Tag Archives: Rape

Turnbull: women must be respected but only if they are of our tribe.

10 Oct

Respect

 

If you can take away the freedom of one man [sic] you strike at the liberty of all.

I don’t think the truth of that statement has struck me quite as forcefully as it has since I learnt of the young Somali refugee who was raped and left pregnant on Nauru some fourteen weeks ago.

Since her ordeal began, the woman has repeatedly appealed to the Australian government to allow her to travel to this country for termination of the pregnancy. Abortion is illegal in Nauru. A termination can only be performed in Papua New Guinea prior to twelve weeks. There is no option for this young woman, other than being brought to Australia.

While Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull patronisingly assures us that his government is in tune with the Somali refugee’s needs, and while Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has assured us that any asylum seeker in off-shore detention will be brought to Australia for medical treatment if deemed necessary, the reality is that a pregnancy waits for no man, and fourteen weeks is more than enough time for a woman to be flown to this country and receive the treatment she is owed, and so desperately needs.

It’s starkly apparent that Nauru is a most unsafe environment for women and children, in detention and out of it. Both the Labor and LNP governments bear the entire responsibility for attacks on women and children they’ve imprisoned in a country that has virtually no rule of law, and whose aid has been revoked by the New Zealand government precisely because of its lack of an adequate justice system.

Malcolm Turnbull’s politically opportunistic proclamation that women in Australia deserve respect and must be respected is entirely undermined by his government’s attitude towards women in off-shore detention. If you do not respect women other than those who are of your tribe, then you do not respect women at all. Your respect for women is conditional, and the condition is that they are women you consider worthy, (or of calibre) according to your own criteria.

The government’s ongoing willingness to subject women in off-shore detention to abuses, sexual assaults, intimidation, fear, and hopelessness tells me that its respect for me is subject to its approval of me as a member of the accepted tribe. Were I to fall outside those criteria, I would no longer be considered worthy of respect and protection.

This isn’t good enough. If you take away respect from one woman, you take away respect from all of us. Respect for women should have no boundaries, political, geographic, ethnic or national.

In this instance, what Turnbull’s government perpetuates, as has every government since Paul Keating built the first detention centres, is the patriarchy’s favoured myth of the madonna and the whore: there are women you respect, and there are women you rape. Men decide which of us is which. In the case of asylum seekers who arrived here by boat, their very situation has placed them in the latter category as they are perceived by the hegemony as other. Other means not quite as human, because not of our tribe.

What Turnbull is doing to refugee women in off-shore detention is a variation of what men who sexually assault us always do: dehumanising those they consider of less value than themselves, and the women they choose to protect.

No, Mr Turnbull, you do not respect me and you do not respect Australian women, and as long as you permit the ill-treatment of women in your off-shore concentration camps, your proclamations of respect will ring as hollow as a clanging cymbal.

Bring the Somali refugee to Australia for the medical treatment you owe her. She is suffering as you never have and never will suffer. Show her some respect.

 

 

Save the babies down under. #shoutyourabortion

1 Oct

Right to choose

 

The Turnbull government has cancelled the visa of US anti-abortion activist Mr Troy Newman, spokesperson for the Operation Rescue group, on the grounds that he is not of good character.

There are some who’d argue Immigration Minister Peter Dutton isn’t of particularly good character either, but that’s beside the point, apparently.

There are many who’d argue that nobody associated with the current policy of permitting refugee women on Nauru and Manus Island to be raped in order to deter possible future boat arrivals has anything approaching a good character, but that is also beside the point, apparently.

In fact, one woman has reportedly been impregnated by her rapist and is seeking to come to Australia for an abortion. Will the good Mr Dutton permit her that relief, or will she be doomed by his whim, to carry and give birth to the rapist’s child?

Everywhere you look there’s a moral dilemma.

Troy Newman was visiting our country to give a speech titled “Save the babies down under” at an event organised by Right to Life Australia.

Troy’s lack of good character is apparently evidenced by his written exhortation in a book he co-authored, Their Blood Cries Out, which contains the passage: In addition to our personal guilt in abortion, the United States government has abrogated its responsibility to properly deal with the blood-guilty. This responsibility rightly involves executing convicted murderers, including abortionists, for their crimes in order to expunge bloodguilt from the land and people.

