Sydney seige, ‘terrorism’ and violence against women

I was disappointed reading the coverage of the Sydney siege this morning on where information about the killer glosses over his acts of sexual abuse and involvement in his wife’s murder. It seems to be a concerning trend that past offences against women seem to become invisible in the wake of high profile cases of tragedies, even though this is extremely relevant to this situation. I have written elsewhere about Ariel Castro who kidnapped, raped and tortured three women for a number of years had a history of violence towards his wife and children and the alleged grooming and sexual abuse of other children. Similarly, in NZ Liam Reed who was convicted of the murder of one woman and the rape and attempted murder of another was previously charged with raping his former girlfriend but had not been convicted of those offences.

It is part of neoliberalism and islamphobia that we come to see these acts of violence as ‘random’ and related more closely with his faith than his actual use of past violence, blatant disregard for life and hatred of women. And indeed this situation is random as it involves people unknown to this man, but it is not random in the sense that given his past behaviour his actions make sense in light of his propensity for violence and sexual violence:

The gunman behind the Sydney cafe siege was facing up to 50 sexual offence charges, according to court documents
The documents allege that Man Haron Monis painted the breasts of women and raped them in his ‘spiritual healing’ sessions
The sessions are alleged to have taken place over 13 years at locations around Sydney
Documents also allege that he threatened to shoot the mother of his two sons around two years before her brutal murder
Monis was on bail and due to face court in February

So instead of a discussion about the extremely high rates of sexual and domestic violence in Australia and the failure of the legal system to act in the interests of women’s and the wider community’s safety by releasing a man who is being charged with accessory to murder and 50 counts of sexual assault and rape what comes to the fore is discussions of terrorism. Rather than a critique of the unwillingness of our societies to address the problem of violence against women, and how if the judicial system took VAW seriously then this man may have never been allowed out on bail I am reading a news article about New Zealand, where this incident is being used to justify the new anti-terrorist legislation which allows the security intelligence service to use warrantless surveillance for 24 hours on citizens and gives them the ability to cancel passports for up to three years.

This legislation highlights that the state can act in highly coordinated and targeted (if unethical) ways to intervene in and control the lives of citizens when they choose to prioritise it. (We can see this most visibly in the Northern Territory Intervention when the Australian government literally suspended the rights of indigenous Australians, see my other post critiquing this).

I do not mean to undermine the importance of this incident and its tragic outcome but rather to highlight that this incident, as well as all the other acts of domestic violence which kills on average one woman a week in Australia are all equally important and worthy of discussion, intervention and prevention.


What I’ve learnt about writing a thesis

I am almost at the end of writing my Masters Thesis and have been struck with thesis fatigue, or what I like to call a case of the ‘can’t be fucked’. It starts after an intense period of my motivated self arriving at uni early everyday and doing heaps of productive work and then just as suddenly, motivated me is gone and it’s an effort just to drag myself out of bed in the morning, let alone do any writing or original thinking.

So, after my fourth consecutive day of doing almost nothing I decided to write down all the things I learnt when I wrote my dissertation. I figured that, after all, I finished a dissertation before and did well so I must know something about how to write a thesis.

Also this is a a new and different way to distract me from writing an actual thesis.

Some things I learnt while writing my thesis:

Writing seminars are almost always a waste of time

Writing seminars might be useful in teaching you some ideas about structuring your thesis or dissertation, if it is the first time you have done one. But you could easily work that out with your supervisor, as is this is what they are there to help you with, instead of spending all day at a boring workshop. Otherwise they are pretty much useless, as they will all tell you to ‘write something every day’ so you are better off spending an hour working on a draft than you are sitting at a seminar.

Trust your own methods
As well as being boring I always found writing seminars and talking with other people about how to write a thesis really anxiety provoking because everyone is always telling you things you ‘must’ do or you ‘have to do’ in order to get it done and often it involved doing things I would never do as part of my writing process. Like ‘free writing’, where you sit down and write whatever junk comes into your head because apparently this can produce some great ideas. And i’m sure it can, but mostly its shit ideas. I never free write, I have a system of how I approach writing, I do my readings, I organise my notes into themes, I create a draft plan which corresponds to my key themes and outlines my main arguments. I then organise my notes into chapters and number each point as it will appear in each paragraph, then I write the whole draft out by hand over one or two days. Then I type it up. This is how I have always done things, so having people tell me that I needed to set time to free write everyday makes no sense to me. I learnt from these seminars to only take on advice that is useful and fits into your process and otherwise to do things the way they work for you. You got to thesis level because you know what you’re doing, so back yourself.

