Caution advised over Christmas, but a resolution is required

This is wise advice…

…but there is a risk of a chilling effect on harmless socialising.

While holding sexual nuisances, abusers and predators to account is long overdue, there are dangers.

Passing contact, pats on the shoulder, back, bum, could be misconstrued, or they could be an invasion of personal space, or could be sexual harassment.

Hugging has become a widespread practice – has it gone to far? Some people don’t like being hugged by workmates, acquaintances or people they hardly know or have just met.

Personally I’d prefer to limit hugs to people I know well and love.

How common is it for children to be coerced into hugging relatives when they are obviously uncomfortable with it?

It’s not just personal contact in which there can be problems, there is potential risk from online contact, from comments or from inappropriate posts.

Most contact passes as ok, inoffensive, or not worth making a fuss about.

Some contact  is unwelcome, uncomfortable.

A fraction of contact – too much and too often – is over the top, over the line, offensive, predatory and worse. This needs to be checked and dealt with.

But there are risks that accusations can be themselves used as harassment and abuse.

Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental part of our justice system, but it is imperfect, especially when people with power and influence are guilty. Some of them have been long term recidivists.

The issue of personal and sexual abuse and harassment needs to be confronted and dealt with better by our society, but it is a difficult and complex issue.

It’s not just a US problem.

In New Zealand the very serious issue of abuse of children in state remains improperly dealt with.

In Australia the findings of a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has just been released. It is damning, especially of the Catholic Church, which hid, aided and abetted abuse for a long time.

A number of people in power in churches, institutions, schools and sports clubs have acted disgracefully.

RNZ: Australia child abuse inquiry: ‘It is a national tragedy’

A five-year inquiry into child sexual abuse in Australia has released its final report, making more than 400 recommendations.

The royal commission heard evidence from thousands of victims. Allegations were made against more than 4000 institutions.

“The survivors are remarkable people with a common concern to do what they can to ensure that other children are not abused,” commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said on Thursday.

Many dirty secrets have been revealed and exposed.

RNZ: Pope responds to Oz sex abuse report

Pope Francis says the findings of Australia’s child sex abuse royal commission “deserve to be studied in depth”, after the Catholic Church was heavily criticised in the final report.

The sanctity of the religious confessional would be tossed aside and celibacy would become voluntary under the final recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which were released on Friday.

“The final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse in Australia is the result of the accurate efforts made by the Commission in recent years and deserves to be studied in depth,” the Pope said in a statement online.

“The Holy See remains close to the Catholic Church in Australia – lay faithful, religious and clergy – as it listens and accompanies victims and survivors in an effort to bring healing and justice.”

Mild and vague words about a serious problem in the church. And there is resistance to change:

Archbishop Fisher was also quick to downplay any change to tradition.

“I think any proposal to effectively stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and I don’t think would help any young person,” he said.

Clinging to tradition and to power seems more important than exorcising a horrible record of abuse.

Priests and the church has seen itself as above the law. They put themselves second only to God, and acted as judge and jury.

And too often as the dirty offenders.

The royal commission report said the Catholic Church had demonstrated “catastrophic failures of leadership”, particularly before the 1990s.

The average age of abuse victims at Catholic institutions was 11 years old.

There’s no reason to doubt that there have been similar problems in New Zealand – in churches, in state care. There have been convictions of people from sports clubs, from cubs and scouts, even an ambulance officer has been convicted of abuse of patients in ambulances.

There are risks of inappropriate behaviour at Christmas parties, at New Year parties, in workplaces and homes and institutions.

There is always a risk of false or disproportionate accusations.

For a long time there have been far greater risks through inaction, through turning blind eyes, sweeping dirty secrets under carpets.

There will be some overreactions, but by far the biggest risk has been inaction, a failure by families, communities, authorities, societies to address these problems.

Smooching under the mistletoe is not really the problem. It’s what happens behind out of sight, behind closed doors where greater dangers lie.

We should still be able to have fun at parties, we should still enjoy one of the biggest social events of the year, Christmas. And New Year.

But a worthy resolution would be to find a way as fairly and effectively as possible to address the many dirty secrets of the past, and to enable healing, as much as is possible, of victims of abuse.

