Bolt’s Theories On Theophanous’ Accuser: “Deeply Ashamed Woman” Or Gold-Digger?
Posted by Clem Bastow on October 22, 2008
You will have read in the past week of Victorian MP Theo Theophanous’ being accused of rape, which led to his standing down from his duties. The media has followed the emerging case keenly – Theophanous was questioned, alone, for an hour at St Kilda Road police complex yesterday – as police have begun their investigations. Theophanous has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing as his accuser – the woman remains anonymous – stands by her claims.
Now everybody’s favourite columnist Andrew Bolt has offered his two cents on the matter (I no longer make a point of regularly reading Bolt’s work – it’s not good for my blood pressure – so thanks to Dawn Chorus pal Ben for the heads up). He begins by discussing the effect an accusation of rape – in particular a false one – can have on a man’s career; while it may seem unfair to discuss such matters in the face of a woman’s distress, it is true that false allegations can have devastating effects on a person’s family and professional life, even long after accusations have evaporated. But it is a fine line to walk in discussing such matters for the sake of balance as while false accusations are a huge problem for the accused, scandalously low rape conviction rates (or even report rates) are surely still a far more pressing issue, and giving air time to the former can seem to belittle the latter, particularly when you consider how many actual rapes (and unsolved/unreported cases) outweigh false accusations and their fallout.
However Bolt doesn’t stop at the impact the allegations will have on Theophanous’ career, which would have been difficult territory but at least an understandable (if not necessarily palatable) point to raise, instead going on to begin an efficient smear job on Theophanous’ accuser. Here are some highlights:
What’s more, Theophanous’s accuser – unlike him – has her identity kept secret by journalists who clearly know her name. She – unlike him – risks no public shame should her claims prove to be baseless.
Bolt conveniently forgets that the law protects rape victims, who remain anonymous precisely because of the implicit “shame” he predicts will befall Theophanous; why else would cases like Tegan Wagner‘s become such high profile stories? Anonymity protects victims’ privacy and dignity, when so much of that has already been removed by the crime. Men may not want to be tagged as rapists, but I’d hazard a guess that not many people want to be known as rape victims, either. And who’s to say that these “journalists” know the woman’s name, either? He continues:
Another odd thing: The alleged victim claims Theophanous pestered her for years after the alleged rape with text messages, some sexually explicit. He tried repeatedly to see her again.
If true, is this the behaviour of a rapist with something to hide, or merely of an adulterous man who thinks he has a willing lover?
And we’re told the woman decided two years ago to bring Theophanous to account for this alleged rape.
But, rather than go straight to the police to report a crime, she contacted a Melbourne barrister to initiate legal action. It was only last May that police interviewed her.
I agree, all this may be just what you’d expect from a deeply ashamed woman, scared and scarred by rape.
But it might also be what you’d expect from a troubled or even spurned woman, regretting an affair and trying now to exact revenge – or even cash.
As I said, this sounds harsh, but it would also be harsh to accuse an innocent man of rape, ruining his name and career on your mere word. And, as yet, none of us can possibly know where the truth of this matter lies.
Why is the assumption in these cases always “oh, she just wants money”? Yes, there will be many people wondering why Theophanous’ accuser did not report these matters earlier, but there is no reason to assume that her apparently tardy accusation means she’s late on her mortgage repayments. As many cases have shown – last year’s finding that Geoff Clark led two pack rapes in Warnambool 36 years ago is one recent high-profile example – sometimes it can take a long time for a victim to feel ready to face the reality of their attack.
What strikes me about Bolt’s column is his decrying of Theophanous’ apparent “trial by media”, when he then goes on to offer his own thoughts in that exact vein (though far be it for Bolt to be expected to distance himself from such journalistic hipocrisy).
Soon – or possibly not so soon – the truth will be revealed, but I can’t help but feel such smears as Bolt’s effort today should be left for the day (if it happens) when the claims are proven to be false. After all, Bolt is so keen for Theophanous to be innocent until proven guilty, so why should this woman not be afforded the same respect?