This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 13 June 2013.
[content note: violence against women, domestic violence]
Wait, sorry, I’m completely mischaracterizing that story, what I meant to say was
A leading Waikato scholar and opera singer is fighting to clear his name after admitting assaulting his ex-girlfriend three times.
… because that’s how the Waikato Times chose to frame a story about a violent thug who
… grabbed his victim by her clothing and threw her into a chair. He then threw a bag at her and slapped her.
Later that month he choked her.
The last and most violent incident – in October 2011 – saw Douglas grab the woman by the throat, leaving her struggling to move or breath. Her glasses were broken in the attack.
I’m assuming that use of the word “victim” in the first quoted sentence is a terrible oversight on their part, since apparently the real victim here is a scumbag who thinks $500 is decent reparation for abusing his partner and just cannot handle the idea that
for the rest of his life he has to apply for a visa every time he travels
HOLY FUCKING SHIT, Y’ALL, HE HAS TO APPLY FOR A VISA.
TALENTED YOUNG MEN DO NOT APPLY FOR VISAS.
THAT SHIT IS FOR REAL CRIMINALS.
Not talented young men who choke people and have bright futures.
Guess what, Chase Douglas, 23? When you’re an abusive piece of shit, your life should be harder. You should have to declare that crap and if declaring the facts of your abuse gets in the way of your star-spangled career, you fucking cope with it.
What kind of message do we send to victims of intimate partner violence, who are overwhelmingly women, especially women of colour, trans women, and women with disabilities, if a dude who throws his partner around and chokes her on multiple occasions gets to walk away scot-free?
Why the fuck do you think we have such low reporting rates for this kind of violence?
Fuck, let’s just be glad he’s not an All Black. The case would have been discharged already amidst a tearful press conference and Dame Susan Devoy labelling him a hero.
This post was originally published at The Daily Blog on 28 April 2013.
So. Another All Black is accused of assaulting his partner. And once again, the rugby establishment is pretending there’s no big deal, and the mainstream media are acting like his mother is some kind of objective witness, like someone who wasn’t there and didn’t see it is in some kind of position to judge the seriousness of the issue because, well, he’s her boy. And an All Black.
The point I want to particularly examine is the idea that it’s OK for Savea to continue playing because, well, his rugby bosses “involved” his partner/victim in the decision.
Like that’s just a casual conversation.
Like there’s no pressure on her to back down, to minimise what happened.
Like there’s no precedents for her to look at and understand that odds are good Savea will walk free even if he’s found to have assaulted her.
Like her mother-in-law hasn’t already undermined her case and set the “she’s just being hysterical he’s a hero” propaganda ball rolling.
Like we haven’t just had a really clear international example of the shit that gets dumped on women assault victims when their attackers are prominent sportspeople with the weight of an entire community’s idolisation on their shoulders.
And like he’s not an All Black, a hero of the nation, whose every sporting achievement has to be shouted from the rooftops.
No no no, this was totally a discussion between equals, with no power dynamics or social pressure on her at all.
It is simply fucking obscene that Steve Tew or whoever else was involved in that decision thought it would be appropriate to (a) put the pressure of that decision on her and (b) exploit her involvement to justify their decision to let him tour.
But then I guess Tew’s words say it all:
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew said Ms Rodgers had been involved in the decision to allow him to play.
“After all she was the victim,” he said.
Yeah, after all.
Now, obviously the case is still before the courts and no details have been released, so I’m just going to give this final tip to Julian Savea’s parents: sit down, shut the fuck up, and do some background fucking reading on the screeds of abusers and criminals whose parents thought they were a lovely lad/girl who’d never do anyone any harm.
[Trigger warning for partner violence]
As a person currently on the internet, you have almost certainly already heard about what many are insisting on calling “the Nigella incident”.
Charles Saatchi was photographed holding his upset partner by the throat, several times, in a public place, while many observers did sweet fuck all about it.
I’m not going to dwell on the event itself, because many others already have:
- Alecia Simmonds on Why didn’t anyone help Nigella Lawson?
- Anna Maxted in The Telegraph on Nigella Lawson: yes, it can happen to her
- Kate Harding with related reading on why choking is a big flashing warning sign
Now, it is fair to say that we do not know every detail of what happened. And it is fair to say that sometimes even photographs can be misleading. So a lot of people right now may have a small point when they say we mustn’t be quick to judge – on the face of the initial reporting.