Set a task list
I try to approach my Masters in a structured way, similar to what you would do at your job with a list of tasks which are prioritised. I always set myself tasks rather than amounts of time, that is I will set myself four or five things to achieve rather than say i’ll do 8 hours of study. I do this because I find if I say i’ll do 8 hours I might achieve nothing, but if i set myself tasks then as soon as i’ve done them I am free! I also try to set tasks that are achievable so I don’t set myself up to fail and be disappointed when I don’t get them all done.

Stay focused
Once you get going it’s easy to start reading everything that has a tenuous link to what you are researching. I find that I get bored of reading the same thing over and over in my thesis so I start to read wider and wider because it’s interesting. While i’m not against learning and drawing from lots of disciplines, this can become a very time consuming distraction if you don’t keep it in check. This also applies to redrafting, where you can spend hours trapped on a few sentences, reordering them or adapting them so that they are perfect, instead of focusing on the big picture of the overall argument or where your chapter is going. Try to do the big stuff first and then work backwards to the smaller things.

Make it easy on yourself
On days when I can’t be bothered doing my thesis at all, I try to make it as easy as possible so that I get something done. I’ll go down to the coffice (coffee shop office) or ill sit in the sunshine and read a book, or on my worst days ill set up my stuff around me in bed and not even get changed out of my pajamas. Whatever you can do to make sure that you get something done that’s the way to do it.

Get a referencing system.
That’s it. So much easier.

Be nice to yourself
I try to remember that doing a thesis is not my whole life, and I don’t need to feel guilty every time I am not working on it. I also try to remember that this is one of the only times in my life when i’ll be able to be flexible and make my own hours, take time off it’s sunny or spend the day in bed if I want too. Even though it’s hard I try not to judge myself and enjoy it as much as possible.

The underbelly of Dunedin streets

A collaborative article written by the feminist group on campus that I contributed some things to.

Note: This article contains potentially upsetting graphic comments.

With street harassment posing a constant threat of intimidation to the women of Dunedin, the OUSA Feminist Group presents a call to action for both bystanders and victims.

“I was walking down George Street with my boyfriend one night when a group of guys walking behind me kept talking aloud between themselves saying things like, ‘She’d get it’ and ‘She looks like she could take a dick.’ It made me sad not only that they were saying things like that to me, but that my boyfriend didn’t really know how to respond at all. I guess if he had stopped and said something to the guys they would have gotten aggressive, so it was a situation that neither of us could have fixed, really. Later he said to me, ‘I guess girls just get used to it,’ and he didn’t really understand my response: ‘Why should we?’”

It is interesting and saddening how normalised street harassment is. It is something that we rarely talk about, and yet, when the subject is raised, most people have a story to tell about how they have personally experienced street harassment, or at the very least, the fear of it. It is also important to recognise that, while this article outlines the gendered nature of street harassment incidents, other groups experience public harassment directed towards them, too. The 2013 European Union LGBT survey highlights that street harassment is also a major concern for LGBT people. 50 per cent of the 93,079 respondents of this survey (aged 18 years or over who identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender) claimed that they avoided certain places or locations for fear of being assaulted, threatened or harassed because of being LGBT. Racially motivated street harassment is also an issue that has been raised in the international student community in Dunedin.

Gendered street harassment is unwanted and unwelcome attention in a public space, often of a sexual nature and usually directed at women. Wolf-whistles, excessive staring, graphic sexually violent comments, groping, stalking and public masturbation – most women experience at least some of these throughout their lives from strangers in public spaces. For many women, their regular occurrence prompts us to be conscious of the “safe” routes to our destination, spurs our crossing the street to avoid groups of chads or construction sites, and for some of us, causes constant anxiety in public spaces. International research indicates that over 70 per cent of women, and an unknown percentage of men, experience street harassment.

