My comments about not all rapists being monsters seem to have been misinterpreted by some. So I will take this opportunity to look at this a bit more.
I’ve already explained how our perceptions of rapists as monsters can make it hard to disclose, less likely victims will be believed and offenders held to account.
I have spoken to women who have said to me “if he wasn’t my partner… it might have been…” [rape]. Sometimes the way we talk about rape and sexual abuse makes it hard for victims themselves to understand. What that says about our culture infuriates me.
To state again – I see the denial of humanity and sexual agency inherent in sexual and domestic violence as monstrous. The impact of this abuse is profound and disturbing. I am in NO way minimising that.
Recently in New Zealand, we’ve seen sexual violence and violence against women and children minimised and dismissed, and we’ve seen very public figures do this. Can I remind you of Tony Veitch and Chris Brown and Roastbusters and ponytail gate. It’s my observation that often these same people rail loudly against RAPISTS, like the Prime Minister did. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Positioning rapists as extreme and ‘other’, we enable many people, mostly men, to consider themselves incapable of sexual assault, domestic violence, or sexual harassment when that may not be true.
We also ignore the many social messages, and cultural and institutional practices that dismiss sexual assault or rape as ‘her’ fault, or not really sexual assault. By doing this we miss the fact that we have some power to change the culture and the institutions to reduce sexual violence. When we characterise rapists as just monsters we subtly shift our focus away from the need for that work.
I’ve spoken to people working with sex offenders and they tell me that the majority of sex offenders only offend once. The majority of sex offenders are able to change. I don’t think characterising them as monsters helps that happen.
If you listen to my speech in relation to Tony Veitch you may understand my position more. I want accountability. I want abusers to take responsibility and change. I will keep advocating for victims, and being as honest as I know how about these issues.