New court rules for rape cases

NZ Herald – Courtroom shake up: New rules in rape cases hailed as decades-overdue

A woman’s sexual history or how she dresses will be out of bounds in future court cases under a raft of reforms designed to protect victims from being unfairly treated and retraumatised.

Such information, called “rape myths” by survivor advocacy groups, will only be admissible in a court if the judge deems it should be, and if not doing so would impede the course of justice.

The new rules about rape cases in court are contained in the Sexual Violence Legislation bill, which will have its first reading in Parliament today and is expected to become law early next year.

The bill seeks to maintain fair trial rights while improving the court experience, which complainants have described as retraumatising, hostile, and a compelling factor in deterring victims from coming forward at all.

An estimated one in four women and one in seven people experience sexual violence in their lifetime, but most cases are unreported, and of those reported to police, only a third go to court and one in 10 end in convictions.

Justice Minister Andrew Little said he hoped the bill would eventually encourage more complainants to come forward, though it was difficult to say if it would have any effect on conviction rates.

The bill would:

  • See more alternative ways to give evidence – such as via video conference or in a cleared courtroom – to protect complainants appearing in front of the accused or the accused’s supporters.
  • Protect complainants from unduly invasive questioning, such as questions about sexual history or choice of clothing; relevant details would be established before a complainant is questioned. A judge would also be required to direct the jury to ignore rape myths.
  • Require a judge to intervene in inappropriate lines of questioning, such as ones that are improper, unfair, misleading, or needlessly repetitive.
  • Allow a survivor to give an victim impact statement to a courtroom cleared of the public.

Justice Under-Secretary and Green MP Jan Logie said the myths about rape – including sexual history and a complainant’s choice of clothing – unduly influenced court cases.

“You can consent to sexual activity with somebody at a particular time and not at another. Consenting the first time does not automatically [mean] you have consented the second time. Choice matters.”

What someone was wearing or doing in thee past, even the recent past, has no bearing on consent or lack thereof  at the time of an alleged rape. And as Logie says, prior consent does not mean ongoing current consent.

Rape cases that argue consent can be tricky when there are only two witnesses, the accused and the complainant. But I think that it is fair to assume no consent unless it is clear that consent has been given.

Chief Victims’ Adviser Kim McGregor said that cross-examination was the most destructive and distressing part of the court process, and better protections for complainants were long overdue.

“I have heard from those who feel broken, humiliated and worn down after hours and sometimes days of repeated questioning.”

She said complainants accepted that evidence needed to be tested, but will welcome the changes in the bill that would disarm the process of hostility.

Wellington Women Lawyers’ Association convener Steph Dyhrberg said it was important to require judges to direct juries about the misconceptions around rape.

“The general public is remarkably ill-informed about the realities of sexual violence and how survivors experience it and behave. Those assumptions and prejudices and misinformation, jurors take into the courtroom and jury room.”

Perhaps lawyers need to be educated on the realities of sexual violence. And if they stray in defence of an alleged rapist thee judge should be able to stop them from unfair questioning.

This was echoed by Wellington Rape Crisis agency manager Kyla Rayner.

“We don’t want to see the continuation of discrediting survivors’ experiences or colouring outcomes with rape myths.”

Questions to witnesses should be respectful, relevant and fair, and she said it was appropriate to require a judge to intervene when questions were improper, or even harmful.

Wellington Sexual Abuse Help foundation chief executive Conor Twyford said a person’s sexual disposition should never be considered as evidence against them.

“Survivors have a right not to have their sexual history used against them, full stop.

“A person’s prior sexual activity should have no bearing on the case at hand.”

For sure.

If someone is the innocent victim of a car accident their past driving record isn’t relevant either.

Logie said the bill was the first phase of change.

The second stage would look at the nature of consent, the role of juries, and alternative process including an inquisitorial system that, for example, focuses more on fact-finding than challenging evidence under cross-examination.

She said the current system was so poor at the moment that people working in the system have said they wouldn’t advise their own family members to lay complaints.

A sad reality of our current legal system.

This sounds like very good (and yes, long overdue) reform.

And I agree that Jan Logie has stepped up very well as a Minister – I admit I wasn’t a fan of hers when she was an Opposition MP, but she has switched to the responsibilities of being a Minister in Government and has generally done a very good job promoting the resolution of important issues effectively. This is one example of her effectiveness.


Mallard’s Parliament rape claim under scrutiny as man responds

The Speaker Trevor Mallard has admitted that he didn’t handle the furore he created in Parliament well, when he stated that accusations of sexual attacks in the Francis report amounted to rape, and that the accused person was still working in Parliament. The next day a Parliamentary staffer was stood down. he is now speaking up.

NZ Herald:  ‘I’m in a very dark place’: Man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s rape claims

The man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape has spoken out.

Referring last week to the alleged assaults, Mallard said: “We’re talking about serious sexual assault. Well that, for me, that’s rape.”