Even more troubling is that in most of these studies half of the women reported these experiences having a detrimental impact on their lives, resulting in many of them feeling unsafe in their neighbourhoods. The consequences of experiencing gendered street harassment on a regular basis, as is life for many women in Dunedin, are huge. The feelings of fear, anxiety, objectification and disgust do not fade easily, and they inform future decisions that women make when deciding where they can be in public, when and with whom. Self-esteem and self-worth may also be affected for women who are subjected to these experiences. While there is little research available for the New Zealand context, just talking to women will elicit numerous stories of experiences of a wide range of threatening behaviour in public.

While most women will understand the frequent occurrence and level of gendered abuse and intimidation directed at women in public, many men may not know – or believe – how bad it can be. This is not simply an international problem that occurs in far-flung places. Street harassment takes place daily on George Street, on Castle Street, in the Octagon, at any time of the day or night. It’s probably happened outside your flat. The culture of street harassment in Dunedin is not okay, and sharing our stories and shining light on the dirty underbelly of street harassment is a way to tackle it head-on. Make no mistake; we are not talking about genuine compliments from socially awkward, misunderstood guys. Street harassers make their remarks with full disregard and disrespect to the woman targeted, as these quotes illustrate:

“I was browsing in St. Vincent de Pauls when a lone, tattooed, white male, about 30 years old, strode past, sized me up and announced loudly: ‘Tall enough, but you got an ugly face, girl.’ Then he stood and looked at me with a smug grin on his face. I was shaking with anger but was too intimidated to say anything, for fear of being followed. No-one else in the shop said anything to him and it took me months to work up the courage to return to browse again.”

“I have lost count of the revolting comments I have received from men of all ages walking past me while I am minding my own business in the day-time. The most memorable include: ‘That girl looks like she needs a cock up her arse’ (said by a 16-year-old boy in school uniform with his 10 other mates); ‘That one looks like a good pussy’ (said casually in earshot by two young men walking down George Street, middle of the day); and ‘Give us a go!’ (Shouted by a middle-aged man out of his car).”

“I was walking home from Uni when guys in a car yelled, ‘I’m gonna fuck your pussy,’ then they sped off. Not only is this language yuck but it frustrates me that I wasn’t given the opportunity to respond.”

“I was waiting to cross the lights at Albany Street after walking home from the gym and a car full of guys stopped beside me. One of them politely said, ‘excuse me,’ so I turned around. I was then asked, ‘Do you squat?’ I responded by saying, ‘You don’t have the right to look at my body and make a comment about it.’ I was shaking and so intimidated. It had taken years of receiving gross comments from guys to actually say anything. While I’m glad I said something to them it took a huge amount of courage and I was actually really scared responding.”

“I was walking down the street with my mum when these guys drove past us. They lifted their shirts and pressed their chests against the car window, screaming at me. I was only 14 at the time and it made me feel so uncomfortable.”

“Walking down Moray Place on a weeknight I have experienced a group of five or so men standing across the road – all of them continuously wolf-whistled at me the entire time I was in their line of sight – for over a block. That level of scrutiny and invasion still makes me feel on edge whenever I hear someone wolf-whistle, wherever I am.”

Moreover, some at-first seemingly harmless harassers become aggressive when their comments go ignored or are confronted. Victims of gendered street harassment are often targeted when they are by themselves, and often by a group of harassers. This adds another level of fear for the victim as they are instantly at a disadvantage, and may feel powerless to either verbally or physically protect themselves. Dunedin women have shared scary experiences of men objectifying them, treating them as property and escalating the abuse when challenged; suggesting that they have a sense of entitlement to women’s attention and
bodies, as these experiences highlight:

“A friend and I were walking home past The Cook at night and a drunk guy was outside. He called out ‘Hello, ladies’ and we kept walking, engrossed in our conversation, so he aggressively spat on the ground and yelled out ‘SLUTS!’”

“I was walking home and some dude yells from a car, ‘you going to town?’ I ignored them and as they drove off he yelled, ‘I’ll shove my cock up your ass.’”

