I woke this morning, turned on the TV to ABC News 24, and saw a caption at bottom of screen which read ‘gunman dead’. Having, probably like most Australians, stayed up late watching events unfold before succumbing to sleep, at first I felt relief – did these mean the hostages were OK? But the full caption was obscured by an image from the scene – within seconds I saw that two others had been killed: 38-year-old barrister and mother of three Katrina Dawson and 34-year-old Lindt Chocolate Café store manager Tori Johnson.
In the wake of the tragedy and devastation of the Sydney Siege this morning, represented in an unending tribute of flowers for the loss of Dawson and Johnson, many are asking how Man Haron Monis, with a string of violent offences, including 50 sexual assault charges and being charged in November 2013 with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and mother of two Noleen Hayson Pal (who was stabbed and set alight) was out on bail.
A Change petition has been launched calling on NSW Mike Baird to toughen bail laws. Please support it.
Sydney siege gunman should have been in jail. We demand stronger bail laws
After the #sydneysiege we have learnt this man was let out on bail after facing accessory to murder charges and about 40 sexual assault charges.
Bail laws were meant to have been changed already, but “administrative bungles” have stalled them until late January. That’s not good enough. We need stronger bail laws that would have kept this dangerous man behind bars right now.
The public deserves to be protected from violent criminals.
‘All these women might still be alive if their killers had not been paroled’ is a column I wrote two years ago about women who were killed at the hands of men out on parole. No, the tragedy we have just witnessed isn’t just about women of course. But the issue of bail and early parole is relevant in that Man Haron Monis was returned to society, with all its privileges, enabling him to plot his next brutal (and fatal) path.
The actions of Tori Johnson, who was fatally shot in the Martin Place siege while trying to disarm the hostage-taker, allowing others to escape, are a deeply moving antidote to the behaviour of men like Man Haron Monis and those I wrote about. Thank you Tori for reminding us of what good men look like.
Violence against women is a public safety issue: violence begets violence
Man Haron Monis was awaiting trial for the murder of his ex-wife: Why was he granted bail?
The comment made by the magistrate who granted Monis bail the first time – for the accessory to murder charge – is telling. He said Monis is not a threat to public safety because the only person he posed a threat to was his deceased ex-wife. This assumption that Monis’ violence was limited to one woman and one situation denies a proven connection between violence against women and a series of other issues of public safety. It underlines an assumption that men who are violent towards women are not necessarily violent men.
It underestimates the reality that violence against women is, itself, a public safety issue.
We have long understood that violence begets violence, but what we somehow can’t understand is that violence against women is no different. Read full article
The rape T.shirt is a micros example of the normalisation of rape culture in fashion and pop culture. Laura McNally highlights the global currency of sexual violence against women, below.
Stop glorifying rape and violence. Abide by your Content Usage Policy by moderating content before it goes live on your site.
Powered By Girl
Last week we found a product on CafePress titled “Rape, Christmas Long Sleeve T-Shirt.”
Other recent products include “RAPED Oval Decal” sticker, “Feeling raped Ash Grey T-shirt” and a mug printed with the words “I could rape a cup of tea.”
These are just a few examples of many products that have featured on CafePress that trivialise rape and sexual violence.
Products such as these are always removed quickly for breaching CafePress’ Content Usage Policy [this one is still there]. But they shouldn’t be on its website in the first place. It is no use removing a product promoting rape after a survivor of rape has been triggered by it, or some viewers have already internalised it as “normal” and acceptable. The damage has already been done.
We’re calling on CafePress to remove all content that glorifies rape and violence from its website, and ensure that it adheres fully to its Content Usage Policy in the future, by moderating content before it goes live on the site.
Cafepress is an online shop where anyone can create and sell content, from t-shirts to phone-cases. It’s fantastic that we have a free platform to create content, but not when this content violates the rights of others and trivialises rape and violence.
Rape is not a fashion accessory. Although some content uploaders on CafePress obviously seem to think that it is. Rape is a horrific act of violence that devastates thousands of people’s lives. A popular website like CafePress should not be endorsing products that glorify it.
Cafe Press’ own Content Usage Policy lists the following under “Prohibited Content”;
Content that may violate the rights of any person or entity, including moral rights and rights of publicity or privacy.
Content that glorifies hatred, violence, racial, ethnic or religious intolerance.
Content that promotes illegal activities.
Content trivialising rape violates all 3 of these policies, and therefore CafePress has a responsibility to ensure that it is not on the website. Rape is immoral and promotes illegal activity. Worst of all, this content glorifies hatred and violence.
Christmas is fast approaching, and while it may be a happy time of year for many of us, violence against women increases dramatically during the Christmas period. Considering this, it’s disgusting that any website could be selling a product titled “Rape, Christmas Long Sleeve T-shirt.”
We’re calling on CafePress to abide by its Content Usage Policy and remove all content trivialising rape and violence. We’re asking CafePress to adhere properly to its Content Usage Policy so that we never see content glorifying rape and violence on its site again. Sign petition
The victims of anti-rape campaigns: Men on sexodus
By Laura McNally
If we consider that rape in marriage was legal up until recent decades in most OECD countries, or that rape is a necessary product of the global sex trade, or that rape is a systemic tool in war, or that rape convictions are near enough to nil in most countries, then it should be clear that ending rape would require a massive shift in global relations.
