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.