“I’ve had a dude physically stop me on the street before when I wouldn’t pay attention to his cat-calling and I actually thought I was gonna be attacked. It’s fucking scary.”

These are the experiences of women from our local community and they occurred in public places that you have probably frequented before. These stories represent the tip of the iceberg; and are only a few examples of the countless incidences women experience on a regular basis. People that you know probably have many more stories of their own that they could share. The striking prevalence and normalisation of harassment is why we felt compelled to write this article. So why does it happen? Is it just individual assholes? Then why is the aggressive language so similar? The above quotes from different women illustrate similar sexually violent language that these men used to frighten women – much of the language invokes the threat of rape to gain a sense of control over them in public. There may be a variety of motivations; some harassers band together in groups to show off to their mates, while others are alone and have no-one to impress. Regardless of their individual motivations or character flaws, these stories are indicative of a minority of men’s assumed right to appraise women’s bodies, degrade them and assert authority over them. The feminist project of gender equality is still a much-needed and attainable goal. For example, this from a Dunedin women,

“I was in town with my friend, and as we were walking past a bar, a man grabbed me and refused to let me go. When I managed to forcefully pull away, he began shouting at me saying things like ‘Fuck you! You’re MY property,’” exemplifies the gendered power dynamic that exists in these instances of street harassment. As long as there are some men who believe they have the right to act this way because they are men and towards women because they are women, then we need to see this as a gendered issue and not just a case of individuals being assholes. It is attributable to a broader social set of gender relations that this behaviour is a regular, normalised occurrence. All people should be able to freely move around public spaces without fear of harassment and the negative emotional consequences that can arise from this harassment. The fact that this is not possible for all women demands our calls for action.


There are a plethora of things that each of us can do to tackle this culture of street harassment in Dunedin.

First, we need to acknowledge that gendered street harassment is NOT a compliment, nor is it the victim’s fault. Street harassment is unwanted and makes the victim feel uncomfortable, scared, intimidated or embarrassed and shares no common ground with a compliment. By dismissing street harassment as a compliment, it dismisses the experience of the victim, and the way it made them feel.

Secondly, we need to start standing up for people who are harassed. This can be done in a variety of ways and is one way that men can really help lower occurrences of street harassment.

Bystander intervention is one such strategy. Created as a rape prevention strategy, it is most associated with the work of Vicki Banyard and her colleagues at the University of New Hampshire. The bystander approach works from two key premises: First, that sexual violence is a social and structural issue rather than the problem of individuals. Second, it works from an understanding of sexual violence as a continuum of behaviours ranging from healthy, age-appropriate, respectful, and safe behaviours to sexual abuse, rape, and violent behaviours. Between these two points are other behaviours – where street harassment is situated – that begin to feel inappropriate, coercive, and harassing.

In order for this strategy to be effective, individuals need to notice that something is happening, recognise the event as a behaviour along the sexual violence continuum, take responsibility for providing help, know how to intervene and choose to intervene safely. From this perspective, people may intervene in situations at one end of the continuum, such as stopping a friend from making sexually harassing comments to someone in the street. The value of this approach is that it means each person can be engaged in preventing sexual violence by taking small and straightforward actions in less extreme situations. When you hear someone harassing someone else, call them out on it. Tell them it’s not okay. Coming from a friend or a peer, being told that harassing behaviour is not okay is an effective way to tackle street harassment.

Third, we can share our stories of harassment in Dunedin with each other and support people who have been a victim of street harassment. This can be done by providing a sensitive and caring place to talk through what has happened, rather than dismissing the harassment as a compliment, joke or not important. Not only does this legitimise the feelings that victims of street harassment experience, but it also makes clear how normalised and invisible this culture of harassment is and may spur the community to acknowledge the problem, and harassers to examine
their behaviour.