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48 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  December 17, 2017

    To hug or not? Family & friends – you play it by ear. Some of my friends & family are huggers, others are not. Man hugs are more common than they used to be but they usually include a back pat & they’re over quickly, so there’s no mistaking that it’s a just bloke friendship or bonding thing. Hugging a woman usually lasts a bit longer, depending on how well you know them, how much affection you have for each other, & why you’re hugging them, eg greeting, farewell, funeral.

    Some men & women getting sloshed and over-friendly at the office Xmas party is probably always going to happen – it used to happen every year at my work. They’d turn up for work the next day, both have a slightly embarrassed laugh about it & then just get on with work as usual.

    On the odd occasion after work drinks or Xmas party shenanigans ended up with drunk singles going home together for the night, & neither they nor anyone else talking about it the next day. Nobody’s business but theirs.

    Where attention or touching was unwelcome or went too far most of the women I’ve worked with over the years would give an offending male a warning and/or if they didn’t desist a loud earful then & there! We even had a couple of offending females who could be a nuisance when they got merry – one of them was a bottom pincher!

    But this is stuff people generally have to work out for themselves. The last thing I want to see is everyone getting paranoid about sexual harrassment & nobody daring to have a bit of harmless, relaxed & friendly fun at the office party with people you work alongside & get to know reasonably well thru the year.

    Sexual harrassment when it genuinely happens is a different matter altogether & should always be called out & dealt with. Outside some blokes in certain groups of (typically pissed) macho males egging each other on, like rugby teams, the great majority of men are just as opposed to it as women. We all have wives, mums, daughters, sisters, female friends & wouldn’t tolerate it in their case so we don’t accept it as justifiable for other women either.

    The Catholic Church sexual abuse thing’s a different issue. I might comment on that separately later.

    • Missy

       /  December 17, 2017

      I have to say G those women you have worked with were very restrained, for my part unwelcome attention or touching was usually met with the threat of a knee in the groin, and in some cases it was met with an elbow to the kidneys or worse. 😀

      • Gezza

         /  December 17, 2017

        I probably should have done the same. That flamin bottom pincher hurt – and left a bruise I had to explain to my wife.

        • Missy

           /  December 17, 2017

          nothing like a quick elbow in the kidneys to deter anyone from further unwanted attentions.

          I give credit to my Father and Brother for teaching me the best (and most unexpected) ways to counter attacks. 🙂

          • Gezza

             /  December 17, 2017

            Tbh if I’d kneed Barbs in the groin she’d probably like it!

            • Missy

               /  December 17, 2017

              That’s why you should have gone with the elbow to the kidneys! Of course, I have an advantage with my vertically challenged stature as most mens kidneys are at about the height of where my elbow is. 😉

            • Gezza

               /  December 17, 2017

              Nah – she was loud, brash, quite a good looker in her heyday, dressed like a silly tart, was quite popular with everyone – & although she was very selective & had an unhealthy obsession with my bum, she knew my wife, knew I was happily married, & that was just typical of her sort of clowning around when she’d had a few. She was single. Someone always ended up taking her home – it was never gonna be me – not after I saw the types she went home with! 😖 😀

            • Blazer

               /  December 17, 2017

              @Missy..you don’t have a flat head,by any..chance.

            • Blazer

               /  December 17, 2017

              did you ever consider that because you were married ,that was an attraction in itself.When you were single…you probably wouldn’t get a kick..in a stampede.

            • Gezza

               /  December 17, 2017

              If that’s to me, it didn’t make any difference whether I was married or not, Sunshine. I once had a young female policy analyst say to me at Friday drinks in the Policy Unit. Oh? You’re married? You always seem such a free spirit I just assumed you were single. And that’s the end of this discussion because you’ve turned nasty again for no conceivable reason I can think of.

            • Blazer

               /  December 17, 2017

              you’re being sensitive…it’s an observation..Murphy’s Law type…i.e ‘the things you see..when you haven’t got your..gun’.

            • Gezza

               /  December 17, 2017

              Yeah. Righto. Explain it to Murphy when he gets to your place. I’ve sent him over to see if he can catch you.

          • Blazer

             /  December 17, 2017

            did they teach you how to do a ..bear hug.

