When murderer John Coombes was convicted for a second murder, what did the Adult Parole Board do? Let him out of prison in 2007 to murder his friend, foster mother Raechel Betts, and throw her body parts into the sea.
When violent offender William Watkins was convicted of raping a neighbour in 2000, what did the board do? Let him out of prison to rape and murder Laura and Colleen Irwin, two sisters living next door.
When drug trafficker David Clifford was convicted for physical assault and harassment offences, what did the board do? Let him out in 2008 to bash and murder hairdresser Elsa Corp.
When Steven Hunter was convicted of assault, false imprisonment and drug trafficking, what did the board do? Gave him parole in 2009, meaning he was free to murder Sarah Cafferkey three years later (just after parole ended) and dump her body in a wheelie bin.
When Francis McCullagh was convicted for burning, kicking and bashing the mother of his three children with blocks of wood in 1997, what did the board do? It let him out of prison to bash his girlfriend Melanie Harnden to death.
When Jason Dinsley committed a drug-fuelled rape at knife point, the board overlooked his 100 prior convictions and released him. He then battered Sharon Siermans to death in April with a cricket bat while her son hid in a bedroom.
And when convicted rapist Adrian Bayley was given his leave pass, he raped and murdered Jill Meagher last September.
This prompted the commissioning of the just-delivered report of former High Court judge Ian Callinan on the board’s catastrophic failures.
All these women might still be alive but for the board’s decisions.
In 1991, Bayley was given a five-year sentence for raping three women. He served only three years. In 2002, he was convicted of 16 counts of rape against five prostituted women, and received just under half the maximum sentence. In the year before he killed Meagher, the board was warned five times about his behaviour.
”There was no single documentation containing a straightforward complete chronology of his criminal history or analytical material relating to it on the files,” Justice Callinan said.
While violent sexual offenders and serious sexual offenders including paedophiles ”constituted an obvious and greater threat to society than most other offenders”, victims’ rights came second to the rights of offenders. Victims were often not even given notice of the release of sex offenders.
”I have no doubt that many of the victims of serious violent and sexual crimes do not believe that their concerns are fully taken into account by the ‘authorities’,” Justice Callinan wrote.
Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has said that a number of the 23 recommendations, including tougher criteria for release, will be adopted ”swiftly”. Why not all of them? Why not immediately? Delay could be lethal. (There have been 401 arrests for breaches of parole just this year).
Of course Victoria isn’t the only state where the criminal justice system fails women. Terrence Leary allegedly assaulted a woman in June after being out on parole for the 1990 murder of a 17-year-old girl.
In 2001, Sean Lee King, 27, beat his girlfriend Jazmin-Jean Ajbschitz, 18, to death in a ferocious, drug-fuelled murder. He was on parole for drugs and firearms offences and was facing separate assault charges.
The NSW State Parole Authority has been criticised for deciding to release murderers, sex offenders and other serious criminals based on deliberations lasting often only five minutes.
Former authority member Noel Beddoe told NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith that the ”safety of the community wasn’t always uppermost” in the parole process and that it was increasingly difficult to give complex cases the attention they deserved. Smith had asked Corrective Services NSW for a review of the handling of serious sex offenders on parole.
State governments should also take another look at sentencing. Alison Grundy, a NSW clinical psychologist in the field of sexual assault for more than 20 years, recalls a case in which a man convicted of sexually assaulting her client received a suspended sentence. But for stealing a caravan he was sent to prison for three years.
”I thought at the time – yep that about sums it up – women’s safety is not an issue and women’s lives are pretty cheap,” Grundy says. ”The right to freedom for men is infinitely more important under the law than the safety and lives of women.”
A Change.org petition calling on federal and state attorneys-general to enact stronger rape sentencing has more than 27,000 signatures.
Sentencing and release issues have become too much about the rights of offenders. More attention needs to be given to the rights of women, to value our rights to live a decent life. Or simply to be allowed to live.
We all know that the media is powerful. But have you ever considered exactly how much influence the media has on how we view women today? In a society where media is the
most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. How and why should we change this?
