A RAPE ALLEGATION?
IT'LL GALVANISE US - WE'RE FOOTBALLERS
Article published in the Age in 2004
In his column on the back page of the Age (Thursday 18 March
2004) Tim Watson began with the curious 'the past 48 hours has
become a living nightmare' for St Kilda players and officials.
Thereafter not once did he mention the emotional suffering of
the alleged victim. With this simple sleight of hand he unwittingly
reinforced many of the prejudices that beset women who 'cry
rape.' Suddenly the alleged perpetrator had become the victim
and it was women that were implicated if not blamed for allegations
of rape. After all, how can young footballers avoid an allegation
of rape when women are 'banging on your door at 2am'?
Seemingly oblivious to the circumstances of the current case
Tim softened the allegations by recounting the antics of amorous
women in the football subculture. Yet strangely none of the
examples he offered had anything to do with rape. A woman consenting
to sex is not a woman raped. Is it so hard for men to understand
this? Where are the columns of women who have slept with footballers
and in the post mortem have accused them of rape? Maybe Tim
missed the fact that the woman making the rape allegation told
police she consented to sex but not to sex with a second man?
Leaving aside the veracity of this claim, in what culture
is it assumed that if a woman has sex with a man in one room
she has consented to sex with a different man on the same night?
Until the rape laws were changed a decade ago the courts virtually
demanded to know whether a woman was a virgin or was sexually
active. They even wanted to know what the woman was wearing
when the rape occurred. And despite welcome changes to the law
defence barristers still have a field day with women who allege
rape. That's why rape is massively under reported and why only
a very small percentage of rape cases result in a conviction.
Women just aren't believed.
I wish Tim hadn't omitted what he and I know only too well
about the football world. The stories of groups of men on the
rampage, the cover-ups and the institutionalised belief that
women who have sex are sluts whereas the men are studs: that's
the football subculture. It's a subculture in which some men
have always believed that they have the rights of the Viking
raiding party. However, unlike the women raped by the Norsemen
it seems that amorous women who wander through the football
world can never be raped. For isn't the moral of Tim's
piece that modern women who look for sex must take that which
comes their way?
Instead of asking how these latest allegations will affect
the status of AFL football we should be asking what they tell
us about the emerging question of violence against women. Tim,
this isn't a 'sex scandal.' A sex scandal is Charles having
it off with Carmilla or Lady Di with the butler. A woman who
alleges sexual assault is claiming to have been the victim of
an act of criminal violence. If this woman is telling the truth,
imagine how she must have felt when she discovered under the
banner, 'Fans Rally to Saints', that coach Grant Thomas believes
the allegation of rape will only 'galvanise the group'? The
presumption of innocence of the accused shouldn't result in
the belittling of a woman who alleges sexual assault
Throughout history men have told other men that 'no' can be
a precursor to 'yes'. And through experience men have learnt
that the first 'no' is not always the end of a sexual foray.
But those who use this little pearl of secret men's business
to defend men accused of rape do all men a disservice. Do we
seriously think that the average bloke can't stop when a woman
says 'no'? And is the average bloke so dumb that he doesn't
know when 'no' means 'no'? It's about time we admitted that
rape is a cocktail of sex and power used by some, not all men,
Rape should be as hard to prove as any other crime. And no
accused man should have to cower or hide. But that shouldn't
preclude us from debunking the myth that most women who 'cry
rape' are chronic liars and schemers who've maliciously changed
their mind after a sexual encounter. Whether or not charges
are laid in this instance the need for AFL clubs to seriously
challenge this subculture of misogyny is overdue. Unlike many
old fashioned blokes in AFL football clubs modern women know
the difference between sex and rape.