Jailed: Luke Lazarus outside court during his sentencing hearing for raping a woman near his father's nightclub in Kings Cross. Photo: Janie Barrett
What are the consequences of privilege and entitlement? For the victims of violent assault, it turns out that those consequences can include evidence of just how little remorse is felt by the perpetrator in question and the culture that supports them.
A disturbing example of that can be found in the behaviour of people connected with the Soho nightclub in Kings Cross, which was the site of a degrading sexual assault perpetrated by owner Andrew Lazarus' son Luke two years ago. The team behind Soho's social media account last week uploaded a photograph advertising a special Easter celebration.
100 per cent: Luke Lazarus says everything that occurred in the alleyway was consensual
The photo depicts a young woman who appears to be passed out on the ground with her legs slightly spread and her fingers gesturing in a peace sign. Although it was quickly deleted from the nightclub's Facebook page after some backlash on Twitter, it does give some kind of insight into the lax attitude taken by the club and its representatives towards women's safety.
More despicably, it comes shortly after Lazarus' sentencing caused consternation amongst his friends and family. It isn't too far a leap to assume that the people handling Soho's public relations were expressly thumbing their nose at the system which punished one of their own.
Some background. In 2013, Luke Lazarus lured an 18-year-old woman into an alleyway at the back of the club owned by his father, Andrew Lazarus. After the pair kissed, the woman told him she wanted to return to her friend inside. He responded by commanding her to "put your f***king hands on the wall, get on the floor and arch your back". He then proceeded to anally rape her before pushing her to enter her name in his phone under a list of 'conquests'.
A Facebook promotion for the Soho nightclub.
The attack was a callous example of how entitlement and privilege can lead young men especially to inflict themselves on the bodies of young women, hopeful that their social positions are enough to insulate them from any real kind of consequences. That this was not the outcome for Lazarus has not prevented backlash from his community to his conviction and subsequent sentence. Pru Goward, the newly appointed NSW Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, has openly criticised the parade of prominent Sydney figures who offered character references in support of the 'promising' Lazarus.
And now, these not-so-subtle jibes from the community Lazarus flaunted so much power in. For what inspires such an obnoxious display of arrogance other than the belief that this kind of behaviour is not just okay, but actually hilarious? Rape culture is rife across the party scene, from the basics of sexual objectification to ever more horrifying sexual assaults. Women are warned to be wary of drink spiking, the underlying message being that rapists can and will walk among us simply waiting for an opportunity. Victim blaming is common, with questions asked about the behaviour and dress codes of women assaulted in social situations. Sexual assaults at music festivals are used as fodder for 'hilarious' jokes. And when people complain about this and try to target the essence of the culture that creates such attitudes, they are at best ridiculed and at worst threatened with violence.
Is it any wonder that young men feel increasingly able to behave as they like towards women, when so much of the culture that surrounds them encourages them to view women as property and/or jokes? When the most easily accessible of free online pornography assumes that sexual pleasure comes from degrading women - often with the use of violence - and pretending that this is somehow what women like and want as a general rule?
During his trial, Lazarus claimed that he believed the assault to be "100% consensual" because his victim didn't fight back, scream or say no. But these are the very basics of rape furphies - that victims are required to behave in a certain way in order to express their opposition. That Lazarus believed (or at least pretends to) that it was appropriate to order a stranger to the ground and then proceed to anally violate them gives a terrifying insight into both the lack of respect some young men have towards women and the absence of any real concern for respectful sexual engagement.
Rape is not a female-led conspiracy designed to stop men from having fun. After bravely pressing charges, the victim of Lazarus' assault said in a victim impact statement that "I'll never be who I was....a part of me died that day". The 20 year old still experiences trauma, telling the court that, "every once in a while I go to bed, bawl my eyes out and cry until I can't breathe."
Lazarus was recently sentenced to a paltry maximum of five years in jail but will be eligible for parole in 2018. In regards to his son's conviction, Andrew Lazarus stated, "It was our intention and hope that the incident could remain quiet to protect Luke's good reputation." That 'good reputation' was hoped to one day secure a plum position of CEO for the rapist, who will now, according to his father, be supported to move overseas and change his name in order to begin a new life.
If only rebuilding were that easy for the real victims of sexual assault. Instead, we have the same nightclub in which Lazarus flaunted his power publishing photographs depicting women as lifeless vessels for the 'promising' young men whose greatest source of regret never seems to be destroying another person's life - but simply getting caught.