In a two-hour sit-down discussion in his home, the devastated man said: “The accusation of rape has put me in a very dark place.

“I was driving to Parliament the day after the bullying and harassment report on the place was delivered and heard on the radio that a ‘rapist’ could be stalking the corridors and it disturbed me greatly,” he said.

However early that afternoon he realised he was the so-called “rapist” when he was summoned into the office of the Parliamentary Service boss Rafael Gonzalez-Montero to be stood down.

A colleague at the centre of an unsubstantiated complaint against him three years earlier had come forward again after complainants were urged to do so by the Speaker.

“It’s ironic that the review was about bullying and harassment. I feel I’ve been bullied out of Parliament and harassed within it, particularly by the Speaker’s claim,” the teary-eyed man said.

The complaint was ruled to be unsubstantiated last year, laid two years after the incident happened.

The man said it resulted from working alongside a colleague at Parliament when a clipboard was lost.

“We searched for the clipboard which was important and with great relief we finally found it. She gave me a high five but being a little old-fashioned I hugged her back, that was honestly all there was to it,” the man said.

Hugging isn’t old-fashioned. It has become a thing over recent years – in my opinion too much of a thing to do, especially with people you don’t know well.

I think that it is generally inappropriate and unprofesssional to hug colleagues at work. And risky.

Hugging someone because something is found seems quite odd to me, but it doesn’t sound anywhere near rape or even sexual assault as explained by the man here (perceptions can be different).

The Speaker understood the same man was responsible for the two other claims of serious sexual assault. He later added one of the key dangers is no longer in the building.

The man said he’s dumbfounded but the same woman was involved in one of the other complaints. He said he passed a comment about another woman’s hair looking nice, with the original complainant telling her he was looking at her breasts.

The third complaint came following a platonic friendship he had with another colleague, who on one occasion came around to his house with her son for a cup of tea with his wife. He says he kissed her on the cheek once as he was farewelling her and he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else.

Again, kissing a colleague on the cheek seems inappropriate. It’s important to remember that this is as he describes it, and the woman may have a different recollection or perception.

Saying he suspects she was put up to the complaint by someone else seems quite odd.


The distraught man said: “I never thought I would ever find myself in this situation, it’s not who I am, I’m thoroughly devastated. I would like to be able to return to work to clear my name and I expect, at the very least an apology from the Speaker for labelling me as a rapist which I most certainly am not.

“Surely he must have known the background to the complaints and if he did, his comment is slanderous as I’m sure many in Parliament now know I’m the one who has been stood down. I have been married for many years and have throughout been monogamous.”

The rapist claim by Mallard did seem a big leap at the time based on what was disclosed in the report.

But trying to resolve things like this via media is a poor way to sort them out. the man may be mostly innocent, but unfortunately his word cannot just be accepted as the full facts of the matter.

More from NZH:  ‘Bullied out’: Man stood down from Parliament after Speaker Trevor Mallard’s rape claims wants apology

The man stood down from Parliament after Trevor Mallard’s claims about rape says he feels bullied out of the building and wants an apology for what he described as the Speaker’s “slanderous” comments.

Mallard declined to comment yesterday, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern entered into a terse exchange over the interview at Monday afternoon’s post-Cabinet press conference.

Ardern refused to comment on the nature of the allegations in the Francis report.

All information given to the Francis report was anonymous, she said.

“You’ve asked me to comment on the Francis report which had allegations within it that I have not seen the detail of, that were provided confidentially and that were provided under that banner to ensure that those who were the victims felt able to come forward and speak openly to the inquirer, so I simply cannot comment on what you’re stating.”

Ardern also said she did not know what information Mallard may or may not have in relation to the allegations.

This has become a very messy situation for Parliament and for Mallard.

Regardless of the facts of this matter, I think that the practice of hugging has goner far too far, especially in work situations. Hugging is a close and personal thing, and I think should be reserved for people you are close to in a personal way – and even then you have to be aware that not everyone likes to hug.

‘Men’ have a collective problem with violence, abuse…

‘Men’ have a collective problem with violence, abuse, murder, rape, misogyny – and should do more collectively to address these problems and the ingrained cultures that contribute to the problems.

Obviously not all men are violent, not all men are thugs or rapists or murderers. It can be quite confronting to be held responsible as a gender for individual crimes, rapes, murders, assaults. We are not all responsible for specific crimes. But we are all responsible for the social culture in which they occur all too frequently.

A number of women have been expressing themselves in reaction to the shocking murder of English backpacker Grace Millane. There has been a lot of emotion, and I think that in the heat of the moment some things that have been said maybe be a bit over the top, off the mark and unfair.

But I think we should listen, learn, and resolve to do more to stand up to the debilitating and destructive behaviours that cause so much grief and anger.

