high office, Morrison is giving permission to every workplace to behave in a similar fashion. Morrison is in the process of undermining all the hard-won workplace processes and procedures specifically designed to deal with situations such as this one. It is sufficient, Morrison is telling us, for the accused to say “It didn’t happen.” From then on he is an “innocent man.”

However, this has not always been Morrison’s attitude to survivors. There was a time, not long ago, that the Prime Minister told us that women “should be believed.” Watch the video below. It is extraordinary that Morrison has swung so violently to the other extreme, as a consequence of his attorney general, Christian Porter, being the subject of rape allegations.

Quite the coincidence, isn’t it? 

What Morrison’s “exoneration” of Porter tells women

10 Mar

Prime Minister Scott Morrison today declared that he considers alleged rapist and federal Attorney General Christian Porter to be “an innocent man under our law.”

Christian Porter has not undergone any investigation under “our law.”  Police have never interviewed him. By no stretch of the imagination can Morrison claim the Attorney General has been found to be an “innocent man” under “our law,” when the senior law maker has not engaged with the law at all on the matter of his alleged anal rape of Kate, in 1988.

NSW Police found that there was insufficient admissible evidence to pursue the case against Porter. That is, please note, admissible evidence. 

Morrison claims he has not read the alleged victim’s statement. He does not know what Porter is alleged to have done, outside of a “briefing” from his staff.  He claims he did not read the statement because he was not in the same place as the statement. Yes. You read that correctly. He did not read the statement because it was not in the same place as him. 

Morrison has also refused to seek advice from the federal Solicitor General on the Porter matter, despite this being the obvious next step for a Prime Minister confronted with a situation such as this one.

Indeed, it appears Morrison has taken no legal advice at all (that he is willing to reveal) on how he should proceed with an allegation of violent anal rape, made against his Attorney General by a woman who took her own life.  Morrison appears to be relying solely on Porter’s claim that “it never happened.” 

Now, today, despite his wilful ignorance of the allegations, despite having sought no legal advice, he has declared Porter to be “an innocent man,” presumably because Porter says “it didn’t happen.” I can find no other explanation for the Prime Minister arriving at this conclusion.

What does this say to women in Australia?

  1. It says if we don’t get a complaint of rape or sexual assault to court, and the majority of us do not, the alleged rapist is an “innocent man.” 
  2. It says that men who rape us will be perfectly safe if we die during the act or subsequent to it.
  3. It says that Porter’s alleged victim, Kate, must have been lying or mad.
  4. It says that any woman who is unable to get a case to court is lying. 
  5. It says that men, following the example set by the Prime Minister of this country, do not need to bother acquainting themselves with our stories before they decide the alleged perpetrator is “innocent.” 
  6. It says that Scott Morrison has set women back decades with his “exoneration” today of an alleged rapist, based on nothing more than the alleged rapist’s denial. 
  7. It says that if Morrison exonerates Porter, he exonerates every alleged rapist who is not dealt with by the courts. 
  8. It says that as of today, everything just got a whole lot more difficult and traumatic for women attempting to find justice after being raped or sexually assaulted. 
  9. It tells rapists, all you have to do is say “it never happened.” 
  10. It says, women, everything is stacked against you getting the criminal offence against you to court, and if you don’t, as most of us won’t, you’re a liar & your attacker is an “innocent man according to our law.”

It says, we should be very afraid of where Morrison is going with this, and note carefully who supports him.

Listen men: About Rape, Sexual Assault, Abuse, Misogyny & Exclusion

9 Mar

by Dr Stewart Hase

Dear fellow men,

I’m writing to you at this moment in time because of the recent media frenzy about sexual abuse in the snake pit that is Federal Parliament. However, the issues currently headlining all our various forms of media is a daily, yes daily, problem in our supposedly egalitarian, good onya mate society. 

What I’d also like to say, in support of my fellow writer Dr Jennifer Wilson, is that males writing about sexual abuse (in all its forms) is about the same as asking hungry fox to provide advice on how to build a fox proof henhouse. So, a few notes from a bloke to other blokes.

The most important thing you (as a man) need to recognise is that when it comes to rape, sexual assault, abuse and harassment of women, misogyny and exclusion is that you don’t understand. You don’t get it. If you get that you don’t get it, there is the possibility that we might understand, or at least as closely as we can.

One of the reasons we don’t get it is because it is not in our best interests. We’ve been taught from birth, that women are goods and chattels, second class citizens, handmaidens, someone who will serve our needs, whether it is in the house or the workplace: even the street. We get this from our families, from the major religions that teach, through text written by old men in caves, and from ourselves. 

