Monday, July 14, 2014

Rape culture?

Rape is a good thing, the more often it happens the better.  Well that might be going too far.  How about it just not being important.  If anyone is raped, it's not important, it isn't a big deal, it's just part of life.  If anyone says they have been raped, tell them to get over it, or rape them yourself.  If young men want to go out raping, then that's just something they do, it's nothing to get worked up about and the Police really can only deal with it if they witness the crime.   Sentencing should be reflect how normal rape is in the culture and how minimised a crime it really is, indeed it's surprising there isn't a crime of inciting rape by women who are attractive to men.

That's what New Zealand is about.

Or rather that's the parallel universe that a "rape culture" would represent, if the position taken by Green MP Jan Logie is taken seriously.

However, it shouldn't be.  It is vacuous, hyperbolic and classic Orwellian collectivist abuse of language.  In fact it helps rapists to get out of personal responsibility "it wasn't me, I was raised in a rape culture, I thought it was ok".  

It shouldn't need spelling out, because it should be obvious.  Most people, women and men, regard rape as abhorrent.   If their own mother, sister, wife, girlfriend, cousin, daughter, niece or female friend was raped, they'd be horrified and appalled, and would be sympathetic.  New Zealand no longer has a culture of women and girls as possessions, as was the case both in pre-colonial society and in British society until the late 20th century (and is certainly the case in many developing countries, whether Muslim or not).  Yes, there are a tiny minority of men who rape, although radical feminists either don't believe this or simply treat men as potential rapists.   This is true, but only as much as virtually all adults are potential murderers, batterers, thieves and fraudsters. 

So let's look at Jan Logie's claims, and deconstruct them.   Of course doing this, and having a penis, means I am automatically thrown into the "minimising the crime" accusation that is lazily thrown about by some on the other side of the argument, but frankly if you can't let your own arguments be subject to rational scrutiny, then it has no place in public policy discourse.

She criticised Paula Bennett who said  "I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand. Actually most men and most women do not and would not condone any sort of behaviour like that. We have got a few people that have got disgusting and abhorrent behaviours that we need to address and stand up and say that we will take a stand on and hold them to account."

Which she couldn't actually criticise directly, so she does so in a slippery, oblique manner as follows:

This (Bennett's) comment is made in the context of 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6-10 boys experiencing sexual violence in NZ and evidence of higher rates for trans* and some people with disabilities. It may be hard to believe these statistics but they are well evidenced.

There is a lot in that statement that deserves scrutiny.  Does it matter than she has moved onto children and doesn't cite the evidence?  Maybe not.  

Rape Prevention Education cites one study that claims "up to" 1 in 3 girls will be subject to an "unwanted sexual experience" by the age of 16.  "The majority of those incidences would be considered serious, with over 70% involving genital contact".   Before going into the study, the term "unwanted sexual experience" is a vast set of actions that doesn't include rape.  It can include seeing a flasher, through to unwanted groping, to suggestive conversations, and then the "over 70% involving genital contact".   Again, rape is within those statistics, but there is a long path from seeing a flasher to being raped, all violations, but to use the term "rape culture" hyperbolises the non-rape events.  Still, I haven't read the report in detail, and the figure does disturb and the summary of the study indicates particularly high prevalence among Maori families.  It is easy to argue about statistics of something that is impossible to objectively and precisely assess, by its very nature, but it's clear there is (and always has been) a problem.   What isn't clear is what proportion of women have been raped.

However, a guide to why she does this may be seen on the Wellington Rape Crisis website which states:

Throughout this website, where we use the word rape in isolation it encompasses sexual abuse and any form of unwanted physical, verbal or visual sexual contact.

That's fine for brevity on a website, but no - visual or verbal sexual contact is not rape, legally or objectively. Seeing someone's genitals or someone making a sexual comment is not rape.  Does Logie take this rather "egalitarian" definition that grants equivalence to those who actually are raped to those who are upset by something someone else said to them?  It's not clear, but it would explain the use of the term "rape culture" as a lazy form of shorthand for "sexual abuse culture", which would be wrong as well.

If we accept the statistic, it still means that the vast majority of people do not experience some form of "unwanted sexual experience", and similarly a vast majority are not offenders.  Not exactly a "culture" is it? However, there is a problem.

So does Logie think people don't take sexual assault seriously?  Apparently so...

