POST 1 Gender Based Violence: The Current Context

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(Kering Foundation, Be Her Voice Campaign, 2015)

A Simple Guide For Being A ‘Perfect’ Sexual Assault Victim By James Ross

This Huffington Post article is written by James Ross who identifies as a researcher, educator and writer. The subject matter of his article is a response to how sexual assault victims are treated in the justice system, however the article is not be read in the literal sense, rather Ross adopts a sarcastic/satirical voice that ultimately expresses how the exploitation of the victim continues after the attack. The title “A Simple Guide For Being A ‘Perfect’ Sexual Assault Victim” is an reflects how victim blaming attitudes are what drives both the mistreatment of victims during their trials and investigation but also what prevents their attackers from the most basic of legal punishment. The satirical voice is consistent throughout the article as Ross instructs everything that a sexual assault victim must do to assure that they achieve justice. However, the tone of the article ends on a pessimistic note as Ross explains that even if a victim were to follow these instructions, that the misogynistic attitudes of the justice system would probably prevail resulting in the attacker leaving the courtroom with minimal or no sentencing. The interpretation of the article leaves the reader frustrated with a greater empathy for sexual assault victims, in turn revealing the subjective nature of the writer’s position towards the issue. Rather than presenting a series of facts and statistics, Ross chooses to instead criticise the sexist ideologies that are behind these issues to engage the reader. Though I find this article to be provocative and profound what perhaps is problematic is that Ross blatantly restricts the intended audience in his first sentence “Look, ladies, it is simple”. Despite that statistically women constitute the great majority of sexual assault victims, this aspect of the article ignores transgender, queer, intersex and male victims of sexual assault.

Ross, J. 2016, A Simple Guide For Being A ‘Perfect’ Sexual Assault Victim, New York City, viewed 28th July 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/james-ross2/perfect-sexual-assault-victim_b_9582656.html

Law & Order: SVU’ Is an Alternative Reality Where Assault Survivors Are Taken Seriously by Alex Hughes

The article is written by Alex Hughes a casual contributor of VICE as a subjective post-opinion piece as indicated in the article tags and the content category “views my own”. Within the first sentence it is quite clear what motivated the Hughes to write this article – the Stanford rape incident, where a college swimmer (Brock Turner) was arrested and found guilty of rape but received a short prison sentence of 6 months. The voice is provocative and frustrated at the injustice that sexual assault victims experience within the operations of the legal system. In the criticism of the harsh reality of this issue, Hughes draws attention to the TV show Law and Order: SVU, where episodes depict victims’ accounts being taken seriously and their protection from victim blaming. This results in their attackers being found guilty and assigned a legitimate prison sentence, a rare occurrence in the reality of the justice system. Hughes’ frustration condemns how it is only in world of crime shows that can ensure that victims are protected and receive justice for the actions of their attackers. The writer’s anger conveys the irrationality that this is seldom the case in our society, however the reference to the TV show makes for a more positive vision of the future of the issue, in that perhaps if society can take note of how SVU writers (though not professionals in the legal system) can create situations where sexual assault victims can attain justice, then perhaps such a TV fantasy can become our reality. Though Hughes position as an analyzer of a pop culture crime show can be taken as unprofessional, the writer supports his views with that of a university professor and a writer who both explore society’s relationships to such shows.

Hughes, A. 2016, ‘Law & Order: SVU’ Is an Alternative Reality Where Assault Survivors Are Taken Seriously, Los Angeles, viewed 28th of July 2016, http://www.vice.com/read/law-order-special-victims-unit-offers-women-justice-and-thats-why-i-love-it