Between the pulling of Grand Theft Auto V from Target Australia and the increasing number of women who want to be treated like humans, men are under attack like never before.
A widely-read article by Milo Yiannopoulos, published at Breitbart, recently decried the excruciating oppression facing men, who, with the advent of women’s right to work and vote, are no longer able to use “girls” to solve their problems. A travesty of the highest sort. The author quotes one man:
“[it] wouldn’t be so bad if we could at least dull the pain with girls. But we’re treated like paedophiles and potential rapists just for showing interest”
These men claim they are earning less money, have less retirement funds and now, have to deal with “girls” who expect to be treated with respect. It’s unthinkable, really.
These men cannot even shop safely at Target anymore, knowing their right to prostitute and murder women within their gaming world is being scrutinized. What’s next? Equal pay? This madness has to stop.
Yiannopoulos informs us that women, surely, are the driving force behind decreasing social mobility, political disillusionment, and the fragmentation of the liberal democratic system. Presumably women’s rights are also to blame for the melting of the polar ice caps and the declining number of wild bees.
Apparently if women had never started with this “right to vote” bullshit, none of this would have happened.
The author has surely confused “feminism” with rampant capitalism, advanced globalization and the dearth of state governance. Undeterred by his errors, the author presents his case for why men are the real victims of the systems they created in order to maintain their own supremacy.
I agree with him on one thing: the pale male purveyors of globalized capitalism have shat in their own nests. But it’s not because of women that the systems underpinning capitalism are crumbling from the inside out.
The global economic system and its political counterparts are in a crisis of their own making. Women rallying to end rape have very little to do with this.
Yet according to Yiannopoulos, they do. Those pesky anti-rape seminars at American colleges are ruining men’s willingness to rape and with it their entire lives and the social fabric of society. Ironic then that he accuses women of hysteria…
The idea that rape is a central feature of the broader economic system is actually an important one. Yet the author fails to engage with this in any meaningful way (obviously).
If we consider that rape in marriage was legal up until recent decades in most OECD countries, or that rape is a necessary product of the global sex trade, or that rape is a systemic tool in war, or that rape convictions are near enough to nil in most countries, then it should be clear that ending rape would require a massive shift in global relations.
Ending rape, then, requires a radical revisioning of the systems that govern society and an acknowledgement of women as co-creators.
The idea that women may no longer be passive recipients of male-centric political, legal and economic systems is likely to unsettle those men who pin their egocentric notions of self-worth on traditional power relations over women.
Men who’ve sat at the pinnacle of such power relations may be disillusioned by the growing complexity and diversity around them. Perhaps they are asking “Why are black people in my workplace?”… “How could this woman be my manager and why can’t I force her into sex?” Apparently, some men have found themselves directly confronted by the notion that men should not rape. In fact, the author goes to the extent of calling new anti-rape law “unworkable, prudish and downright misandrist.”
Unsurprisingly, Yiannopoulos fails to provide any actual data to back up his woman-hating rhetoric. First person narrative from his bros who can’t be bothered with “chicks” anymore is enough to justify his hysterical claims that the world falling to pieces because “rape law.”
As luck would have it, this freshly-laid pile of anecdotal excrement is well-received by thousands of readers, none of whom seem to notice the stark lack of substantive evidence.
This stands in contrast to any article ever written on women’s rights, which is immediately torn apart by commenter-turned-statisticians who question the limitations of methodology, the lack of strength in p-values and repeat the only thing they remember from the research methods course they took in first year — “correlation is not causation.” Strangely, few seem to care for empiricism when it is women’s rights under fire.
We live in a society so accustomed to misogyny that the slightest move in favour of women’s human rights is misinterpreted as female supremacy. If precedent is anything to go by, these new misandry-laden rape laws will still see only a very small percentage of rapists ever being charged — hardly female supremacy at work. And the removal of GTA from a few retailers does not actually censor the world of depraved gaming, it merely sends a message about social responsibility.
The fact is that sex crimes against women are on the rise in many countries, self-harm, suicide and eating disorders in girls are burgeoning, and sex trafficking of the vulnerable is a booming business. Young women are under more sexual coercive pressure from men than ever before. There is no male ‘sexodus’ and in fact research suggests quite the opposite. The idea that men are now somehow suffering because rape laws make them feel rejected is surely hysteria at its peak.
Next week Breitbart has a special follow-up feature: “Why women are the biggest victims of women’s rights.” I can hardly wait.
Laura McNally is a psychologist, consultant, author and PhD
candidate. Her current research examines the political and social implications of global corporate social responsibility. Find more of her work at lauramcnally.com.
In Grand Theft Auto V, an R-rated video game that allows players to attack and kill women in the sex trade, I would have been the character who gets left by the sidewalk, bleeding and unconscious. Or hit with bats, run down, set alight still screaming and graphically murdered – for game points, or maybe just ‘for fun.’