I think the fact they’re so hard to believe for many New Zealanders is a result of how much silence we have around sexual violence and the ongoing victim blaming that all too often happens.

There was often silence around sexual violence, driven by those cases where perpetrators exercised power over victims, but there isn't silence generally.  Discussion, debate and awareness has been constant for over 25 years, but given it is a crime of intimacy, most often perpetrated in such circumstances, highlighting it means breaking relationships and upsetting people.  By its very nature, much sexual abuse is a matter of the tension of positive emotional ties corroded by the negativity of abuse.  That makes it difficult.

However, to claim the "ongoing victim blaming that all too often happens" is just an assertion which is part of radical feminist mantra (and of course it happens), but is it really the norm?  Yes there are dickheads who say "she asked for it" because a woman was dressed in a suggestive or "slutty" manner, which is archaic and stupid, but how common is that?  Logie hasn't an answer for that, she just asserts it.

Given she cites a statistic involving children, what people accuse children of being to blame for sexual abuse? Of course it is possible to say that the classic defence in many rape cases - consent - is victim blaming.  After all, what is sexual assault (between adults) if it isn't a legal act that lacks consent, and is so often in situations where there are no witnesses and so it is the word of the alleged victim against that of the alleged offender.  

Then she says:  

Most perpetrators are known and at times even loved by the victim. It doesn’t help to paint them as disgusting and abhorrent, doing so can actually just increase shame and self blame and hopelessness. This is part of what holds the system in place.

What "system"?  There is no "system". Rapists don't meet and co-ordinate their activities (by and large), and most people today would not paint someone they knew who was a victim as "disgusting and abhorrent" nor are they part of a "system".  This conspiratorial language is lazy.

"Another thing that enables the violence to continue is our lack of a justice system"

What?  The Police, courts, prisons are all a figment of the imagination.

"only a very few cases are reported and then there is further attrition between reporting and charging and then charging to conviction with a resulting 1 in 100 cases ending with a conviction."

Absolutely, which is about victims reporting offences to the Police and there needing to be adequate Police sympathy and appropriate treatment of victims.  However, the "attrition" she talks of in terms of charging, is a matter for evidence, as is conviction.  To prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that someone committed one of the most serious criminal offences, is a high threshold.  There are going to be guilty men going free, which is much better than innocent men being convicted (although a few radfems would claim most men "aren't innocent").

Finally she says:

We have had decades of rigorous research telling usher to improve our justice system to improve this, yet all we’ve had in response is tinkering. This refusal to address the core barriers, his refusal to adequately fund the support services, this refusal to provide consistent political leadership is part of the problem.

What are the core barriers Jan?  You want taxpayer funding of Rape Crisis et al, of course, but what is "consistent political leadership"? 

Finally, what is this "rape culture" you claim?  There is nothing. Absolutely nothing, in what she says that gives any evidence of a "rape culture".  It is entirely a verbal construct, nothing more.

Within Jan Logie's poorly structured rant is something important though.  It is important for Police to be aware of the need to treat rape victims appropriately, that is one of the biggest barriers to reporting. However, even bigger is the point she mentions herself.  With the majority of sexual assaults carried out by people known to the victims, it means victims often are unwilling to sacrifice what they value in the relationship (and how others respond to it) for justice. That's difficult, because it is a matter of self-esteem, which is what is at stake here.   Ending relationships that are toxic and corrosive is something people only do with self-esteem and individual identity, although the politics of Logie tend to diminish this in favour of group identity and solidarity.  

The problems of achieving successful convictions for sexual assault doesn't mean there is a "rape culture", far from it.  What it means is that an offence, that by its very nature, is difficult to prove for a criminal conviction, is always going to be problematic.  

Most New Zealanders find sexual assaults abhorrent, thankfully, the vast majority are not victims, but those that are need to be treated sympathetically and proportionately, as do offenders.  It is not helpful for any of them to claim there is a "rape culture" because that reduces the culpability of rapists as it implies "everyone else does it, or wants to, or thinks it is ok".  

What would be more helpful is to inculcate the values that initiating force against other adults is simply wrong. Sexual abuse is a subset of violence more generally, which itself is treated differently and deserves a wider approach to tackle.  

I'd suggest that a party that is committed to much larger government, which holds the monopoly of legitimised violence, isn't exactly well placed to argue for a society of adults who interact peacefully and voluntarily,

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