WHO'LL PROTECT THE REAL VICTIMS?
Rape and the football circus
Phil Cleary - Sunday Age Melbourne - 4 July 2004
Contrary to the cries from the football panels, we all know that
rape is one of the great-untold stories. It's astounding how this
litany of violence against women has been hidden away. Whatever
the truth of the rape allegations that have rocked the AFL and the
ARL recently; the commentaries from the football world have left
a lot to be desired.
Let's state the facts. There is no evidence that men are the victims
of women who lie about rape or that men are unable to differentiate
between consensual sex and rape. Retelling stories about women allegedly
chasing footballers for sex - as many men did in the aftermath of
the allegations and Nine's The Footy Show did again on Thursday night -
only plays to the lies and the myths. Even St Kilda coach Grant
Thomas, a father of eight who'd no doubt take a dim view of anyone
messing with his daughters, fell to these myths when he originally
said the allegations against two of his players would 'galvanise'
the club. Thankfully he adopted a more considered position in subsequent
Throughout the whole saga it's been the blokes who've run the debate.
When The Footy Show convened a panel to discuss the issue no insider
with a radical view of the culture of rape was interviewed. Not
surprisingly it was The Footy Show that announced there'd be no
charges against the St Kilda players. 'The police are probably at
the victim's house as we speak,' a reporter told Eddie McGuire.
To his credit McGuire left his comments to the bare minimum.
Then in the wake of some truly bizarre allegations on the ABC's
Four Corners program Jason Akermanis waded in to the quagmire. The
program, he said, was 'biased' and he'd become the victim of 'rumours.'
Although he had every right to be upset that some people had privately
and wrongly suggested he was in the room in London in 1999 when
an alleged sexual assault occurred, Akermanis didn't bother to address
the allegations made by another woman in Adelaide. Nor did he ask
why the woman was paid $200,000 in compensation by three AFL footballers.
Yet again the celebrity footballer had become the victim.
Most people were astounded by the Adelaide allegations and the
DPP's refusal to press charges. Yet paradoxically it showed the
danger of rushing to the conclusion that the culprits in the myth
making are blokes from a thuggish subset within the male culture.
Without those middle class lawyers who've bullied and harassed women
and judges who've defended barbaric legal precedent how different
the culture might be. If only these lawyers would defend female
victims of intimate violence with the passion they display for refugees
behind barbed wire.
It's truly scandalous how women who allege rape
have been demonised. And it's either plain dumb or consummately
cunning for men to cite the existence of football groupies as proof
that rape is complex. Is it so difficult for men to grasp that the
act of rape is an act of non-consensual sex? Had the Director of the Office of Public Prosecutions, Paul Coghlan
QC, answered the kind of questions raised by Sam Newman he'd have
said there'd be no trial because 'there was no reasonable prospect
of a conviction'. More importantly he'd have said 'the woman was
telling the truth when she said she believed she had been raped.'
If pressed he'd have added that she was a modern woman who, no matter
what the accused man thought, had the courage to lay charges because
she believed she had engaged in sex on terms that weren't her own.
A man with a keen sense of how the law has failed women, Coghlan
will say unequivocally that the overwhelming majority of women do
not lie about rape. If only he'd looked down the barrel of the camera
and told the blokes what he told me how different it might have
It's now time that decent men like James Hird, Nathan Buckley and
Eddie McGuire joined Andrew Demetriou in defending their sisters
from the myths and the nonsense. If they won't, who will?