  2. Ray

     /  December 17, 2017

    Our whole legal system is (or rather was) built round the jurist Blackstone’s
    “All presumptive evidence of felony should be admitted cautiously; for the law holds it better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent party suffer”

    Thanks to the damage that sexual offending does I am not sure we can still use that standard, certainly the media doesn’t even bother with the presumption of innocence until proven guilty but even when some are found guilty there are always others who don’t believe.
    Check out Trademe discussion pages on various Court cases.

    I don’t know the answer but think society should move cautiously on this when there is an overturning of such a longstanding convention.

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/updating-the-cliche-that-its-better-to-let-10-guilty-men-go-free/article/2568368

  3. A major problem has been the difficulty for victims to get institutions to hold offenders (and alleged offenders) to account.

  4. George

     /  December 17, 2017

    And there are those who spend their lives being insulted by anything any-one does.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  December 17, 2017

      They are put here for our entertainment, George. Be grateful.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 17, 2017

        Some people here wanted to stop a school selling hot cross buns because it was supposedly offending the local Muslims. The Muslims made a statement that (a) they were not offended by hot cross buns (b) were capable of speaking for themselves if they found something offensive.

  5. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 17, 2017

    Just been a disgraceful false accusation case in England where yet again the accuser gets off free after using the legal system and corrupt or incompetent police and prosecutors to cripple her victim. Unfortunately women can and do lie convincingly and with utter conviction and passion. The presumption of innocence is still vital as is proper testing of evidence.

    • Proven false accusers shouldn’t off free. Apart from being despicable, it harms the arguments for valid cases, in part because people quote relatively isolated cases as an implication that it is an equally bad problem as the claims of abuse.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  December 17, 2017

        True, but when you see the huge pieces of luck that exposed the lies in this case you are compelled to wonder how often innocent men go to jail.

        • Mefrostate

           /  December 17, 2017

          I’d wager much less often than guilty ones walk free.

    • Missy

       /  December 17, 2017

      Alan, I mentioned that case below.

      Part of the issue with this case (and others like it that have happened) is an agenda from the very top of the CPS – as well as the incompetence and outright lying of the police officer who investigated the case.

      The head of the CPS is on record as saying her aim is to increase the convictions for sexual assault, she has also previously stated that men who are acquitted aren’t necessarily innocent, and the victims shouldn’t be considered to have lied.

      This attitude from the very top of the CPS stacks the odds against any man wrongly or maliciously accused of sexual assault. Top that with millennials who have no ability to deal with unwanted attention and consider a pass sexual assault, we are heading for a very dark place regarding the treatment of sexual assault, something which will not help women in the long run as serious and genuine cases will not be treated as they should.

      These cases undermine the faith in the police, CPS, and undermines the ability of genuine victims to be heard and believed.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 17, 2017

        Is that the one where all the texts told the true story ?

        I was very dubious about a case where the supposed victim described the supposed rape as ‘bad sex’. Rape is just a little more than ‘bad sex’. Well, a lot more, I would guess.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  December 17, 2017

          There was one case in Hamilton where, no doubt because the young man was a Kuggelein of cricket fame, his story was played out on the news, with details, night after night. He and a girl spent the night together and had sex; she then claimed that he had raped her.

          Even when he was finally cleared, the accuser wasn’t named.

          It would be justice if false accusers were made to pay the accused’s legal bills.

          I think that it is very wrong that people are named and shown BEFORE they have been convicted.

          It seems that trials have become ‘entertainment’ as if they were like SVU and other such shows-surely there are enough of those without treating real ones like them.

          • Gezza

             /  December 17, 2017

            The last time I watched SVU was about 6 years ago. When it started it was worth watching. But by then, the plots had become ridiculously simplistic, even farcical, almost comic-book heroes & villains stuff. It descended to the point the whole series had lost all credibility, imo. If it’s still going I dunno if it’s got any better.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  December 17, 2017

              I used to watch it, too, but don’t now.

              I can’t believe that people still watch Coronation St. I stopped many years ago when it became too far-fetched, and it seems worse now.

            • Gezza

               /  December 17, 2017

              Same here. It became a hotbed of swingers, schemers, murderers, wide boy crooks, nutcases, & idiots.

  6. Missy

     /  December 17, 2017

    There are two stories over the last few weeks (separate to the Westminster Scandal) which highlights the difficulty of dealing with sexual assault.

