All headlines that erase victims and perpetrators are dehumanising, misleading, and lazy. This one is even worse because the article reports something everyone should read.
A man raped a woman. This is abhorrent, but not uncommon. The woman was able to report the rape to police. The police believed her, investigated and charged the rapist. The DPP took the case to trial and the man was convicted of rape. This series of events is remarkable.
The defence lawyer claimed the rapist was “a vulnerable man who had experienced a great deal of psychological distress”. This is entirely unremarkable.
Judge Gaynor’s response: “It is not for men, such as your client, to take out their own emotional anguish and difficulties by the sexual assault of a young woman.”
“Some men see women as an object to assist them, or something to help themselves to in a time of personal difficulty.”
“(There is) this notion of a man in turmoil – something clicks over in his head and the way to relieve that is by sexually assaulting a woman. Men cannot and must not, and if they do there will be very strong consequences.”
In addition to the rape, the woman also told the court about the online comments she’s seen making “jokes” and memes about the rape, and blaming her for the rapist’s choice to rape her.
Judge Gaynor, who clearly doesn’t spend much time online, said this was “extraordinary – I cannot believe people can be so hideously cruel.”
Judge Gaynor’s comments might be more incisive than most, but they are far more typical of the things said court than you might believe if you only ever read news reports.
Public institutions, such as courts, media, parliament, and police are structured to protect men from consequences of committing sexual violence and punish women for being victims of sexually violent men. Sometimes, when I see or hear a judge say the things Judge Gaynor said, I start to believe we can change those structures. Then I remember that you could fill the MCG twice over with all the women who have been sexually assaulted in a single year in Australia and the men convicted would fit in the members bars – with room to spare.
and I think of the endless media articles implicitly or explicitly blaming victims and defending perpetrators, and the parliaments that make laws to enforce this behaviour. One exceptional judge and one remarkable outcome is not change.
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