The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Posts Tagged ‘legal’

Forget The “Sex Predator”, How ‘Bout His Wife, Eh?

Posted by Clem Bastow on August 28, 2009

A brief MediaWatch-ish post for you this morning. I was reading “the papers” online and when I reached the bottom of the page, noticed Fairfax’s ‘Top Stories’ lists for their various interstate publications. This headline was holding the #1 spot in the “charts”:

Picture 1

Naturally, I clicked on the story, detailing the sentencing of Luke James Colless, who pleaded guilty to “five counts of rape, five counts of assault with intent to commit rape, six counts of sexual assault and two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm, over the attacks on 11 women”. Well, you might not assume as much given the story’s headline, but the “wife” in question rated a mention that lasted for less than a sentence; she wasn’t even noted by name. Here’s the full extent of the rapists’ wife’s appearance in the article:

Colless’ barrister Tony Kimmins said despite his offending, his client was supported by his wife and family.

And that’s it. In other words, out of the 556 words in the article, approximately 17 made any reference whatsoever to his wife.

What gives, Exactly which champion is coming up with your headlines? This may seem like subeditorial semantics, but there’s something particularly insidious about this headline that ignores the full horror of Luke James Colless’ crimes and, instead, makes some sort of Tammy Wynnette-esque comment on his wife standing by her man.

I hope I’m not the only one who thinks a simple “Sex predator faces life in jail” would have sufficed.


Posted in law, Media Watch, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Barbie Kicks The Bratz Out Of The Dollhouse

Posted by Clem Bastow on December 5, 2008

ABC News Americas take on the prize fight

Good Morning America's take on the fracas

After a lengthy court case (Mattell successfully sued the makers of Bratz, alleging that MGA Entertainment’s Carter Bryant was still working at Mattell when he came up with the Bratz concept; Bratz have been Barbie’s major competitor since their 2001 debut), MGA Entertainment have been ordered to cease production of Bratz dolls. Once the Christmas sales are over, shelves must be cleared, and the copyright for the bobble-headed fashion dolls (so often raised in conversations about the apparent “sexualisation” of children and teens) will ‘return’ to Mattell, who have not indicated whether or not they will begin their own production of the Bratz line.

Barbie has long been a lightning rod for feminist debate, but at least she’s had a job (well, many, though her recent return to Princessdom is a little played out); to me, Bratz’ raison d’etre seemed to be fashion, consumerism and sex (even if it was only implied, but you can’t tell me the ‘Formal Funk’ prom night playset didn’t look geared to take it back to the hotel suite after the afterparty).

Of course, Barbie’s body and face remains ridiculously idealised to the point of surrealism, but surely it says something about the doll market’s evolution that putting a Bratz playset or two next to Barbie makes the latter look like a hopeless nerd. It’s hard to imagine Bratz letting Share A Smile Becky in on their fashion sprees.

What do you think? Are Barbie and Bratz one and the same, or would you rather play Barbies over Bratz? I’d also be very interested to hear from some parent Chorus members – do you steer clear of both dolls, or do you see Barbie as the lesser of two evils?

Posted in body image, Family, Fashion, Media Watch, Parenting & Family, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Doctor Accused Of Raping Patient: Trial Continues

Posted by Rhiana Whitson on November 8, 2008

You may recall reading fellow Chorister Caitlin’s recent post on rapist and serial violator of women, Dr Sabi Lai. In an extrodinairy case of injustice for rape victims Lai was reinstated to the medical register by VCAT just a couple of weeks ago. This is despite the Medical Practitioner’s Panel conclusion that he was unfit to practice as a health professional (no shit!). Even more shocking is the fact that Lai has so far managed to escape an actual prison sentence altogether.

Well, this week another case of a Doctor abusing his powers of authority has been brought to trial.

