When survivors speak out

Written By: - Date published: 2:00 pm, November 12th, 2015 - 45 comments
Categories: crime, culture, feminism, national, sexism - Tags: , ,

Previously posted at Boots Theory.

Content note: discussion of sexual violence and the experience of survivors.

Yesterday I did a round-up of the women’s voices on Twitter talking about recent events in Parliament, where women MPs from the Opposition, many of them survivors of sexual violence, were thrown out of the House for taking exception to John Key saying they supported rapists.

There have been other great posts in the last day or so expanding on what this means.

Claudia has written at Public Address about her own experience.

I want to believe in trigger warnings, because I want to believe there’s something people can do to make me feel safer in a world that has proven, twice, that I am not safe.

This week, the highest body in New Zealand has proven to me that that wish is pointless. That I can’t be safe. Because the people who are meant to protect me care more about scoring political points than they do about the people who need them.

Hadassah Grace has put together a brief history of John Key and his Government’s record on sexual violence. She has a tremendous list of sources at the end.

The National budget includes an increase in funding to sexual violence services of $10.4 million over the next two years. Although this is much needed, it comes five years after the Taskforce for Action on Sexual Violence first recommended a funding increase. Five years of drastic funding cuts in which many providers were forced to lay off staff, reduce services or close down altogether.

This $10.4 million is less than the yearly budget for ministerial travel.

This was written last year on the Wellington Rape Crisis blog, but it’s just as relevant today:

With media and hearings coming up, something we are often asked is do we have someone who is prepared to speak to a camera about their abuse. This has led us to consider again how do we include the voices of survivors when most wish to remain anonymous? Something that both the sexual and domestic violence sector finds is that when survivors have done some of their healing they want to contribute to public knowledge about this issue. However, our ‘human interest’ angle in the media requires names and photos. How do we hold the tension of public wanting faces to go with stories, and a survivor’s right and need to have control over information people have about them?

Deborah Russell calls it an object lesson in silencing women.

Accusing the Labour Party of backing rapists is the latest tactic that the Speaker of the House is using to protect a Prime Minister who simply won’t fight for New Zealanders, who wants to pick and choose who he will act for as New Zealanders, and who is determined to make sure that the only New Zealanders he will look out for are the people who are convenient for him.

There’s also excellent video from Story of the women MPs who walked out yesterday talking about their experiences. Trigger warnings apply. Other good coverage came from The Guardian.

Please go read these posts in full. I know there’s a concern about “buying” Key’s line – about getting distracted by are-they-rapists-or-not or are-we-defending-rapists-or-not – but I reject it. I said on Twitter last night:

We can do more than one thing at a time (if you watch the article on Story, you’ll see they do!). And if we can improve the situation for Kiwis in Australian detention centres and demand a better national conversation about sexual violence, we’ll have done some real good in the world.

Moderator note: any comments which personally attack survivors of sexual violence, including the MPs who walked out of Parliament, will be deleted in full.

45 comments on “When survivors speak out”

  1. Sabine 1

    i suggest to not delete the comments of those who attack survivors of rape and sexual assault. Let them stand there for everyone to read. It’s way past polite discourse in NZ, as clearly there is a large group of people who really believe that we brought it on ourself, and that if we did not report it to the police we were not assaulted or raped.

    so let the comments stand. let people see, what sexual abuse survivors deal with on any given day. And why far to many of us do not report it ever, and even worse not even speak about it.

    • RedLogix 1.1

      I’ve been moderating other threads on this topic with zero tolerance. I recognise the merit of your argument Sabine – but in this case I’ll defer to the wishes of the author.

      If Stephanie changes her mind I’ll follow her lead.

      • Sabine 1.1.1

        It was just a suggestion. To often we try to hide what makes us upset. While sometimes it is best to let it be for all to see. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.

        • Rosemary McDonald

          I rather foolishly scanned the blogs from the Other Side today on this issue…know your enemy and all that.

          Disgusting commenter on one of the more benign sites told a “my successful wife says..” story which actually made me sick.


          • Sabine

            Believe me I understand.

            But I am at my wits end. This is the year 2015 and rape and sexual assault is something to score points, laugh about, joke around, ignore, considered as scoring chicks and getting laid, etc etc etc. and no one will speak about it.