    The first is a tweet sent out by the NI Police Service a week or so ago when they said that without consent it is rape in reference to being under the mistletoe, a message that most took to mean they were equating a kiss under the mistletoe with rape. The message was serious, but the way of relaying the message was clumsy and inappropriate.

    The second is a rape case where the alleged offender was acquitted yesterday (Friday). Essentially the police withheld evidence that threw doubt on the story of the accuser. The woman in this case was an ex girlfriend, and without getting into the sordid details, she essentially wanted him back but he wasn’t interested so she accused him of rape, she continued to text him for sex after the accusation, and after he had been arrested and charged – it is these text messages that the police withheld from the CPS & Defence. The police & CPS basically have a practice now of believing every complaint, and the head of CPS has also publicly stated that just because a man is acquitted it doesn’t mean he is innocent. There is an agenda – and policy – to increase the convictions for rape, something that has resulted in a number of acquittals, and some unsafe convictions.

    Essentially due to pressure groups there has been a push towards reporting and prosecuting sexual harassment and sexual abuse cases, a push that has resulted in a witch hunt against men, and a culture of guilty until proven innocent, which makes it easier for false claims to make it to court. This culture that is developing as a result of the ultra feminist movement and an over sensitivity towards sexual impropriety which will eventually create a society where social interaction will be thrown back to the dark ages of women being chaperoned for their own safety. It is setting the women’s movement back centuries and not helping true victims of sexual assault.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  December 17, 2017

      That’s the one I meant, with the texts-I happened to see it on the ‘news’ as I was turning the computer off.

      Some vicious bitch at Waikato University wanted to see if a man could be charged and imprisoned on her say-so and chose one for this experiment. He could be, and was, even though he had never had any relationship with her other than a social one and hadn’t been in the hostel at the time.

      The unlucky clergyman in Canada who was imprisoned for sex abuse that couldn’t have happened because the judge was blatantly biassed is another example. What are the chances of somebody walking around naked unnoticed in a house that was also the church office in the hope that the two ‘victims’ might come along ?

      I agree that if all contact is seen as sexual, we will all be the worse for it. I am not so conceited that I think that the shoulder-hug that a friend of my late husband has always given me means anything other than friendliness. Nor do I think that when two lesbian friends & I hug each other that they fancy me. But my brother’s friend was capable of making a look grossly offensive, and my husband’s friend G in Belgium made a hug seem creepy.

      My heart sank when I heard a mother and son being interviewed on RNZ about the son belatedly claiming to have been molested by Peter Ellis-it sounded horribly credible. But then mummy and now adult son began to go into too much detail and contradict each other; they can’t have spent enough time getting their stories straight. They also must have hoped that nobody would know that the son had not been at the creche when Peter Ellis was; he and his mother were such pests that she had been asked to remove him.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 17, 2017

        What I find odd is that some people think that all this is new, when it’s anything but. People have been talking about this for as long as I can remember and undoubtedly long before that.

  7. Alan Wilkinson

     /  December 17, 2017

    Meanwhile sex and politics makes money. Inside the Democrats sex attacks on Trump:

      • Gezza

         /  December 17, 2017

        Why is everybody so obsessed with Trump. Granted he’s the POTUS, & he’s the leader of the most economically & militarily powerful country in tbe world – but internationally he’s a disaster waiting to happen, & who really cares what’s happening inside America? That’s up to Americans to deal with. The fact is, he’s a moron. Even his Secretary of State has admitted it. Anybody can see it. Just read his tweets. We should just leave the US to deal with the Trump Effects, good & bad. No lessons for our governments – the US government system’s a mess.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  December 17, 2017

          He’s excellent entertainment and annoys all the right people. What’s not to like?

  8. Gezza

     /  December 17, 2017

    Re Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, it was something I never encountered. I was raised in the Catholic faith, won end of year Religion prizes among others at Primary School, and served as an altar boy at Mass, as did my two brothers. I eventually grew out of it as I got older, got a decent science education, & learnt critical thinking during my years at college, which was run by a fraternal order of De La Salle Brothers.

    3 of my acquaintances, steeped in the religion, entered the seminary immediately on completing their 7th form year, but all of them left before becoming priests. We all grew up in the age of Woodstock, sex, drugs & rock n roll, & they couldn’t handle the celibacy requirement. They all married & had families, are still practising Catholics, & are wary of discussing their faith with me.