The global mobilisation of feminists and their allies raising awareness about street harassment has spurred the development of online websites, smart-phone applications to record incidences and map harassment “hot spots,” regular news articles highlighting the problem and a variety of poster campaigns aimed at problematising this behaviour. is one such website which states that it is “powered by local activists in 71 cities and 24 countries.” It provides a platform for people to share their experiences and receive support from others. At the local level, the OUSA feminist club has created a tumblr page and is inviting people to share their street harassment diaries. This space gives people an opportunity to detail their experiences within a length of time – depending on how regular street harassment is for them. You can submit your experiences here: We will also be holding events throughout the year, so watch this space. The more we speak out about this issue and its prevalence, the more support we can mobilise to change this culture of abuse.

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2014.
Posted 4:32pm Sunday 18th May 2014 by OUSA Feminist Group.



Survivor experiences of the criminal justice system

****Content warning for sexual violence, rape, criminal justice system, victim blaming, racism****

There is a lot going on in colleges in the United States at present, with many feminists campaigning around sexual and dating violence on campus including the announcement of a new initiative to increase federal funding for the Department of Education to address the high rates of sexual assault on colleges campuses. In this blog from Wagatwe at Feministing she speaks about the way this initiative and the survivors who are supporting it are derailed by discussions of why survivors don’t report to the police and utilise the criminal justice system.

As a crisis worker and survivor advocate, I have spoken to many survivors who face huge amounts of pressure and scrutiny from partners, friends families and others about needing to report what happened to them to the police in order to ‘stop’ the same thing happening to other women. Many of these women don’t want to report their rapes, but are made to feel responsible for the actions of perpetrators and their crimes. Similarly, many of them do report the assaults to their schools, university’s, halls of residence, work places, doctors, or places of care and are faced with disbelief, told there is ‘nothing anyone can do’ or sometimes charged and investigated for making false allegations (a very rare occurrence).

I am not suggesting that women don’t use the criminal justice system, many women utilize the justice system and are entitled to have their day in court regardless of the outcome. What I am interested in, is this notion of the criminal justice system as the only way that survivors can seek justice and the way this ignores how survivors view their justice needs and also shuts down valid and alternative methods of seeking justice such as through Universities or through indigenous models that don’t align to western concepts of retribution and punishment. For my post grad thesis I wrote about survivors views of procedural, retributive and restorative justice and how these would better align with a host of reforms which were suggested to the New Zealand criminal justice system (which, unfortunately were never adopted).

As a diverse group of people, survivors have very mixed ideas about what justice means to them. Some wish for retribution or punitive
consequences for offenders and report having vengeful and/or violent feelings towards offenders . One New Zealand survivor notes:

His mother pleaded with me not to go through with the charge. She said if he went back to jail it would be the finish of him and that it would be the end of her. I felt sorry for her-but then he did it didn’t he? I didn’t see why he should just get away with it; after all it’s me that has to live with it.

However, a study by Doob and Sprott (1997)  found that victim/survivors of sexual violence are less supportive of extremely punitive justice systems than those who have not been affected by similar crimes.

Exposure, rather than retribution, was the most often cited reason for pursuing cases in the literature I looked at. Exposure was considered important as it served to ensure the safety of the individual survivor but also the safety of others. The intention was to prevent further crimes, rather than punish the offender for the crimes they had already committed. One victim/survivor in Herman’s (2005) study initiated civil action after the prosecutor decided not to pursue her case.

She explained, “I wanted him to go to court, money wasn’t the issue. I wanted him embarrassed. He was going to have to tell his family. He wanted to sign a confidentiality agreement; I said no of course I’m going to tell people about it’” (p.594).

This resonates with some victim/survivors in the study by Barrington et al. (1983) who felt that prison was the only available option, but this was not considered a satisfactory solution in the long term as it would not modify the offender’s behaviour.

One victim/survivor of gang rape said: “I am glad they’re in prison because another girl is safe while they’re away, but prison is not going to do them any good”

A small number of victim/survivors felt that while the criminal justice system should play a role in facilitating or producing justice for them and other victim/survivors, nothing would ever undo their experience or totally compensate them for the wrongdoing. A victim/survivor of Malcolm Rewa from Jordan’s (2008) study commented on the inadequacy of the retributive nature of the justice system:

Hearing the word guilty or not guilty is not going to take away what happened to you… we are paying for him to have three meals a day, watch TV, build up his body in the gym, blah blah blah, how ironic is that?”