Sulieman Ismail Hamid, an emergency department doctor at the Western Hospital in Sunshine has been accused by a woman (who cannot be named for legal reasons) of two counts of indecent assault, two counts of rape, two counts of sexual penetration of a person under his medical care who was cognitively impaired and two counts of indecently assaulting a person who was under his medical care who was cognitively impaired.

The first incident occurred at the Western Hospital, when the woman, who was a regular patient of the hospital, was seeking treatment in the emergency departement for a drug overdose and self-harm.

“(She) was alone with the accused in the cubicle. . . under the influence of those drugs she had taken at home and the ones given in the hospital. She propositioned the accused using the words f–k me,” Ms Forrester told the jury.

“He said he couldn’t because he was working, but then he rubbed her neck and breasts,” she said.

Two days later the Hamid went to the woman’s house and asked if he could come inside. According to the woman’s lawyer the victim thought that Hamid was merely making a house-call to give her medication so let him inside. Once inside the Hamid first digitally raped the woman and then after an interval where she thought he had left and fell asleep, he then raped her again:

The woman told the court that when Hamid came over to her house she was tired and went back to bed and he followed her into her bedroom.

She said he told her she was attractive and began touching her and kissing her.

“I was telling him I wanted to die and stuff like that,” she told the court. “Then he just got really in to me and started kissing me and touching me.”

She said Hamid began removing her clothes and she was feeling confused. She told the jury Hamid removed her pants and began touching her underneath her underpants. He then digitally raped her.

“I couldn’t move. I felt I didn’t have any bones in my body,” she said. “I think I screamed out . . . because he was hurting me.”

After Hamid left the woman went and told a friend who went with her to the police. A DNA sample was taken and Hamid’s DNA was found on the results of the sample.

Not surprisingly Hamid is denying that occurrence of rape. He is also denying that the woman was cognitively impaired, even though during their first encounter he would have been fully aware that she was mentally and emotionally unstable, she was after all being treated by him in emergency for self-harm and a drug overdose.

I just hope that the judge will see past the original proposition by the victim, and see that the doctor was not simply reciprocating the attention of the patient but using his position of power to exploit the vulnerable woman who looked to him as someone in a position to take care of her, not violate her.

Because regardless of whether the victim did initially proposition Hamid or not, he has committed a grave abuse of his powers as a doctor. The victim had history of mental instability and was not in a position to consent to any form of sexual contact, Hamid was clearly aware of this, and clearly exploiting her vulnerability. By admitting to sex (something he had no choice to do because of the little fact of his DNA) and denying rape he plants the seeds of doubt where in the end it is his word, a doctor (a position which as we have seen with the Dr Sabi Lai case seems to grant a different sort of judicial treatment than usually handed out) against a woman who’s mental health issues could quite easily be twisted by a good defense lawyer to indicate a web of lies.

However regardless of the cases still “alleged” status, the point remains that Hamid should not have responded to the sexual advances of a patient.

He stands guilty of abusing his powers of both masculinity and his medical profession.

Posted in Media Watch, Sex Crimes, sexual assault, violence against women | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Dr Sabi Lal – The Rapist Doctor is Back and Practicing

Posted by caitlinate on October 29, 2008

Sabi Lal

Sabi Lal

In 2002 “Doctor” Sabi Lal was found guilty of assaulting two pharmaceutical representatives (referred to as Ms DE and Ms PQ) who had visited his clinic. He was given a $1000 fine for each assault and convictions were recorded. He was also charged with digitally raping a patient six years earlier (referred to as Ms CD), indecently assaulting her and then attempting to pervert the course of justice. For these charges he was given a two and a half year suspended sentence. Several other assaults or problematic behaviours were reported to the police or the Medical Practitioners Board, including: inappropriate comments of a social, personal and sexual nature during consultations, inappropriate personal contact outside the consultations and misuse of information during the consultations, calling the mother of a child he was treating and asking her on a date and visiting a female patients house uninvited.

