[Trigger Warning] What Minister of Police Anne Tolley DIDN’T say to the #Roastbusters rape victims, through her many press appearances last week:
“We will protect you. Step forward and we will make this as easy as possible for you. You will have all the support and resources we can muster to care for and protect you and your family throughout this ordeal.”
Instead she wrung her proverbial hands proclaiming “it’s so hard”, while the Commissioner of Police, and others, echoed the sentiment ad nauseum.
It’s so hard, they say, so hard to come forward. So hard to make a complaint. So hard to go through a trial. So hard to face your rapists. So hard to be subjected to intrusive cross-examination. So hard for your friends, family, foes, local dairy owner, to be associated with
the time-old shame of victimisation.
Why are we not really listening to the two top overseers of our Police openly admitting it is hard to report and prosecute rape. They are admitting the very problem we have all been screaming about. Their own denials of culpability are in fact key to accepting the reality.
The hierarchical patriarchal legacy structure and mechanisms of the NZ Police are inherently weighted against successful rape prosecutions.
How do I know this? Because I went through it. I can tell you what happens when victims of gang rape in New Zealand complain.
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Looking back retrospectively the particular circumstances of my case make the outcome all the more ludicrous. Newly 18 in the late 90s, I was abducted from Queen Street by four men, enduring 8+ hours in terrifying, stupefying and disgusting circumstances, I managed all the cool textbook junior detective work that should have made the job of the police so much easier.
I don’t want to get into the particulars of the ordeal other than to say I was driven to South Auckland to a suburb I had never been to in my life, and raped on the concrete playground of a Primary School by intoxicated men unknown to me. Initially and at several points of the encounter I expected and/or was led to believe I would be killed.
Yet I took in everything about my surroundings and committed to memory details which were invaluable to the case. My ultimate emancipation involved the police actually arresting one of the kidnappers, and jailing him in Auckland Central Police station. An off-duty ambulance officer who aided in my rescue and the arrest, handed me into the care of detectives from Auckland Central. They were all male. I was in shock from my night of hell and made one of the biggest mistakes I could have made. I asked for a female detective.
Ironically the male detectives had treated me with some measure of respect and dignity but the female detective was all business.
I was whisked straight off to the back of Grafton to undergo a rape kit then back to the station to give my statement. It took hours and hours to complete. I was so exhausted and cold and still in shock but the officers were insistent upon constructing it all at an extremely slow pace and refused to allow me to leave or rest until it was done. I was so exhausted I lay on the floor, closed my eyes and recounted everything that had happened.
The rape kit came back and its findings were that I had bruising and contusions consistent with being pulled into the vehicle and other conditions indicating the gang rape. Pubic hair from the attackers was also removed from my body in the bathroom at the Police station prior, and placed in an envelope.
Having been able to give the precise location of the scene to the police, they found a mountain of physical evidence and indications of premeditation; condoms & cans of alcohol at the scene; video footage from the petrol station they stopped and bought the condoms at; the police even had the vehicle I had been abducted and transported in and one of the four already in custody.
Throughout I complied with all procedures and after surrendering all my clothing to the police as further ‘evidence’ I was finally instructed I would need to return to the station at a later date and allowed to go home.
I’m not even going to try to describe the level of mental and physical exhaustion or the complete confusion, dismay and revulsion that follows such an experience.
It is unparalelled.
But a tiny part of me was victorious. I had caught one of the fuckers. After dropping his three mates home he had been planning to take me to continue the horror and had been telling me his plans in detail when he had passed out drunk and I’d flagged down the off-duty ambulance officer and we called the cops, who snatched him.
So despite undoubtedly being at the most turbulent and despairing point of my life, there was still the assumption that the police would surely arrest the other three rapists and that they would never be able to do this to another person again.
I was so naieve.
The call came to come back to the station for follow-up. The female detective walked me up the internal staircase to an office on one of the upper floors of Auckland Central Police Station. Her boss needed to talk to me, she said. Had I been wiser, I would have wondered why her boss
wanted to talk to me, an 18 year old girl, alone with no representation, no support person, no family member beside me. No witness.
