When the ACT party and other like-minded souls advocate harsher sentencing or a three strikes policy, they tell us it's in the name of victims. They conjure up images of the helpless and the harrowed; people we can show compassion for only by punishing their attackers with great severity.
Who are these victims? Well, they're people like me. I've experienced sexual violence, and so have a great many of the women I know. I've been injured, but I don't think of myself as pitiful or broken. I'm neither helpless nor consumed with hatred. I don't sit about yearning for Garth McVicar to avenge me. And I don't need the likes of ACT peddling sadism in my name.
When my father was a younger man, he was jumped by three guys and badly beaten. Both his legs were broken. He spent months recuperating in hospital, and neither the physical nor psychological scars fully healed, leaving him permanently damaged. I remember his bemusement a few years ago, when Rodney Hide argued that prisoners should no longer be provided with tea and coffee. As well as producing the stunning fiscal saving of $40,000 per year, this measure would teach prisoners that jail is no joyride, said Hide. 'That man's a fool', my father said, shaking his head. Like me, my father believes that making people feel worthless does very little to encourage them to abide by society's values.
It's not just that I believe harsher sentencing won't work. I believe that sentences based on a desire for revenge are fundamentally immoral. They can't be justified by public safety: they may produce the opposite. They set out to degrade the people who receive them, and offer no reparation to those who have been harmed.
Not every victim of crime agrees with me, and I understand and respect how they feel, although I can't support it. What I resent, though, is tougher sentencing campaigners using my unhappiness, or that of others in my situation, to push their own barrow. Those people don't speak for me. I can decide my own ethical stances: being assaulted didn't transform me into a redneck automaton.
I'd like to see advocates of harsher sentences come clean about their motivations. Next time you feel like dressing up your sadistic urges as sympathy for people like me, have a sit down and a nice cup of shut the hell up. This sort of 'compassion' is exactly what I don't need.