Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Cameron Slater please stop

Recently there have been four high-profile people charged with serious assault/sexual assault crimes, who have all received name suppression:
  1. "Well-known entertainer", who pushed a woman's face into his crotch - he pled guilty and has permanent name suppression. We decided not to name this person back in November.
  2. "Olympian", who is alleged to have raped and assaulted a woman - case yet to be heard
  3. "Well-known comedian", who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a girl - case yet to be heard
  4. "Ex-MP", who is alleged to have sexually assaulted a girl - case yet to be heard
Cameron Slater has now publicly breached, using not so cryptic methods, three out of four of the suppression orders suppressing the identity of the accuseds.

Now in cases Two, Three and Four the facts released by the court make it clear that the victims have a familial relationship with the accused. And that the reason for the name suppression for the accused is to protect the identity of the victim, not the accused. These are not victimless crimes. They are crimes of the most heinous variety, and if the allegations are true* then the victims have faced significant violation and no doubt feelings of shame and blame already. I'll quote what Maia wrote on that subject a couple of weeks ago:
As a feminist one of the things I'm fighting for is a world where victims of sexual violence don't need automatic name suppression. Where there is no shame in being abused, just being abusive. But we are so far from being there.

If the rumours I have heard about the identity of the comedian who sexually assaulted a girl (who also has name suppression because of the identity of his victim) and the identity of the Olympian are true then there are political points to be made about both of them. There are points to be made about the nature of rape culture, and the way women's lives are prioritised. But the only way to make those points is to name the abuser, and therefore out the person they abused. Political arguments about rape must never be made if you have to tread on victims of abuse to do so.
How much worse will they feel with the knowledge that their private hell is now public, and that while you or I might not be able to work out who the victims are, because we don't know those families, certainly everyone who actually knows them will.

To illustrate I was thinking about what would happen if I was accused of sexually abusing Wriggly. I would get automatic name suppression because of the close relationship and the fact that if I was named as facing these charges everyone who knows our family, even just a little bit, would be able to establish that the victim was indeed the Wriggly One.** What would life then be like for him, and for his father who would no doubt have to deal with all the questions, with people taking sides without knowing the facts, with the pitying looks in the street, with offers of support, with interminable calls from the media, with the possibility of photographers following you around? What would it be like, dealing with the fall out of a serious accusation within a family, and with the actuality of that violation, and then to feel that everyone around you knows, every time you walk into a room and people go quiet it's about you?

Cameron Slater seems to think that he is somehow striking a blow for victims' rights by breaching these suppression orders. He claims that victims of sexual abuse have contacted him in support of his actions. He does not say whether any of the victims in these cases have done so, but I suspect if they had he would have told us that too.

We've had a bit of a discussion recently about the keeping of secrets about abuse, and who has rights about disclosure. I wrote in comments there:
By keeping such secrets we often allow abuse to continue, or happen again, yet to disclose the abuse of another is perhaps to further violate them by taking even that power from them.
I don't believe that Cameron Slater is giving power to the victims in these cases, nor do I believe that is his intention, although it might be a justification he is using now. I think he is trying to build power for himself. And that's a cynical abuse of very real situtations for actual real people.

Readers may also be interested in this post at The Standard.

* I know we have a presumption of innocence in our legal system, and I broadly support that. However when a woman or girl, or man or boy for that matter, are prepared to take allegations of this nature to a police force that doesn't have the best track record itself, in a society where the reaction to accusations of sexual abuse and rape is too often "He wouldn't do that, he's a nice guy, you're lying", then my personal opinion tends towards giving the benefit of the doubt to the victim.
** Slater has argued that breaking the suppression order on Case Four, which he did yesterday, does not identify the victim because they have a different last name from the accused. That's just crap. Wriggly has a different last name from me, but that wouldn't stop anyone who knew our family from working it out.


Hugh said...

Julie, your example doesn't really illustrate the point - you're saying we should be mindful of the consequences for the victims, and then you pose a hypothetical where you are the (alleged) abuser, not the victim. I can certainly understand how hard it would be for you and your partner to cope with people thinking you'd abused your child, but how is that relevant to yours (and Maia's) argument, that it's the victim we should be concerned for?

Julie said...

Hugh, I didn't talk at all about the consequences for me as a hypothetical abuser, it was all about what it would be like to be the victim, and/or the other partner in that situation. Not sure how you read otherwise...

Brett Dale said...