WARNING: the following may put some male noses out of joint. But I think that men should read, digest, and consider carefully what is being expressed.

Women, many women, have to deal with problems that most men have to deal with, and that most men are probably largely unaware of.

Kirsty Johnston: I’m angry about Grace Millane’s murder after a year reporting on rape

I was angry before Grace Millane’s death and I’m seething now.

In the days following Grace’s death, I tried to explain this feeling to the men in my life, to tell them why many women felt so upset by her killing.

“It could have been any of us,” I said. “It is a reminder that we aren’t yet equal. She was just a kid. She was just trying to live her life.”

I watched them grapple with this idea, to try not to get defensive. I wondered how it must feel to be on the other end, to be told that you have the power to be frightening. I felt sorry for them, these men who I love. Right now, however, I’m too tired to make it okay for them. It’s been a long year. I’m tired of explaining. I’m tired of feeling second-class. And I’m tired of being angry. It’s a burden none of us asked for.

I have spent most of 2018 writing about rape. It wasn’t planned. It began with a single story about unresolved sexual assault cases handled by the police, and grew, and grew.

After every article, more women came forward to talk to me about sexual violence and their experience with the justice system. For a while, I became part reporter, part counsellor. I didn’t mind. Journalism is as much in the listening as the telling. But unlike with previous projects, this time the stories stayed with me, waking me at night, leaving a deep aching in my chest around my heart. Sometimes, I felt sick, my throat constricted. Worst was when I felt the deep chill of recognition settle in my bones.

It was deeply confronting to realise these women’s long-held secrets were so similar to my own. As I listened to them, memories long-repressed began to bubble to the surface. Small things, like unwanted touches or sexist comments. Bigger things, like sexual coercion or a lack of consent. Other things. Cowering in corners.

With the lid lifted, it felt like I was viewing the world through a new lens. Everywhere I looked was rape culture, the dominance of the patriarchy, ingrained misogyny. Once you see, I said to one victim, you can’t unsee. She said, “I wish I could. I don’t want to be this person.” Same, I said. It’s exhausting. As the year went on my heartache shifted to anger. In June, after a nasty incident at a bar, I wrote a furious column about male entitlement, begging men to think about their behaviour. In response, I got emails threatening rape. My anger twisted to despair.

The only thing that saved me was the kindness of other women.

Wouldn’t it be good if the kindness of men also helped saved people from angst, saved people from violence and abuse, saved people’s lives?

It can, and does. But not enough.

I think that men as a group need to listen more, learn more about the problems they are being linked to and are a part of.

‘Men’ cannot be held responsible for individuals, for individual murders, for individual rapes, for individual assaults, for individual families battered and scarred by violence.

But as a significant segment of a society that is too often violent and dysfunctional I think men have a collective responsibility to stand up and confront the issues more and better.

Many men lead non-violent lives, many men are members of decent families and decent communities. But our society as a whole has a pervading sickness, not just a sickness of violent behaviour, of abusive behaviour, but a sickness of attitudes and behaviours that disrespect, demean, destroy.

This is too prevalent in family and social situations. It is also too prevalent in politics. It is far too prevalent in online forums, social media – as a society we haven’t adapted well to technological changes. Yet.

When it comes down to it we don’t care about women enough. Most men do not know what it is to be afraid, to realise if your worst fear comes true, there is nothing you can do.

We as men can imagine what this may be like but will probably never understand how it feels.

I can’t speak for women, but I can try to understand their angst and anger better.

And as a man I should do more to make our society less violent, better. I think this will benefit from collective action from men.

I admit that some of what I have read lately, including from Kirsty Johnston, got my hackles up a bit, made me feel indignant, dumped on. Maybe that’s in part because I know, I feel, that men are not doing enough to address male problems in our society. Society will only change for the better if we change – change our attitudes, change our behaviours, and change what we do (from little to more) to confront a beast of a problem.


Aspects of #metoo include blanket suspicion and #manydon’t

The #MeToo movement has highlighted a dirty secret – that many women have been sexually abused, assault, raped. There is no doubt that many women have been adversely affected, and that some men are too pushy, some are cretins, some are predators. It has been a huge problem.

So this has been a big problem for far too many women.

It has also been a huge problem for some men who have also been victims of sexual assault. You just need to see how widespread and insidious sexual predation has been within the Catholic priesthood – and how the Catholic Church has effectively protected them, have aided and abetted them.

It is also a problem that ‘men’ as a whole are attacked and bear the blame for the actions of some men. I think that statistics on this struggle to demonstrate the real numbers. There are many female victims, but I think that cases that are reported show that some men have attacked multiple victims, sometimes many. This suggests to me that the proportion of men who are to blame may be significantly less then the proportion of females who have been victims.

There are still a large number of men who have been perpetrators, ranging from ignorant males who coerce and pressure, to hard out predators.

But many men are not like this. Many men respect women and don’t assault women. Most men.

