time to walk the walk
For every 100 sexual violations in New Zealand, nine will be reported to the Police.
Five perpetrators will be identified.
Three will be prosecuted.
There will be one conviction.
This culture doesn't fester in the dark corner of the world where monsters and the bogeyman stir. Sexual crimes are committed every day. By men and women. Against men and women. By colleagues, friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers.
We enjoy our new-age of gender fluidity, empowerment and inclusion. But reporting statistics don't lie.
The dialogue around sexual violations needs to change - so let’s start with you.
To begin, victims are scared to speak out. There is a stigma and negative discourse in the media surrounding sexual violations. Those who speak out are met with scrutiny.
“How much did you have to drink?”
“Did you say no?”
“Why didn’t you speak out sooner?”
“What were you wearing?”
The media clubs into public submission, and falls into the trap of victim blaming out of fear of false allegations.
In 2014, a group of young men called the Roast Busters were accused of intoxicating underage girls, raping them and then boasting about it online. It was 2 years between the first allegation and the commencement of a Police investigation (which was dropped due to lack of evidence). 25 of the victims did not want to make formal statements.
Allegations of sexual violation are transformed from a report to a safe avenue for help, to an event scrutinised in the comment section of a Stuff op-ed.
“I reckon they were asking for it.”
For victims who are already bracing against cultural scrutiny from their peers, the Police process is long and difficult. The victim has to retell the experience multiple times, as there is often a lack of extensive supporting evidence to the claim. At court, the crime has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Yet evidence is often few and far between and it ends up being an all-too-familiar ‘he said she said case’.
Even the common phrase ‘he said she said case’ has inherent problems. It is often forgotten that this issue is not a gendered one. Reporting of sexual violence is low overall, but it is even lower in men. Women are the victims, men are the perpetrators. Right?
When talking about the issue of rape culture, we can no longer turn a blind eye to the fact that one in six men will be sexually abused or assaulted, according to international statistics. Both female and male victims face immense prejudice by speaking up and reporting abuse.
Even the Police are subject the unconscious bias of rape culture. In 2001, a study found some officers estimated up to 80% of claims were false. A large proportion of claims of a sexual violation crime, when the victim has been described as under the influence are also dismissed. Society holds intoxication is a factor to blame the victim, evidence of their immoral behaviour.
Furthermore, if the complainant has delayed in reporting to the police and/or had previous sexual relations with the accused, there is more suspicion of the claim being false and the victim’s credibility is reduced.
Police, the media, and our own biases have been influenced by this institutional suspicion and cycle of harmful dialogue, founded on a social environment where there has been a history of inequality of a woman’s voice and views.
The portrayed stereotypes of gendered victims, of false allegations and of woman “asking for it,” are misconceptions with dire consequences. They are contributing to the massive problem of underreporting by victims.
Change starts with you, with me, with us.
Over coffee, in a bar, at the store.
Creating and fostering positive discourse will help society evolve into a safe environment where victims can talk about their experiences and get the help they need.
This starts with education. By realising that being a victim of sexual assault is not determined by age or gender or sexual experience or the clothes someone wears. By realising that no one is asking to be sexually assaulted. Ever.
So start a conversation today. Talk to your friends, your partner, your family, about consent. Listen kindly and openly if someone shares their experiences with you. And the next time someone makes an off-hand joke or says they totally “raped that test”; speak up.
No one wants to foster a rape culture. So let’s make changes in our own lives to kill it.
Need to Talk?
Rape Prevention Education has list of support places in your city.
Rape Crisis: 0800 883 300
Lifeline : 0800 543 354
MOSIAC (Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse) 022 419 3416
Wellington Rape Crisis 04 801 8973
Wellington Sexual Abuse Help Foundation 04 499 7532
If you have experience sexual assault you can report it by calling 111