9 Stats About Violence Against Women & Girls You Should Know For Orange Day by Elizabeth Enochs

Elizabeth Enoch is a regular writer for Bustle and has also contributed articles for other online news media sources. The majority of her articles explore gender related issues, ranging from accounts of her personal experiences to informative content and responses. Her article is such a response to a recent campaign launched by UN Women who have declared the 25th day of every month to be Orange Day – a monthly event dedicated to end violence towards women and girls worldwide. Enochs article includes a series of statistics from external sources such as not for profit organizations and independent studies that indicate the both scale and severity of violence against women. In contrast to the articles written by Ross and Hughes, this article explores a more intersectional viewpoint of this issue, revealing the epidemic of violence and sexual assault against women from third world and developing countries and in LGBT and disabled communities. The article content is factual but intended to evoke a stronger awareness and empathy for victims of sexual assault and violence as a campaign goal for Orange Day. What I admire about this article is that it extends the community of victims to conventionally ignored demographics as a means to develop a thorough, intersectional and inclusive understanding of the issue.

Enochs, E. 2016, 9 Stats About Violence Against Women & Girls You Should Know For Orange Day, viewed 28th of July 2016, http://www.bustle.com/articles/174534-9-stats-about-violence-against-women-girls-you-should-know-for-orange-day

The Secret War Crime by Aryn Barker

Aryn Barker is a news correspondent based in South Africa writing for Time’s Africa news content, focusing global military and political affairs. Her articles provide an in-depth view into the national events/matters within African countries for international readers and news broadcasters. Much of her content explores the experiences of war refugees in African nations, The Secret War Crime exposes the stories of Sudanese and Congolese women who have been raped and exploited as sexual slaves as their countries suffer a devastating civil war. The article is combination of factual information providing context about the civil wars in Congo and South Sudan and personal accounts from the survivors of wartime rape. Statistics and Medical professionals reveal the mass occurrences as well emotional and physical brutality of these attacks. What I found quite profound about Barker’s comments was that our global sympathy and efforts had been largely concentrated towards healing and protecting survivors, but little has been done or discussed on how to prevent such attacks in the first place. Barker explains that rape in war is as old as war itself, however such brutality is not inevitable in war rather that the matter of the problem inevitably roots back to inferior position of women in societies across a global scale. Many broadcasted issues framed in a foreign context can often be intersected with feelings of desensitization and disconnectedness from the audience, however Barker manages to return responsibility and influence to readers in an empathetic, inclusive and compelling voice.

Barker. E, 2016, The Secret War Crime, viewed 29th of July 2016, New York City, http://time.com/war-and-rape/

Shocking sexual assault statistics revealed as more victims come forward by Nina Funnell

Nina Funnell is a Sydney based journalist, freelance writer and social commentator focusing on women’s rights and gender based violence. Nina’s reports range from factual reports about women’s issues in Australia to more subjective pieces about her own experiences with sexual assault. Her articles provide informational context to gender based violence in Australia as well as personal, emotive responses as a victim of the issue itself. Shocking sexual assault statistics revealed as more victims come forward explores the incidents of rape and sexual assault that occurs on campus in Australian universities. Funnell’s main area of focus in this article is how Australian universities have failed to inform police authorities of the majority of these incidents as well as concealing the reports from the general public. The article involves both secondary and primary information ranging from statistics and independent studies to perspectives put forth by university and organization representatives. The article appears to be one of Funnell’s more factual/informative pieces as the majority of the content derives from external sources rather than her own. In addition to her own personal experience with gender based violence in Australia, another motivation could be the global attention drawn to “The Hunting Ground” a documentary film about the epidemic of sexual assault in American campuses. Her article includes a reference to this film as well as a comparison of how American and Australian universities handle cases of sexual assault. Though the heavily informative nature of the article can render her voice on the matter as passive, it is clear that Funnell’s intentions are to generate recognition, heightened awareness and empathy for the issue.

Funnell, N. 2016, Shocking sexual assault statistics revealed as more victims come forward, Sydney, viewed 28th July 2016, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/shocking-sexual-assault-statistics-revealed-as-more-victims-come-forward-to-newscomau/news-story/7430ae1f269d97cc020fdc92b312abf9

Australia’s most shocking statistic: Sexual abuse and domestic violence against women with disabilities by Ginger Gorman

Ginger Gorman is an award winning journalist whose TV, radio and online content focuses on local and international social justice issues. Australia’s most shocking statistic: Sexual abuse and domestic violence against women with disabilities is a response to a recently published report revealing that 90% of Australian women have been sexually abused. The majority if not all of media articles about sexual assault in Australia only involve victims from the non-disabled community. What I admire about this article is that it provides a necessary, more intersectional discussion of sexual assault and its prevalence amongst Australia’s disabled community. The attention grabbing nature of the article name and introduction clearly demonstrates how the general Australian public are completely oblivious to disabled victims of sexual assault and immediately engages the reader for the personal stories of the victims that follow this shocking statistic. In contrast to Funnell’s article, this content of this piece is derives mostly personal accounts rather than orientated around factual information. Gorman has structured this article to first compel the reader with the factual/statistical context of the issue and then develop the reader’s empathy as they are confronted with the personal experiences of the victims. Gorman also gives the epidemic more depth as she includes perspectives from medical professionals involved with the Australian disabled community as they explain why this issue doesn’t gain the awareness and recognition the victims so desperately need.

Gorman, G. 2016, Sexual abuse and domestic violence against women with disabilities, Sydney, viewed 29th of July 2016, http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/australias-most-shocking-statistic-sexual-abuse-and-domestic-violence-against-women-with-disabilities/news-story/21246ae889850b1d958088fd80b880ae

What is the legal process for rape cases in Australia? By Sylvia Varnham O’Regan

Sylvia Varnham O’Reagan is a journalist for SBS World News whose investigative content specializes in immigration, health and education is distributed amongst television, radio and digital platforms. As a qualified lawyer, her content also explores issues related to crime and the justice system, exemplified in her article What is the legal process for rape cases in Australia? The first impression of the article given by the title seem to be quite straightforward and informative, however the introduction reveals a motivation as to why this topic deserves a thorough investigation. She explains that very few victims of sexual assault pursue to report their attacks to police authorities and even fewer take legal action against their offenders. The author then explains the legal processes of handling rape cases and how victims face not only mistreatment in the investigation but also a legal framework that is inevitably fails them. Her information examines the legislation related to rape cases and also perspectives from professionals in the Australian criminal justice system. Stage by stage, the author explains the criteria that must be fulfilled in order to merely file case against the offender let alone to attempt that the offender are convicted, an outcome which is seldom the case. This factual, informative article is extremely important in the understanding of sexual assault crimes in Australia, revealing the reasons why victims are deeply reluctant to report their cases as well as the sexist ideologies in the legal system that gives explanation to the growing prevalence of the issue in our community.

O’Reagan, S. 2015 What is the legal process for rape cases in Australia? SBS, viewed 29th July 2016, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/05/13/what-legal-process-rape-cases-australia

Rape culture: what makes a boy a man? By Steve Biddulph

Steve Biddulph is an Australian writer, activist, educator and psychologist who focuses on gender differences, mental health and parenting. From a first impression, Biddulph’s stance can be taken as an outsider’s position on the issue of sexual assault however, what is both revealing an profound about his article is how the issue is rooted and perpetuated by the way we shape boys during their childhood and adolescence. This provides a more marginal approach into the issue of gender based violence in Australia and invites a wider, more in depth discussion of how the social/cultural pressures of masculinity not only disadvantages women but also men. Most of Biddulph’s article summarises the content from his books on masculinity, which examines the psychological effects of gender pressures in children and how they establish the sexist ideologies that lead to issues of rape and sexual assault. Biddulph is challenging practices and attitudes which are conventionally seen as necessary and harmless and revealing the underlying dangers that later manifest into the paradigms of gender inequality and gender based violence. In doing so, the author extends the responsibility of sexual assault beyond politicians and police authorities to all members of Australian society as a means to resolve and heal the issue.