Whether through formal or informal means the objective of most survivors was acknowledgement from their communities and an admission of guilt from the offender was neither “necessary nor sufficient” to validate the survivors claim. Survivors in Herman’s (2005) study were acutely aware of the way the crime was an act of disempowerment and humiliation and so sought to restore their status in the community, particularly in cases where the offender was a part of the same community.

The validation by bystanders and communities was considered of equal or greater importance, as it affirmed solidarity with the survivors and re-established their connections with their communities. Within this view of justice it was important for survivors to let their families and communities see through the offender’s deceptions (Herman, 2005):

I think I ought to believe he should be jailed, because I think it of other men who abuse children… I would think it of my father if he abused someone else… but if it was ‘just’ me, I want him to be seen for what he is by people who matter to me (p. 593).

So, alternative methods of justice such as college based processes not only fit better with the needs of survivors they are also preventative in the ways they address sexual violence in communities. If we have appropriate sanctions for sexual violence at all levels of society, if survivors are believed and their communities support them and validate their experiences, not only do we do the work of prioritisng survivors and their healing but we also send the message to offenders that we know what they have done and that their actions are unacceptable. To do this on a grand scale, in every institution, workplace, family and home is to do it properly. To do it on that scale is to create real change. When so few survivors report and so few offenders are convicted, we need to think bigger than the criminal justice system, we need to make it a part of every facet of our communities in order to send a consistent message and end rape culture.


Submission to the select committee for sexual violence

**********Content warning: rape culture, graphic content, sexual violence, woman hating, suicide, sexism****************

Late last year the government announced a select committee inquiry into the funding of specialist sexual violence services in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As a community worker, this is something that our sector has been asking for for a long time. Many of our rape crisis services are only funded for around 33% of the services they deliver and only 70% of the country has access to twenty-four-seven specialist sexual violence services and these services are less accessible for women in rural areasFurthermore, there are no twenty-four-seven kaupapa Maori-based specialist sexual violence services, meaning that Maori women are even less well serviced than non-Maori women (Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence, 2009). We have been fighting for sustainable and adequate funding to provide specialist services to the thousands of survivors and their whanau who require support every year. I wrote a submission based on my experience as a worker and the impact the lack of funding has on those of us who work long hours for no money and experience serious burn out and vicarious trauma. I have five minutes next week to speak to my submission and have input into the select committee’s decision on how our sector will be funded.

I am going to include what I plan to say to the committee at hearing. As part of my submission I am planning to talk about a woman I supported a long time ago who I think about often. I want to explain that I usually don’t share the stories of survivors (clients or people I know) because I don’t believe they are my story to tell. However, this particular woman didn’t survive and for me, to tell this story is to remember her and to not forget the profound impact that sexual violence has on individuals and on all the people around them. All the woman and supporters I have ever worked with remind me of this, but this woman and her story is important to me because it was the first time I (as a privileged pakeha, middle class and straight woman) really understood the extent, gravity and injustice of rape and rape culture.

So, as you can imagine five minutes is barely enough time to scratch the surface of all the things I wish I could say to the government about rape and the inadequate funding of the sexual violence sector. I have worked in the SV sector for over five years, doing paid and (mostly) unpaid work supporting survivors, delivering education and doing strategic planning on both local and national levels. The lack of funding to our sector means that we can’t afford to pay any of our staff full time, nor what they are worth, and most people we can’t pay at all and so the majority of support work done in our community is voluntary. The type of work that we do is very difficult and requires huge amounts of emotional, psychological and spritual strength. This type of emotional labour is predomnatinly done by women who are over represented in the sexual violence sector (I say this not to invisibilise the work of many men who also do this work, but to point out it is still largely considered ‘women’s work’). This type of work is routinely devalued and this is reflected in the lack of funding that is provided to our centres to provide services which both change and save lives.

Many people have said to me, ‘but it is your choice to work in this area’ and that is true. But it is also the choice of this government to refuse to provide adequate funding to survivors. It is the choice of this government to say that the work hundreds of women do around the country to provide these services is not important, is not worthy and is not valuable. It is the choice of this government to say that survivors ( the majority of which are women) are not deserving of care.

