No excuses

One of the reasons I never practiced criminal law is that I can’t remain objective where rape and sexual assault are concerned. I read a story about an alleged “gang-rape video” and my blood starts to boil. I cannot see that there are any excuses for conduct like that. Now that I am a parent of a young girl, my reaction is even stronger. I am reminded of comments by Armagnac’d a few months back in relation to a similar incident:

Just hand them over to her father, together with a crown-sealed immunity from the A-G. What would be suitable punishment for this? Death? Crippling with an iron bar? Why do these animals disgrace us by sharing our DNA?

There is a broader question, raised in a post by Melbourne high school teacher -k at The Blonde Canadian. While patrolling the schoolyard, she saw two schoolgirls pinning another to the wall, while a third girl was filming it with the intention of distributing it on YouTube. She says it is an increasingly popular phenomenon, and asks:

So why is this becoming so popular? Is it just another rite of passage now that technology has become so familiar, yet another medium in which bullies can humiliate their prey?

Or is it a chance to be part of an increasingly voyeuristic world? Shows such as Big Brother, Survivor and Australian Idol continue to be incredibly popular, all of which use (in part) humiliation to add intrigue and bolster ratings.

I think it’s a bit of both. There will always be bullies and there will always be rapists, unfortunately. But if we have programs like Big Brother, where male contestants “turkey slap” a female contestant or a male contestant exposes himself while massaging a female contestant, this promulgates a notion that this kind of behaviour is somehow okay, and indeed amusing. Why not go that extra step further?

I think companies like YouTube have an obligation to remove any material which shows bullying. As Armagnac’d argues, such things can be policed if companies like YouTube are willing to put the resources into it. It is easy enough to find material on YouTube which potentially shows bullying – just plug in the search terms “school fight”.

I can’t stand reality television because of the element of bullying and humiliation involved. I don’t find it amusing at all, even if the victim is a pain in the neck and allegedly “asking for it”. (NB: This is why I didn’t approve of people laughing at a certain blogger’s dating profile, even though the blogger in question is his own worst enemy in many regards.) Admittedly, I am very sensitive. I even have a phobia of stand-up comedians. I am afraid that the comedian might be unfunny and will humiliate themselves on stage. I never go to anything at the Comedy Festival unless my sister has seen it beforehand and assured me that I won’t feel ill (one show in the last 10 years). I’ve made up all kinds of excuses in the past, but this year I finally confessed about my phobia to some friends. Perhaps it’s related to my fear of clowns? My friends bought a t-shirt for my daughter which says “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me!” and features a clown on the front – very funny, but I can’t actually look at it for more than about 5 seconds. What happens if my daughter wears it? I suspect her beautiful face would erase most of the negative influence of the clown.

Returning to the serious question at hand, I am afraid for my daughter when I read stories like the one above. What kind of a world will she grow up in? I think we have to stand up and say that such conduct is totally unacceptable. I would also like to see more responsibility exercised by the media in relation to bullying (YouTube, television and the like). There is never any situation where rape is “amusing” or “excusable”, and watching a video of it for “amusement” is almost as bad as committing the act itself.

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7 Comments

Filed under criminal law, media, motherhood, sexual offences

7 responses to “No excuses

  1. missv

    In terms of the web, it may be a question of putting together an effective policy for moderating user-generated content. From what I can see, YouTube only moderates AFTER a complaint has been made.

    The BBC seems to have a good editorial policy regarding user generated content.

  2. Legal Eagle

    That is a great suggestion, missv! I like the look of the BBC’s policy.

  3. Law Student

    “this promulgates a notion that this kind of behaviour is somehow okay”

    Well I think the type of behaviour you mention has been accepted by the majority of us. Once at uni, two guys were trying to unclip this girls bra; she didnt seem to mind or anything.

    Another point…

    When I first read about this article, it said the student were from south west sydney. I was 100% sure that they would be lebo muslims. However, Channel 9 then showed the school of these guys which was ‘All Saints Catholic College’.

    If these guys are wogs, which i suspect because of their olive skin, this should be made clear as should their catholicness.

    A good headline…

    ‘Wog Australian Catholics Gang Rape’

  4. Legal Eagle

    Sexual harassment is a thorny issue – just because the girl at uni didn’t seem to mind those guys trying to undo her bra doesn’t mean that she was accepting of it. Perhaps she was horrified, but so shocked she didn’t know what to do or say. Perhaps she was afraid of making a scene or appearing to be a prude.

    If some guy had tried to do that to me, I would have punched his head in…but for some reason no one’s ever tried that with me…perhaps I give out “punch in the head” vibes. I have a friend, however, who put up with terrible harassment at work for a few months because she thought it was “normal” and “didn’t want to look like a prude”. When she finally confessed what was going on, I was horrified. On seeing my horror, she sighed with relief, and said, “So it’s normal to feel upset about your boss pinching your bottom all the time.” She wasn’t accepting of the conduct, but didn’t know how to express her distaste without risking her job. In the end, she left that workplace, thank goodness.

    I was actually wondering what the background of the students was. I presumed that because it wasn’t mentioned they must have been Anglo-Celtic Aussies. You and I have discussed before when the religion of a perpetrator is relevant, and the media’s present preoccupation with Islam. I’m going to set out some of my comments on your blog for other readers…

    I think there are some situations where the fact that an alleged perpetrator is a Muslim may be relevant:

    1. If someone says that they are a Muslim, and behaves in a way which is against Australian law, but alleges that his or her actions are in accordance with a “religious” tradition in their homeland (eg, “honour” killings or female circumcision).

    2. If a person purports to be a devout Muslim, but behaves in a way that is not moral, it may be relevant to mention the hypocrisy of his (or her) actions.

    The same comments apply to any other faith. Otherwise, the faith of an alleged offender is totally irrelevant and it should be left out of the picture.

    So if these guys purport to be devout Catholics or attempt to justify their actions by referring to their faith, that is when faith becomes relevant. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter whether they are Muslim, Catholic or Kalathumpian. If the allegations are true, they are a**eholes.

  5. Iain Hall

    Good post LE which largely mirrors my thoughts on the matter so I have written a plug for it at mine

    Cheers

  6. Law Student

    I do agree with your first point.

    If a person happens or claims to be a devout Muslim and breaks the law, i still dont think his religion should be raised. His religion should only be raised, like you mention, when he claims to have done the criminal act in accordance with his faith.

    Bilal Skaf didn’t purport to be a devout Muslim and he didn’t use Islam to justify his deeds (correct me if im wrong). But him being a Lebanese Muslim was repeated over and over again.

    The point im getting at is if theyre going to mention the faith of one criminal, then mention the faiths of all criminals.

  7. Legal Eagle

    Law Student, to my mind, Bilal Skaf’s religion is incidental, but his country of origin is certainly relevant in order to fully understand the crimes, because of the racist element to them.

    Bilal Skaf was alleged to have taunted his victims about their Australian background. He is said to have called one rape victim an “Aussie pig”, asked her her if “Leb cock tasted better than Aussie cock” and explained to her that she would now be raped “Leb-style”.

    Another victim was said to have been told “You deserve it because you’re an Australian”.

    Skaf also sent a text message to friends saying “When you are feeling down … bash a Christian or Catholic and lift up.” (This is the only way in which his religion is relevant.)

    However, this should not mean that people make racist generalisations about all Muslims or all Lebanese.

    If these alleged camera-phone rapists singled out a particular victim based on race, then their ethnicity and background does become relevant to a full understanding the crime. However, if there was no racist element to the crime, race is not an issue.

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