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Issue No. 219 07 May 2004  
E D I T O R I A L

The Mouse That Roars
A number of campaigns this week show how web campaigning is reaching a level of sophistication that is transforming it from a gee-whiz fad to a potent industrial tool.

F E A T U R E S

Interview: Machine Man
It’s regarded as the most powerful job in the Party, but new NSW ALP general secretary Mark Arbib wants to build a bridge with the union movement.

Unions: Testing Times
Unions are not opposed to drug and alcohol testing, but they do want to see real safety issues addressed, writes Phil Doyle.

Bad Boss: Freespirit Haunts Internet
FreeSpirit forked out a motza for a whiz bang internet presence then disappeared right off the radar – once it was nominated as our Bad Boss for May.

Unions: Badge of Honour
Surry Hills is home to one of the world’s finest displays of union badges thanks to Bill "The Bear" Pirie and a supporting cast headed by Joe Strummer, Mark Knopfler, George Benson, Annie Lennox and other seriously big noises.

National Focus: Noel's World
Shrill bosses bleat over minimum wage rise, union spinmeisters congregate in Melbourne and Tassie’s nurses take the baton from their mob in Victoria reports Noel Hester in this national round up.

Economics: Safe Refuge
A humanitarian approach to refugees and an economically rational one?? I’d like to see that. Frank Stilwell did, when he went to Young in NSW to look into the impact of the Afghan refugees on temporary protection visas who came to work for the local abattoir

International: Global Abuse
Amnesty International have joined the chorus against the violation of trade union rights in the former Soviet republic of Belarus.

History: The Honeypot
To the Honeypot come those individuals anxious to get their hands on instant wealth. So it was in the early days of Broken Hill, wrties Grace Hawes in this homage to the mining town.

Review: Death And The Barbarians
This new take on coming of age films focuses on the coming of death and the dignity and maturity it can inspire among those touched by it - though not always easily in the overcrowded Canadian public health system, writes Tara de Boehmler.

Poetry: Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Resident Bard David Peetz uncovers some of the unfolding mysteries of talk back radio.

N E W S

 Casual Affair Costs Family

 Dob a Driver Strikes Out

 Crash LAME’s Smoking Gun

 Axe To Fall On Skippy

 Internet Replaces Crayons

 Young Lives Crushed

 Feds Move Goal Posts

 Telstra Baulks at Two Percent

 Crane Death Brings Fine

 Worker Breaks Unwritten Law

 Private Nurses Short Changed

 RailCorp Wrecks Weekend

 Thunderbirds Are Stop

 Activists What’s On!

C O L U M N S

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 1
Dr David McKnight, from the University of Technology, Sydney presents a new frame for looking at the competing ideas within Social Democracy.

The Soapbox
Rethinking Left and Right Part 2
David McKnight concludes the paper he presented to the ‘Rethinking Social Democracy’ conference, in London, April 15-17, 2004.

Sport
Out On A Limb
Phil Doyle becomes the first Australian journalist to state that the Olympics will be called off.

Politics
The Westie Wing
In the latest episode, Ian West explores what Disraeli called "Lies, damn lies and statistics".

Postcard
Message from America
Searing snapshots from a landscape of uncertainty have plunged the Bush Administration into deeper crisis, writes WorkingForChange's Bill Berkowitz.

L E T T E R S
 Reprehensible?
 Justice For Victims Denied
WHAT YOU CAN DO
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Letters to the Editor

Justice For Victims Denied


The decision by the DPP and Police not to take further action in relation to allegations of sexual assault by a Coffs Harbour woman is a part of a much bigger picture in which justice for sexual assault victims is denied.

Firstly to put the decision in perspective the DPP and Police said that they did not have enough evidence to lay charges, not that the event did not occur. There is a clear distinction between these two statements. The statements by the Football Club that this decision vindicates the players is incorrect and shows a lack of contrition on their behalf.

