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Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Victims face lack of respect

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Willie Jackson and John Tamihere inanely mutter on their show.
Willie Jackson and John Tamihere inanely mutter on their show.

It's clear now that police had been unable to bring charges against the so-called Roast Busters gang because there had been insufficient media attention to go on. Fortunately new media attention has recently come to light, making it imperative that police take action or run the risk of appearing like Neanderthal abettors.

News of police action and - mainly - inaction in this case went from bad to worse when it was revealed four victims had tried to complain unsuccessfully and at least one had endured an interrogation which amounted to a second round of humiliation at the hands of those who should have been helping her.

We only have her side of the story of course, because, as a police representative said, "Out of respect for the victim and her family, police are unable to discuss this particular situation any further." It's hard to see which part of what the police did here meets any known definition of respect.

Respect isn't a concept that has much meaning for Radio Live hosts John Tamihere and Willie Jackson, the Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble of talkback, who have trouble telling the difference between rape and mischief and whose half-arsed apology for their on-air degradation of a caller frustrated many.

Tamihere was quick to react by refusing to confront the complaints. "There's a bunch of people in the media that hate our guts,"' he said, which may be true but has no bearing on the issue. Accusing your critics of conducting a vendetta against you is the flip side of victim blaming.

I've never been a regular listener to Jackson and Tamihere, or as they boyishly refer to themselves "Willie and JT". I can get all the stupid I need in my day from television. But I noticed in the last ratings survey that the station has managed to improve its figures slightly, possibly thanks to the introduction of some experienced radio journalists to offset the inane mutterings of Jackson and Tamihere and their colleague Andrew Fagan who also had an episode of victim blaming during the week.

Which is why a listener boycott, to supplement that of advertisers, could have an effect. We used to be very good at boycotts. We eschewed French produce as retaliation for the Rainbow Warrior bombing and wouldn't touch anything South African for years. Small and symbolic the gestures might have been but they had an impact.

It's not just listeners and advertisers who should boycott the station. So should its broadcasters. Every woman who appears on air - as is the case with most commercial radio, that number is small - could make an effective point by refusing to turn up to work. Not forever, of course. Just until Tamihere and Jackson agree to undergo counselling and get the message that girls who are raped aren't sluts. Presumably a counsellor exists who could express this in terms simple enough even for them to understand.

In a rare example of almost the right thing being done, the Government, which has hitherto blindly resisted this change, agreed to reduce the blood alcohol limit for drivers. However, it seriously weakened the effect of this by setting the level of the fine this will incur at $200. For many of those who drink and drive regularly, $200 is the price of the lunch preceding the offence, if not of just one of the bottles of wine consumed.

If we want fines to have any effect they should be scaled according to the means of the culprit. For some people $20 is too much to pay; for others $2000 is a trifle.

- Herald on Sunday

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