“If we really cared about sexual violence we would…”

Catriona MacLennan is ‘a barrister, journalist, author and media commentator, who has practised law in areas including family and domestic violence’.

In  High time to end sexual violence double-standards (RNZ) she refers to apparent police inaction over alleged threats to attack and potentially kill people who planned a protest against ‘rape culture’ in Wellington, and offers some suggestions in dealing with attitudinal and behavioural problems.

If we really cared about sexual violence we would:

  1. Never again treat comments about rape and denigration of women as jokes.
  2.  Do pro-active monitoring and take action to prevent online sexual harassment and cyber-bullying of young women.
  3. Teach consent in all schools.
  4.  Prosecute males for threatening to kill, conspiring to commit rape, sexual assault and other relevant offences.
  5.  Educate lawyers and law students about rape myths, and treat the use of rape myths in trials as serious misconduct for lawyers. Lawyers’ first duties are to the court and to the administration of justice. Perpetuating rape myths undermines the administration of justice.
  6. Teach boys to respect women.
  7.  Provide paid lawyers for victims in sexual assault cases.
  8.  Accredit and specially train prosecution and defence lawyers working on sexual offence cases.
  9. Make progress on improving police treatment of rape cases a Key Performance Indicator for the Police Commissioner.
  10. Make it a national goal for Aotearoa to be sexual-violence-free by 2020.

Young men learn their attitudes to women and to rape from older men.

She makes some reasonable points, but in slanting her suggestions too much she is going to annoy many of the people she needs to get onside.

While boys and men are certainly blameworthy this is a complex whole of society problem and females are not always blameless either. Mothers can teach children by good and by poor example as well as fathers. Girls and women can reinforce damaging cultures too.

I would re-word MacLennan’s suggestions.


If we really cared about sexual violence we would:

  1. Never again treat comments about rape and denigration of peeople as jokes.
  2.  Do pro-active monitoring and take action to prevent online sexual harassment and cyber-bullying of young people.
  3. Teach consent in all schools.
  4.  Prosecute people for threatening to kill, conspiring to commit rape, sexual assault and other relevant offences.
  5.  Educate lawyers and law students about rape myths, and treat the use of rape myths in trials as serious misconduct for lawyers. Lawyers’ first duties are to the court and to the administration of justice. Perpetuating rape myths undermines the administration of justice.
  6. Teach children to respect other people.
  7.  Provide paid lawyers for victims in sexual assault cases.
  8.  Accredit and specially train prosecution and defence lawyers working on sexual offence cases.
  9. Make progress on improving police treatment of rape cases a Key Performance Indicator for the Police Commissioner.

Young people learn their attitudes to sex and to rape from both their peers and off older people, in particular their parents.


Yes, there are more and worse male offenders but not all boys and men, and it’s not only boys and men. Labelling all males and ignoring female culpability will alienate rather than encourage joint actions and solutions.

I have omitted the ‘sexual-violence-free by 2020’ target as it is unrealistic, especially in that time frame. Our aims should be to substantially improve attitudes to sex and to other genders and to people in general, and to significantly reduce sexual violence as quickly as possible.

But there are no quick and easy fixes.

If we really cared about sexual violence we would work rather than make it a male versus female problem.

Leave a comment

24 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  15th March 2017

    Great suggestions…they would work well in Scandinavian countries. Our problem is the huge ignorant and feral underclass in New Zealand whom unfortunately are influencing more and more middle-class youth.

    My first suggestion- wipe the gangs out.

    Reply
    • Kevin

       /  15th March 2017

      We need to look at the commonalities with regards to rape and sexual assault. For example how often is alcohol or other drugs involved? What was the relationship if any between the victim and attacker before the assault took place? Where did the assault take place? What was the victim doing before the assault? What was the perp doing? How old is the attacker? What is/was their attitude towards women? Single or two parent family? Was the attack planned beforehand or spur of the moment?

      If we can answer those kinds of questions then we can not only lessen the chances of a woman being a victim of sexual assault but better target potential perpetrators before they become perpetrators.

      Reply
  2. David

     /  15th March 2017

    ” Prosecute males for threatening to kill, conspiring to commit rape, sexual assault and other relevant offences.”

    Can I ask why women get a free pass on this?