So it’s good to see a thread like this on Twitter, beginning with:

And then he said “maybe isn’t yes” and I went home that night, un-assaulted, because I hadn’t talked to a rapist at that party.

Another story: I went out drinking with girl friends at a bar a few years later. I was flirting with a guy there, he grabbed my hand, pulled me outside, into an alley, he kissed me hard and then looked at me and said, “yes?” I didn’t say anything.

He said “go back inside then,” maybe he was annoyed but he meant it, I went back inside. There wasn’t a rapist at that bar.

One time a guy and I had flirted, he invited me to his room, I went we kissed, I said I liked it, he took off his clothes, I touched him, he tried to take off my clothes, I resisted, he said “seems like you’re not into this” I said, ehhh, he said, no, it’s only fun if you want it.

I said, I’m sorry, he said it’s ok. I left, unmolested. I was lucky, I hadn’t met a rapist that night.

I’ve been assaulted. I’ve also been not assaulted. The difference didn’t seem to be what I was wearing, how flirty I was, how much I was drinking. The only difference seemed to be whether or not the men felt it was ok or not to assault.

An important difference.

It’s important to understand how assaults and breaches of trust can affect women (and male victims). @SweetGeeking:

All of us women at some point become aware of our sexuality, and how vulnerable it makes us.

‘All of us women’ sounds like a generalisation, I would expect that women have a variety experiences and feelings about their sexuality. But this one woman’s valid story.

In that moment, we receive an invisible backpack that we have to tend for the rest of our lives. For some like myself, we learn that lesson in a violent way, long before we should ever even know what sex is. Others receive their backpack later in life, but we rarely escape puberty without it.

Our invisible backpacks vary in size and weight, usually in relation to the circumstances under which we received it. But it goes everywhere with us. It’s something we carry and tend to.

We carry our keys b/n our fingers when walking to our cars at night.

We don’t go jogging after dark, and even in the daytime we vary our routes in case someone is looking for a pattern.

We instinctively park under lights when we know we will come back to our car after dark. We do thousands of tiny things, all the time, without even thinking about it, because we don’t have any other choice.

We know that not all men are threats, but we also know damn fucking well that there’s no way to tell who is and who isn’t.

@SweetGeeking seems to assume that all women have similar feelings and fears, which is unlikely to be correct, but it’s likely that many do thinks and feel similarly as a result of having been assaulted.

And it is understandable that due to the actions of some men they become suspicious of all men.

My successful, church-going, computer programming, well-dressed, father of his own 2 daughters stepdad used my body for years, starting when I was very young. No one ever would have guessed. You can never tell.

I had the same roommate for 4 years. I know he’d never hurt me, but I still locked my door at night bc my stepdad would come into my bedroom at night, and decades later I still can’t sleep.

I know many men in my life have been shocked to learn how much this reality permeates every corner of our lives. Turn that shock into respect for how strong and badass we are. Please don’t pity me/us. Respect us & give us a seat at the table. And sit down and listen for a bit.

Generalisations aside this doesn’t shock me. It does shock me that some men abuse girls and women, and that that forces these fears and suspicions on them through no fault of their own. Sexual abuse is shocking, and the affects of this on victims can be profound and long lasting.

It is good to hear some different stories and experiences.


1st date w/ a guy: we had a daytime coffee meet-up & then I invited him to my house to play Mario Kart. We started kissing and I hesitated; he asked why, I said I was conflicted about moving too fast. He said, “then we’ll stop.” And we played more Mario. Reader, I married him.

I already felt really strongly about him but the fact that he didn’t act offended, didn’t try to pressure me, didn’t argue with me one bit, just said it’s ok and turned back to the game controllers . . . that’s how I knew he was as good as I thought he was.

Just as girls and women who are assaulted should not be blamed for what they wear or where they go and what they drink, all men should not be blamed for the offences of some men.

But it is inescapable that women who have been abused of men become suspicious of all men, until they get to know men in their lives well enough that they can trust them.

Men who respect women (or men), men who don’t abuse trust and abuse victims, they are generally not to blame for men who do assault and rape. But they can’t avoid being suspected of being possible attackers by victims of past assaults.

What men who don’t can do is make it clear that they are as shocked by men who do assault as most women are. Men who don’t can speak up and show that most men don’t, and that men who do are a minority who should be shown that predatory behaviour is unacceptable and wrong.

We shouldn’t stay silent and say it is not our problem, because it becomes our problem and is our problem if our girlfriends and our sisters and our partners and our daughters have been adversely affected by forced sexual behaviour by some men.


Guilty until proven innocent?

Suggesting the burden of proof be reversed to guilty unless proven innocent is getting into very dangerous legal territory.

RNZ: Call to shift burden of proof to rape-accused

Labour’s sexual violence spokesperson, Mrs Williams has called for radical reform of the sexual justice system which would see rape accusers believed by police as a starting point.