This passage has been interpreted as Newman advocating the murder of practitioners involved in abortion procedures, however, much as I loathe the sentiments he expresses, for mine, he is calling on the state, rather than individuals, to administer what he determines to be justice. There is a considerable difference, as there always is between individual acts of slaughter, and those that are sanctioned by the state.

The most powerful effect this will have is to give the Right to Life movement a martyr’s platform, and indeed, it already has as cries of denial of freedom of speech and persecution rise from their ranks. They may have a point. If what is considered negative speech is forbidden, there is no freedom of speech, alas and alack.

Also, I am not quite sure how someone calling on the state to extend capital punishment to include abortion providers is a danger to the Australian way of life. We don’t have capital punishment in the first place.

I wonder if Troy’s visa would have been cancelled under an Abbott government, given the ex-PM’s opinion that abortion is a stain on our society, and merely serves a mother’s convenience? We should, Abbott remonstrates, be haunted by the hundreds of thousands of Australians lost to abortion, which is a bit rich coming from a man whose conservative policies were neither woman nor live-child friendly.

The former PM even managed to be nationalistic about abortion. Perhaps every flag that flanked him represented thousands of Australian babies murdered at their mother’s convenience?

But fathoming the minds of the unhinged is a futile exercise: one can only hope to avoid them.

At the other end of the continuum we find the #shoutyourabortion hash tag which exhorts women to speak out about our abortions, and end the blaming and shaming that we fear will see us ostracised and maligned for choosing not to continue with a pregnancy.

As far as I can ascertain, the experience of abortion is hugely varied. For some it’s distressing and undertaken with reluctance. For some it’s an enormous relief. For some it’s not emotionally charged at all and I can’t see why any of that is the business of Troy Newman, Margaret Tighe of Right to Life, or any so-called pro-life politician of whom there are many, across the political spectrum.

I am hoping that by the time the youngest member of our family, a little girl now three weeks old, is of an age to be concerned by such matters, abortion will be no more of a social issue than any other medical procedure. That is not to say women will cease to experience personal emotions around the experience, but that they will be just that: personal emotions, un-politicised, free from the judgements of those who have absolutely nothing to do with the woman’s personal situation and will likely be the very last to help her and the foetus they’d like to forced her to carry to term.

In the meantime we must somehow survive the hypocrisy.

 

 

 

What Scipione should have said

11 Oct

Bloody hell but things have come to a pretty pass when people can’t tell the difference between being advised to take care of themselves, and being blamed for anything that might happen to them. The distinction between blame and responsibility is crucial and frequently misunderstood, the former usually an angry moral judgement, the latter a necessary character trait.

The fault doesn’t lie all on one side, let me hasten to add. There is a certain type of opprobrium that is all too often applied to victims of all kinds of insult and injury, as if the very fact that an offense was committed against them indicates a moral weakness on their part.

My mother was good at that: if anything happened to you it was undoubtedly your fault, and then it was even more your fault if you inconvenienced everybody by complaining about it. Anybody who’s grown up in that kind of atmosphere can be understandably touchy about being told you have to take responsibility for yourself or you’ll get what you deserve.

But these are in fact two entirely different messages. 1.It is essential to take care of yourself.  2. Being injured by another is what you deserve, because you obviously haven’t taken care of yourself like you were told in the first place.

The all too common conflation of these two vastly different pieces of information leads to trouble for people such as Andrew Scipione. Scipione recommended that young women organise a buddy system when they go out for a big night on the piss, and in particular, let a friend know if they’re planning to have sex so if they’re seen wandering off with a stranger their friends will know whether it’s by choice, or their drink’s been spiked and they’re about to enter a danger zone.

I can see problems inherent in the last bit of advice, and if the girlfriends get the vibe wrong, all sorts of trouble might ensue.

Be that as it may, many women reacted to Scipione’s recommendations with outrage, reading them as a blame the victim ploy. In other words if you get too drunk to know what you’re doing and get raped, it’s your own fault.