The female detective saw me into the office, then excused herself, shut the door and left. It was just me and her boss, whose name I can’t even remember, but whose face I cannot forget.
He spoke to me with a snake’s tongue, smooth as silk at the beginning. Conciliatory. Congratulatory. He asked me some cursory questions and praised me when I got them right. What kind of beer cans were they drinking, he wanted to know. Lion Red. “Good girl”. Where did they do this. Where did they do that. How did this make me feel. He said he needed to pretend that he was the defence lawyer and began to question me harder, making his questions more and more pointed.
He said I needed to be able to take the worst they could give me. He said for me to withstand a court case would be hard.
He said it would be VERY hard.
He said they would tear me apart on the stand. He said they would insinuate I was a slut and malign my character. He asked me questions about my clothing and sex life that he said I would be asked on the stand. He said that after all of that, they probably wouldn’t get a conviction.
I asked him if they had caught the other men yet and he said there was “probably no connection” between the men. I was incredulous as it had been clear they all knew each other and lived in proximity of one another and I had provided details about the address and other vehicles and
information that should have made it easy to catch them. After all, there was the footage from the service station also so they should have known what these guys looked like.
The Inspector fobbed me off claiming that pack rapists often just meet up with each other opportunistically and that this kind of thing happened on a routine basis. He insinuated that the police would not/could not catch them. I was heartbroken.
Despite being extremely distressed and in tears by this point, I was emphatic that I wanted to continue with the prosecution of the one they had caught. Especially given the nature of his intentions as stated to me by him immediately prior to my escape and his capture.
I left the station with that understanding and promises that I would be contacted again.
Approximately a fortnight passed, and then I got a letter. My case had been closed, and the reason given was “lack of co-operation from the victim”.
The words stung like none other.
Lack of co-operation?? I had allowed myself to be borderline re-raped for the rape kit just to prove what had happened. I had doubled my trauma in number of hours kept awake while still in shock; had endured countless hours of questioning, supplied mountains of evidence, CAUGHT one of the damn rapists myself FFS, and they were covering up their non-investigation by claiming that it was some deficiency on my part preventing them from pursuing it further.
I was heartbroken all over again. I rang the female detective who had given me her business card. Why on earth was my case shut, I wanted to know. She stated the official excuse. I told her that was ridiculous and that I didn’t agree with it. She said that the decision had been made, the
case was shut and that I needed to come pick up the clothes I had been raped in as the Police were finished with them now.
I told her I never wanted to see the clothing again, and that I certainly wouldn’t be coming to pick it up. I demanded to know what had happened to the rapist who had been caught.
I could never have imagined her reply and it completely floored me.
“We charged him with drunk driving.”
A man who had snatched and raped a teenager on a primary school yard, and then said he was going to do it again, charged with drunk driving by the NZ Police. Case closed.
I had no idea how to explain any of what happened to my family. I did in later years and they were suitably in disbelief and horror. But the NZ Police knew what happened.
And they left me to suffer the consequences without a second thought.
So yes, Minister of Police Anne Tolley, it IS hard to make a complaint. It is hard to get an investigation. Even if you catch your rapist yourself, it is hard to get the Police to actually prosecute them.
It is hard to get justice. It is hard to free yourself of the stigma of a victim. It is also hard to stand up and demand our rights when they are robbed from us by the very infrastructure and institutions which claim to protect and serve us.
No matter what indignity we endure at the hands of our rapists or at the hands of the Police, the blame is still hung back upon our heads until we rise and refuse to accept the farce anymore.
The New Zealand Public is rising with us. Tomorrow, Saturday 16th November 2013, towns all over the country are marching in protest at the Police inaction regarding the #Roastbusters “rape crew”.
Those rapists targeted girls much younger than 18. Some of their victims were 13. Mainstream media has used terms like “group sex” when the Police know full well that it is impossible for a 13 year old to consent to “group sex”. I remember being a 13 year old girl and “sex” is a word to them, not an actionable concept for them, unless corrupted and/or defiled by a (usually older) man.
Nor are the #Roastbusters children; they are adults.
Until we call a spade a spade, the pervasive and systemic perpetuation and excusing of rape in New Zealand culture will continue unabated.