Fellow blokes, it’s about power. To be brief, there are three types of power when it comes to the sexual, physical, verbal, symbolic abuse of women. 

The first type of power is exercised by those men who are socialised as above, and never come to question what they are doing. Sounds apologetic (to women who are reading this) but it is perpetuated because it is in our best interests. We are selfish. Glass ceilings, the ‘tea lady phenomenon’, assuming male superiority in all things, and ‘she was asking for it’ rather than accepting that men need to control their impulses, are just a few examples of how we exert power.

Then there are men in positions of power who think that they can get away with anything they want. Mind you, they do this with all aspects of their lives, not just with the appropriation of women. Note the word appropriation. It means ownership. They assume that it is their god (and I mean god) given right to take.

The third type of power is what I call impotent power. These are men who have appallingly low egos or sense of self. They want to take control of women, to appropriate because it makes them feel better about themselves. This is the bulk of female abusers of all types.

And to be clear, blokes, it is not just overt violent power that underpins rape, and physical and sexual assault.

One women a week, on average is murdered in Australia by her partner or former partner is murdered in Australia One in 5 women have experienced sexual violence, 1 in 3 physical violence, and one in six women have experienced stalking since the age of 15.

It is also the subtle ways in which we (yes you) downplay women, denigrate them, portray them as less equal, diminish them, and appropriate them. And don’t just point the finger at Prime Minister Scott Morrison and friends, the Labor Party or Barnaby Joyce and his mates. It is alive and well in your local golf club, bowls club, in football clubs, on the cricket field and on all forms of social media. 

Let me try an analogy to get my point about power across. Imagine getting into the ring with a really skilful boxer or martial arts exponent. It starts with a lot of shuffling around the ring, a bit of feinting, and the occasional jab to the ribs-taunting you. This results in you being exhausted in about a minute. You’re starting to feel a bit helpless because you can’t lay a hand on him. Then the big punches start. Not enough to knock you out but enough to start you bleeding, close your eyes, make your breathing difficult to catch because of broken ribs. He just keeps jabbing away. There are rest breaks between rounds, and some respite as he dances around. But he keeps on coming back. You are totally helpless and your power is completely taken away.

This doesn’t nearly cover the way in which women’s power is taken from them in rape, in sexual and physical assault and in their appropriation because, often, women’s power is taken away forever. After the boxing match, you can recuperate. Women are frequently scarred forever. 

Another analogy may help. I work with a lot of returned service personnel who have PTSD and other problems. They remind me most of women who have been abused because they too have had their personal power seized from them by fear, being overwhelmed and, most of all, helpless in the face of what is happening. Their power has been stripped away.

To fix this problem needs leadership. From us blokes. It would be great if it came from our male Federal Parliamentarians but it looks like we may as well piss into a force 10 gale. So, it’s up to us.

Speak up and, better, fucking stop it!

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

Do we get the governments we deserve?

3 Mar

by Dr Stewart Hase

The toxic sludge that has surrounded recent events in our Federal Government raises some important questions. Not least of all is whether it actually represents our culture, our norms, our attitudes, our values or is it just what happens when people become powerful: as Lord Acton put it, ‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’.  However, in the end, do we get the government that we deserve?

It is disturbing to think that the toxic sludge we have seen recently is a reflection of who we are as a nation. Hugh Mackay, arguably one of the best thinking commentators on what it means to be Australian, has already suggested, in ‘Australia Reimagined’, that we are not what we like to think we are. It is common psychological knowledge that our view of ourselves as individuals is an illusion in the same way that Mackay sees our collective view. We think of ourselves in a much rosier light than is really the case, except for a proportion of people who, sadly, have self-esteem problems and see themselves much more darkly. In either case, the self-appraisal is faulty. But importantly and unwittingly, most of the time, we are drawn to those who most reflect our innermost values.

So, the appalling dialogue from Ministers, including the PM, that attempts to minimise the abuse of women, the misdirection by attacking innocents, obfuscation to avoid responsibility, the lies, the protection of alleged offenders, the racism inherent in the way refugees are treated, peddling misinformation, the ‘one coffee a day’ pay increase for the poor while parliamentarians have their snout in the trough for a $181 day meal allowance, and as Mackay points out, the avoidance of the big ticket issues such as our love of a carbon based economy, the 16% of Australian kids that don’t have decent food, and the growing gap between the rich and the poor. The need for accountability list is huge. 