And by telling us that the work women do is not valuable, this government feeds a rape culture which tells all women that they are not valuable. This government through their deliberate choices to ignore the needs of women reinforces a rape culture which allows a man to abduct a woman, rape her, strangle her, piss in her mouth, drug her, whip her, beat her, spit on her and tell her that she is nothing, that no one cares about her, that she is not important and it doesn’t matter what happens to her.

And this government tells her that this is true by choosing not to fund a service that could help her. This government makes me complicit in abusing her when she comes to the centre in which I work and I tell her that she can’t get counselling because there are 12 other women on the wait list, and we can’t afford to hire any more staff. That the support workers all have to work other jobs to pay their bills because we don’t have enough money to pay everyone, so they may not always be available. 

This government contributes to abusing her by failing to provide support for this woman and thus telling her she doesn’t matter. This government in choosing not to provide services, to which she is entitled to as a human being and also as a victim of crime, creates a culture in which she can say to me ‘I wish he had killed me because that’s what I deserve’. The choices of this government means that instead of going home that night she will throw herself off a cliff.

And this is the reality and the consequences of the choices that you have made. The consequences of your decisions are not abstract, they are tangible and they are painful to survivors, to their families, to the sector and to women and communities in general.

So, I ask you to remember this when it comes to your reccommendations about how to fund this sector . And if as Hekeia Parata once told me when I tried to explain this to her, there is no more money ‘it’s all about the way you cut the cloth’, then I ask you to cut the cloth in a way that reflects that the work I do and the work you do is of equal imporatnce. Cut the cloth to reflect that all survivors are deserving of care and support. Cut the cloth to show that every person is taonga, and we will all do whatever we can to value them. Ahakoa he iti he pounamu. 


Bystander approaches to sexual violence prevention

In 1964, the rape and murder of Kitty Genovese shocked Americans from coast to coast. While a man attacked, raped, and killed a young woman over an hour and half, it was reported that over 38 witnesses watched and did nothing to help. This story sparked research into what is known as the ‘bystander effect’ the phenomenon in which people do not offer help to another person in danger even though they are present. While the Kitty Genovese story has now shown to be a myth, as in actual fact several people tried to intervene or called for help and the police failed to respond, work around bystander intervention approaches have proven to be very effective in sexual violence prevention work.

Bystander intervention as a rape prevention strategy is most associated with the work of Vicki Banyard and her colleagues at the University of New Hampshire. The bystander approaches works from two key premises. First, that sexual violence is a social and structural and social issue rather than a problem of individuals. That is, sexual violence impacts and affects everyone, not just those who are direct perpetrators or survivors. Second, it works from an understanding of sexual violence as a continuum of behaviours ranging from healthy, age-appropriate, respectful, and safe behaviours to sexual abuse, rape, and violent behaviours. Between these two points are other behaviours, ranging from those that begin to feel inappropriate, coercive, and harassing.

In order for this strategy to be effective, individuals need to notice that something is happening, recognise the event as a behaviour along the sexual violence continuum, take responsibility for providing help, know how to intervene and choose to intervene safely.

From this perspective, people may intervene in situations at one end of the continuum, such as saying something at a party when a person makes inappropriate sexual comments or speaking out against a friend who is sexually harassing their partner. The idea is that this then stops these behaviours from progressing to acts at the other end of the continuum, thus stopping acts of rape and sexual abuse before they happen. The value of this approach is that it means each person can be engaged in preventing sexual violence by taking small and straightforward actions in less extreme situations.

You can find resources, publications and online e-learning courses for bystander intervention at the National Resource Center for Sexual Violence

Slutwalk Speech 2013

****Content warning: rape, rape culture, victim blaming***

I have been pretty busy over the last few weeks so haven’t managed to write anything new, I am hoping to put up something this weekend around prevention. I read and write rape prevention content all day at work and sometimes it’s hard to do it again in the evenings!  However, what’s on my mind today is the Select Committee Inquiry into Sexual Violence in New Zealand, the oral submission dates have been posted and I will have 5 minutes to speak to the personal submission I wrote as a sector worker. Whenever I need inspiration for speeches for work I always go to the writings of Andrea Dworkin and bell hooks as they have helped me many times before. For now I am posting the speech I gave fior Slutwalk last year which incorporates some of the teachings of these two great feminists.