I was in the sex industry in my early 20s. But instead of the virtual world of GTA V – the abuse I suffered, while not as extreme as those in the game, was terrifyingly real.
It has taken me almost ten years to get my life back on track and to recover from the sexual violence and abuse I faced. I still live with flashbacks, nightmares, and crippling depression and anxiety.
Last week, together with two other women, I started a change.org petition requesting Target to pull GTA V from its shelves. The reason behind the campaign is simple: that a game exists which makes ‘enjoyment’ out of the kind of abuse I lived through in real life is sickening. For survivors of abuse, it adds insult to injury to think someone could get a thrill out of violence against women, even if it was in a ‘virtual world’.
In GTA V, a new ‘first-person player mode’ feels more realistic than ever. This includes a more realistic depiction of sex acts with women (who are largely represented as prostitutes) – and the options that follow of being able to kill them with machetes, guns or bats to get their virtual money back.
Making it all the more disturbing was having a retailer I shop at which sells and promotes this kind of game. As recently as last week, Target was advertising Grand Theft Auto next to Peppa Pig. This was being marketed at parents buying Christmas toys.
It sent a terrifying message. This is a game that has ingrained misogyny and graphic violence against women. It breeds an acceptance of abuse in our world; abuse from which I’ve been trying desperately to recover – and by stocking this game, major retailers are lending their credibility to it.
Despite potential backlash, I couldn’t stay silent about this. The fact that over 40,000 parents, customers, and advocates got behind our change.org petition showed we weren’t the only ones. The response to our campaign exceeded our wildest expectations – and forced Target to listen to their customers.
Since then, gamers have launched vicious and violent attack on myself and other women who dared to speak up. We’ve had threats of rape and torture. To mutilate us and set us on fire.
One gamer has threatened to locate us and publicise where we live. Another has superimposed the face of a friend onto the body of a murdered woman lying in blood, in a scene from the game.
“I’m going on GTA V right now and pretending every ugly c—t is you”, tweeted another hater to her.
Ironically, these abusers claim this game does not perpetuate violence, and yet they continue to send women horrific violent threats online.
Gamers also argue that games like GTA V have no impact on real life violence, despite research published earlier this year showing violent video games increases aggression, aggression-related variables and decreases pro-social outcomes.
Sadly, many women don’t need studies to tell us that. We know because we’ve lived it. We know how violence can start with ‘playful’ remarks and turn into dangerous, controlling behaviour. We’ve seen the violence implicitly condoned in these games play out in real life.
The ‘thrill and pleasure’ that gamers get off violence against women in GTA V makes the world less safe. Not because every gamer turns into the abuser – but because it breeds a casual acceptance of violence against women.
Stripping GTA V from the shelves of retailers like Target and Kmart won’t change that culture overnight. It’s one step among many — like the recent #takedownjulienblanc campaign – that will help dismantle the culture of violence against women in years to come.
It may not be a popular debate, but it’s one that Australia desperately needs.
1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732): 24 hour, National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault. Lifeline: 131 114
Grand Theft Auto: lesson learned the hard way
By Brendan Keogh
…there is no denying the deeply rooted misogyny and sexism of the series.
Of Grand Theft Auto V’s three playable characters, all are men. The vast majority of the women depicted by the game’s narrative are either passive victims to be killed or rescued, or sex workers to be killed or used. While the series’ supporters have long used the excuse of “satire” to justify the story lines, there is no critique of the social attitudes depicted; it simply perpetuates them…
The petition signers are completely right: Grand Theft Auto V’s treatment of women is terrible. That they would want to complain about this, and that Target and now K-Mart might listen to them is neither shocking nor outrageous.
… it is not a case of censorship, and it is not a case of an ignorant mainstream being paranoid about a medium they do not understand. Rather, it is a group of people with legitimate concerns about an incredibly popular cultural work perpetuating toxic politics, and taking the reasonable approach of directing their valid concerns to retailers who often explicitly market such adult products directly to children. If videogames want cultural relevancy, they need to deal with cultural responsibility… Videogames no longer exist on the margins of popular culture, and if they are going to uncritically present problematic material, they need to be ready to face the consequences. Read full article
The Video Game Industry Has Only itself to Blame for Misogyny and Harassment
The thing is, it’s not just a vocal minority. It’s a vocal minority that actually participates in the cruelest harassment, but we’re kidding ourselves to think they are somehow separate from a culture characterized by video games. Just play a match of more or less any competitive online game and listen to the number of times you hear the word “rape:” despite what we may think, this is not normal or inevitable. What it is, however, is a natural byproduct of the games we play.
We all know, at least on some level, that games have a massive problem with depictions of women…
It’s not a tremendous leap to assume that a community of consumers and producers is going to develop some intensely dysfunctional aggression and misogyny when this is the cultural background that we’re interacting with… It all comes from somewhere. If the “gamer” community is defined by playing certain games, then it will inevitably be colored by the content of those games. This recent virulent hatred directed towards women in the industry should serve as some proof. Read full article
The petition win is all over the media right now: on ABC News, news.com.au, Sunrise, Guardian Australia, Herald Sun, even reaching international outlets like AP, Forbes, UK’s Telegraph newspaper and others!
