Sunday, 4 September 2011

In praise of mothers who don’t think child abuse is funny

Trigger warning – please be careful with this post – it is deliberately provocative.

Imagine this. You’re a woman. You live with your partner and your daughter. One night, your partner has gone out to a Christmas party by himself. When he comes home, it’s late, he’s drunk, he fancies a shag, you don’t.

You say “no, thanks” and go to sleep.

In the wee hours of the morning, you wake up. Something’s not quite right. You open your eyes properly and look around. Your beautiful little girl, all of four years old, has jumped into bed with you.

Your partner has pulled down her pyjama pants. He was removed her night-time nappy. He has his mouth where her tiny, four year old genitals are.

You probably shout or scream. You probably grab your daughter and pull her away from him. You probably can’t quite believe what you’ve just seen, and desperately wish you hadn’t. You probably try to control what you want to say and do to him, because you have a little, confused girl in your arms who needs a cuddle, who needs help to put her nappy and pyjamas back on properly.

He says “I was confused, I thought it was you.”

You don’t believe this. You don’t wear nappies to bed. And you had already told him, that night, that you didn’t want to have sex.

Who knows how much you talk about it that night – but you decide you have to report this to the Police. You’re not sure why your partner would lie about trying to do adult sexual things with your daughter, but you don’t want her to be at risk. You don’t know what to believe. Could this happen again? Has he done this before? You don’t know. But you can’t risk your little four year old girl. You talk to people. No one else wants to believe it either.

When you tell the Police, he is furious. He made a mistake, he was drunk, it could happen to anyone. Don’t you care about him? What about his career, he’s a comedian, he makes people laugh, this will ruin everything. He just wants a chance to show you and your daughter how much he loves you. But he has to get a lawyer, because the Police investigate.

It’s in the papers. He tells people that whoever told the Police did it out of spite, to get back at him. It was a genuine mistake, and the report to the Police was malicious, but he’s distancing himself from that bad person now.

The case drags on and on. Even though the court tells reporters they can’t say who you are, who your daughter is, you know everyone knows. Everyone in your lives. They all have opinions about what you should do. Most of them don’t think it’s that big a deal. You don’t want to tell them the details of what you saw, and anyway, you’re not supposed to talk about it.

You might never want to see him again, or you might beg him to go talk to someone professional. Your daughter is behaving differently, crying at night and being very clingy. She doesn’t want to take off her nappy. She wants to see her dad, but she doesn’t want to be alone with him.

You see, over and over again, what you woke up to that night. Flashbacks, other people call it. You feel like you’re there.

The trial is called off for now, because they say they can find no evidence. You don’t understand, doesn’t what you saw count? Doesn’t what your daughter says count?

He tries again. So does his family. Why do we have to do this? Come on now, let’s just forget it and things can get back to normal. Stop making a fuss. He loves you. He loves your daughter. He will never do anything like that again.

You stay strong. Your lawyers stay strong. The trial goes ahead, fifteen months later. The lawyers talk. He doesn’t want to go to prison, and he knows he will if the court believes you and your daughter, if you get to tell them what happened that night.

Your lawyers do a deal. He says he did it, he did try to do sexual adult things with your four year old daughter. He says he is guilty. You don’t have to talk in court after all.

You go back for sentencing. The judge says your partner needs to get back to making people laugh as soon as possible. She said what happened wasn’t so bad, and he had suffered enough, and anyway it wasn’t like real child abuse, because that happens in secret. He doesn’t have to go to prison, or have counselling, or do community work. He is free.

Your life has changed forever. So has your daughter’s. None of this was funny.

UPDATE: With thanks to a commenter - actually, you might know he has done this before. Because he's previously been charged with unlawful sexual connection. This just gets better and better.


Scar said...

That was really well written.

Unknown said...

He "needs to get back to making people laugh as soon as possible."
Ugh--I'm livid! Both this "funny man" and this judge need to be strung up by their heels.

Deborah said...