At this month’s Think Act Change, we’ll be exploring this issue by hosting a screening of Miss Representation at Events Cinema at 6pm followed by a presentation by Melinda Tankard Reist and a panel & audience Q&A
Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.
While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviours. (USA)
The film documents stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Katie Couric, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave you shaken and armed with a new perspective.
This is a must-attend event for both men and women. If you’re a woman attending I encourage you to bring a man you care about in your life along too, as this is an issue that needs to be spoken about with both men and women alike. It is also very useful to educators especially in the fields of media literacy, health and body image.
The two most important articles in this issue are on anxiety and the importance of sleep.
Anxiety appears to be a plague on our girls right now. ‘Feeling anxious? How to deal when your worries take over your life’ looks at the symptoms of anxiety and how to recognise when it is impacting on your ability to function on a day-to-day basis at school, home, work or socialising with friends. Different forms of anxiety include social anxiety, panic disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder. Girls are encouraged to seek professional help if their anxiety is spiralling out of control. Maise, 16, shares her story of developing a nervous disorder which made her physically ill, with vomiting, panic attacks, crying and shaking. After treatment with a psychologist, her anxiety attacks have ceased. “For anyone out there who is a sufferer, one thing I can say is don’t deny you have a problem, because chances are someone you know is going through the exact same thing. And, most importantly, there is help out there,” says Maise. A related piece is on dealing with stress.
‘Next stop ZZZ Town’ stresses the importance of sleep at a time when all the indicators are that girls just don’t get enough of it – which of course exacerbates anxiety. Teens need nine hours of sleep a night to function well. Says sleep specialist Dr Chris Seton: “If you’re too tired, your mood goes downwards and it affects your learning and ability to remember stuff – lack of sleep is linked to issues like depression, anxiety and suicide”. Sleep shortage is also linked to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Girls are advised to: go to bed and wake up at the same time, avoid caffeine from the afternoon onwards, exercise, turn off electronics 45 minutes before going to bed, do something relaxing 45 minutes before bed, open the blinds and be exposed to sunlight as soon as they wake up, have a cool, dark, quiet room and not to sit on their bed to do homework or watch TV – their brain needs to learn that this is a place to sleep. Read more
As is often the case, I find the most helpful offering for girls in teen girl magazines can be found in the shared experiences of the girls themselves.
A passion of mine is opening up safe spaces for girls to talk about issues which are often surrounded by shame, meaning girls don’t get the help they need. One of these issues is self-harm, which has increased 90 percent in older adolescents and 60 percent in younger adolescents, in a mere ten years. So I was pleased to see Dolly again giving space to this issue (I commended the magazine for exploring cutting in its June issue also).
Danielle, who began harming in 2010, tells her story in ‘Reality Reads’. “I was home alone and all the negative thoughts were taking over my mind: that I wasn’t good enough, that I was too ugly. I thought I deserved pain so I inflicted it on myself,” she says. It was seeing an interview with Demi Lovato, who had just come out of rehab for depression and self-harm, that helped Danielle turn things around. “…after I heard Demi, I thought I could get through this,” she says. With the help of medical treatment, she has been free of self-harm for two years. She tweets via @ForeverWithJoeJ about recovery and fundraises for BeyondBlue and Headspace “because they helped me a lot”. She recommends an online session at headpace.org.au where young people can talk to a professional through a chat screen. Read more here
Sometimes you wonder if anything can change, if your small efforts can make a difference against a global onslaught of horror. Every day more bad news for women, more abuse, assaults, violence and suffering. (For example this done to a close friend of mine and then this, reported in the same week, to a woman I don’t know, but still of course so grievous).
But then, suddenly and unexpectedly, something comes along that takes your breath away and gives you renewed hope. That has happened for me in the form of a woman named Carrie. Her story is remarkable. Her suffering indescribable. Her resilience and love for life unmatchable. I’ll let her tell the story.
According to the Australian Parliamentary Library, in 1998, the year I applied for refugee status, there were 8257 protection visa applications lodged. Of that number, only 1834 were granted – 985 at the primary decision stage and 741 following review by the Refugee Review Tribunal. 108 were granted visas by ministerial discretion.
One of those was mine.
As there are hundreds of thousands of refugees worldwide each year, fleeing my home country and standing before the Tribunal in no way makes my story unique. Nor does the fact I was rejected for political reasons and later successful in joining that small group of 108 people who were chosen to be issued a visa on compassionate grounds. What I believe sets my story apart is the fact that I did not originate from a war torn or politically unstable country. I fled a country that actually takes in thousands of refugees each year. So of those 8257 applications I’m fairly confident that I was the only refugee fleeing Canada.
I had endured terrible abuse and degradation since I was 4 years old at the hand of my father. When I was 9, he sold me into a child prostitution/pedophile/pornography ring. I have spent more time than I care to remember in basements, brothels and the dim lit back rooms of shop fronts. Hell doesn’t scare me. I spent more than half my life living it, hoping one day I could rise above it.
When I was 20, I fled Canada and came to Australia for two simple reasons; it was English speaking and as far from my past as I could travel. I stepped off of that plane 16 years ago not knowing one person and began to build the life I had always dreamed about as a child. I reported the abuse I suffered in Canada to Australian authorities. Knowing my life was in danger and there was no life for me back in Canada, I went underground and spent 2 years hiding in shelters and women’s refuges. I was put in contact with Australia’s leading trauma therapist, Dr Helen Driscoll. She had a lengthy wait list and was taking no further referrals. I had no money, no entitlements, but she took me on anyway. And in doing so she changed the course of my life.
In December 1998, I was told to apply for Refugee Status because the dangers I faced were as real and the suffering comparable to many refugees seeking protection. My advisors said I was one of the “invisible refugees”.The problem with my case was it had never been tried before. There were no legislation, clauses, or regulations stipulating that human trafficking survivors were to be protected. We knew I would be rejected – – and I was. During my battle to seek asylum I became pregnant. It didn’t make any difference. I was going to be deported anyway. What was being said was “Get rid of both of them before she is 7 months pregnant and can still travel” and “Let her stay and have the baby. As the baby has an Australian father she will be able to stay but the mother has to go back to Canada.”
Dr. Driscoll never gave up. She continued to write to humanitarians, Members of Parliament and anyone having any political influence who might be interested in helping my plight. My case landed in the hands of dozens of people who could have at least tried to fight for my freedom. Sadly, most people contacted we never heard back from or if we did, the standard response was, “Although we empathize with your situation, there is nothing we can do.” It was difficult to not lose hope. There was no way I could return to Canada and spend the duration of my life in fear – or worse. But it looked as though my dream of gaining freedom in Australia would never come to be. That is, until my letter came across the desk of Melinda Tankard Reist. She was working as an advisor to Independent Senator Brian Harradine and handled refugee matters. Unlike the others we contacted, Melinda looked at my case and instead of throwing it in the too hard basket, she took it personally and cared enough to write a compelling letter on the Senator’s behalf to the Immigration Minister Phillip Ruddock. I have never forgotten how the letter ended: “Minister, I ask you to act in the best interest of this young woman and her unborn baby.”
I was eight months pregnant and all other avenues had been exhausted. This was my final stop. My fate rested in the hands of one man. All we could do was wait for the Minister’s decision and hope it was favorable.
In June 2000, nine months after receiving the request to intervene, the Minister had come to a decision. After carrying my baby for nine months without any entitlements to health care, insurance or money to receive assistance in delivering my daughter, my fight to remain in Australia was over. I had been granted asylum on compassionate grounds at the Minister’s discretion and had been awarded a visa. I could finally begin my life a million miles away from where it initially began.
Fourteen years have since passed, and I never did thank Melinda for writing that letter. After being granted asylum I just wanted to leave that part of my life behind. I had two wonderful daughters, we were safe and I was content with that. I had survived and was focused on moving forward. But I realised I could do so only because of the help of others, and when so many women in situations similar to mine continued to be left behind, it was my turn to go back and offer my hand.
I decided then to tell my story of determination, hope and love in the face of extreme adversity in a way that resonated with people and inspired them, rather than just caused them to pity me. To open people’s hearts and minds, helping them realise that they have the internal resources to rise up and not be limited by past suffering. That it is possible to not only survive trauma, but to flourish and go on to live a significant life.
And then, as it has so many other times throughout my life, serendipity breezes by and the universe helps fate along. As I started sharing my story, some significant names in the social justice arena began showing interest in what I was trying to achieve. A friend introduced me to Elliot Costello, son of Tim Costello, CEO of World Vision Australia. One Saturday morning a few months back, Elliot introduced me to his parents. We went to a cafe and they listened as I told my story. What I hadn’t expected was the twist that would surprise us all. Tim Costello seemed most interested when I started talking about never losing hope and the message I wished to convey to others about the freedom in forgiveness. When I mentioned my desire to bring awareness to the fact that human trafficking is not just a third world issue, he appeared to have had an “ah-ha” moment and told me he knew the perfect person to introduce me to – Melinda Tankard Reist, a strong advocate for women and girls and a leading voice in the anti-trafficking coalition.
As soon as he mentioned her name, my mind flashed back to the hundreds of support letters and documents I had filed away after gaining asylum. Scribbled across one document’s fax cover read, “For your records. Regards Melinda Reist.” The reason I remembered it so vividly was because after winning my freedom, I read over that support letter at least one hundred times. I quoted the closing words of the letter she drafted to anybody I told my story to. I shared it again. Elliot couldn’t believe it. Neither could Tim.
Tim looked at me with a smile and shook his head. Picking up his phone early that morning, he rang the woman who helped secure my freedom. She answered straight away. They spoke briefly and then he said, “Melinda listen, I have a young lady here with me at the moment who says you wrote a letter for her to Phillip Ruddock when you worked for Harradine that helped her get asylum.”
She then asked if I was the Canadian girl sold into the pedophile/prostitution ring. In his loud booming voice, Tim repeated her words across the table to me. I wanted the earth to swallow me whole as half the room dropped their fork and stared. Instead of nodding politely, I shot back, “Easy cowboy, I’m not printing t-shirts just yet!” Clearly she remembered me…as would the rest of that crowded cafe.
One month ago, again as luck would have it, Melinda and I were in northern Queensland at the same time. I was holidaying with my girls, and she was speaking at an international conference. We decided to catch up. I cannot begin to describe the emotions that came up for all of us. Fourteen years ago she wrote a compelling letter to help save two lives and standing before her was myself and the now teenage ‘unborn baby’ she wrote about. After spending all these years wondering how we had fared, now she could see for herself. Mother and baby were indeed very well!
My life may have been tough to begin with, but I have had more good people go out of their way to help than anybody I have ever met. The blessings in my life far outweigh the tragedies. I am loving living and very excited for the journey that lies ahead.
One of the great rewards of this work for women and girls is the global collaborations that have been forged by like-minded people who recognise there is strength in numbers: that a combined voice will achieve more.
The latest exciting initiative is Brave Girls Want, a powerhouse think tank and advocacy group that brings together experts, activist, and parent voices to communicate why our culture needs healthier media for its girls.
We are asking media creators to expand their version of what it means to be a girl, and recognize our girls as whole, complex people and not as gender stereotypes. To stop profiting from selling girls short.
We believe that girls deserve better, because we know that the consequences to girls’ well-being are serious. The alliance is asking media creators to rethink products in development and ensure they teach girls to be strong, intelligent, and adventurous. We are tired of girls being pigeon-holed and reduced to homogenized images and stereotypes.
We are asking media creators to practice corporate social responsibility – to take the sexy out of childhood. Reducing female characters’ value to being about physical appearance and nothing more damages girls.
A force of leadership asking everyone from parents, educators, loved ones, legislators and businesses to support, empower, and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart, and spirited girls. We are looking to rid the world of labels that confine, constrict or compress the growth of our girls so they can be their most authentic and awesome versions of themselves.