Thankfully, Charles Saatchi has taken a lot of the guesswork out of the equation for us.
Saatchi has gone on the record with the London Evening Standard about what happened, and to call it “enlightening” is a serious understatement.
Charles Saatchi admitted the couple had a row as they sat outside Scott’s in Mayfair but said they had “made up” by the time they got home.
“About a week ago, we were sitting outside a restaurant having an intense debate about the children, and I held Nigella’s neck repeatedly while attempting to emphasise my point.
“There was no grip, it was a playful tiff. The pictures are horrific but give a far more drastic and violent impression of what took place. Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing, not because she had been hurt.
“We had made up by the time we were home. The paparazzi were congregated outside our house after the story broke yesterday morning, so I told Nigella to take the kids off till the dust settled.”
Let’s play pretend for a moment. Let’s believe everything Saatchi says: completely harmless, just a tiff, nothing serious, all forgiven, blown out of proportion. (And that it all depends on what your definition of “grip” is).
Even in that unlikely, bizarro universe, Charles Saatchi is still a man who:
- holds people by the neck to emphasise points (seriously, who does this?)
- can’t acknowledge that Lawson has her own feelings – “Nigella’s tears were because we both hate arguing”, not “because she was upset about the argument“
- wants us to simultaneously believe it was an upsetting argument and a “playful tiff”
- cannot grant his partner any agency. Check out that little tell at the end. “I told Nigella to take the kids off.” Not, “We decided it would be best if …” or “Nigella wanted to get the kids out of the limelight.”
“I told Nigella.”
Even with the most charitable of views, in which this is all a hilarious misunderstand and won’t we look back on it and laugh one day, Charles Saatchi’s statements are a little scary.
His decision to make these statements on his own, while Lawson and her agents aren’t making any statements, only adds to the picture of someone who is supremely self-centred.
He has now been cautioned for the assault on Lawson.
This was originally going to be a random recommended reading link, but then I got ranty.
The Onion is now officially covered by the Jezebel Rule, because there’s nothing satirical about fantasizing about the violent death of a black woman. And since they fired the person who called Quvenzhané Wallis a cunt, they’re also covered by the Hell Pizza rule, i.e. “if you have multiple employees who will make these kind of fuckups, you don’t get to keep playing the “just one employee fucked up” card”.
Also: personally, I really really hate people equating shit like this to A Modest Proposal. When Swift uses utterly dehumanizing language and tone towards the Irish babies he proposes to farm for eating, it’s because he’s satirizing the language and tone other people use towards Irish families. He’s writing shitty things to highlight shitty things. Also, dude was Anglo-Irish.
For The Onion’s latest vile piece to be equivalent, The Onion would have to be satirizing the callous and fetishistic way media discuss violence against women of colour. (Compare with how The Civilian manages near-perfect mimicry of the standard NZ media tone.) Which they’re clearly not, because then they might have written something like “TMZ.com wins 2012 Pulitzer for groundbreaking uploading of graphic imagery. Judges commended the website’s lack of ethical fibre in a fearless pursuit of pageviews at the expense of people’s privacy and safety.”
What The Onion appears to be trying to satirize – if we grant that the article is meant to be satire – is Chris Brown’s continuing lack of ownership over his own violence. But instead of saying something like, “Tearful Chris Brown finally admits to Barbara Walters that he’s never done anything wrong ever”, the article is all about Rihanna. All about committing acts of violence towards Rihanna. All about Chris-Brown-as-perpetual-violent-abuser and Rihanna-as-perpetual-victim.
Which brings up the topic of The Onion’s apparent indifference to the violence of white male celebrities. Their most recent articles on Charlie Sheen – who’s cropped up as a counter-example on Twitter a few times – include
Responsible, Thoughtful Nation Decides To Ignore Charlie Sheen Situation
… which delivers a serious poke at the everyday people who continue to prop up the gossip industry while simultaneously decrying its lack of ethics, and
A Troubled Sheen
… which includes a timeline of his fall from grace and pointedly criticises TV networks’ ongoing deference to him:
2010: CBS implores Sheen to keep doing whatever the hell he wants, but with at least the tiniest goddamn bit of discretion
Neither article mentions his history of domestic violence – which could be read as problematic in that it erases his serious crimes in favour of buying into the “wacky Charlie Sheen is wacky” narrative – but I’m really quite happy for The Onion to err, however unintentionally, on the side of basic decency with that one.
Chris Brown’s violence, on the other hand? Hi-larious.
There was a time, I’m sure, when The Onion was brilliant and edgy and breathtakingly funny. But if y’all didn’t get the hint that they’d turned to the dark side after the whole paywall thing, let this be your final straw.
(And no, I’m not linking to The Onion, because that’s their entire fucking plan.)
The mainstream media trumpeted the findings:
Poll: People want smacking law changed
And three paragraphs in explained:
Respondents were asked whether the anti-smacking law should be changed to state that “parents who give their children a smack that is reasonable and for the purpose of correction are not breaking the law”.
Seriously, what the fuck is up with fundy bigots and their perpetual need to lie about things?
Wait, no, it’s not a lie, it’s just a conveniently twisty overcomplicated series of questions which handily paraphrases into what they want it to. So they’re not liars as such, just manipulative scumbags who will say and do whatever it takes to bully society into retrograde attitudes.
They are fully aware that just saying “a smack” would not get the same juicy results as “a smack that is reasonable”. I mean, how do you argue with that, when being prompted for a yes/no answer? They said the smack was reasonable so of course it should’t be illegal! Duh!
Note the same trick in the follow-up question, which is coincidentally not written out in full until the very bottom of the article:
Would you still smack your child to correct behaviour if you thought it was reasonable, despite the current law?
I look forward to Curia’s future work, involving questions like
“Should rollerblading safely at high but reasonable speeds around blind corners be not against the law if you don’t hurt anyone 99 times out of 100?”
“Is wearing white at a wedding okay if the bride isn’t wearing white and you’ve asked permission to wear white and it’s more off an off-white anyway and nobody minds you’re wearing white?”
Maybe he could hook up an awesome tie-in with Westpac, too.
The point is this: if you agreed with Family First’s statement, you are one of two things:
- Confused by stuff explicitly designed to confuse you
- A pro-violence child abuse apologist.
The only practical function of section 59 was to allow people who had hurt their children so badly that it got to court to walk free. Electric jug cords? Riding crops? Please, tell me what’s so fucking “reasonable” about that.
(Note: I’m being a little facetious with that request, because I will in fact delete any pro-smacking bullshit posted here. It’s violence. Against children. If you did it to an animal you’d be arrested. End of.)
Final question: does “Curia” actually stand for Completely Unreliable Results In Abundance?
Murders Without Murderers by Mallory Ortberg.
A CBS article about the killing of Reeva Steenkamp ran this morning with a quote from Oscar Pistorius in the headline: “She Died In My Arms.” Reeva Steenkamp died in Oscar Pistorius’ arms because Oscar Pistorius killed her. Her death was not something that happened to him. He did not stumble upon a tragic tableau and cradle her, Pietà-like, while she expired; it was an act he committed. A few years earlier, he had been arrested for assault against another woman.
One of the most basic truths about domestic violence is that it gets worse over time. There is rarely a sudden snap; a woman is hurt repeatedly until she is hurt so badly that she dies from it. These stories are written about murders without a murderer, as if there were no warning signs and there was no possible way anyone could have predicted what would happen.
We need to start questioning this shit: the shit of “he must have just snapped” and the shit of “if a person is supremely physically fit they must also be an upstanding moral citizen” and the shit of reducing Reeva Steenkamp to no more than “Pistorius’ slain model girlfriend”.
It’s all part of the same shitpile. The shitpile is patriarchy. It assumes men are always heroes and women’s lives are worth less – or worthless. It protects us because it tells us we have no blame to bear in the murder of Reeva Steenkamp or hundreds of thousands of other women, because it says “you could not have predicted this, despite all the many, sustained warning signs.”
Dig yourself out of the shitpile.
Ben Clark has a great post up at The Standard, quoting heavily from Women’s Health Action and the Auckland Women’s Health Centre, about proposed changes to the Family Court which will basically make it more expensive, less supportive, and force families into pointless mandatory mediation, because when your partner has beaten you and your children but still insists on shared custody because they’ve got ownership/control issues, what you really need is a single hour of counselling and privatised mediation.
It’s based on changes already repealed in Australia which led to the death of at least one child.
Ben’s post lays out the arguments and asks people to submit on the Bill. And as of writing this post, it has 6 comments on it, compared to 31 on a caption competition.
Of those six comments? Three are people basically saying “I had a bad experience with the Family Court.” Two are thoroughly disprovable “waaaah the Family Court hates men waaaaah”. The commenters are good enough to leave “so I don’t care if it’s privatised and other families have to go through an even worse time than I had” unwritten. Thanks.
This is patriarchy, people. Because the majority of abusers are men, because women are largely expected to be the childcarers, the work of the Family Court predominantly (but as linked above, not because of gender bias) revolves around women and children. Which apparently means it’s part of the Grand Feminist Agenda to Steal Your Children (because of course they’re possessions which you deserve to control, you big ol’ manly man.)
Because we ring-fence domestic violence as “domestic”, as private, as something we don’t want to discuss (unless what we really want to say is “aren’t those brown people evil?”) the Family Court doesn’t get recognised as the vital public service it is.
And now it’s being gutted and its processes are being privatised. If it were a power generating company, there’d be screams of protest. If it were a national park, there’d be marching in the streets. If someone were suggesting the fucking Rugby Sevens be relocated to the Tron, there’d be barricades on Lambton Quay.
But it’s just the Family Court. So who cares, right?
Kiwiana (inked) put up a really thought-provoking post about the Bystander Effect – specifically looking at the case of a photojournalist who chose to keep taking pictures while a violent assault was committed in front of her (trigger warning for both Kiwiana’s post itself, which discusses domestic violence, and links to the violent images in question.)
I agree with her that there’s just something seriously squicky about a person, whatever their professional or philosophical calling, using a kind of “greater good” argument to justify not stepping in when someone is screaming at and choking their partner.
There’s something else, though, in the photojourno’s own description of what happened, which stood out to me:
I knew I had to stay with the story and document it in all of its ugly truth.
This dovetailed with a series of tweets by @leonineleft on Twitter about reporting on the Steubenville gang-rape (and associated cover-up):
Read a Fairfax report on the sexual violence against the victim in Steubenville & explicit details of what happened to her was UNnecessary.
You can still talk about the dehumanising of rape victims or survivors without going into explicit and pornographic detail re: her body.
Like in Bumiller’s book, it’s as if presentation of the body-espec. explicit-is needed to PROVE that any form of sexual violence happened.
This made me ask the question: why did Sara Naomi Lewkowicz say she “had” to “stay with the story”? Why did it need to be “document[ed] in all of its ugly truth”?
(There’s certainly the practical argument in this specific case that her photos serve as proof of the assault – though I would dearly love to see the reactions of the attending police officers when told “oh, by the way, this woman stood by taking pictures of the whole situation”.)
But why do these images have to be taken, have to be published, have to be available for the world to see? Do we really need graphic depictions of real-life assaults – in the case of Steubenville, graphic descriptions of rape – in order to “get” that they’re serious? In order to “understand” that domestic violence is violence (for Steubenville: that sexual assault is assault)?
The depressing answer, I conclude, is yes. People don’t really believe domestic violence happens. They don’t really understand what domestic violence is. The fact that we’ve appended the word “domestic” to it illustrates how we treat it differently from other types of violence – it emphasises that it’s private, personal, not our business.
In any semi-decent society, it should be enough that a person says “my partner assaulted me”. That should be the line that we don’t let people cross.
But because we do treat domestic violence – violence predominantly committed by men against women – as different, as lesser, and because we do downplay acts of violence if they’re in a domestic context, and because we do immediately start asking victims of domestic violence questions like “was your partner drunk/jealous?” or “did you make your partner angry?” …
Yes. It seems we do need the occasional photojournalist to be on site, to keep taking photographs while another person is violently assaulted* in order to have something we can point to so we can categorically state, “domestic violence is serious and needs to be treated seriously.”
How fucked up is that?
*Note that Lewkowicz did make sure someone else was calling the police while she took the pictures.
So, however briefly, Mike Tyson was issued a visa to come to New Zealand and make money off his celebrity, despite the fact that a large amount of that celebrity (especially if you’re not into boxing) comes from him being a convicted rapist and general thug.
And when there was an outcry (which apparently caused Life Education Trust to revisit their policy on letting anyone in the office have access to the official letterhead) there were the usual cries: but he’s reformed! Give him a second chance!
And strangely enough I was reminded of a post I wrote three whole years ago about second chances. And I realised that there’s a bit more to the bullshit around “second chances” which I didn’t address.
I do, absolutely, believe in second chances.
But second chances don’t mean that we can never again make an accurate statement about the bad thing, for fear of magically negating the second chance which has been given. Second chances don’t mean we just pretend the bad thing never happened.
There are people who will never buy a Chris Brown album or watch a show hosted by Tony Veitch or go to Mike Tyson’s show in the countries where his famous name doesn’t get him past legal barriers mere abusive schmucks would face.
This is not denying those poor women-bashers a “second chance”. Chris Brown is still making albums. Tony Veitch is still on TV, or at least has been since his crimes became public. And Mike Tyson is still touring the world selling tickets to a show which basically cashes in on his offending and got a cameo in one of the biggest movies of recent times (for reasons that escape me). Looks like they’re all having pretty damn good “second chances” to live their lives of public fame.
When people say those guys deserve a “second chance”, what they’re really saying is how dare you criticise the album/show/celebrity I like. How dare you remind me of those contemptible things they’ve done. I don’t want to have to acknowledge that my fandom is associated with the violent abuse of women.
Sorry, fanpeeps. Tony Veitch broke a woman’s back and then pulled the “I make no excuses for my actions, except all these excuses” stunt. Chris Brown beat Rihanna. Mike Tyson raped a woman.
You can go right ahead and keep supporting their careers if you like. But you don’t get to force the rest of the world to pretend that they’re still perfect admirable role models for your own comfort.
Two cases [content note: domestic violence and kidnapping]:
- A man kidnapped his ex-girlfriend, stopping her from getting out of his car by grabbing her bracelet so hard it drew blood and biting her on the back as he drove off, grabbing her cellphone when the police called it and she told them where they were headed, being pursued by police at speeds of up to 170km/h, finally crashing into a gully.
- A man resented getting a written warning at work and threatened to kill his employer, and brought an airgun to the workplace.
- Eight months’ prison
- Six months’ community detention
- A former Black Power member
- The young son of a senior, white, police officer
That’s right, folks: be presumably the wrong colour and threaten someone verbally, into the slammer with you.
Be Daddy’s Little Officer and restrain a woman by biting her and driving at speed for over an hour before crashing into a paddock, and the judge will be “merciful”, because aw, da liddle pweshus made an early guilty plea. To a crime he was probably never going to be acquitted of because, um, hello?
But hey, now, I hear you cry, we’re talking about two different courts, two different judges. Hawera and Rotorua are completely different places, with different cultures and policing needs. Totally.
Oh, hang on a minute. The judge who was so merciful to the creepy controlling abusive son of a police officer Remorseful Boy just happens to be Judge Phillip Cooper.
Judge Phillip Cooper who previously jailed a man for two and a half years for assaulting his ex and sending her a huge number of threatening text messages.
Judge Phillip Cooper who, when sentencing the Turangi child rapist to 10 years in prison, had this to say:
“I want to make it clear you are responsible for your own actions. But your whanau and extended whanau are responsible for bringing up such a young man who could commit such an appalling and sickening crime.”
So Judge Phillip Connor clearly gets that some behaviour, even when it’s not out-and-out physical abuse, deserves a strong custodial sentence. And he really gets how an upbringing and society which encourages criminal behaviour can lead young men to do terrible things.
But suddenly, when it’s a Nice Young Man from a Good Police Family? Six months’ community detention. For kidnapping a woman, terrorising her, cutting off her communication, and fucking biting her on the back to stop her getting out of the car.
Because hey, that Nice Young Man pleaded guilty. Like a champ.
Fuck me, but I want to see Greg O’Connor spin this one.
And let’s save the best for last, because here’s his defence lawyer, Ian Farquhar’s, argument against home detention (because clearly prison was never going to be an option for a Top Cop’s Son):
If he was sentenced to home detention, it was likely he would become something of a “caged lion”, he said.
Oh my god. The poor baby. Sentenced to home detention. Without anyone even biting him or taking away his phone. Gods forbid.
New Zealand: where being a cop’s son means you never have to say sorry. And being brown means you go to prison.