Is there anything more disheartening than hearing about women who aren’t on their own side? You know the ones I mean. They post pictures on tumblr holding placards explaining why they apparently do not need feminism, like this one:

Image Source

Image Source– Yep, in America, where they have just imprisoned a woman for losing a pregnancy. No oppression there.

It’s hard to read accounts of women against feminism- many of whom don’t seem to know what feminism means or how they stand to benefit from it. Some absolutely agree with the meaning of feminism but have a negative association to the word. I think that’s a shame but I think that on some level, we are still on the same side. We want women to be equal to men in society; we want safety,  respect, dignity and opportunity for all women.

It is harder still to read about women being violently attacked. It scares me; both as a woman and a mother. And it infuriates me because, like anyone, I hate to feel powerless. In Australia, we have already lost 31 women to violence this year alone. Of those 31 women, 20 were killed by members of their own families. Others were attacked by strangers and in some of the cases charges are yet to be laid.

It’s hard to swallow our PM and Minister for Women saying it is an urgent matter, then doing nothing about the closures of services to women in domestic violence situations. Violence against women seems to be a buzz word to this government- something they will discuss and make noise about- but are slow to act on.

What is also hard to swallow is the actions and words of women who seem oblivious to this problem.

In particular, I’m talking about a Mayor in an affluent area in Sydney.

Mayor Sally Betts of Waverley came under heavy and well deserved criticism for writing a character reference for a young man going to court on criminal charges. She praised his good, kind nature and urged the judge to consider a non-custodial sentence and suggested he instead work off his debt to society in an education program, facing the public.

The young man she was talking about has been sentenced to 5 years in prison and here is why.

He met an 18 year old woman in a night club owned by his father, invited her to a VIP area and instead took her to an alley behind the club where he sexually assaulted her.

He added her name to a list on conquests. He text messaged a friend about how he “took a chick’s virginity”. He has robbed this young woman of her trust in others; her sense of self.

And the Mayor wanted him, as a convicted sex offender, to escape imprisonment and instead work with the public? In an education program? What would he teach them? That being a young male from an extremely privileged background meant you could commit rape and avoid gaol? He acknowledged his own inflated sense of power and entitlement at court- I don’t see how letting him escape a custodial sentence would do anything except maintain that. I’ve since learned that she intends to have him speak to other young men about how raping someone ruined his life and impacted his family. As Nina Funnell points out here, Mayor Betts wants to use this convicted rapist to teach others about “how rape affects men”. 

She was not the only person to write him a character reference, but justice should not be served on a who-you-know basis anyway and I’m still so appalled that anyone, let alone a female in an authoritative position, defended this man and is so unapologetic about it.

It gets somewhat worse when you read about her next project. She has told her local paper that she intends to work with the Waverley Action for Youth Services on “a new risky behaviour education program to try and help young women understand and better deal with being in vulnerable situations.”

On the very surface, I can see how someone might say “Hey, what’s wrong with teaching women how to be safe?” and the answer to that is nothing at all. The problem lies in the fact that we want to teach young women to be safe from men that might attack them but we don’t seem to want to do anything to prevent these men from being predators in the first place. Where is their education program? Or are men incapable of controlling themselves and discerning a yes from a no?

In court, I read that Lazarus defended himself by saying that his victim did not scream, physically resist or say no. Here’s a starting point for an education program: It involves actually saying YES. Saying yes without coercion, without fear, without intimidation and without threats. “Yes” is not our default setting in anything, ever. Would you give someone a tattoo without their explicit consent? Would you pull out their tooth out without a definitive ‘yes’? Would you so much as style someone’s hair without being sure that they wanted you to? Sex is no different and this young man has gone to prison seemingly without understanding that.

As many have pointed out, Betts’ proposed program reeks of victim blaming and thankfully, WAYS have distanced themselves from the idea, saying they do not endorse victim blaming and it is not a way in which they would try to help young people.

Cr Betts advocated for a sexual offender to avoid prison and work in the community and now wants to educate young women on avoiding these same men. I think the logical inconsistency there is pretty clear. Destroy the Joint have put out a call to action, asking people to email Cr Betts and other council members about this issue. Hopefully if enough people do, she will really think about her views and consider, perhaps, being on her own side.

maya

 

Linking up for Weekend Rewind

  

Like it? Share it!
  • Amy this is brilliant – compelling as always! I’d missed this about Cr Betts, will check out the Destroy the Joint campaign now and get on board.

  • Fuming…. This whole case and the focus on HIS LIFE and the impact this has had on HIM makes me want to scream. Loudly.

    • It’s infuriating! These people couldn’t care less about the poor woman he attacked!

  • This is a great post! An educational program directed at some men (I say some because it is unfair to tarnish all with the same brush) would be so beneficial,because it is obvious that these values are not being taught in the home. I hate the fact that I have to tell my girls to be home by a certain time, not to walk or catch public transport after dark, I hate the fact that I have to think that there are certain people out there that wish them harm, just because they are girls. It’s a fact that men are generally stronger than women (physically at least) and it’s awful that we have to take that into account when we live our daily lives.