Is this who we are? Well, if you hang around enough golf and bowls clubs, listen to the chatter at church, attend enough dinner parties, mix with the common folk, you don’t have to scratch the surface too much to see the values mention above bubble up. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make you realise that around half the population voted for the current Government. And let’s not forget the hoards who kneel at the feet of our right-wing commentators on TV, radio and the written press.  

It it’s not who we are, then we are being inappropriately represented. Absolute power means that the Government is running its own agenda. It that is the case then we, the people, should be speaking truth to power. There should be marches in the street. But there is silence except for a few. So, perhaps this is who we are, who we aspire to be. And that, is sad.

Stewart is a psychologist with a special interest in how people adapt and also learn. He’s written widely in these areas. He continues to consult, and annoy people who misuse power.Twitter: @stewarthase

Morrison shows us again how much he despises women

1 Mar

In his press conference today, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was asked about allegations pertaining to the anal rape of a child, allegedly perpetrated by one of his current cabinet ministers in 1988. 

Mr Morrison replied:

“We have a rule of law in this country and it’s appropriate that these things were referred to the federal police – they have been…the police are the ones who do that, and the police have had this matter referred to them…”

Let us interrogate the Prime Minister’s statement.

The Australian Federal Police have no authority to investigate an alleged crime of sexual assault that was allegedly committed in NSW. The Prime Minister must know this. If he doesn’t, he should perhaps seek advice from his Attorney General, Christian Porter, who would certainly be aware of this. 

Either mistakenly or deliberately the Prime Minister is not observing the “rule of law” in referring the allegations to the Federal Police. He should have referred them to the NSW Police. He should still refer them to the NSW Police if he is interested in respecting the rule of law and intends to continue to claim he is abiding by that rule. Morrison has done nothing by referring the matter to the AFP other than provide a smokescreen, and some breathing space for himself and the alleged rapist in his cabinet. 

It does beggar belief that in the current climate, the Prime Minister would not inform himself of a fact as basic as this. Of course, it’s only about rape, a matter that so conspicuously fails to exercise his concern (he didn’t know about the alleged rape of Ms Higgins for two years, though practically everyone around him did) that one is reminded of the infamous comment by George Pell on hearing allegations of child sexual abuse by former priest, Gerald Ridsdale. It was, Pell observed, “a sad story and it isn’t of much interest to me.”

Mr Morrison went on to claim that he had conducted a “discussion” with the “individual” (cabinet minister) involved, who vehemently rejected the allegations. 

No surprises there. 

“At this stage,” the Prime Minister pompously concluded,” there are no matters that require my immediate attention.” 

In other words the Prime Minister is prepared to accept the alleged rapist’s denial, and is satisfied with having referred the matter to a police agency that cannot do anything at all about it. 

I don’t know what the rules are about the Prime Minister speaking with the alleged offender on the matter after he has referred allegations to police, let alone announcing his denial to the country, but I’m sure somebody does. 

But wait, there’s more. When asked if he had read the detailed accounts of the alleged rape written by the victim, who has since taken her life, and sent to him and other politicians by a group of her friends and colleagues, Morrison said he’d “been briefed” on their content. 

In other words, the Prime Minister did not consider it worth his time to read the victim’s account of her alleged rape, and correspondence that supports her claims, but he is prepared to speak with the alleged perpetrator and accept his assurances of innocence, which he then relays to the country.  

The implication that the Prime Minister accepts his denial is supported by his refusal to stand the man aside from his cabinet position while police review the matter. 

Oh wait. Police will not review the matter because Morrison sent the allegations to the wrong police & has shown no interest in sending them to the right ones. 

We will shortly be able to identify the alleged rapist as Morrison sends out one cabinet minister after another to face the media. Just observe who doesn’t appear. 

On another note, veteran journalist Paul Bongiorno observed this morning that legal circles in Canberra are buzzing after Attorney-General Christian Porter failed to appear at the historic swearing-in of newest High Court member, Jacqueline Gleeson. Apparently the AG had appointments in Perth. 

What the Prime Minister has achieved today is to send yet another message to women (in case we missed a million others) that in Australia, a perpetrator has more credibility than his victim. Not only that, a perpetrator will be listened to while his female victim will not, at least by the Prime Minister who unfortunately sets the tone. And what a tone it is. 

The Prime Minister and his government, our legislators, are currently protecting an alleged rapist. Our most senior legislators are seemingly unaware of the requirements of the very laws they make, and are sworn to uphold. 

