So there has been a bit of discussion over the last few weeks about whether we have a rape culture in NZ or not.
Paula Bennett the Minister responsible for sexual violence denied rape culture in NZ
“I wouldn’t say that we’ve got a rape culture or a sexual violence culture in New Zealand. Actually most men and most women do not and would not condone any sort of behaviour like that. We have got a few people that have got disgusting and abhorrent behaviours that we need to address and stand up and say that we will take a stand on and hold them to account.”
This comment is made in the context of 1in 4 girls and 1 in 6-10 boys experiencing sexual violence in NZ and evidence of higher rates for trans* and some people with disabilities. It may be hard to believe these statistics but they are well evidenced.
I think the fact they’re so hard to believe for many New Zealanders is a result of how much silence we have around sexual violence and the ongoing victim blaming that all too often happens. Most perpetrators are known and at times even loved by the victim. It doesn’t help to paint them as disgusting and abhorrent, doing so can actually just increase shame and self blame and hopelessness. This is part of what holds the system in place.
Another thing that enables the violence to continue is our lack of a justice system. When we compare the incidence rates identified in the few prevalence studies we can see only a very few cases are reported and then there is further attrition between reporting and charging and then charging to conviction with a resulting 1 in 100 cases ending with a conviction.
Over the last few years we have continued to hear about inappropriate police and court responses to sexual violence including of course the “roastbusters” cases.
We have had decades of rigorous research telling usher to improve our justice system to improve this, yet all we’ve had in response is tinkering. This refusal to address the core barriers, his refusal to adequately fund the support services, this refusal to provide consistent political leadership is part of the problem.