Monday, 1 December 2014

The evolution of this post

Day 1 (17th Nov).   Sutton story breaks.  Cue triggering and wanting to speak out, not having time to coherently put thoughts together and a sneaking suspicion that posting at this point would be unhelpful.  Much victim-blaming going on, inevitably having to actively Not Think about my own experience of sexual harassment.

Day 2.  (18th Nov)  Determined to write up and post my own experience.  Just need to find the time.

Day 3.  (19th Nov)  Still no time, but I am so going to write this up.

Day 4.  (20th Nov)  Thinking about how people I knew at that time in my life might feel if they read what happened to me.  All the worms that might escape cans, all the difficult conversations to have.  Hmmmm.

Day 5 (21st Nov)  I don't want to give precise details of what happened.  Not least because I deliberately don't remember it all.  But at the same time if I don't give details no one will believe me, it'll all be hugs and jokes like Sutton was protrayed.

Day 6 (22nd Nov)  Too hard, it's just too hard.  Lots of other people have written really good stuff about Sutton and the broader issue.  What I have to say won't add anything.

Day 7 (23rd Nov)  Maybe I could write it in a different way that means I don't have to explain the awful triggering details.  Maybe that's actually quite a useful and powerful point to make, in itself.


Day 9 (25th Nov)  Okay maybe I could write about how I didn't feel I could write about this because of all these reasons.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Day 10 (26th Nov)  Creeping feeling that bringing this up will be bad for me.  Remembering the response I got at the time, at school, when the sexual harassment was raised; "you wish" from other students, "it will happen again" from teachers.  Feel sick.

Day 11 (27th Nov)  Not Thinking About This At All.

Day 12 (28th Nov)  Still Not Think About This At All.

Day 13 (29th Nov)  Maybe I should do this.  Perhaps I could write it in a manner that shows the uncertainty, the second-guessing, the triggering, the ambivalence.  Maybe.

Day 14 (30th Nov)  Yes I think I can do that.  I can always not publish it if it's too hard.

Day 15 (Today)  I think I should.  I'm just going to do it.  Just start writing and see how it comes out.

When I was in 6th Form I was sexually harassed for a period of some months by some fellow students at school.  There is a lot more I could say about that.  Maybe I will.  But for now I just want you to know how it feels, 20 years later, to still feel blame, still feel shame, and still want to stay silent and bury it all.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

a response to robyn malcolm

yesterday i had a brief exchange on twitter with robyn malcolm regarding roger sutton, and you can see the whole exchange from this tweet:

twitter is unfortunately not a good medium for a detailed discussion of the issues, so i wanted to give a fuller response here.

i really do understand the desire to support a friend who is going through difficult times.  from the twitter exchange, it appears that she knows mr sutton well and considers him a good friend.  i know it must be difficult to watch your friend go through something like this in such a public way.  and i'm sure it's difficult to see people saying some very negative things about him.

supporting a friend who has done something wrong is not an easy business.  but i don't think you do your friend any favours by dismissing what he has done or by ignoring the complainant in this case and her suffering.  sure, make the point that your friend is generally a wonderful person who has achieved some very important things for the community, but also acknowledge that in this instance he stuffed up.

the best example of this would be owen pallett's facebook statement on hearing of the allegations against his friend jian ghomeshi (for details of that case, see my post here):

At no point here will I ever give my friend Jian’s version of the truth more creedence than the version of the truth offered up by three women. Anonymity does not mean these women do not exist....

...Jian Ghomeshi is my friend, and Jian Ghomeshi beats women. How our friendship will continue remains to be seen.

now i'm not for a minute implying that mr sutton's actions were at the level of mr ghomeshi's.  however, that doesn't mean that mr sutton's actions should be dismissed, ignored or in any way treated as not important.  of course other people do worse things, that's not the point.  the things that mr sutton constituted serious misconduct, they were not trivial matters.  i don't believe you can do a friend any favours by embedding a view that he has been unfairly treated when there is no evidence that this is the case.  in fact the whole "look over there, that thing is so much worse" is the richard dawkins "dear muslima" defence, one which he has since apologised for.

ms malcolm has known mr sutton for 20 years.  but what if she had known the complainant for 20 years?  what if she had watched the complainant go through the harrowing process of the investigation, sat by her while the complainant suffered through that press conference & the resulting aftermath?  would ms malcolm's response have been the same?  mr sutton is struggling but he is the one who has behaved wrongly in this case.  that doesn't make him a terrible person overall, he's not some kind of monster.  but he is in the wrong and that can not and should not be overlooked.  the impact of his behaviour can not and should not be overlooked.

the best way to support a friend who has done something wrong is not enabling a view that his wrongness isn't so very bad.  rather, it would be to say to the person: "what you did here is not ok.  you are still my friend and i still really do care for you and will stand by you.  but you need to change this particular behaviour because it isn't acceptable".  that's my opinion anyway, for what it's worth.

[EDIT: i did want to say that i am a fan of robyn malcolm's, not so much of her acting as i haven't watched any of her shows, but of her political activism.  i love how she stood up and made her voice heard on the union dispute with peter jackson, & i have also admired her stance on other issues.  the fact that i deeply disagree with her on this issue doesn't change that.]

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Que ne CERA pas, CERA

Why do you go to work?

No, really, take your time.

Because in all the commentary from Roger Sutton about how much he "deeply regrets" he didn't "find out earlier" that his behaviour at work, where he held ultimate power, was unacceptable, no one is talking about what work is for.

It's where we go to earn enough money to eat, pay our rent, look after ourselves and people we care about.  If we're lucky, we might be working somewhere which makes our heart sing, but ultimately it's about survival.

We do not go to work to listen to sexist jokes.  Outside of the sex industry, we do not go to work to have our bodies or our sexual attractiveness commented on or assessed.  We do not go to work to be patronised as women through the use of unwanted, demeaning words.  We do not go to work to be touched in any way by someone else without our consent. 

Some male commentators are terrified Roger Sutton's decision to resign will mean an end to ordinary workplace interaction

Here's the thing.  If Roger Sutton's behaviour is your idea of ordinary workplace interaction, then yes, you need to change.

We've had the excuses.  He's nice.  His wife likes him.  This is all a bit silly and goes a bit too far.  It's just hugs from the boss, isn't it?

In my first paid job, I sold sports gear in an old-fashioned sportshop. 

When I was 16, on a slow day over the holidays, my boss made a "joke" in front of  three others.  "You're going to have to go out the front, Luddite, and show a bit of leg."

I liked my boss.  I liked working with his son (my age), his daughter (a couple of years older) and his wife, who did the books.

I said "Fuck off." (Young, impetuous, not the suave control of language I have now).

There was a stunned silence.  I walked to the back of the shop, shocked, angry, upset, sure I was going to get fired.

He apologised to me later that day, and told me what he'd said had been inappropriate.  I apologised for telling him to fuck off, but said I'd not liked what he said.  It never happened again.

That's a good employer response to sexual harassment in the workplace.  Taking responsibility, apologising, and never doing it again.

Not giving an unauthorised account of your version of events to a press conference.  Not continuing to plug yourself all over the media.  Not talking about how hard you work in your very hard job.

Rape culture tells us that nice men don't do yucky stuff.  Rape culture tells us that victims lie and exaggerate.  Rape culture tells us feminists go too far with their overemphasis on consent and power.

Respect to the woman who made this complaint, it was brave and I have no doubt, necessary for her wellbeing at work.  Respect to my fellow bloggers, pushing back against rape culture.  Respect to everyone out there challenging their friends, family and colleagues when they hear this sexual harassment being minimised.

We don't go to work for this.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

It's PC gone mad, the Feminazis are winning!

Cross posted from my home site.

I’ve found it fascinating watching the men and women around me and on social media discussing a high profile case this week.
There has been an overwhelmingly male chorus singing from a familiar song book. I may be being unfair to men, in that in most cases they spoke over the top of, or instead of women, so the women may have shared their view – I just didn’t hear it. These voices were at work, on radio panels (I’m looking at you RNZ) and on social media. The songs were “it’s PC gone mad” and “he is a really nice guy” “He is really well respected” “he is just a touchy feely guy”.

Most people are.                

 Very few people have their friends and colleagues spouting off to the media about what an asshole they are. Most people have a place where they fit in and feel at home. Most people have mates who think they are a good bloke, a top guy, a bit of a hard case.
It doesn’t mean that for some people they aren’t a danger, an unsafe person, a creeper, that person at work that you avoid. And just because your mother/colleague/wife loves you, doesn’t mean you aren’t a total asshole to someone else.

I would really like people to remember two key things.
      1)     It’s REALLY important to remember that safe is a movable line, and it is set by the receiver of contact, not the giver.
      2 )     Creepy out of line behaviour doesn’t happen because people are always sneaky. It happens because people are entitled and the people around them let it happen.

Here is an easy example of that movable safe line…
People who catch crowded commuter trains in Japan will feel safer with someone standing close next to them on public transport than people that commute on NZ trains. Your personal bubble is what you are used to, and it is often the same among people of the same living environs/culture. But even within a one similar group, not everyone is the same, and direct physical contact beyond a basic handshake should be carefully evaluated. People who have their personal safety violated in the past will not feel safe with hugs from randoms that might be seen as totally okay by the other 60% of the workforce.

As a self-aware professional, it is part of my job to assess how I interact with my colleagues just as much as I do my clients. I can easily go a day without physical contact and come to work for the next twenty years. Missing out on physical touch is nothing compared to the feeling of someone encroaching on your personal space and feeling like you are in a constant state of defence. People need to stop seriously thinking that their right to touch others as they see “normal” is equally important as someone else’s right to NOT BE TOUCHED WITHOUT ASKING.
Any sense that your way is the best way and people should just accept your behaviour involving their space and body is a massively entitled view. This is an especially odd view when you consider that most of the men I was listening to today were deeply concerned at their rapidly vanishing super important right to act how they choose at work. So they DO UNDERSTAND THAT WE HAVE RIGHTS.
Our right to feel safe just isn’t as important as their right to do what they want.

Heads up lads. You will know when the feminazis are winning, and it won’t be because you can’t harass us at work. It will be when you are held accountable for those actions and the population stops seeing you as a nice guy for it. I'm gonna add in an extra wish that the media ceases it's witch hunts of women who dare to complain.
It doesn’t seem that extreme to me. But then, what would I know?

Monday, 17 November 2014

on roger sutton not being the victim

today the news breaks that roger sutton is resigning from CERA as a result of allegations of sexual harrasement.  he announces and holds a press conference, apologising for the hurt he has caused.  and yet, there is still a certain dismissiveness of his own behaviour: "hugs, jokes, i do do those things...", "i am who i am", "i never meant to cause any harm" (yeah, intent isn't magical) and "i've worked my guts out for the last three and a half years" (sorry, that doesn't give you a free pass to harass anyone).  on the other hand, there were statements taking responsibility for inappropriate jokes and a strong statement that he is not the victim here.

sadly, but somewhat predictably, there has been a lot of minimising of the behaviour in various media reports.  the focus has been on the language - "really, calling someone honey or sweetie is sexual harassment now?", but there has also been minimisation of the unwanted hugs (oh but women hug men, hugging is common etc etc).  despite his own statement that he isn't the victim, there are a lot people who are trying making him one.

it was pretty infuriating listening to gary mccormick on radio nz, worried about what a terrible impact this was going to have on nz.  very little concern at all for the woman who made the complaint, no acknowledgement that mr sutton mentioning that he may have hurt other women by his behaviour as well.  in fact, no recognition that the sum of his behaviour over a period of time may have created a difficult work environment for the women who had to work with him.

we have heard from his tearful wife, and i can completely understand that she is upset by what has happened and feels protective of her husband.  when she says "She says she is baffled that his "hugs and jokes" have been misinterpreted and that Mr Sutton is simply a "touchy-feely" person.", one has to wonder whether or not she has spoken to the woman who laid the complaint or to the other women who may have been hurt, and whether she has been part of the investigation or read the full report.  maybe she has done all of the above & still supports her husband.  but in doing so in the manner that she has, she is further harming the women in the workplace.

i've also seen, on social media, the "nice guy" defence.  the one where people refuse to believe that a person could have committed particular acts because they are so nice, they do such good work, they have benefited society in xyz ways.  except we have so many, many examples of people who behave extremely well in many spheres but who have also been abusers or harassers.  just because someone is nice in their behaviour towards the majority of people they come across, or just because someone donates to charity or does other "good works" doesn't mean they haven't behaved badly.

in this particular case, the state services has investigated the complaint against mr sutton, and while the conclusion is that the behaviour didn't justify dismissal, it was considered inappropriate.

the problem with the current media narrative, with the minimising of the behaviours complained of, is that it creates an environment where it's almost impossible for the complainant and other women to come forward and tell their side of the story.  after all, we live in a culture where women who come forward are subject to all kinds of abuse, death and rape threats, character assassinations and more.  it's hard enough as it is.  but given the climate created by the current media narratives, it is going to be even harder for these women to speak out.

and of course, there is the ripple effect.  minimising mr sutton's behaviour makes it harder for other women in other workplaces to lay a complaint.  in fact, in choosing to resign, mr sutton has placed the complainant in an even more difficult position.  she will now be blamed for costing him his job, even though that may not have been the outcome she wanted.  it has created a higher level of hostility.  i can understand that he no longer feels comfortable in that workplace, but there is no doubt of the impact on the complainant.  even state services commissioner iain rennie said "There are no winners. This is a sad day for the complainant in terms of the impact on them."

one has to wonder, with some of the people being dismissive of the significance of mr sutton's behaviour, whether they are feeling just a little threatened or defensive because they know that their own behaviour might have been upsetting to another person.  a hug isn't always welcome.  just because you are a "touchy-feely" person doesn't mean that the person you are touching is the same.  and yes, the touchy-feely person needs to check that their way of being isn't making other people uncomfortable, because each person has the right to determine how, when and where they are touched.

i've heard that there are more details to be revealed on thursday.  by that time, it may be too late to upset the impression that has been caused by today's reporting.  

Monday, 3 November 2014

rape culture in canada looks very much like rape culture here

[trigger warning for many of the links which describe some pretty violent behaviour]

i had a bit of spare time yesterday, and instead of catching up on my to-do list, i started catching up on my blog reading.  and i came across the rape allegations against a canadian radio broadcaster by name of jian ghomeshi.  if you haven't heard about the case, there's a detailed backgrounder here

short version: mr gomeshi runs a very successful radio show on canadian broadcasting corporation (CBC).  friday week he gets suspended.  last sunday he got fired.  he does a pre-emptive facebook post, trying to explain away a newspaper article he knows is going to be published about his violent sexual & physical assaults (the freelance reporter has been in contact with him over several months).

in the initial articles, four women tell their stories of harrowing encounters, anonymously.  they choose to remain anonymous because they fear the public backlash, they know that mr gomeshi is in a position of power & has considerable wealth, and they also have BDSM discussions via text that they know will be used by people to dismiss the stories.  it's as if they are perfectly aware of the way society treats women who come into the public eye retelling their experience of sexual assualt.

oh wait, there is a woman who did in fact tell such a story about mr ghomeshi, without revealing his name but giving enough details for people to identify him. and here is what happened to her:

“In the days that followed, Ciccone received hundreds of abusive messages and threats. An online video calling her a ‘scumbag of the Internet’ has been viewed over 397,000 times.”

i'd recommend clicking through to read the full article for examples of what has been happening to other women, particularly in relation to #gamergate.

the initial responses were pretty concerning.  last monday (when the canadian star article appeared) and tuesday, there was pretty wide support for mr ghomeshi & some of the fears of the anonymous women were played out.  why didn't they go to the police?  this was all a result of an ex-girlfriend seeking revenge on mr ghomeshi (his own framing in the facebook page).  he is such a nice guy.

but by thursday, 4 more women shared their stories via the star.  another woman chose to anonymously share her story in a CBC interview. 2 women give their names when relating their experiences, one an actress, another a lawyer.  a twitter account is found that alleged sexual violence back in april.

finally, after so many other women speak out, there are multiple investigations.  the CBC has launched an independent investigation, since 2 women staff members are amongst those who have come out in public to share stories of sexual harassment.  the police finally announced they were launching an investigation, although to date they haven't spoken to mr ghomeshi nor have they laid charges.  carlton university has launched an investigation as they are concerned about the safety of women students who had field placements at CBC.

mr ghomeshi's PR firm has dumped him as has his agent, and those early prominent supporters are now backtracking and apologising.

so.  the initial reaction is still a concern.  then there is the shaming and harassment of women who make complaints.  as others have stated, questions need to be asked of the CBC who received a sexual harassment complaint several years ago.  how much did they know about his activities, and how much was covered up.  it appears that there were a lot of rumours swirling around about mr ghomeshi, and yet no concrete action was taken.

there is a real concern that these women didn't feel safe enough to come forward with a complaint.  it says a lot about the canadian justice system, it also says a lot about the culture and online harassment (which can quickly turn into real life harassments when the attackers target workplaces & publish home addresses etc).

i can't help but draw parallels with nz and the roastbusters case, along with so many others. the same basic issues are at play here.  in canada, there is some real anger which may result in positive change at a structural level.  we are still waiting for any significant changes to happen here, although i am hopeful that there will some decent educational programmes running in high schools soon.

but we need so much more.


there are few other links that are well worth a read: this is also a good summary of the case; this piece looks at the possibility of narcissism; actually a good piece around the BDSM issues; and john scalzi makes some good points.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Labour leadership: Too many irrelevant judgements

1.  Why is it only the people who aren't straight white men who have a judgement based on something about their identity, something they can't change?

2.  To take the awful ones in order:

  • "Too gay" -  his sexuality is far from the only thing about Grant Robertson.  If this is a reference to the purported concern that New Zealand won't vote for someone who isn't openly heterosexual to be Prime Minister, then the problem is not that Grant is "too gay" but that NZ is too homophobic.  What does "too gay" even mean?  
  • "Too passed it" - nice to mix up the sexism and homophobia with a bit of ageism.  And shouldn't it be "past it"?
  • "Too many teeth" - because we all know that the most important thing about a woman is her appearance.  ARGH!  

3.  King, Ardern and Mallard have not even expressed any interest in running for the leadership.  Yet they get used to portray Labour as more divided than it actually is (which is, it seems, somewhat divided, but not so divided as to actually have 9 different candidates for leader)

4.  Why not Minnie Mouse? ;-)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Carnival time!

The 76th (yes that's right SEVENTY SIXTH!) Down Under Feminist Carnival is up at The Scarlett Woman.  Thanks to those who nominated posts from here, and to Scarlett Harris for collating it all and sharing it.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The secrets that we keep

Note:  Recently I've been watching Downton Abbey, and I'm up to Season 4.  I'm not going to put any spoilers in the post, but there may end up being some in comments, and I wanted to acknowledge upfront what's prompted me to write this.  Content warning for discussion of rape, consent, secret keeping.

As I've aged I've become privy to secrets I was oblivious to.  I discovered, to give but one example, that my family is riddled with adoption stories, some good some not so good.  Every adult in my parents' generation, on both sides of my family, has either adopted a child or had a child adopted, and in one case both.  I'm pretty sure that has all come out now, into the open, but I could well be wrong.  These are stories with their origins in the 1960s, mostly, and some of the people involved are unknown to me or have died, so I'll never know it all.  These aren't secrets anymore, and they were the unacknowledged realities of others, not me.

The difficulty I'm musing on is in relation to the secrets of other people, and how those of us who keep them are obligated, or not, to disclose them.

Take a situation where you're aware that someone is a sexual predator.  You're also aware that the person (or people) who you know they have attacked desperately don't want anyone else to know.  You can shun the predator, exclude them from the realms you control, even let them know that you know.  But without broader disclosure other people will be in danger, the predator is unlikely to realise the horrible error of their ways and seek help, the predator is unlikely to be held accountable, other victims you don't know about may feel isolated and at fault.  You end up keeping a secret for a friend, someone viciously attacked and feeling awful, but that advantages the predator, not least with continuing their heinous activity.

Then of course there is the lack of justice in this country (and most others from what I can see) for situations like this.  If I could put my hand on my heart and say please go to the police if you are raped, they will do a good job, then I would.  But I can't.  And so I can understand the decision of those who don't report, knowing how difficult it would be to do so, especially when the person who has attacked them is in their circle, their family, their workplace.

To disclose a secret that belongs to another robs them of agency, and in cases like the example I've given above, and many others, they have already had power stripped from them, and I don't want to contribute to repeating that experience, even in part.

Silence enables abuse to continue.  Yet speaking out is not without cost, not least for those who have already suffered.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Guestie: No Shame

By Terry Bellamak

Guest Post
It’s been a week since the MyDecision website launched. The response has been surprising and weird. The Dom asked lots of anti-abortion people for comment, though the site is not just about abortion. Most of those folks have tried to frame MyDecision as a ‘name and shame’ operation.

I find that mystifying. What exactly is shameful about having it generally known that you have taken a moral stance?

There are, however, a few possible reasons why a provider might actually feel defensive about ‘conscienciously objecting’.

First, it is impossible for a health care provider to tell a patient he or she will not provide a service on CO grounds without implying that the patient is morally inferior to the provider. That premise may have sounded reasonable back in 1977 when the law was passed, but in 2014 it’s just bizarre. Who thinks like that anymore?

Second, the way CO is applied here in New Zealand, the patient’s interest in getting care is sacrificed to the provider’s interest in leaving out the parts of their profession they find objectionable. Think about it. You make an appointment, ask for a service, the doctor tells you no. The doctor is not required to refer you to someone else, so you may have to start the process of finding a doctor and waiting for an appointment all over again, but you may be a few dollars poorer if you just paid for a consultation in which you received nothing of value. The doctor benefits but the patient pays the freight. How is that fair?

I would feel embarrassed if my exercise of conscience insulted and burdened my patients, so maybe CO health care providers feel that way too. If so, MyDecision can help. We have a page especially for providers who agree that ethical CO requires disclosure. Providers can put their names on the voluntary list, along with what services they do and do not provide. This list exists to support ethical CO providers who agree that the status quo is unfair.

Even providers who do not report themselves are not criticised. They are listed without comment. Patients need this information to avoid wasting their time and money on providers who won’t give them the services they need. I have yet to hear a convincing argument why patients should be kept in the dark about health care providers’ CO intentions.

The site’s ultimate purpose is consumer protection.

Some coverage so far:
Marlborough Express: Health Website Not 'Sinister'

Thursday, 21 August 2014

National party alleged rape culture

TW: Discussion of rape culture. Cross posted from my own blog.

In all the anger about the revelations in Nicky Hager’s book, I’ve seen massive discussions and posts about the SIS, Judith Collins’s toxic behaviour, and the various systems of corruption visible in the transcripts.
Mainstream media has been transfixed on Cameron Slater, Kim Dotcom, and the Key personalities involved (capitalisation and pun intended). There have been angry ripples through the left wing and feminist blogosphere, but I’ve been saddened to see that neither the mainstream media nor the right wing feminists picking up on this particular piece of revoltingness.

thanks to @boganetteNZ for the image

If we cast our minds back to the roast busters case where the entire nation was in an uproar (rightly so) because of the rape culture of our young people, Prime Minister John Key condemned the alleged actions of the Roast Busters gang as"extremely disturbing and disgusting behaviour".
"I guess, as a parent, I find the issue very disturbing and abhorrent really.”
"I mean, you are talking about youngsters who are at a very delicate age."
"These young guys should just growup,"

Just to clarify, a grown man knows that young people are vulnerable.
A grown man wants kids to “grow up” and presumably grow out of the toxic rape culture they seem to be embracing.
And what are some of the fully grown adult male supporters of the national party doing?
Deliberately getting young women drunk and pointing out “easy targets” for other National party supporters.
National party; these are your men, your party, your culture. This is your problem.
The fact that someone allegedly sent this email means that they feel so comfortable with the idea of what they are planning to do they were happy to write it down. Comfortable with seeing women as a faceless commodity. Comfortable with the idea that they have the right to compromise the sobriety of women, and deliberately pass “references” on to a group of men.
This comfort means that the rape culture is pervasive, it is normalised, and it is persistent.
Mainstream media, PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME how all of a sudden this rape culture isn’t news worthy? Explain to me how, once the perpetrators are adults, and affiliated with our leading political party – THIS ISNT NEWS??

Young Nats, please talk to your friends. Check in, ensure they are ok.
If you think you have been a target, please consider seeking help or support around this. At the bottom of this post are some resources you can use without having to report officially, if you aren’t ready to take that step yet.
A toxic rape culture isn’t a single individual.
At no point in this scenario are the targets to blame. They are at their own party event.
They are among people they look up to and need as mentors and leaders.
The idea that they are being used by these men and treated with such disrespect makes me feel sick.

Find a sexual support centre near you at the Rape prevention education website “get help” page.

Wellington rape crisis
(04) 801 8973

Auckland Sexual Abuse Help
PO Box 10345 Dominion Road
Crisis 24 hrs: 09 623 1700
Fax: 09 623 1296

Hamilton Rape and Sexual Abuse Healing Centre
PO Box 1560, Hamilton
Phone: 07 839 4433
Fax: 07 839 4422

Whangarei Rape Crisis
72 Robert St, PO Box 913, Whangarei
Phone: 09 438 6221
Fax: 09 548 6779

Sunday, 17 August 2014

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga.

It’s been a long time in the making, but today marks the public launch of a new web project aimed at informing people about health care professionals who object to or refuse to provide reproductive health services, like contraception, abortion, non-directive and non-biased counselling, pharmacy products and so on.

Called My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga the site grew out of failed efforts to get the people who should be doing the job of keeping patients informed, such as the Medical Council of New Zealand, to do it. There’s a lot of background about the long road travelled on this issue here in Aotearoa New Zealand over at Alranz’s blog, but this is broader than abortion rights (and not an Alranz project, though they’re supporters. By way of probably obvious disclosure, I’m involved in this project).

Below, you’ll find the media release that went out this morning, and at the end of this post, a couple of interesting links to recent discussion about the issue of conscientious objection/refusal to treat/conscientious obstruction (supporters of reproductive justice are coming up with some interesting ways of describing whatever this is).

We hope people will spread the word across social media, networks, etc. There are some downloadable fliers on the site itself. And, of course, let the site know about providers who object.

My Decision. Kei a au te Whakataunga.

MEDIA RELEASE                                                    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
17 August 2014


A new grassroots project aimed at sharing information about doctors and other medical professionals who hinder reproductive health-care access because of moral or religious reasons is being launched today online.

Called My Decision/Kei a au te Whakataunga (, the project invites people seeking services like contraception or abortion to report any experiences of hostile or unhelpful health professionals to the website.

But the site is not just for patients. My Decision spokesperson Terry Bellamak said organisers were also inviting doctors and others who “conscientiously object” to some services to list what options they do and do not offer.

“From the standpoint of consumer protection, it makes no sense to keep potential patients in the dark about their health care providers’ intentions. ‘Conscientious objectors’ who agree can demonstrate their good faith by registering on our site,” she said.

Ms. Bellamak said the project, which has been a year in the making, was sparked in part by the 2010 court judgment that expanded conscientious objection rights of doctors, and the Medical Council’s subsequent decision not to mount a challenge, nor to publish doctors’ conscientious objection status on their website.

Since then, there have been several worrying cases, including one in Blenheim last year, when a woman was denied contraception by a doctor who was reported as saying he didn't “want to interfere with the process of producing life".

“In the spirit of the old ‘Hot and Cold Doctor files’ compiled by women’s health activists in the 1970s, we decided we’d have to do this work ourselves,” Ms. Bellamak said.

Further Reading:

Conscience 'not always a force for good': women seeking contraception or abortion neednurses with 'conscientious commitment', rather than moral objection. by Rose Stewart, in the NZ Nurses’ Organisation Journal.