The leftward and other blatherings of Span (now with Snaps!)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Powerlessness

I heard the verdict right before I had to go into a work meeting. I shouted "NO!", swore loudly and held back tears, alone in my car. Then I concentrated very carefully. I turned off the radio. I took my keys out of the ignition. I opened the car door. I got out of the vehicle, with my bag. I closed the car door. I locked it. I walked into the meeting venue. By the time I reached reception I had pushed my seething thoughts aside sufficiently to smile at the receptionist and sit quietly on their couch.

I was out of there within half an hour, back in my car, and everything seeped back, cracks appearing all over the careful professional wall I'd erected and maintained for the last 30 minutes. Within a minute I was a crying mess. I kept mentally calming myself, but then I would think of it again; think of women I'd knew who'd been raped and how they must be feeling; think of the sexist statements that would be make by some feeling this verdict vindicated their own actions;, think of the sheer injustice. Raging inside, raging outside, but still alone in my car and not changing anything.

I rang a friend to talk about it, but she was already on the phone to someone else. I listened to some talkback in the hope that someone else would voice my outrage and I would feel less alone and defeated. Danny Watson was being too careful for my rage, while Willie Jackson simply disgusted me. I quite literally felt sick and several times I thought I would have to pull over to vomit. I gave up on the radio and rang my mum instead.

That's what I was doing, what I did, when I heard the outcome of the third police rape trial against the same group of men. It debilitated me, that "acquitted". I felt that the second I heard it my "NO!" joined thousands and thousands of other women (and no doubt some men) around the country all saying the same thing. But I couldn't hear them. And the fact that we exist isn't actually enough solace, frankly.

Rape is about power. What kind of person wants to have sex with someone who isn't consenting? Someone seeking power over them. Why else would straight men rape gay men as punishment? Rape is the ultimate fuck you.

And what does this verdict deliver to rape victims, to those who have been abused, particularly by those in positions of authority? It doesn't give a sense of power, quite the reverse. It reinforces the status quo, it says "Little girl, don't bother challenging the abuse. You were powerless when it happened and you are powerless now; you will always be powerless."

I feel bitter, angry, filled with such rage that concentrating on much else is challenging at best. There was a sense of inevitability about all of this that I had obscured with my hope, hope that our primal scream would finally be heard. I'll probably make that mistake again, no doubt.

I'm not angry at the jurors. My righteous rage is directed firmly, in a seething psychic outpouring, at Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum. Some minutes I spare a little of my wrath for Shipton's wife, for the police who never did anything in the 1980s, for the culture of our justice system (which after all includes the police force).

Even now, writing this, I am clenching my jaw something terrible. I feel so sick that I don't want to eat, all I want to do is go to bed and sleep and sleep and sleep and wake up when our society is somewhere that these things don't happen - where rape doesn't happen every day. Or at least, when it does happen then justice is actually served.

Maia has a list of opportunities to voice the outrage. I suspect however that I may be like many other women - too sick and tired of crying in private over these things to risk going along to something public and weeping there too. I commend those people, both men and women, who are standing up to say that this is wrong and to regain that strength and hope, but I cannot join them myself right now.

Sadly, I'm too busy trying to ignore the constant scream in my head and the ever-present churning in my stomach. I'll be back again once I've got that under control, and in the meantime there will be a Linky Love instead.

Other bloggers' views:
Guilty as fuck - George Darroch
Police rape trial - C Maryon
Clint Rickards, Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum are rapists; Just Another Thursday in Black - Maia (who has also put up a post combining these and with further comment at Alas)
A verdict - Idiot/Savant (a very angry comment thread too)
Aotearoa's injustice system wins again - jo
Bad men - Russell Brown
Bomb the courts (I mean real nice tagging) - jo

Feel free to add a link to your own post in comments, however I will NOT link to posts that defend these men or who attack the brave women who pursued these cases, and I will delete comments linking to posts of that nature too.

4 comments:

JohnMacC said...

First visit to your blog - and probably my last. "I'll delete any comment or link to a post that doesn't agree with me".
Hardly the mark of a deep thinker open to debating the issues is it.
We might know these guys were involved in other sex crimes, and we might be personally apalled by rape and empathise with rape victims. But individual cases are judged by juries on the evidence presented. You seem to think the reasonable doubt standard should be dropped whenever there's unpleasant people charged with offences that particularly upset you.
There y' go Span - delete that if you like.

stef said...

ouch. I haven't really been following the case that much, aside from online. It's amazing how you can miss the tone of public debate when you aren't around it.

Span said...

Sigh, johnmacc kindly re-read the bit on the end of my post and note that it doesn't say that I will delete comments I don't agree with (although actually this is my blog so I do reserve the right to delete comments if it takes my fancy).

What my post does say is that I will not have links to posts the defend those men (or attack those women) hosted here, and I'll delete any comments that include links to such.

What I wrote about above was how I felt when the verdict came out, how I feel about rape in general, and how these recent trials have affected me.

Thank you for ignoring all of that and focusing only on my final sentence.

Sofiya said...

Great post, Span. I was so upset when I heard the news. My reaction was similar to yours - I had to go to a meeting too, and keep a brave face on when all I wanted to do was cry my eyes out. Enough is enough - we can't tolerate any more of this bullshit rape culture that goes on in this country. Something has to change.