            I really just still can’t wrap my mind around that someone as ‘accomplished’ as John Key, and his second Bill English, and Paula Bennett and others really just see rape and assault as something to score points and to settle battles, and get away with it, and not cause offence. It just goes to show what is important to them, and we are not.
            And many many are seemingly is ‘ok’ with it.

            This using threats of sexual violence to win, this using the association of sexual violence to silence us to shame us, is hurting us, it iswhat is the killer (emotionally, mentally and in some cases physically) of so many of us.
            And yet we don’t speak out, for fear of being shamed and ridiculed and belittled, and every time this happens the rapists, the sexual assaulter and their enablers in politics, press, and elsewhere are winning, while we crawl back into our safe corner, into that dark place where no one can see us and we be quiet.
            So I am now at the point where I welcome their crude ideas and their hate of the other, and their sexually abhorrent views of what constitute consent or not.
            Let others see what they say, let them defend what they say. Let them be out public, let them be shamed for once. Maybe then, someday People will realize that no one asks for it, no one deserves it, and the victim could not have prevented it, and it is not something some washed out politician can use for cheap points against the opposition.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              I get where you’re coming from….but the way I felt after reading that particular comment…

              Then I went into town…wondering if it was THAT person who wrote such a despicable thing.

              Was it you? Or you?

              Because we can’t tell just by looking at them.

              Some brave folk actually went into their space….took the fight over the line and I was standing safe as an observer cheering them on.

              But I think there should be places where that sort of comment is simply unacceptable. Where people feel safe to speak out about their worst experiences without fear of attack by the arseholes.

              I really do think we need a ‘humaness’ test…

        • gsays

          hi sabine,
          firstly, i think the mps showed courage in their actions in the last couple of days.
          everyone can have an opinion on what was best, but it is just an opinion.

          “To often we try to hide what makes us upset. While sometimes it is best to let it be for all to see. Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”

          as an example: my father in law is an old fashioned racist. often while sitting at his table he would spout an offensive diatribe.
          upon getting advice about this i was offered a watch, and the owner said
          “offence, like a gift, is offered, it’s over to you to take it”

          anyhow with this in mind, the next time he statred up at the dinner table (tana umaga was the wrong colour), i resisited the urge to respond, and sat silent.
          his words sat there like a turd on the table.

          to this day his language has been a lot more moderate.

          i say this not too criticise the walkout, but to support the idea of sunlight as a great disinfectant

          • Sabine

            the walk out is part of shunning. Turning the back. It is part of what can be done.
            and personally I applaud the Ladies and also the MP’s that walked out the day before. There are moments when the best thing to do is to stand up and simply put an end of this behavior.

            Sunshine, its a thing of beauty ey?

    • Thanks for your suggestion, Sabine. In this case I think the awfulness and abuse directed at survivors is easy enough to find (in Parliament, even!) and sometimes it’s good to have one space where people know they aren’t going to run into it.

      Thanks for your modding, RL.

      • Et Tu Brute 1.2.1

        What about men who have been wrongfully accused? Do they deserve justice? Are we allowed to be angry? Or do we have to suffer in silence?

        [lprent: Please read the last section of our About. It provides you directions on things you can do if you get off your lazy arse. However I’d suggest that you don’t do deliberate diversions away from the clear topic of a post provided by one of our authors. I tend to regard that as being an abuse of the facility that this site provides. ]

        • The reality is that false accusations are incredibly rare, across all forms of crime. Nobody, anywhere on this post is saying “you” have to “suffer in silence”. But it is really, really sad, and telling, how someone just *has* to jump in, every single time survivors of sexual assault are trying to be heard, to try and derail the topic.

  2. roy cartland 2

    I agree with “We can do more than one thing at a time”. We can make the point about women’s and survivors’ rights while supporting human rights.

    Let’s remember that the villain in this debacle is really the PM himself, who kicked women’s/survivors’ rights into the gutter to deflect from his disdain for human rights. Pretty despicable really.

    I suspect his dead cat will turn out to be more of a stinking, bloated and malignant albatross.

  3. Goodshepherd 3

    I second that, Sabine.

    As a victim of rape, age 14, I am offended by the PM’s comments. As a member of Labour, I am offended by the PM’s comments.

