Tuesday, 24 April 2012


i want to start by thanking LJ for her work on organising this week's series of posts on the law relating to sexual violence.  there has been so much work put into this area over the last few years, with submissions called for and a comprehensive report written.  we then had commitment from the outgoing justice minister, simon power, to push for some serious changes to the system.

it's such a pity that the new minister feels no such commitment.  there are so many people affected by sexual violence, and the majority of those don't even dare to approach the justice system.  it's not only because the justice system is so hostile and challenging - in terms of the financial and emotional costs involved - but also because of the wider societal context.  we live in a society that not only judges survivors but also seeks to put more blame on them than the actual perpetrators of the crime.

the social context also includes the fact that the majority of survivors have been violated by someone they know - often someone they know very well or are related to.  the mere fact of disclosing the crime will mean the destruction of some (or many) relationships, and quite often a backlash from those who are related to the perpetrator and who will also suffer emotional and financial loss if that person is properly held to account for their crime.

the survivor know that speaking up could cause a marriage break-up, could mean that children have to grow up without a parent in their home.  the perpetrator could be the major earner for the family, and the resultant loss income can have consequences for the quality of housing, health and education received by dependents.

not only that, but the survivor will have to deal with the grief of those closest to them - the natural grief that occurs when someone close to you has suffered from something that is devastating.  parents, for example, are likely to feel devastated knowing their child (no matter of what age) has been harmed.  on top of that, they are likely to feel guilt arising from the fact that they didn't do enough to protect that child - even though there is no way to keep anyone completely safe.  still, the mind tends towards the notion "if only i had done ..." or "if only i hadn't...", as if the perpetrator wasn't smart enough to work around your safeguards and to manipulate the situation to their advantage.

most survivors know full well the impact on friends and families, and on relationships.  they know they face a huge barrier in convincing others to believe them.  everything about the way society is set up - from our values to our social and institutional structures - make it harder to speak out and to seek justice.

the very least we can do is to change our justice system to make it less hostile, less threatening for survivors of sexual abuse and violence.

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