The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Montmorency Football Club & The Legal System

Posted by caitlinate on October 28, 2009

As I’m sure many of you have read, three junior members of the Montmerency Football Club – a suburban football club in Victoria – have been charged with the sexual assault of two young women. Thirteen other players were interviewed and the police say they expect to lay further charges. At the end of their playing season a group of young players had organised an unofficial weekend away to Phillip Island. **trigger warning** Whilst there they lured two women to the villa they had rented and held them prisoner whilst raping them. One woman was reportedly ‘sexually assaulted by as many as eight men’ and the other at least five different times. They finally escaped when a brawl broke out between the men and they could sneak away unnoticed.

I know that it is because it’s a high profile case (it appears sports teams raping women is in vogue for the media) but it is so exciting to see the police taking this crime seriously and the courts processing it quickly. Several women I know are still caught up in the legal system two years after their original assaults. One woman I know had to wait a year and a half before she even got a committal hearing. Rape and sexual assault cases frequently take years to be processed and, as I’m sure you can imagine or are aware, this is not an enjoyable process. It’s not as easy to move on and heal when you have a court date in two months… and then in five months… and then in a year… Apart from the waiting and the wondering there’s the potential – or at least fear – of having to see your abuser. A given part of the process is that you have to relive the experience of your assault over and over and over again – to the police, to the judge, to the lawyers, on paper, in person, via video link up. You have to be cruelly cross examined by the lawyer of the person who assaulted you (I state unequivocally, right now, that the majority of lawyers that represent rapists are fucking scumbags).

A major fear for some people who have been assaulted is the possibility that no one will believe them, that people will think they are lying or making up stories or trying to hide something. Speaking from experience, people really do think it’s their right to know all the details of your assault so that they can judge for themselves how believable your story is. Men in particular seem to find it difficult to believe the statement ‘I was raped’ at face value. Having to constantly tell your story and hope that you’re believed – particularly when positive legal outcomes for rape cases are statistically so low – it takes a lot of courage and I really, really commend those that go through that process.

But it could be easier. It could be a lot easier for survivors. The courts and police speeding up the legal system processes when it comes to rape cases would be an excellent step in achieving this. Not just for those that are already dealing with the system but those that want to come forward and report what happened to them and tell their stories but don’t seeing any point or hope in doing so.

I don’t really believe in the legal system or the ‘justice’ that is metered out, but if survivors are looking for that then they should be able to access it, quickly and without too much trauma. I know that the justice of being heard and believed and seeing a punishment served on the person that assaulted you has been really strengthening and empowering for some women. Survivors deserve their (many, many) days in court and deserve to not have the crimes against them ignored or pushed aside or left in the queue.

I want to quickly touch on the reporting of this issue (as if I could link to a Fairfax article and not give a review of the job they’ve done). Overall, good job. They have three different journalists on the case, the article is long and in depth (and not in a gory way) and they’ve resisted the urge to put rape in inverted comma’s. I really do understand the reasons why newspapers do this. But there’s a difference between reporting in a reasoned and fair way – or covering your arse legally – and representing the case in a way that immediately casts aspersions on how believable the incident that is being reported is. I also really appreciate that this article appears to recognise the difference between pack rape and the old favourite of ‘group sex’.

Finally, here are some of the quotes from the article made by quite influential and powerful members of the community. Yeah, sure, they’re all men but I still think it’s great that a article about rape is littered with statements from people about how prolific violence against women and sexual assault is and a recognition of how awful both the crime and the impacts can be.

Victorian Premier John Brumby:

…said today he could not comment on the case, but any act of violence against women was completely inexcusable.

“Rape is the worst crime there is,” he said.

“I feel very strongly about these matters, you know, as a parent with two daughters. Getting the message out into the community about the complete unacceptability of any act of violence against women is just such an important thing to do.”

AFL boss Andrew Demetriou:

…said the AFL would continue to drive a cultural shift in the football community which centred on respecting women and responsible drinking.

“Throughout the football industry compared to five years ago there has been a significant shift in the attitude towards women … but we are going to continue to get people who ignore the messages,” he told the ABC.

“There are people, not just in football clubs, there are men in the community who think it’s OK (to force themselves on women)”.