    I doubt anything that could be said here could offend me more or do me more harm.

    I’d prefer the light of day be shone upon these people and their opinions. That might well do more good for all victims of sexual or political violence than anything we could say or do. Let them be known by their own words. As we now know the PM.

  4. Tracey 4

    Great post evidencing Keys historic lack of support of sexual assault victims and I am not sure if it captured his

    “I would apologise if I knew her name” which resulted in Ms Billingsley going public. Only to have him decide he only apologises for “serious” things…

  5. ianmac 5

    Stuff 14:26 today:
    Prime Minister John Key says he does not need to apologise to female MPs who staged a protest in Parliament after he accused the Opposition of “backing the rapists”….
    Key said he had had to deal with “comments and abuse hurled at me”, and claimed he was the only person standing up for victims of crime.
    Key said he did not understand why he would need to apologise to MPs who had taken offence, saying his concern for the victims of the detainees meant he was a better advocate than them…..
    “What would they be asking me to apologise for? For saying that I’m on the side of victims?….

    So there you are. He does not need to apologise because the MP victims of abuse were not concerned about the victims of detainees. Amazing logic. Does he impress with his excuse?

    • Tracey 5.1

      Do you think he is genuiely bemused or runni g a line?

      • wyndham 5.1.1

        Running a line without a doubt !

        • ianmac

          But Key is the victim don’t you see? He has been abused by those nasty lady MPs, and perhaps (he implies) they should apologise to him or admire his sticking up for victims.
          (Someone is calling it a “double bounce cat.)

        • tracey

          It does seem to be the pattern… toss the bomb, then pretend he didn’t say anything wrong, then follow up with confusing words from t he English language in an unusual order to make people think he really didn’t mean it…

    • Sabine 5.2

      playing victims of crime against victims of crime.
      This man is an odious pile of manure.

  6. wyndham 6

    Nobody seems to have asked females sitting on the government benches how they stand on the issue – – – including Minister for Women Ms. Luxton.

    • Sabine 6.1

      They as much as the other MP’s could have walked out, but by staying put, I guess they agree with the Prime Minister.

      And clearly as per Mrs. Bennett’s tweets some victims of crimes are more worthy of consideration then other victims of crime. And clearly victims of sexual assault and rape, especially if they are members of the Labour Party and The Greens are not worthy of consideration.

      • tracey 6.1.1

        My brothers and father tend to the right in their voting patterns. I have emailed them my disgust with the PM for his use and misuse of a serious issue relating to sexual violence against women and children. I’m happy to guilt them into doing the right thing (none were my abuser but they know about it)

        • Sabine

          my abuser and I lived in the same house, it was I who eventually ran away at 15.
          Now that my mother has passed I have no reason to go back home anymore, but then the abuse never goes away.

          • Tracey

            That makes me feel lucky. Of course your story tells anotber story too which “ordinary” kiwis dont want hear… homelessness… lack of education can be the direct result of abuse… but hell lets just villify them anyway 😉

            All power to you Sabine

      • Anne 6.1.2

        On RNZ The Panel this afternoon, Michelle Boag tried to discredit the women MPs who walked out this week by claiming that every woman at some time in their life has experienced sexual abuse. She used a derisive tone of voice as if these MPs were making mountains out of molehills. In other words, she was equating bottom pinching and breast touching/fondling (yes, most of us have had to put up with that kind of behaviour) with the rape and serial sexual abuses most of them clearly endured.

        • Sabine

          that is the sad part of sexual abuse, that literally it has become a right of passage.

          Whether it is the phrase, when it bleeds it breeds, to the early comments on legs, breasts, behind, and what a pretty little girl she is, and how some man is gonna be ‘lucky’ getting her, to the outright rape and sexual assault that women endure pretty much on a day to day base.

          It happens to all of us, so there, no harm done.

          • Tracey

            And this government is re-normalising that.

            Key pretending he is standing up for victims is maki g tbis worse and sadder than I could have imagined.

        • Tracey

          When I heard she was on the panel i turned the radio off.

          Boag and Bennett leading the attack on survivors of sexual abuse. What awful tactics to pit women against female victims. If Boag has been raped she should say so.