In his submissions to the Medical Practioners board a year later Lal claimed that the assaults were “at the very minor end of the spectrum of assault”. His counsel also claimed that there was “no infliction of physical harm by Dr Lal, that there was no evidence of force, that there was no aggression, no threat and no abuse and no physical pain.”

I tend to disagree. Strongly. In the case of the assaults he invited the pharmaceutical reps into his consulting room, interrogated them about their relationships, invited them on dates and then – when they refused – persisted with his questioning. In the case of Ms PQ he grabbed her by her upper arms and waist when she tried to leave the room and then followed her to the car park insisting they go for ‘a drive’. When Ms DE attempted to leave the room he grabbed her by the shoulders and attempted to kiss her. When she again tried to get away from him and leave the room he pulled her hand away from the door handle and leant against the door so she couldn’t leave. She finally managed to pull the door open and escape, where she ran to her car, locked it and sat there sobbing. What person could describe any of the above as lacking in aggression, threat, abuse or force? He restrained the women physically and engaged in sexual conduct of a kind that certainly wasn’t welcome or consented to.

Lal’s counsel also stated that both instances were “one-off” occurences. That doesn’t even make sense. How can a one-off occurence happen multiple times? Do they really expect anyone to believe that because this guy ‘impulsively’ grabs and intimidates women repeatedly we should exercise lenience in morally condemning him?

Well, at least he admitted that in the case of the rape: “it was wrong to perform the Pap smear if the patient were led to believe a female doctor would be doing it and he should not have gone ahead and done the smear.” I’d prefer to have heard that he recognised his actions constituted rape. That he was aware this woman would be traumatised for the rest of her life. That he probably endangered her long term physical health by causing her to not only be terrified of having pap smears in the future but also potentially avoiding them as a result. However, if he took the rap for his charges, engaged with mental health professionals to understand the errors of his ways, undertook volunteer work at an organisation aimed at providing support services for victims of sexual assault and agreed to never, ever practice medicine again I would maybe have some respect for his efforts to rehabilitate himself.

But wait… What is that I hear? Continued injustice lurking in the wings?

Yes! This week the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled that Sabi Lal be reinstated to the medical register and be allowed to resume seeing and treating patients. Despite the fact that even the Medical Practitioners Board still considers him unfit to practice VCAT claims that they have implemented strict conditions on him and that these should, apparently, limit his capacity to reoffend. He is not allowed to treat females or anyone under the age of 16. He will be strictly supervised and monitored. The fact that he has previously been subject to similar conditions and then offended again within a year of them being lifted seems to be of little concern. To quote the VCAT panel:

“We are not persuaded that Mr Lal’s suitability to practise is likely to be affected because of the offences of which he has been found guilty”

Raping and assaulting women who visit his practice doesn’t persuade them they he shouldn’t be allowed to hold a position of power or influence?

Nor are they concerned by the fact that Lal has apparently shown a deep lack of empathy or remorse for his previous actions; nor by the fact that he has regular relapses of obsessive compulsive disorder (the disorder he blamed all the assaults he perpetrated on). They referred to his disorder and the previous assaults as “character flaws”.

This man raped a woman and assaulted two others. Numerous other women have come forward and complained of assault and harassment. How do we react? We charge him $2000. We give him a suspended sentence. We let him continue practicing medicine.

The gross injustice of the legal system in cases of rape and sexual assault will never cease to disgust and astonish me.

Posted in Sex Crimes, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , | 9 Comments »

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:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Media Watch, Politics, sexual assault | Tagged: , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Victim Of Indecent Assault Or “Drama Queen”? Don’t Ask The Defense!

Posted by Clem Bastow on October 20, 2008

Reader Estelle (congrats on being our 1000th commenter, too!) tipped us off to this mindblowing piece today: a 16-year-old girl’s victim impact statement, issued as part of the trial of her former teacher (who was handed a 15-month partially suspended sentence in July, with three months of imprisonment, for dealing indecently with the girl), has seen her labelled as a “drama queen” by the defense. But that’s not all!