The initiative was spearheaded by the amazing Melissa Atkins Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Inês Almeida who I interviewed in September 2012 when she launched ‘Toward the Stars’, an online marketplace of products for girls which were gender stereotype and sexualisation free.
Inês made this You Tube film to launch Brave Girls.
Says Melissa: “The BGA takes its unique collection of voices to pair our expertise in girl advocacy with our passion for healthy, empowered girls to work as advocates when speaking with media content creators and corporations to guide a conversation on how to improve media.
“We also bring girls voices to the front, so that they may speak directly with media creators and tell them what messages, characters, and stories they want to see and hear.”
As part of Brave Girls Want, the alliance is planning to invade Time Square on October 11, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl. For seven days, we will rent a billboard in Time Square and talk about what we want for our girls and what they are telling us they want for themselves: fewer limits, more choices, less photo-shopping, more real images, less sexualization, more time to enjoy childhood.
“We have kicked off a revolutionary campaign that is bringing together the power of social media with the power of old media (billboards) and giving a voice to communities all over the world to be showcased on the business street corner in the world – Times Square, “ says Melissa.
“We need all the support we can get to make it happen and have our voices for what brave girls want seen and heard by millions just as the holiday shopping season kicks off.”
You can support the campaign here. Sign up to Brave Girls Want and please kick in whatever you can to buy some messages in Times Square!
“When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be…As we all want our children…to have every opportunity to flourish into the person they are meant to become, it’s vital that we stop labeling and acknowledge room for growth, change and reinvention.” — Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman
Recent publicity for abortion drug RU486 has given women assurances of its safety. The drug is promoted as do-it-yourself, easy, private and ”more natural”. In this pro-RU486 spin, the voices of women harmed by the chemical cocktail have been drowned out.
”Rose”, 27, from South Australia, shares her experience in the new preface of RU-486: Misconceptions, Myths and Morals by Renate Klein, Janice Raymond and Lynette Dumble. She was told it would be easy and quick. ”The worst part … was the sheer amount of time it took for me to ‘terminate’ my baby: every large clot of blood – which I could literally feel passing through my insides … was a reminder of the fact I was terminating a baby, for which I felt hugely saddened.
”It was three days of nausea, high temperature, sweating, cramping, lots of blood, distress and swirling emotions. I would never ever go through that again.” Rose bled for another three weeks.
An unnamed 25-year-old American woman described her experience after taking RU486 at six weeks. ”I was in excruciating physical pain for at least 12 hours straight and I was bleeding through my pants, but I was in so much pain I couldn’t even clean myself,” she says. ”I vomited continuously … I couldn’t speak, eat, drink, sit up, and had difficulty breathing … I thought I was going to die …
”I was told I would have emotional instability for a few weeks because of the hormonal chemical imbalance that the drug causes. I have experienced severe emotional fluctuation ever since … I would never have taken this had I been properly informed.”
Norine Dworkin-McDaniel’s story ”I was betrayed by a pill” was published in Marie Claire in 2007. ”Nothing prepared me for the searing, gripping, squeezing pain that ripped through my belly … For 90 minutes I was disoriented, nauseated, and, between crushing waves of contractions … racing from the bed to the bathroom with diarrhoea,” she wrote.
”The next night, I started bleeding. I bled for 14 days. A follow-up ultrasound confirmed I’d aborted.” She developed ”huge cystic boils that soon covered my neck, shoulders, and back” and suffered ”an utter lack of ability to do anything more strenuous than sleep or lie on the couch”.
Since the death of his 18-year-old daughter Holly in 2003 from an infection after an RU486 abortion, Monty Patterson has lobbied the US Congress to pass ”Holly’s Law”, calling for the suspension and review of the drug.
In Australia, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee has agreed to a request from Marie Stopes Health, a subsidiary of Marie Stopes International, to list Mifepristone Linepharma (RU486) and the misoprostol GyMiso on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme for termination up to 49 days gestation. From August 1, both drugs are available on the PBS.
Marie Stopes’ record in following up women who have been prescribed the abortion drug is questionable. On March 19, 2012, it was reported that a woman had died sometime in 2010 at a Marie Stopes clinic. In a study by Marie Stopes’ staffers published in the Medical Journal of Australia (September 2012), this death was callously attributed to the woman’s own negligence because she didn’t ”seek medical advice” and died of sepsis.
Where was the follow-up by Marie Stopes? There was no coronial inquiry.
In May 2012, the Therapeutic Goods Administration told a Senate committee it didn’t collect information on RU486-related deaths of women overseas. Perhaps it doesn’t think it important enough? As at April 30, 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration had held detailed reports on 14 US deaths and five deaths elsewhere, with two further deaths reported since then.
Noting that only one in 10 adverse events is reported, the FDA has recorded 2207 adverse events, including 612 hospitalisations, 58 ectopic pregnancies, 339 women who experienced blood loss requiring transfusions and 256 infections, 48 of which were ”severe”.
Here, the TGA has been informed of 132 cases of ongoing pregnancy requiring surgical abortion, 23 cases of haemorrhage requiring blood transfusion and 599 cases of incomplete abortion requiring surgery. This means about 1 in 30 women will need a second termination procedure. Other negative outcomes include cervical tearing and uterine perforation.
A South Australian study found women undergoing ”medical” abortion had more symptoms, reported higher pain scores and had higher rates of emergency admissions. After discharge they had more nausea and diarrhoea. According to an earlier British study, women who saw the foetus were most susceptible to psychological distress, including nightmares, flashbacks, and unwanted thoughts related to the procedure.
While Health Minister Tanya Plibersek says that the drug will be an advantage for women in remote and under-resourced areas, the lack of nearby emergency facilities is a reason not to use it, medical bodies say. Regardless of one’s views on abortion, pushing this drug combo as simple is disrespectful of a woman’s right to know what she might face.
US Rapper Tyler The Creator unleashes a torrent of hate on Sydney activist
By Talitha Stone
I’m a 23-year-old psychology student from Sydney and in June this year, I was subjected to a horrific torrent of abusive tweets from fans of touring American rapper Tyler Okonma. I challenged Okonma’s lyrics which encourage rape and violence against women by vocally supporting a petition on change.org that suggested he shouldn’t be playing all-age shows.
At Tyler’s concert in Sydney the next day, he told his fans he hoped my children got STDs, and “dedicated” songs to me that included lyrics like “punch a bitch in her mouth just for talkin’ shit”.
The abuse started almost instantly. First a drip, then a rush, then a flood. I felt physically sick. He had 1.7 million fans, and it felt like every single one of them had some violence stored up for me – a promise to assault me, the threat that they would rape me, an expression of hatred for my life and my freedom.
It was terrifying at first, and then I started to feel totally disconnected from myself. When one of them said he was going to mutilate my body, I couldn’t comprehend that he could be talking about me. The messages were coming at such a rate I couldn’t keep up.
Tyler Okonma, aka Tyler The Creator, is a member of powerful hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (usually abbreviated to OFWGKTA or Odd Future). It’s unclear how many members are part of the collective (somewhere between 25 and 60), but its best-known members are Okonma, Earl Sweatshirt, Syd tha Kyd, Hodgy Beats and last year’s Grammy-winning breakout artist, R&B singer Frank Ocean.
As a solo artist, Okonma has released three albums, his horrorcore-style lyrics taking in subjects such as violence, rape fantasies, murder and even necrophilia.
His lyrics include:
“F— Mary in her ass.. ha-ha.. yo, I tell her it’s my house, give her a tour, In my basement, and keep that bitch locked up in my storage, Rape her and record it, then edit it with more shit”
“You call this shit rape but I think that rape’s fun, I just got one request, stop breathin”
“I wanna tie her body up and throw her in my basement, Keep her there, so nobody can wonder where her face went, (Tyler, what you doin’?) Shut the f— up, You gon’ f—in’ love me bitch, Shit, I don’t give a f—, your family lookin’ for you, wish ‘em good luck, Bitch, you tried to play me like a dummy, Now you stuck up in my motherf—in’ basement all bloody, And I’m f—in’ your dead body, your coochie all cummy, Lookin’ in your dead eyes, what the f— you want from me?”
I received threats from Okonma’s fans constantly for two weeks and I still get the odd tweet of abuse today. In a tone eerily similar to Okonma’s lyrics they sent messages like: “shut the f— up cuz if I see you on the streets I’m gonna snatch u in a alley and force this d— in you,” “how’s that for promoting rape? I’m f—ing DOING it! So watch ur back, but ur families will be first” and “you know you secretly want @f—tyler to forcibly penetrate your anal cavity”.
On the flipside I received an abundance of support from friends and family. People who read about my experience in The Sydney Morning Herald and other media outlets couldn’t believe that this kind of behaviour was being tolerated in Australia.
When I was attacked I did all the things you’re meant to do: I reported individual tweets to Twitter (after diligently filling out their long-winded forms) and was staggered to be told that tweets like this did not breach their guidelines: “f—ing waste of flesh worthless female. its girls like u who make guys want to #rape a helpless pussy like u”.
I blocked the people abusing me and then I reported it to the police, who said there was nothing they could do, other than work with Twitter. Their advice was to delete my account, and not provoke people – letting the abusers win.
After thousands of threats of rape, murder and experiences like mine, Twitter has recently announced that they’ll be rolling out a report abuse button on all platforms. That’s a great first step, but it’s kidding itself if it thinks this will solve the problems faced by myself and millions of other women right around the world. It’s also underestimating the consequences of creating a powerful global platform that is unsafe for women to share their opinions on.
Twitter’s rules and processes are badly broken. Other tweets, to other users, that Twitter has said are within their guidelines include: “I will rape you when I get the chance” and “Ur a f—ing faggot, go kill urself.” If you’re a woman who has used Twitter to talk about things that matter to you, chances are you’ve had a similar experience. Chances are, even if you report each and every abusive, threatening tweet, many of them will be OK’d by Twitter and the abuse will continue.
Twitter has significant power, and is playing an important role in world affairs – but it’s facing a critical moment. The people who run Twitter, like Del Harvey, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, need to realise that the platform must enable people to talk about the things that matter to them without facing a torrent of threats and abuse.
I’ve joined a global petition to get Twitter to stop rape abuse on its platform. The campaign was inspired by Caroline Criado-Perez, a British feminist who used a petition on change.org to fight to keep a woman on banknotes in Britain. Immediately after she won that campaign, she faced the horrendous backlash of violence and threats that come to so many women who raise their heads online. The momentum from her campaign for reform is now beginning to put pressure on Twitter, and I hope an international outcry will get them to act with a comprehensive zero-tolerance policy for abuse.
Public discourse shouldn’t be something anyone should have to “learn to deal with”. Twitter can, and must, play an active role in being a positive voice among the multitude of violent tweets some of its users dish out. Twitter’s actions here can have life-saving consequences – but it needs to act, swiftly and effectively.
We are now asking Twitter Australia to meet Talitha. Support this call by tweeting at @TwitterAu and asking them to #meettalitha, who started the petition at www.change.org/twitterabuse
The price you pay for activism – but it won’t stop us
[Warning: threatening, sexually violent language]
Caitlin Roper, my fellow Collective Shout activist in the West, has put together this montage of some of the abusive and threatening tweets we receive on a regular basis. We want people to know just how bad this is. We don’t believe women who speak out on issues should be threatened like this. Police have taken no action.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“Melinda Tankard Reist is at the forefront of helping…educate the public on the link between pornography and violence…” – Di Macleod, Director, Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
“These accounts are among the most unsettling you will ever read.” Steve Biddulph
“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
“A landmark publication” – Clive Hamilton
Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
Purchase the Ruby Who? DVD and book together for only $35 saving 10% off the individual price.
“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.