This is a huge win. For years, games like Grand Theft Auto have got away with this in-game misogyny and sexual violence.
It’s games like this that normalise rape and sexual violence. You’ve helped send a message to family retailers and brands that their consumers have had enough, and they’ve started listening.
We’re now asking outlets like Big W and Woolworths whether they’re going to stand up against Grand Theft Auto’s violence against women as well.
Yesterday on its Facebook page, White Ribbon wrote: “Target & Kmart have taken Grand Theft Auto V off the shelves. What are your thoughts?” With the question they posted a negative piece from a gaming site about the response of these corporates to our campaign (they posted no neutral or positive pieces). This was my response late last night:
Melinda Tankard Reist: What are OUR thoughts? Like you can’t actually take a stand on this yourselves? And you post a negative piece about the Change.org petition written by three women survivors of violence? You have nothing to say about the mainstreaming and normalising of violence against women, about treating the abuse of women as a game and as entertainment, about the importance of corporate social responsibility and ethical business leadership? We have often asked your support on campaigns and get nothing. Why are you in this for? What do you actually represent? Many of us – including women survivors of violence – are asking this question.
This morning White Ribbon has posted this:
White Ribbon believes that all forms of violence are wrong and we do not condone any form of entertainment that features violence against women. Thank you for sharing your opinions with us about Grand Theft Auto V – open conversation is the first step to raising awareness of men’s violence against women and changing people’s attitudes and behaviours.
We are in discussion with leaders in the games industry about this issue, and the broader issues of violence against women and the representation of women, as we have with the sports industry. This is an ongoing and long-term discussion that we have been engaged in for a while now. Achieving change is a long process and is most effective when we work together.
GTAV ‘discourages violence against women’ claims SMH journalist on The Drum.
Very disappointed with the coverage of GTAV, Change.org petition of 45,000 signatures and Target and Kmart response on ABC The Drum last night. (view from 18:00).
Did you see it? SMH journalist Kate McClymont quoting gamers against actual survivors of violence against women who wrote the petition. She said of the game “It’s actually discouraging violence against women.” And Paul Bongiorno saying it may have been a “stunt” and commenting on the“amazing graphics”. Couldn’t the producers find someone who actually knew what they were talking about? I expected more than this poor quality coverage.
This is how GTAV discourages violence against women
‘They referred to their abuse as a game’
Anita Sarkeesian speaks about her experience of online harassment and cyber mobs. It’s two years old but a must see.
Women survivors of violence are calling on Target to withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale, a “sickening” video game that encourages players to brutally murder women for entertainment.
In a change.org petition that has attracted 30, 000 signatures so far, Nicole describes the various ways players can enact their fantasies of committing extreme violence against women, including punching women to the point of unconsciousness, killing them with a bat, gun or machete, running them down with a car and setting them on fire as they continue screaming.
“Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale,” writes Nicole.
“We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.”
The petition encourages Target as a so-called ‘family friendly’ retailer to follow the example of New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse group, who chose to put ethics before profits and refused to stock the misogynistic game.
Domestic violence organisations and survivor organisations have supported the call to Target to withdraw GTA V. Brigitte McLennan, manager of SCOPE Domestic and Family Violence Service said as levels of domestic violence were rising the whole community needed to embrace the message that male violence against women was not okay.
Our campaign against GTA V has attracted a lot of attention and comments, particularly from male gamers. There were men who defended their ‘rights’ to live out fantasies of enacting extreme violence against women in the game. They argued playing these games had no bearing on their attitudes towards women. These same men flooded the thread with abuse to women, sexist slurs, hateful language and jokes about violence against women. Apparently the irony is lost on them.
We stand with survivors in calling Target to exercise corporate social responsibility and show they value the lives and dignity of women more than profits.
Target Australia has pulled video game Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) off shelves over controversy about the game’s depiction of violence against women.
A Change.org petition calling on the retailer to withdraw the game from sale gained more than 38,000 signatures.
The women behind the petition, named on the site as Nicole, Claire and Kat, said as survivors of sexual violence they felt the game sent a dangerous message.
“It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking,” the petition said.
“This misogynistic GTA V literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.”
The R-rated game has been available on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 for more than a year.
Last month is was re-released on the new consoles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Target general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper said the decision to stop selling the game was made following extensive community and customer concern.
“We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content,” Mr Cooper said in a statement.
“We’ve also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue.
“However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA V is in line with the majority view of our customers.”
Target: Withdraw Grand Theft Auto 5 – this sickening game encourages players to commit sexual violence and kill women
Nicole Survivor - Australia
It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points – and now Target are stocking it and promoting it for your Xmas stocking.
This is Grand Theft Auto 5. This game means that after various sex acts, players are given options to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned.
Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale.
We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we’ve been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.
This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. It shows hatred and contempt for women in the sex industry and puts them at greater risk. Women in the industry are 40 times more likely to be murdered by a man than any other group of women.
Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. It is fuelling the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia – and globally.
Target, you pride yourself on being a family company, caring for local communities, and have a strong ethical sourcing policy. How can you do this while contributing to hostile and callous attitudes toward victims of violence and, more broadly, to all women?