Mr Demetriou did not want to comment on the specific case but said in any sexual incident where women were greatly outnumbered by men “the issue of consent becomes very problematic”.

Peter Schwab (AFL Victoria’s chief executive officer):

…said he was shocked by the allegations. “It’s an extremely distressing time for the two girls concerned and our thoughts are with them,” he said.

Detective Inspector Glenn Davies from the sexual crimes squad:

…said violence against women would not be tolerated.

“I encourage all women who are victims of sexual assault to report these offences to police,” he said.

22 Responses to “Montmorency Football Club & The Legal System”

  1. Nico said

    This incident strengthens the case demanding the misogynous antics of current and former professional sportspeople (footballers) be taken more seriously, and condemned accordingly. It is horrific, and irrefutably symptomatic of a wider problem among some male social groups.

    But I agree that is good to read unequivocal reportage on the assaults.

  2. au revoir said

    Well said and good points. However, the footy club are still ‘sticking by their team mates’. It really makes me mad that the club are already excusing the behaviour on the grounds that it is ‘out of character’ for the ‘boys’ and offering support to ‘get them through this tough time’.

    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,26271975-421,00.html

    • caitlinate said

      I definitely agree with you that the immediate excuses making by the team and other players is disappointing and mad making. There are no excuses! I don’t care if he loves kittens or has a close relationship with his mother or that you didn’t see this coming or think it’s out of character! HE DID IT. I can understand if they’re personally reacting with shock – trying to match up your close friend/family member with the stereotype of a rapist is a pretty tough call – but the public statements they’re making… it’s a reminder to me of how many people just don’t get it and how prolific the stereotype of a rapist as ‘someone else’ or ‘not my nigel’ is.

      • au revoir said

        and then I woke up to this article, where the father of one of the players insists the boys have done nothing wrong! Stating that ‘the girls knew what they were getting themselves into when they went to the house’

        http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,26275182-421,00.html

        Gah! It makes me so very angry that AGAIN the women are being blamed simply for being there.

        (However, excellent quotes from AFL top level, this education needs to BEGIN at grassroots and not filter down)

  3. newswithnipples said

    You’re right about there being a difference between reporting in a fair way (what we, as journalists, are always supposed to do) and covering your arse legally. And I think it’s important to have these high profile men speaking up about rape, rather than getting quotes from a woman at a rape centre, because it puts the focus on men. We’ve spent so much time and energy trying to teach women how to avoid getting raped that we forgot to tell men not to be rapists. That just seems bizarre to me. I remember the girls in high school being taught how to “fend off a rapist” but there was no class telling the boys not to rape women/girls. It’s like we accept that rape is ok. Sorry, saddled up my high horse then.

    • feminist-in-heels said

      Well said. More effort needs to put into education that encourages boys and men to question the ideas of masculinity which condone this sort of behaviour. How many boys still believe that “No” really means “Yes, but I don’t want to appear too eager”? This needs to be challenged.

  4. glen said

    good post!

    It is important to emphasise the extended trauma of having to go through the legal system as an echo of the trauma of the rape.

    caitlinate, could you write a post on the ‘day after’ an assault? Like what rape/assault victims should do versus what they normally do, and how family members and friends can help or support? This would be useful. When I have faced this situation I have always felt hopeless.

  5. Zoe said

    “I state unequivocally, right now, that the majority of lawyers that represent rapists are fucking scumbags”

    Oh come on. They’re doing a job. Generalisations about people are never helpful. I like your post, but this comment just spoils it.

    • caitlinate said

      I’m going to guess you’ve maybe never had to deal with one of the lawyers I’m referring to. Obviously some are just doing a job and representing a client – hence my use of the word majority rather than all. Unfortunately many lawyers that represent people who have been accused of rape don’t just ‘do their job’ but use really quite disgusting tactics to intimidate, silence and further distress those pressing charges.

      • Stuart said

        I agree with Zoe, that particular comment did the rest of your otherwise great article a disservice.

        Cross-examination in court can be a rather horrid and intimidating experience, no matter what the charge. There are strict rules in place to govern the behaviour of counsel (that’s one of the reasons why the judge is there). Perhaps you’re suggesting that the cross-examination process should be different for cases which are generally understood to be of a particularly distressing nature? Fair enough.