I was appalled by the endless string of excuses the judge made. It's incredible that even someone who pleads guilty doesn't get convicted.

Julie said...

This is a really amazing post LuddsyJ. So so sad that it can still be written, about current events. Thank you for sharing it.

Foggy in Nelson said...

Thank you for this post. I am so so angry about this case. And do you think the Sensible Sentencing Trust are making a song and dance? Probably not....

Foggy in Nelson said...

Ok so I have to be fair and eat my words with regards to the SST (as much as it pains me). They have advised on their facebook page to write to the Solicitor General to appeal the conviction. Address here:

The Solicitor General
Crown Law Office
P O Box 2858
Wellington 6011

DPF:TLDR said...

"It's incredible that even someone who pleads guilty doesn't get convicted."

I believe technically he was convicted, just not sentenced to any punishment. The term for this is 'convicted and discharged'.

Deborah said...

A judge has cited a well-known comedian's talent as one of the reasons she discharged him without conviction.

It's the first paragraph of the story that LJ linked to. Talent helps comedian get off sex act charge

Brett Dale said...

Judge Philippa Cunningham must go, she has a history of treating so called celebs differently.

Her statement, that he makes people laugh was disgusting.

A Nonny Moose said...

I'm still so very angry about this. How can that judge have absolutely no empathy for the victim and the mother?

It's moments like this that I despair for humanity.

LudditeJourno said...

It is fury inducing, isn't it? Thanks Foggy in Nelson for the address to contact with complaint.

Terry said...

I have a different take on this. My partner has parasomnia, she sleep walks quite often, and also has what we call "sleep sex" with me. I’ve woken up to her preforming oral, and she really is asleep! I actually have to wake her up…… and then we carry on from there ;) it seems to happen more often after she’s been drinking, but not always.

People can do some strange things when they “sleep walk” I could tell some funny stories and some scary ones as well. Once my partner phoned her parents at 3am had a conversation with them went back to bed and didn’t remember a thing.

So I’m thinking that maybe it happened like he said it did & he honestly thought it was his wife. In another time we would have assumed that is exactly what happened. Presumably the judge would have had a psychiatric report indicating a tendency to parasomnia but little or no tendency to paedophilia, before making the decision to discharge without conviction. However I’m totally against being famous (or infamous as most celebs are) being a reason for being let off.

On a slight aside, we have children and have always had a rule, NO children sleep in our bed. If necessarily we will sit or sleep with them in their room, but they never sleep in our bed.

LudditeJourno said...

Terry, if your example was relevant here, then I would have expected the comedian would have discussed this with his partner, and like you, they might have set up some strategies to manage risk around it.
They clearly didn't.
I'm going to stay with my take on this.

Terry said...

Actually I think my experience is relevant. “Judge Cunningham said a report from a forensic psychiatrist found that the man had previous episodes of "unusual behaviour" after going to bed drunk. The report said it was possible he was "not fully awake" when he performed the indecent act.” I tend to believe this is the most probable answer to what actually happened. Unfortunately it doesn’t make for outrageous headlines.

My partner & I have to live with her parasomnia, it can make for some funny anecdotes, and sometimes it can be scary, but mostly it’s a pain.

LudditeJourno said...

Terry, again, if that is what had happened in this case, I'm not sure the story would have been quite the same. Let's leave it at that shall we.
This is not a funny anecdote.

Terry said...

I guess it’s debatable if parasomnia could be a defence against a criminal charge such as this, or a mitigating factor at sentencing; which is what appears to have happened in this case.
The odds are that if this guy was a paedophile, there would have been indications of this in his psychiatric report, however it appears to have come back indicating some form of parasomnia. I’m sure any indication of this guy being a paedophile would have resulted in a conviction & jail time. My experience is that these reports are very detailed and there is a lot of presentencing information that the judge, defence & prosecution are privy to that the public is not. A good reporter would know this and would have conveyed it in the report; but I guess the facts are not sensationalist enough.

Maia said...