We urge you to follow the example set by the New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse Group, in upholding Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical corporate leadership, by removing these games.
This would also set an example to other stockists of GTA V.
Please put ethics before profits and make a strong statement that you do not condone sexual violence, sexual exploitation or the abuse of women as ‘entertainment’.
You can also leave a comment on Target’s Facebook. Let them know you don’t think GTAV helps ‘spread Christmas cheer’.
‘How evil should a video game allow you to be’, The New Yorker
Last month, a user on a Grand Theft Auto V forum asked whether players would be able to rape women in the game. In the post, which was widely shared on social media, he wrote, “I want to have the opportunity to kidnap a woman, hostage her, put her in my basement and rape her everyday, listen to her crying, watching her tears.”
This week marked the International Day For the Elimination of Violence Against Women. If any voices should be heard at this time, it is those of survivors. Here are two, addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and financial costs of the harm done to them by male abusers.
Sexual assault has robbed me of my confidence and my self-esteem. My dignity, my autonomy and my self-respect. My faith in myself and my faith in the world have been decimated
On Wednesday, the 21st of May, the man who raped me was sentenced. Four years, four months and four days after the assault took place. In the end, he did not face charges of rape – the two charges of rape were dropped and the Prosecution accepted a plea deal from the Defense for the accused to plead guilty to one charge of “indecent assault”.
At the plea hearing, I read a Victim Impact Statement to the court. I have posted my statement below.
A Victim Impact Statement is the sole space where the criminal justice system allows the victim of a crime – or the Crown Witness in Victoria’s criminal justice system – to speak of how the crime has affected them. Victims can choose to read their statement to the court themselves or have it read for them by the Prosecutor.
I chose to attend the court and read my statement myself. My family came with me for support and my mum also read a victim impact statement to the court – reflecting on the impacts she had noticed in me and also on the impacts the crime had on our entire family.
It was a distressing experience. Also present in the court were the accused, his legal team, the prosecution, the judge and her staff, journalists and my entire family. To stand up and speak of how my life has been ruined, how I have been crushed, by sexual assault before this group of people was one of the most intimidating and vulnerable things I have ever done. It is not often that we reveal our suffering plainly, explicitly before an audience. To do so publicly, and before the very person who caused that suffering, was distressing and somewhat humiliating.
However, I chose to speak my statement myself because I wanted my words to be my own. I didn’t want them coming out of someone else’s mouth. I didn’t want them spoken by someone who has not lived what I have, who has not been subject to sexual assault, who could not know what I am trying to convey. I wanted to claim this one paltry opportunity provided in the criminal justice system to be heard as a victim and to speak for myself.
It’s hard to know what the value of a Victim Impact Statement is, whether it makes any difference. But when the system has so little time or care for victims this is our one chance and I was grateful for the opportunity it provided, even if I am still reeling from the experience of delivering it.
The impacts of sexual assault for me have been devastating, profound and far-reaching. They have impacted every area of my life and every part of my self.
Almost immediately after the sexual assault, the losses started and to this day I continue to be held back and limited in my life because of the impacts of sexual assault.
First of all I lost my home. Rae Street, my home, was also the place that the sexual assault took place and, to this day, that area remains a place of terror and distress to me. I managed to return to that house only a few times after the assault. Within days of the assault I knew that I would have to move out, leaving my friends, my housemates and an area I loved. My family had to move my belongings from the house because I could not manage even that, the associations were so negative and fearsome.
I lost my career. At first, I took 5 weeks off work. Then I tried to return part time. But it quickly became clear that I was in no state of mind to manage even that. The impacts of trauma were so invasive and so omnipresent that I could no longer carry out my job. As a manager my role entailed responsibility and high-level decision-making. It was a stressful and demanding position, full of challenges. I had thrived on those challenges. But now, trauma prevented me from accomplishing even the most basic tasks. I would jump if the phone rang. I would try to work but flashbacks and intrusive thoughts prevented me from concentrating. As a result, I felt I had no choice but to resign from my position while I sought help to heal my mind and my body.
That was only the beginning of my professional losses, however. About a month before the sexual assault I had applied for a scholarship with the French government for a teaching position in France. A few months after the assault I received notification that I had been awarded a scholarship. A teaching position in Paris. Had I not been assaulted this would have been a dream come true. Something I had long wanted to do. However, I was no longer in a position to take up such an exciting opportunity. I had to turn it down. All because I no longer believed I could be safe. All because, with the traumatised condition I was in, I knew I couldn’t survive without the constant loving support of my family. I needed the familiarity of my childhood home, the security of my family’s unwavering assistance and the relative safety of a country in which my extensive support networks could be constantly about me. There was no longer any way I could move to the other side of the world. Losing this opportunity still devastates me today and will remain a life-long disappointment for me.
To this day – nearly four and a half years since the assault – I have not been able to work full-time. The physical and psychological impacts of the assault continue to interfere in my daily life and prevent me from achieving what used to come so easily. I do not know when I will be in a position to return to full-time work.
