Expecting More

The New Zealand Herald, the NZ newspaper with the biggest circulation, nominated Capitalism Bad; Tree Pretty the blog of the week for capturing the public mood (and quoted from this post – I was pretty happy), which gives you an idea of how widely felt the anger is.

I’m going to repost a couple of the posts I’ve written here, edited slightly to make sense All you need to know is the basic details of the case. Clint Rickards (one of New Zealand’s top police officers), Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum were police officers together in Rotorua (provincial New Zealand) in the 1980s. They used police power to rape and abuse women. Over the last two years they have stood trial for sexual offences three times. In the first trial Bob Schollum and Brad Shipton were convicted of rape. The next two juries were not told about these convictions, and each case came back with verdicts of not guilty. The women told very similar stories of being raped and abused by these men, and I believe all of them.

This post is a response to something Russel Norman, co-leader of the NZ Green party, wrote. Their focus is on the environment, and they’re usually the most left-wing party in parliament in terms of social issues. I voted for them reluctantly, but it’s very unlikely that I’ll do that again.

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Today Russel Norman wrote about the police rape trials on frogblog.

I don’t see that being involved in consenting group sex is any reason for him not to go back to work. And people use sex aids so using a police baton in a consenting situation doesn’t seem grounds for refusing him his job back.

What the fuck is anyone who has ever heard of the existance of feminist analysis doing suggesting that these incidents involved consenting sex?

I understand that most people have more to lose than I do, and would face consequences if they said “Clint Rickards is a rapist piece of scum” at every opportunity. But just because the jury believed that the case hadn’t been proved beyond reasonable doubt, that doesn’t make the sex consenting. Two women have come forward and said that they were raped by these threemen. Anyone who states categorically that Clint Rickards had consenting group sex is saying that they don’t believe those women.

Usually that’s what you’d expect, but all the female Green party representatives are feminists and one has talked bravely and publicly of her experience of being raped. I would have expected him to pay attention to these women, and their experiences, and not choose the words of rapists over the words of rape survivors.

Russel Norman did acknowledge that there might have been a power imbalance in an addendum, but says:

My original comment above about group sex was in response to my perception that a lot of the reaction to the case was of a conservative moralistic nature about group sex rather than about an abuse of power

I’ve paid obsessive attention to all the media, and any reading which saw a lot of the reaction to the case to be conservative and moralistic is ridiculously inaccurate. I can’t imagine what sort of priorities you have if your response to everything that’s happened is to worry that people are condemning group sex.

Those paragraphs are offensive, the rest of the article just focuses on side-issues. Russel Norman believes that the two issues that come out of this case are:
1. Should the jury have been told that Schollum and Shipton were previously convicted of rape?
2. Should Rickards be allowed to be Auckland police chief?

Here are some of the questions that I think come out of this trial:
How many women’s testimony equals one man’s in the NZ legal system?
Is Brad Shipton the most vile man in New Zealand? (I’m really hoping the answer to this one is yes)
Why was Clint Rickards promoted within the police rapidly, even after a report stated he abused his power?
Why did no-one do something to stop these men?
I’ve talked to half a dozen women who have been raped by police over the last year, how many more are out there?
What alternatives ways are there that we can get justice for rape survivors where they don’t have to go through abusive cross-examination?
Are there actually any ‘reasonable doubts’ here aren’t they all just ‘misogynist doubts’ or is that considered the same thing?
Why is the past of the woman involved fair game in rape trials?
How many times do I have to yell “it’s not a ‘sex trial’ at Sean Plunkett before he hears me?
Why are the police allowed to investigate their own?

Why did these women have to go through this?

How can we make this stop?

Generally his post made it clear that he didn’t think this issue was particularly important. He’d read some of the media it wasn’t something he was focusing on (given he didn’t know a lot of rather basic facts about the cases), but he thought he’d chime in.

To me, and to so many other women and men throughout New Zealand, this case is important. It’s important because we put ourselves in those women’s shoes, because we think about the pain and horror that those women went through, because we can imagine how it’s affected the rest of their lives, and the lives of the people around them. The way Russel Norman wrote trivialises all that.