Thanks so much for this Ludditejourno - I know that it can take so much just to follow the facts of a case like this - thank you for communicating them so clearly.

I just want to respond to a couple of the ridiculous defences people have raised.

It does not matter that he is not 'a paedophile'. The fact that he wasn't turned on by sexually assaulting a child doesn't change the fact that he sexually assaulted a child. It doesn't change her reality or her mother's. That is why a perpetrator centred view of sexual assault is so dangerous.

What I think is generally invisible in and ludditejouno has done a great job of bringing out - is that his defence basically amounts to I thought I was sexually assaulting my wife not my daughter. His wife had actively refused consent - even by his account and if you think his account matters - it is an account of sexual assault.

LudditeJourno said...

I'd say the defences for child sexual assault in New Zealand are becoming increasingly sensationalist too. We have the "there is semen on the little girl's underwear because they got mixed up in the wash" excuse, used for a child whom died after, it was alleged, being raped to death
before this, after all.

Terry, first you were interested in this because your wife has a sleeping disorder which leads to "funny anecdotes". Now you know a lot about psychiatric reports in child abuse cases. I'm a bit confused about your position here. Do share.

Finally, the use of the word to paedophile to talk about "really bad child abusers", not what x did, is very very problematic. Most sexual abuse of children happens by men who are sexually active with adults. In other words, men who present as "normal" in many other life circumstances. The fact that the comedian sexually assaulted the little girl is not disputed, even by him.

Psycho Milt said...

Terry, first you were interested in this because your wife has a sleeping disorder which leads to "funny anecdotes". Now you know a lot about psychiatric reports in child abuse cases. I'm a bit confused about your position here.

What's confusing? He's written about his experience with parasomnia, suggested this incident could be an example of it, and linked to a newspaper report with information that suggests it's a possibility. You may find it an unlikely explanation, but there's nothing remotely confusing about it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much LJ - beautifully written.

As for Terry - here's a tip. If you admit the crime, if you say "yes I committed an offence" then your argument about parasomnia is irrelevant. That is not how this happened, and the "comedian" admitted that.

If the judge discharged without conviction on the basis that the case failed the old mens rea test, that he was no aware he was committing a crime, we'd have a whole different story. It would still be shocking, it would still be devastating for the child and her mother, but legally, the charge would be questionable.

But the reasoning for the discharge without conviction is nothing short of appalling.

And funny fucking anecdotes?? I am sure the little girl will say in years to come "Hey this will make you laugh - when I was a kid my daddy tried to fuck me". Yeah - we'd all get a hoot out of that.

And of course, as Maia points out, there is the issue of he attempted to sexually assault his wife. She said "No" but he went ahead and did it anyway. He has admitted this as well, but I believe there is no charge for attempted sexual assault. There is precedent for intoxication not being a defence.

I still feel sick when I read about this case.

Acid Queen said...

I can't believe this. This man deserves to be in jail.

We need harsher jail sentences for rapists. We're too soft on them.

LudditeJourno said...

Psycho Milt,
my confusion relates to this from Terry:
"My experience is that these reports are very detailed and there is a lot of presentencing information..." in relation to psychiatric reports used in child abuse cases. I'm keen to know what his experience of this is, because his original issue was to do with sleeping disorders, not expert knowledge of child abuse cases.
I'm not confused over Terry's hypothesis in other words - just what else might be informing it.

Marty Mars said...

Thank you for writing this.

I can't get my head around the attitude of the judge - it is so wrong.

Keeping Stock said...

Outstanding post Ludditejourno. I most certainly hope that the Crown DOES appeal against the decision to discharge The Comedian without conviction. Surely, the safety of the child should be the overriding consideration in this case, not ehether or not the defendant is talented, funny or remorseful. He does not dispute that offence took place, and therefore he should carry the stigma by way of a conviction.

Keeping Stock said...

@ Hugh (Sun 1.10pm) - that's the issue here; he was NOT convicted and discharged. He was dicharged WITHOUT conviction. There will be no stain on his record, officially, at least. Fortunately, enough people know his identity to ensure that he will never work professionally in New Zealand.

