Rape culture

Legislative Council
Wednesday 6th of july

Matter of Interest Speech

Rape Culture

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS ( 15:59 :54 ): I rise today to speak on rape culture. 'Rape culture' is a term that was coined by feminists in the 1970s. It’s a term that many of us know in our guts to be something that is true but we never knew how to define it until we had the words ‘rape culture’. It is one of those terms indeed that must be named so it can be ended. The term 'rape culture' shows us the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and rape and normalises sexual violence.

Every single day women, in particular, battle against rape culture. Whether it is Eddie McGuire joking about violence against women, whether it is receiving unsolicited dick pics online, whether it is listening to a song that has lyrics that trivialise sexual assault or just the eye rolls and sighs from people when I say the words ‘rape culture’.

Rape culture is asking, 'What did she wear, how much did she drink, why was she there, rather than, 'Why did they rape her?' Rape culture is using sexually violent images or similar innuendo to advertise and promote products. Rape culture is a complaint by a man that he has been put in the ‘friend zone’ by his woman, who was a friend, as if that is somehow something to be offended by. Rape culture is when Facebook says that the community standards of Facebook are not violated by threats against a woman to rape her or to kill her, but apparently breastfeeding is not acceptable.

Rape culture puts the blame on the victim, not where it should be, on the perpetrator. Rape culture is something that I wanted to bring and speak to in this chamber when I read the story, as many did across the world, of the case of Brock Turner, a young man who raped an unconscious fellow student at Stanford University and was given only a six month sentence. She woke up in hospital bruised and bloodied and confused, and wrote a 13-page letter to the world about how angry she felt, and I share her anger. That worldwide interest and anger was sparked even further when Brock Turner’s father had the audacity to say that six months was a high price to pay for what he termed, what his father termed as his son’s crime, as being somehow ‘20 minutes of action'.

As one person posted online at the time, the problem with this is we always judge a victim’s past and look to a perpetrators potential. Rape culture is the judge who sentences a rapist to a brief, or indeed non-existent, sentence because of their potential. Rape culture is also where a victim never gets their day in court.

One such victim is here in Australia. In New South Wales, some five years ago, on a northern coastal beach a young woman, a youngish woman, Lynette Daly, also known as Norma, an Aboriginal woman, was camping overnight with two males whom she thought were her friends. She died on that beach some five years ago. Her autopsy found that she died from blunt force trauma to her genital tract and had suffered horrific internal and external injuries after violent sexual acts. A forensic pathologist, who examined her, said the injuries that she sustained were more severe than those which occur in even the most precipitous childbirth.

Adrian Attwater and Paul Maris, the men who were also there that morning when she died, burned the mattress, the blood-soaked mattress, that she had been on. They burned some of her clothing before they called the police. Norma had a blood alcohol level at the time that showed there was no way she could have consented to sex. Her rapists were originally charged over the incident but the DPP failed to progress those charges.

Some five years later, it is only through a Coroner’s recommendation and a Four Corners program and many tens of thousands of signatures on an online petition that Norma’s family will finally see Norma get her day in court. Of course, they will never have Norma come home to them. They will never see her again. They have lost her life but at least they may now get justice. On 2 August those two men will finally face a day in court.

Let me reiterate, rape culture is letting rapists get away with rape and rape culture is looking to the potential of the perpetrator not to the past of the victim.

In South Australia we do not have to look too far to see an Adelaide Uni case, where a young man, Scott Belcher, had the fact that he was dux in year 7 seen as part of his potential to minimise his sentence, and yet his victim, who was raped by him, had her university lecturers stand up in court, not for her but for the perpetrator of her rape. That is rape culture here in Adelaide. Here in this place we can change laws, but we also need to start talking out against rape culture. We need to change the culture and strengthen the laws.


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