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Inquiry into ‘Roast Busters’ sex case

An independent investigation into the police handling of the ‘Roast Busters’ sex case is ordered by the New Zealand Police Minister Anne Tolley.

PT1M10S http://www.dailylife.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2x2f7 620 349

A group of teenage boys in Auckland calling themselves the ‘Roast Busters’ have been exposed by New Zealand news network 3 News for operating what amounts to an organised rape ring of local girls, many of them underage.  

Members of the group have been using Facebook to recruit other perpetrators to their gang, the hilarious purpose of which has been to ply girls with alcohol until intoxication and then gang rape them. As if that weren’t bad enough, the ‘Roast Busters’ (and what is it with groups of sexually violent misogynists adopting childish monikers to fuel a sense of belonging and superiority?) then used that same Facebook page to name and shame their victims, many of whom were then vilified as ‘sluts’ for allowing themselves to be ‘roasted’ by a gang of entitled rapists. 

When 3 News launched the findings of its investigation, Auckland police responded half heartedly, claiming that they had known about the page since 2011 but had been ‘powerless’ to do anything about it. Whether or not that has anything to do with the page’s members (one of whom is the son of a local law enforcement officer, while another is the son of an actor) is cause for query; so far, the police have denied it. According to the police, they didn’t have enough evidence to press charges.

A screen shot of the teen boys via 3 News.

A screen shot of the teen boys Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales via 3 News.

Apparently, publicising an admission of participation in the rape of underage drunk girls with the intent of gaining infamy and popularity isn’t enough these days. Nor is being approached by an underaged victim two years ago with allegations of rape by at least three boys. Rest assured though, the police haven’t been entirely lacklustre. They did warn members that their behaviour ‘might be verging on criminal’. Boys will be boys, and it’s just so hard to prove anything these days.

Instead, the ‘Roast Busters’ have been left to boast of their exploits online. In a video published by 3 News, ringleaders Joseph Levall Parker and Beraiah Hales brag, “We don’t choose a roast, the roast chooses us.” In a chilling display of just how little respect Parker has for his victims, he adds, “They know what we’re like; they know what they’re in for.”

NZ Greens MP and former sexual abuse counsellor Jan Logie perfectly articulates just how insidious rape culture has become with her assessment of the Auckland gang. “If you need more proof that there is something seriously wrong with how rape is talked about and prosecuted, look no further than the revelations about the Roast Busters rape club.”

Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales

Joseph Parker and Beraiah Hales

This is what rape culture looks like, and this is why our current method of focusing on rape ‘prevention’ is failing dismally. Do we really imagine that this group is operating in isolation? We already know that similar ‘jokes’ have been played in Steubenville (where a group allegedly operated under the name ‘the Rape Crew’, Maryville, Canberra and Texas to name just a very few. Even in Auckland, investigations are currently being made into a copycat group.

The question we should be consumed with answering is not how we can educate young girls to be more proactive about avoiding rape, but how we can educate young boys to understand that they are not entitled to the bodies of other people just because they demand them, nor are they entitled to humiliate those same people in order to peacock for their mates. These girls weren’t raped because they drank too much and put themselves in the path of predators; they were raped because masculine entitlement still runs so deep that a group of teenage boys thought it would be a funny thing to do, while high fiving each other over their intoxicated victim’s body.

Rape is an action that’s directly perpetrated, increasingly so as part of a group bonding exercise. But rape culture positions rape as an arbitrary accident girls stumble into when they’ve failed to take the proper precautions against it. Shifting the onus on girls to protect themselves enables perpetrators to continue unabated, content in the knowledge that there will never be any real consequences for their actions. Instead, we are asked to consider their good childhoods and their promising futures - as if choosing to participate in the ritualised group humiliation and sexual violation of another human being is simply a hiccup in the journey to becoming a decent person.

Unfortunately, it is easier to accept that the women you love might are potential victims who need to be protected than it is to understand the men you love might be potential predators who need to be stopped.

As an anonymous member of the Roast Busters wrote in a Facebook ‘nonpology’, “All of the girls that have been effected [sic] by this whole ridiculousness I apologize and wish the best for you.”

Rape culture is reflecting on the exposure of the organised activities of a gang of rapists (some of whom have not yet reached 18) as ‘this whole ridiculousness’, as if what happened was a simple misunderstanding that could be cleared up by a few conciliatory statements and the reassurance that at least one of these men has ‘taken this as a massive learning experience’. I’m so glad that the victimisation of girls and women has been yet again justified by the learning curve of a man.

Then there are those words again. They know what they’re in for. I recall a similar excuse being made by members of the public back in 2009 when Four Corners broke the story of Cronulla Sharks' group sex scandal in New Zealand; it is invoked again whenever a young woman brings allegations of rape against a high profile sporting identity, or a young girl finds herself pilloried by the public for not understanding that kissing, or clothing, or going home with someone all contribute to a promise that needs to be fulfilled.

And this is rape culture too. The expectation that ‘consent’, as flimsily secured as it might be, is an excuse for men to behave with impunity; to exercise all the most disgusting, degrading attitudes that they might hold towards women either for their own satisfaction or for approval of friends looking on. That a ‘yes’, however shakily it might be offered or assumed, is a contract signed by a woman that surrenders her right not just to dignity and respect, but to complaint when it turns out she was there as a prop not a participant.

This is the environment in which rape culture flourishes.

It is how ‘good’ boys and men go on to commit sexual crimes against the women they’ve been trained not to view as equal human beings, and to then be excused for them with little more than a slap on the wrist and an entreaty to be smarter next time. It is how a group of non-descript lads in Auckland can form a rape club called the ‘Roast Busters’ and brag about it online, believing implicitly in their right to do so as both lords and masters of their own domain.

And it is why these groups will continue to flourish like a poisonous fungus across a society that chooses not to see what’s really going on.