Every accuser should be given the benefit of doubt and believed when investigating an alleged crime of any sort, unless there is good reason to disbelieve them.

But taking that approach in court is a much riskier approach.

This would place the burden of proof on the accused – directly contradicting the philosophy of “innocent until proven guilty”.

Ms Williams said many victims of rape do not report it because they have little faith in the justice system.

She said the country needed to have a discussion about how to address that power imbalance.

Seeking better ways of conducting investigations and prosecutions would be the best way to deal with it.

Now, I know that runs up against ‘innocent until proven guilty’, and that would be one of the issues that we’d really have to consider long and hard, but I’m of the view that we have to make some changes.”

Poto Williams said she didn’t yet know how the policy would be implemented.

“I don’t pretend to have the legal nous in which to do this, but I’m comfortable that there is a way that we can work our way through this.

So Williams is posing the possibility. It doesn’t look lioke being anywhere near Labour policy.

“But at the end of the day we cannot, in all good conscience, say to victims of rape and sexual abuse, ‘your case will be ignored.’

“One thing we have to do is find out the numbers of false allegations that have been made, because that will be one of the things people will be really concerned about – that someone who’s falsely accused of sexual abuse will be put through a process that is completely unfair.”

It’s also long established that it’s unfair to presume guilt unless proven innocent.

A Hawke’s Bay barrister, Jonathan Krebs, said contradicting the principle of innocent until proven guilty in New Zealand’s justice system would be unthinkable.

“The rule about the prosecution having to prove offending and allegations beyond reasonable doubt is zealously held,” he said.

“Any proposal that a complainant of any sort of offending should be deemed to be telling the truth and an accused person must prove their innocence would be such a radical departure that I don’t think that would gain very much support at all.”

It’s hard to guess why Williams is raising this. It’s unlikely to go anywhere. Surely Labour won’t consider it seriously as policy.

False rape claim, 10 months in jail

At a rape trial in Dunedin a man was cleared after the alleged victim (13 years old when she made her first complaints) admitted in court she had made false allegations. This was after the man had spent 10 months in jail on remand.

ODT: Cleared after 10 months in jail

Christopher John Ferguson (31) lived that nightmare for nearly a year while he sat in jail awaiting trial at the Dunedin District Court and a chance to clear his name.

Eight sex charges – including two of rape – were dismissed by Judge Michael Crosbie after the primary complainant admitted she had made everything up.

The 13-year-old girl was interviewed by police in 2013 when she made allegations of sexual violation and then in 2015 she came forward with further claims of repeated rapes that supposedly occurred over several weeks.

Added to an allegation of drunkenly groping another child, police finally charged Mr Ferguson in May 2016.

He denied the charges but was denied bail, partly because of convictions for violence on his criminal record.

Mr Ferguson spent the next 10 months behind bars as an accused sex offender.

But at the trial this week:

After viewing more than three hours of video interviews with the young girl, during which she gradually painted a picture of constant abuse, counsel Anne Stevens cross-examined.

In her opening, she told the 12 jurors the allegations against her client were fabricated; and so it proved.

”Mrs Stevens’ questions were firm but fair and initially elicited some responses that saw [the complainant] become upset and need to take a break,” Judge Crosbie said.

When the trial resumed, the girl resiled from her original story and said none of it had happened.

”[She] said Mr Ferguson did not touch her on any occasion,” the judge explained to the jury before dismissing them yesterday.

”She confirmed she was not under pressure and she was telling the truth.”

The girl told him she was having family problems at the time.

”That’s her roundabout explanation,” Judge Crosbie said.

Though scenarios like it were not unheard of, the judge said, ”what you’ve seen is out of the ordinary and what we’d regard as an exceptional case”.

”I’m satisfied we now know the truth. What you have is a trial process that’s worked,” he said.

So the man walked free. But while the trial process eventually worked he had paid a high price.

Despite the ordeal, the man said he bore no great animosity towards the girl who lied about him.

”I do feel sorry for the complainant for carrying those lies around for so long,” Mr Ferguson said.

”It feels great to finally have my name cleared.”

It is great he was cleared, eventually, and while he expressed no animosity he would be justified in feeling aggrieved at the girl’s false accusations.

In this case it was multiple complaints – by multiple girls according to the ODT timeline:

October 2010: First girl tells police Christopher John Ferguson sneaked into her bedroom and molested her in May.

April 2011: He is interviewed by police.

June 2011: Police choose not to prosecute.

July 2013: Second complainant says Mr Ferguson raped her.

October 2013: He denies the offending and police again choose not to lay charges.

June 2015: The same girl makes further. claims of molestation and rape.

May 2016: Mr Ferguson is interviewed and charged with three counts of indecent assault, three of sexual violation by unlawful sexual connection and two of rape.

So this has been over nearly 7 years, with the man spending the last 10 months in prison.

There is no other information about whether the first complainant was linked in any way to the second complainant.

Though the older complainant had stood by her allegations at trial, he noted the police had opted not to press charges following her statement in 2011.

”It’s fair to assume the decision was based on insufficiency of evidence or the complainant or both,” the judge said.

Making false rape accusations is a serious offence, or it should be. There is no indication of what repercussions there should be for making the false complaints.

False rape complaints not only impact on those who are falsely accused, it also allows people who try to play down the seriousness of the number and severity of sex crimes to claim it isn’t as big a problem as it seems to be.

And it also makes it harder for people who make genuine sexual assault and rape complaints.

A Rape Crisis Dunedin community educator Anna Hoek-Sims said instances of false allegations made it harder for real sexual-abuse victims to come forward because most feared they would not be believed.

She stressed only about 2% of cases that made it to court were based on fabricated claims and said it was important to consider why it happened.

”I think we need to keep in mind that people who make false complaints often make them for another reason, such as personal issues, health issues or even past history of sexual violence and often when something like this happens, the person can be forgotten in the fury that follows a false accusation.

”I hope that in this case, the person receives the support they need.”

Support, yes, it seems a sad situation where a young teenager makes such serious accusations. But it is also a bad situation and there should also be appropriate consequences.

2% of cases being false accusations doesn’t sound like many but they tend to stand out in the news as ‘ordinary’ or legitimate sexual assault cases are common.

And 2% still amounts to a sizeable number. How much sexual victimisation is there?

We estimated 186,000 sexual offences were committed in 2013. While we found no statistically significant change between 2008 and 2013, we did record a decrease between 2005 (317,000) and 2013.

When we look at the percentage of New Zealanders who were victims of sexual violence, we found 2.1% of adults experienced one or more sexual offences in 2013. This decreased over time, from 3.9% in 2005 to 2.8% in 2008 and down to 2.1% in 2013.

Looking at sexual victimisation by gender, we found that women (2.9%) were more likely than men (1.1%) to have experienced a sexual offence in 2013.

Overall, we found there were 5.2 sexual offences for every 100 adults in 2013.

That is 52 offences for every 1,000 adults. 2% of that is 1 false complaint per 1,000 adults.

The number of both sexual offences and false complaints is horrifyingly high.


‘This is how you raise a rapist’

Madeleine Holden at The Spinoff has a good look at the Brock Turner rape issue in the US in ‘This is how you raise a rapist’: on the culture which created Brock Turner

The statements of Stanford student athlete and rapist Brock Turner’s family and friends point to the poisoned atmosphere which helps prominent men believe they are entitled to rape, says Madeleine Holden. Trigger warning: this opinion piece addresses rape and sexual violence.

On January 17, 2015, Stanford student athlete Brock Turner raped an unconscious women behind a dumpster. In March this year, judge Aaron Persky handed down a six month sentence to Turner despite the maximum sentence of 14 years for three counts of sexual assault, saying that he thought “A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him… I think he will not be a danger to others.” This, in itself, isn’t news: rapists avoiding jail time for their crimes is nothing new, and it’s not unusual for young, white male athletes from prestigious universities to be treated leniently by their schools and the legal system.

Holden shows what initiated widespread interest in the case, the court statement of the victim, and then goes on to detail what sparked a furore.

In the face of widespread backlash about his sentence, Turner’s father issued a statement defending his son, arguing his life will be “deeply altered” by the court’s verdict and that “He will never be his happy-go-lucky self with that easygoing personality and welcoming smile.” Turner’s father went on to describe the worry, anxiety, fear and depression his son now faces, before stating that “His life will never be the one that he dreamt about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”

20 minutes of action. That’s how Brock Turner’s father described his son raping an unconscious young woman behind a dumpster. Action. As though it was harmless sexual fun – the kind young men are wont to seek out – and only 20 minutes of it, as if his son was cheated by having to face all these pesky consequences for a mere blip of a good time. That “good time,” of course, robbed Turner’s victim of her dignity and wellbeing and permanently altered the course of her life, too. The only difference is she had no say in it.

Mr Turner went on to say that his son should not be sent to jail because of his lack of prior offending, and also because “he has never been violent to anyone, including his actions on the night of January 17, 2015.”

Mr Turner’s comment here portrays a fundamental misunderstanding of rape. Rape is always violent, and it is always a violation. Turner’s victim was left with bruises inside her vagina and scratches and lacerations on her skin. Turner also left her with lasting feelings of despair, difficulty with trust, an inability to eat or sleep, depression, isolation, difficulty working, and continuing fear. Turner’s “actions” on the night of January 17, 2015 were violent, because that night, he raped someone. Rape is always violent.

Incredibly, Mr Turner went on to say that his son could become a role model for young people.

