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.