I think Cameron's point is that people who are well known get name supression and people who aren't don't.

It's going to be a trickey case for the Police to win, because Cameron didn't actually name anyone.

It will be the first time in History that someone got found guilty for what is in someone else's mind.

He puts a picture up on his blog,and someones guesses a name, well I dont think he can be found guilty of breaking name suppression.

BTW, I have been to his blog once and wont go again.

Michael said...

The most recent one is pretty unambiguous, though. There's no guessing, it's an outright statement. The only real defence would be that it's all a coincidence, but that just isn't credible.

Cactus Kate said...

Julie, while I understand your concern regarding children - if you look at the post I did last night, the Herald on Sunday did more to identify the accused AND the child with it, than Whaleoil's binary post that needed de-coding.

As for finger pointing and the way you would feel in your community, well that's a local thing and if you live in Nelson based on the HOS article you should be able to work out who it is.

So what's more damning, binary code on a blog read by a few thousand people or Meng-Yee's article in the HOS read by 5hundred+ thousand?

In this circumstance I don't think name suppression law actually protected the child at all.

The MSM have been running cute ways to identify people getting round suppression orders for years. But when Cameron does it, all of a sudden you are outraged? Why? It is more a hatred of him personally than a rational application of the ideas he is trying to promote discussion and change of.

Julie said...

There may be a point around the media dances around name suppression. It occurs to me that Slater makes an excellent stalking horse for them - they want to see an end to suppression orders and this way they have someone else running the argument for them. Frankly I think it's all pretty icky. I think in a lot of crime reporting we have lost sight of what "in the public interest" means, but that's a matter for another post.

Generally I ignore Slater and his blog. But this name suppression stuff is in the mainstream media, it's doing real harm to real people (including the victims Slater is purporting to support), and that's the kind of stuff I often write about. Cameron is hardly the only person I've criticised in my blogging history, so why the sudden outrage from you about my post? I don't see any hate in my post, interesting that you are reading some in...

Cactus Kate said...


Outrage from me? That wasn't me being outraged. There was no personal insults, no invective and no cries of pinko. That was a quiet considered response - as are all my responses on Handmirror as I know you all get upset otherwise.

Point is, lets say left-wing darling Russell Brown was fronting the campaign, would the outrage against him be so a) personal (read what The Standard are doing), b) political and c) concerted from the left?

Because I know I would be supporting the cause not the personality.

Cactus Kate said...

Getting back to the issue, do you think that the name suppression laws in these cases actually protect the child allegedly harmed in the first place?

So what if someone in Auckland knows the name of the child, they won't be ever meeting the child.

And local people in Nelson will all know who this is anyway so the child will be facing the social stigma (if any) locally with or without suppression of the accused's name.

Julie said...

Re the outrage Cactus, I was merely asking you the same question you asked me. I note you didn't respond about the hate stuff.

If Slater had breached the suppression order in the first case alone, where there was no risk of identifying a victim or potentially putting a trial at risk, and campaigned based on that then I would have considered supporting that campaign actually. Don't know about the other writers here, that's their own call.

But Cameron is treating all suppression orders around celebrities as if they are equally without merit, and I don't agree with that. I wouldn't agree if it was Russell Brown saying it either.

As for everyone in Nelson knowing who it is anyway, do they? Would those who do know have found out without the media dances, which have been much prolonged as a result of Slater's actions?

And fundamentally, what benefit does naming the accused bring to the victim and those supporting the victim? Sadly, in our current society I suspect any benefits would be significantly outweighed by the cons. As I pointed out in my post, quoting Maia, it would be great if the victims of sexual abuse, domestic violence and rape didn't face nastiness, and I hope to contribute to building that society in the future, but it doesn't exist here and now.

Apathy Jack said...

I'm confused about something to do with this Cameron Slater chap; maybe someone here can help me with it.

I haven't read his blog before, but due to all the attention, I checked it out. He has a post where he says he's all for whaling. That's fine, he's more than entitled to his opinion. However, his claim to being objectively right on this issue is a quote from the Bible.

That means (how to put this diplomatically?) that he is stupid and nothing he says is valid, relevant or correct.

What I'm wondering is this: why do people read his blog? Why all the attention?

Anonymous said...

"I think Cameron's point is that people who are well known get name supression and people who aren't don't." The people he is naming have automatic name suppression to protect their victims. It has nothing to do with 'well known' people. He's just trying to get blog views. And he's exploiting the victims of sexual abuse to do it.