The Morrison government is a sewer

28 Feb

An allegation of the brutal anal rape of a child in 1988 has been made against an un-named minister in Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s cabinet. 

The victim took her own life in June 2020. NSW police have confirmed that a criminal investigation into the allegation dies with the victim.

Despite their knowledge that police will not investigate because the complainant is dead, government ministers and some journalists continue to claim that the matter must be left to the police. 

All of them are wrong, according to police. 

Morrison said that he has referred the allegations to police. 

Simon Birmingham, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, yesterday said the accused minister will not be stood aside, and that the matter should be left to police. 

(It is puzzling that Birmingham is commenting on this. It would seem to be more appropriately the job of senior lawmaker Attorney-General Christian Porter, who has thus far remained silent.) 

On ABC Insiders program this morning, Australian Financial Review journalist Phil Coorey repeated the government line.  “This is for the coppers,” he stated, “and it should be for the coppers first and foremost.”

This seems at first blush to be wilful ignorance, gross carelessness, the peddling of misinformation, or an attempt to yet again create and control a narrative that best favours the government.  

The accused minister has not come forward to defend himself against the allegations. It is not credible that anyone who is innocent would want to continue public life with accusations such as these left unaddressed, and yet, that appears to be the case.

It is also only a matter of time until the suspect is named. There appears to be no legal requirement to suppress his name, particularly as there will be no trial. He can also be named under parliamentary privilege. It is undoubtedly in the public interest for his name to be released, and were he anyone other than a Liberal cabinet minister, he would not probably not be protected by anonymity. Footballers, for example, are stood aside while allegations of sexual assault are investigated, and they are named.  Not so much cabinet ministers, it appears. 

It is also remarkable that the accused minister appears to be happy for his cabinet colleagues to be tainted by the rape allegations. As long as we do not know who the minister is, there are around sixteen possibilities in the cabinet. Every time a cabinet minister opens his mouth we can legitimately ask, are you the alleged child rapist? This can’t help but have a destabilising effect on the government, as its already tenuous legitimacy is further eroded by the presence of an anonymous alleged rapist in its highest ranks. 

Then there is the question of national security, a subject close to the hearts of both Morrison, and Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, also a cabinet member. In 2017 when Malcolm Turnbull was Prime Minister, he had occasion to warn Christian Porter, prior to making him Attorney-General, that his drinking and his behaviours towards young women were leaving him open to the possibility of compromise, making him a security risk: 

“…it is just not acceptable. And he knew that I was considering appointing him attorney general, which of course is the first law officer of the crown, and has a seat on the national security committee, so the risk of compromise is very, very real.”

By the same token, one may conclude that an anonymous cabinet minister who is accused of the brutal anal rape of a child might well be a prime target for blackmail, and is a serious security risk. 

Indeed, everyone in the cabinet who is aware of and concealing the alleged rapist’s identity is a security risk, and vulnerable to exploitation.  

Is this government even tenable while this matter is “left to the coppers?”

It is alarming that Morrison seems oblivious to the security dangers the situation presents. It’s even more alarming that Morrison seems entirely impervious to the immorality of protecting and hiding an alleged child rapist. 

The hideous situation has come to light just days after the government spectacularly failed to cope with the alleged rape of media advisor, Brittany Higgins, in Parliament House just metres from the Prime Minister’s office. 

Ms Higgins was left unconscious and half naked by her attacker on Defence Minister Linda Reynolds’ couch. This could have cost Ms Higgins her life, as she was inebriated and unable to care for herself. Security guards “checked on” Ms Higgins through the night, but nobody called for medical assistance. At least thirty people, including ministers, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate and the Prime Minister’s Office most senior staff knew about this “serious incident,” and none of them informed the Prime Minister until two years later.   

The Morrison government is a sewer. It is steeped in allegations of rape and sexual assault of the most serious and sickening kind. It is almost certain that Morrison will attempt to brazen out this latest allegation. He will not stand the minister aside, and he will continue to contend that it is a matter for police, in full knowledge that the police cannot pursue criminal charges. 

The minister will not be investigated by police. He will not be exonerated. His name will not be cleared. Suspicion will linger over the heads of all male cabinet members, including Scott Morrison, Christian Porter and Peter Dutton. 

We should probably assume that being suspected of the anal rape of a child does not necessarily perturb any of them.  

While we know not all cabinet ministers are alleged child rapists, we do not know which one is. The Prime Minister is doing everything possible to conceal that knowledge from us.   

How good is that? 

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