        To suggest, however, that the majority of people who represent people charged with rape are scumbags is gauche to say the least.

    • liz p said

      i’d go further than caitlin, even — their job is to use any legal means at their disposal to get the best outcome for their client, no matter how revoltingly inhumane those means might be. this is why I hate the adversarial system.

  6. kt said

    Solicitors defending accused rapists are rarely having a good time. Those whose courtroom strategies are unprofessional — or, even worse, vicious — are obviously beyond the pale, but the service the many good ones provide is vital. Everyone deserves a passionate defence, no matter the hideousness of his/her crime. It’s one of the most important guarantees of safety we have.

  7. eilish said

    I want to find out what the presentation about violence against women covers. Mineo and Cantwell were able to believe the assault was consensual. I’m guessing they have deeply held beliefs about good girls and sluts and rape-rape,(Mr. Dad surely does) and the presentation didn’t challenge any of those ideas. Then again, they might have just sat through it, rather than engaging consciously with it.
    Brumby’s statement would be more heartening if he said “as the father of two boys.”
    We need to change the adversarial system. Currently it’s about guilty people not being accountable to society. That’s not safe.

  8. The media have been salivating for an AFL sex scandal for a long time now, and, rightly or wrongly, the only reason this case has had such prominent news coverage is because it is linked to a football club. While I completely accept the valid points made in this post, I do feel a bit defensive about how football is treated in this case.

    A few points:
    (1) The AFL does not govern Montmorency Football Club
    (2) Montmorency Football Club did not organise, sanction or participate in the boys trip AT ALL
    (3) The boys were all mates – SOME of whom were from the Montmorency Football Club

    So I find it disappointing that the angle of the articles are entirely about football players committing crimes, not young men. It is purely driven by the media’s appetite for sports related sex scandals.

    Attitude problems are not isolated to footballers. This case deserved coverage in its own right, rather than simply calling it a football issue.

  9. eilish said

    Very good point. It isn’t football that teaches young men that non-consensual sex isn’t really rape: or that girls are responsible for rape if they put themselves at risk.

    I think we still need to examine the link between abuse of women and male team sports. Studies in America show higher acceptance of rape myths in members of college sports teams much higher than among people who played individual sports. If being-a-member-of-the-club mentality enables young men to deny their actions are rape more readily, then we need to examine club mentality.

    As a Victorian, I understand your defensive feelings about football: but I’m really glad the media is covering the story. If people start to see that this isn’t a footballers’ disease, that this is something many of us believe, it will be a big step forward for women. Rape that the perpetrators don’t believe is rape is widespread: and we desperately need to address that.

  10. Linda Radfem said

    I have no sympathy for people who think football is the real victim here. It’s perfectly valid to talk about groupmind theories in the case of gang rapists, and if this particular group happen to play football well, I’m sure the institution of football can withstand the fall-out.

    I agree that it’s good to see high profile men speaking out against VAW -If the State and Commonwealth govs are going to make good on the promise to reduce homelessness by half by 2020 then violence against us has to be more strongly addressed and it seems that they’ve realised this.

    I also tend to agree with Caitlinate about lawyers.

  11. lock_face00diva_monster said

    Rev. Shinboner, I disagree with you completely. I think that it’s very important that the discussion of what has happened includes a discussion of football, and the culture of all-male team sports in general. I agree that the media probably thrives off these scandals, but they don’t make them happen – it’s the violent misogynistic men and their ‘mates’ who make this happen. And in a society that manically worships and idolizes idiot, degenerate men who kick a ball around, then it is important for the media to report that a lot of these idiot men aren’t just illiterate brutes, but rapists as well.

    You call this a “sports related sex scandal”. A sex scandal is when a high profile player cheats on his wife, receives oral sex in a male toilet, or is caught visiting a brothel. This is not a sex scandal, this is a pack rape; an insanely violent and cruel sexual assault. I hope you see the difference.

    It doesn’t matter that the AFL doesn’t (technically) govern the Montmorency Football Club, it’s entirely besides the point. The AFL is the principal institution of Australian football culture, but it is merely emblematic of football culture in general. It’s especially important to note that when famous big-time AFL footballers are violent towards women, it provides an example for their junior counterparts to follow.