          • ianmac

            Boag said that none of the MPs were evicted. They chose to walk she said. Not true but like Key she can rewrite history with immunity.

            • Tracey

              Even if they did, that’s not the point. If she thinks being patted on the bum or pinched or called “love” is the same as being sexually abused then…

              I’m assuming she finds unwanted advances a compliment and a sign men want her?

    • wyndham 6.2

      Ooops ! Upston.

      • Tracey 6.2.1

        Easy to get it wrong. She is practically invisible in that role except when she is imploring people not to think she is a feminist

  7. NZSage 7

    According to the Herald seems like we’ve got it all wrong.. it poor old John Key that is the victim… “Abuse ‘hurled’ at John Key over comments”


  8. NZSage 8

    …and here’s a petition demanding Key apologise:

    “It’s Not OK Prime Minister”


  9. Rosemary McDonald 9

    23 year old young woman, apolitical until the last year, said today she had never been prouder to be a New Zealand woman than she was watching the warrior women make their stand in the house yesterday.

    I hate “inspiration porn”….but I think that those women deserve to be called inspirational.

    • Ennui 9.1

      Totally agree they did not only women proud but us men too. The men shoulx have walked out with them. As a man I have only deep contempt disgust and scorn for Key scoring points at the expense of rape survivors. The support Key garners from my fellow men is deeply disturbing.

  10. Jenny Kirk 10

    Good post, Stephanie. Thanks.

    I’m hoping that this might be the issue that finally wakes up at least half of NZ voters to who/what the PM really is : a nasty little slime ball who is playing a “game” with our lives as NZers .

    Except that it is not a “game”, it is real and he will do anything to achieve that – the total takeover of NZ by his masters, international corporates. And that’s NOT taking away from the awfulness of what he has just been saying and his inability to apologise, and the encouragement of the Speaker for the PM in his “gaming”. Nor that he is playing distraction politics yet again, and then sliding out of the country while the rest of us seethe at his nastiness and utter gall.

    I felt proud of our women MPs walking out, proud of what they tried to do, and utter shame that we have a Prime Minister who has no conscience, has no soul, and just wants to rub shoulders with “celebrities”.

  11. Lara 11

    Coming so soon after Roastbusters 2 this is really actually quite distressing.

    I am a survivor of pedophiles, I lived in Centrepoint community in 1983.

    And further sexual assault in my 20’s.

    And still, to this day now I’m in my 40’s it affects me. It never goes away.

    I want this country to stop blaming victims. When we have discussions on sexual violence it needs to be about the perpetrators, not “advice” to women on how to “keep themselves safe”. None of that advice would have worked for me when as a child I was well groomed by pedophiles.

    The meme that if a person doesn’t report their assault to police then it didn’t happen, or there’s something really bad about them, needs to stop too. I call bullshit on that. With the Louise Nichols case, now Roastbusters 1 and 2, the NZ police are the one organisation I would actively avoid if I was ever assaulted again sexually. My need for safety and self preservation trumps any internet trolls need for me to be a “real” victim.

    Those women who walked out of Parliament touch me deeply. So beautiful to see there are people in our highest halls of power who get how important this issue is to all of us who are survivors. So good to see them stand up to FJK.

    This conversation here on TS has me crying in my morning coffee. Thank you Stephanie for posting this, thank you RL for moderating (no way could I handle the usual trolling!) and thank you to the people here who also have opened up about their experiences.

    NZ is #1 in the OECD for domestic violence. I’d hazard a guess that our sexual violence stats are pretty bad too. This kind of violence has an enormous impact on survivors, and its not taken seriously enough in NZ I think.

  12. tracey 12

    “The most beautiful
    people we have known
    are those who have
    known defeat,
    known suffering,
    known struggle,
    known loss,
    and have found
    their way out
    of the depths.

    These persons have
    an appreciation,
    a sensitivity,
    and an understanding
    of life that fills
    them with compassion,
    and a deep
    loving concern.

    Beautiful people
    do not just happen.”

    ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

  13. Magisterium 13

    The parliamentary left had a chance to put the government on the spot over its apparent reluctance to support NZ citizens in detention centres. But nobody is talking about the government’s inability to defend the rights of NZ citizens in detention any more. No, today all the discussion is about how offended some MPs were by something that John Key said and how brave the MPs are.

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