In general, sexual assault victims who seek justice battle against an antiquated and misogynist system. In NSW it is estimated that only 20% of sexual assaults are reported. Of the thousands of reports annually, only hundreds result in conviction. In making a complaint to Police the victim will undergo an invasive forensic examination and then, over hours or days, make a statement which must include every detail of her ordeal in consequential order. Police will then investigate, often coming back to the complainant, over a period of time, requesting further and clarifying information. If, in this process, the women provides uncorroborated evidence or any conflicting information, regardless of how minor, this may then be used in Court to 'prove' the complainant is lying or at least unreliable. On this basis Police or the DPP may decide not to pursue the matter. This legal assumption, in which Police and the DPP must work, completely ignores the normal human response to trauma which victims of sexual assault experience. Trauma symptoms include inability to maintain a train of thought for any sustained period, difficulty speaking coherently and memory blackspots. As the victim recovers, coherence and memory improve. Over time clarity and detail of events can lead to victims providing more information and changing parts of their statement t better reflect what has occurred. This is not and indication of lying. This is a normal response to an abnormal and horrific event. One of the many women who contact NSW Rape Crisis Centre said that 'one morning, several days after 'it happened' she decided to go down the road for a paper. She got up and went to her wardrobe. One hour later she was still standing in front of her wardrobe. She could not figure out that she needed to put on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt'.

If a victim's complaint makes it to the Court, usually about two years after the event, she must then face cross examination. The Judge does have the ability to order a closed Court while the victim gives evidence, but this does not always occur. Cross examination can last for days. The victim will be asked to go over her version of events repeatedly. Her actions will be questioned, she will be accused of lying or being compliant in the assaults, of fabricating her story and of having ulterior motives for making her complaint. Her actions, dress, reasons for being where she was immediately prior to the assault and her sexual or other history with the perpetrator will be put under a microscope. The defence lawyers will try to show that the victim somehow consented or orchestrated the event or that the event did not even occur. All attempts will be made to discredit, intimidate and harass the victim and if at any time she becomes confused, defensive or upset this will be used to 'prove' that she is lying or unreliable. All of this is done with the perpetrator sitting only a few metres away. If a guilty verdict is returned the victim may then need to repeat the process in the Appeals Court, probably in two years time. If there is more than one perpetrator multiply this process by their number. From any measure it is obvious that this system is highly weighted towards protecting perpetrators and punishing women for daring to speak out. It also explains why those who have witnessed this process refer to victims as heroines.

Our legal system is based on an understanding of sexual assault that is hundreds of years old. Sexual assault is still the only crime where the victim has to prove her innocence. While there have been some changes, there continues to be basic problems which mean that in the majority of cases perpetrators are not held accountable for their crimes. Sexual assault by its very nature is a crime that is premeditated, calculated and committed in secret. The aim is to humiliate, terrorise and threaten the victim. The perpetrator will often make direct statements throughout the event that leaves the victim feeling responsible for the perpetrator's actions. The legal requirements of proof ignore the basic nature of sexual assault and in fact support the victim blaming process.

Many of the myths in relation to sexual assault are imbeded in the law. That women lie about sexual assault to get back at the perpetrator, that yes today means yes tomorrow, that yes to one means yes to his mates, that being drunk or at a certain place means that a woman can be treated in any way others see fit, that sexual assault is about uncontrolled lust when in fact it is about domination, power and control and of course the current one, that women happily have repeated sex with any number of men over a short period and that while that is occurring they also 'consent' to having no say or control over what happens or how they are treated. One caller to NSW Rape Crisis said 'I had meet him at a friend's house. He invited me out for a drink the next night. He was really nice and I liked him so I went. After a few drinks he said a few friends were meeting at his place for his flat mates birthday and would I like to come? It was about 7 in the evening and he made it sound like fun. I got into his car and he drove to a nice house in a well to do suburb. When I walked in the door I was grabbed and dragged into the bedroom. I screamed at him to help me. He just laughed. I went to the Police. The perpetrators made up lots of lies about me and said I not only consented but that I encouraged them. It was my word against theirs. How could anyone think that I wanted or enjoyed having sex with five men in a row?'

While what has happened in Coffs Harbour is very distressing for the young woman, it is hoped that this will be a catalyst for change in the way the community views and responds to this very serious and violent crime. We can not pretend this did not happen. It is also hoped that it will lead to an extensive review of the way the Justice system investigates and views sexual assault.

We uphold and honour the bravery and courage of victims who have come forward. It's vital that current community support for victims continues to build on all levels so that victims will continue to seek justice and that justice will be done.

Karen Willis


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