Biddulph, S. 2016 Rape culture: what makes a boy a man? Sydney, viewed 29th of July 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/comment/from-wicked-campers-to-hottie-facebook-pages-rape-culture-needs-to-be-addressed-20160418-go92a6.html

Brock Turner – there’s no such thing as a ‘respectable’ rapist by Lana Hirschowitz 

Lana Hirschowitz is a freelance writer from Australian women’s weekly and Huffington post Australia whose articles are editorial responses to international and local news reports. One of her most recent posts is a response to case of Brock Turner, a Stanford swimmer that raped an unconscious girl on campus and was sentenced serve only 6 months of his 14 year prison sentence. As statements are being released by Turner’s friends and family defending the attack, this article is a editorial, passionate retort confronting the sexist ideologies that is responsible for the actions of the offenders but also its ever-growing presence in our society. Hirschowitz confronts the victim-blaming attitudes that both dehumanise the victim but also prevents their offenders from getting reported, let alone convicted for their attacks. She explains how these attitudes negate the seriousness of sexual assault crimes and how they are responsible for their widespread, increasing frequency across all nations. The passionate, emotive nature of this article differs from the factual, information based articles in my previous research, and however I find such an article to be necessary as a means of triggering a sense of urgency, empathy and a will to generate a heightened awareness of the issue.

Hirschowitz, L. 2016, Brock Turner – there’s no such thing as a ‘respectable’ rapist, Sydney, viewed 29th of July 2016, http://www.aww.com.au/latest-news/lets-talk/call-the-death-midwife-1-28193

Summary

After concluding my first investigation, I understand that I need to broaden my understanding of sexual assault issues in Australia to be more intersectional, to gain perspectives from the LGBT community, indigenous women and refugees.

Australian and American universities both fail to report attacks of sexual assault to police authorities, however US legislation requires their universities to publish crime data and no such legislation exists for Australian universities. When Australian universities were asked for statements regarding sexual assault occurrences many of them were discrete/obscure about the issue and how it was handled on campus. Personal accounts from student victims reveal that their university authorities encouraged them to not make formal reports to the police, even some being blamed for their attacks.

90% of intellectually disabled women in Australia have experienced sexual assault; most have experienced the attacks during their childhood. Unexpected perpetrators can include medical staff at residential care facilities, leading to an exploitation of their condition and vulnerability. The lack of formal reports and awareness about the issue is also due to the victims accounts not being taken seriously by medical and police authorities. Victims are currently directing their accounts towards the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

If a victim is lucky enough to have her attacker put on trial (which seldom happens) the legal handling of the case is almost guaranteed to result in the attacker with a minimal or no sentence. Defendant lawyers for the offenders are allowed to discuss what the victim was wearing, whether they were intoxicated during the attack as well as their previous sexual history as a means to place blame on the victim. Accounts from both disabled and able-bodied women are taken as unreliable, and defendant lawyers use persuasion tactics to render the victim with intentional invitations to the offender. The victim is required to recount every possible detail of the context of the attack (which is traumatising) and a single forgotten detail can render them as unreliable witnesses to the jury. The only circumstances where the victim is guaranteed justice if there is DNA evidence or footage recordings of the incident, also contributing to low conviction rates. Furthermore it can take at least several years before the sexual assault case is taken to court, increasing reluctance amongst victims.

The psychological analysis of masculinity and its links to sexual assault issues demonstrate how seemingly harmless and conventional gender norms disadvantage both men and women. Men being encouraged to be devoid of emotion, vulnerability and raised with desperate insecurities of rejection and need for acceptance amongst male peers which are often counteracted with the objectification and dehumanization of women.

image source:

Kering Foundation, 2015 Be Her Voice Campaign, viewed 13th August 2016, http://www.kering.com/en/magazine/stopping-violence-against-women

By Giselle Enriquez

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