I’m not saying that everyone must obsess about this case the way I have. I’m not bedgrudging people sleeping fine, and having time and energy for other things. Even I want to think and write about other things (the Air NZ redundancies are first on the list). But I do believe that anyone who considers themselves politically progressive should give this topic weight and reverence, and realise that they’re writing on women’s lives and women’s pain.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Rape, intimate violence, & related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

8 Responses to Expecting More

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  3. 3
    Span says:

    I’m really glad you are doing a post summary-digest thingy on this for Alas – you have written some great stuff and it desires a wider audience than the little ol’ NZ pol blogs!

  4. 4
    Radfem says:

    Why was Clint Rickards promoted within the police rapidly, even after a report stated he abused his power?

    Because the only other option is to give him some kind of service award, and no I’m not kidding. A lawyer once told me that every officer he ever sued on behalf of a plaintiff on either corruption or excessive force either received an award or was promoted within a year. I guess either those who make the decisions to promote and discipline misconduct either believe it doesn’t matter or they just have a different idea of what constitutes a good police officer than most everyone else. Or the police culture backs those that commit misconduct at least from the sense that it does because those who adhere to it often see investigation of misconduct against officers as attacks against them and their way of life, and the chiefs don’t want to alienate that culture because to do so endangers their own careers.

    And I think a lot of promotions particularly those higher up are highly political.

    Why are the police allowed to investigate their own?

    That’s the question of the ages in the police reform movement whether addressing police rapes, police-related domestic violence and just about every form of misconduct out there. They are often culturally every isolated and insulated, they believe that everyone who is not one of them is out to get them and the cities and counties who hire them and fund their efforts are always looking at them and what they do from a risk management perspective particularly with agencies with many problems.

  5. 5
    Carnadosa says:

    Radfem could you rephrase this?

    They are often culturally every isolated and insulated, they believe that everyone who is not one of them is out to get them and the cities and counties who hire them and fund their efforts are always looking at them and what they do from a risk management perspective particularly with agencies with many problems.

    I got the beginning about everyone out to get them but I’m not really parsing the last bit. Thank you.

  6. 6
    Radfem says:

    Most police departments in the United States have risk management divisions due to a lot of law suits being filed against them(mostly for excessive force or vehicle pursuit accidents). These units are supposed to work with them to improve training or operations to lower the risk of civil liability they impose for the city. But often it doesn’t work that way.

    If the department self-investigates and exonerates officers for misconduct, then even if the department and city is sued for that misconduct, the exonerated or unfounding findings weaken the strength of the law suit. If the department sustains the findings and it gets out or that information can be accessed(and laws governing this differ from state to state) then the city particularly the city attorney sees this as putting the city at risk of civil liability by strengthening the positions of plaintiffs who file law suits.

    That’s one of the issues, besides the “us vs them” culture of police departments that make people distrust the department’s ability to self-investigate because people are concerned that they are clearing officers who commit misconduct in order to weaken or even discourage civil litigation from being filed against the city.

    If the city or county’s law enforcement agency has a history of serious problems, then its “risk management” division is often working overtime.

  7. 7
    Radfem says:

    I was reading about grand juries and how they decide whether or not to issue indictments in police misconduct cases particularly excessive force and they seem to be the agents in many places to do so.

    A good example was today’s announcement that at least three of the five NYPD officers involved in the Sean Bell shooting have been indicted on unknown charges and ordered to surrender on Monday, according to their attorneys. The three mentioned had fired the most shots, 46 out of the 50.

    Even with it going to the criminal courts, the liklihood of any of the men being convicted of anything is remote. Juries are reluctant to convict police officers for onduty conduct. That applies to excessive force under the color of authority, manslaughter, murder and crimes like rape and sodomy under the color of authority as well.

    Although the grand jury is an avenue in terms of criminal charges in these cases, the end result I think is usually the same. As hard as it often is to hold police officers accountable for their misconduct at the administrative level within the agencies that employ them, it’s harder with the criminal justice system in part because of the laws, the mutualism existing between law enforcement agencies and prosecutory agencies and so forth.

  8. 8
    Carnadosa says:

    Oh, that makes sense. Thanks.