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Scope creep and the sexual assault industry

By Bettina Arndt - posted Friday, 30 June 2023

What brilliant timing. Senator Lidia Thorpe's bizarre sexual accusations in parliament delighted the feminist media by putting sexual misconduct firmly back on the public agenda, detracting attention from Labor ministers under attack for misleading parliament and weaponizing a rape allegation to bring down the Morrison government.

No one dares discuss how it is possible for this clearly unstable woman to remain a member of parliament. In the past year we've seen her screaming sexist insults to men outside a strip club, calling various senators "racist" in parliament, fighting with police at an anti-trans rally and now claiming the parliament's long, empty corridors "made her feel so unsafe" that she needed constant support for fear of being attacked.

It does appear she might have been propositioned by a fellow Senator, David Van, who was expelled from the Liberal Party last week after another Senator, the sensible Amanda Stoker, admitted he had squeezed her bottom at a function three years ago. But look at how Stoker, a sane, adult woman, handled that approach. She told Van off, told him not to do it again – and he didn't. That's how sensible females handle dopey men who are stupid enough not to keep their hands to themselves.


Yet our press uniformly took Thorpe's rant seriously, repeating her claim that she was "sexually assaulted" when her own explanation suggested at worst he might have "inappropriately touched her," whatever that means.

Scope creep is rife in today's discussion of sexual misconduct, with even the most minor sexual misconduct blown up out of all proportion. Naturally the media trotted out last year's absurd Jenkins report on harassment in parliament using the Thorpe kerfuffle as further proof of a toxic culture in this august body. As I pointed out at the time, the Jenkins survey was an absolute joke – less than 25% of staff chose to answer the thing, almost as many men as women reported being harassed (42% of women surveyed were "victims," 32% of men), 60% of the bullying was by women, and the definition of harassment was ridiculously broad, including staring, leering and loitering, sexual jokes and repeat invitations to go out on a date.

Is it any wonder this nonsense is having a ripple effect out in the real world? Recently we witnessed a welcome end to a ludicrous Sydney court case after Simone Hotznagel - a reality TV star - accused former CEO Simon Reeves of stalking, claiming he walked slowly past her in a fashionable Bondi hotel "holding eye contact with her for 40 seconds". It turned out there was CCTV footage of the incident which was played in court and showed him walking directly into the hotel and up a flight of stairs, right past the ground floor area where Holtznagel said she was seated. Charges against Reeves were dropped but as soon as he left the Court he was hit by an alleged breach of an apprehended violence order taken out by the same woman, because she apparently saw him at the VIVID light show! Yes, along with the 3 million plus other people who trooped downtown for this wildly popular event.

Great, isn't it? A man's reputation dragged through the mud by a nutcase clearly convinced by all the nonsense being promoted about the evils of unwanted staring. And our captured court system is forced to take this rubbish seriously – with all the huge costs in police and prosecutors' time, court costs, etc.

There are real consequences of this blurring the boundaries of genuine sexual misconduct, with our feminist-led media deliberately failing to maintain the important distinction between the very serious crime of sexual assault (already expanded to include "sexual touching") with less serious behaviour like staring, joking, asking people on dates.

We see this play out in the wild statistics promoted in the media about the incidence of sexual assault. Recently there was a sensible article in The Australian by the founder of Quillette, Claire Lehmann, aimed at countering the feminist narrative about our broken justice system, and urging rape victims to trust that the process is there to protect them. But even that article included the absurd claim that 639,000 women had experienced sexual assault.


That huge number has its origin in the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Personal Safety Survey (PSS), but actually covers a 10-year period, and is concocted by extrapolating from the PSS survey of about 15,000 women, to estimate rape in the general population. In 2021, police recorded 26,669 female victims of sexual assault in Australia.

I've written before about how the PSS survey goes well beyond what most people think of as rape, to include any sexual act involving coercion, including attempts to force someone into sexual activity. It's hardly surprising then that almost half the women who claimed to have been raped in answers to the survey didn't see what happened to them as a crime, a third said they could deal with it themselves and another third didn't regard it as a serious offence.

But the feminist push is to educate them to see all of this as sexual assault… and that's exactly what's now happening with more and more women reporting as rape behaviour which then fails to stand up in court.

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About the Author

Bettina Arndt is a social commentator.

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