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Laws: 'Were you provocative?'

Radio host John Laws, stands by his comments on 2SM's morning show after asking a woman if she was in any way 'at fault' or 'provocative' when she was sexually abused as a child.

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I was six when a ‘trusted’ adult sexually abused me for the first time. It took years of therapy before I understood that it wasn’t my fault. But even now, this understanding is only at an intellectual level.

Emotionally, I’m unable to forgive myself for not fighting back. Why did I just lie there — the first time and all the other times that followed?

Like so many victims of sexual abuse, I cannot shake the shame and the guilt no matter how hard I try.

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This is rape culture: where society — even the victims themselves — believe that rape is caused by the victim; by the way she dressed, by how much alcohol she consumed, by her sexual history, or the cut of her childhood bunny pajamas. This attitude prolongs the suffering of victims and allows the rapist to be excused for being ‘manipulated’ or ‘seduced’ or forgiven for making a ‘mistake’.

We have seen rape culture play out when people suggested that Jill Meagher should not have been drinking, out late, or wearing high heels, and just this week when CNN and others lamented the impact of a judicial sentences for two ‘promising’ young footballers from Steubenville who raped and humiliated a teenage girl.

And now radio broadcaster John Laws has given us a sickening example of rape culture when he asked a tearful women on air if she had provoked the years of sexual abuse she endured as a child.

The anonymous caller revealed on Laws’ 2SM morning show that she had been molested by five male family members, including her father, brothers and uncles, from the age of six to sixteen.

The 'King' of talkback radio, with his 54 years of experience and not an ounce of compassion and decency replied, ‘My God they were having a good time with you.’

Worse still, he then went on to ask, ‘Was it in any way your fault?’ and  ‘You weren't provocative?’

To suggest that any rape victim, let alone a six year old, was consensual or complicit in her abuse shows how deeply entrenched rape culture is in our society.  

To add insult to injury, Laws bizarrely asked the woman ‘Are you unattractive?’

In what other crime is the appearance of the person relevant? Why do shock jocks — people who usually take a lock-em-up-and-throw-away-the-key approach to crime — suddenly go soft on the perpetrators of crime when it comes to rape?

While the enormous public outrage towards John Laws over this repugnant incident is reassuring, it is grossly inadequate.

We were outraged and publicly censured Kyle Sandilands and Jacki O in 2009 when they gave a lie detector test to a fourteen year old rape victim, but yet, here we are again.

But this time it’s even worse. Unlike Sandilands and Jacki O, John Laws had the temerity to suggest that he was the real victim in this scenario, complaining that, ‘[H]aving a whack at John Laws is a national sport, particularly (by) other broadcasters who haven't enjoyed the same success that I have.’

I like to think that I have done a good job of disguising the scars of my abuse over the years, but in my case at least, they are wounds that continue to fester. What I need in order to heal — and I dare say what John Laws’ anonymous caller needs also — is to let go of the guilt.

But to do this, we need to live in a world where we’re not told repeatedly in subtle, and not so subtle ways, that rape was our fault and that it could have been prevented if only we had behaved better.

If other people are to be spared this suffering then it’s not enough to stamp out spot fires as they occur. Rape culture needs to be deliberately and systematically dismantled. From teacher training, sex education in schools, government priorities, media guidelines and individual responsibilities, we need a clear understanding of who is to blame for rape. 

So let’s put it in the kind of clear, black and white language that shock jocks understand: rapists are to blame for rape.  

 

Kasey Edwards is the best-selling author of 4 books 30-Something and Over It, 30-Something and The Clock is Ticking, OMG! That's Not My Husband, and OMG! That's Not My Child. www.kaseyedwards.com

*Support is available for anyone who may be distressed by phoning Lifeline 13 11 14; Mensline 1300 789 978; Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

Daily Life will be hosting a panel discussion of of Rape Culture at the All About Women Festival on April 7. For more information and to get your ticket, visit The Sydney Opera House.