Not being able to work full-time for over four years now has had a significant financial impact – severely restricting my earning capacity and costing me tens of thousands of dollars in lost income. It has meant that at different times during the past four and a half years since the assault I have been dependent on family or on welfare to support me. However, it has also exacted a huge personal cost. Not being able to work full-time is humiliating and distressing. Full-time employment is not just a way to make a living, it is a way to participate in and contribute to the world.
I see a psychiatrist every month for support with the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The hyper-vigilance, the repetitive and intrusive thoughts, the flashbacks, sleeplessness, insomnia, nightmares, difficulties in concentration, memory problems – all of these are things I struggle with on a daily basis. I continue to rely on psychiatric medications to support me to manage these symptoms. The persistence and invasiveness of post-traumatic stress wears me down and consumes so much of my energy that full-time work is not a possibility.
However, my career is not the only thing I have lost as a consequence of sexual assault and the symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I have also lost my social life. Before the assault I had an active and vibrant social life. Spending time with friends, going out, socialising – these were things I took completely for granted. They were a normal and completely unremarkable part of life. This is no longer the case. Since the assault, I have lost my social life and the inability to socialise freely and regularly has meant that in many ways I have lost my social networks.
So much of my life revolves around negotiating the impacts of sexual assault, of coping with post-traumatic stress and of trying to keep myself safe and well. All this takes up time and energy – time and energy which, prior to the assault, would have gone to work and to my social life.
But it’s also more complicated than that. Sexual assault has robbed me of my confidence and my self-esteem. My dignity, my autonomy and my self-respect have all been compromised as a result of the crime carried out against me. My faith in myself and my faith in the world have been decimated.
I struggle to believe I have anything to offer my friends anymore. I am not the person I was before the assault and I will never be the same as a result of what has been done to me. I struggle to remember what life was like when things like safety could be taken for granted. I am afraid I cannot live up to the expectations of those who knew me before. I struggle to connect to people in good faith and to trust them. I constantly wonder if the people around me mean well or mean me harm. I struggle to find the energy, on so many days, to fight through the difficulties sexual assault has created for me and reach out to others. Solitude and isolation too often seem like the safe option, the safest option and so, social isolation has become yet another reality of life for me since the assault.
It has not all been bleak. I have found ways to cope and I have had the extraordinary good fortune to have a supportive and loving family who have unwaveringly stood by me. I have had excellent professional support, too. However, the impacts of sexual assault continue to affect me, years after the assault, on a daily basis. Not a day goes by when what was done to me does not interfere with my life or limit the life I lead in some way. Sexual assault has cost me profoundly, in many ways, and has set my life on a completely different course from the one it would have taken, had I not been assaulted. I have lost so much and many of those losses cut right to the core of who I am and can never be undone.
For information about Victim Impact Statements and services for victims of crime in Victoria you can go here.
Consider the huge financial burden of putting women back together
An estimated 198,000 sexual assaults [occurred in 2011 in Australia], the vast majority of which were against women. The average medical cost for those injured was $950 per incident. The estimated total cost of sexual assault, including those not reported to police was $775 million.
As a survivor of sexual violence, I read with great interest. One line in particular stood out to me:
‘The average medical cost for those injured was $950 per incident.’
I recalled my own personal history and the lengthy process of working towards healing, and the costs associated with recovery, $950 seemed low. (Of course, the financial costs for victims of rape and sexual assault are often far greater than merely medical as the account above shows).
In the process of obtaining a restraining order against the man who had abused me for almost a year, I incurred legal bills totaling almost $4000. My parents came up with the money somehow, as I was a traumatized nineteen year old university student and my few shifts a week in a fast food chain didn’t cover much more than petrol money.
Therapy, extending over twelve years and three psychologists totalled about $6000.
I spent hundreds on a variety of antidepressant medications, including Zoloft, Pritiq, Escitalopram that GPs offered me as I struggled with depression.
At one point, my husband resigned from his job in a leadership role to stay home and care for our children because I could no longer function. This was around the time when I had finally reported my abuser. After months of going back and forth with police, they concluded that because the perpetrator was exercising his legal right to remain silent, they did not have enough evidence to charge him.
Our family survived on a carer’s pension during this period while my husband played the roles of both father and mother and I just slept and slept. I recall one day her came into our room, gently woke me and said,”It’s 4pm, maybe you should get up?”
We had hoped to spend more time on my recovery, on slowly building my strength back up and taking on some of my regular tasks again. However, circumstances necessitated my husband get back into the workforce sooner than we had anticipated, when our landlord significantly raised the rent and we could no longer afford it. After applying for ten different properties and being rejected from all, it was clear we could not keep a roof over our heads without my husband resuming full time employment, which he did. By this point, of course, we were in a pretty desperate situation and my husband had to accept a job with a $20000 pay cut. We didn’t have the luxury of being picky.
There were appointments with the psychiatrist, ten years later, who finally diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which I had been living with ever since the abuse without knowing there was a name for it. Throw in a few hundred dollars for those appointments.
