The toxic conditioning that tells rapists they can commit the same crime again

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Fury over payment to avoid Croatian rape trial

In exchange for their freedom and to avoid trial, three Melbourne men agreed with Croatian prosecutors to pay the victim $31,594 and pleaded guilty.

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On Monday, news outlets revealed that three men guilty of raping a young Norwegian woman in Croatia would be returning home after paying the victim $30,000 in settlement and avoiding imprisonment for their crime. Dylan Djohan, Ashwin Kumar and Waleed Latif pleaded guilty to the July 2015 assault and received one year prison terms which were immediately commuted to a five year good behaviour bond.

Only a few days later after buying his freedom, Djohan used his public Instagram account to joke about about joining the mile high club with a flight attendant. This is a man who had just pleaded guilty to gang raping a minor, and yet remains seemingly ambivalent about the gravity of that crime.

But Djohan and his collaborators aren't the only examples of an horrendously unfair legal system to have emerged recently. In the past week, it was revealed that the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions had decided to withdraw a charge of manslaughter and accessory to manslaughter against two men involved with the death of a woman on a beach on the NSW north coast. Adrian Attwater and Paul Maris allegedly sexually assaulted the woman (identified only as Norma) in 2011, leaving her with injuries so bad that a forensic pathologist described them as being "more severe than those which occur in even precipitous childbirth." Afterwards, the two men chose to burn her clothes and a blood-soaked mattress before seeking help.

Three Australian men charged with rape in Croatia. Dylan Djohan, Ashwin Kumar and Waleed Latif

Three Australian men charged with rape in Croatia. Dylan Djohan, Ashwin Kumar and Waleed Latif Photo: Picture sourced from social media

Like Djohan, Kumar and Latif, these men claim the sex was consensual too.


After the urging of NSW Attorney-General Gabrielle Upton, the DPP has agreed to review the matter. But the question of why it was dropped in the first place still remains. Norma had a blood alcohol level of 0.35, a level at which there is risk of falling into a coma. That alone signifies that consent couldn't be offered, let alone the extreme injuries she suffered. How could a claim of consent in such dubious circumstances possibly be accepted?

In both cases, the reaction from the public has seemed positive. There is significant outrage that Djohan, Kumar and Latif were allowed to 'buy' their freedom, and horror that Attwater and Maris never had to fight for it in the first place. This public sentiment seems promising. Unfortunately, it also seems arbitrary. Why were the men in Croatia released? Why weren't the men in NSW charged?

Dylan Djohan in Dubrovnik.

Dylan Djohan in Dubrovnik. Photo: Picture sourced from social media

But to understand the answers to these questions, we need to ask some other things first.

Why, for example, do people come out in droves to defend sports stars accused of similar crimes? Why are we bombarded with examples from our supposedly 'civilised' countries that show entire communities siding with the young men who rape women at parties because they're 'good boys' who 'made a mistake' and 'what else could they be expected to do when she was drinking?'

Why do less than 10 per cent of reported rapes result in convictions? Why does a victim's profession, fashion sense, sex life and blood alcohol level still act as mitigating factors in how much people are willing to sympathise with her or even believe her in the first place?

It isn't enough to rage about individual outcomes when we as a whole society are complicit in perpetuating caveats and extenuating circumstances for rape. It shouldn't be relevant that the 17-year-old Norwegian girl raped by Djohan, Kumar and Latif had been drinking with the trio before they decided to drag her into a toilet and take turns raping her. And beyond proving that consent was impossible to give, it shouldn't matter that blood reports showed Norma was high on amphetamines and had a blood alcohol level of 0.35.

But there are still people who believe that women forfeit their right to sexual agency and sovereignty when they're drunk or out with men they don't know or flirting or talking with them or kissing them or behaving as if they live in some kind of fantasy la la land where women might actually have an equal right to decide when and where sex is consensual and not just have it forced upon them. Sometimes they work at the Department of Public Prosecutions. Others are the witnesses who make judgments about how women were behaving in bars. Still others are the friends and family members who eagerly await the day their sons are released from the 'nightmare' of a vengeful slut who got what she was asking for and then cried foul afterwards.

These people walk among us, and they protect rapists. They are the first people to enforce rape culture and the first to deny it exists. They don't want to accept that this is what a rapist looks like - not like a monster, but like their son, their brother, their friend, their colleague, their customer, their mate, their boyfriend or their husband.

But the thing is, we need to understand that this is *exactly* what a rapist looks like. They look like part time models or middle aged fathers. They don't carry signs, they carry conditioning. They carry the conditioning that, in large part, tells them that sexually violating another person is okay if they decide she was asking for it. They carry the conditioning that reassures them their families and communities will not just stand by them but will defend them against these claims and assist them to believe that their victims are the ones at fault, not them. They carry the conditioning that shows them wider society will not only welcome them back with open arms but won't even blame them in the first place. There will always be a drunk girl, a stray, a slut, a stupid woman who should have known better who makes an easier target for finger pointing practice.

And this is the conditioning that tells them they can do it again.