ADFA Skype case at the ACT Supreme Court. The two convicted cadets. At left is Dylan Deblaquiere and at right is Daniel McDonald. Photo: Graham Tidy
In August, former ADFA cadets Dylan Deblaquiere and Daniel McDonald were found guilty in the ACT Supreme Court of using a carriage service in an indecent manner. Back in 2011, the pair had orchestrated a scenario in which McDonald was filmed having sex with one of their ADFA colleagues and live streamed into a room of six men (including Deblaquiere).
On Wednesday, the pair were each sentenced to 12 month good behaviour bonds. The charges of indecency carry a maximum of five years, but Acting Justice John Nield took into consideration the pair’s "young age, their good prospects for rehabilitation, the likelihood they would not reoffend, and their otherwise unblemished criminal record".
So it appears that boys will be boys, or so the routinely offered mantra goes whenever society is forced to confront the abuses inflicted by men afforded individual and pack privilege.
Lawyer, Francis Cahill, centre front, addresses the media with Dylan Deblaquiere, left, and Daniel McDonald, centre back. Photo: Graham Tidy
Indeed, there was no small amount of blame attributed to the female victim when the case came to light. Sexual relationships between cadets are forbidden at ADFA, a fact which naturally led to a proportion of Australians arguing for equal retribution against the target of Deblaquiere and McDonald’s "prank" when the case first gained public attention.
Evidently, being betrayed and then humiliated in front of her peers and subsequently ostracised and bullied by them (she recalls being referred to as "that Skype slut") wasn’t enough punishment for a woman who many saw as being the linchpin in the destruction of innocent boys’ careers. And make no mistake - there will be many in the community who welcome the end of her prospects while mourning the loss of theirs.
The social imperative to force complicity on to victims is strong in Australia, particularly when robust masculine codes are involved. Yes, what the men had done was wrong in a way - but she had to know what she was getting into, and why was she there in the first place, and what kind of woman, and she probably agreed and then regretted it and and and and all the other caveats and excuses we can come up with to avoid dealing with the stark reality that if there are dangerous fractures in the sexual conduct of our younger generations, they are agitated not by our women but by our men.
This communal act of disregard for another human being is not an isolated incident. The news is full of examples of men bonding over the violation of women, from Steubenville to the pack rapes in Cleveland, Texas to Daisy Coleman in Maryville; the pack rape of a 13 year old runaway in Austin, Texas to the gang rape of a 16 year old homeless girl in Brunswick; the rape and subsequent murder of Jyoti Singh Pandey on a New Delhi bus to the almost identical attack on Anene Booysen in Cape Town to the recent brutilisation of a young Kenyan girl that has left her in a wheelchair.
Not all of the incidents linked to directly above are exactly the same, but they all have one thing in common: they exist on a continuum of violence that is supported by a perceived sense of unquestionable masculine entitlement. Because what leads a group of men to participate in the pack degradation of another human being other than the deeply held belief that it is their right to do so?
When Deblaquiere contacted McDonald via text to say, “I just had a f---in sick idea pop into my head, f--- her n film it”, he wasn’t demonstrating a unique imagination. Rather, he was following in the footsteps of a long line of similarly privileged men who are empowered by society to behave exactly as they like towards women, and who will continue to be so as long as incidents like these are written off as the simple mistakes of men who got a little too carried away.
In all the noise surrounding women’s complicity in sex attacks and what women can do to avoid them and how it’s women’s responsibility to be aware, there is an infuriating resistance to identifying the real problem: to wit, that it is men en masse who perpetrate these crimes, and there is precisely nothing being done to challenge the behaviour that tells them it is their right.
In 2011, Deblaquiere and McDonald were not yet 20 years old. And yet, fresh from the "good" childhoods Acting Justice Nield said had been characterised by intelligence, positive performances in school and an otherwise unblemished criminal record, they thought nothing of orchestrating an event whose sole purpose was to sexually humiliate a female colleague for the gratification of their fellow peers, not one of whom was sufficiently disgusted by the act to try and stop it or even to report it.
Even throughout the trial, Deblaquiere and McDonald tried to protest their culpability, insisting that the woman had consented to being filmed despite identifiable evidence to the contrary. The lack of remorse isn’t just obvious, it’s downright frightening. And where does that come from, other than the internalised lifelong messaging that tells them they have the right to treat women like this because their dignity and right to experiment with "mistakes" is given precedence over a woman’s right to exist at all?
We are suffering a global epidemic of sexual violence, and it manifests in myriad different ways. The cancerous tumour at the core of all of this isn’t the brazen insistence of women to live "reckless" lives but the fundamental enforcement of masculine rights to space and power.
Lieutenant General David Morrison moved many people when he declared his intention to stamp out misogyny in the ADF. “The standard you walk past is the standard you accept,” he said, and those words have been quoted many times since. And yet, here we are again, walking past with a pathetic 12 month good behaviour bond. Nothing to see here folks. Keep it moving.
And the world, it keeps turning.