Thursday, October 7, 2010

Case illustrates need for anonymity for the presumptively innocent accused of rape

By guest Sonja Newcombe:

Recently in Australia, the extremely popular game Australian Football League (AFL) had a draw at their Grand Final. On Saturday, the 2nd of October, the game was played again, and Collingwood were the winners by a large margin. Suffice to say, there were a number of rather enthusiastic parties in Melbourne that night.

After their celebrations, two of their players were questioned by Victoria Police in relation to an investigation into a sexual assault claim. Until today, the players’ names have been kept secret by all involved – the police, the club, and the players themselves. Today, the host of radio 3AW (Neil Mitchell) named the two players who’ve been questioned by police, stating simply that their anonymity “benefits nobody and potentially hurts many people”, and that “the police are wrong”. He never expands on who it hurts. (link 1)

Collingwood president Eddie McGuire lashed out at Mitchell, furious that members of his team had been named in complete disregard for the wishes of the club and Victoria Police. McGuire said, "These players, their names, their reputations, their families ... possibly even the case that's up before them has been prejudiced by outside media influence for no other reason than a blatant grab for ratings and notoriety.". And he is right. It will now be more difficult to pull a jury of peers who have not heard of the case, should the investigation turn into a prosecution that makes a courtroom.

The case has sparked an awful lot of talk, with prominent talk-show host Kerri-Anne Kennerley coming under fire for stating that the women who party with footballers are “strays” (link 2). Channel 9 jumped in to support Kerri-Anne, stating “What she was speaking to Spida [Peter Everitt] about was the fact that not one party can be blamed for this. The responsibility lies with the girls as well as with the guys when you're talking about alcohol-fuelled situations.” (link 3)

Everitt has Tweeted about the allegations, saying that women who go to a man’s house at 3am shouldn’t expect a Milo. (link 4)

Naturally, feminists have hit back at Kerri-Anne and Everitt, with one woman claiming Everitt’s Tweet “...[encourages] men to believe they are entitled to have sex with vulnerable women, and women to believe they are not entitled to say 'no' once drunk or alone with a man. In other words, 'girls' who are 'blind drunk' are just asking for it.”. (link 5) Nina also believes “Under-reporting, not falsified reporting, is the real problem.”. Other feminists resorted to their usual methods of “discussion” by simply insulting Everitt, stating he’s “a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who thinks that women who have a few drinks and go home with a bloke are asking for it”, and “a rape apologist” (one of their favourites). (link 6)

And yet clearly, Everitt’s tweet has its supporters. Members of the “Just Commodores” forum (Commodore is an Australian car, made by GM Holden), say “At least someone has enough balls to tell the truth.” And, “The guy well and truly hit the nail on the head. Some chicks are just bloody morons. [...] As for the feminist groups having a winge about what he said they should grow a few brain cells and mind their own bloody business.”. (link 7)

So even though the exact facts are not known, and though the two players have not been charged and are cooperating with the authorities, there are those who believe that the players are guilty. They also believe those supporting the players and simply stating the way things are, are contributing to the “rape culture”. (link 8) I say this case highlights the desire and necessity of anonymity until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

1. http://www.theage.com.au/afl/afl-news/eddie-mcguire-lashes-neil-mitchell-for-naming-collingwood-players-20101007-168dj.html?autostart=1

2. http://news.ninemsn.com.au/entertainment/8100379/kerri-anne-stands-by-stray-remarks

3. http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/victoria/kerri-anne-kennerleys-stray-comment-fires-up-wags/story-e6frf7kx-1225935188095

4. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/magpies-players-deny-sex-assault-claim-20101005-165w6.html

5. http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/women-cop-blame-again-for-sex-assault-20101006-167pp.html?from=smh_sb

6. http://www.thepunch.com.au/articles/a-knuckle-dragging-moron-but-should-he-be-sacked-spida-everitt/

7. http://forums.justcommodores.com.au/pub/149900-spida-everitt-ftw.html

8. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/39738.html