    It doesn’t matter that Montmorency Football Club didn’t organise the trip. You’re derailing an important discussion by focusing on irrelevant details. When one is part of a club, the way one acts outside of club life will (and rightly so) be drawn back to the club and the kind of behaviour that that club breeds. Just look at the radio response given by the ‘club-insider’: he says that “it’s just so out of character for these boys” – boys who are militantly trained to use their bodies aggressively.
    He says it is an “utter shock to all the families involved of all the boys who were interviewed” – Uh, excuse me? This is entirely unimportant when two women have just been raped.
    And finally, in a crescendo of extreme idiocy, he states that “We’re not going to abandon our boys, we’re going to stick by them and … make sure that they’re looked after and helped out and get the help that they need to get through.” Oh, those poor boys!

    My point is that this case has everything to do with football. Yes, it is also just a group of “young men”, and there are other non-football-playing young men who also commit such atrocities. But when dealing with this culture of rape and male violence that is so rife in our society – no details should be overlooked, no factors should be missed, and no excuses should be made. The litany of assaults, rapes, general misogynistic and aggressive actions committed by members of all-male team sports is appalling. And then Sam Newman and others of his ilk defend them on national TV. If you’re at all interested in contributing to the eradication of rape and assault, then it’s moronic to ignore this.

    • Diva_Monster – responses to some of your points addressed below:
      - “it’s the violent misogynistic men and their ‘mates’ who make this happen”. I completely agree.

      - “In a society that manically worships and idolizes idiot, degenerate men who kick a ball around, then it is important for the media to report that a lot of these idiot men aren’t just illiterate brutes, but rapists as well.” I recognise that you are using strong language to illustrate your point, but this is exactly the sort of statement I have difficulty accepting. There are hundreds of examples of exemplary young men who play football who do not stand for this behaviour, indeed the majority, either at elite level or otherwise. Yes, there are a small minority who fit your description, and no it’s not acceptable. But that doesn’t make it a fair statement to brand all, or even most footballers as rapists, which is what the mass media have verged on reporting in this case.

      - “This is not a sex scandal, this is a pack rape; an insanely violent and cruel sexual assault. I hope you see the difference.” I do see the difference, and apologise if it was perceived otherwise. My point is that this horrible crime happens in society and does not receive the attention it deserves, unless the media find an angle that plays to their sensationalistic needs. Football was the angle in this case, and, to an extend, has been unfairly victimised as a result. However, I agree with your broader point that football should be a part of the discussion. I simply feel it has been the entire focus of the mass media discussion, rather than a contributing factor, which isn’t doing the real issues – gang rape, male attitudes towards women, etc – justice.

      To conclude, I respect all commenters and their opinions on this important post. I also openly recognise that I am a young male that has never had to deal with the incomprehendable pain and suffering that victims of these crimes have to live with. And while I have seen the ugly side of football at times, and understand that it should not be excluded from scrutiny, I have also seen it achieve incredible social outcomes, particularly with regard to race relations. I simply feel that the media and some people’s perception of football is often disproportionally negative.

  12. eilish said

    We know that football culture encourages violence towards women, and we know that the AFL’s “respect” program needs some tweaking (possibly getting rid of it’s bystander rather than perpetrator outlook). I say, continue spotlighting the sport. The veneration we bestow on footballers is not good for them or us.

    But putting the blame solely on football is a cop-out. Those boys belong to a lot of other groups: home,neighbourhood,school,community. They are tapped in to a barrage of sexist violence-condoning crap in movies, songs, radio, internet sites. They didn’t learn to think that coercing a woman into sex isn’t rape just at the football club. Let’s not give our society an out by dismissing this as something boorish footballers do.

  13. Sally J said

    This is a letter I wrote to The Age in relation to this. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t get published… but thought I’d share it anyway. (P.S. Just discovered this blog – where have I been! Fabulous.)

    It seems that football clubs fuel a male pack mentality that is damaging to women, and this needs serious attention. But the source of my outrage after reading about the alleged rapes at Philip Island runs much deeper – it’s that crimes like this are committed against women because they are women. We need to work relentlessly against any mindset that sees women as objects to be harmed and humiliated.

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