A 23-year-old who rapes a 13-year old is not a “boy” involved in “group sex” it is a “man” involved in gang rape.
The NZ Police had the audacity to say they were considering offering protection to the #Roastbusters rapists, to protect them from the public.
To the Police I ask – where is the protection for victims?
If you really wanted victims to come forward you would offer them protection, assurances, reassurances, reconciliation, solidarity and support. Instead you tell them it is “hard, very hard” and publicly offer protection to the rapists.
What message are you really sending?
The same message as the forced closure of the ‘Ugly Mugs’ publication by the NZ Prostitute’s Collective. The monthly newsletter featured the descriptions of vehicles and perpetrators involved in assaults, kidnappings, and rapes of sex workers and street people in Auckland.
It existed to warn people of what the Police were not. To educate them and help them to keep an eye out for themselves and for each other.
But after years of an ever-growing list of reports, it was forcibly shut down. Why? To protect the “privacy” of the alleged kidnappers and rapists. Apparently circulating the license plate number of an attacker to warn other potential future victims, is a no-go.
Funnily enough the Police do exactly that when it suits them on a routine basis, yet seem to want a monopoly on the ability.
Therefore, Auckland sex workers and street people now have to live WITHOUT knowing whether the next car or person to approach them has already been known to attack, rob, kidnap and/or rape other Aucklanders.
If our Government and Police force will not protect us and we cannot protect ourselves – what next?
For years the inaction of the Police in my case, haunted me. I have wondered a million times who else did my rapists rape? Did they know how close they came to justice or did they scoff at getting off with it essentially scot-free? Did it embolden them? Who else did they do this to? How long had they done it to others before me? Have they taught others to do it too? Will my daughter one day fall victim to one of their sons? Metaphorically speaking, for this is an epidemic and it could be anyone’s son, anyone’s daughter, it IS someone’s daughter, every single day in this country, and what the hell do we do about it?
How do we stop it? When do we stop it?
I don’t know if it’s possible but I’m certainly going to raise my voice. It’s the only thing I can do to contribute: speak the truth. As loudly and as proudly as possible. Because I survived. It is my duty to warn others. It is my only redemption.
I have no idea how the NZ Police can redeem themselves at this point. Coming clean would be a start. Working out a strategy to PROTECT VICTIMS NOT RAPISTS would be a -very- good start. Addressing the internal culture that allows high-up cops to intimidate teenage girls out of justice would also be a good start.
Whether or not that happens, society has to step up and deal to this problem. The last few weeks has seen the beginnings of that effort emerge. We now must continue the momentum.
Let us never forget.
P.S: I really didn’t want to write this article. Words can’t express how much, or how I have delayed it even though it’s been burning inside me for weeks. I wanted Paula Penfold to write about the Ugly Mugs closure but have been unable to work with her to develop it further. It is a story that deserves more telling than is above. There are many stories that need telling. I know now that I am just one of thousands. All I ask of any reader is that you find a way to amplify the testimonies of the victims and demand protection for them. It should not be hard to whistleblow on rape. It should be greeted with a showering of community support, considerate and legitimate investigation and follow-through by Police, which requires calling rapists to account.
No matter what the victim was wearing, no matter what their sexual or occupational history, the shame and blame and curse of rape belongs only to the rapist.
P.P.S: Much is made of anecdotal cases where women make false complaints of rape, this is another mechanism of rape culture. To anyone who ever has it disclosed to them that someone has been a victim of sexual assault and puts themselves in the position of judge or jury; know and understand this:
The person informed of rape or sexual assault, has the luxury of choice. They get to choose whether to ‘believe’ or ‘not believe’ the victim.
Rape victims have no choice. We don’t see what happened to us in words. We see it in our head in a twisted live action video, coupled with emotions and flash memories, impressions, personal
grievances. Rape is the violation of all that is sacred and to those who have experienced it, you relive it regardless of whether you are believed or not. You know the truth. You have lived the truth. No other person can define for you that which you have experienced. Don’t let anyone
superimpose an outcome on you. Fight for your own outcome. Continue to speak out for all our sakes.
Written by Suzie Dawson
Official Website: Suzi3d.com
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