    None of us was ever abused by a priest, nun, or any member of a religious order. Nor did we ever encounter anyone else, girl or boy, who had been.

    But then, two years after my wife died, I went to the funeral of one of my maternal uncles, who had died of cancer. Mum was one of 9 children. She was the eldest. Her next-born brother became a Marist priest after he left college. It was very common in those days in big Irish-ancestor Catholic families for at least one kid to get snaffled by the convent or the priesthood. The Church & local priests & nuns actually expected it.

    It was customary for my priest uncle to come & do the service or Mass for all mum’s family’s children’s and grandchildren’s hatches, matches and despatches. He was disappointed I didn’t have a Catholic wedding, & was no longer a Catholic, but never said anything directly to us or treated us any differently from other family members.

    So, when I went to uncle Johnny’s funeral I expected it to be a boring requiem Mass delivered by my uncle the priest – but it wasn’t. It was a short, simple, moving secular ceremony in the funeral home chapel with lots of C&W music & a C&W celebrity in attendance. He had been a lovely man, humourous, very generous with his time & with help for people, lending them his truck, belonging to various organisations & social groups, and so on, so there were many tributes, & much to smile at.

    My uncle the priest was only permitted by my aunty, the widow, a non-Catholic, to read out a very short tribute – in which he quietly added a few words at the end about believing, as a Catholic, that his brother was now with God.

    I stayed on at her request after everyone who had gone to the house after the refreshments had left, to have a chat with my aunty, & when I said I never realised uncle Johnny was an atheist, she told me that during a period when times were hard for the family, he had been sent as a young boy to live for a year at a convent in Wellington, & he was sexually abused by the chaplain there.

    Nobody did anything about it, he was believed, but it was hushed up & never spoken of by the family, & never reported to the Church authorities. They didn’t want to take on the powerful Catholic church. So everybody just pretended all their lives that it had never happened. But he had detested the Catholic church, & Christianity, & things had been awkward,y distant with his brother forever afterward.

    This sexual abuse crap from religious predators has obviously been going on for centuries. The Church has always hushed it up & it’s good to see it being at last exposed big time for protecting sexual abusers. The celibacy demanded of priests is unhealthy & contributes in my opinion to the predators within the Church being able to prey on the vulnerable, who initially feel safe with them because of it.

    But celibacy is justified by Pope after Pope after Pope on the basis Christ is assumed to have never married or had sex. It is a central tenet of Catholic belief that priests must be celibate to be able to truly emulate the life of Jesus. It will be unthinkable for them to abandon it.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  December 17, 2017

      Celibate priests seem to have produced a lot of virgin births.

  9. robertguyton

     /  December 17, 2017

    Imagine John Key at a Christmas party!!!

    • High Flying Duck

       /  December 17, 2017

      Talkative, charismatic, intelligent and informed…beer in hand?

      • robertguyton

         /  December 17, 2017

        And following a few beers, pony-tail in hand (in keeping with the subject of the thread).

        • High Flying Duck

           /  December 17, 2017

          I knew what you were getting at. Overblown nonsense, but probably worthy of a mention.

          • Kitty Catkin

             /  December 17, 2017

            Old story, Robert, boring, let it go and find something new to talk about.

  10. Gezza

     /  December 17, 2017

    Imagine what Jacinda Ardern probably sounds like after a few beers though, Robert?
    She slurs her English when she’s sober.

    • robertguyton

       /  December 17, 2017

      She might speak more clearly, with a skin-full, Gezza, who knows? In any case, I’d prefer to be subject to her slurring than Key’s – he made my skin crawl! Met him once, found his handshake wan and his eyes dead-fish. Mind you, he didn’t like what I was saying to him. His bovver-boys didn’t think much of me either; must be the way I style my beard. Jacinda’s protection-guy would perhaps think better of my styling.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  December 17, 2017

        What’s a wan handshake ? How can a handshake be pale ?

      • phantom snowflake

         /  December 17, 2017

        found his handshake dead-fish and his eyes wan.” There, fixed it for you.

        • robertguyton

           /  December 17, 2017

          You met him too, phantom? Kitty clearly didn’t.