DPF:TLDR said...

The reason I thought he hadn't been convicted is that this post says "You go back for sentencing..."

This made me think he was convicted, because if somebody isn't convicted, there was no sentencing.

Keeping Stock said...

@ Anon 4.33pm

A friend of the accused told Sunday News the man had said to mates there was nothing to the incident and police were notified out of spite by someone who was "out to get him".

Each of Ludditejourno's links substantiate the comments she has made. The above is one example.

Peter Jenkins said...

Thank you for this Ludditejourno, this expresses beautifully how I feel about this. I was speechless. And now I have found from Kiwiblog that this is NOT his first offence!!

"The man has previously been charged with unlawful sexual connection and escaped conviction in that case too, Edridge said"

Peter J

Maia said...

Moderating hat on: I have deleted a couple of anonymous comments (whose subject matter can probably be deduced from the replies). This has been linked quite widely. If you want to comment please stick to our moderating guidelines.

Anonymous said...

Dear Terry,

I too have parasomnias. And if they ever ended up with me sexually assaulting someone, you can believe the first thing I would be doing is getting medical help, and staying the fuck away from anyone I could hurt until I could be certain it would never happen again - not saying "well tehehe, won't this make an amusing anecdote"

I was disturbed enough when I woke up having hopped into bed with my flatmate, despite nothing inappropriate happening.

Also - Paedophilia is not the same as child abuse. Paedophile or not, he sexually assaulted a child.

LudditeJourno said...

Ta Maia.

Curious said...

The news reports keep referring to the ex-girlfirend and her four year old daughter receiving counselling for their trauma. Can anyone explain how one counsels a four year old?

Clap clap clap said...

I like the bit where we insinuate people with different perspectives and opinions are closet child sex abusers.

Clap clap clap said...

I like the bit where we insinuate people with different perspectives and opinions are closet child sex abusers.

H Stewart said...

Thank you. You have expressed my outrage far better than I ever could.

Foggy in Nelson said...

@Curious, using play therapy, provided by trained child counsellors. I know of a 4 year old who has received this.

Anonymous said...

The guy actually pleaded guilty after the original charge of unlawful sexual connection was dropped and replaced with a lesser charge. The Crown agreed that he should not be imprisoned. I am not sure the Crown would do this if it thought he'd committed oral sex on his daughter. But maybe the commenters here know more than those intimately involved with this case.

Boss lady said...

He "needs to get back to making people laugh as soon as possible."

I'm not laughing.... are you?

anthea said...

Thanks for this, Luddsy - I really appreciated not just how well written this post was, but that the focus was on the people who really matter in all this, which is sometimes so hard to do.

Someone said to me a number of years ago, just imagine what women could have done had they not had to spend so much time recovering from abuse. And as any kind of political analysis this doesn't hold up - women do awesome things anyway, and the horrificness of sexual violence isn't based on the creativity or potential achievement of the person who goes through it. But even so, every time I hear someone excuse or diminish sexual assault on the grounds that the perpetrator is creative or talented or whatever, I think about that and it still makes me cry.

Anonymous said...

no excuses says
there are enough people fighting to save perps, you may think otherwise but the truth is that we all find the ugly reality easier if its excused away and we can continue living in denial. the reason people get away with things is because there is not enough force pushing the other way. I was on a jury and I was the only one who believed the girl....THE ONLY ONE! write for an appeal WRITE WRITE WRITE.

Nicki Jonas said...

O.k so I've only just found out about this. I am enraged and appalled. I am going to write to the Solicitor General. Are other's writing out there?

How was the action on the 12th Sept?

A further action could be to heckle any future events that this creep rapist appears in, should he ever show his face again.

LudditeJourno said...

Hi Nicki,
yes, I think people have been writing to the Solicitor General and to the Judge concerned, Phillippa Cunningham, directly as well

Go for it.