Personally, I don’t agree that was Scipione’s message. I understood him as saying that in certain situations there’s nobody to protect us but ourselves, and as no law enforcement agency on the planet has as yet managed to prevent rape, the reality is we have to take precautions against it. Taking all the precautions in the world might still not guarantee our safety, but we owe it to ourselves to minimise the risks.

This is entirely different from telling us it’s our fault, or that we deserve it if we haven’t taken proper care of ourselves like we were told.

The two messages come from different places in the human psyche. “Take care of yourself” is an expression of concern and care, a hope that no harm will befall you and that you will do what you can to keep yourself and others safe.

“It’s your own fault if you don’t and something happens to you” is an expression of anger, hatred, and desire to punish a victim. Usually the person expressing this point of view has serious difficulties managing their own vulnerability. Seeing vulnerability in others freaks them out, enrages them, and makes them want to inflict punishment for what they perceive as a contemptible weakness. Only the weak and stupid are victims, is the guiding principle in this attitude. I didn’t pick up that attitude in Scipione’s advice.

Nobody is ever to blame for another person’s violent and abusive actions. Perhaps public figures making pronouncements such as Scipione’s need to say this as well. Perhaps if Scipione had added that a woman is never, ever to blame if someone rapes her, that rapists are always entirely responsible for their own actions, his message might not have gone quite so askew.

The fact that he didn’t say this does indicate the presence of a deeply ingrained and largely unacknowledged cultural belief that women are expected to be more responsible than are men. That women are expected to be more in control of situations than are men, especially sexual situations. That men can’t be relied upon to behave properly so women have to do it for them.

But sexual assault is a crime, not a category of blokey irresponsible behaviour, and has to be identified as such in public discourse. By all means advise women to take care of ourselves and minimize risk. But never, ever do it without clearly acknowledging that women are not responsible for the risk of sexual assault we all have to negotiate all our lives, and that those who threaten and harm us are entirely responsible for everything they do.

 

Why Xenophon was wrong, and at home with Tim

15 Sep

There are several arguments to be made against Nick Xenophon‘s decision to name a priest accused of rape in the Senate last night. Some of them can be found here in the Punch.

But for me the stand-out objection is that the alleged victim, Archbishop John Hepworth, didn’t want him to, and asked him not to.

The aftermath of rape is complex for a victim. Many are left with a frightening and unsettling sense of having lost all control over their bodies and their being, and of being rendered utterly powerless in the face of another’s will.

One of the ways a victim can become a survivor and reclaim his or her sovereignty is to have control over if and when they speak about their experiences, the manner in which they choose to do that, to whom they wish to do that, and what exactly they wish to say. Xenophon took all this away from John Hepworth when he over-rode the Archbishop’s wishes, solely to satisfy his own sense of outrage.  In this, he further abused a man we know has great credibility as a rape victim of two other priests.

This is not Senator Xenophon’s tragedy. He has no right at all to attempt to determine the course of its unfolding. His first duty was to John Hepworth. What he did was disregarding of Hepworth’s express wishes, it was disempowering to a man already struggling with great pain, and it was abusive.

Xenophon claims he faced a great moral dilemma in deciding whether or not to name the alleged rapist. No, he didn’t. It was dead easy. He just had to listen to the alleged victim, and nothing and nobody else.

In respect for John Hepworth’s wishes I will not name the priest, and ask that any commenters also refrain from naming him.

At home with Julia seems to be shaping up as a cri de couer on behalf of househusbands, oops sorry, house de factos. Maybe it should be called Home Alone – one man’s story because it’s all about Tim, with the PM cast as the neglectful if well-meaning career driven partner.

The storyline last night was unspeakable. The device of the three young boys appearing intermittently to comment on proceedings like a Greek chorus is lifted straight from ABC TV’s Doc Martin series in which the neurotic doctor is stalked and hounded by a bunch of gloriously cheeky giggling adolescent girls. It worked beautifully in Doc Martin, it’s appallingly bad in At Home.

Why, I ask. Why did they do this? What is the point, what does it mean, when will it end?

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