Kia ora and thank you all for coming along today, and to those of you who turn up each year to make a stand against rape culture.

According to Rape Crisis tikanga, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge those women who have come before me, who have struggled and fought on our behalf so that we may be here today. For those of us in the now, for the mahi we all do in carrying on this legacy. And for those who are yet to come, partly for whom we stand here today in the hope that this mahi will no longer be necessary.

I would also like to acknowledge that the words I speak today are a compilation of the knowledge of Rape Crisis womyn and many other feminist womyn who have said all of these things before, and more elegantly than I.

As many of you will know the Slut Walk began in 2011 in Toronto when a male police officer told a group of women that they should avoid dressing like ‘sluts’ in order not to be victimised. Since then SlutWalk’s have taken place each year all over the world. Each of these marches has a different Kaupapa or ideology depending on where they are, so today I will speak to you about what this march means for us, the women of Rape Crisis.

Our aim for this march is not to call ourselves sluts, as we do not believe that such a thing exists. It is useful here to note that ‘reclaim’ has multiple meanings. Reclaim has its origins in the Latin reclamare: “to cry out” or “appeal” in protest. Our SlutWalk movement is about ‘crying out’ against a word that is used to police women’s sexualities according to sexist binaries. We want to highlight that ‘slut’ has no meaning beyond what patriarchy imbues it with. Our aim is to highlight the way slut is used against many women to police our sexuality and behaviour, to degrade and humiliate us. We want to draw attention to the way that slut is used to justify sexual violence, to wrongly blame survivors for sexual abuse and minimise the actions of perpetrators.

We want to highlight the way ‘slut’ contributes to a culture of victim blame. The way slut contributes to rape myth and the false belief that survivors are to blame for sexual violence because of:

the way she dresses; the way she walks; the way she talks; the way she sits; the ways she stands; she was out after dark; she invited a man into her house; she said hello to a male neighbour; she opened the door; she looked at a man; a man asked her what time it was and she told him; she sat on her father’s lap; she got into a car with a man; she got into a car with her best friends father or her uncle or her teacher; she flirted; she got married; she had sex once with a man and then said no the next time; she is not a virgin; she talks with men; she talks with her father; she went to a movie alone; she took a walk alone; she went shopping alone; she smiled; she is home alone; she is asleep… 

And so it goes on.

We are here today because we oppose this rape culture that blames survivors for the crimes of offenders. We oppose this rape culture that makes excuses for perpetrators and fails to hold them accountable for their choices. We are here because we oppose this rape culture that tells women what we should wear, where we should go, who we should socialise with, that our sexuality is equal to our worth and value as individuals. We oppose this rape culture that tells each of us that we are not valuable just as we are.

Rape culture teaches us to be afraid. A culture of domination relies on a cultivation of fear in order to ensure societies obedience. So as we come together today we do the work of challenging rape culture, we choose to move against fear, against the alienation and separation that rape culture encourages and we choose to love. The choice to love is the choice to connect and find ourselves in one another. As bell hooks has said we have to be courageous. When we learn to face our fears we embrace love, and while our fear may not go away it will not stand in the way. Love is a practice and when we act, as we do today, we do not feel inadequate or powerless, we foster light within ourselves and when we shine that light we draw to us, and are drawn to others with that light, and we are not alone.

I stand here today knowing that the way we are going about sending this message is for many people controversial. I acknowledge that for many people this march is not part of their pathway towards ending rape culture. But there are many feminist pathways towards this goal, and this is only one of them. Each of us can, do, and should, act in ways that support the multiple pathways of creating a world free from sexual violence.

When my colleague and I spoke of this day we imagined a festival full of families, music, dancing and colour. We talked about a celebration of our community, a practice run for the day when not one person is raped. Here today we practice for that day but we also help to create it. We walk towards that day where rape no longer exists and we will begin the real practice of equality. And on that day we will for the first time in our lives begin to experience freedom. Here today we help to make that day a reality, and I hope that each of us will be able to experience at least one day of freedom before we die