I was fortunate to be accepted into a clinical study where researchers at a hospital in the city had been awarded a substantial government funding to study different treatments for PTSD. I was one of nineteen people who participated in the study and received treatment. Six weeks of intensive treatment, including PET scans and MRI scans to record any changes to the brain throughout and after the process was competed.
Hospital appointments and follow up appointments every three months. How many thousands of dollars were spent there?
At the time, I lived in a regional area, hours from the city. My petrol costs driving to and from the city each week came to around $2000.
Then there was the day when I couldn’t bear it any longer and I overdosed on pills, landing myself in the hospital attached to a cardiac monitor. Who knows how much that cost?
That year of sexual abuse has taken a massive toll on myself and my family, emotionally and financially. While I wasn’t personally covering every cost outlined above, someone was – whether it was Medicare, government grants, my parents.
We cannot underestimate the cost of rape, sexual assault and violence against women. Consider the huge financial burden of putting women back together. I can’t help but wonder what the world might look like if we hadn’t been broken in the first place.
You may have heard about the misogynist antics of self-proclaimed “pick-up artist” and Real Social Dynamics (RSD) coach, Julien Blanc, whose recommendations for picking up women include grabbing women’s throats and pushing their faces into your crotch. Or you may have heard the sexist lyrics promoted by American entertainer, Redfoo, in his new single “Literally, I Can’t,” wherein women are encouraged to perform “girl on girl” for men at parties and, when they refuse, are instructed to “shut the fuck up.” If, like me, you walked away feeling offended by the actions of these men — I’m pleased to report that you were not alone.
Over the last month, both Blanc and Redfoo have been widely criticized by feminist activists and bloggers throughout Australia and North America. Recently, Blanc’s Visa was cancelled in Australia when a group of protesters picketed outside the venue where he was set to give one of his controversial RSD seminars — a protest that was spurred on by the hashtag, #takedownjulienblanc. Redfoo’s latest video sparked the hashtag #shutthefooup and prompted a Change.org petition demanding his dismissal as a judge from X Factor Australia.
I get excited to create things that will unite all of us through laughter, dance & celebration. If during the process I offend anyone, I apologize from the bottom of my heart. In the future I will be more mindful of the way I present my art.
Following Redfoo’s vague apology for his “excited” behaviour and contentious “art,” Blanc also issued an apology during an interview on CNN. In one excerpt of the five minute conversation, Blanc nervously says:
Like, I feel horrible. I’m not going to be happy to be the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding. With those pictures there that you’re referring to, of again, like, choking women, um, I just want to make that clear, that is not what I teach. Like, … those pictures right there, those were a horrible, horrible attempt at humour. Um, you know, it’s… you know, they were also, like, taken out of context…
On the surface, both Blanc and Redfoo appear to address the public’s concerns, but a closer inspection of their “apologies” reveals that the main reason they are sorry is because they feel they are either being misinterpreted or condemned. Indeed, while both Blanc and Redfoo use the words “sorry” and “apology” in their statements, what’s actually missing from their apologies is the apology itself.
In his memoir, The Last Lecture, Randy Pausch explains that there are three parts to giving a sincere apology: Identifying what you did wrong, assuring the offended party that you will not repeat your misbehaviour, and finally (and perhaps most importantly), asking what you can do to make it better. Both Blanc and Redfoo’s apologies fall short of providing what I consider to be a sincere apology, as they fail to critique (or understand the critique of) their misogynist behaviour and, as a consequence, cannot actually commit to changing their actions and making amends.
The lack of critical reflection in both Blanc and Redfoo’s ttempts to clarify their position shows how little they understand or care about the response to (or the impact of) their behaviour. Rather than discussing the systemic problem of men’s violence against women, which is where the vast majority of feminist activists are citing concern, both men hide behind the argument that their messages were taken “out of context” and claim they have been “misrepresented” — taken seriously when really it was all in good fun.
On Twitter, Redfoo accuses his critics of having an “agenda” and of failing to understand the supposedly “satirical” nature of his music, gaining the support of one Australian shock-jock who, during an interview with Redfoo, calls critics of his new song, “dickheads,” “do-gooder idiots,” and “Tupperware-collecting party-poopers.”*
Blanc also issues an apology that references “humour” as a way of, at least partially, justifying his actions, explaining that the offensive pictures of him on social media, some of which allude to sexually violent acts, were simply “taken out of context” and were intended to be funny.
Hiding behind a thin veil of humour to justify one’s misogyny is not new. Indeed, this notion has and been discussed at length by feminist writers such as Abigail Bray. In Misogyny Re-Loaded, Bray argues that, “if misogyny has a soundtrack it is canned laughter… Laughter instructs the audience that it is not only permissible to laugh at the oppression of women but that it is expected.”
Rather than apologizing and reflecting on the criticisms defining their actions as sexist and deplorable, Blanc and Redfoo minimize concern. Indeed, both men react with a sense of shock that their messages have caused outrage to begin with, with Blanc claiming he was “overwhelmed” by the attention his antics were receiving and Redfoo saying, “I don’t know how rape culture and Redfoo got into the same headline.” In an age where rape culture has become a topic for the lulz, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised.
