Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

It is never the victim's fault

By Dannielle Miller - posted Monday, 25 May 2009


The latest NRL scandal has brought some ugly, ignorant and misogynistic views to the surface in the media and among the general public. Many people have sprung to Matthew Johns' defence since Four Corners' revelations about an incident in New Zealand in 2002 in which Johns and numerous teammates had sex with “Clare”, a 19-year-old girl who subsequently went to the police, feeling degraded and violated.

I am particularly alarmed that a number of women are pointing the finger at the victim, branding her as immoral. On Facebook, for instance, by today's count there are 20 "Leave Matty Johns alone" pages, including this one created by a young woman: "Leave Matty Johns alone … she's guilty - guilty of being a slut!!!"

In answer to those who blame the victim, in this post I offer alternative viewpoints that may hopefully dispel some of the myths about sexual assault.

Advertisement

Myth No. 1: The girl was "asking for it" by going back to a hotel with footballers.

This blame-the-victim mentality is one of the main reasons many women do not report sexual assault: they feel their morality may later be called into question. In NSW alone, an estimated 35,000 rapes each year go unreported. My colleague Leanne Cunningham, a clinical psychologist, tells me that she sees dozens of young women traumatised by incidents similar to the latest NRL scandal:

It is an absolute myth that women make up stories of abuse as they are liars and somehow just regretful after a sexual encounter they had enjoyed at the time. I can assure you the reporting process is so traumatic and requires such bravery that women would not put themselves through this if they did not feel they had been genuinely assaulted.

In recent days, many people have implied that the then-19-year-old woman involved was not a true victim of sexual assault, because the police could find no evidence that physical force was used against her. Though the players involved were not charged with rape or any other crime, I believe that the words of Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal, of the Australian Institute of Criminology, in Rape Prevention: Combatting the Myths (PDF 57KB) are relevant:

Studies have shown that in the majority of rapes, the perpetrator does not use force which results in physical injuries (Green 1987; Weekley 1986). The threat of force and death and the intimidation inherent … are sufficient. In reality, many forms of covert coercion and force may be used in rape. It is the victim's fear of the assault and its outcome that render her passive. Almost three-quarters of the victims in a Victorian sexual assault phone-in reported that “they felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness” (Corbett 1993, p. 136).

Another myth that flows on from this is that unless the victim physically resists, her allegation of rape is not credible. “The reality is far different,” Dr Easteal writes. In fact, “women have often been advised not to resist in order to minimise the likelihood of severe injury or death.”

Andrew Bolt, in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, argued that the issue of Clare's consent is in fact ultimately immaterial, because:

Advertisement


… consent does not trump morality ...

… The problem is that trusting to consent means - for a start - trusting that people are smart enough and strong enough to work out all by their uncertain selves what's good for them. In the Johns case, it's now clear that the 19-year-old woman was neither that smart nor that strong. Five days after the sex, she went to New Zealand police to complain of assault, bitterly regretting what had happened …

… I don't doubt that she did feel powerless, or at least intimidated and on show, and if she was indeed smart enough to work out at the time that the sex was wrong, she was not strong enough to insist. Yet even though she consented to the sex - or didn't object - the woman was still left feeling so "useless", so "worthless" and so "really small" that her life collapsed.

… And it's not just that consent may be due to bad judgment. The other reason these men should have based their actions on morality, rather than the woman's consent alone, is that: "Consent also means it's every man for himself. That you can do whatever you can force some silly or intimidated woman to agree to, however much it will hurt them.

Final word on this point goes to the Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson: "A woman involved in degrading group sex can still be traumatised whether she consents or not."

Myth No. 2: It happened so long ago, it shouldn't matter now.

There is no statute of limitations on the harm we cause or experience. Certainly, time has not healed Clare's wounds. Women who have lived through similar experiences report that they feel the pain long after the event. The woman at the centre of a sex scandal involving three Broncos players in a nightclub toilet last year told The Courier-Mail:

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

159 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dannielle Miller is the CEO of Enlighten Education, a national company that works with teenage girls in high schools on developing positive body image and self esteem. Enlighten is the 2007 Australian Small Business Champion for Children's Services. She is also the author of an award winning blog for parents and educators on girls issues: enlighteneducation.edublogs.org. Dannielle is author of The Butterfly Effect pblished by Random House (2009). Dannielle's website is www.danniellemiller.com.au.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Dannielle Miller

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Dannielle Miller
Article Tools
Comment 159 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy