Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Provocation and rape and Shortland Street

Here's the scenario:
  1. Kane is a psychotic gang leader.
  2. Kingi is a police informant who has been undercover in the gang.
  3. Tania is a nurse who has had an on-off relationship with Kingi.
  4. Kane and some cohorts kidnap Kingi and Tania.
  5. Our subjects end up at a deserted quarry.
  6. Much mucking around with failed escape attempts ensues.
  7. Kane attempts to kill Kingi.
  8. Kane makes it clear he intends to rape* Tania before killing her too.
  9. Of course the good guys somehow escape death (and rape).
  10. Kane ends up bleeding and semi-conscious on the ground with Tania standing over him.
  11. Kingi wants to leave Kane behind to die or whatever.
  12. Tania insists that she try to help Kane.
  13. Kane tells Tania again that he intends to rape her.
  14. Tania kicks Kane savagely, and repeatedly.
Now ordinarily I don't hold much truck with the defence of provocation. It's part of being a person, a human being, that you control yourself and don't use violence unless in self-defence.

This clearly wasn't self-defence, unless you can be defending yourself after the fact (even the noise the keys make while I type that sounds absurd). Tania was not at any risk from Kane at that moment or in the near future.

I can comprehend the desire to hurt Kane in that situation. I can understand where someone is coming from when they pick a fight with a rapist who hurt someone they love. I can see the rationale of the sexual assault victim who attacks the person who abused them, years after the fact.

I've wanted to hit people, but I haven't. I had a chance once to run over someone I loathed, who at that time I felt was ruining my life and the lives of some of my closest friends, but I didn't push down the accelerator. Afterwards I wondered why, but the truth was I never really considered it, despite my rage against that particular man machine.

I've been very very angry in my life. I was pretty angry this afternoon but I managed not to "lash out" or "lose control". Although I must admit there was a lot of swearing.

Ultimately I don't think violence is the right response, to any provocation. If we make it ok to hit people for some reason then surely we end up going down a slippery slope; trying to work out where the line is between justifiable and not.

Is violence justice? Does retribution work? I think our prisons are full of people who prove the answer is no on both counts.

* I could be wrong, as I didn't watch every tiny bit, but I'm pretty sure the word rape, or any allusion to sex, is absent from the dialogue. It's 7pm family viewing time after all. This is a pretty clear intention, as there are a number of times when a character says something like "And before he killed me he was going to ... (meaningful pause for adult viewers to fill in the gap) it doesn't bear thinking about."


Carol said...

I watched this ep on TVNZ Ondemand when I go home last night (after attending the vigial outside the US consulate for those who have died as a result of Bush's war on terror).

I missed the rape reference, and for some reason my PC screen went blank at the point when Tania overcame the bad guys.

I did see Tania kicking the guy. I thought there was maybe an idea that Tania realised he would come after her in the future when she might be more vulnerable and him more powerful. So she decided to get the boot in while she could or she might regret not taking the opportunity when it was there, to physically disable him.

Later talking to her (ex?) b/f, she did acknowledge she lost it, and lashed out in anger. She said this led her to understand how her b/f had lashed out and hit her in the past. I had mixed feelings about that bit.

That other woman, (Alice?), also had a gun and is taking the blame for killing her ex in a revenge killing, even though we know it was Kieran who arranged the hit on Ethan. But it's a further eg of a woman responding to provocation and being prepared to use violence, even if she didn't in the end.

Hugh said...

Later talking to her (ex?) b/f, she did acknowledge she lost it, and lashed out in anger. She said this led her to understand how her b/f had lashed out and hit her in the past. I had mixed feelings about that bit.

I haven't seen the episode but... it seems that saying that she got angry and lashed out when she shouldn't have, and this makes her understand why others might get angry and lash out when they shouldn't have, is pretty morally consistent. Understanding isn't the same as condoning.

Generally I think we should all do what we can to understand why people do things.

Julie said...

I was really surprised by the discussion Carol has relayed, seeing as how it was Shortie St and all. At first Tania's response to Kingi's shock at her violence was that she wasn't like him, but then later on in the episode she talked about how she could understand when you were under stress and you felt powerless you could become violent.

As Hugh points out there's a difference between understanding why and justifying. I hope the discussion wasn't too subtle for that to come across to viewers.

Dave said...

Within reason I dont have a problem with hitting someone in response to being provoked, of course it does depend on the situation. I have been in a situation where I did have to defend myself, fortunately I knew what I was doing, but I didnt feel like beating the guy to a pulp, which would have been wrong if I had.

Being assulted and or threatened is a very scary experience I can understand and accept someone reacting phisically to violence or threats of violence.

George said...

To echo Hugh, I'd characterise this as expressing that very real human emotion of retribution for the (psychological and emotional) violence he's inflicted on her, and for which he will most likely never be punished for.

Sometimes I think that a 'private prosecution' is actually the right thing in a particular circumstance, where the person in question is beyond the law for whatever reason - the caveat being that it most often isn't.

Carol said...

Julie, I must say I tend to watch Shorty while doing some domestic stuff. I checked the ep again (it's in part 3):


She started saying she thought she had a problem with violence. And she then said that could now see better how people could lash out when they are under stress. But she is also saying she has to deal with her own tendency to get violence when under stress.

Her b/f replied that there was no excuse for violence.

Julie said...

Thanks Carol for going to all that effort! I had missed some of the discussion too and I was pretty much just sitting there on the couch like a lump, the perfect sponge. Alas I am clearly not as super-absorbent as I'd like to think.

Earlier, when they are in the ED, Tania tells Kingi that she's not like him, but then clearly she thinks about it more, as per the conversation you have retold. I guess as a result of her discussion with Yvonne, Maia and Libby perhaps?

Carol's synopsis of the conversation seems like a pretty good It's Not Ok effort from Shortie, imho.