Because Blanc and Redfoo fail to identify, acknowledge, and discuss the factors that sparked outrage to begin with, they are incapable of sincerely promising to change. While both men do make references to modifying their future actions, they do so in a vague and superficial way. Redfoo ensures his fans that, he will be “more mindful” when presenting his “art” in future, while Blanc explains that he is walking away from this experience hoping to “re-evaluat[e] everything” he posts online.
But what exactly do their “mindful re-evaluations” entail? How can someone truly make amends when they have not even identified why their actions sparked outrage to begin with? As readers, feminists, bloggers, and survivors of men’s violence, we are left with a series of apologies that fail to address our concerns at all — and we deserve better. An insincere apology is worse than receiving no apology at all.
*Note: I have only ever attended one Tupperware party when I was seven. I was offered a zucchini quiche and at no point was I told to “shut the fuck up.” TUPPERWARE PARTIES ROCK.
(reprinted with permission of author) Natalie Jovanovski is a PhD Candidate and Feminist Researcher from Melbourne, Australia. Her research interests include the harms of sexual objectification, the cultural reinforcement of eating disorders, and the discursive portrayal of food in contemporary Western media.
‘I have lost count of how many women have told me they have been raped. All of the rapists have gotten away with it while the women are burdened with years of unspeakable shame and self-hatred – an explosive new manifesto against rape culture’ (extract from Misogyny Re-loaded)
Julien Blanc may be gone but looks who’s here. Matthew Berryman on the rise and influence of pick-up culture in Australia
By Dr Matthew Berryman
Following the online campaign started by Jennifer Li to #takedownjulienblanc, I’ve started looking into the world of “Real Social Dynamics” (RSD), the company Blanc is a part of, and I’m highly disturbed by what I have found. I’m sympathetic to young men who need confidence building and dating tips. I was a shy nerdy young man too. But there’s a massive world of difference between genuine advice and what RSD has to offer. It goes well beyond one video of Blanc doing his infamous “head on dick” sexual assault of Japanese women.
It includes everything from a culture of objectification of women through to making fun of people with disabilities (‘retarded’ in RSD language) to pick up.
The co-founder of RSD is Owen Cook, known as RSD Tyler. Here he appears to admit to raping a woman.
Here he is making a racist slur in a nightclub.
Here he is joking about killing a cat and then sexually assaulting its corpse.
Rape culture is part of the forum, from discussion of rape vans through to this comment on their forum – a sick attempt to justify rape.
“They dream about this. They wanna be tied up and fully succumb to your aggressive masculinity. They want you to push them against the wall, rip their clothes off, put her in a submissive position and call her bitch, slut, whore until their skull can’t take it anymore…”
“See as much as women wanna be raped, they also want to be made feel beautiful.”
It’s deeply disturbing how many members that RSD have, and their influence. Last I checked, their insider Facebook groups (now made private) had over 300 members for Brisbane and over 1000 for Sydney. RSD Tyler’s YouTube channel has over 95,000 subscribers, and RSD Julien’s over 43,000.
RSD Alex is an RSD trainer on the Gold Coast. One of his associates is Adrian James Holt, aka Adrian Van Oyen, a candid camera/prank ‘comedian’ with a history of harassing people on trains. Julien Blanc may have been deported but Holt and other Australian men continue to foment and spread pick-up culture activities here.
Some people must find this amusing as he has over a million subscribers. His method has since been adopted as a pick-up tactic by RSD members. Following his train videos video, Lipton decided for a reason I cannot fathom, to pay Holt, who they describe as a “hilarious YouTube sensation” for an advertisement for iced tea.
Shortly after that, in November 2013, Holt released this video where he tries to use sexual assault as a ‘pick-up’ strategy.
Not only is this totally unacceptable and unempathetic, it’s also a crime. I have alerted Queensland Crimestoppers to this with a report made yesterday. Astoundingly, the original copy of this video has had over 2.8 million views.
This whole misogynist “pick-up” agency material doesn’t just lessen women, but it lessens men, and it has to stop. I’m not saying this because I am of the “extreme left” (as one RSD troll said)—I’m just slightly left of centre, and this transcends politics, anyway. Nor is it because I’m pretending to be a nice guy in order to get laid—I’m happily married—it is important to respect others anyway, which may indeed get you noticed by women, but that’s besides the point. Nor is this about’ group think’, I’ve obviously thought about these issues on my own and then decided to campaign. This is all about respect and consent. It’s not hard to understand.
If you are a young man seeking advice, then don’t get it from Real Social Dynamics. There are proper counselling services out there, if you can’t get good advice from mates, or asking your mum (yes, put embarrassment aside for a few minutes, she has advice for you), or even a girl who you are just friends with. Yes guys can be just friends with a girl, and it’s how I got some of my best dating tips.
Dr Matthew Berryman is a loving husband and a dad to two daughters who he adores. By day he works in IT, at night he campaigns to make the world a better place.
My piece on Herald Sun website here: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/opinion/julien-blancs-sexist-abusive-pickup-methods-should-be-rejected-by-aussie-venues-says-melinda-tankard-reist/story-fni0ffsx-1227112652542
Blanc’s training seminar: how to grab women’s heads and shove them into your groin
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