“Brock can do so many positive things as a contributor to society and is totally committed to educating other college age students about the dangers of alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity,” he wrote. “By having people like Brock educate others on college campuses is how society can begin to break the cycle of binge drinking and its unfortunate results.”

It’s disheartening, to say the least, that Mr Turner thinks the problem here is alcohol consumption and sexual promiscuity, neither of which are the same thing as rape. The mention of drinking is a convenient scapegoat for Turner and his father, because they can point the finger at the victim, who was drinking – the implication being that she was partially to blame for her predicament, which she wasn’t. But the mention of “sexual promiscuity” is startling.

And it gets worse:

In case you think Turner’s father was a rogue influence in his life, his friend has come forward to blame the conviction on political correctness, and, bafflingly, said that “rape on campus isn’t always because people are rapists.”

“This is completely different from a woman getting kidnapped and raped as she is walking to her car in a parking lot,” she said. “That is a rapist. These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.”

Idiot boys, and girls. The implication is clear: idiots, these girls, for getting themselves raped because they drank too much; not like real victims, who are simply walking to their cars alone at night, before they’re whisked away by real rapists. Again, this statement betrays a severe misunderstanding of what rape is. Most survivors of rape are raped by people they know. Turner’s friend manages to stuff two damaging rape myths into one statement: the idea that women and girls contribute to their own rapes by drinking, and that rape that happens on college campuses or between acquaintances isn’t real, like stranger rape is.

This all illustrates a much wider problem.

Mr Turner believes disturbing things about rape, “promiscuity”, drinking and college culture. At the age of 19, his son raped an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. It is, of course, impossible to know why exactly Brock Turner became a rapist, but one thing is for sure: the attitudes held by his father – and many, many other people – about rape aren’t harmless or isolated; they directly feed into how young men decide to treat women.

If you’re not convinced, there’s mounting evidence. A survey of 379 college-aged men revealed that, of the athletes surveyed, more than half reported coercing a partner into sex. Furthermore, those who reported coercing partners into sex – that is, raping them – were more likely to believe in rape myths (“If a woman doesn’t fight back, it isn’t rape,” for example) and hold traditional views of gender roles such as “Women should worry less about their rights and more about becoming good wives and mothers.” In short, believing common, dangerous ideas about rape and women’s roles is more likely to mean that you are a rapist.

I don’t think that most men are rapists. Some men,  are, and because some of them are recidivist rapists it can appear as if there are many male rapists.

Holden illustrates more alarming public attitudes of some males and sex, including this from “one of hip hop’s most prolific stylists” (who faces multiple accusations of rape):

no choice.jpg-large

That’s a seriously sick attitude, on public display.

Holden concludes:

You don’t need to be a father to help raise a rapist. You only need to be an active participant in a culture that already treats rape alarmingly lightly. Rapists are around us, and they listen to jokes about rape and rape myths – ideas that women can dress or behave in ways that invite rape, that if they don’t fight and scream they must have “liked it”, that if they were drunk then they got what was coming to them – and they are fortified by them.

Real rapists are absorbing our cultural attitudes about rape, and then they are raping actual women. It’s not an academic exercise, and we have enough evidence to show that our dialogue around rape isn’t harmless or separate from the real world in which rape takes place. Perpetuating rape myths contributes towards a culture in which rape happens often and is punished little; a culture that believes, on some level, that men are bound to rape and women invite rape by acting in certain ways.

That is the real problem.

Now I happen think that a conviction and a 6 month prison sentence (out in 3) will have a major impact on Brock Turner. But relative to the offence it is a lenient sentence.

His ’20 minutes of action’ has had a profoundly damaging effect on the whole life of a woman.

At least his case has highlighted a serious issue. If a few men (‘man’ may not be a suitable description for people who think it’s ok to have sex with an unconscious stranger) like Turner get disproportionately punished (in comparison to past educated white offenders) then so be it.

This was a very sleazy sexual attack that deserves condemnation publicly and by the court.

And the only way of making it clear that the attitudes that contribute to this sort of offending have to change is by punishing offenders in a way that change the entrenched attitudes of people like Turner’s father and friend, and many other men and women

Including in New Zealand, where many attitudes to women and to sex and to rape are far appropriate.

I’m aware that some men get annoyed or offended by rape culture being mentioned. Many men are not rapists, many men do not promote cultures that excuse and in some ways encourage sexual assaults and inappropriate sexual attitudes and behaviours.

But this is one issue where remaining innocent silent is not enough. Good people, good men, should speak up more to make it clear to those who abuse and sexually assault and rape women – and men – that it is abhorrent behaviour that a modern society should not tolerate.

Change requires effort. Silence isn’t sufficient.

DNA nails historic offender

DNA has solved a twenty year old offence. It turns out to be a repeat offender – as often seems to be the case in sexual offences.

NZ wrestler Devon Bond admits 1994 rape after DNA hit

Former New Zealand representative wrestler Devon Charles Bond has admitted the horrific 1994 rape of a Christchurch woman, after a cold case DNA match.

