A sexual assault survivor who was groomed by her 58-year-old maths teacher and repeatedly sexually molested has slammed commentator Bettina Arndt over a video posted on YouTube labelling the girl's behaviour "sexually provocative" and stating that school girls "exploit their seductive powers to ruin the lives of men".
The 17-minute video features Ms Arndt and convicted sex offender, Nicolaas Bester, who was sentenced to two years and six months jail in 2011 for repeatedly molesting his 15-year-old student.
Known to media as Jane Doe, Jane now wishes to tell her story but an outdated law which exists only in Tasmania and the Northern Territory won't allow sexual assault survivors to speak under their real name, even with their full consent.
Our campaign — #LetHerSpeak — aims to amend the laws so any survivor over the age of 18 can waive their right to anonymity if they so choose, without risking punishment to themselves or any media outlet which publishes their story with consent.
At the time of his arrest, Bester was also found to be in possession of 28 pieces of child pornography.
After an early release from prison in 2013, Bester was rearrested in 2015 for production of child exploitation material and sentenced to an additional four months in prison.
Yet in a sympathetic interview posted on YouTube, Ms Arndt defended the convicted sex offender saying "the man is not a pederast. This is not a man with a history of sexually preying on children".
Ms Arndt continues: "Over the years I've talked to many male teachers about sexually provocative behaviour from female students. Sensible teachers of course run a mile from these girls but the teachers are still really vulnerable because they can easily be subject to false accusations if they reject or offend the young woman in question.
"Here we have a case where evidence of the girl's sexually provocative behaviour was presented to the judge … The question that remains for me is whether there is any room in this conversation for talking to young people, particularly young girls, about behaving sensibly and not exploiting their seductive power to ruin the lives of men."
The original video has since been pulled down from YouTube, after Tasmanian police investigated claims that it revealed Jane Doe's true identity.
In an interview with news.com.au, Jane Doe hit back at both Arndt and Bester.
"I am deeply disappointed in Ms Arndt for her unprofessional, totally biased reporting, her willingness to defend a convicted paedophile, and her blatant lack of empathy for a vulnerable child in the grips of a debilitating mental illness," she said in a reference to the fact that she was suffering anorexia and depression at the time of the abuse.
"Ms Arndt never reached out to me in the pursuit of balanced journalism; never heard my side of the story; was not present at any stage of the abuse; did not attend any of the court hearings; yet confidently labelled me a 'provocative' teenager who used her 'seductive powers' to ruin a man's life.
"That she is so willing to support a twice convicted sex offender, trivialise the details of his heinous crimes, and even laugh off aspects of his offending is quite disturbing.
"I don't harbour any ill will towards Ms Arndt, and I would be happy to sit down and have a chat with her to fill her in on some of the conveniently missing pieces in her reporting. I also would really like to know what she would have done. At 15."
In further comments to news.com.au, Jane Doe has also slammed Bester over remarks he made in the video.
"He says he 'got involved' with a student and that the 'relationship' was 'discovered'," she said.
"Let me be clear. Certainly there was a degree of 'traumatic bonding', but this was not some sordid affair we were both trying desperately to hide that somehow got revealed. He was abusing me. I came forward to the school, the police, the courts. I reported him because what he did was criminal; it was evil.
"Bester says the abuse happened over a period between July and December 2010, tactfully neglecting to mention that the grooming in fact began long before that in April.
"These acts are not 'stupid', they are not things you do on impulse; they are calculated, intentional acts of violence.
"Bester didn't run a stoplight; he abused a child. Again and again. It wasn't a mere 'mistake', it was a crime."
In the video, Bester also attempts to explain away the 28 pieces of child pornography police found on his computer, saying he had downloaded them by accident.
"What happened was I downloaded a font, it was actually a copyright font, so the download was illegal and it came down in a zip file and I opened the zip file and all of these images suddenly splayed themselves all over my desktop, which of course is a risk you take when you download things you don't know about."
In the video Bester also says he takes "full responsibility" for what he did, before quibbling about arbitrary age cut offs at law.
"If you're having sex with a woman and she is 17 years old today and it's one minute to midnight and she's 18 tomorrow then tonight it's illegal and one minute past midnight when she's 18 it's legal," he said.
Jane Doe said: "I was 15. It wasn't one minute to midnight, and he was my teacher."
In the video Bester does not express any sympathy for his former student, instead suggesting that his life has been made difficult by his decision to abuse her.
"I lost everything, I lost my home … I lost my job, I lost my status in the community. I lost absolutely everything. It was a devastating time [for me]."
However in 2015 it was a very different story with Bester taking to social media to brag about his crimes against Jane Doe, saying it was "awesome".
In an argument on Facebook with a young man who had raised Bester's criminal history, Bester wrote:
"Zip up your testicles in the feminist handbag, you sorry little prick. Judging from the emails and tweets I have received, the majority of men in Australia envy me. I was 59. She was 15 going on 25 …. It was awesome."
A court later heard that he continued:
"I had a sexual relationship with a girl who was younger than seventeen. How many others do this? Go to Moohah, New Norfolk and do a door knock and stop trying to stigmatise my association."
At the time, Bester also posted graphic sexual descriptions of the abuse which news.com.au will not reproduce for legal and ethical reasons.
In response to the latest YouTube video, Jane Doe says Bester shows a shocking lack of insight into the impact of his crimes on her.
"Knowing what Bester is capable of, having heard and seen the darkest side of him too many times to count, I expected the video to be horrifying. But watching it was an experience made painful only by its tragic predictability. I anticipated the arrogance. I anticipated the manipulative self-pity, the lies, calculated omissions and unsubstantiated claims — all contrivances befitting of the monster he is.
"At best, I'd call it a very weak, attempt by a paedophile to garner undue sympathy, aided by a misled supporter."
News.com.au contacted Ms Arndt for comment, but she did not respond.
Nina Funnell is a Walkley Award winning journalist and a director of End Rape On Campus Australia. To support the campaign, sign and share the petition here.