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  15th March 2017

      For the same reason that we don’t have military conscription, don’t have to wait longer for super although we live longer, don’t have to do the heavy and unpleasant jobs that men do…we’re girls/

      Reply
    • It simply does not follow that by saying “Prosecute males” she is saying “Only prosecute males” or “Don’t prosecute females” …

      There’s probably a name for this kind of defensive response, which happens a lot here at YourNZ … Something like “denial by omission” …

      The defensiveness is entirely unnecessary … I don’t see MacLennan as suggesting that threatening to kill becomes a male-only crime. She’s suggesting prosecuting males in circumstances where it is overwhelmingly males doing the threatening to kill …

      Reply
      • David

         /  15th March 2017

        “It simply does not follow that by saying “Prosecute males” she is saying “Only prosecute males” or “Don’t prosecute females” …”

        Yes it does, this is implicit in the statement.. It makes it very clear the focus is on the prosecution of males for these ‘crimes’.

        ” She’s suggesting prosecuting males in circumstances where it is overwhelmingly males doing the threatening to kill …”

        Would you care to present the evidence that it is males who ‘overwhelming’ are making the threats to kill etc. I do not believe the data will support this.

        Reply
        • Nah David, I can’t be bothered presenting evidence because it simply isn’t implicit in the statement AT ALL … not to me …

          It is fairly typical example of “If you don’t mention A you must be anti-A” … which IMHO is a *Croc* of BS … In a complex situation where there are factors A – H, for instance, one simply may not be able to mention them all …

          Do you have any evidence as to the relative numbers of males and females who threaten to kill, conspire to commit rape, sexual violence and other relevant offences?

          Reply
          • David

             /  15th March 2017

            “Do you have any evidence as to the relative numbers of males and females who threaten to kill, conspire to commit rape, sexual violence and other relevant offences?”

            Your assumption that these crimes are overwhelming male as perpetrator is simply wrong.

            http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1359178916301446

            The truth is there is a massive gender imbalance when it comes to sexual crimes. Women get far lighter sentences and are convicted at a much lower rate for the same crimes as men. This is true of all crime, women get a free pass more often than not.

            Reply
            • David, I never denied that woman can be perpetrators, only that MacLennan’s statement doesn’t imply NOT prosecuting them …

              The Abstract doesn’t actually tell me much … and I can’t afford to buy the pdf to read it … So I’m left with …

              ” … that female sexual perpetration is not uncommon.”

              How common is “not uncommon”? Compared to what?

              “We found these data to contradict the common belief that female sexual perpetration is rare.”

              If 1 per 1,000,000 is considered rare, a finding of 1 per 100,000 would contradict that … Yet male perpetration may be 45 per 100,000 or 1045 per 100,000 … ?

              Female sexual perps don’t seem to make the News very often compared to males …

            • David

               /  15th March 2017

              “Female sexual perps don’t seem to make the News very often compared to males …”

              Gender bias clearly.

            • patupaiarehe

               /  15th March 2017

              Hardly David. A woman can’t ‘rape’ a man. She can, however, take advantage of him…

  3. Kevin

     /  15th March 2017

    1. Never again treat comments about rape and denigration of women as jokes.

    Since when has anyone ever done that? If anything we’ve laughed at the young and dumb idiots who made this comments because we know they’re full of crap.

    2 . Do pro-active monitoring and take action to prevent online sexual harassment and cyber-bullying of young women.

    Isn’t that what the HDCA act is for?

    3. Teach consent in all schools.

    Already do. The call to teach consent in school is a call to teach a particular version of consent that will mean a man will not be able to even initiate sex with a woman without putting himself at risk of being charged with rape or attempted rape.

    4. Prosecute males for threatening to kill, conspiring to commit rape, sexual assault and other relevant offences.

    Already do.

    5. Educate lawyers and law students about rape myths, and treat the use of rape myths in trials as serious misconduct for lawyers. Lawyers’ first duties are to the court and to the administration of justice. Perpetuating rape myths undermines the administration of justice.

    Um, what rape myths are these? The court system bends over backwards for victims of sexual assault.

    6. Teach boys to respect women.

    Wow. Isn’t this something most parents do already?

    7. Provide paid lawyers for victims in sexual assault cases.

    Already do.

    8. Accredit and specially train prosecution and defence lawyers working on sexual offence cases.

    Should we do the same for homicide and major fraud cases as well?

    9. Make progress on improving police treatment of rape cases a Key Performance Indicator for the Police Commissioner.

    Shouldn’t making progress on anything relating to crime be treated as a Key Performance Indicator.

    10. Make it a national goal for Aotearoa to be sexual-violence-free by 2020.

    Yeah good luck with that. But I have an idea. Put a curfew on all males – say 6pm. Hang on, that won’t work because in most cases of rape the perp is known by the victim. I know, curfew plus all men banned from drinking alcohol. Yes, that’d work.