    • PS giving you are share on FB too..loved it..

    • No it of course is not all men- those speaking out against it are not part of the problem 🙂 it’s tough when you have daughters to think of too

  • Wonderfully written, I so over all the victim-blaming at the moment.

    • You’re in good company there. The anger is really building among many women.

  • Natalie @ Our Parallel Connect

    I love the line – YES is not a default setting.. this is so true. Too often this excuse is used. It begins at home parenting our children. Both sexes need to be taught – yes means yes and no means no (not maybe or ok or if you push me enough).

    • Exactly. I firmly believe enthusiastic consent should be taught in schools!

  • I could scarcely believe the array of character witnesses willing to stand up for him in the face of his actions. It says a lot about what money and influence can buy.

    • Apparently his priest was just appalled at the sentence. So disgraceful.

  • Brilliant post as always Amy. Sick and tired of all the victim blaming and the education for women to protect themselves. Sure I can try and protect myself from a man trying to assault me but why isn’t anyone telling that man to NOT assault me in the first place?

    I read the article on Cr Betts only this morning and was appalled. Didn’t know she was also one of the few people writing a reference for Lazarus. Disgusting.

    • Thanks Sanch.
      It’s such a simple concept isn’t it? Teach men not to attack people. Easy. Right!

  • Stand Down Sally

    Brilliant post and well pulled together on a number of levels. There is a page to do something about it and we have added your excellent article along with many many others. Sally Betts should not continue to represent our community https://www.facebook.com/standdownsally

    • Thanks so much, have liked your page as well 🙂

  • TeganMC

    Brilliant post as always. I just can’t fathom what is going through this woman’s head to think that what she did is ok. It’s like the case in the US of the footballers who gang raped a young woman and she received death threats because she was ‘ruining their lives’ by pursuing charges.

    • Oh yes and the media over their lamenting the poor young men’s sporting careers. Disgraceful.

  • unbelievable! I hadn’t heard about this (I’m living in Germany now) but am seriously disgusted.

  • Urgh. I don’t know what else to say. Great post. Your third last sentence nails the whole issue. Just. Disgusting.

  • Lilly Mary

    I have been struggling with these issues all week (if not my entire life – but this week felt overwhelming). It just needs to stop. The violence, the making women responsible by suggesting we moderate our behaviour, the blame, the lack of interest in equality and respect, the thought-terminating cliches that stop conversation and change. It just has to stop.

  • Shows how certain parts of society view and value women, doesn’t it?

  • Such a well written article. I once heard there was a study done where they asked what men and women feared most about going on a first date. Women’s biggest response was being raped and killed and Men’s biggest fear was being rejected. That is a pretty big discrepancy between fears right there and I can totally relate to it. My husband accidentally took me down a wrong (dark ally) on our first date. When I tell the story, people say “weren’t you scared?” They would never ask a man that (and I luckily could tell it was just a mistake on his end).

    I also have NO idea how women can believe in issues that are against their best interests as a woman.

    • Thanks Diana! Yes, I remember reading that too- it speaks volumes, doesn’t it? I met my husband online and when we first met in real life, I had a huge streak of fear about it all- I told him and he got it totally- we met in a very public place and spent hours getting to know each other which was great- but I think he truly had no fear of me (not that he should have- but you know what I mean!)

  • Tash from Gift Grapevine

    The actions of this mayor scare me – I have no words. Your posts regularly make me furious Amy. I’m never furious with you – you are awesome and your posts are so well written. I’m furious with the dodgy ways of the world and how it is going mad!

    • I’m so glad you clarified that! Thank you 🙂 The world is going mad- I guess it’s up to us to be the voices of reason – a scary thought in itself!

  • Brilliantly written. As always. I make an effort to not watch the news or read the papers so I live my life as if under a rock. This is the first I’ve heard of this case and it’s made me feel quite sick. You’ve totally nailed it. It’s not women who need educating, it’s men. Oh, and Cr Betts.

    • It’s not a bad way to live, Sammie! The news is unfortunately pretty bloody depressing!

  • Yes I agree with Tash. Your posts make me feel ill and outraged. The world is going crazy!

    • I’m sorry Pinky! I will try for something light and fluffy soon 😉

  • Oh my goodness. I hadn’t heard this story. It’s horrific, and the way that people protected him – I just can’t understand. There are a number of guilty people here; what about his friends who knew he was doing this and did nothing?!?

  • Jo

    The world has gone mad! It seems the criminals are winners and the innocent are kicked down yet again. That poor young girl.

    • I agree Jo- it’s a terrible state of affairs.

  • Grace

    I really get angry when perpetrators say that the victim didn’t “scream or protest”. Um, it’s called being scared (literally) to death. So scared you can’t even find your voice.
    How Mayor Sally Betts cannot see the wrong is beyond me.

  • I wish I had just a scrap of your articulation! Excellent post Amy. I often live in a bubble at the moment filled with breast feeding and dirty nappies. Maybe that is a good place to be as not to face these people of authority and their stupidity.

  • Oh my goodness, I hadn’t heard of this situation. I find it very hard to believe that these attitudes still exist.