Bond, 49, pleaded guilty on Monday in the High Court at Christchurch, on the morning his jury trial was due to begin.

The Crown will ask the court to consider an open-ended preventive detention sentence because Bond has a 1995 conviction for abducting a woman he put into the boot of his car.

It’s good to see DNA evidence helping solve historic offences. I hope it continues to nail repeat sexual offenders.

What has become apparent with sexual offending is that there seems to be a relatively small number of men who have been usually getting away multiple offences.

Obviously this has been bad, very bad, for the mostly female victims.

It’s also been a bad look for men in general, with some claims suggesting that sexual assaults have been perpetuated by an alarming number of men.

I’d like to see analysis of statistics on this, but I suspect that a relatively small proportion of men are responsible for the majority of assaults, especially those that are at the more serious send end of the scale.

Jan Logie on Key’s rape comments

Green MP Jan Logie was interviewed on Breakfast this morning.

Initial Twitter coverage:

“I’ve spent a huge number of years fighting against rape culture and have experienced sexual violence myself” – @janlogie

“I really hope the Prime Minister listened… and thinks twice about the impact of those comments”

“The Prime Minister’s comments were knowingly offensive and provocative.. he was using it to distract from a very real concern”

She made some odd comments about rapists, appearing to defend them. According to feedback some people are incensed by her comments.

It’s not online yet.

Video of a brief part: John Key’s rape comment was ‘deeply personally offensive’ – MP

Once Were Mana

As previously posted 3 News has revealed that three people associated with convictions or charges for sexual crimes have been employed by Hone Harawira and the Mana Party. One person closely associated with Harawira’s election campaign was arrested for rape of a child under twelve just prior to the election (so it’s at this stage an allegation) but still spoke at Harawira’s election night function.

Harawira is refusing to comment. The convictions, allegation and silence could all be highly damaging to an already severely wounded Mana Party.

In more ways than one this could signal Once were Mana.

Harawira employed his brother Arthur through Parliamentary Services with public funds – he’s spent time in jail for violent offences, including a sexual attack charge laid in 2008.

The Herald reported in 2008 MP stands by brother despite violence charges

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira says serious charges his brother is facing, including indecent assault and kidnapping, will not damage the party’s strong anti-violence campaign.

The Tai Tokerau representative has vowed to stand by 50-year-old Arthur Harawira, who was last week released from custody on charges of assault with intent to injure, wounding with intent to injure, indecent assault, kidnapping and avoiding arrest. Suppression orders have been imposed to protect the alleged victim’s identity.

Harawira said last night he felt sorry for the person involved, but Arthur was his brother. “I can’t condone his actions, but neither will I walk away from my family.”

While one could claim that people who have paid the price for their crimes deserve another chance but alongside the other two cases this doesn’t look flash.

The second case involves Daniel Taylor:

The records show Daniel Taylor was also a casual Mana Party staffer

The records show he was hired by Mana in December 2010 and was jailed in November 2013.

Also from 3 News:

Prominent Far North community figure Daniel Taylor has been sentenced to five years and seven months in prison for sexually abusing young boys.

Taylor, 34, was sentenced in the Whangarei High Court today on nine charges of indecent assault and attempted sexual connection. His minimum non-parole period is two years and 10 months.

The Child, Youth and Family-approved carer pleaded guilty to the charges in September, one month before his trial was due to commence.

He has been in custody since his arrest in November last year after being denied bail on several occasions.

So he was hired by Mana in December 2010 and arrested and remanded in custody in November 2012. There is no indication Harawira knew of any offending before Taylor’s arrest, so this could be nothing more than an unfortunate association with Mana.

One News reported on the third case on Monday: Prominent Maori leader pleads not guilty to raping young girl

A well-known Maori leader in Kaitaia has pleaded not guilty to serious sex charges against a young girl.

65-year-old Patrick Rivers, also known as Mangu Awarau, appeared in Kaitaia District Court charged with raping a girl under 12 and two counts of indecent assault. The court entered a not guilty plea on all charges on Rivers’ behalf.

The charges are historic and are alleged to have occurred during 2009 in Awanui.

Rivers is well known in the Far North and in Maori political circles.

He was out on bail at the time he was filmed with the Mana Party on election night. Two days earlier he had been charged with raping the young girl.

Mana Party leader Hone Harawira is a close friend. Mr Harawira declined to comment on their relationship and the nature of the charges when contacted by ONE News.

A Herald profile says he is Harawira’s cousin:

He joined his cousin Hone Harawira, now a Maori Party MP, another cousin Labour list MP Shane Jones, and Maori Language Commission chief executive Haami Piripi in the Maori protest movement.

The charge is still before the courts.

But this combined with the other two who have been convicted is an awful look and Harawira should front up and address it.

Otherwise – Once Were Mana.