    Reply
    • Jay3

       /  15th March 2017

      Exactly. Read any article by MacLennan and you soon realise she is one of the perpetually outraged. There is always an underlying bigotry on display.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  15th March 2017

        Um, what rape myths are these? The court system bends over backwards for victims of sexual assault.

        FMD. If only they published them all.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  15th March 2017

          She’s making straw men arguments, she’s stuck in the 70s….

          Respect is something that is earned. Command it, don’t demand it, as the saying goes.

          How many men have had their lives ruined by false accusations ? I would be totally in favour of names not being published unless the man is found guilty. And totally against trial being used as entertainment, as they seem to be now. The voice distortion of the young woman who was found by the roadside made the whole thing sound ridiculous. Why not just have her words as subtitles ? Why have the trial broadcast at all, except to titillate the prurient ? There are enough ‘courtroom dramas’ on, surely. I HATE it when some victim. who is dead and can’t protest against this total invasion of privacy, has her details spelt out night after night for everyone to hear.We all know what rape is, there’s no need for details.

          Reply
  4. Brown

     /  15th March 2017

    “She makes some reasonable points …”

    No she doesn’t. She just wants to blame men for everything and anything and reality doesn’t dare intrude on her delusion. You can’t debate cause and effect with people like this and discussion needs to be had with ordinary people who can relate to a bigger picture than everything they don’t like is always the (white) man’s fault.

    Reply
  5. I refer back to the 1954 findings into teenage sexuality problems and that blamed promiscuous females for the problem. I personally considered the finding to be slanted as I do MacLennan’s comments. Too much hate and aggression is around. Immediately after the war, it was accepted that people would intervene when conduct was getting out of hand and in particular young women were protected from harm as a matter of course. Since the urbanisation of New Zealand occurred, and the rise of focus on individual rights and materialism, common courtesies have largely disappeared. Adult men always wore hats tht the doffed when greeting an adult female, doors were opened, seats surrendered, and a pregnant mother never was allowed to stand on a bus. Ardent feminism has played a part in ringing in the changes. A man only needs to be slagged off by a feminist once for his approach to all women to change.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  15th March 2017

      A man only needs to be slagged off by a feminist once for his approach to all women to change.

      Whoever that bloke is he’s a bit dim. I can usually work out the ones who are misanthropes & are best just ignored. So can most women, including feminists, imo.

      Reply
      • Kitty Catkin

         /  15th March 2017

        I read an account by a young woman who told an older man to fuck off when he offered to help her carry a ladder. We all know what beasts ladders are to carry, I would have gladly accepted-it’s not sexism, it’s a helpful gesture and he’d have done the same for a man, I bet. If I offer help to, say, someone in a wheelchair as I have done, I would be unimpressed to be told to fuck off, A simple ‘No, thank you, I’m all right.’ is enough.I held a door open yesterday for a young woman pushing a wheelchair-it’s one that has to be opened all the way or it doesn’t stay open-and wasn’t told to fuck off 😀

        A late blind friend was very good at accepting help, or asking for it, when it was needed and refusing with grace when it wasn’t.

        Judging by what I read in literature and (very revealing of attitudes) magazines of the past, Bj’s rosy picture of the past was not shared by people at the time. If everyone had always been polite and respectful, everyone still would be, as the coming generation would have seen nothing else.

        Reply
    • Beejay, if “young women were protected from harm as a matter of course”, how could there be “a teenage sex scandal in Lower Hutt and other high-profile incidents such as a milk-bar murder in Auckland and the Parker–Hulme killing” which inspired the Mazengarb investigation and report?

      It’s equally possible that urbanisation in Aotearoa NZ brought previously isolated [farm] households closer together in urban confines, exposing the essential sexism and male-dominance in many families – and inherent in the system, clearly evidenced by Mazengarb’s findings – often ingrained by violence and exacerbated by excessive drinking &/or alcoholism …

      A pregnant mother was never allowed to stand on a bus, even if it was more comfortable for her to stand and she wanted to … and a new mother was never allowed to breastfeed in public …

      If there was a pendulum swing in the ‘feminist’ direction, perhaps its understandable after centuries or millenia of male dominance? Like the pendulum swing of Rogernomics after the terrible Social Security years of Labour and then Muldoon’s National-Socialism …

      Reply
  1. “If we really cared about sexual violence we would…” – NZ Conservative Coalition

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