[T]he Northern Territory Supreme Court judge in the case said he found parts of the 16-year-old’s statement – which she read out to Darwin Magistrates Court in July – “over the top”.

In her three-page statement, the teen victim said an incident where she was indecently touched by her former 40-year-old teacher Paul Incani had “ignited a loathing for my body” that made her want to “scratch off her skin”, leaving her with 27 self-inflicted scars and daily panic attacks.

“I have stayed alive when I wanted to die,” she said.

Justice Dean Mildren made the comment during Incani’s appeal against his three-month jail term for indecently dealing with the girl, the Northern Territory News reported.

Defence lawyer Robert Richter QC told the judge he had written the words “drama queen” when reading her statement.

If you think that’s bad, it gets worse. To provide a bit of backstory, the teacher (40-years-old) had sent her “intimate” text messages and requested she send him photos of her in her underwear, then forced her to strip and touched her indecently when they eventually met up upon his return to Darwin. Got that? Right:

Mr Richter said the incident was an “evolution of a friendship” and could be described as “pashing on”.

I’m still struggling to get my head around all this. At least the defense stopped short of saying the girl asked for it, or that she had seduced the poor, defenseless teacher who was powerless to resist her teenaged wiles.

I fail to see how labelling this poor girl, who was obviously – if her victim impact statement was three pages long! – traumatised by the experience, a “drama queen” does anything other than belittle her experience and putting legions of other victims of sexual assault off ever reporting with a view to taking their attackers to court. And why would they, if this is the sort of treatment they can expect once they get there?

Posted in Media Watch, Sex Crimes | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

And They Wonder Why So Many Women Don’t Press Rape Charges

Posted by Clem Bastow on July 29, 2008

While it’s (sadly) not unusual to hear of sexist questioning from the defense counsel during rape cases (i.e. “What were you wearing?”, “Were you drunk at the time?”), now we can add racist and idiotic to the party. This is, frankly, gobsmacking:

A barrister has tried to exclude Greeks from being jurors in a Victorian rape trial because of a “common misunderstanding” they like anal sex.

John Desmond, a defence barrister for 23 years, initially told a County Court judge his submission was in fairness to the alleged victim, a Greek woman.

He told Judge Roy Punshon there was a misunderstanding in the community that “Greeks like anal sex” and that the woman might be seen as compliant and “in fact wanting it”.

“That would be doing her a disservice, it wouldn’t be fair to either party,” Mr Desmond said earlier this month.

When Judge Punshon refused the application — saying he would not have a jury empanelled that excluded Greek people — Mr Desmond then made the application on behalf of his client “in fairness” to him.

Asked by Judge Punshon what the issue was with his client, Mr Desmond replied: ” I don’t want a Greek juror empathising with a Greek complainant (the woman), your honour.”

Did you get that? Essentially, Mr Desmond is saying, “Well, she’s Greek, and they love it up the bum, so it wouldn’t really be fair to her.” What a chivalrous guy, huh? Here’s a further excerpt from the transcript:

Mr Desmond began his submission by telling Judge Punshon it would be appropriate that there be a “general exemption for a category of potential juror to be inquired of in the case here”.

Asked by Judge Punshon what was the issue of fairness to the complainant, Mr Desmond replied: “Greeks.

“See, the allegation here, this is a Greek complainant and her nationality will be established on the evidence, your honour, it’s part of the narrative and there are allegations here of anal penetration and there’s a common misunderstanding in the community that Greeks like anal sex and she might readily then be seen to be compliant and in fact wanting it.

“That would be doing her a disservice, it wouldn’t be fair to either party.”

Unbelievable. Mr Desmond must have been pleased that his client was eventually acquitted (the other two men standing trial were found guilty), regardless of the number of “Greeks” on the jury.

Posted in Media Watch | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »