Rodney Hide: Rape culture protects predators

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Parliament's suppression laws and MPs' silence sanction our rape culture, writes Rodney Hide

Rolf Harris was able to continue offending for years. Photo / AP
Rolf Harris was able to continue offending for years. Photo / AP

I have reluctantly concluded that New Zealand does suffer a rape culture.

It's not an "all men are rapists" and "I am sorry for being a man" type of thing. Rather, it's the way men can commit sex crimes and get away with it. The system works to protect the privileged and powerful.

My eyes were opened after my column last week. I had called on National MP Maggie Barry to use Parliamentary privilege to break the suppression order protecting a "prominent" New Zealander. The police had charged him with "indecent assault" but the sex predator pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of "indecent act with intent to insult or offend".

"Indecent assault" is a strike offence; it's a serious charge.

Judge David Saunders discharged the sex attacker without conviction and gave him name suppression. We can't report who he is. By way of explanation, the judge said the predator had "carried a bit of a cross" since the charges were laid.

On this logic, Rolf Harris would have name suppression and would have received judicial sympathy. Such travesties are so part and parcel of our justice system that they go largely unremarked.

After my column, various low-level political operatives asked me who it was. It was tittle-tattle for them, I thought, but then I realised they were checking whether the predator was on their team. They expressed no concern for the victim and no outrage.

Through the week, our "prominent" New Zealander's media mates rang journalists to minimise his offending. The spin was that the judge didn't believe the woman and, sure, their mate had made a forceful pass, as he does, but not an assault. Yeah, right.

These are the enablers. They defend, minimise and excuse sex crimes. And no doubt Harris had a legion of them. They disgust me every bit as much as the predator. Those in power, those in the media and other "prominent" New Zealanders all know who the offender is. They know to be wary. Just like those who knew Harris as the "octopus".

The nature of this "prominent" New Zealander's attack, and his reputation, suggests to me that he is a serial offender. Our system leaves his other possible victims suffering in silence. It also fails to warn his future victims. That's how Harris was able to get away with it. His fans didn't know what he was like; those on the inside did.

And there's our rape culture. Our system protects the offender and puts women at risk.

I was possibly a bit hard on Barry. Given that she had spoken out about Harris, I thought she would break the suppression order by naming the predator in Parliament.

But, of course, any MP can do that. None contacted me. The worry is that once offenders start being named, where will it end? Who would be implicated? That's it. That's our "rape culture". Parliament's suppression laws and MPs' silence sanction it.

- Herald on Sunday

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