Over the week there has been much widespread outcry in New Zealand over a group of young men, who call themselves the ‘Roast Busters’, who allegedly encouraged young girls as young as 13 to drink copious amounts of alcohol (often not drinking themselves) and then as a group raped these girls. These incidents have occurred over the last two years with the young men bragging their ‘conquests’ on FaceBook.
The police said they knew of the alleged rapes, but didn’t have substantial evidence or a formal complaint to go further with their investigation. Later in the week as public pressure grew and more people began to speak out (both for and against the Roast Busters) the media reported that at least four girls made complaints to the police, with one even having a video interview. Now under public and government pressure police are now pursuing these complaints. Apparently one of the girls questioned was asked about what type of clothing she had been wearing by the police. No wonder sexual violence is the fifth most common offence but the least reported to police in New Zealand! The New Zealand police have had several cases reported over the last ten years concerning police corruption, including a cover-up of pack rapes committed by some police in the 1980s and the trials of these police in the mid-2000s.
The reporting in the media has mostly been about the mishandling of the case and the lack of morality in society, especially in this social media/internet age we are currently living in, with violent pornography being more accessible.
Why have these young men travelled down this road to depravity? Is it the lack of morality of today’s youth? You don’t have to look to far back till you see similar cases, such as the case of the Milk Bar Cowboys who in the 1950s met as a group mostly for ‘sex purposes’ with complaint by a teenage girl leading police to the admissions and evidence of sexual misconduct by 65 children. Nearly every war has history of women being raped by opposing soldiers. Plus don’t forget about marital rape or date rape.
Some commentators have said it’s quite normal in some brackets of society. And most of us have heard of gangs using pack rape as part of their gang’s initiation, but does this make it right, that in some areas pack rape has been normalised? (Although there have been no reports in the media of the Roast Busters being connected to a gang.)
Should we be blaming the victims? Young drunk girls? Many of us know what it’s like to be drunk, with the loosening of inhibitions and the inability to read a situation accurately, but regardless, shouldn’t young men be taking this into account and looking after these young girls rather than taking advantage and using the situation to their favour for unconsented sex?
By asking young girls what they wore, whether they were attractive (as two media commentators did when questioning one of the victims friends on their talkback show) or questioning the amount of alcohol drunk are a form of victim-blaming, which led to victims blaming themselves and possibly leading to mental health conditions and also . Also someone in defence of the police suggested that police receive many of these types of complaints from young girls being caught out when being sexually active or find they are pregnant. It’s no wonder the reporting of sexual violence to police is so low.
Is this society’s fault? Last year 20,000 women and children needed help from Women’s Refuge’s around New Zealand. One in three women experience psychological or physical abuse from their partners in their lifetime here in New Zealand and on average 14 women, six men and 10 children are killed by a member of their family every year. Do we blame the parents of both sexes for the lack of parental control due not knowing what their children/young adults were participating in, as some commentators have noted, and particularly noticeable in letters to the editor or from talkback listeners?
Rape is about power and control. It’s about someone using power over someone weaker and has been happening for hundreds of years from marital control to conquering land and its people.
So what’s the answer? I don’t have all the answers but there are some areas where we can begin the fight against rape and the power exerted on one person from another. This can start with sexuality education in schools from intermediate to secondary schooling with schools encouraging young people to discuss pornography and the law around sex including consenting sex and the different types of rape. Also the social and emotional consequences of sexual encounters, including strategies for preventing harm need to be discussed openly. Families should be having these discussions, regardless of how awkward and embarrassing it may be. Your children need to know that they can come to you if they have questions on sex or if they have been harmed in anyway.
Also maybe police should receive special training for sexual assault cases so to reduce victim blaming attitudes among police officers with the possible result of more victims coming forward.
It’s not ok for anyone to rape or sexually harm another or weld power and control over another human-being regardless of their race, their occupation, their age, their relationship to the abuser, where they live or if they decide to drink alcohol and wear miniskirts.
At any moment, anybody, whatever the sex, age, or relationship to the abuser, can say ‘no’. Do young girls know that they have every right to say ‘no’ at any time they are uncomfortable and that those they are involved with have to abide?
We need to teach our children to be strong, to understand the value of each other, to be kind and to have a high self-belief and esteem to know who they are and how to make the right choices or how to speak up if they are being harmed or know of others that are behaving unlawfully or derogatory against another human being.